Saturday, August 23, 2014

Bike Shop Tales: Building Up Wheels- Part 2

Through the valve hole....
Four to five years ago now I did a bit of a series called "Bike Shop Tales". It was mostly about my early days at Advantage Cyclery. That was my first shop gig and I worked there from 1993 till early 1997.

I was reminded of the old series when I wrote about Brian's going away party held on Thursday evening. I figured I would resurrect the series as an on again-off again subject to write about here. Heck, it's been almost twelve years now that I've been at Europa Cycle & Ski. I figure I've got a few more tales about bike shop days to share!

So, here's a link to part 1 on building up wheels. Now I want to share more about building up wheels these days. It's a bit different now with regard to what we do.

Back in the Advantage days, we had everything anybody would likely want or need for a wheel build. Ordering stuff was rare. Now days it is exactly the opposite. We can call in an order and have everything we need the next day and build up a wheel. That's exactly what we did with the one I built up Friday. Otherwise, not a whole lot has changed.

I still use almost all Wheelsmith spokes and nipples. I've built with DT Swiss with good success, but again, I just don't really care one way or the other, since both work great and I am accustomed to Wheelsmith more than I am DT Swiss. So, I am a creature of habit in that regard! The tools have changed a bit too. Wheelsmith doesn't calibrate the old tensionometers anymore, so I have been using a Park Tools one. It's okay. I am not enamored of their chart that goes with the tool, but it isn't a tool and system that is the equivalent of a small country's national budget to buy, like some others are.

Finally, I have to admit I still am fascinated and satisfied with wheel building. I am glad that's the case, because I get to build four more wheels real soon here! Stay tuned for what those are......

Friday, August 22, 2014

Friday News And Views

Riding Off Into The Sunset
Last evening I spent time with Brian, a coworker of mine, who is leaving after today to start a new chapter of his life in Minneapolis Minnesota as he is going to attend the University of Minnesota in pursuit of his medical degree.

We started out with a nice ride around on our great bike path system here and afterward there were "adult beverages" consumed, which eventually resulted in the late posting of this edition of "Friday News And Views".

But it was totally worth it.

The shop was filled with laughter and the guys all seemed to have a great time. So missing posting last night so it appeared here "on schedule" isn't a big deal. Not investing time with people? That is a big deal, to me anyway, and I am glad I went.

Good luck in Minnesota, Brian. You'll be missed at the shop!

Very red
Becker Sewing And Design

The Fargo Gen 1 got gussied up the other day when a box showed up bearing a red Becker Sewing & Design frame bag.

Head honch, Tupper Becker, lives up there in Fairbanks Alaska where he does some amazing work for cyclists and mushers. Some of his sled bags are really amazing. His company's motto is "Our gear is tougher than you are", and it probably is, since his designs get tested in some of the world's harshest conditions.

This bag is already field tested as I used it last evening to ferry a sixer of bottled beer to Brian's going away gig. I had room to spare and I look forward to stuffing this bag with actual camping gear and what not for adventures on the Fargo. The Gen 1 Fargo is a good choice for a frame bag, since the frame's main triangle is so big. That's a result of this version not being suspension corrected, which allows for the maximum volume for a frame bag. This one is a bit more voluminous than the bag on my MukTruk, as an example.

But let's say you don't have such a huge main triangle, or that you are a smaller person. Does having a frame bag make any sense? I think so, just look at my son's Mukluk here. That's the XS size and it's got the tiniest frame triangle you'll likely find on most any bike. The frame bag Tupps sewed up for this is amazing in detail and fits the bike great. Yes.........it's tiny, but there is room in there to put stuff in which otherwise would have to go on your back.

I'll be talking more about these bags in detail, but for now I just wanted to show them off and introduce you folks to Becker Sewing and Design which can make you your own bag for your adventures in most any color and configuration you can imagine.

TIMP Update:

As the month of August runs out the TIMP will cease to be anymore. The last scheduled run on the course is an ITT attempt by multiple Trans Iowa finisher and Tour Divide finisher, Mike Johnson. You can follow along with his progress today HERE.

I wish Mike all the best as he rolls across the state. He let me know he plans on doing this in 38 hours, so keep checking back. There will be soft B Maintenance roads and possibly bad weather for Mike to deal with, so it'll be a tough ride, no doubt, possibly made tougher, depending on the weather.

That's a wrap on this late edition of Friday News And Views. Have a safe and enjoyable weekend!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Lost Images

From a recent night ride
The replacement camera had a problem. My computer wouldn't recognize it when I plugged it into the USB port. It was as if I hadn't plugged anything in at all, which is weird since the computer recognizes everything else that I have that I plug into the USB ports on the CPU.

Well, having spent a sizable sum, (for me), on this new camera, to say that I was alarmed was a gross understatement. I tried everything, from contacting Olympus support to reaching out to friends via social media. Nothing I could research or find was helping at all.

I had a revelation on one point though the other day. My old, ancient card reader was recognized by the computer, but I couldn't communicate with it to download anything. Then I realized- new card technology + old card reader = kaput. New card reader time!

Well, after I got that here, plugged in the SD card, and plugged into the computer? BAM! Instantly worked as if nothing was wrong. Downloaded images, and all is good. Now.....what the heck is going on with the camera when I plug it in? I think it has a bad cable or a bad USB port. Since I cannot get another cable for it without dinking around on the net to find one, I think I will just live with using the card reader for the time being.

Humid August gravel riding.
Petrie Road's B Maintenance Level section.
So, it would appear that I have at least a workable solution to the camera downloading situation for the short term, at least. Now I will have to spend some time getting to know this beast and working up some more good imagery. Stay tuned......

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

One For The Album

B+ It's real! (Image credit C. Artmann TNI.de)
Just this past Friday I wrote about the "Plus Sized" mtb revolution. (No pun intended) How ever much I rant and rave about that though, some of you may not get it. It's like a conspiracy, a tinfoil hat thing, ya know......it doesn't exist. Or maybe you like the idea, but you just don't see it. You need a visual aid. Okay, look to the left here. That's real. It is being ridden. Click the image and read the tire hot patch.

That's what I'm talkin' about! 

This is a 29"er fork, for reference. The rim.....it is a new one from WTB. It is meant to go with the new tire, tubeless TCS style. However; this tire will fit down to rims with a 25mm inner rim width and work just fine.

Numbers? Sub-1000 gram tires, (just over 900, actually), and the rim? About the same as a Velocity Dually, (in more ways than one). When? Soon......they are real and will be available. How big? Depends on the rim width for over all width, but think 64mm-71mm wide. Diameter will vary as well, with the wider rim flattening out the tire more and the narrower rims making the diameter larger. Think about 15mm-20mm smaller than a 29 X 2.3" tire diameter. That's gonna lower your bottom bracket height a bit, so be aware of that. Costs? Don't have a clue yet.

Why? Because wider rims and bigger tires really do make a difference. A big difference. It is much betterer in a way that you cannot know about until you actually try something like this. Traction will be better. You will take corners faster. You will have more comfort and stability. One thing you will not have is a need for a new 29"er. These tires on the right rims will work in loads of 29"ers already out there. Sure, it won't work in a lot of them, but on many it will. It's going to be a big deal going forward.

I have a feeling this is just the start.......

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Less About The Rock And More About The Roll

Note: The following originally was posted to Gravel Grinder News on 8/17/14. I thought that since not everyone reads GGN, it might be good to share this post here as well. 
 

2015 Raleigh Willard Two
Less About The Rock And More About The Roll- by Guitar Ted

With the big trade show season about to unfold for the bicycle industry, we start to look forward to what might be getting unveiled for the gravel road riding cyclists amongst us. The bicycle industry has shown some interest in catering to this genre, but not without some backlash, and subsequently the mid-summer releases were less specifically about “gravel” and more about……well, we’ll get to that in a bit here. The point is, it is becoming easier to find off the shelf solutions for gravel and back road riding. Anything from tires, rims, and components all the way up to specific designs in complete bicycles aimed at gravel and back road riders.
 
2015 GT Grade
 
 Crushed rock roads are a mainstay across many of the states in the midst of the United States, but that isn’t the only form of back road/mixed terrain riding available, and certainly it doesn’t represent what is possible all over the country. In fact, many riders don’t even know what a gravel road is and why you’d want to “grind” one. Who could blame them? While many get stuck on the name, it isn’t the point, and it is definitely not the goal of many in the industry to promote “gravel riding” exclusively. That would be selling the whole thing short of its potential, in my opinion.
 
 The gravel scene is real, and it isn’t going to go away anytime soon, but it is only a facet of what I believe could be a revolution in cycling. It is really great to have the industry come to grips with gravel riding’s specific demands, but what works on gravel roads really works everywhere from just short of road racing right up to and including some single track riding. The bicycle industry is catching on to this too. Specialized and GT Bikes, to name two, have shown short videos featuring their new “all road” bikes doing pavement and dirt, with bunny hopping and spirited sprints part of the action.

Even some of these company’s marketing spiels are saying things like, ” this isn’t about racing, but just riding bicycles“, which is a breath of fresh air in an industry that has focused too long on European Pro road racing. While that sort of cycling is exciting, it isn’t what the masses are going to do, or should do, with their bicycles. Bike shops have been filled with fast, light, hard core, unapologetic road racing machines for too long, and the mountain bike market keeps pushing longer travel full suspension bikes that really aren’t necessary for a vast majority of cyclists.
 
However; as stated above, the industry still hasn’t come to grips with just how to market these bicycles. The term “gravel grinder” was latched on to early on, but that term has been registered as a trade mark, (not by us!), and besides, it is not well understood by most cyclists anyway. What to call it then?
This is the sort of “mountain biking” most folks could be doing.
 
Yes….this probably sounds like it is coming straight from a certain retro-grouches “blug”, but if you stop to think about it, an “all -road” type, country bike capable of mixed terrain riding is a lot smarter, safer, and more fun for the kind of “just riding a bicycle” that brought us into cycling in the first place. Getting out there, using a “general purpose” bike just to have an adventure, be with friends, or to get away from it all, is the basis for most riding we do.

This same sort of bike can be your commuter, your light touring rig, an errand runner, and yes…..be ridden on gravel roads. But let’s not get stuck on what a “gravel grinder” is, or why bikes should be designed “specifically for gravel road riding”. No, let’s make it less about the rock, and more about the roll. The riding, and having fun along the way, with a light, reasonably designed bicycle that is capable on a wide variety of terrain types and roads.

We’re not going to be changing our name anytime soon here, since the rides this site promotes and the bicycles and gear we talk about are going to be measured by how they help us “grind out the miles on gravel“. (“Gravel grinder”, now do you understand?) We literally have hundreds of thousands of miles of crushed rock roads surrounding our little headquarters here, so it makes sense for many of us. However; we aren’t so short sighted that we think everything has to be about gravel riding, and we think the bicycle industry should keep moving in that general direction as well.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Getting Back To It

MukTruk hauling fishing rods
Saturday I did a little experimentation with my son. He wanted to go fishing, and I wanted to ride my bicycle, so I had to do a bit of on the fly thinking to accommodate both requests.

I could have easily taken the Xtracycle, but that was too easy, and I wanted to try using the new "MukTruk". (29+ wheels in a titanium Mukluk) I had a few Velcro straps and I used them to lash the two fishing rods and reels to either side of the top tube/seat stays. A bungy cord for more security, and it was done! Then all I had to do was squeeze in some supplies into the Bike Bag Dude frame bag, and then we were off, with everything we needed for a bit of fishing. Yep.....there we go! Off to the water then.

Well, the fish weren't biting, but it was a good two hours or so spent with my son and we learned a few things together. He's getting the hang of casting, and figuring out patience is a good trait for a fisherman. We'll be back out doing this again soon. Me? I figured out why I liked that old Boron Carbon rod and Shimano reel. Smooth and sensitive! It's been a while since I had that rod and reel out. Kinda forgot how it felt, I did.

Flat repaired......
Sunday I made good on my threat to get out and single speed on some gravel. This was the first ride back out in the country for me since July 26th when I was hit by that truck. It was the first ride of any significance since then as well, since I have been recovering from the crash, and sickness intervened in there also.

So I wasn't really sure how that would go. I noticed my bibs fit looser, for sure, which was quite a surprise. I figured I would go the other way there. Then there was the bronchitis I had, which I wasn't sure was gone, but hey! I needed to get out and ride. It had just been too darn long.

It was hot and just a bit humid yesterday here. About 85°F when I left, so that was another concern. The flat bicycle trail South would be a good warm up, and maybe an indicator of how long this ride would really be. I had aimed at going as far as Petrie Road and the B Level section. The bicycle trail sector didn't faze me, so I turned left and hit the gravel.

Things were clicking along well until I turned West on Washburn Road to get a mile over to catch the B Level section on Petrie Road. It was then that I felt the soft, wiggly sensation that we as cyclists know is your sign for a flat tire. Bummer! It's been a while since I've flatted on the gravel roads.  

The change went well, and actually, it wasn't a puncture, but a failed tube, so that was nice to have found out at least. Swapped out the tube and moved along to the B Road, which was pretty loose and deep with sand and fine dirt. Getting out of there I found more dusty gravel and I made my way home after 25 miles. It was good to test myself, and honestly, I came through in a lot better shape than I had expected. Still feeling where the truck hit me, but at least I am back riding again.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Luxy Bar: Why It Is The Bar Many Want But Few Can Get

Pardon my craptastic finishing tape job!
In the super-niche of off road drop bars, maybe there is no other drop bar that has engendered such curiosity and desire as the Ragley Luxy Bar. Why is that? In this post, I'll take a stab at answering this question and telling the back story on this peculiar handle bar.

The Start:

As I recall, there was a thread on mtbr.com on the 29"er forum that was going on about off road drop bar set ups and what bar would be best. Of course, at this time in history you had two choices: Find an out of production WTB Dirt Drop, or similar bar, or use an On One Midge Bar, which was based off the original WTB offering, but tweaked in several important and good ways. (Note- There was  also a revival of the WTB Dirt Drop that was never really embraced by the public, due to it's super-deep drop and weird anatomic drop shape, so I have left that out of this discussion.) I was in the On One Midge camp, but I had nits to pick with that design. I stated something to the effect that I had a "perfect" off road drop bar design in mind which I would have loved to have seen made. Not long after I posted this, I received an e-mail from Brant Richards.

Mr. Richards was a designer at On One, but had recently left to do bicycle and component design on his own, dubbing the company "Shed Fire". He was doing several designs for Chain Reaction Cycles UK brands and mostly for a brand Mr. Richards developed dubbed "Ragley". In his e-mail to me he asked, in his typically abbreviated style, to send along a copy of my design for his consideration.

The Luxy featured a much wider, more flared, and longer drop bar sectioned design.
So I did and Brant seemed truly interested in coming up with something. Months went by, and Brant consulted with others on the design, most notably Sam Alison of Singular Cycles. After this period of time passed, I received images of the rough prototype which no longer bore any resemblance to my crude drawings, but I found fascinating nonetheless. Not that anything I contributed was worth keeping, but I'd like to think that I influenced the design in some small way. I guess I may never know that.... Anyway.....

The design process completed, the bar went through the various stages of prototyping and manufacturing, which Mr. Richards was kind enough to keep me abreast of. It was a fascinating look "behind the scenes", and I learned a lot along the way. Finally, one day a box arrived that had two Luxy Bars inside of it. One in polished ano and the other in black ano. A "thank you" for my thoughts and whatever help I lent along the way, I suppose, and also to get the word out, which I figure was part of the plan on Brant's part.

With its extremely shallow drop and super short reach, the Luxy Bar had no peer.
The Hey-Day:

The Luxy Bar hit the scene and was embraced by a few, but from where I sat I thought that it was a a product most misunderstood at the time it was released. As far as I was concerned, it wasn't anything like I had envisioned, but it was really quite nice, actually. It had a unique 31.8mm diameter top section, and with its "wheelbarrow" handle feel, climbing torque was awesome, so the Luxy Bar and single speed seemed a natural marriage to me. However; some found geared set ups to be quite nice as well.

Still my fave!
The End:

I didn't really keep up with how the Luxy was selling, and not too long after it came out, Brant went back to On One. Whether or not that had anything at all to do with the Luxy's demise is anyone's guess, but it seemed to coincide with the disappearance of this product from stock. I am told it only had two production runs before Chain Reaction UK shut the availability of it off.

The Legend Begins:

I shrugged it off as "one of those things", and since the demand seemed soft for it, I figured that this would be the end of the story. However; maybe a year or two ago now a sudden interest in the Luxy Bar appeared and I was getting asked about the availability of the bar and whether or not I could find any for people. I actually tracked two down and sold one of them to a good friend in Des Moines. Others were being sold for about twice what they originally sold for. I am aware of at least three people that have gone to the length of e-mailing Chain Reaction UK to find out if there was some way to get them to either make more, or release the design to another company to be manufactured. 

There is a lot of behind the scenes scuttlebutt on a "Luxy-like" design drop bar being potentially developed. As of now, that's all it is- scuttlebutt. I really do not foresee the Luxy Bar, or anything very close to it, ever being made again. I think that is sad, since I really like the design, and I know many others do as well. Maybe just as many more would like to try one just because they have heard about the scarcity of these. It's an odd thing that I have dubbed "thing wanted- cannot get". In other words, it seems to me that when you could actually get a Luxy Bar, no one seemed interested, but now that it cannot be had, the "demand" for one seems to have rekindled.

The future will possibly bring other drop bars for off road to light, but maybe none will have such a legendary story as the Luxy Bar has had.