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?

1200px-byway_road_sign

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

The Good Intentions Tour

The Good Intentions Tour

Every year during Memorial Day weekend I have vowed to go ride my bike as far as I can, for as long as I can. This is a tour to push my spring limits, something to gauge what needs to be focused on for summer so that the fall gravel races are a little easier on the body than the early spring excursions.  It could be fully bagged out, it could be a dirt bagging trip, it could be a “credit card” tour with support and hotel rooms.  It could be anything, really, as long as there is a goal of at least 300 miles over the course of the four day weekend.

This is why it has earned the title of “The Good Intentions Tour”

IMG_5140

The fully loaded Ti Vaya, a formidable touring rig but not something to ride 100 miles a day in heavy rain storms. I will not be using this rig for 2017’s GIT

The Good Intentions Tour is just that. It’s a set of intentions (outlined in P1) that are more like a limit than an intention.  Last year I had decided that I was going to take an fifth day and ride a total of 400 miles.  What actually happened was I chose to take my loaded touring bike, I started a day late and rode into intermittent rain storms, at fried chicken, got stuck in a shelter at a city park waiting out a storm, made it to the Night Hawk in Slater, IA drinking with a team of woo girls that were woo-ing their minds out inside a sheet metal shed which houses the back bar at the establishment.  I rode north from Slater to Ames, IA, where I ended up in a hotel room as there were some very serious looking storm systems coming my way, then rode from Ames to middle-of-nowhere Collins, IA where I ran into BikeIowa.com founder Scott Sumpter randomly at a tiny bar, then rode to Cleverley Farms for the last historical Garlicpalooza.  At Larry’s farm we had a blast, but the next morning it was blazingly hot and humid and I made it to a convenience store in Bondurant, IA where I ended up calling a sag for my last 12 miles as I could not get my body to act right.  I don’t blame it, it had a reason to be hostile towards me.  Three Days, 99.4 miles. I couldn’t even bring myself to ride around the steamy block to get to an even 100. I was done.

IMG_3857

The fully loaded Ti Colossal, a killer self contained road-packing rig. I will be losing most of the bags and using this bad boy for GIT. At least I intend to. haha.

That is how it goes every year, first make a long list of good intentions, then say “fuck it” and just do whatever.  This year I will have a partner in Intentions crime, who has vowed to ride one of the four days with me (sounds like a proper good intention), and will then pilot Kira as my support in my quest to ride at least 300 miles.  I haven’t picked the bike yet, but I can tell you that it will not be my Vaya.  Day 1 or 2 will be on the Java, and since there is support involved this year I will probably just pack a very stripped down Colossal for the solo miles.  I can see this turning into a one day loop then a “tailwind tour” to wherever the time limit takes me.

No matter what happens, I am making my list of good intentions for this coming Memorial Day weekend.  I’m looking at routes, plotting miles, and looking at where I can stick a tandem loop in the middle of all of this, in addition to working in some #vanlife with Kira, and also putting together a bail plan for when I give up on my intentions and just want to go home to my lovely vegan kitchen to eat something other than road food.  That’s going to be the biggest challenge this year, spending 3-4 days on the road while still sticking to clean Vegan eating.  We shall see how that goes, or if anything goes at all.

Sam

CNB

Hashtag Cult Membership Time

I did something very uncharacteristic of me today.  I obtained a motorized vehicle.  It’s very foreign to think of doing things that don’t require turning pedals, but after ridding myself of the “Deal Mobile” last week, and seeing as the venerable Gold Jetta Wagon (the Swagon) is all but sold, I thought that maybe I should start a new thing.  This thing I did gave me entry into a new-to-me hashtag subculture.  I already belong to a few of these groups (#vegancylist #cheflife #veganhashtagabuser #rifftober #rigsofdoom, the also-new-to-me #gravelfamily that I learned is now a thing as of this weekend, and many others), but this is one that I had never aspired to. I purchased a 2006 Dodge Sprinter today…

Enter the #VanLife

IMG_6029#VanLife is this thing where you live your life in, by, and for the Van. You buy a Van, you convert the van to a suitable mobile living quarters, then you go do shit in it.  You go camp, you drive to other places and meet new people, bike unfamiliar areas, explore.  You can save a ton on hotel rooms if you have either good enough facilities or can just make do with what you have brought with you.  As a bit of a cycling vagabond/traveller (and a person who has spent a little too much on air fare and hotel rooms the last few years) this has appealed to me since the day my friends Fresh Tank decided to ditch their living situation and travel the country living the #vanlife. It looks like they have been having fun.

 I had been dead set on a high top Sprinter, but the previous owners, Alex and Hanna, IMG_6028had done a lot of the conversion work like insulate and run power to the back area already, which made this a great base for what I was planning. Alex included a few cabinets he had made for their buildout, along with some helpful tips on the idiosyncrasies of this ole gal. She has some patina, and some quirks, but The Stoker and I are pretty stoked to have something that can accommodate bikes up to and including the Java Tandem, with some basic amenities for the trip to wherever that tandem is getting pedaled from.

Her name is Kira, after current day explorer Kira Salak, who has travelled solo to almost every continent.  My Kira will probably not leave this continent while under I captain her, but I do have some pretty major plans for her. I mean, one does not simply enter the realm of #vanlife without an adventure in their hearts and minds.  What’s my plan? Aside from making grocery runs for the restaurants and maybe doing some catering, you’re going to have to stay tuned to see what my #vanlife has in store.  I promise you it will be a journey into some unknown territory…

Sam

CNB

The New Ride Home

My old ride home was great, straight down the GWT to my country castle.  I enjoyed two years of that ride, in and out of DSM a few times a day.  My NEW ride home from down town includes riding up the MacRae park hill.  Many of my friends were all like “blah blah big hills blah blah.”

I love that hill, and about half way up it tonight I thought to myself, “self, this hill ain’t shit,” and then I hit the part where the grade goes straight up (those of you who ride this “loop” on the regular know what I am talking about).  The hill had its say and I had to actually stand up and do a little work.  Then I decided that one wasn’t enough and went around for another pass.  Second time was even better.  I forsee this new commute being a great time, especially with a few laps around the park thrown in for good measure. 

Me+MacRae Park=true love.  If only it was gravel.