Sunday, March 24, 2019

One Speed To Rule Them All


There used to be a time, before Fat Bikes, when all I rode was a single speed bicycle but then the mistress that is the fat tire lured me away to the plump side... and gears, gaaaah! The Santa Cruz Highball replaced my Redline Monocog near the end of my single speeding days and has gone mostly un-ridden since I got my first fat in 2015. To put it into better perspective, the Santa Cruz has 525 miles on it and I got it in August of 2014, by comparison the Journeyman I picked up in November of last year already has 225 miles on it. Oh how things have changed; instead of single track and 2 hours rides, it's gravel and 5 plus hours of saddle time.


Earlier this year I went and signed up for the inaugural C.O.G 100 in Iowa, put on by Guitar Ted and N.Y. Roll. When I signed up I thought to myself that I better start getting the ole Highball out on gravel and see about getting some of that single speed leg back. Well, that event is next weekend and time has just flown! Winter was especially crappy for most of the mid west in February and a good chunk of March, so those longer rides to get the legs up to par didn't really happen.


Saturday was deary and sprinkling a bit so it was not exactly ideal either but I had to get a few things dialed in on the Highball before riding it for real next week, so it was now or never. A few of us, who are also signed up for the C.O.G., decided that this weeks SMNDFBR would be a single speed version so that if nothing else we could get a shake down ride with any tweaks or changes we had made. I had changed a few things I needed to run a bit to see how they would work, gone were the Kenda Small Block Eight tires for a set of Racing Ralph tires. Probably a bit more tire than I need but they were tires I had that I never mounted up, so they got the nod. I also put on a set of Ergon GS3 grips with the small nub of a bar end. I figure these will help keep the hands from going numb as quickly compared to the round Lizard Skin grips I had on there and the bar end would offer a alternate hand position. I had been running these on the Pugsley for a year or two before switching that bike over to the Moloko bars, so I knew they would do what I wanted so dialing in the correct angle was all that would be needed.




The plan was to head out on the gravel towards Malcolm for a longer 42 mile loop, the forecast was calling for rain near the beginning of the ride and then becoming mostly just cloudy and miserable the rest of the day but staying dry. Rain it did at the start, nothing too awful but enough to let you know that the forecast wasn't wrong this time around. Gravel was in surprisingly good shape even with the drizzle falling it was mostly firm if not entirely dry.



I have to admit that riding the single speed again was a bit odd at first but by the time we hit the gravel, the legs were mostly getting used to the idea of not having gears to bail them out on the hills.



Of course it wouldn't be a Saturday ride out to Malcolm without a stop for a bridge beer, matter of fact Bluff road is closed a little bit up the road from here so we had to double back on the next road to get back to McKelvie and our way through to Malcolm so we actually did a few extra mile just for this bridge stop. The things we do for traditions.


The bridge we were on seemed to survive the recent flooding pretty much unscathed but you could see how high the waters were not too long ago from all newly deposited mud and the trampled vegetation.



We hadn't seen much rain at all since we hit McKelvie but as we rolled into Malcolm and got onto 55 M, you could tell that we timed things just right as the pavement was still wet from the rain that had passed through not that long before we got there.



The Malcolm General Store is always a welcomed sight on a hot day or on an overcast and dreary day, like Saturday. I almost can't imagine Malcolm with out the Sac-O-Suds as we affectionately call it, a little homage to My Cousin Vinnie. She's an old gal (built in 1897) but she looks like she's undergoing a few renovations, which is a good sign that she will be around for years to come. Fun little factoid; I used to stop by the Malcolm General Store on my way home after biking Branched Oak Lake's Area 7 in my more mountain biking days... there used to be a little town called Crounse in the area around Area 6 and 7 of Branched Oak Lake until the lake came about in 1967 and the town was flooded. There is still a marker out there in Area 6, or at least there used to be, marking the spot near where the town used to be if anyone has any interest in that sort of historical stuff. The town was named after Lorenzo Crounse, a former Nebraska Supreme Court Justice, Congressman and Governor. Some of the buildings in Crounse were moved to Malcolm when the town was abandoned and before it was lost to the lake. I'm not sure where they ended up in Malcolm or if they are still around but if someone was at all interested, a little digging would probably reveal that information. Any way, I guess the point is that it's good to see the Malcolm General Store weathering all these years of change and still going strong today.





Refueled and warmed up it was onward and upward to our next regroup spot over the interstate, I always get a kick out of how amazed some of the people traveling on the road below get by seeing bicycles on the bridge. Several of them honk and wave as they pass underneath us on there way to or from where ever it is that they are heading.







One final push after the Interstate and we were back to the pavement on the edge of Lincoln. The smooth rolling blacktop and cement trails were a welcoming sight for my weary legs. Single Speed legs aren't quite there yet and probably won't be 100% by next weekend but this ride did remind me how much fun a single speed bike can be. I may look into the idea of finding a rigid front fork for the Highball and converting it into a gravel/around town bike and getting a few more miles on her regularly.

Photo Mar 23, 1 35 49 PM

Back in Lincoln we decided to stop at White Elm to warm up a bit and share some conversation over a libation or two before eventually ending up at Yia Yias again for food. Good group and great times on a less than ideal day. No ride next week as most of us will be in Grinnell Iowa for the C.O.G 100... one ride on the single speed should be more than plenty to prepare for a 100 mile race, right? Guess we will find out next week.

Speaking of upcoming rides, get signed up for the American Legion Post 197 Gravel Mission out of Eagle Nebraska. Entry into the even is free, it just requires a post card and there are 50 and 100 mile distances available to register for and then come ride on May 25th. The organizers are the same folks behind Tour of Dirt Roads and Gravel Worlds so you know it'll be a well run event and a great time. For more information about the ride and how to get registered go to their Facebook event page which can be found HERE!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Kissing the Blarney Stone


The last time that the SMNDFBR had been out on gravel was February 2nd, an entire month and a half. So I was pretty excited when the weather started shaping up for a gravel ride this week but with the epic flooding that is devastating Nebraska right now, I wasn't entirely sure if the gravel would be in good shape. We were going to find out though.



The ride started with the temps being just above freezing but we warmed up quickly and by the time we rendezvoused with the Great Plains Bicycle Club at the GSK trail head on 84th; we were shedding layers already.


After a group photo, the two groups split up. The road folks heading out on Hwy34 and the gravel folks heading out on A Street to Walton where we would pick up our first gravel of the day. Looks like big happenings going on in Walton, maybe a new subdivision or something. Always excited to see local small towns grow but really hoping that doesn't mean more pavement and less gravel.





Gravel was in awesome shape and with a little push courtesy of a tailwind, we were cruising up and down the gravel rollers. At about mile 10 we stopped for a regroup to let the little end catch up and of course a barley pop refreshment stop. Not a huge IPA fan but Todd the Axeman gets my nod for a decent one.


In other Todd related news, seat adjustments have made a comeback on the rides too. It's sort of a running joke in the group because none of us have seen someone fiddle with their saddle, height, angle or fore and aft position quite as often as Todd does. I jokingly told him he needed to come up with a wingnut type bolt for his saddle so that he wouldn't need to pull out his tool as often; million dollar idea right there.





While probably not the best for vehicular travel when it gets wet; this time of year when the roads are mostly dirt and clear of the gravel aggregate, it's my favorite time for gravel riding. Roads are so smooth and fast when they are dry during the early part of spring before they cover them with rock; a practice that seems to be seeing bigger and bigger rock in the last few years. I'm no rock expert by any means but my two cents on the subject, it just seems like the bigger rock tends to disappear from the road surface quicker, not sure if it's getting driven down into the dirt or flung off by tires but the smaller pea gravel that they used to use more around here seemed to stay longer. But what do I know, I'm no roadiologist.





A few more miles and we turned north and headed into Eagle, it was the first time we didn't have the wind directly at our backs and you could feel the winds picking up. The way back and the headwind were going to be interesting for sure.




We once again met up with the Great Plains Bicycle Club at Bailey's Local in Eagle and joined their festivities, already in progress.



Every paid member of the GPBC got a card for $2 off of whatever food you decided to get but it was a St. Patrick's Day Ride so you had to get the corned beef. It did not disappoint.





The ride back was a little bit slower pace, full of corned beef and bucking the head wind where a big contributing factor.


Since the ditch beer spot was so accommodating on the way out, we figured it was a good spot to stop on the way back as well. This time something more on the dark side was in order, oh man was it a good stout.


A few more miles after the stout and we were back in Walton and back on pavement. Usually not a huge fan of pavement over gravel but since this was our first longish gravel ride in a while, it was good to see that smooth surface again; ride kicked my butt. Also had construction on this side of the road too, should be a city ordnance against just leaving your hoe out in the front yard. If you're cold, they're cold.


With the headwind and the long climb out of Walton, the pavement wasn't exactly the easy route. Look at those moon craters on the corner there... going to be some tar being flung this spring.

Take me down to  pothole city
Where the tax is high yet the roads are shitty
Fix the roads (oh won't you please fix the roads)

Photo Mar 16, 2 43 15 PM


One last stop on the way back to the shop, this time I opted for a Sprecher Root Beer and man did it taste fantastic. Leaving Pour we officially ended the SMNDFBR for another week. It was good to get back on the gravel, hoping that this will turn out to be a drier spring and a hot, dry summer.