WTB Byway: First Impression By Way Of A Long Ass Story

One of the catalysts to starting the new Project Pink build was a conversation about bike stuff with Riding Gravel partner and Trans Iowa mastermind Guitar Ted.  As we rode down the rocky roads of the Gent’s Race, he filled me in on WTB’s “Road Plus” movement (650b rims, 47mm Tires which are supposed to be “better” than running regular skinnies), and his test of their Horizon tire. We also chatted about their upcoming yet-to-be-officially announced more-gravel-friendly tire, which is now known as the Byway, and how it was superior in stability or something on gravel (you can read GT’s words on the Byway HERE) Then he looks over and says “But you don’t have a 650b bike, do you?”  I swear he flashed an evil grin as he spat those challenging words my dusty direction. Dammit. Accepted.

A few weeks passed, and Trans Iowa 13 happened.  WTB was kind enough to be a sponsor again this year, and they sent over tires for everyone who finished.  It was a really bad year for finishing, but a good year for building an entire new bike around a new-to-me wheel size, and I was offered up a set of Byways of my own. Thank you, GT, you are the best (If you know him, you know this already. If you have done TI, you may have a slightly different opinion of him. He’s also one of the best at punishing bike courses).

So I secured a frame for the project, and it happened to be the same frame that GT was running his 650b’s on, the Twin Six Standard Rando.  I’m definitely stoked on doing my own test on the same bike that he did his testing on.  I bargain basement shopped for the parts I didn’t have around, and started a wheel build order with my favorite local builder, Ed at Beaverdale Bikes.  He was also a catalyst for Project Pink, as he had procured some very special 650b rims last year, and it took about two seconds to decide on using those.  More on the wheel build later…

“You have a package on the way to you” sprung up on my phone screen.  The tires were on the way! There were the last piece of the pink puzzle, other than waiting on the wheels to be finished.  They arrived. I was so goddamn stoked. I’ve been on a tire search after my favorites, the Clement MSO 40’s, had finally showed me they just weren’t up to the task of hauling my oversized ass around the countryside.  New Tire Day is a thing of celebration around the CNB HQ.

My First Impression: The Byway tires fit neatly in the box in which they were shipped. Upon opening said box, I saw the gorgeous tan walls (TAN WALLS TIL SNOW FALLS), along with the smooth center that graduates to file-tread, then some outer blocks for stability when hitting the sandy corners out there. I decided to leave them in the box on my bench. I mean, I don’t have wheels to mount them on so why get them out yet?

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YES, that is my actual first impression. It’s literal. It’s concise. If you made it through the entire story of how they came to me, thank you.  If you didn’t, how did you end up just reading this paragraph?  My plans are to set these up tubeless on the new wheels, which will be my first tubeless setup on an “Adventure Bike.” I’ve been running tubeless on my single speed 29ers and my fat bikes (FATBIKE!) for a while now, and it’s been great, I’m looking forward to seeing how the Byway stands up.  I’m just really pumped to get this bike all built up and rolling. I am thinking of all the times I rode long road rides on my..uh..road bike…and how many gravel sidetracks I didn’t get to take because of my puny 28mm tires.  NO MORE! I truly hope that the Byway will bridge the gap between the dirt/pavement realm for me, giving a good fast paved roll and the ability to go off-route and tear shit up on the gravel.

Sam

CNB

Bikepacking Rant Pt. 2

Unlike most times I have written a “part 2” to anything, I resisted the urge to name it “Electric Boogaloo” or something else closely resembling the subtitle to the sequel to the classic movie “Breakin.”  Breakin was an inspirational movie for me, watching it at a young age on HBO, I decided I wanted to be a DJ.  That dream was never realized, and with that I give you part two of my disjointed rant on the Closely-Related-To-Walking sport of Bikepacking.

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I couldn’t resist. Obviously. I tried. 

So when we left off last, I was getting ready to kick off on a Dirt Bagging expedition which turned into a Tandem Bagging run to test out our collective camping gear at the Whistlin Donkey camp grounds in Woodward, IA.  There was no dirt, but there WAS an actual donkey (although, when pressed to produce a whistle it failed miserably), some really drunk people, and a live band who’s singer was hung up on his gout affliction. It was quite an adventure, in its own special sort of way.  Consider this past paragraph my ride report on that. Oh, and if it’s going to get down to 45 degrees, make sure you bring enough sleeping bags for everyone, or remember your emergency bivy. Lesson learned. Check the weather, dummy hahaha.

Dirt Bagging is the new Bikepacking.  You can spend a lifetime making up names for the same exact thing, but once Bob uttered the term Dirt Bagging, Bikepacking was officially OVER. No more naming, no more pretending that it’s a thing. I mean, we will still talk about it like it’s still alive, but in reality it is over.  We are cyclists, not walkers/back packers. Already covered, right.

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Read it and weep, corporate adventure sellers.

Honestly, I don’t know where this is going.  You probably don’t either. It’s late, this post is over. I’ll try again tomorrow.

Sam

CNB

Bikepacking Rant Pt. 1

How in the crap did Gravel Grinding and Bike Packing become such mainstream phenomena, and why?  Is it that cyclists enjoy the more welcoming atmosphere and different challenge that comes with the dirtier disciplines, or is it the major manufacturers like Specialized, Topeak, Blackburn, etc, who have seen the backroads as an inroads to increasing waning profits and are hard selling this “lifestyle” to casual consumers, or a mix of these and other factors?  Has Gravel Grinding become fun? Is Bike Packing the new Bike Touring?

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South Central Iowa’s Dirt Bagging Gateway, Adams Road

I prefer using a term coined by Bob at the Cumming Tap: Dirt Bagging. 

Dirt Bagging is the truly proper term for Bike packing. Bike Packing is “back packing on a bike,” which I suppose is ok IF YOU WANT TO BE ASSOCIATED WITH THE SUPER COOL SPORT OF WALKING.  Folks, if you are under the age of retirement and are of physical prowess enough to pedal a bike, walking is not cool. Walking is for malls* and death row inmates.

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It’s no shocker that I find walking a complete bore

DIRT BAGGING is truly bicycle touring on dirt. Are you a wanna be walker, or are you on a mission from the Cycling Gods to ride dirt and then do some camping.  It’s being a “Dirty Bagger” (the loving term used for touring cyclists) on the actual dirt. It’s cycling, not a substitute for back packing.  But of course these big companies that are pushing the “Bike Packing” with their ready made bike rigs (taking the fun out of building your own, but also making it easier for people to get in on the entry level), and their chunky, seemingly awkward attempts at frame bags and the like, don’t know what it really is (and what is it, really?) other than a new market to push their version of actual proper gear.  We have J-Paks, Andrew The Maker, Bike Bag Dude, Apidura, Porcelain Rocket, Apidura, and many others who are killing it with excellent bags along with Revelate, who is loosely considered the original innovator of the reckless-based bag system.  Maybe this all goes the way of Topeak’s attempt at cloning the BOB trailer (also excellent for Dirt Bagging), and this stuff will all be on the clearance racks or in rubbermaid storage tubs in the next year.

I’m actually going out to do some dirt bagging right now, so we will discuss this further in the near future. 

Sam

CNB, Dirt Bagger

Project Pink Pt. 2: No Fluid, No Shoes, No Service.

I feel pretty damn accomplished right now. Frame Saver has been applied. The King headset and PF30 BB have been pressed in, the Rival 1 crankset has been installed (after a panic search through the parts bin for the drive-side spacer), and the Rear (and only) Derailleur has been installed.  AND for the first time ever, I cut my own steer tube, chamfered it, installed the Star Nut, and assembled the front end. That was a big accomplishment for me, and I am stoked to cut down a few of my other steerers that could use some shortening.  I installed the Salsa Cowchippers, and the Rival 1 levers.

518732_862bThen I ran into a problem. The Rival 1 Hydro group, which was procured at a nominal fee, was accompanied by various hydraulic cables, two mismatched hydro calipers, one missing the pads, and the whole system was, of course, dry.  No fluid, no shoes, no service.  Shit.  I mean, I COULD just go NOBR AKES, but it just seems like this might be a ride that would benefit from a little stopping power. Maybe.

I have contacted my go-to hydraulic brake/bike build human about the problem.  I was hell bent on completing this project without dragging the unfinished carcass to a shop, and I definitely didn’t want to have to do this during the 30 days before the Brai.  I’m waiting on my wheels, they may be a week or two, so there is time.  Maybe I’ll watch a few YouTube videos on how to put this whole brake system together.  How hard can it be? I await a return message from my problem solver…

I really can’t wait to ride this thing.

Sam

CNB

Getting Personal AF

A few months back I started a journey to regain my health, both physical and mental.  The starting line of this journey was a fat, miserable, depressed guy who had yet to accept that his undoing could easily be undone.  As I sat on the tailgate of the Swaggon struggling to buckle my riding shoes between held breaths, it occurred to me that this was not how my life was meant to be.  It was time to make a change.

I put down the fried chicken, hot roast beef sandwiches, and fast food.  I had spent the last year prior to this change feeling sorry for myself, being depressed, considering what actions I had taken to get to this point. I was suicidal. I had trashed a relationship. A lot of my life was upside down, and I just wanted to hide in a dark room until I didn’t have to breath any more.  Riding didn’t help, it was a chore to get miles in when you don’t even want to leave the house.  I became even more self destructive. My alcoholism flared up. Problems compounded. People hurt me, and in turn I hurt others, but mainly myself.  Depression is a fucking monster. I’ve dealt with it my entire life. Sometimes I’m in complete awe of how I made it to this point in my life with all of the self-defeating shit my mind pulls. I fed my depression beer, shit food, and lies.  I fucked up a lot of shit.  I was lying to myself about how I was doing, until that day the struggle to clip a buckle on a shoe cleared the clouds around the actual struggle that was happening: My body was dying and my mind didn’t give a fuck.

I went Vegan.  My life instantly changed.  That’s not hyperbole, I felt the change for the better within 24 hours of putting down my old habits.  It has been incredible. I have lost nearly 50 lbs since March 5th of this year. My clothes fit better, MY MIND WORKS BETTER, my average moving speed is up 25%, and I have energy to do the things I want to accomplish.  My creativity has gone through the roof, and my home studio is being used on a daily basis to write shitty music.  My depression has subsided, and my self harm thoughts* have mostly gone away.  My loved ones have noticed, and they are happier now that I am not some miserable lump on the Earth.  I feel myself starting to love life again, and I’m back to building a positive existence and using that to make my people happier.  All this from just changing what I ate. It’s not some crazy fad diet with asinine rules, it’s not some self loathing  way of sequestering yourself from eating “good food,” and it’s not something that people should fear.  It’s an ethical way of treating yourself, the planet, and the other creatures on this planet.  Yes, some people get a little annoying about spouting off about being Vegan, BUT IT’S BECAUSE THEY GIVE A SHIT AND THINK YOU SHOULD TOO.  Honestly, I kind of enjoy it when people give me crap for being Vegan. At least I know that it’s crossing their mind.

So I’ve made a bunch of improvements, and life is a better for those around me, for the most part, because of it.  BUT my weight loss has paused at 270 for the last few weeks, and because of an injury I haven’t been able to ride my bike.  I have a goal of 235 by October, which is pretty heady considering the amount of work it will take and the amount of free time I have to take on said work.  I think I can do it, but in all honesty I’m happy that I’ve come this far.  I’m happy that I can say “I lost 50 lbs, but I’m still fat.” It’s a kind-of-funny self deprecating remark that reminds me that the travels aren’t over, that health and fitness of the body and mind is not a destination, it’s a journey.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental wellness, there are resources out there. A good start is contacting the National Alliance On Mental Health

Be safe in your journey,

Sam

CNB

*I know this is a very personal thing to share, and I don’t want anyone to worry or think this a cry for help. I have cried, I’ve gotten some help.  I am putting this out there for others who struggle every day with thoughts of ending it all, so that they know that they aren’t alone in this, and that yes, even “successful” people struggle with thoughts of self harm. It’s something I have struggled/dealt with nearly every day for the past 38 years. I’ve lost some of the most important people in my life to their own hand.  Depression is a real killer.  Please get help if you feel like you need it, and if you see someone struggling please be there for them.

Project Pink

Last year I was having a set of wheels built for my road bike over at Beaverdale Bikes* and Ed mentioned that he had picked up some 650b hoops recently and maybe I might possibly be interested. I had been researching turning my Fargo into either a Rohloff equipped 27.5/650b or single speed, but a good friend of mine had actually turned his exact same year/model Fargo into said smaller rimmed Rohloff setup, so I figured I could skip it. I hate passing on a deal, but I had no use for that size rim.

A few months ago I was having a discussion with Guitar Ted while out on the Gents Race about his trials with the new WTB Horizon for RidingGravel.com, and a then-soon-to-be-announced gravel version of the 650b “Road Plus” and I was a little interested.  He had joked about sending me a set, but I don’t have a bike that can run that size tire.  I started thinking about the tires and the hoops at BeavBikes and how I do not need to start another bike project.

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This is roughly what I’m going for.

Enter Project Pink. Project Pink is a steel framed 650b “Road Plus/Gravel” bike that will be running SRAM Rival 1×11 Hydro, a dyno setup for my K-lite light/USB system, and of course the new WTB 650X47 Byway rubber.  Tan walls, a really cool custom wheel set, and a pink frame should make this a standout gravel/rando setup.  I’m looking forward to putting this together and getting it out on the dusty trail. I might even take some time here to chronicle the build.

Sam

CNB

Knowing When To Say When

All the disciplines of endurance cycling have their own key aspects to success, be it packing right for the Tour Divide,  the right support team and program for RAAM,  tolerance for the usually crazy weather on Trans Iowa, the ability to pedal alone for 4200 miles of the Trans-Am Race.  They all have some unifying factors such as training, fitness, mental toughness, etc, but there is one true common denominator:

Knowing when to say when.

Ending your bid at an endurance sport attempt isn’t a failure. Carrying on past your limits into the danger zone can cause catastrophic results. Physical injuries, mental health issues, or worse.  You can end up too injured to carry on training or riding for an extended period of time, which happened to a good friend during his bid to finish the Trans-Wisconson some years back.  He eventually recovered from nerve damage in his hands (a common injury in endurance riding), and went on to finish the Tour Divide in 2015.  In my experience it’s tough to gauge the severity of hand numbness while on an intense ride, but had he pulled the plug earlier at TW the need for being off the bike so long could have been avoided. Just an example, sorry to bring up hard times, SF.

Know whether you are running in the red or running into a wall.

Today Greg Gleason pulled the plug on his Tour Divide. Greg is a beast of an endurance athlete, a Salsa Cycles sponsored rider with an inspiring story, Trans Iowa wins*, and more. He was having a number of problems including neck and breathing (not un-common issues in these races), and recognized that it would be a much better idea to face the facts rather than attempt to pedal through these maladies any further.  His Tour Divide was over for 2017, and he will go on to tackle the race in 2018.

It was an emotional moment for Greg, which he shared via video on social media, but he was resolute that this was the right move and he will be back next year.  That is a winning moment. I, for one, am going to miss watching the “GG” dot at Trackleaders, but you can bet that he will be back in Banff next June and all of us Gleasonites will be eagerly watching him work his magic.  In the beginning of the race he was in the lead ahead of Josh Kato, Brian Lucido (current leader), and Stephan, and killing it. I believe had it not been for this breathing and neck issue he could have pulled a top 5 finish, if not better. But Greg is a smart rider and knew it was time to pull the plug, and that is the true mark of a pro. Thank you, Greg, for being a bad ass, a great guy, an inspiration, and self aware enough to keep safe. Your family, and your cycling family, will appreciate seeing your future exploits!

Sam

CNB

*Greg took second place at TIV13 this year, which may been first had he not insisted on riding his Tour Divide rig for the whole thing. Greg, using TI for loaded GDMBR training. Whoa. Beast Mode.