Friday, June 27, 2008

Race Costs

Sean has been receiving some flack about the entry cost for the 4th of July Crit. I frankly can't really understand why. If a person were to register online, the cost is only $3 more than last year. Along with gas prices going up, cost for the race such as officials fees, timing and neutral support, equipment rental, and medical services are going up every year. The medical services alone for this race will approach $1000. As Sean pointed out in his response to one complaint, "the day you see me driving around an Escalade you can complain about higher prices." This is really true. The crit is a very expensive race to put on, especially with the medical staff. It's true, we wouldn't need to pay for paramedics on hand, many races don't because of the cost. I guarantee, however, that if the person who was complaining needed their services, they would not complain about it. I guess there will always be some people who are not happy with everything, but costs are costs. We are not running a charitable race for free foundation.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Pics from the week.

Bella the cat has been officially adopted and taken in by us. She is a handful, but fun to have around. I have to admit that is was hard for me to pay the cost of a lot of nice bike parts for a vet bill, but she makes Meg really happy, and that's worth a lot. I may, may, have too many bikes as it is anyway. Nah....

Another cat related pic. I came across this the other day while handing out fliers. Nice.

I took a break at Eric and Margit's yesterday as well How's this for a nice little commuter stable?
Best sticker ever made out of a car dealership logo.

The man himself.

Finally, here are some pics from the Lebannon ride with Mr Hagerty.






Thursday

So today is a special day, it's mine and Meg's 4th anniversary! It's been a great ride, and I hope that we'll be here many years from now. Wedding plans are coming together, and it's coming faster than I realize. We went to my cousin's wedding last weekend, which was held at the same places we'll be having. It was really in some ways a trial run for our wedding, and it's going to be awesome. October 4th is coming up quick!

Yesterday's downtown adventure went well. For the most part, people that I talked to were excited to see the race come again. One exception complained of not being able able to drive to that back of his business. He said that volunteers would not let him drive through the course. Of course they didn't, that's their JOB! When putting on a race like this, all of the liability for racer's safety eventually falls to me. Sure, the event is covered to $1,000,000 liability, but how long do you think that'd last if 20 people were injured in a crash? The potential for that kind of incident is admittedly small, but it could happen. It is difficult to please everyone, but we'll try to accommodate the people downtown as best we can. There is one intersection that has to remain open, and if a person can't drive in through there, I guess they are out of luck. I have the responsibility to over 300 people all day to make sure they are as safe as they can be. That's something I and my partners take very seriously.

So, with almost everything in place, I think we're almost ready for this event to happen. There are a few matter of fact things with a few races that need to be changed, owing to a few Rider of the Year cup changes that we were not informed of. This will only affect a few people though.

I had a great day yesterday after work. I got a seriously burning hill workout in, and the bike worked great. It was one of those teetering on passing out rides, the ones that feel just about perfect when you're done. I rode the pig FSSS Fisher, and it is working really well. I have it set up with a Rohloff chain tensioner in the rear, and it is doing a great job. So far I have not had the need to run a guide up front, and all appears to be well. Meg and I made it to the gym last night, and I hit the weights for a nice upper body workout. Then it was the stairmaster, which effectively finished me for the evening. It was great, I slept about as good as I have this month.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I'm off this morning to do some community work for the race. All in all, about 200 fliers need to be distributed to the downtown businesses, residences along the course, and some people in city hall. Barricades need to be ordered, as well as scaffolding and bleachers for the finish line. We have never had bleachers before, but space is a premium at the finish line area. I may get some this year and see how it goes. I also need to talk to the local grocery store manager. Last year he had a semi load of food that had to be delivered during the race, not good. We got it all taken care of, though it can go smoother this year I think.

Our ride went well last night, a good little 9 miler or so. I was riding well, and destroyed some hills. It feels good to be getting in shape finally. I'm trying to squeeze a hill ride in this morning, it'll have to be after the morning's going's on though.

That said, off to it. Have a great day!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

More riding and fun stuff.

Push is coming to show getting ready for the Crit on the fourth. All forms are in, prizes are coming, and letters and fliers are going out to local businesses tomorrow. So long as the weather cooperates, this is building to be the best year yet. In addition to getting this year's event running we are already looking ahead to next year to build an even bigger 10 year anniversary race. This may involve one or more corporate sponsors, and maybe a bike company or two. It's fun to look ahead, but we are soundly focused on making this years race run as smoothly and safely as possible.

We have had many inquiries into on-site medical support, owing largely I think to the highly published bike crash in Texas a few weeks back. Ever concerned with how to improve course security, we are planning on having more barricades then in years past, as well as taping individual driveways lining the course. There are business allowances to make too. With several pizza shops in the course, it is necessary to have certain intersections open to allow them to do normal business. This, or course, opens us up to inherent liability, making smart workers at these corners critical.

All in all, this is a relatively straightforward event to put on. There are hoops to be jumped, but it should go pretty smoothly, and should go well. Here's to a good race, and we hope to see many of you there.

Last night's ride at Lebannon went very well. We got about 3 hours of riding in, which was just about enough. Brandon and I both left with muscles on the verge of cramping, but not over kill. It was a great ride. The Blackbuck continues to amaze me. I really am starting to fall in love with the geometry, which verges on the closest thing to an appendage I have ridden so far. It seems to thrive on tight twisting turns, and just begs to see how quick you can go through things. Lebannon has a ton of little rock sections, and this bike makes picking your way through those cake work. I have to add props to the Bontrager Dry X tires. I have been riding these at about 23psi, and they have worked flawlessly. They add a ton of comfort to the bike, and the cornering traction and rolling capabilities are awesome. They are a near perfect tire for the normal dry riding conditions around here. Mark, you need to give these another shot, this time at mega low pressure!

I'll have to post pictures up tomorrow, as Meg needed the camera today. We're riding with some friends from out of town tonight after work. Should be a great night for a ride as well. Cheers.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Monday

It's a glorious day here in MN for a day off. The weather promises low eighties and clear skies, with a bit of wind. We're planning on making a run up to Lebannon Hills to test out some new stuff, most notably the rigid form OS. I'll be taking my "big bike," the Sugar 4" FSSS. We'll be posting up some pics later tonight or tomorrow from the ride, along with impressions of the handling of the two.

I'm off to my mother in law's to plant another tree, then some final paperwork on for the Crit, then we're good for the day. Take care all, Ben.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

New bikes and some new ideas.

First bike up on the list is Brandon's 22" Karate Monkey. Brandon came to us wanting a bike that he could use for a commuter, as he doesn't have a car. He also wanted a mountain bike for local use and for trips to CO to visit family. The Surly fit his needs well. He's about 6' 4", with really long legs. The bike fit really well, especially considering that he was using a Walmart special BMX bike! The parts mix is pretty standard, with BB7 brakes, X-7 derallieurs and shifters, and a nice assortment of Bontrager parts to round out the mix.

This is a bike on the other end of things. Loren came to us last year with a pretty specific need. He rides is bike all year long. He services a long line of Bluebird houses in River Bend Nature Center and around the surrounding area. He wanted something that fit like his Trek 7100 step through frame, but with some pretty major upgrades. With his full winter Carhart set up and bags on the back, throwing a leg over a level TT is not really an option. Oh, did I mention that he's over 70?! He wanted disc brakes, and larger tires to smooth out the bumps along the route. Not really having an off the shelf bike that fit all these needs, we sought the expertise of Mr Pofahl down th street. What we came up with was a 13" step through framed 29er with a super low BB, 1X9 gearing, full braze ons for rack and fenders, Hayes Discs for ease of use, and a standover height smaller than his hybrid! This ended up being damn near perfect for his needs. A gorgeous example of what a truly simple custom bike should be. Nothing too fancy, just purpose built for the application.

The last new bike is a stock spec'd Surly Long Haul Trucker. You have to love the guys from Bloomington for making such nicely done up bikes. With smart choices across the board, and a price of under a grand, this is a grat example of a vehicle replacement bike. This particular one had a Surly rack added, along with other normal rider accouterments, (not pictured.) Shortly after purchasing the bike, the owner was starting a long trip down to Missouri. God willing, he should be past Iowa by now, think happy thoughts for him!


I've been spending a lot of time on the OS Blackbuck lately. This is really one of the best bikes I've owned before. I love the geometry with a suspension fork, and with components really fit well with my thoughts on what a nice bike should be, without going to excess on blingly bits. I recently installed the rigid fork that Mark sells for this bike. It really defies convention on geometry, so much so as to be really out there. The fork is really short, 435mm axle to crown to be specific. This lowers the head tube quite a bit on the bike, bringing the parallel head and seat tube angles to a sharp 74 degrees. This alone should make the bike very quick handling, but the fork then throws another curve ball, 51mm of rake! I've been really excited to try this, as it is so far off from what is considered "normal" for a 29er. I have to say, I really like it! I've ridden it on the trails around here and some gravel, and it's way fun. The bike corners like no other 29er I've ridden. Whereas some of the steeper head angled 29er's I've ridden have a tendency to feel twitchy, this is not the case with this bike. It just loves to carve corners, and enters corners very much like a 26" bike. The inherent stability afforded by the bigger wheel balances the front end out nicely, making what should be terribly unstable quite nice. Riding no handed is not an issue for instance. The BB height is also not effected much, measuring out to be about 11.75" with the eccentric in the upper position. That's right about perfect for a rigid bike around here. Standover height is under 31.5", pretty low as well for a 18.5" frame with a straight TT.

The overall feel of the bike is of a low slung, responsive, go fast bike. With the smart parts spec, and the relatively low cost of the frame and fork, this package offers a ton of performance, comfort, and great looks for the money. I will be journeying up to Lebannon Hills to see how this bike performs in some rougher conditions, but I am nothing but greatly happy with the bike thus far.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

One Week

So it's been a week. We've seen a lot of stuff happen at the shop. With a streak of about a week now of perfect Minnesota weather, we've just been inundated with repairs at the shop. Brandon reckons that we have never been busier with repairs. We took in over 40 since last Thursday! One word, overtime. It's pretty awesome to see so many people getting out on bikes. It seems that everywhere I go these days there are more people riding. I hope that this trend continues into the norm. After every trip I've taken to Europe I've come back with a sense that there is something to the lifestyle there that it contributed too by biking. Things move a little slower, people seem to plan things out a little looser, and allow time for calm transit. Meg and I have started riding and walking to things in town. The car only gets really driven to carpool to the shop. It's surprising how more relaxed I am when I don't drive to errands. Gotta love it.

On the other hand, I have been indulging in my other petrol fueled hobby, motorcycling. I have a little old Suzuki that is just a riot to ride. I often find myself trying to balance out the whole riding vs motorcycling ideal. I figure, the bike gets about 45 mph even when I push it, so that's not too bad. With the increase in biking and walking, I am easily offsetting this small use for gas. Motorcycling is very much like carving endless singletrack, only seemingly never ending. I find it an immensely focusing and calming pursuit, as you can literally die if you screw up. I've been riding with my father and a friend named Mike a lot lately. Mike is a member of the old guard, and it's unreal to watch and learn from him.

All for now,
Ben

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A good ride and bad news.

Last night we had a good little shop ride after work. This was the first test of the new fork in actual off road conditions. It has performed admirably well. I continue to be impressed by it. The area that we usually ride is called River Bend Nature Center. It is a nice little 8-9 miles of trail we usually ride, (there are more, that's the normal loop though.) It consists of mixed river bottom flat sections, and short, steep uphill mini bluff type stuff. The hills are hard, and were a nice testing ground for everything involved.

The true test was when I switched bikes with a guy named Tuey. Tuey is a professional juggler, and has the best balance of anyone I know. He rides a 26" geared hardtail, and has never owned a 29er, (though he has ridden some of mine.) As far as an impartial jury, he's pretty close. After riding the bike up on of the harder hills, traversing some of the bumpier grass and hardpack sections, he didn't want to give the bike back. His most striking comments were twofold. One, that the bike did not feel that different while riding, only when he started riding his bike again. Two, that he would trade his 26" geared bike for a 36er SS for where we ride in a second!

The ride was great, the weather cooperated, the trails were just wet enough to be tacky, and the bike performed well. I have realized two issued with this bike that need to be addressed. The easy one is the chain. Against my better judgment I put SRAM PC 1 chains on the bike. Well, I stretched them far enough in one ride that I could not keep it on without lightly spinning. Those will be going today. Secondly, this version of the bike has quite a bit more rear end flex under pedaling torque. I think that this largely has to do with the lower bottom bracket, which increases the mechanical advantage against the rear dropout. I feel that this could be solved by the addition of an asymmetrical chain stay or structural chain guard running from just above the dropout, (the only logical place considering the dropout set screw placement.) I can live with the flex now, and I do not think it will lead to a crack, though it is something to consider. It may also be partly to blame for the excessive chain stretch. I will look at changing gear sizes on the bike as well. This may be a third issue with the chain problems.

The fork on the bike performed flawlessly. I was no nicer to it that any of my "normal" bikes, and it took it all in spades. The stiffness is incredibly confidence inspiring, and the steering precision shows marked improvement over the lone unicrown. I will be playing around with the handle bar choice a bit, I think something with a bit more sweep will suit the bike a little better.

So things are developing rapidly along those fronts. We are receiving some bad reports on the Big Wheeled Ballyhoo front. With Iowa being hit with continual downpours, the likely hood that the event will be canceled is rising daily. I feel for Guitar Ted, who has put so much work into this event thus far. I for one would love to see a rescheduled one in the fall if the event is canceled. Apparently the area that was camped on last year is under some 12 feet of water, so it's not looking good. Thank you Mark for the hard work, and we'll be there to support you whatever you decide.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Miles of fun

We've finally been blessed with some nice weather the past few days. After a windy and stormy weekend again, yesterday's sunny 75 deg with a west wind felt great. I took the opportunity to get some miles in on the new bike when I could. I rode with longtime friend and Big Dummy connoisseur Eric in the morning. We rode out south, so as to have some big climbs into the wind, and have the wind at our backs coming home. I rode the 36er, and it continues to perform beautifully. I really think that there is only one issue that I have left to figure out, and it's a pretty minor one.

The ride went wonderfully. The pace was fairly relaxed, other than the hills, and it couldn't have been better. Topics of conversation ranged from Japanese style Tatami garden design for the back of the bike shop, to shared enthusiasm for the plethora of bikes and bikers of all kinds that we had been seeing. I think I speak for both of us when saying that the future for alternative transportation looks brighter than ever. About half way through our ride we passed my friend's parent's homestead. I was out there with Joe the other night, and he had shown me something interesting in the ditch. Right where I remembered them were four small examples of the Showy Lady Slipper. The flowers were kind of past there prime now, but it was really cool to see them on a water break.

This was a good ride for both of us. It marked the first longer rider that either of our new bikes or additions had done. Eric is the proud owner of the gorgeous, and practical, Rohloff'd Big Dummy listed down the page. His bike worked wonderfully, and we both thought that the choice of the Schwalbe Fat Frank tires was the right one. Even in the looser gravel, the tires had a surprising amount of grip at 35 PSI. Cruising back into town rounded out the great ride. We took some pictures on the lonely Minimum Maintenance Road that I'll be posting later. All in all a great way to spend the morning.

After a great cup of iced dark roast at Goodbye Blue Monday, I set out for a longer, harder ride. It is a rare thing to have such a nice day off, and I didn't want to waste it. This is where I made the big mistake of the day, I didn't got home and reapply sun screen. It's deceiving when it is not so warm out. It's hard to remember that it truly is June, and after 1 o'clock, the sun is still as bright as it ought to be. My arms are a bit worse for wear this morning, but it was worth it.

I rode out of town much as I had earlier with Eric. This time I took a road a bit to the southwest, into the wind, and headed for some killer rolling hills and some 1+ mile climbs. Here's where the bike really was fun. I was planning on another 20 miles or so, so I cranked up the intensity from before. I was quickly limited on the flats by the smaller gear I run, but quick bursts of high cadence spins kept the speed up fairly well. On flats, the 36er takes almost no energy to keep rolling, but on any kind of a downhill, watch out! This thing build momentum faster on a downhill than any bike I've ever ridden. It was oft the case that I would coast up half of a hill after coming down the previous. The geared bike is really the one that shines here, with the gearing to back up the speed, but the SS did quite well. I wanted a workout, and I got it. The long sustained climbs really served as a reminder that this is a really large bike. The bike pedals much easier than one would imagine a 37lb bike would, but it's still heavy. I settled into that wonderful plodding SS rhythm, and as always, I got the top.

The loop I was doing eventually comes to a cast iron bitch of a hill that climbs out of one of the deepest valleys in the area. It is a 1+ mile climb, with an increasingly steep pitch as you near the top. I love climbing hills, and this one never disappoints. As ever, it sucked. It's that beautiful pain in your legs when you know it's the last hill, so you push just a little harder. I was out of the saddle almost the whole climb, and the turn round the power station at the top felt awesome. the hill levels out to a 4 mile stretch of fairly flat gravel that brings you back to tarmac. the tar starts at the top of what locals call Question Mark Hill. It's a super bit of short and steep, landing on a straight, flat bit of road that leads to the edge of town. The speed coming down the hill on the 36er, and then coasting over 1/2 mile made the ride for me. It was the perfect way to end the day, sun burned though I was.

I'll be rinding the bike again tonight at our local MTB trails. For those asking, I will have some more "action" type shots of it tomorrow. Cheers for now, happy trails.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

36er Truss Fork Project Complete

Pictures really say everything about the new fork/stem for this bike. I've ridden it, and it's soooo good! Cheers.









Friday, June 06, 2008

36er's Back!

The 36er SS is back from the powdercoater's and is assembled. The new truss fork looks great, and is stiffer than many 29er forks I've ridden! It's better than I had hoped, and just looks wonderful. I'll post pics tomorrow when I'm not so crazy at the shop. Cheers, Ben.

Register Online!

Here's the link for registering online for the Crit. Thanks, we look forward to seeing you all!

Register Here

Please Note: Changes to the schedule that is posted below. Please make sure of your race time. Thanks.



Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Northfield Crit! (Updated Flyer)



Flyer should be up at MCF.net shortly. Check www.northfieldcrit.blogspot.com in the next few days for updates. Game on!

This is the updated flyer.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Rain

I have to say that I was a bit dismayed when I looked at the weather forecast this week. The suits are calling for rain every day through Saturday. Oh well, at least I got a good ride in this morning. The XC is working very well. It's really stable and super smooth with the tires at 55 psi or so. The fork is very smooth, and it doesn't have any issues with brake chatter that I had worried about. The Avid road disc brakes are breaking in well, but so far do not compare with the power that their mtb counterparts have. The modulation is good, but you really have to put the brake levers through their paces to get real power out of them. I have some Nokon housing ends laying around, I think that a cable up grade will go a long ways to reducing power lost to flex. With the weather looking gray, it'll be a good week to tinker with little things like that. I will be dropping the big ring to 48t from 50t. That should even the gearing out a bit for the larger hills around here. Cheers.

Another beautiful day in the neighborhood.

This weekend was a good one. Several of our family members graduated from high school. We had family members fly in from North Carolina and Oregon for it. We had a lot of fun running around after work, listening to some bands at a few local hot spots, and a few parties to go to. The weather was nearly perfect, and everything was a lot of fun.

I also got a few miles in on the Lemond yesterday, just a nice little 15 miler on gravel for a good shake down ride. Everything on the bike worked well, and it was a good hard hill run. I wanted to ride longer, but only had about an hour to fit in between the two parties and dinner. I'm off today, and have a bit more time this morning. I'm planning on leaving for a ride down to the shop in a bit here. I am anxious to see if the construction workers have taken out the sidewalk in front of the shop. They were suppose to start on that Saturday, though a bit of bad weather Friday night prevented that work from starting.

That's all for now, happy Monday!