Monday, October 29, 2012


It is the time of year when I look at the temperature before I get ready for work and let out a little sigh.  I don't mind the cold, after all, I grew up in a cold place and even lived in Fairbanks, Alaska for four years.  I have ridden in -30 degree Fahrenheit weather.  It is kind of like swimming in a high mountain lake, you just need to get in past your waist!  The easiest way is just to jump in. 

The problem is that every year I run into the same problem, 28degrees, 20 degrees, 10 degrees......what should I wear.  My shoes are half mesh as are my gloves.  My helmet is full of vents and my head is bald.  Every year I say that I am going to make some sort of matrix that shows temperature and what to wear.  I never do. 

To much clothing and I panic in the sweltering heat, sweating until I stop where I promptly freeze.  To little and my fingers and toes go numb.  It is better to start a little chilly and warm up but the other night my toes froze.

This year I plan on riding as much as possible, my biggest problem is that all of my cold weather stuff is shot and since I have been living in Virginia, I have not bothered to invest in cold weather stuff, at least not the stuff for Iowa. 

I think I am going to stop typing and develop a matrix.......oh, who am I kidding.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

I am a Winner.....Sort of, thanks Salsa Cycles

I tried to win a bike one time in an online contest with a major bike company.  The entry requirement was a blog about bicycling and how it fits into your life.  Hence this blog.  I didn't win.  You will probably understand why when you stumble through this.  Besides, it was a stupid bike anyway.

Not long ago, I saw a link to the Reveal Your Path Postcard Contest on Salsa's Facebook page:
It reminded me of my previous failure so I quickly dismissed it.  Besides, I lack creativity and artistic ability.  But then I looked at the entry requirements and the Post Card could be anything and this is a great bike that I really want!  Then it hit me like a ton of heavy stuff (really it could have been light stuff adding up to a ton). 

While living in Islamabad, a friend made connections with a Jingle Truck guy.  Follow this link to a great article on Jingle Trucks.  It really is a great article on the culture of Jingle Trucks and you should read if you didn't.  The idea was that we could buy bits and pieces of their art for souvenirs.  It quickly became a trend and we found out they did custom work.  As a fan of Salsa Cycles I knew what I wanted so a friend of mine looked up the Pepper Globe on the Internet and we used his photo printer to make a terrible small print of the Pepper Globe.  A friend of mine translated in Urdu that I wanted the top green and the pepper red.  We used hand gestures to approximate size and agreed on the price of Pakistan Rupee 3,814 ($40).  I figured I would get a really bad rendition, but that is part of the fun too.  To my surprise it turned out far beyond my expectation.  The detail was amazing!!!  The best part was the Rs 3,814 got me two.  

So I used this amazing piece of work and wrote a "post card" applying it to the back with spray adhesive.  I packed it carefully and a few days later I saw this on Facebook!

  "Holy tin snips!  Wait till you see the latest "post card" entry that arrived today...but just remember, simple entries are great too!"

Then I went to their site and saw the following. 

They captured the detail well. 

In the end I did not win the Grand Prize, however, I won a nice Pro Moto stem with Ti hardware and a handlebar.  This was not a stupid bike and I would have loved to win it, but I will take a consolation prize of this magnitude.  

I replaced the stem on my Mukluk with this shiney and light upgrade and but the bars on my Giant Anthem X29er so I would have something with a more comfortable sweep.

This is the greatest thing I have ever won (besides the Alberston's grocery store coloring contest in which I earned $5 which was a lot for a 5 year old) and I love Salsa Cycles. 

Thumbs Up!!!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Old Man Mountain Sherpa meets the Salsa Mukluk

In previous posts I have discussed different methods of hauling stuff.  Stuff is another word for junk.  Of course I have used backpacks, messenger bags, a B.O.B. Trailer, Porcelain Rocket seat bag and handlebar bag (not frame bag).  These have all been effective methods some carry more than others and there are so many variables. 

The trailer was great but cumbersome and challenging to park.  If you want take everything inside out of the weather, cumbersome and time consuming but the dry bag is huge and works well.

Porcelain Rocket is great, may be a bit on the pricey side, but there are few companies that do what Scott does.  I guess that falls into supply and demand.  Well made and highly functional.  How much thought can you put into a seat bag....he has though of it all, there is even a rigid plastic sheet in the bottom so gravity doesn't pull your stuff out when you open it.  I also like the minimalistic approach.  I can carry boots and uniform and towel to work in a compact streamlined fashion.  Only drawback is it is not water fast, though the front bag is designed to hold a 10L dry bag. 

Now that winter is fast approaching I have decided it is time for another way to carry junk.  Technical winter clothing works great if used properly.  The right synthetic fleece and jacket can keep you comfy and dry.  Put on a backpack......the wet and cold sets in with the sweaty back and the stuff takes a long time to dry.   In order to ensure I have ample space to carry extra dry clothing and my work attire I have decided to go with a set of Ortlieb waterproof panniers and an Old Man Mountain Sherpa rack for the Muk (The Salsa Mukluk will hithertoforthen be referred to "The Panzer" (the German word for Armor, as in a German Tank or the Panzernashorn).

I typically do a lot of research before buying something.  After all, that is part of the fun.  What I found was that racks for bikes, even those made by companies that manufacture and sell fat bikes, require "manipulation" to fit on a fat bike.  The one exception that I found (there may be others) is the Old Man Mountain Sherpa.  They have specific models for the Salsa Mukluk and Pugsly.  I spoke with John and he was pleasant and quick to respond to questions sent by e-mail.    

It was simple to install with no manipulation required.

The fit kit (aluminum pieces on the left and right side are perfectly spaced.  I put a small washer between the frame and fit kit.  The rack was shipped with the fit kit pieces on the inside of the rack but this would require manipulation, which I was told it could handle.  However, with a hex wrench and a few turns of a 10mm open ended wrench I moved them to the outside.  Perfect. 

The guys at OMM recommended connecting the stabilizers to the seat stays just below the rim with the supplied rubber coated clamps.  I ride and XL and it does not appear that there is a big distance between the anchor point on the rack and eyelets.  I should probably pull our a tape and measure to see if there is a big difference.  After leveling and tightening I put some big dumb animal strength and tried to shift it laterally.  I didn't move so I think I will continue to use the eyelets vs going to the seat stay.  

The Orlieb Panniers with  dry bag construction and roll top will be here next week.  All I can say is that it better snow this year!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Tsunami Rolling: Colombus Day edition

Pre Ride Action Stance

 We went for a ride on Duck Creek.  It is a paved path but this small his has a trail that the kids like to roll down.  It is not to intimidating and great for building confidence.

 The Chick on her full size ride.  She is cruising on 26" wheels and doing great.

Salsa Mukluk 

 Digga Attacking!

Nater needs to get off training wheels.  I don't think we will get there this year.  I am suprised he didn't rip them off going down this!

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Ogre

The Surly Ogre has become one of my favorites based on comfort and utility. 

I would like to quote a hero of mine, Han Solo, who said "She'll make point five beyond the speed of light. She may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts, kid."  Well except for the point five stuff but that is probably more my fault than the bike. 

The Ogre Crossing the Hennepin Canal

Here are the top three reasons I like this bike:

1.  As the Surly web page says, it is very versatile.  I will not go into all the details since Surly did a great job.  I was considering reducing the fleet by getting rid of my El Mariachi due to the infuriating Bushnell Eccentric Bottom Bracket.  The Ogre fit the bill nicely since I had once considered getting a Karate Monkey which is what the Ogre is based on.  The nice thing about it is the thought Surly put into it, allowing me to do just about anything I want.  I can easily mount racks and fenders.  I can use the wheels from my Las Cruces (which are rim brakes) or I can put disc brakes on.  29er MTB tires or 700c road/touring tires.  If I come across $1500 I can purchase a Rolhoff Speed Hub.  Basically the bike can change as my needs change.

Heavy Rear End:  trailers, fenders, racks, Rolhoff mounting plate on non-drive side.  This baby can do it all.

2.  Very reasonably priced.  I bought the frame from a LBS in Rock Island, IL and I paid under $500 so I was pleased.  Even though I bought the frame and built it up, the complete version is very reasonable but geared more toward the MTB side. 

3.  Very durable, like Han said, she may not look like much but I didn't want some fancy finish to worry about.  While I don't go out of my way to beat things up, I am a big dumb animal.  I didn't want to stress about the kids banging on it or parking it at a crowded bike rack.

The Build:  I built it with two things in mind

1.  Heavy duty commuting bike.  The area I live in has concrete streets with big seams in them.  They are uneven and  when it gets hot the tar softens and you can loose a tire in them.  My cyclocross bike can handle the bumps but I wanted a larger tire (700x45c) and my frame would not accept them.  This bike will take any 29er tire.

2.  Gravel Grinding.  Yeah, I jumped on the Gravel Grinding bandwagon.  After all I am in Iowa and there are lots of gravel roads.  Embrace the local culture, that is what travelling the world is all about.  Even travel to exotic Iowa!

Ready To Pounce

I wanted the bike with a 48/36/26 crank set so I could get a little extra power on the flats and descents.  I would have gone bigger but the frame it requires a top pull front mech and 48 teeth was the limit of the top pull MTB front derailleurs.  It has been a pretty good compromise.  I haven't tried it in a single track scenario but chain ring clearance could be an issue.

Aside from the unique qualities that Surly has put into the Ogre there is really nothing fascinating about the bike, the parts are pretty standard SRAM X.9, Avid V-brakes.......except for the handle bar.  I decided on the Jeff Jones Loop Bar over other options to include the Salsa Wood Chipper.  The Loop Bar really makes the bike stand out and it provides a large assortment of hand positions which is nice.   I have found that the back sweep makes them extremely comfortable.  I look forward to trying them on the single track.  It works well with my Porcelain Rocket handlebar bag.  Well worth the money.    

This winter I am going to replace the headset with one that has sealed bearings.  That will be one less thing to maintain.  I really like the Loaded AmXc headset.  It looks sharp.I also plan to put disc brakes on it, then I can use either cyclocross for commuting or the Salsa Semi 29ers from the red headed stepchild so I can take it on the trails.  That will probably be the final step of making the El Mariachi obsolete (I had to have it just sit there, but I don't ride single speed very much).  Since I plan to replace the headset I am going to strip it down and give it a dose of Frame Saver.

Things I dislike:  Obviously I purchased the bike for many of the reasons listed above.  It is a great bike however, there are a couple of minor things that I dislike.  These reasons involve rust.  When I asked the folks at Surly about this they sent me a info paper on their bikes and rust.  Of course they recommend Frame Saver in the frame.  For the outside they state that unless you leave it out in the rain, the rust is not damaging. That said I hate rust.  I am not sure why, it is offensive I guess.  But the Surly full cable housing guides catch water, captures it, and allows for little pools of rust.

  Water Trap

As do the all of the little threaded holes for mounting stuff.

 Bill and Ted Trailer Mount bolt hole = rust

Fork Blade rack mounting hole = rust

The other thing is this. 
I am not sure what this is called but there is a hole into the head tube which makes no sense to me.  

I am not a bike doctor and I certainly am not a rocket surgeon so I don't know what structural integrity this provides. I can tell you one thing, with out fenders water sprays directly from the tires into this contraption, collects and for some reason causes some serious rust that later runs down the frame like a little rusty river.  I am going to hit it with some frame saver this winter and see what happens.

Overall I love the bike and my dislikes are purely cosmetic.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

I love my poodles

This is Winston.  He is a standard poodle. 

Wintson likes to run, a lot.  He is only a couple of years old, 70 pounds, and he is full of energy.  He is great on a leash when we run and he tracks extremely well when I am on my bike.  He doesn't like to ride in cars.  He typically throws up.  That is why I don't buy a new car.  The Muk or El Mariachi are perfect as I don't climb or descend as fast as I do with my Anthem X 29er. 
Winston doesn't care about squirrels, he just wants to run.  My other poodle, Molly is a great hunter or at least she thinks she is.  She is terrible on a leash, lunging at every squirrel.  She likes to run and she would not have posed for photos like Winston does in the above photos.  She doesn't get to participate in these activities because she would be off trying to kill the evil squirrels.  Or mountain goats, one time I thought I was going to lose her over the edge of a cliff as she chased a mountain goat in Montana. 

 Hiking in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, Montana.

 We spent a lot of time in the Chena River in Fairbanks, AK.

A classic before we all got old and grey!

Now she is a 55 pound lap dog.

Poodles do not provide much street cred but I love them anyway.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Salsa Mukluk = Fun

I have been researching fat bikes for a few years.  I have a pretty good idea (maybe expectation is a better word) of what they can do and can't do.  I think that the general consensus is that they are fun.  I like fun.  I need fun.  So Friday I purchased a Salsa Mukluk.  I had fun.  Is it over the top and impractical?  Yes, but in a fun way!  
A fool and his money..........

The first thing I did was prep the bike for riding.  I abuse my stuff, after all, that is what big dumb animals do, so I take care where I can.  I purchase rolls of "helicopter tape" which is used on helicopter propellers to protect the blade from debris.  It is clear and protects the frame from cable rub.  It isn't cheap but I prefer that over worn paint on the head tube after one ride.  I pulled the rear cassette and removed the "pie plate," which helps me maintain my street cred!  I also stick 3M waterproof electrical tape on the drive side seat stay which reduces the noise of chain slap while protecting the frame.   

Most of the reviews that I read were pretty much spot on.  What you gain with momentum and cushion you lose in weight.  I took it to Sylvan Island on Saturday to get a feel for this ride.  In big dumb animal style the first thing I did was ride to the end of the island to ride on the muddy banks of Old Man River. 
It can be done, but riding in the soft mud requires a lot of work.  You wouldn't ride there unless there was nowhere else to ride.  The only thing that I want to change are the brakes.  I learned quickly that the combination of big tires and big rider mean a lot of momentum and reduced braking.  I am not sure why they didn't spec it with a larger/better front rotor. 

However, this thing is impressive in the grassy area where all of the fisherman walk.  This thing rolls over small holes and brick sized rocks hidden in the grassy area that would either severely hinder or stop a 29er or 26" bike. 
This is the first time I have said "I cannot wait until winter" in years.