Friday, September 04, 2015

Friday News And Views

This B Road reminded me of something.....
Trans Iowa V12 News:

There has been some activity on the Trans Iowa front since I announced the dates last month. I have been peering at the maps and devising a course, plus there have been some rumblings concerning the sponsorship of the event already. I haven't got anything solid to share on the sponsorship front yet, but here are a couple of things I can share with ya'all right now.

Registration, if you haven't heard, will be entirely different for the Rookie Class this time. To avoid all the prats and pitfalls of the past edition of the registration for Rookies, this is the plan going forward. NOTE: The Finishers and Vets will register as they did last year. NO CHANGES there.

The Rookies will be doing registration FIRST this time and also they will be doing things by postcard, but that's about as conventional as it gets. The post cards Rookies will send in will be limited to one per entrant, be under a specific size, and will have to be "REAL POST CARDS". This is important to keep things fair. You'll understand why in a moment.

Next, I am going to accept post cards for Rookies for THREE WEEKS. Any and all post cards will be accepted during the specified time. ALL WILL BE SENT U.S.P.S. No exceptions. (NOTE- Not now!!) One card per entrant, of a specified size, with all being "real post cards", (no cardboard, etc), and all during the three week time period. When the window for the mail ins is closed, I will put all the post cards I receive into a bin and I will have someone draw out 40 cards for the 40 open spots on the roster for rookies.

So, if all the cards are nearly equal in size, and all cards are typical post card stock, there shouldn't be any "advantages" or "disadvantages" when the drawing is done. I will say this probably till you are sick of hearing it, but after the drawing is done, it is done. All decisions are final. No waiting lists, or transfers, or what have you. In or out. Simple.

I've gotten very positive feedback on this idea from several sources, so this is what I plan on going with. Any objections should be posted in the comments now. I will announce a "go" date very soon, so stay tuned...

The course is drafted to CP#1, and I have a specific spot I want CP#2 to be at, with a rough draft of the route to it already. Plans are to get out yet this month to start recon. Stay tuned......

Guitar Ted "Lube-Off" Update:

I haven't forgotten about this and I plan on doing more field research as the month of September rolls along. I will be pitting Rock & Roll Gold up against my "champion" so far, DuMonde Tech. I already have some good ideas about where this one will shake out, but I need more time on the Rock & Roll before I give my final verdict.

Just a reminder- This "Lube-Off" is all about riding on gravel roads and may not reflect your reality. However; it is my opinion that there isn't much harsher an environment than gravel roads here where dust is plentiful. Since that dust is essentially groud up rock, it has a rather severe effect on drive train components, so I feel if a lube does a good job in my test, it probably will make a great dry lube for just about anyone.

Later in the year, I hope to do some testing with "wet" type lubes, and that will hopefully be on my fat bikes. Commuting on city streets really taxes a bike in our typical winter conditions, so this should prove to be a good test as well.

From the last trip I made to Interbike

The post I put up earlier in the week about the trade shows garnered a lot of comments about the actual subject off line, but was decidedly about "e-bikes" in the comments, which was somewhat expected. However that may be, the off-line commentary was what I really found quite engaging and interesting.

I won't name names or divulge anything shared with me, but it seems that the post struck a nerve and many were giving me some feedback that supported my overall view. I was surprised to find out a couple of my friends weren't going to Interbike and hadn't gone to Eurobike either.

In hindsight, I wondered if a "media blackout" for the show could work in some way. The press could get the inside scoop, have the information embargoed until the show is over, and then the stories could all be unleashed. I thought this might make the show more interesting to dealers to attend it, especially if companies bought into the idea. But then I realized there was no way that would ever work with everyone being a "johnny-on-the-spot" poster these days. I mean, what dealer or employee of a shop wouldn't be firing off everything they saw to online forums and social media? So, it seems that the pre-event releases, demo tours, dealer only events, and instant, online posting of everything you'd want to know about is a deal killer for the traditional trade show format.

Okay, this is it folks! The last big holiday of the Summer. Be safe, have fun, and ride those bicycles!

Thursday, September 03, 2015

All Roads Cycling

Starting out on pavement.
Over at the shop where I work we've been trying to impress upon folks that there are road bikes and then there are road bikes. You know, for any kind of road. Not just the nice, smooth blacktops or cement roads, as if there are really any of those!

Part of this "education" is breaking the mold of perceptions that skinny 23mm tires at 120psi are faster and that you should have the lightest bicycle possible. Quite frankly, the cycling brands that most folks are aware of push this concept and are continuing to foist these rigs on bike shops and consumers as "the bike" to have. In reality, there are very few folks that can really benefit from having the equivalent of an Formula 1 race car in their garage.

The standard racing bicycle is just as impractical as owning an F-1 car would be for the average person, and just as uncomfortable. Fast? Light? Yes, but at a cost that makes these bikes impractical for anything but smooth tarmac and the limber body of a fine tuned racer. That's unnecessarily limiting, and these bikes are so niche, in reality, that their glaring incompetence for average cycling needs should place them at or near the bottom of choices for cyclists. But they aren't and most of that problem is with perceptions and the brands that play on them.

So we end up slapping on racks where there are no rack mounts, tell folks kickstands don't work with carbon frames, and flip stems up or put on stem extenders. In the end, these bicycles, designed for racing or based directly off racing designs, are modded to be something they are not. Loads are carried on them that end up destroying rear wheels before their time, and of course, those hard, unforgiving 23mm tires at max pressure are not helping at all.

This silty climb would have been impossible on skinny racing treads.
 This is where the "gravel bike" comes in. Of course, this isn't really a good name for these bikes, but bikes designed to do gravel travel are perfectly suited to doing any road be it paved, rough, pot holed, gravel, or not paved with anything at all!

Four years ago there weren't many choices for this kind of bike, but now just about every company has one or more of these sorts of bicycles in their line ups. The big problem now is trying to get bike shop staff on board with this idea, and then getting that message out to the masses. This reminds me a lot of the struggles Fisher Bikes had back in the early 00's trying to get dealers to grasp the concept of 29"ers. The dealers that did get the message and translated it successfully reaped great benefits. Same deal with these "all road" bikes here. This could be big. It should be big.

One big mistake the companies that are putting these bikes out are doing is making them appear to be "like a mountain bike", or describing them by saying things like "this is a mountain biker's road bike." What does mountain biking have to do with any of this? Equating these new "all-road", go anywhere bikes with mountain biking is doing them a great disservice. The perception of mountain biking the industry puts out is one of machismo and is rather misogynistic in nature for the most part. That's just one thing wrong with this marketing plan. Many videos I have seen show these bikes in a "mountain biking" context.  Doing "rad" moves on the all-road bike shows these bikes are capable, but in the context they are shown in, it becomes a turn off. To the companies doing this sort of marketing for these bikes, it is a buzz kill, not a buzz maker.

The other mistake folks make in the industry is repackaging cyclo cross bikes as "all-road/gravel bikes". The cyclo cross geometry isn't the best for rough roads and loose gravel roads at all. Companies that don't use the easy way out, and do their own geometry have much better riding product and will have happier end users. Cyclo cross bikes, and straight up touring bikes, for that matter, are also generally way too stiff for comfortable cycling, which is paramount for getting these new bikes accepted in a wider arena.

Going where no road racing bike, and few vehicles, will ever go is a lot of fun. 

The big miss a lot of people are making is the "fun factor". These bikes can go places where "normal" road racing bikes can go, and where traffic is low to non-existent. Stressing about when you may become the next road cycling fatality? Maybe give this "all-road" cycling some thought. The sales pitch needs to be accessible to folks though, and if you listen to much of what the industry puts out, you may miss out due to how their messages miss the mark.

That's why I started doing the "Geezer Ride" in various places in Iowa. I wanted to focus on the social side, camaraderie, and all the while try to showcase how cycling on rural roads is not only accessible, but not all that hard and most of all- fun. Hopefully I was somewhat successful in that. It is something shops could do anywhere to promote safe, fun, adventurous riding and show off these new bikes that are extremely capable machines.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

A Year With A Chinese Fat Tire

The Ti Muk with a Chaoyang tire on the back.
About a year ago now I got the opportunity to try out some tires and advise a certain company on their merits, if they had any or not. One of those skins was a fat tire by a Chinese company named Chaoyang. Turns out it is China's oldest and largest tire manufacturer. They make thousands of types of tires, so I would suppose they know a thing or three about making a bicycle tire.

Anyway, I see these Chaoyang tires more now and they come on some fat bikes as original equipment. Maybe you've noticed this as well. I thought I would pass along my experiences with this tire and how it performs.

I recall my first impression was that the tread pattern looked like an evolution of a Husker Du or maybe the Dillinger from 45NRTH. Sparsely spaced, squarish knobs and with some siping in some areas. Nice looking tread, but not a tall tread block. Actually, the blocks are shallow, in terms of fat bike tires. Weight on this wire bead tire was just over 1500 grams. I understand that folding bead versions are about 200 grams lighter if you can get them. I'm not sure of any stateside distributors, but I have found these on-line.

Mounted up on my Rolling Darryl rims with tubes, I found that the width was slightly less than the Bud on Rolling Darryl front wheel. Near as I can tell the tire is 4 9/16ths inches at its widest point on the casing but the widest knobs are only 4 1/8th inches apart. So, it isn't a 4.9"er, or as wide as a Bud or Lou, but it does fall in that nice "middle" ground between a 4"er and the bigger Surly tires. Obviously, the knobs width on the casing, (or shall we say the "business end" of the tire?), is not much more than some other 4" class tires, but that volume does count for something and you can manage some float with that big ol' balloon casing.

Chaoyang fat bike tire showing the tread pattern here. 
The Chaoyang 4.9"er I have is eerily similar to the skinnier Panaracer Fat B Nimble. (Shown here for comparison)

Verdict: In my opinion, the Chaoyang tire is a well constructed, "normal" fat bike tire as far as tire standards go for this class of tire. It isn't going to blow your socks off with a light weight, great feeling casing, or a tubeless ready bead, but it isn't a "junk" tire by any stretch of the imagination. That it falls in that "in between" width is really great, since I can max out my Ti Muk's chain and seat stays and still get all my gears. This means maximum flotation for this bike, instead of wishing I could slam in a Lou,  and have no clearances, or "settle" for a 3.8"-4" tire that would leave me wanting more. I give this a big thumbs up for being a weird size. However; it should in no way ever be considered a 4.9"er, which is what the tire is marked as.

The performance of this tire on packed snow, or harder surfaces is outstanding. It starts to show cracks in the armor when things get deeper and looser. It will slide laterally quite easily, since the outer knobs are so low and they don't come around the casing very far. Forward bite is minimal in looser snow, sand, and mud in comparison to a Nate or Lou. This tire easily breaks free on looser rocky climbs and in slippery mud and snow conditions.

I can always lower the air pressure and make this tire get traction when it has no business doing so, but that said, this tire is really best on drier snow, groomed trails, or as a summertime single track tire if you have buff trails or harder dirt surfaces. If it had bigger, more aggressive knobs or some lateral supporting knobs out on the edges of the casing, it would make a better all-arounder. Unfortunately, that isn't the case here.

Note: Guitar Ted received this tire to test at no charge. He was not paid, nor bribed for this post and always strives to give his honest opinions throughout.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Eurobike Commentary

E-bike specific clothing. is real.
Eurobike just happened and maybe you didn't know that. I wouldn't blame you if that is the case, since the world's largest bike show wasn't really pumping out a lot of news about bicycles. Now, if your bag is electric motorcycles, well then, yeah. There was a lot of news about that segment. So what if the bike nerds call them "e-bikes", they are motorcycles by definition.

There was one electric motorcycle deemed good for off-road use, dual suspension, by the way, that was claimed to go far beyond 25mph, and that was a good feature to write about? Hmm.... Then there were some bits of this and that. Nothing spectacular, well that is unless you are a roadie. SRAM unveiled its poorly kept secret, the wireless electronic shifting group, and there was a hydraulic shifted group debuted by Rotor. Otherwise.....ho-hum. 

And all this from the biggest cycling show in the world? So, this begs the question, what in the world could be waiting at Interbike? I'll put out a guess- not much of anything new. What will be new will be accessories, more electric motorcycle stuff, and probably some personal appearance news. Just like any other year at Interbike of late. Not much to write home about for the average cyclist. Despite what the show promoters have to say.

"What did they say", you might ask? Well, the fellow behind Interbike was quoted as saying, “I get frustrated when I hear people say that they can see everything online, or that there’s not anything new to see at Interbike by the time the show arrives,” said Pat Hus, Vice President of Interbike. “I am going to assume that many of these naysayers haven’t been to the show in many years, and haven’t seen how it’s evolved."

Well, I am quite certain that people saying they can see everything on-line from the shows is frustrating, because it is true. Just Google "Eurobike 2015" and check it out for yourself. I mean, what the heck is the media there for if they aren't pumping out images and words about what is new? Since Eurobike introductions always pre-empt Interbike showings, it isn't any surprise that Mr. Hus is upset. And by the way, I have been to Interbike in previous years. 2007-2013, to be precise. I decided not to go last year, and guess what? I didn't miss anything but Las Vegas. Oh wait........I lied. I didn't miss Las Vegas either. 

Private dealer only events have gutted the trade show for new model stories.
Consumers typically used to ask, "What's new?" after you came back from trade shows. Back in the day, you had stories galore to tell. Now the consumer can hop online and on the day the shows open, or when a dealer only show happens that media are present at, they can view and read all about the new stuff before the show goers have lunch. So, no- you don't have to go to a trade show. You just have to be johnny-on-the-spot in the morning or have had someone tell you about the stuff beforehand. (Thus all the "embargoed" stories and "non-disclosure contracts" that companies enforce these days.)  

Another thing going on which neuters trade shows is the "demo tour" style marketing that companies like Santa Cruz and Niner Bikes have been doing for years. Check out the latest blurb from Surly Bikes as an example:

If you haven’t heard yet, Surly will not be attending Interbike this year in the fashion to which many of you and your favorite LBS have become accustomed. Yes, the Surly Ziggurat will lay dormant in its crate for Interbike 2015.

We’ve decided to spread our wings a little and shift focus from the cigarette stained halls and frosted tips of Vegas to the open road of this great nation. Yes that’s right, Surly is going to be taking more road trips in the coming year so we can visit our friends and bring them beer. 

Or as that seminal 70's and early 80's band, The Doobie Brothers used to sing, they'll be takin' it to the streets. Or your devices, as the case may be. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Strange Daze

At least I got this cleaned up this weekend
I have to admit that the last few weeks have been pretty packed with activity. I really shouldn't have expected such a high level of sensory input again this weekend, nor was that probably a good thing anyway. "Rest as hard as you train", was something ol' Jeff used to tell me way back when. I guess I had it coming.....

Saturday was odd. I think that is the best way to put things. I was supposed to go and attend a a funeral, and got some vague information on where to go. Drove over an hour, searched, and didn't find anyone around, so I drove back home. There are extenuating circumstances surrounding this that I won't delve into here, but I only bring it up as it set the tone for a very "off kilter" day.

 Basically, the only thing I got done all day was driving for two and a half hours through the beautiful Iowa countryside, cleaning one of my fat bikes up, and plotting the opening 53 miles for the next Trans Iowa event. That and no bicycle ride, with the exception of tooling around on the titanium Mukluk to make sure it is a go when the weather turns later on. Oh yeah, I swapped out the seat post, handle bars, and stem. Both the bars and stem are carbon, and the stem is pretty much a wash, just different. A lighter set up, and eventually I would like to tackle the wheels. Getting those tubeless and lighter will just about hone this rig to its highest potential.

Sunday I just felt in a funk. So I ended up taking a nap for a bit and just hanging out with the family, grocery shopping with Mrs. Guitar Ted, and sitting with the kids a bit on their last day of Summer vacation. So, yeah......a pretty ho-hum weekend in terms of adventure! 

Gaffer's Tape to the rescue!
 Update On The Camera:

After I posted my disappointments regarding the Olympus Tough TG-3 I have, (seen HERE), I had a nice e-mail exchange with my pro camera buddy, Wally. He informed me that the wear issues were par for the course. He also stated that camera companies are making some concessions to "fashion" over function, so a truly armored casing, which is deemed "ugly", I guess, isn't going to cut it in the marketplace at this price point. I think that's probably truth, but I also think that it is lame. I don't blame the  camera companies, but more so our culture, that fashion trumps function in the case of a "tough" camera. Anyway..... It isn't just in terms of cameras. Just look at mountain bikes. We could go on and on......

So, anywho..... Wally suggested I use a "pro tip" and order up some gaffer's tape and put it on the highest wear spots, just like the pro photographers do. I checked in to the tape, and it is super cheap. I got two rolls, and I'll likely never go through it all, but hey! I got gaffer's tape and I can reapply it whenever I need to on the camera. You can see how I used it in the image to the left here.

So far it has worked great. I have bounced the camera around in my bags and it isn't peeling off the tape or causing any issues yet. Bonus- I taped shut the media door, which was the one most likely to pop open on its own, so that issue is gone as well.

The new view is that with gaffer's tape, which weighs next to nothing, I can protect my camera from most of the issues I was having and it now is back in my good graces. I still think it is super lame that a camera like this isn't a bit more functional and less fashionable, but so be it. Obviously, I chose a most obnoxious color to tape it up with in protest, so there! Take that you camera fashionistas!


Saturday, August 29, 2015

Up Next

Fall is single speed mtb time
With Gravel Worlds over, my ambitious schedule of events has been completed. Quite honestly, I am surprised that I made it to all the events and rode in them. Completion rate stunk, but hey! At my age, there aren't too many guys out there even trying this stuff.

So, anyway, now Fall is on the doormat and coming through. It is my favorite time to goof off on my single speed mountain bikes and to go for lazy rides in the country on my gravel bikes. That will happen, but I also have to start getting things ready for Winter's coming. That means more than sprucing up the fat bikes around here! I have a few house related tasks that need attention before the frost settles in.

Around the blog here I want to get going again with the Lube-Off. I have some things to add to that very shortly, but I also have Fall to go before we get into wetter, colder applications for lube where we may see some different brands rise to the top. Then I also have some things I'll be adding to the Garage Sale page that I will be offering for sale. (Link at the top under the header) By the way, there is a nice deal on some brand spanking new CX tubular wheels on that page. Couple of SS frames as well.

Anyway, things will go from training/racing mode here to a more laid back mode. I will be doing more Trans Iowa related things coming up soon also, so if that tickles your fancy, stay tuned for that.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday News And Views

Trek's Gnarwall studded fat bike tires should be available this Winter
Fat Bike Tires:

Yesterday I learned that the new Gnarwall studded fat bike tire will be available this Winter and the retail should be about $245.00 each. Ouch! I was hoping that these might be a bit better priced, since the other tires out there for fat bikes with studs aren't cheap either. However; one can hope that you will actually be able to get these tires, unlike the competition's offerings.

 Trek will also have the 4.7" "Barbegazi" tires available aftermarket, which are nice looking treads. I'd be interested in these because of their tubeless compatibility, despite their not being as big as maybe the Lou tires are. Finally, I also saw that the 27.5 X 3.8" "Hodad" treads will be available aftermarket too, but obviously that may not be a hot seller right away! 27.5" diameter fat bike tires seem like an odd deal, and without anyone else moving toward that size, (as yet, anyway), I have to wonder how long that will last as a tire size for fat bikes.

On the 29+ front, Trek seems to be cautiously watching where the trends are going. It seems that the vibe I'm getting is that Trek is taking a wait and see approach before doing anything more with that format. Obviously, the trend industry-wide isn't backing Trek up on the 29+ front, so it should be interesting to see where 29+ goes in a couple of years from now. Right now all I hear is positives about the Stache 29+ bikes and that seems to be about the only 29+ rig out now that anyone is buzzing about, besides the touring/bikepacking Surly ECR and upcoming Salsa Deadwood bike.

Surly's new "Wednesday" (Really! That's its name) fat bike.
New Surly Fat Bike:

Surly Bikes unleashed a rather strangely named fat bike Wednesday at Eurobike dubbed the.....Wednesday. Yes, it is real. The bike is named after a day of the week.

Apparently the weekend days were trade marked already!

Anyway, what we have here is a continuation of Surly's updating throughout the line which started with the resurrection of the Instigator and then the ICT, Karate Monkey, and now the newest bike, the Wednesday which features many of the small details that Surly has been using of late. This one has geometry that reflects the Krampus and Instigator bikes with a slacker front and shorter rear/center. The 26 X 3.8" tires/wheels are the realm of this number and obviously, that makes it a primo candidate for a 27.5+ conversion. The front fork is "Bluto spaced" at 150mmOD, so the Bluto fork is an easy swap here.

I find this bike to be a great addition to Surly's line up, albeit about two years too late, and it brings up the question: "Where does this leave the venerable Pugsley?" Also, how is it that the Ice Cream Truck doesn't make the Moonlander obsolete? Anyway, I feel that at some point push is coming to shove and the offset fat bikes Surly has now will be a thing of the past.

MOBD fat bike rims from Surly- Coming Soon!!
Surly Announces New Fat Bike Rims: 

One of my biggest complaints against Surly fat bike rims was that they were not tubeless ready. Well, that is all about to change here very soon. Just announced at Eurobike, we can expect the "My Other Brother Darryl" rims to be coming out sometime in the near future.

These will be offered as stock on Wednesday bikes, but those will be pinned rim versions and you won't be able to purchase those separately. The aftermarket MOBD rims will be welded seam rims. There is also a difference in cut outs which reflects how the rims can be laced. The hexagonal hole MOBD rims can be offset laced to Pugsleys and Moonlanders. The ones with triangular shaped cut outs are meant for symmetrical fat bikes like Wednedays, ICT's, Mukluks, etc. Finally, you can get them polished or in black anodized finishes. Weights are claimed to be in the sub 700 gram area, but we'll see about that. If so, that is very competitive with the carbon fiber rims out of China. Obviously those carbon rims do not require rim strips, but the Surly ones will. I think a bit of color in the rim strips showing through is cool, so I'm okay with that.

I don't know much else about these now, but the polished ones would be cool on the Snow Dog.That and a good set of tubeless tires and a 1X set up..... That may become a new project bike.

And Finally.....

 I was reminded yesterday of the short time we have on this Earth when I learned of the death of one of my Uncles. Don't waste anymore time and say those things you should say to the ones you love, spend time doing the things that bring you joy, and try to do something nice for someone everyday. You never know when your time is done here.....

Have a great weekend!