TrackPacking: Next Level “Fun”

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Bikepacking Rig

Ok, we have all heard of Bikepacking by now (it’s the “buzz” outdoor activity right now), and for the tens of you whom read this here “bike blog,” you are probably familiar with the term “Dirtbagging.” These are offshoots of normal rack-and-pannier bike touring (or backpacking if you’re into walking places), and generally involve packing all of your stuff into frame bags and other rackless packs, then hitting the dusty trail to camp out in the woods or some other remote area. Sounds like a whole lotta fun for everyone, right?  Yeah, almost TOO much fun.

Enter the newest bad idea: Trackpacking.  

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Trackpacking Rig

Trackpacking is closely related to Backpacking, more so than Bikepacking, in that you actually put all of your stuff on your back.  All you need is a track bike, or some other such fixed gear bike (no brakes! Trackpacking requires no brakes, them’s the rules), your camping gear, and a messenger bag or back pack.  You can get some pretty severe “messenger back packs” these days, so you almost wouldn’t need to leave anything behind. It’s that simple. Load up your messenger-type bag, hop on your fixie, and head somewhere to camp. This is really ideally suited for Sub-24 hour trips, unless you are particularly fond of long distance, multiple day fixie travel.  I used to be in that realm, but gears kind of soiled my chamois for said torture travel.

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Dirtbagging Rig

Pointless Back Story: I was pondering the entertainment value of the known realms of bike touring/camping, and what could be the next step for camping-kind.  The brainstorm took into consideration equipment on hand, I don’t need to buy any more “packing” gear in this lifetime, how much I love having fun by not having fun at all, and routes/roads to travel here in central Iowa.  I also wanted to use a bike that I had on hand, pretty easily achievable goal, but I wanted to use something that wasn’t common or run-of-the-mill, perhaps a little played out, even.  Enter the Track Bike.

I’ve done one Track bike tour (track bike, messenger bag, 90 miles) years ago, it did not end well as the weather took a sharp nose dive and I was not prepared for the adverse conditions.  I had a new leg tattoo, rain and road grit splashed up into it for a couple hours.  It got infected and I had a fever for a few days.  Yeah, that sucked. I should probably do that again.

So, that is the plan.  I’m putting together a route for a camping trip that involves some fairly level terrain (first three days of Ragbrai come to mind), and I’m getting out there to bust some knees and party on, Garth.

Sam

CNB

 

 

Carving Slayer Into My Life

Reign-in-BloodI turned 13 in 1986, the year that Slayer’s classic album “Reign In Blood” was released.  I remember thumbing through cassettes at Uncle John’s Records in Sioux City,  meeting what would ultimately be one of the most influential and loved albums in my life for the first time.  Staring up at me was a simple “Slayer – Reign In Blood” beckoning for my hand to reach forth.  As I lifted it from its cassette limbo, I turned the case to see the wicked Larry Carroll illustration of demons, blood, and other evil figures all residing in a hellish tomb.  The story goes that guitarist Kerry King* hated the cover originally, saying it was “not very metal” in a 1987 interview, but later had the realization that the cover had in fact redefined metal album covers to an extent.  That moment I instantly fell in love.

As a young boy I was exposed to some of the darker classical composers such as Chopin and Holst through my grandmother. I had also been raised by my Mother on Black Sabbath, Rolling Stones, and Queen, who all had their darker sides, and as a mentally troubled youth all of this kind of kept me on an even keel.  The darker, heavier, or faster (or much slower), the better. Since elementary school I had been buying my own tapes, choosing Quiet Riot, Twisted Sister, and early Def Leppard, then Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, Ozzy, and writing this I realize I probably should have ended up with a mullet and a Camaro. I had picked up Anthrax’s “Spreading The Disease,” Metallica’s “Ride The Lightning” and Megadeth’s “Killing Is My Business” some months before seeing Reign in Blood in that store rack, and those albums were mind blowing, even for someone who searched out the most “extreme” music he could get in small town Iowa as a kid (some would say my love of Frank Zappa and Weird Al were also very extreme, but those will be written about another day).

The first time my ear drums were punished with the opening to “Angel Of Death.” all those albums just fell to the wayside.  It was just RAW AS FUCK, I had heard nothing even close to this ever in all my music searching.  It exploded out of the gate like a thousand nuclear hell hounds, each clawing and shredding at my brain, Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman holding the riff leashes of those hounds and guiding them towards my destruction.  Then came that famous scream from Tom Araya, possibly the most famous scream in all of metal. The speed, the riffs, the reckless, atonal solos, just a total cacophony, and the blasting drums of Dave Lombardo, it was almost too much.  I remember well the mile-wide smile that cracked the surface of my oily pubescent face.  THIS is what I had been waiting for.

Then came the fifth track, Jesus Saves. The opening riff to this beast will forever send a shiver through my body.  Here I was, all jacked up on speed metal riffing and blasting drums, then comes this monolithic pedal tone riff.  It was, and still is, crushing.  It’s like a half time break in the middle of armageddon, picking up to a solid mid-paced thrashing. That opening riff, I will forever bust that riff out while soundchecking, testing microphone placement, or just hanging out being an ass at a guitar store.  It has been melted into my mind.

The rest of the album is a ripper, ending with “Raining Blood,” Slayer’s calling card song, but that opening riff from “Jesus Saves” will always be my favorite piece from this album of iconic riffing.  It’s really tough to pick from an album that is literally just end to end golden, blood soaked riffs, but it’s the one that still stirs me from within.

Reign In Blood busted open the flood gates of speed metal for me, after my first listen I needed more.  Morbid Angel, Halloween, Mercyful Fate, Napalm Death, Carcass, Kreator, Fate’s Warning, Overkill, and Coroner all followed closely behind, if it was fast, or intricate, or bombastic, I was in. I’m still in to this very day. If you have a moment, cue up track 5 on your copy of Reign In Blood, max out your volume, and fire it up.

Sam

CNB

This was the first of a series of articles about the music that has guided my life, I hope you enjoy the meandering recollections.  

*the same guy who covered himself in ridiculous “tribal” tattoos, then used them as his brand’s calling card. Yeah, also not very metal.

Project Pink Jr: Candy Cup

Lately I’ve been trying to recover from being off the bike for about 7 weeks, there was a failed attempt at Fatbike Dirt Bagging last week, and then a trip out of town, then I return to a bunch of work things that have been piling up, so I decided to make the best of what time I have to ride.  I’ve spent my week getting re-aquainted with fixed gear bicycle riding.  It’s a great workout, no coasting = always pedaling.

The last three days have been a blast running errands (about 50 miles worth) on one of my favorite fun bikes, Candy Cup aka Project Pink Jr. Why the name “Candy Cup,” you ask?  I have no fucking clue, I was drunk one day and called her Candy Cup and *POOF* there it is.  It’s the same day I tried changing Bathory’s name to Cat Vegas, if I remember correctly, and thankfully that didn’t end up sticking.  Whiskey is a powerful drug.

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Candy in all its glory

Candy is a Leader Cure that I picked up in Chicago a few years ago when I had friends living there that we visited often enough to keep a bike at their place.  It was a great convenience, being able to travel without bikes on top of the car, or once I flew in from SFO and was able to get right on the bike and go.  Super convenient.  After Candy ended back in Des Moines, I found that the short riser bars and stock saddle needed some changing, and I had a set of pink Duro tires laying around the shop, so those went on. The stock crankset suffered what is a usual fate for my goddamn fixies, the left crank arm ended up being damaged and needed replaced.  I found this sick Sugino Messenger in pink and couldn’t really pass on the deal.  I’m finally comfortable enough to ditch the front brake, and I think the bars are going to get some pink tape when that happens.

It’s a great little whip for around town riding, and I’ll be taking it out on the road for a little thing I’m going to call “TrackPacking,” which you can read about in a future post. It’s probably exactly what you envision it is: another bad idea. Anyhoo, I need to go out and enjoy this sub-melting point weather and ride some more.

Sam

CNB

Star Spangled Bagger

Oof. Yesterday was tough, tougher than it should have been.  I set off on a Dirtbagging journey after a few days of delay.  It was in the mid 80’s already, but it was HUMID as all get out.  I could feel my body rejecting the heat after the first few miles. There was some decent cloud cover now and again, and riding through the Clive Greenbelt trail out to Waukee (and the start of the gravel road I was taking north) is nearly all shade.  Originally I had planned on loading my bike into the Sprinter and driving out to the RRVT trail head, then jumping on the Gravel from there. I was headed north towards Brushy Creek State Park, near the Fort Dodge area, then south and west towards Collins, then hop the trail back west toward Slater, then Madrid, then back south on the gravel to the Sprinter. It was a great plan, had I been able to leave on Saturday, and I was looking forward to getting some fresh air, three or four days of camping, and seeing some areas of gravel I haven’t ridden.

IMG_6508Monday morning it was decided that I would just ride from my house instead of starting with fresh legs on the gravel.  No problem, I planned on cutting day 1 short and camping at Ledges State Park, then rolling North for Tuesday night, then heading back towards home Wednesday morning.  Plan was cut short, but I also had things to do on Thursday.  I started off with some delays, then headed to Horizon Line Coffee, a new shop in the Western Gateway area that has all Vegan pastries.  I met one of the founders, Brad, and encouraged him to give me whatever he wanted me to have, which was IMG_6515an Oat Milk Cappuccino, and a day-old Vegan Chili-Lime doughnut. Both were damn fine, and I ran into a friend and chatted for a while. I am really digging the vibe there, and plan on making it a frequent stop.  Thanks, Brad and the Horizon Line folks for providing a new coffee experience in town that has Vegans in mind. It’s much appreciated.

I pointed the rig towards Ingersoll Ave, and my restaurant Krunkwich Ramen House.  I figured I should stop in and check on the crew, and annoy them with my constant bad stories and dad jokes (I’m a grandpa now, it’s my job.).  At this point I realized I had forgotten my flipper, which I always carry, at home.  I also remembered leaving my fourth water bottle (that should be in my frame bag) on the table by the basement door. Sweet. All good, I would stop by Walgreens in Waukee and pick up a cheap pocket knife and a big bottle of water for the road. No problem.  I left the shop and proceeded to climb Ingersoll, not a huge climb, but it’s pretty indicative of the hills I would meet headed north from the RRVT.  The sun seemed a lot hotter than the listed temp, and I felt the first of many weird cold shiver in my neck and arms that would happen through the day.

The hill was crested, and I coasted down to the trail head, hung a right, and started towards the Greenbelt.  It was surprisingly sparsely populated for a Monday morning, which was nice as I was piloting a fairly wide vehicle through the twists and turns.  Once I crossed under the Hickman bridge, the sun really came into play.  There is a long shallow climb into Waukee, and with the fully loaded fatbike it was a slow slog. I felt like I was pedaling in an Uneasy Bake oven.  A few miles up the road I turned north on what I thought was the correct road, but OF COURSE IT WASN’T.  I ended up in a new development construction, but I’m like “hey, I’m on a fat bike. I can ride wherever I want” and proceeded to ride through the soft soil of some new construction plots, then down a sketchy embankment towards the woods, and hopefully to find a place to pop out on the correct road (V Ave). I found a ravine that I was not at all prepared to try crossing, and ended up retracing my path back to the main road, then jig jagged around for a while until I found V.

IMG_6513The gravel has now begun.  I was around 20 miles into my day and finally reached the gravel. It was close to 1pm at this point, and the heat was on.  Big time. The once-distant storm clouds were passing overhead too quickly to provide any real relief from the sun, and I finally got into my first set of rollers. Now, I’m riding this loaded setup for the very first time, and this is my first time Dirtbagging with a Rohloff drivetrain. It’s a challenge finding the right gear at times, and to be honest, I’m not sure I like the twist shift operation. I DID appreciate it during the winter months when my hands resided inside pogies, and I was thankful for this sturdy drivetrain during the crappy weather, but on dry gravel in the heat, it isn’t as necessary.  I started thinking about how I should have stopped for a bean burrito and some cold water before headed north, and having some hardcore anxiety over dogs (I had just read a few article on all the dog attacks on the Trans Am Race, and also I haven’t ridden this road for a long time and don’t remember if there are any bad spots), and the weird cold shivers started happening again. I was already running out of leg, and I was only a few miles into the actual ride.  I stopped and drank water, had some Scratch Labs stuff, rested for a few minutes, but I just felt drained. The Mukluk was too much of a pig for me to push in this state.  I then remembered that I had been off the bike for about 7 weeks due to my tailbone injury  Yeah, that’s a problem. I should have/could have/would have packed all this stuff on my Fargo and at least I would be able to cover more distance in less time, but I HAD TO BE A HERO AND SEE HOW FAR I COULD RIDE THE MUKLUK IN ONE DAY.

The answer to that question of mileage: 25 miles. It was at mile 25 that the realization struck: It was still 10 miles or more to either Woodward or Madrid, where I was going to grab lunch, I was 5 miles north of civilization, and was averaging about 6 mph at this point. It would take me an hour to get back to Waukee, or nearly two hours to get to either town north. Then what? How was I going to make it to Ledges if I couldn’t even pedal to Madrid? I spied a pickup on the horizon, and went in to full on bagger mode. I flagged this gentleman down and he was so kind as to allow me to throw my bike in the back and sag away.  We discussed where I live, and what my minimum sag goal was. He did not want to go into Des Moines, and honestly I thought I would just stop for some food and water then head back north on the Mukluk. He says “you want me to drop you off at Mickey’s?” Brilliant Idea. We headed south.

IMG_6512I felt like a total schmuck for bailing and taking a sag backwards, for “failing” at TWENTY FIVE GODDAMN MILES. Sometimes you win, sometimes you just don’t win as much. Yesterday was that day.  We arrived in the Mickey’s parking lot, I unloaded the pig, said our goodbyes, and mounted up to ride over to the bike rack. I felt unsteady and weak. It’s really bizarre. Entering a post-lunch-rush, mostly-empty bar is kind of eerie, and in my state it was borderline surreal.  There were two guys at a front booth speaking in muted tones, and nobody else. I found a seat at the bar. The bartender emerged after a few minutes, I whined a little whine and ordered water and a Lagunitas IPA.  This is getting really long, isn’t it? They have a Hummus Trio on the menu as a special, so of course I got that. after a few bites of their spicy hummus the body started feeling a little more human again. We had drinks, shot flies with a Salt Gun, and was turned on to Tequila and Soda. Great Drink, I highly recommend it.  I started doing the run down of what the plan to get home entailed, or maybe I would head back north for another shot at getting to at least the Whistlin Donkey in Woodward. It was then my friend and past bail out hero Sandy from Rasmussen Bike Shop rolled in from a ride with her friend Tom. Sandy has the same Ti Mukluk and mentioned that it would fit on her car rack. DING. New option for the ultimate bail. They had lunch, then Sandy, Tom, and I worked to get my Bougie Hobo Bike on her car and back to the East Village.

We rolled in to my hood around 5:30pm, just in time to see the first wave of the thousands of neighborhood invaders that would arrive for Yankee Doodle Pops, which is held at the State Capitol Building aka one block south of my house.  Thank you so much, Sandy, for saving my sorry butt again. I wouldn’t have made it home. It would have been a coast into Clive, then a stop at every bar on the way home (in true bagging style), then bridge beers, three or four more bars, and me spending the entire day completely wrecked on the 4th.  I am thankful for waking up healthy, albeit sore, and motivated to get a bunch of things done at home (like re-skinning my drum kit and getting set up to record) before going out for a regular ole bike ride today. I didn’t make my intended ride, but I now know that I have a ways to go before I can just start plugging away at what I used to to on the reg. Guess I should go ride a bike…

Sam

CNB

A Few Of My Faves

CNB Bike Related Favorites Listing:

  1. Sarah Cooper – “Coop” is a local central Iowa endurance cycling beast. She has been on the “podium” of many of the midwest’s nastiest endurance races, and last year she flat out won Race Across The West, which qualified her for even more punishment in this year’s RAAM.  She won the Women’s Solo category in RAAM last month riding 3,070.28 miles in 11 days, 18 hours and 56 minutes, which also put her in 10th overall among these elite racers.  I will hopefully get to talk with her about her experience sometime soon and transcribe that here. Click on her name up there and read about it all from her own words.  Also, she put on a little thing called the Spotted Horse Ultra, a punishing 150 or 200 mile gravel race in central Iowa. (Sarah if you are reading this, I’m sorry I missed the party, work got a little crazy.)
  2. RidingGravel.com – It’s got the goods, and they know their stuff. Click the link and learn a few things.
  3. BikePacking.com – Have you ever had a question about Bikepacking (DirtBagging)? These folks probably have the answer. A wealth of knowledge for all you who like your touring dirty, or all of those who aspire, it’s worth a click.
  4. Compass Snoqualmie Pass Tires – These 700cx44mm tan-wall beauties are the big sibling in the “pass” line. Mine are in the ulra supple “extra light casing” model, and ride so nice I’d like to put these on pretty much any of my bikes that would fit them. Highly recommended.
  5. J-Paks GravelPak – It’s the “Baby Bear’s Porridge” of seat packs.  This Pak is the ultimate seat pack for long day rides, packing wet weather gear on your commuter, or keeping your “ride kit*” handy in an easily transferrable package. This thing has lived on many of my bikes over the last 10 months.
  6. Pink (the color) – I’m way into pink right now. There’s Project Pink, and it was reaaaaaally difficult to avoid trying to put pink ano everything on this beauty. If you have pink ano parts for sale, let me know. I’m starting to horde them for a rebuild of one of my current bikes.
  7. TAN WALLS TIL SNOW FALLS – That’s my new mantra.  The Compass line of tires has nothing but tan wall goodness, and the WTB Byway set waiting to go on Pink are a lovely tan wall. Maxxis, Panaracer, and many more can provide you with those lovely walls of tan. Tan is the new Black.
  8. Speed Metal Cycling Podcast – This is the only way I like to experience the thrills and chills of professional road racing, through the hilarious insight of Dan Skullcrusher, Klaus, Natalia, and Mike.  It’s amazing how a few huge doping scandals soiled this sport for me for life.  I remember getting the Tour De France special editions of the bike magazines when I was a kid, seeing these heroic young (and some old) men just destroy themselves in the name of winning “just a bike race.” Decades later we all find out they were also destroying themselves with performance enhancing drugs.  It’s a shame that road racing was just a sham the whole time. I’m totally in to not watching the Tour, but listening to these lovely creatures discuss the tour is awe inspiring. They also have a Name That Colombian page that coaches you on how to properly pronounce the names of Colombian racers. Very helpful.
  9. Dirt Bagging > Bike Packing – Tomato/Potato situation.
  10. Trans Iowa 14 – NO, this hasn’t been announced, and I half expect that TIV13 may have been the last year, but I’m sure GT will be reading this and I want him to know at least ONE person is thinking about what to do with his fall/spring “free time.”

Sam

CNB

*tools, tubes, air, rain gear, lock, burrito, whatever you take with you on the reg.

Sitting In The Waiting Room

Do you ever have one of those moments where you are dead set on doing something, like maybe some dirt bagging, but everything seems to be working against you, especially your own mind?  One of those moments where obsessing about how you under-beaned your Chemex is more important that achieving your goal (in this case on my end, Dirt Bagging)?  You have thought out where you want to ride, and what you might do when you get there, even searched out some local food spots to check out while on said trip, but actually getting your bike and/or gear ready has taken a back seat to whatever “squirrel” crosses you path?

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so distracting…

I am truly having one of those moments.  I know where I want to ride, I know what I want to bring.  I want to do some camping/dirt bagging up north.  BUT IT’S A HOLIDAY WEEKEND, so and the deadly trifecta of Explosives/Alcohol/Camping will be on the minds of every amateur out there.  So public camping is probably out. Maybe take the hammock for an overnighter.  It’s been a while, I may have forgotten what knot to use with the damn thing. blah blah blah

pileofbikesAll of my bikes are in disarray.  Well, all the bikes I WANT to ride are in disarray.  Save for the Warbird, but that’s not really my favorite flavor of dirt bagging sled.  The Fargo has a flat (easily fixable) and no Dyno system (crucial for 1. night riding 2. keeping electronics charged 3. Being Bougie), The Colossal is hanging up with no wheels (which are on the Warbird*), the Vaya wheel set is on Project Pink at the shop for them to use while fitting the brakes (same model/size/spacing hubs/rotors are being used on Pink’s wheels), I’m not in the mood for riding level gravel on the Lynskey SS or the San Jose, The Cargo Bike just seems absurd to dirt bag on (although comfy and plenty of cargo room), SSBB is currently sharing its front dyno wheel with the San Jose, The Tandem will be sans stoker for the week, the Fixie Chili seems like a bad idea, and the rest of the stable…I just don’t feel like riding. Pretty lame. Strike two. THEN I decided to sit down and write a goddamn blog post about how I was distracted from making this whole dirt bagging thing happen today. Strike three…

Does this happen to you?  Whatever happened to just getting on your bike and riding?  Why does everything seem so complicated today?  What’s with all the questions?  I’m picking a bike and just going for it. I’m sure you’ll hear about it here later.

 

Sam

 

CNB

 

*Quick Footnote Review of the DT Swiss DT350/Spline Wheelset: The stock wheels on the Carbon Warbird are just garbage. Trash. If you get a ‘Bird with the DT Swiss wheels rather than the HED Belgiums, just buy new wheels and save the stock ones for making holiday wreaths or something. I put my Son28/White Industries/Wiskey 7 set on the bird, and damn if it didn’t make the thing into a completely different bike. In a good way.

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