Wednesday, September 29, 2010

So I was going to try and do a video review, but that wasn't working out so well and I burned through a pair of batteries in minutes. Daylight was running out. I had to take pictures. They didn't turn out so well, so here's the stock photo... I'm gonna retake pictures and post them (I'll let ya know) soon! So without further a do...

SE BIKES 29" BIG RIPPERI was talking to The Wildman over at SE about 29'ers- with all the hub-bub buzzing about them, I knew I had to check one out. I was asking about an older MTB model & he suggested I take the Big Ripper a spin.

Now, if you know anything about BMX history, SE Racing's P.K. Ripper should be a household name. The Big Ripper is a P.K. BLOWN UP! Full on 29's, and it's a straight up BMX bike. The flagship of their retro department and with good reason. Read more...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Google Bike Maps

Price: Free


There was a lot of talk about Google Bike Maps when they first became an option. Some good, some not so good. Leaving Chicago to go north has always be a pain in my ass. The roads up there in the suburbs don’t make sense, then there are bike trails that start, stop, go through parking lots, etc., and it’s just a damn mess. So I decided I would let Google maps do the work for me.

I put in our destination in Manitowoc, WI, and press enter. The route came back and looked good. I made a few changes for the start because I didn’t like one of the roads, but other than that, our route was all Google.

Now comes the fun part... Ok- so I had the route on Google, but I need to get it to my gps. I knew you could use Bikely to export .gpx format, so the challenge was getting Google maps to Bikley. So a few hours of frustration and I find this link:

I pretty much did what the link said, and sure enough- it worked. I uploaded the routes to our gps units and we were good to go. The route was awesome! I thought sure it added more than a few miles to our trip, but we are talking very, very, little traffic. I also felt we got see more of the cities- like we knew the secrets or something. T

There was, however, the 30 miles of limestone... that kinda sucked (yet tasty! -ed.), but that whole 'what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger' thing might apply here. The one other thing we noticed was that Google maps doesn’t take in consideration how safe the neighborhood it routes you through is. So let's say you are riding to Detroit- you might want to check that route out.

Overall, I totally dug it and it made for a great first half of our tour.


Monday, September 20, 2010

I usually try not to post things that other blogs have posted/wrote about, but every once and a while there's a special exception.

Enter Chris Brigham, the man behind the blog called Knife & Saw, and creator of the bike shelf! The bike shelf is a very unique, beautiful piece of functional furniture that displays the beautiful piece of artwork that is your bicycle, and then some.

Sure, there's bike trees and the like that sit in the corner and hold a few bikes vertically to save precious space in your place, but since Cole started making Bates Crates, we've been even more on the lookout for hand made cycling items, and this one is a gem!

For a lot more pics and info, check out Chris' blog.


Friday, September 17, 2010

*Chickasaw Trace Classic Race Report


Friday when I decided to do this ride, I didn't really consider the weather. I figured "meh. whatever." Well the weather decided "we'll show him", and so, in Columbia, TN, it rained quite literally all day. I was driving in it, and even that wasn't particularly pleasant.
I had intended to pre-ride the course on Saturday (hopefully with Big Mac), but the rain said "nuh-uh" and so I didn't. Sunday I rolled in to Chickasaw Trace Park and parked in a big grassy field about 3 ft from a nice little bit of singletrack (no, not part of the race course). I rode up and got signed up (Beginner Men, age 30-39). I couldn't see when I signed up who all I'd be getting to utterly dominate, but there were lots of people milling about, so I figured there would be a few. :)

Big Mac warned me about a downhill that led into the field where we parked. He said it was nasty and slick, and everyone should probably walk it. Based on the condition of his knee, I surmised that this was experience speaking, and I should consider that as well. Big Mac also told me "good tire choice." I told him I made the decision late the night before. No wait those are my only tires for that bike. He also said I should run low pressure in my tires, which I decided to do as well. By that I mean I totally forgot to put air in anything (including the frame shock). Even so, it was probably my most comfortable ride on the FS bike yet (I've only ridden it maybe 300 miles so far).

I warmed up for probably 15-20 minutes on a paved road (which I later found out was in fact part of the course). Not much of a warmup, just enough to get the blood moving and ride some 100yd wheelies to psych out the competition. About 10 minutes before the race, we grouped up, and I discovered that there were a total of 5 in my category. Yay! Just *finishing* means I get no less than fifth! Two groups go before us, two minutes apart, and then it's our turn.

A horn. We ride. The start was long and a little downhill in grass, with a gravel turn, and then back up the hill on a paved road. That was almost the first mile (0.89mi). Two guys are ahead of me, one guy right behind, a fifth that I can't hear. He's what I'll call a "bad habit" (that's what we dropped him like). We stay like this until the 40 foot drop (in about 20 ft horizontal) down the wreck-y entrance to trail. The 2 leaders get probably 100yds on me in the first singletrack through a field, and just before we enter the woods, 4th says "excuse me kind sir, but I wondered would you mind terribly if I ease past you and ride in third position for a while until we cross the finish line 8 miles away." I dissented, and dropped the hammer \thusly. This had the fortunate side effect of pulling the first 4 back together. 1-2 are moving along, and I'm keeping pace with them for the most part. Then they sort of disappear. A mile later, I see them. And that was pretty much the last time until the podium.

So we ride in the woods for a while, and the whole time I was "mudroplaning" (kinda like hydroplaning in your car, but in mud). Made the trail probably twice as hard, at least.

Comparing race times to last years, even the lower placed people were above 10mph, so I'm thinking on a dry day, this trail cooks. I had one unexpected dismount of my bicycle, which I initially thought (and might be quoted in newspapers as saying) was one of my most graceful falls ever, but some bruises that have only recently made themselves known indicate either someone hit me in the left thigh with a softball bat, or I did in fact fall on *something* then. I tried to roll up onto a 6" rock ledge while going slightly uphill, and my bike decided we should stop for a second, and pitched me over the front side. Fortunately it didn't hurt, and I got up and rode off. I guess it was adrenalin that kept it from hurting (EPO doesn't do that as far as I know). Past that, some of the steep hills were so slick I had to dismount, and some of the slick hills were so steep I had to dismount. I was off my bike a total of 4 times through the ride, as far as I can recall (except once when I picked up a hammer so I could drop it again later in the race). There was once where I went off a 1' drop, and when I came back up over my seat, the front of my shorts got hooked around the back of the seat... I wish I had been watching that guy, cause I'm sure it was hilarious. But since I WAS that guy, I had to figure out a way to right that wrong. I very unnaturally (while riding) dropped back down over my rear wheel and unhooked. Turned out to be uneventful.

The first 4 miles or so was just back and forth along a river. After mile 4 or 5, however, instead of traversing horizontally (my preferred method of traversing), we began going straight up hills, crossing the gully at the top, then going straight down the other side of the gully. One can actually see this very clearly in the elevation profile, and the vertical play actually started at about mile 3.5. So that was pretty brutal...

The trail is a great trail. They maintain in sections, so some person gets maybe a one mile section, another gets the next. Could be that they build it that way too, because some people's sections were definitely much more difficult than others (Trail of Tears, specifically). Total was about 8.5miles (and maybe my GPS cut out for 100 yards or so). I took 1h 1m 50s to do it, so yeah, you guessed it, that's about 8.5mph (ok official result says 8.733mph). Given the slick-as-snot conditions and a completely new trail to me, I'll take it.

With the amount of forested area they have in this park, the amount of trail there is pretty amazing. You can see it on the google map I'll attach below. Just about all the tree'd area is covered in trail (much like Whirlpool, but without all the cut-throughs). The group used race timers in the form of ankle bracelets from Kramer Race Services to time the event. Reminded me of my days under possible for our upcoming events. They also wrote my age on my massive left calf (I think they had to use the Sharpie Magnum) so that all the young people I passed could eat my "30"year old dust. I also got a smiley face in my zero which was cool. It'd have been nice as well have gotten the girl to draw something that indicated to all the people I blew by what my name was with "you just got served" under it, so they'd remember next time. :) By the way, where it wasn't muddy, it was either a water puddle, or rocky. And plenty of rocks were plenty tall enough to catch a pedal (and were freshly scarred to prove it). Sporttracks tells me that the ride was 50% flat, with the rest being divided equally between uphill and downhill. It's tough to dispute hard numbers.

Once the top 2 in my cat dropped me, and pretty quickly some wrecks by Mr. Number 4 gave me some space, I was alone. I rode about 6 miles fully alone in the woods, only seeing other people on trails I was about to suffer on, or trails I'd just suffered on. Thanks to MH I have quite a few pictures of my second race in my life, and some great ones, too. (link below)
By the end of the ride, the mud had started tacking up a little. It stopped being so slippery, and just caught tires and kicked up into your nostrils.

I was third in my category. Fourth hadn't raced in 13 years, and 5th, hadn't missed a meal in 13 years. Brad (Fourth) informed me that according to the results, the winner in our category, had he done that same turn in a second lap, would have placed third in the Sport category. We needed the sandbags on the course, not in the race... Either way, it was a great time, and very nice to have a shower so close. Temps were perfect for a race, and thankfully the rain held off (I think for everyone's race).

I've realized that while accurate, this race report has become less funny and more long. Probably best to keep me from racing just to prevent these long reports...

-Jason M.
Oxford, MS

Thanks Jason! Some stickers will be on their way shortly!

Want some free stickers? Send in a bicycle related story along with your name & address with pic if possible! It doesn't matter what type of cycling you do, as long as it's about cycling.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I gotta quit saying Wednesday, but that's what I shoot for. A day later is pretty close. If you're a regular reader you've probably noticed that until time machines are invented, I'm probably gonna be a day later than I say. I'm far too easily distracted, yet can do this, watch teevee, and have a headphone in one ear.

But without further ado, we're back with a couple reviews. I didn’t realize how long it's been since we had an actual review up. I don't like that, so I've been working on it and have a bunch of stuff to tell you about in the weeks to come!

Arkel Dolphin 48 Rear Panniers

Arkel has a wide variety of panniers and other bags, and they sent us a pair of their Dolphin 48 Panniers to review. I put them to the test on our tour this summer, living out of them for about a week.

Knowing we were going to be gone awhile, I wanted something water-proof. I didn't want to mess around with rain covers- they'd just be two more things to keep track of, and I already lose my hat among other things a couple times a day as it is & it'll be somewhere I've already looked 5 times... so yeah, waterproof was the way to go for me. Read more...

Old Man Mountain Cold Springs Front Rack
Seriously- what a killer rack!

The Cold Springs can be mounted to almost any bike (road/mtb/etc.) of bike with any type of brake- even a 29'er. On or off road- It doesn't matter. It's also suspension compatible...

See ya tomorrow with our first reader's story!

Monday, September 13, 2010

So we're back from our tour. We had to cut it shorter than what we had originally planned, but still had a really rad adventure! We managed to pedal just under 300 miles in a few days! Pictured below are our bikes loaded up (roughly 50 lbs. each!) and resting in the fine city of Milwaukee.
Cole rode his Surly Long Haul Trucker that he's had for a few years now, and I rode the Raleigh Sojourn that they sent in for review. Both bikes performed great and luckily had no serious mechanical problems- not even a single flat!

We did have a couple problems though- the cleat on one of Cole's Shoes completely ripped out. Gone. And sorry SKS/Raleigh, but whatever model fenders came on this year's Sojourn are half crap- I say half because the rear fender is great. The front fender, however, isn't so great. It just didn't want to stay on. I'll report more in the review this week on that. We'll also report more on our tour later on this week!

Pictured below, besides what looks like a total mess in the background, looking bigger than Traitor's PBR Ringleader and sticking out in front is the world's largest bmx bike: SE's 29" Big Ripper (with retro pad set)!!! Very similar to the flagship P.K. Ripper, but with 29's!!! Big, big fun. More on that soon too!

This week is gonna be a good week over here! We've got a ton of reviews coming up, and we're gonna stay on top of things and have some up Wednesday...

Then Friday we're gonna start posting bike stories- i explained it all a post or three back- check it- but basically we're trading stickers for your stories! We've got a few so far (your stickers will be in the mail soon- promise!) and I'm excited to start those!

Cole JUST made it back to Chicago today after our trip & then he stayed to build more Bates Crates! I'm still at home in northern Michigan where our trip ended.

I'm about to go downstate for the day & can't remember if I took the sale down or not & don't have time to look. If shirts are still $15.00, get them at that price while you can, because they won't be that cheap for long!

Til then, ride fast & ride hard!