Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Pack Rat

It's not like I don't have enough places to put stuff!
Packing for Gravel Worlds has started up and I have to be careful. Careful not to go overboard and pack too much. I tend to overthink things when these big, self-supported events come up. "What if......" (Fill in the blank)

That can kind of drive you nuts, if you let it go on. I have to try to pare back things when I get going on packing up. I also tend to forget what I already packed and pack the same or a similar item again later. Like small bottles of lube, or multi-tools, or bits of chain. Things like that. I've come back from these events and unpacked three multi-tools out of bags I've had on the bike, and found several items that I've packed that I never even came close to having to use.

I know some people pack up, then unpack, to check over what they have done, and pack it again with deletions, and so on. The thing is, I have so much going on that packing for these events has to be fitted in to an already tight schedule. I have one shot at getting it right. Not an optimal way of doing it, I know, but it is what it is. When you throw in variable weather, this can be amplified, but fortunately, Gravel Worlds is just hot and humid. Makes it easy to figure out from that perspective! I cannot imagine what packing for a Trans Iowa must be like!

Then there is the finding of stuff. I have a terrible habit of just coming home, parking the bike, and letting everything sit for days, sometimes weeks, before getting around to de-bagging, unpacking, and cleaning up stuff. This means that in the meantime I might cherry pick out items from bags and maybe even just take bags off bikes and use the bike, then totally forget where stuff ended up. Then when it comes time to "get the band back together again" it is almost like the "Blues Brothers" when they try to find all their old band mates. It gets comical sometimes around here!

So, I'm doing that dance again this week. Hopefully I don't forget anything important!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Missing Linkage

I rode this fork in the 90's. Linkage forks could be a good thing, if not a tad ugly.
So, there was a bit of a hullabaloo in the mtb community about this "new" design which features a linkage fork. Actually, it isn't anything new, or revolutionary. Linkage forks have been attempted and used in mountain biking since suspension became a "thing" back in the 90's.

My friend from So Cal, Grannygear, suggested that the "newest" incarnation of  this idea as shown recently could be miniaturized and employed as a gravel going fork. Actually, even that already exists. It is called the Lauf Grit fork, which doesn't use pivots, but it uses "leaf springs" which link together the two separate structures which make up the drop out and fork legs respectively. Lauf manages to eliminate pivots and a separate spring which a more "typical" linkage fork uses by making the links the springs. It is genius, and it seems to work. The negative here is that there is zero damping. Of course, with the short travel and higher frequency of bumps a gravel going bike would see, this is less of an issue than it is for a mountain bike.

An example of the German Answer "Kilo" linkage fork.
 Let's say we want damping though, well, then you get into pivots and a separate damper unit. Okay, but why? Why would you even want to put one of these ghastly contraptions on a bicycle?

Well, I happen to have some experience riding a linkage fork. I rode an AMP fork for a few years there on a couple of different bikes. In fact, I have two of these unicorns in my basement. Anyway, they did have a very good small bump compliance and steered really well even deep into their travel. There are reasons why that was.

While there have been, and are, many different types of these beasts, what is attractive here are two things. First; You can rid yourself of stiction- the term refers to the energy required to break free from/overcome the friction of bushings and seals on a stanchion sliding in uppers/shock can in a typical cylindrical, telescopic damper unit. (Suspension fork/rear shock) Linkage forks rely solely on pivots which are much freer to move, or as in the case of the Lauf, just any input overcoming the spring force will allow the wheel to move upward.

Secondly, linkage forks can be designed to control the axle path and can be designed to have "anti-dive" characteristics when applying the brake. Think "Split Pivot" for the front wheel, if "anti-dive" doesn't make sense.

Obviously, eight pivots and a damping unit are going to be susceptible to dirt and moisture and the damage those things can incur upon bushings and bearings. That's why most linkage forks put "the business end" of things where the fork crown is. That arrangement, well......actually anywhere you put linkage, is typically not a very attractive solution but it is an effective solution for bump absorption. Much more so than a telescopic suspension fork is, and generally speaking, lighter to boot.

A linkage fork wouldn't necessarily have to look ugly. Weird? Well.....yes.
In terms of gravel riding, a long travel of the wheel isn't a desirable trait, nor is it necessary. Many forks being positioned in this category feature 30mm of travel. That isn't much and wouldn't require much of a damper unit.

So, in my estimation, a fork like the recently shown mountain bike fork, with its frame altering design, is not at all necessary. A short linkage could be designed which would not only give the right amount of travel, but be aesthetically appealing as well. It may even be able to be made to be so compact that the fork could look nearly traditional. 

But then it could be argued that we don't need a suspension device at all. In fact, many would argue that a simple, rigid fork with an adequate amount of compliance will work with a voluminous tire to provide just the right amount of wheel movement without any unnecessary complexity. I happen to be one of those folks, and I think that many companies miss the boat on this when they spec these big section, beefy looking, unforgiving carbon fiber forks.

Many folks feel that carbon forks will damp vibrations. Really? If you own one of these beefy looking carbon forks you should check this out: When your front wheel impacts a road irregularity sometime, watch the fork blades. (Being extremely conscious of where and in what situation you do this, of course.) More often than not you will see the fork blades remain in plane, but the wheel moves backward a bit. What you are witnessing, most times, is a flex of the top and down tubes of your bike, not the fork blades themselves. This is because manufacturers are deathly afraid of fork failures, the industry testing standards are too stringent, and because of the manufacturers reliance on the fairy tale that carbon forks absorb road chatter. Now some do, but most don't on gravel bikes. 

That said, a smartly designed, short travel, tunable, good looking linkage fork with damping is possible, it just hasn't been done yet. If it ever is, I'll definitely want to try it out. It may just be the missing link between rigid forks and full on, traditional style suspension forks for gravel bikes. 
 


Monday, August 14, 2017

Dusty Shakedown

Smoke on the horizon? No- That's just a car up ahead in that dust cloud!
Gravel Worlds is coming up this weekend and I am focusing my attention on this event now. I made some changes to the Tamland that I wanted to get out and test, just to make sure I liked the set up and to make any small adjustments if necessary.

The day was perfect for riding. There was a North breeze, but it wasn't bad. I decided to ride up Burton Avenue and it was really, really dusty! We sure could use some rain around here! UPDATE: Wish granted! It is raining pretty good here this morning!

I was kind of hoping it would be really humid, as Gravel Worlds tends to have that sort of weather. Unfortunately, as I said, the weather was perfect. Low, low humidity instead of the typical "dog days" we get in August. I could feel the sweat evaporating off my body and it actually chilled me. I'm sure that Gravel Worlds will not be so dry and comfortable. Oh well......

The set up is a suspended one- BodyFloat seat post, Redshift Sports ShockStop stem, and I am using a Ritchey Venturemax handle bar. The tires are the very nice riding WTB Resolutes. All combined to make the test ride a comfortable one. I did end up tweaking the position of the handle bars a bit. Otherwise, it all should be great for Gravel Worlds 150 mile course. Now all I have to do is clean up the rig and check over the drive train.

It was so dusty Saturday that my tires looked white at times.
So now I wait and see what the weather will bring. I see that right now the weather for Lincoln is to be mid-80's with Sun and it is supposed to be humid. Mid 80's? That would be a gift, in my estimation. I believe that is about the same forecast as last year. Of course, most of the middle part of the course will be in to a head wind. Why wouldn't it be? Well, maybe I'll be wrong about that part. That would be good, actually.

The course gets sent out Wednesday. I have to figure out if it will download in to my Lezyne, and of course, I will print out cue sheets. I will be leaving for Lincoln on Friday morning with my friend Tony, so I have a lot to do before then. Buy nutrition, dial in the fine details on the rig, and get packed up and ready to go.

Oh! A side note on Saturday: There is a new dog on Burton about a 1/4 mile South of the church on the corner of Burton and Gresham Roads. The house is on the East side of the road. I hadn't ever had any trouble with a dog here until Saturday when a herding type of dog came out and expertly cut me off and I had to stop. A big old Lab came trundling out behind, so I had both these dogs to contend with. I had them talked off the ledge when suddenly they went berserk, and that was because the owner came out. A tall, middle aged woman who was very apologetic. She said the herding dog was new, and that it hadn't been trained yet.

And the ironic thing is that the dog is named Tony, just like my gravel riding companion who is going to Gravel Worlds with me. Ha!

So, anyway, if you are a local, and if you ride up North on Burton Avenue, you may get a welcome from Tony. Now you know.......

Sunday, August 13, 2017

A Little Bit More On That Stainless Steel Bike

It is a fine rig, that Warakin. A darn fine rig.
The Otso Cycles Warakin I have on test was the rig I rode on the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational last weekend. The review, as it sits so far, for RidingGravel.com can be found here. I just wanted to share a couple things here about this stainless steel thing since it is a rare deal to see a frame made from this stuff.

Now having ridden this bike I have to say that it is actually pretty nice, maybe a bit stiffer than typical steel bikes, and maybe that is due to the fork. What would this bike ride like with a nice steel fork? That would be interesting. However, I probably will never know. It is a test rig and it goes back to Otso pretty soon.

The frame has ginormous clearances for bigger tires. The 45mm WTB Riddlers fit with clearance to spare. That's a good thing, and I am glad Otso figured that out. It does make for a big bend outward at the chain stay though, so if you ride "duck footed " you probably will find your heel striking the chain stay. Other than that, the bike was not an issue for me at all. Everything worked well. The 105 components actually worked better than my older Ultegra ones do.

The Warakin came with a 50T/34T crankset and I don't really prefer that. I rode my Tamland today with the 46T/36T set up and I seem to like that better as a big ring over a 50T. Personal preferences, to be sure, but I found I had to do a lot of "corrective rear shifting" whenever I dropped to the 34T on the Warakin. I do not typically have that with the Tamland's set up.

That all said, the stainless factor seemed to me to be about a slightly stiffer ride, a stiffer BB, and the look of titanium. Everyone said it looked so much like a Ti bike. It really does too. Now why don't they make a Ti bike? They said the stainless frame is a better price and has many of the same bennies as the Ti one would. Okay, fair enough.


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Minus Ten Review- 32

I did a "Lube-Off" ten years ago. This is from last year's Lube-Off.
Ten years ago on the blog this week there were no pictures again! Apparently I did that quite a bit in 2007, but I didn't think I did. With 2 years under my belt you'd think I'd have figured it out! Ha!

Anyway, one of the things I was doing back then was a test of a few bicycle oriented lubrication products to see which one did the best job. I found that DuMonde Tech did the best job back then. Oddly enough, I haven't found anything better since then.

I was just reapplying some to a chain here in the house the other day when my daughter took notice. I should say that I get away with a lot of things here since everyone is on board with my bicycle nerdiness. Lubing the chain in the kitchen probably wouldn't fly in your house! Anyway, DuMonde Tech off-gasses a very potent smell, so beware of doing lubing in an enclosed area.

That smell is very distinctive. I always thought it was a smell I knew, but I just never could place it until my daughter described it as smelling like bleu cheese. Bingo! She nailed it. DuMonde Tech smells like blue cheese. I like blue cheese. Weird......

So, back to ten years ago.....

An argument arose based upon a story posted in "Dirt Rag" about who built the "first" 29"er with a WTB Nanoraptor. History Alert: WTB built the largest volume, 700c based, mountain bike treaded tire ever made to that date in 1999. While it was just shy of actually making the overall diameter 29 inches, it was so close as to be not worth mentioning. The real point being that you could actually mountain bike like 26"ers did with this tire, not babysit your rig because your 45mm Panaracer Smokes were too low a volume to handle things. (So, this is why all other previous attempts at 700c mtb were not successful and certainly were not 29"ers.) Any of the pioneers of the Nanoraptor 29 X 2.1" tire will attest to this fact and tell you that is why they pushed for "The Tire" to be made. See my page about the history of the modern 29"er here. 

Anyway, there was that deal, and there was also new idea concerning fork offsets for 29"ers which On One and Gary Fisher Bikes brought to the table. It was not a well understood concept back then, so a lot of banter was being written on-line about it all.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Friday News And Views

The Lauf "True Grit" gravel bike Image courtesy of Lauf.
Lauf Suspension Introduces A Gravel Bike:

I heard a story from last Spring's Dirty Kanza 200 about a ride one fellow was getting to be extricated from the course after DNF-ing. He was in a car with the Lauf Suspension company's owner. I heard nothing but good things about the man and his love for gravel events. So, it comes as no surprise to me that Lauf has a complete bike now on offer for gravel grinding.

Of course, it is carbon fiber, since it is aimed at racing, which is also cued by the saddle to bar drop you see here. It also features the second generation of the Grit gravel fork. 30mm of undamped travel are on tap here. There is one thing I really like about this bike and one thing I really do not like while there is another thing that I feel is just aesthetically wrong. (I bet you can guess the last one.)

I've been an advocate for slacker head angles and longer offsets for gravel bikes for years. Just as with mtb designs, this idea has a lot of merit for the rider doing lots of gravel travel. Lauf did use a slacker 70.5° head angle which I think is fantastic, but they stopped short of going long on the offset with a 47mm offset. I suppose they are using the slacker angle to account for a slight steepening of the head angle as the fork sinks into its travel.

I do not like the bottom bracket drop here which is right in line with Euro cyclo cross geometry at 65mm. In fact, for gravel bikes, that height is ridiculous. There really is no benefit to using a high bottom bracket for gravel bikes, and it takes away from stability at high speeds on looser gravel. I'll tell you something- I stop having interest in any bike sporting CX type BB height. It basically seems to me to be a nod to making this bike a possible CX bike choice for those buying in, but to my mind, it takes away a vital facet of stability which, in my opinion, cannot be compromised on. Your mileage may vary, but Lauf made a mistake here and the bike could have been so much better. Too bad.......

Besides, The Duke wouldn't cotton to a bike making compromises that is named "True Grit", now would he? I don't think so.

Gravel World's rig
Gettin' Ready For Worlds:

Ha! How pretentious does that sound? Like I deserve to be in a "worlds"of anything! Well, I cannot help that they call the event "Gravel Worlds", so there! They let me in, so I am going.

And.....I'm taking "Captain America". (Note- My daughter dubbed the bike thus, so I am going with it.) I've done a couple of modifications here which are note worthy. The first is adding the BodyFloat seat post from Cirrus Cycles. I used the same post on my Fargo last year to great effect. The washboard gravel they have down there around Lincoln is no match for this post.

I also added the Redshift Sports ShockStop stem to the Tamland. The stem should also reduce front end induced vibrations and over the course of 150 miles, I should feel fresher than I would without it. In my test run Thursday morning I was pretty happy with how smooth it felt. Together with the BodyFloat, the bike felt much calmer in rougher stuff that would normally have your arms shaking.

Finally, since the Tamland doesn't have an under the down tube bottle mount, I swapped over the B-Rad system from the Otso Warakin and this will allow me to have two easily reached bottles, a third on the seat tube, and one stashed inside the top tube bag. With all the chances at convenience store stops, and oasis stops, I should get by just fine with that amount of water on-board.

I'm choosing to run the excellent WTB Resolute tires for the event on my White Industries, WTB rimmed wheel set all tubeless, of course. I'll have 46T/36T X 11-36T gearing for plenty of low end and good high end ranges without running a wonky chain line. I also will be using the Ritchey Venturemax bar on this attempt at Gravel Worlds.

MONe Bikes El Continente
This Gets Me:

So, I have a few things in cycling that will always get my attention- Plate crown forks, fillet brazed construction, single speed capability, and drop bar specific, non-suspension corrected designs. I also have a fascination with 29+ wheels, as I think the possibilities of that wheel size are mostly misused and misunderstood by most companies that try to use them.

Well, I saw someone post this frame from a company called MONe Bikes on Facebook and I was like, "Dang it! There is a bike I can get behind! "  It is steel, fillet brazed, uses a plate crown fork, is a drop bar specific design with no provision for suspension, and can be set up single speed. Plus it is a 29+ wheeled rig.

Yep. I sure do like it!

Some Salsa Cycles honches asked me a couple years ago what I would do for a 10th anniversary Fargo. Well, had I seen that MONe Bikes El Continente back then, I would have just handed them the image and said, "Do that!" If I could persuade them to do it now, I would. But as the 2018 stuff will be released September 8th by Salsa, that probably will not happen. I doubt they have the hutzpah to just go with a non-sus corrected deign, for one thing, much less a specific 29+ rendering of a Fargo.

Maybe, (hopefully), I'll be wrong.

Have a great weekend and get some bicycling done!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

GTDRI '17 Report: Part 4- The Best Was Yet To Come

I Avenue..... Really, this IS a road, but barely.
After getting across Highway 63 we hit some beautiful territory. Some of us saw some deer watching us from a fence row. Wildlife was not super prevalent during the day. We did see a big buck run across our path, a vulture, maybe one hawk, and lots of domesticated animals, of course. So, for as long as we were out there, we really didn't see much for wildlife.

The big climb up to the II Avenue Level B Road was just as I remembered it. Longish, but more importantly, it kicks it up a notch near the end to be pretty steep. The guys were way ahead of me at this point, but I did not mind. I was battling falling asleep by this point, and energy levels felt low. I sucked it up and climbed through the turns and met up with them as they awaited me at our left hander. That section of Level B Road is definitely a great section. Highly recommended to seek that out, and it was getting good comments from the guys after I caught back on. But it wasn't going to even be the "best" Level B Road. That was yet to come.

We didn't have far to go West before we were to turn right at I Avenue. It was not but 3/4's of a mile away from our last Level B, but where we thought the turn should be was masked by weeds. We finally recognized the signage which was back off the road we were on a bit, and in fact, the Level B sign was upside down since the upper bolt was missing that fixed the sign to the post originally. It was quite the scene. No images. You need to go find this before it comes to be a C Maintenance Road, which, I would wager, is not long from happening.

I only offer you the image from my phone, (to the left here), and trust me when I say this road is rugged and choked with weeds in many places. I doubt a vehicle has passed this way in a long time, but maybe I'm wrong about that. It reminded me of roads from Odin's Revenge quite a bit, as far as the rugged nature and decay of the road itself was concerned.

A terraced field in the distance. Garwin was over that ridge to the West....
We finished that road which got rave reviews and then faced a big climb to the West. Garwin wasn't far away and our last rest stop awaited us. I was looking forward to a little more rest there so I decided we should get on with things and we ground out the final miles there without much chit-chat or fanfare. Once we pulled in it was all hands on deck to grab the grub and water we'd need for the last 25 plus miles to get us back to Reinbeck. I felt confident I'd make it, even though I didn't feel very energetic anymore. I grabbed some trail mix, a Coke, some water, and sat outside to relax. No other food sounded good to me at this point, and I only ate half the bag of trail mix before stowing it away.

The convenience store was kind of seedy, but the guys were saying that the bathroom wasn't all that bad. I thought that sounded hopeful, but at the time, I didn't need to use the facilities. New York Roll did, and when he emerged, I asked if he had "destroyed the bathroom". His answer was, Yes. But it's okay. They have Febreeze!".

Laughter ensued.

Well, we couldn't stay there forever, so we finally got up and headed out North to another Level B and then up toward another one, G Avenue, that I had not ever been on before. It turned out to be a pretty good one as well, but not quite as rough as the one before Garwin.

G Avenue was pretty rustic as well, but not as rugged. 
At the end of G Avenue I was greeted again by my waiting companions who were getting rather concerned about my dropping off. I explained about the camera situation and that I had to keep stopping to grab an image. Then I noticed Rob E eating gummy bears. I had a sudden craving and asked for a few. I got four and that really was what I needed. It picked me up and I was back to riding strongly after about 15 minutes had passed after I ate them.

We were closing out the route, but not before several miles of Level B road heading east on 190th. This brought us back to K Avenue and the brutal climbs up to Ridge Road. Rob E and I brought up the rear, and then it was on to Ridge Road to the Northwest. By this time we had about ten miles to go. Well, New York Roll and Robert F could "smell the barn", as they say, and those horses took off, not to be seen again on the route. Meanwhile Martin, Nick, Rob, and I soldiered in to Reinbeck all strung out along the road.

The Otso Warakin at the end of the ride.
Robert had rolled on home. He got in over 140 miles total! New York Roll was already cleaned up and came into the brewery with me, Martin, Nick, and Rob. Kevin was there to say farewell also. He made it back under his own power and had hung out in Reinbeck to see us arrive.

I had a couple of brews and headed out. I would have liked to have stayed and enjoyed the company further, but I was cooked and sitting there any longer would have meant that I would have slept there in the brewery! I don't think they would have appreciated my stinky carcass there all night!

Epilogue: The best Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational ever? Well.....there is a strong case for that argument. I will say that was the best day of cycling in August I have ever experienced on one of the best, most fun to ride routes I have ever been on. So, it ranks up there pretty darn high on the scale. I'd be hard pressed to find a better route, that's for sure. And maybe, we'll never get to ride it again this way. It was obvious that Tama County is making changes, and that Level B on I Avenue isn't going to be public much longer, in my opinion. This route is online, but if you are thinking about doing it, I'd get after it this year. Anyway.....

Other than that, I had a great time with those who came out. Thank you to Martin, New York Roll, Nick, Rob, Kevin, and Robert. We had no serious issues with health or mechanicals. The roads were stellar, the Level B's were fantastic, and I've already told you about the weather. I'll say it again: The best August weather for cycling ever. It won't likely ever be repeated. Glad I got to experience all of it.

Thanks for reading!