Friday, September 25, 2009

Interbike Ramblings

I left So Cal at 17:00 and pointed the Grannygear family truckster toward Nevada and sin city. It was gonna be hot and I only needed to be at the Vegas airport by 22:30 or so to meet the Most Interesting Man in the World, Midwest version, Guitar Ted.

I wanted to avoid running the air on the Suburban to do as well as I could fuel wise, so windows lowered a bit and tunes cranked up was the rule for the night. Watching the temps drop toward the low 90s was bliss until I rolled though the night toward Baker, CA, home of the world's tallest thermometer. kidding. Just at the edge of town the temp had crept up to 99* at 20:00. Ouch! What will Vegas be like mid day at the outdoor demo? However, the climb up to Nevada gave me low 80s temps and hope for the next day.

At the airport I scanned the arriving flights board for GT's flight number. Nada...zilch. Uuummm. OK. Thinking to myself, "there is only one airport in Vegas, yes?", I wondered what the deal was. Turns out that Delta and Northwest Air had partnered up or something and the flight number had changed. Ah. Soon enough I had GT tucked into my version of the 'dirty blue (bigger) box' and off we went to our VIP digs at Circus Circus, complete with a turbo-charged AC unit and a view of the parking lot. Oh well. No chocolates on the pillow here. If they had been there, GT would have inhaled them mid-snore. That Iowan can saw logs, I tell ya. God bless the man that invented ear plugs. I love you and your foamy, snore silencing devices.

The next day we hit the local Mickey D's for breakfast and drove out to Boulder City, but not before we had to stop at the Sands Convention Center and get our badges and wristbands. That was when I nearly got in a fight with an entire family from who-knows where that was staking out a parking spot with their bodies. Luckily the man of the family (loose term here) was all show and no go or the week would have been a demo of a Vegas jail cell most likely. Sigh. Later I ran into the family in the halls of the registration area where I went up and apologized for my part of it. They were marvelously ungracious. Oh well. I tried.

The Demo Days were a marvelous combo of crowds, lines, gambling on what bike would be available to ride, sun, dust, wind, more sun dust and wind, and rocks of all shapes and sizes. There were more than a few boo-boos seen on display as many riders found the limits of the equipment or the skills and gravity tossed them into the unforgiving soil of Bootleg Canyon. One vendor was overheard saying, "Well the good news is there have been no Lifeflights yet today. That is a first." Oh goodie. Mental note to self: Skin and bones intact good...Lifeflight bad. Check!

I rode lots of fun bikes but not all I wanted to, was disappointed by some, thrilled by others. What would I have taken home from the dance? Well, the Santa Cruz Tall Boy and the Specy Epic Marathon 29er would be 2 to pick from...tough choice there.

I also loved riding the Specy Stumpy Carbon S-works Wunderbike. Wow. Soooo fast.

There was a big difference between the level of care and attention some bike makers put into the set-up of each test bike. Getting high marks was the Specialized booth. JT, shown here working on a bike for me, was like having a personal attendant and I saw that for all riders in line. Contrary to that was the indifferent approach of the GT tent where I was handed the new and relatively unknown Sensor 29er with a "here ya' go!" No questions, no set-up. OK then. Fun bike in spite of the dumb approach to handing it out.

JT is a star!

Speaking of being ignored, This Tomac 29er SS was at the booth. GT and I stood there and looked at it, snapped pics, etc while JT himself and several booth workers said nothing to us. Odd. Don't ya' want folks talking about your bikes in an intelligent manner?

EBB on the Tomac bike...well, I think that is an EBB...they would not talk to me about it.

Along the way are some highlights:

Mountain Unicycles, possibly the largest herd ever captured on film.

Fat Tire Bikes are soooo cool, these are Fatback frames

Want to be a marketing guy for a bike company? Then you need to master the right hand gestures, demonstrated here by The Jamis and Banshee guys in the above pics. Well done, boys. Just like Vanna, only much more masculine.

Joe Meiser's personal Fargo. He camped out in the hills of Bootleg before the Demo.

How does he do it? Devin, the man behind all the Lenzsport goodies and the PBJ bike.

FRS gets the taste test winner from me. Dave and Sonya agree.

BBQ cooked personally by Chris King (yes, that Chris King) and his loyal minions. Tasty.

The last day and the last bike I rode was the Salsa Selma SS. After pedaling all the boingy, squishy, shifty stuff around the hills, it was awesome to get back on an SS again. I spent most of the loop passing other riders on FS bikes with 40 or 50 gear choices (or whatever it is now). SS bikes are amazing, really, even on the hardscrabble up and down of the XC stuff there.

At the show, we just did one day indoors. A lot of that was business stuff and the rest is a blur, but a few things:

The food is ridiculously expensive in the show venue at the convention center. I made do with a bagel and cream cheese, smuggled in trail mix, and some killer samples of this stuff:

Clif Bar White Chocolate Macadamia Nut bar. Ooohhh. That was good.

I had been wanting to check out the new tubeless ready wheels from American Classic and here they were. I am bummed that they decided to go with red hubs only for pre-built wheels. Hmmm. Still I am looking at these with interest.

I had a great conversation with Lynette from White Industries about how SSing and the whole urban fixie thing has kept companies like White, Phil Wood and Pauls, etc, not only in business, but vibrant and thriving. Huh. I figured years ago they would all go away or just go very niche, but nope. Isn't that too cool, though?

I leave you with this final image, which, after days of sensory input, sums up my thoughts about Interbike rather well, I think. Asian marketing guy, I salute you:

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Hit the Road, Jack

The Interbike pilgrimage begins today. I head for Vegas this afternoon to pick up Guitar Ted at the airport and then to our palatial digs for the eve. Monday and Tues are all about the Dirt Demo. It looks like the weather will be hot (duh) but not as bad as I had thought. Not much shade out there at Boulder City. Just rocks and dirt. And more rocks.

And bikes. Good lord yes, bikes everywhere. The plan is to focus on the rising tidal wave of carbon goodness coming from the Asian lands. Lots of new hardtail and FS composite stuff hitting the shores this year for those who can afford them. Me? Not likely, but it is fun to dream anyway.

Hopefully I will post up some stuff over the week but most of my efforts will go to and The Cyclist. But, the bloggage will be more indiscreet, if that is called for. I will save the juicy stuff for here, where I am free to be me. Scary, that.

Loading up the family truckster soon. Bye bye So Cal, hello Babylon.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I'm a Winner!

So I was cruising Twitter and I watch the tweets from Ergon. Jeff was throwing out a challenge to answer a question about some Ergon product with the first correct response winning a set of the new GA-1 grips. I guess I was Johnny-On-The-Spot cuz I won.

Just one ride on them so far, mounted to the Jabber SS, but I certainly have some strong impressions. It is surprising how important that point of contact with the bike is...the how the whole cycling experience plays out.

More as I get time in the saddle after Interbike.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Watch out for the fat old guy.

I have been keeping up with life, mostly. No fun rides or groundbreaking stuff to post about and I have not been particularly inspired to pontificate wise and eloquent things on the net.

Meh. However, Interbike is just around the corner.

But last night was a blast. Yeah, it was a fun ride and all that, just a local loop with the boys, but I recently loaned out the Giant Xtc 29er 1 test bike to jeffj, a local rider and absolute clydesdale rider. I am not sure if he will give it back. Every time I see him he is all excited about how much better this ride was or that ride was on that bike. Seriously, he is 20% faster everywhere...maybe more...than on any of his other bikes and they are not junky bikes, they just have tiny wheels.

I will say it again: Big wheels are not for everyone due to personal preference, but the wheels do what they do regardless of that. However, even though more and more smaller folks (especially wimmen-folk as mentioned here) are figuring that out, it is the bigger guys that get the most out of the bigger wheel IMO. I think it has a lot to do with all that weight sitting way up high and potentially waaaay over the front end of a bike. It is harder to get that weight past the point of no return on the bigger wheel and the attack angle and traction benefits are huge when you are dealing with a naturally high center of gravity and big payload.

So jeffj is stoked. He is like some big old kid, finding out that there can be more fun in riding on a bike that fits your needs and scale of body. And, I am getting a kick out of watching it happen. It is also a testament to the excellent design of the Giant hardtail cuz it does things very, very well.

So, if you are out riding in my area and see a flash of blue, black and white scream by with a fat, old guy grinning like a Cheshire Cat and ringing a trail bell, that is just jeffj, big wheels rollin'.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I predict tiny wheels might catch on....for some.

I rode a small wheeled bike last night. For the first time in, oh, maybe a year or more, I swapped out bikes so that a trained circus bear could ride the Giant XTC 29er 1 and I rode his 26" wheeled Kona hardtail. I understand this wheel size is looking to gain traction (literally) in the world of mtn biking and I have a few thoughts on this, since many 29er riders may be tempted to embrace this technology.

After riding half of the local loop on this lesser hooped bike, I can predict a few things:

1) Riders coming from the gold standard of 29" wheels will immediately feel more agile and moto. Manuals and wheelies will be easier, surprisingly so.

2) The first few pedal strokes will feel zippy and quick, leading you to think you are faster all of a sudden.

3) Then, you will notice that you are working harder to keep those zippy feeling wheels spinning along since they are just as easy to un-zip as to zip.

4) Sand, rocks, ruts...all will conspire to grab at those tiny wheels and reduce your momentum. The agility that allows for manuals and wheelies also allows for darty, nervous, and pin-ball like trail performance. Not a good trade off unless you manual all the way down a trail. I don't.

5) The trail will seem to have grown bumpier and less flowy. You will stop and check the pressure of the diminutive tires, thinking they are over inflated. Nope.

In the end, this new attempt at a mountain bike wheel standard may have some advantages for the acrobatic or very aggressive rider, especially if the wheels are off the ground a lot. Most riders actually go down a trail or up a hill with their tires touching the ground and if so, the 29er wheel will stay the preferred standard for this type of reality based riding.

My predictions, anyway.