Oh Hey.

What’s up everyone?  Hopefully you are all getting your miles in and having a great time, regardless of our never ending winter of doom.  I know I speak for most of the midwestern cyclists (and most other people here also) when I say Mother Nature needs to show a little more kindness to us outdoors type folks.  I had a great time riding in all kinds of crap weather this winter, but GODDAMNIT THERE IS A LIMIT TO MY FAKE ENJOYMENT OF WINTER CYCLING AND WE PASSED THAT POINT ABOUT APRIL 5TH.

Anyway, wanted to check in with a few things.  A few events have passed and I haven’t produced any ride reports or product opinions,  nor any bike trend predictions.  It’s probably been pretty dull for the three of you who read this here bike blog type thing, so here’s an abridged version of the last two months.

CIRREM 10: Didn’t do it BUT I GOT MY SHIRT! (This is my official race report)

Revelate Mag Tank Bag: Tops the list of “don’t leave home without it” gear

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Gent’s Race 7 Careless Whispers

Gent’s Race 8: The Careless Whispers once again proved why we are the longest lasting continuous team by all showing up on time and ready to rock.  I love these guys, and we had a great year again.  Actual ride report to follow.

Project Pink: Has become my main bike for the time being, and it’s proving to be a real beast of an All-Road setup. It’s done the “every type of road” days like a champ, and the “all-road aka roads only” days have been great.

Porcelain Rocket “Nigel” bag: Was very skeptical about this handle bar bag at first, but goddamn if it isn’t some killer kit.  More on that later.

Sinewave Beacon: It’s bulletproof and pricey, one of my favorite combos.  More on that later.

tumblr_namg5c6rap1t8enq1o1_400#RoadIsTheNewGravel: You read it correctly. Gravel is out, road is back in. HTFU, butterstuff, your comfy #supplelife is a lie and gravel is no longer lit.

The Stoker is still stoking away, but now has her own single bike, a Surly Straggler 650b and I’m a little jealous of it. That sea foam green looks great next to Pink. 650b Crew 4 Life. hahaha.

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Good Intentions Tour 2017 lasted a record low of 26 miles. 

I’m planning out this year’s “Good Intentions Tour” and it looks like a toss up between dirt bagging and my normal Bag Bike thing.  I feel like this year should be a ride to another state border and back, seems poignant in today’s political climate. Or maybe it will be blazing hot out and I just stay home and do some grilling.  Who knows?

According to Strava I have ridden 889 miles this year as of 4/17/18.  My low end goal is 5k miles for 2018, so I’m a little behind goal pace.  Those miles will all get made up soon.

That’s it for checking in. Winter, kick rocks. Ride Bikes.

CNB

Writing Gravel

The good folks over at RidingGravel.Com have a site full of useful information for those of us who prefer rocks to road.  It’s a solid resource for thorough new gear reviews, very important as gravel supplies are not cheap, bike news, events, and a very active and what is probably my favorite forum.  RGDC is home to a few of my my favorite people, Guitar Ted and MG, and a few other folk I hope to get to meet in person at some point.  What I’m saying here is that you should go visit this site if you are of Gravel Mind and Body, they have the goods.

All of the contributors at RGDC are Dirt Accomplished in their own right, so it is an honor to have been tapped by GT to make some contributions to their site.  I sincerely hope that every post that I submit to RGDC lives up to their standards, and helps guide Grinders in their Grinding Life.

My first article is up this week, it’s about a subject near and dear to my heart, Dyno Hub Lighting.  You can read it here.

I encourage you to visit the site, do some exploring, and maybe make some connections with like minded folk on the forum.  What’s the worst that could happen, you have even more fun in the dirt?

Sam CNB

 

Tips From The Back Of The Pack

wpid-FxCam_1272290632827.jpgSome race for the glory of the podium.  Some race for the thrill and challenge.  A lot of us are just racing the cutoff times and for the satisfaction of a strong DFL* finish.  I am a one of those types who tends to live in that neighborhood of riders that cause checkpoints to be staffed until the very last minute, a place called The Back Of The Pack.

The Back Of The Pack isn’t a glorious place, but it doesn’t have to be without its good times and fun.  I’ve put together a few tips and tricks here to help those of us BOTP’ers be more successful at last place.

  • Ride your bike: You don’t have to have a personal coach or even a HRM (although monitoring heart rate/power is pretty helpful for distributing physical resources during long distance riding), you really need to simply ride your bike. Ride as much as you can, take a rest day or two here and there.  If you are planning to do a 200 mile event, work your endurance up by riding longer hours in the saddle. Once you can put in a couple 80 mile or more days in a row, you can probably finish that DK200.  The main point is that if you don’t ride your bike, you aren’t going to be any good at riding your bike.
  • Navigation Is Salvation: If you are off the back and relying on cue cards for direction, PAY ATTENTION to what is going on around you.  Riding solo, or even in a group of folks who are having their own struggles, can end poorly if you aren’t practicing the three R’s for yourself: Reading the Cue Card, Remembering The next turn or sequence of turns, Reacting to the landmarks.  It’s easy to sit on someone’s wheel and hope they are navigating properly, but face it: self supported means you are on your own. Too many times racers have taken wrong turns and added to their race mileage because of trusting the person up front, not having a proper light to see road signs, or simply spacing off.  Remember that these events are difficult enough without adding to the challenge with your own personal bonus mileage.  Pay attention to navigation at all times.  Getting lost sucks.

READ, REMEMBER, REACT. Learn it, Live it.

  • Conserve Energy:  It’s REALLY tempting to go hard off the line.  This is probably one of the biggest fails.  You’ve prepared for your event, your legs are feeling fresh, and there is a veritable Excitement Buffet buzz buzzing around the start line feeding your confidence level. The signal happens. It’s go time. Do you:
    • A) Take off like a jackrabbit with the lead pack and blow up shortly after starting?
    • B) Stick with the middle of the pack until you can’t maintain pass and drop off the back or
    • C) Ride your own pace?

It’s always best to ride at your own pace, especially if keeping up with whatever group you’ve opted to ride with is draining your physical resources. Ride smart and if you are feeling fresh at the half way or past, kick it up and burn it on in!

  • Know What To Wear: Some of these events span the course of 24 or 36 hours, and you will see temperature drops and possibly erratic weather changes.  This kind of goes back to riding your bike. When you are doing said riding, do some in shit conditions. Make note of what clothing/shoes/gloves/eyewear works for what temperature/conditions.  I have a mental log of temp ranges and which base layers/outer layers/socks, etc work within those ranges.  I also do a stupid thing I call Training Cold, which involves long rides in cold weather being purposely under-dressed for the conditions (I pack extra layers in a seat pack for safety sake – in case my mom is reading this). This prepares me for sudden unexpected weather changes out on the road when maybe extra warm gear didn’t get packed, or I just don’t feel like stopping to layer up.  My point is DON’T OVERDRESS, if you are super warm and toasty on a 30 degree 4am starting line, you will sweat out in 5 miles. I see folks out on 50 degree days on the bike trails with full on winter gear, helmet covers, lobster claw gloves, and it’s kind of ridiculous. These fine folk are probably not going on a century ride like that, but still.   DON’T OVERDRESS. Sweating out/overheating is a sure fire fast track to failure.
  • Don’t Over Pack: The more weight you are carrying on your bike, the more you are pushing up hills. If you are riding gravel, you are most likely pushing up a LOT of hills, and if you are just fit enough to pull a DFL or back of the pack, an extra pound or five can be enough to wear you down more quickly.  If you are riding a 5-6 hour gravel event do you really need to pack a spare tire?  If you have a drop bag option at the mid point, do you need 6 water bottles on your bike?  Take a good look at what you are using during training. What do you use on the regular? How far are you riding? How far is the event? What are the conditions of the gravel?  Are your tires up to the task? How much food do you really need to carry?  So many questions that can be answered by a pretty simple formula: If you didn’t need it for 100’s of miles of training/preparation, you probably won’t need it for a 100k event.  This subject deserves a post of its own.
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    Bring some comfort er…food

    Bring a few comforts: Yes, don’t over pack, but bring something that motivates you or can comfort you if you pull out. I bring a flask of Wild Turkey 101 on almost every long ride, and on TIV8 I packed that and some Marlboro Reds (yes, I once in a while have a smoke with my whiskey. It’s a terrible habit and I know it).  When my ride went south right out the gate (cold, rainy 4am start, mechanicals from mile 10 on, etc) I reached a point where it was do or die, try to squeak through CP1 or hang a right on the highway and tailwind back to town. I had some whiskey and a smoke, weighed options, and made the hard call to drop out.  You don’t have to drink or smoke, I might be a little extreme, but bring one of your favorite candies or a picture of your family, or an iPod with your favorite playlist, or whatever will comfort you when the chips are fucked.

  • IMG_6658

    Nope.

    Pick The Right Bike: Obviously, if you have one bike for everything, take that bike. Beats walking 100k.  If you have some options, pick the one that is most comfortable, is geared properly for the amount of climbing, and has the proper tire for the terrain.  You don’t need to try being a hero and ride your loaded fat bike through 100k of climbing, I’ve seen it happen and it wasn’t pretty. I’ve also made the mistake of trying too much climbing on a bike geared for flatter riding (or better climbers), and that kicked my ass entirely too fast.  Come to think of it, I didn’t do great on that bike riding a flat course either.  It was a rough year… Ride what you are comfortable with, could be a Cross Check, a Fargo, a Routt 45, a vintage steel Bianchi, a Beargrease, whatever it is run what gets you to the finish without fighting you the whole way there.

  • PICK THE RIGHT TIRE: OOOOOOWEEEEEE this is a doozy.  We have a 100k gravel race here in Central Iowa called CIRREM.  It’s held around the end of February and it has seen weather from 15 degrees and somehow raining (that year was really weird), to 60 and sunny with a mild breeze.  It’s generally known to be a shit show. On some of the more nasty years, the week leading up to the race has social media buzzing with the query “what tire should I ride?”  If it’s 25 out and the roads are a fresh sheet of ice, don’t try riding slick 28’s. (or old chewed up Michelin Mud 35’s, I did that year and ended up with a cracked rib from wrecking on the ice about a dozen times)  If there is a ton of fresh rock on the road, also don’t ride 28’s. In fact, just don’t ride 28’s on gravel unless your power/weight ratio is in the Pro Peloton range. A file tread 40mm 700c tire is pretty solid choice for any condition, as you can work the tire pressure to adapt to conditions.  Similarly, 650bx47 handles most any gravel condition. Two true “do it all” tire sizes for everything but gnarly single track or ice riding.  If it’s sheets of ice, and you are super cereal, pick up some lightly studded cross tires or bring out the MTB for something more substantial and grippy.  Also, take into consideration that more voluminous tires will provide a little extra cushion, which your arms and back will thank you for on ultra distance stuff.
  • Know when to say when: The best tip I can give is to know your limits.  Riding past your limit is part of endurance racing, indeed, but there is a vast plain of physical and mental badlands that lie somewhere after that 4th or 5th wind.  Know your own personal signs. Dropping out isn’t a crime, but injuring yourself is criminal if you knowingly take things farther than acceptable “too far.” Have an extraction plan (or know the shortcut back to the civilization), means of communication, also see “Bring A Few Comforts” above. I’ve definitely taken things too far and spent weeks recovering from making that mistake, don’t be that person.  Live to ride another day.
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Know when your ride is over, even if it’s not the end of the race. 

This is in no way a comprehensive lesson on “gravel racing,” but if you follow these words, it might help you achieve that DFL finish you’ve always wanted!

Until next time, ride your bike!

CNB

*DFL: Dead Fricken Last. If you aren’t familiar with this term, good for you pal.

Sinewave Cycles Beacon: First Look

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Sinewave Cycles Beacon mounted on my Salsa Cycles Fargo Ti for testing

Hi, my name is Sam, and I’m a Dynoholic.  (group: Hi, Sam) Today I’m here to tell my story of Dynoholism to help some of you out there who may be struggling with this sickness (or wanting to develop it) too.  I’ve spent many years searching out the perfect light to pair with both my hub of choice (always Schmidt SON28, fyi), and intended use.  I’ve used Supernova E3 Triples, B&M units, the Luxos lights with built in USB charging and remote switching (great units for touring/commuting, not great for off road riding), and most recently the K-Lite system, which is my favorite light/USB system for off road/long distance use, although it had one big drawback – two external boxes that require finding a home on your bike (newer units have a smaller usb conversion unit, made by Sinewave)  I’ve also used the Top Cap USB unit and Sinewave Revolution in conjunction with non-usb capable light systems to give extra hours to my electronics (I will be reviewing that here soon, also).  All in all, my Dynoholism has led me to where I am currently: testing the Sinewave Beacon.

Sinewave Cycles is a company based out of Cambridge, MA (also home to places you may have heard of like Harvard and MIT), that designs USB Dyno-power conversion products which are manufactured in the USA.  Somewhere along the line these fine folks decided that they would skip to the chase and incorporate their proven products/tech into an all-weather light unit of their own.  My first impression is that they pretty much nailed it.

 

The “Need To Get On My Bike So Here’s Some Quick Bullet Points” List:

  • The Beacon is an all-in-one, completely waterproof unit sporting 3 led bulbs creating a symmetrical beam rated at 750 lumens.  The innards are epoxy potted and the external connectors have gold contacts for corrosion free performance in the worst of conditions.
  • The USB out on the light, and coaxial input that, when run with the supplied coax to USB cable, allow you to power the light with the same battery you are charging.  This is perhaps the most impressive piece of new tech for dyno lights since the advent of USB charging.  This means that when you are riding, you can either select to “charge only” or “shared power” (splits power between the lighting and USB charging) and your external battery will charge.  If you stop or get into some heavy technical trails/steep climbs that would normally relegate you to relying on the stand light (if available on your unit), the battery that you are charging will act as a power source and kick the Beacon back up into full on light mode.  WHAT WHAT? Yes, you no longer need to worry about the light situation when you slow down.
  • Did I mention that it is all-in-one, so no external units to find homes for.  Makes for very clean mounting, and if you add quick connects and use a mount like the Supernova handlebar mount, it’s very easy to switch between bikes.  One unit can be used for all of your Dyno-hub equipped rides!
  • Not only is it potentially easy to switch between dyno bikes, but with the Battery Input you can throw it on a standard hub bike and use an external battery to power the light! You can replace your battery powered or rechargeable lights with the Beacon. It’s essentially a do-all light.  I will be testing the light on battery-only run time with both a 10,000 and 16,500 mA battery in the near future.
  • The Beacon DOES NOT come with a mount.  It’s compatible with all standard 10mm dyno light mounts from Supernova, B&M, etc, which you need to source yourself.  This was initially a strike against it in my book, but after choosing my own mount (Supernova Handlebar Mount), it became apparent that this is a very smart way to do things.  Sinewave need not anticipate users’ mounting needs and carry or manufacturer a wide range of solutions when they already exist in the real world.  Smart.
  • Comes in multiple colors or custom combinations.
  • Two-ish week lead time, as they are built to order. My unit arrived in about 8 days.
  • The list price of the Beacon is $350, which may seem a little pricey for some.  After my first few weeks of use, the value of this unit has proven more than its cost.  The Beacon is a super-versatile unit

This Dynoholic has high hopes and heady plans for the Beacon. More on that later…

CNB

ESI RCT Wrap: First Blood

ESI RCT Wrap: First Blood

9146g8ituul-_sy550_I recently decided to bring my Salsa Fargo out of retirement, the poor babe has been hanging on the basement wall for over a year with no rides.  It needed a tune, some cleaning, was getting some new-to-it wheels from the Warbird (which was getting sold), and it definitely needed new bar tape.  I had been running the same orange Lizard Skinz 2.5 tape on the Ragley Luxy bars since the bike was built up brand new, and it was pretty ratty looking after a lot of gravel miles logged back in the day.  I run Lizard Skins on all of my drop bar bikes, it’s has a lot of strengths, but it is time for a change.

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ESI’s RCT comes in an array of colors to match most builds/tastes.

When building up the Mukluk last year, there was a bit of a grip conundrum.  What grips would work best on Jones H-bars while running a Rohloff Grip Shift setup?  After some intense research the ESI Super Chunky silicone grips seemed to be the best for the application at hand.  After a few hundred fat biking miles, they have proven to be tough, comfortable, and look just a good as they did on day one.  They also come in crazy colors, and ESI will even put together custom color combinations.  Did I mention that all of their grips are also made in the USA?  Big bonus.

So… when it came time to choose new bar wraps for the Fargo, taking into consideration the needs of a rough-service bike packing setup, I thought it was time to give ESI’s RCT (Road, Cyclocross, Triathlon) bar wraps a try.  They are 100% silicone, reversible, and are available in the same selection of colors as ESI’s MTB grips.  I have high hopes for the RCT.

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ESI RCT wrap on the Fargo, Silicone Tape on the Aero Bars. 

Wrapping the bars with RCT is a breeze, since they are reversible there is no “tape side” paper to test your sanity (my messy shop floor is also thankful for this), and you can stretch or not stretch the wrap to fit the thickness needed at each hand position/bar bend (LS advises against stretching their tape, regular cork can slide around when not stretched enough).  The bevel in the tape gives you a close-to-exact guide for wrapping also, so it’s even easier to get a nice, even look.

The kit comes with two strips of ESI’s self sealing Silicone Tape (seen here also being used as wrap for the aero bars) to finish off the wrap job. It’s a nice touch, as most companies give you that weak ass branded adhesive strip that usually ends up on my shop floor in favor of the old classic electrical tape. I’ve used this silicone tape to secure dyno hub wiring, wrap parts of frames to guard against chipping/damage, shimming light mounts, I would strongly recommend keeping a roll or two around your home shop, it’s as invaluable as electrical tape without all the tape residue.

 

First Impressions Bullet Point List of TL,DR:

  • RCT has a slightly thicker, more comfortable feel than other wrap.  After the first 200 miles of mixed surface use, it has kept my hands happier than before.
  • It retains all of its grip in rain.  Last week I purposely rode through torrential downpour conditions to test, and RCT more than passed the…uh…test.  Part of the rain test was over some very sketch paved trail to dirt construction zone to trail to dirt, and maintaining control through these abrupt and wet/muddy changes was no problem at all.
  • I personally dig the matte finish of the wrap. It blends in more readily to the hoods of the shifters.  It’s also real stealthy, which is extremely important.
  • RCT is reversible, so you can conceivably cause wear to one side (or dirty up the brighter colors in the line), then rewrap the bars leaving them looking fresh AF.
  • Silicone Tape instead of usual crappy strip of branded tape to finish off the bar wrap job. A very nice touch.
  • Price is in line with other premium brands.
  • The supplied bar end plugs actually stay in the bar ends. Mind blown, really.
  • EASY TO INSTALL
  • MADE IN THE USA
  • Did I mention that it’s comfortable? Settling in to the bars for the first time was like a true “baby bear’s bed” moment.  I didn’t expect the comfort level to be that high.

 

I’m looking forward to tearing these up for many hundreds of miles to come, I’ll let you know how things go!

 

CNB

Disclaimer: CNB purchased this product for personal use and testing, and has in no way been compensated for any writing regarding this product*.

*Disclaimer Disclaimer: The preceding disclaimer was in no way CNB fishing for free stuff, or any other type of compensation. Wink.

The Day (After) SRAM Failed Me

*UPDATE: SRAM has been reached, solution achieved. The rep in question is paying for the replacement part out of his own pocket, I don’t feel he should do this, but thanks.  This was precipitated by Kyle Robinson, owner of Kyle’s Bikes in Ankeny, IA.  Kyle, seeing this rant, and being a concerned bike person and all around good human, made some contacts and straightened it all out.  Thank you, Kyle, for taking care of this situation for me.  Next chapter of Project Pink will be “A Day At The Doctor” aka a trip to Kyle’s for crank install, as said SRAM rep would like the shop to handle the replacement.  Fair enough. I still love ya SRAM.

Those of you who took the time to read about my little gravel travel on Pink last week will probably remember the part where my SRAM Rival 1 crank arm pedal threads gave out after a whopping 35 miles of use.  Here’s the continuation of that story…

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35 Miles of use. SRAM says “NOPE” to replacing. VERY COOL.

It took me a while to get the pedal out of the crank arm, I was dumbfounded by the whole issue when this is what I found after the extraction.  The pedals were installed correctly, the bike had only been ridden around downtown twice before taking it out on the gravel, and everything seemed fine.  I have never in my life seen a pedal/crank arm fail in such a way.  When I was riding I thought it was my pedal, as it’s a pretty old set of Crank Brothers Mallets that I keep around the shop for test rides and they have seen some fairly serious miles in their time.  Pedal failure wasn’t out of the picture, but the pedal is perfectly fine, no issues whatsoever.

I took the cranks to my LBS for them to make a call to SRAM.  I felt like a fucking dick for taking something in I purchased from a private seller on the internet, but the guys are super cool and understand that I’m a little special at times.  All Good.  The SRAM rep came by and took a look, said they will not replace it.

ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?  Your product failed under normal use, left me stranded, caused other people inconvenience, and is keeping me from riding this newly assembled bike, and NOPE.  I ride SRAM on all of my bikes. I have been loyal to them for many years, and this one incident is making me rethink that loyalty.  I’m pissed. I’m insulted. I’m out a crankset.

Until SRAM goes back on this decision and replaces the faulty part, FUCK SRAM. 

Stay cool!

Sam

CNB

A Colossal Ride

It’s been a pretty rough year for cycling here at CNB.  Injuries, mechanicals, work, family stuff, more injuries, blogging, extreme heat, and other assorted crap have gotten in the way of enjoying the normal amount of time that would normally spent in the saddle.  I’ve lost a bunch of weight and started making much healthier choices, but The Fitness Train hasn’t pulled into the terminal yet.  Now that it’s practically the end of summer (aka cross is coming), it’s time to get that Pain Pass punched.   This week I am doing an assessment of where I am at and where I’m headed, making a plan for this fall/winter, and putting together a rough training program to follow for next spring’s cycling.

By “Doing An Assessment,” I mean riding bikes.  Project Pink is down for the count as Rassy’s figures out what SRAM is going to do about my faulty crank arm, so it’s time to bust out the road bike for some base miles.  Yeah, base miles are starting in August this year.  Wow.  So far this week I have assessed that I am in no shape or form to toe the line at DAMN or Gravel Worlds (although I still plan on trying to make it down to Lincoln for the hanging out), and that it’s going to be a rough road to Spotted Horse, which is also a bunch of rough roads.  I may do some SS cross this fall, I haven’t raced in a few years and I think it’s time to add some CX back into the mix.  I may even look at doing some road events (not crits) for some fun.  I mean, I just wanna have some fun. I want to make use of this weight loss. I want to have fun on the bike again, something that has been elusive through my health problems and fitness issues.  I know many of you reading can relate to this in your own way.  I would really like to hear from you all.

IMG_6754Anyway, this is the bike I’m riding while waiting for Pink to come back to life, a stripped down version of my “road packing” rig (because everything is “________ packing” these days).  2015 Salsa Ti Colossal, Nextie carbon wheels with my favorite White Industries/Son28 hub combo (built by Ed at Beaverdale Bikes, who builds all of my wheels and should build all of yours), Panaracer “Gravel King” 28’s, SRAM Red Etap, Thomson Stem/Seatpost, Selle Anatomica saddle.  The bike was built by up by Matt at Rasmussen Bike Shop in West Des Moines, IA. Matt is my go-to for the tough/frustrating stuff that I can’t do, and the pricey stuff that I shouldn’t be allowed to install/work on to begin with.  Thanks to Matt and Ed, I have a few pretty nice rides.  Thanks, guys.

Anyway, I need to go ride that fine uh….ride.  Have a great rest of the week, and keep that rubber side down!

Sam

CNB