Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Dirt Home From Work: That Light

Mid afternoon light in the woods.
Fall- The shadows grow longer and the days grow colder and shorter in October. This is the time of year we get "that light". The Sun is in the right part of our sky now so that the light gets that diffused, golden hue during Sunny days. It gives everything a much more ethereal, dramatic look about it.

Maybe that is why Fall is so loved by many around here. It can be achingly beautiful at times. Yesterday was one of those days here in the Mid-West. In fact, we're supposedly going to have a string of days like that. Best to get out and enjoy this while the gettin' is good, because we're days away from freezing cold, and if we are to get snow, that is only weeks away, most likely.

I rode home without a jacket through the woods on my way home from work. It was perfect. 70°, no wind to speak of, that golden light, and a peaceful countenance was on the land. That won't be the case later as the winds of Winter are sure to get cranked up soon enough and the leaves will be chattering in the streets as they scurry by bare trees where they once thrived.

The only negative thing I can see about the day yesterday was those dratted Japanese beetles which are flying around all over. They look like lady bugs, but they are not, and they are far worse than those. But other than that, this weather is going to be some of the best we'll have until next Spring, in terms of warmth and comfortable bicycling.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Light 'Em Up: Part 2

Economy mode @ 150 Lumens
Yesterday I posted about this new Lezyne Power Drive 1100i light I bought. Well, I had a couple of obligations last night, but I did finally get out to buzz around the neighborhood and see what this light could do.

Of course, street lights and what not pollute the darkness so I sought out the nearby bicycle trail which is canopied in trees and gets pretty black at night. I toggled between a few of the settings and decided I liked one of them that I could live with for a lot of my gravel rides. I didn't know how powerful it was, because in my mind, knowing the numbers influences you to think you have to have "such-and-such" amount of light if the number is too low and you go higher because you think you should. The thing is, you can ride off of less light on a gravel road than you think.

Back in the day, I did a lot of light testing. I was using cheaper commuter type lights that were the norm unless you went in for the ultra-powerful mountain bike lights and their attendant expensive prices. I found a hack by getting a camping light meant to be worn on the head which I modded into a head light for my bicycle. It was rated at 110 Lumens and it probably was that for the first 10-15 minutes, then it gradually got dimmer. I did plenty of night time gravel with that light. I also used a Cat Eye and Blackburn commuter lights there for a while which were similarly powered battery units with similar light outputs.

Then I got a hold of some light, I cannot recall what it was, that had 150 Lumens, and it was so much better that I determined this is all will ever need. Of course, brighter and brighter lights have come out for very reasonable prices. I have gone up in power and still toggle back to medium settings on most lights for gravel travel.

650 Lumens here, but I don't need that much light.
I tried the higher settings but I knew I didn't need that much. I ended up settling on the third from the brightest, (This was still not counting the "Overdrive" mode, which I never did try), and I rode through some alleyways to check out if that middle setting picked up the terrain clues which I need to find the "good line". I could, so I think the middle setting was just perfect. High speed downhills might require something different, but around here those don't last all that long and generally go straight anyway.

I also have to consider that I most often would be supplementing the handle bar light with a helmet mounted one, which would also help with speedier downhills.

So, despite my having three higher settings, including that "Overdrive mode", I don't think I'll often use those. What did I end up with? Well, 150 Lumens! Just like I did a long time ago. That setting is listed as lasting 9 hours and 30 minutes without the extra battery pack. I think I'll be pretty happy with this light, and I suspect night time riding will be fun with it. Also, I should mention that the light features a mode which you can use to toggle between the Economy mode, (the one I liked best), and the Overdrive Mode, which might be useful in certain situations where max light might be necessary or advised.

Finally, a comment about the light pattern not being "car friendly" yesterday in the comment section made me think. You know, most vehicles I see are trucks and SUV's, which have higher headlights than most cars. In fact, I noticed last night that most of those vehicles headlights are only slightly below my eye level. So, I am not concerned about "blinding" an oncoming driver with 150 Lumens of light when their low level lights are almost at eye level and are more like a 1000 Lumens in intensity. Plus, I don't live in Germany where that is forbidden. And I hope to be traveling gravel at night, so traffic is almost nil out there in the country. Maybe for urban commuters, that is a concern, but it isn't for me.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Light 'Em Up

This is what I have to punch a hole through the night, only mine is silver.
Tis the season for night riding. That means you need to have a good light. The thing is, these days is that you don't need to settle for a "good light", because there are now so many great lights. 

Case in point is this new Lezyne Power Drive 1100i that I just got the other day. This light has an 1100 Lumen output at maximum output for one hour and fifteen minutes. Now, that may not sound super impressive, but that is from a self contained unit. Compare this to a Magicshine light I have which came to me via review duties about four years ago, and the Magicshine at 1100 Lumens doesn't even come close to the same form factor or in as efficient a design as the Lezyne unit.

That Magicshine light, for its day, was really a good value, at something like $200.00, while this Lezyne light costs $179.99. Okay, so.....? Well, the Magicshine light has a separate battery pack and charging unit, plus the light head is fixed in position and cannot pivot. The Lezyne light costs more, but I have a separate battery to supplement the internal battery in the unit, it charges via a simple USB cord, and the light head is positionable. Plus, the spare battery pack can be used to charge other USB charging type devices. Or I can use the external battery to lengthen my run times on the light.

The Magicshine simply cannot compete with that. The Magicshine is still produced, by the way, and its basic feature set and limitations make it less expensive today. You can get one for a little over $100.00.

That's just one example, and the lighting color, intensity, and the heat given off are all improved as well with this newer technology. It's amazing to me because I remember the day when you had to shell out about a grand for light this intense and it came with a ballast and a water bottle sized battery. That wasn't all that long ago either. Now you can spend a little over a hundred bucks and light 'em up all night long if ya want to. It's just crazy how good lights for night riding are these days.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Trans Iowa v14: Quick Update On Registration

As registration rolls on I wanted to get an update out there as a way to explain the situation as we sit now and what could happen. 

The Vets/Finishers segment is limited to 61 entrants this year since we kicked down 6 entries from Winners/Plus Six category. As of today, there are 34 entrants in the Vets/Finishers segment. This segment's window closes on October 18th. That's three days to come up with 27 cards, which wouldn't be out of the question, which would fill this category. If I get 28 more cards, or more, there will be a lottery for the 61 spots

So, if your name is on the roster, don't get too comfy. There may be some more to this if I get 62 cards or more and someone is going to get booted and someone is going to get lucky and get in who didn't have there name on the roster for a few days.

I marked all Vet/Finisher names with a "V/F", just to help make things clear.

Questions? Hit me up in the comments.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Minus Ten Review- 41

The Lenz Lunchbox I got to ride at Interbike in 2007 thanks to Mike Curiak
Ten years ago this week on the blog I shared an image of the Lenz Lunchbox belonging to Mike Curiak that he brought for me to ride at Interbike. This was the bike with the "super-secret" tires on it that Niner Bikes mistakenly showed on the floor of Interbike that year when they were not supposed to.

In a fitting irony, the testers of the then unnamed tire decided that this design wasn't cutting it and a new design was worked out instead. Unfortunately, by the time the eleventh hour decision was made to change directions, the first design was tooled up and ready to go. This first tire was known as the "Kodiak 2.5"" tire.

The second design, deemed much better by nearly all who ever had ridden both designs, was called the "Descent 2.5"" tire. So, what about the Kodiak was it that became ironic? Well, the very company that exposed the design too early ended up buying the entire production run of the Kodiaks. Niner sold them on their long travel 29"er. They also sold them separately.

I remember asking Curiak why the first design was panned and he said something to the effect that the Kodiak was too much of a "one trick pony". It was only really an effective design in one specific condition and area where the Descent was a much more versatile tire. In the end, the Kodiak and the Descent were too far ahead of their time. Only now, ten years down the road, are we finally seeing a push to make big, tough, voluminous 29"er tires for trail riding on long travel 29"ers.

The Trek Slash 9.7 29"er. See any similarities to the Lenz?
That Lenz bike was also ten years ahead of its time. Of course, we now have better wheels, tires, and forks to make the idea work. The "geometry du jour" is different, yes, but this Trek Slash owes a lot of its DNA to the groundbreaking work of Devin Lenz and Mike Curiak. Lenz and Curiak were doing stuff in '07 that many in the industry were saying was impossible to do. Yet there they were, largely ignored, and yet making a fully capable, high performing platform which was doing the job with big wheels that others could only pull off at the time with 26" wheels.

Looking back on that day I got to ride that bike, I had little idea that I was riding something from the future. The tires, the deep travel, the capable geometry which, by the way, was so different from the then current thinking on geometry that it could be thought of as being from another planet. Curiak purposefully held back any specific geometry information from me until well after I had ridden the bike, because he knew that had I known the numbers up front it would have colored my impressions of the bike. He was right, because those geo numbers, which would be considered tame by today's standards, were so outside of the box, circa 2007, that I would have laughed at him had I known what they were ahead of time.

It is no small feat then, and in no way hyperbole to say that the Lenz Lunchbox was a game changer. Devin Lenz went on to make a 7" travel bike dubbed the "PBJ" and it further pushed the boundaries of 29"ers. Now everyone is being taken aback by all this big wheeled intrusion into DH and enduro territory, but the mold was cast ten years ago, and I got to ride the prototype.

Thanks Mr. Lenz and Mr. Curiak! I never would have believed it then, but you two helped usher in an era of big wheelers that is nothing short of amazing.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Friday News And Views

T.I.v14 Registration Update:

The first phase of registration for the 14th Trans Iowa was completed Wednesday. There were six spots available which were not claimed, so I am pushing those down to the Vets & Finishers classes which now will have 61 slots available to fill before I would require a lottery. Last year I didn't have to do that. Maybe I won't have to do that this year. Hard to say. But if the Vets and Finishers don't add up to more than 60, there will be open spots getting kicked down to the Rookies. I'll know more on October 18th when the Finishers and Vets window for registration closes.

So.......yeah! Did you see that Dan Hughes, (T.I.v13 winner), Greg Gleason, (T.I.v10 overall winner, T.I.v 12 co-winner), Walter Zitz, (T.I.v12 co-winner), and Eric Brunt (T.I.v8 overall winner), are on the roster? Plus Mark Johnson is signed on in the SS/Fixed category, as always, and is a threat to win the overall as well as the SS/Fixed category. Sarah Cooper is signed on, but she will not be racing for the Open Womens category, as she is going to give it a go on a tandem with veteran/finisher/super-volunteer Steve Fuller.

Interesting field so far in terms of the competitive, pointy end of the T.I. field. It will be cool to find out who amongst the finishers and Vets comes back, and ultimately who will be the new gun coming out of the Rookie class.There is always someone or two that ends up pushing the front of the race every year.

"Ultra-premium" tire levers "optimized for carbon fiber rims"? How did we do tire removal without these?
Spendy Levers:

Silca is now a US owned and operated company and when they came out of the gates with that track pump for $400- plus dollars, I figured it was just a stunt to get attention and then they would go back to being reasonable. But ohhhhh nooooo! I was very wrong about this. In fact, everything Silca has proffered since then has made me shake my head in disgust and disbelief. The latest is a pair of $18.00 tire levers.

Eight. Teen. Dollars!

The marketing blather may as well not exist after I saw the price. Look....... I've been a mechanic in a bike shop setting for nearly 20 years. Tire levers are not an issue for carbon fiber rims unless you are using metal ones or are hamfisted. I've been working on taking tires off and installing them on carbon rims for well over a decade. Any ol' lever will do the job, (again, as long as it is not metal), and my current favorite is the Pedros levers. Did you know that you can buy three sets of Pedros tire levers for the price of a pair of Silca ones? Oh......and if you can mount a tire without levers, you should. Many times you can.


Question: When will the Wallmart family buy Silca like they did Rapha? These two brands were made for each other.Those Walton boys oughta look in to that. Otherwise I don't see the point here. That sort of money for tire levers is just goofy.

But they will probably sell out by the caseload. Meh!

Ignore that "Clement" branding. It's "Donnelly" now.
 Big Gravel Tire:

So, many gravel tires that exist are in the 35mm-45mm size range and for good reason. Most "gravel/all road" bikes won't fit anything bigger than that. At least in 700c sizes. Cyclo Cross bikes? Fahgeddaboudit. 

However; now there are a few rigs sporting capacity for up to 2" wide 700c rubber. And let's not forget that many Fargos and the like are used for gravel travel and those bikes might benefit from a bigger tire which is a gravel specialist. 

So, there are not many tires that fit the bill for fast, voluminous casings, and that have a modicum of traction for the hard packed dirt sections. The MSO tread design does have what many riders like, and about a year ago, Donnelly Cycling introduced the 700 X 50mm MSO with a tubeless ready casing. Then it was still Clement, and the tires I have to test are branded as such. That said, going forward they will have Donnelly branding, but they will be the same tire. I don't have a bike with a "gravel specific" geometry that fits these so they will likely go on the Fargo Gen I bike with a tubeless set up.

I hope to get that done this weekend but I also will be testing a different sealant combination so I may not have everything in hand until next week. Hint: It will be a competitor to Stan's Race Day sealant.

Okay, more soon..... Have a great weekend!


 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Getting Back On It

The Fall colors haven't quite come in yet.
Wednesday and I was feeling better, so I went for another ride. Over the weekend I was too busy, it rained a lot, and I felt awful. I relapsed, in fact. But since then I've been on an upswing and I think I am coming out of this funk. Finally.....

Anyway, I ran out of time for, and thought better of, an attempt at doing a big gravel ride. I probably need to take some baby steps first here. It has been a good month since I have done any hour plus long rides on gravel. So, in an attempt to not over-do it, I stuck with a fat bike ride in the Green Belt.

That made sense also from the standpoint of doing some work on Marky-Mark Trail. I wanted to make sure it was still clear, number one, and then I wanted to scout out an extension. First I had to get out of the house. I know that sounds so simple to do, but for some reason, I feel like a tractor beam gets turned on whenever I want to get away from the house for a ride.

Either I cannot find some essential, wanted bit of kit or gear, or I get interrupted. Yesterday it was interruptions. Not "bad interruptions" mind you, but time stealers all the same. I had to take care of these details first before I left to ride. Sometimes it is much more frustrating than that, especially when I cannot find a wanted item.

It is nice to see water running through the Green Belt again. Still- we could use more rain!
So anyway, I got out there on the Ti Mukluk with a clip on rear fender, you know,  just in case. We have had a lot of rain of late which I know may have made a mess of things in the Green Belt, but with it having been so dry previously, I was betting on okay conditions. I was mostly right. The water crossing at the dike was a hike-a-bike. It probably will erode to become far worse, and in my opinion, it will eventually end up as deep as the section we used to cross for years. So much for moving it, but then, I could have told you it would go like this.

Things are still mostly green out there.
I went out to Marky-Mark Trail and stopped to do a bit of recon. I feel like there is a lot of potential here. The land that Marky-Mark traverses is higher ground, and to my knowledge it has never flooded. Well.....maybe it did in '08. That was the record flood year, but the point is, this land does not flood out very often, if at all. A trail would be sustainable and easier to maintain through there, as evidenced by Marky-Mark, which sees so little maintenance it isn't even funny.

I think I am going to eventually do two new sections, but for now I am only going to work in one. It won't take much, I feel, and my preliminary scouting trip revealed a nice flow and some good area to punch it through on. Some deer trail will be utilized, but the underbrush is very similar to what I remember dealing with in 1997, so I know what needs to be done here to establish this new section. It will mean that I will have to dedicate much of my late season and early next season riding to "burning it in", but once that gets done, I think it will stick.

The fat bike felt odd yesterday since I was trying out my new Keen boots which I hope to use most of the Winter. They are insulated and waterproof, so they are built to take it, but heavier boots and thicker soles just make your bike feel different. I think it took two thirds of my ride to get comfortable with how my pedal stroke felt and to figure out my gearing. Plus I always feel more restricted with Winter stuff on, and Fall starts me down that road again.

Stay tuned for more on the Marky-Mark trail extension coming soon......