Archive for the ‘Bike Culture’ Category

A Nebraska Single Track Primer

June 25, 2009

A Nebraska Single Track Primer

By Guitar Ted 

Nebraska: Yeah, you know….that “fly over” state. That state that everyone on I-80 wishes was about 399 miles shorter. That “Nebraska” is what most people think of when they are presented with the idea of bicycling there. Well, those who have been there, live there, and more importantly, have ridden there, know a lot better than that. I’ll admit, I’ve had my eyes opened to a new way of thinking about Nebraska as a place to ride off road, that’s for sure. 

My education in cycling in Nebraska started in 1995 while doing a tour on paved roads from my home state of Iowa. We traversed the northeastern corner of the state and I found it to be a beautiful country of rolling hills. That would be just a foretaste of what was to come much later though. 

Fast forward 14 years: I was invited by a Nebraska resident and friend, Matt Gersib, to try out some off road single track in the eastern part of Nebraska near Bellevue. I was to be staying with some friends and decided to take him up on it. So I took my bicycle with me to Nebraska once again. Only this time I was in search of some dirt. 

I wasn’t to meet with Matt until Friday, but on Thursday, I found some free time and looked up a local park to explore. Swanson Park, in Bellevue, turned out to be only about a mile from where I was staying, so I pedaled over to check it out. I was not expecting a whole lot, I mean, it is Nebraska, right? So I figured it would be a good little jaunt through a city park and that would be that.

 

Boy, did I ever get that wrong!

 

Swanson Park is a great piece of single track sweetness. I was really surprised by how well it was marked and kept up. I found out that the local trail maintenance group, T.H.O.R.(Trails Have Our Respect), was responsible for that and the upkeep of a few other trail areas in and around the Omaha area. Having a trail well marked, clean, and weed free is a big selling point for folks coming from out of state, and Swanson Park measured up on all fronts there

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But you have to have good riding too. That is important as well. Swanson Park isn’t a technically challenging trail by any measure, but what it lacks in technical difficulties, it makes up for with fast, swoopy, roller coaster like trails. Guaranteed smile inducing dirt here. I was also pleasantly

surprised by a nice ascent into some open prairie. This wide open section was filled with tall grass

punctuated by trees here and there, giving a distinctly different feel to the riding experience than you get in the thick canopy of Swanson Park’s wooded sections. I was told later by Matt that this particular section was a reclaimed dump area. That was just a great example of an eyesore turned into a beautiful green space that can be accessed by bicyclists and hikers alike.

 

 

Following the prairie section was a fast down hill around the volunteer fire department training area and back into the roller coaster single track hidden under the vast green roof formed by Swanson Park’s trees. It was such a fun loop, I did it twice! 

The following day, I met up with Matt and we searched out another little “gem” of single track in the area. Jewel Park is near the Missouri River, and a great, steep hill marked with several ravines was host to another fun single track here. Up, up, up we went on a switch backed trail on to the top of the hill. The tight, twisty trail that included several steep drops and climbs out of ravines, made for a very challenging experience, quite unlike Swanson Park. 

Now after having pegged my heart rate at Jewel Park, Matt had one more stop on our single track adventure planned for the day. Platte River State Park, which is just in between Omaha and Lincoln, was the destination. Here horse riders and bicyclists share the trail in a unique arrangement that allows the equestrians use of the trail in the early part of the afternoon until 4:00pm. Then the mountain bikers have the trails all to themselves for the remainder of the day.

 

 

“Platte River”, as the locals refer to it, or simply “Platte”, is an awesome network of trail that winds in and out of hills, ravines, and even some open prairie along the Platte River before it meets the Missouri. Matt guided me and another rider that day on the trails which were technically challenging, fast, swoopy, and most of all, a ton of fun. The single track here I would rate as good as or better than anything I have ridden in the nation. It is that good. Yes……in Nebraska! 

My conclusion after the two days of riding? I have to come back! I had a blast on the trails I rode on, and I would highly recommend them to anyone coming into the Omaha/Lincoln area. You will find the trails well kept, marked, and clear of blow downs. The access to these areas is easy, and one could feasibly hit all three areas I did in a single day, if you wanted to. I say that you should stay longer and savor each one. I know I wish I could have! 

Nebraska off road riding opportunities exists beyond this area as well. In fact, I will be attending a festival in another area of Nebraska in the fall that offers a great single track experience. It is called the Big Wheeled Ballyhoo, and you can come too. Check the website out here at www.bigwheeledballyhoo.com

 

The 411:The best off road trail information is available on the local T.H.O.R. webpage. There you will find directions and trail maps for all three of the trails mentioned here and others in the area. (Yes! There is much, much more.) Most of the single track I rode in Nebraska is all accessible from Bellevue, Nebraska’s oldest city. There are several motels and lodging choices in the area that you can base your operations out of. The Lincoln and Omaha areas are also a great place for restaurants, entertainment, and other recreational opportunities. Omaha and the surrounding area also has an excellent paved trail network as well, if you are wanting a more “civilized” cycling experience. More information on the Metropolitan Area Trails Network can be found here:. http://www.bellevuenebraska.com/Parks-Rec.aspx

More Information on Platte River State Park can be found here: http://www.ngpc.state.ne.us/parks/guides/parksearch/showpark.asp?Area_No=224

 

You can find out more about the great state of Nebraska and the things to do and places to stay at the 

official Nebraska Tourism site: http://www.visitnebraska.gov/

 

Chris King To Host “Gourmet Century” In Oregon

June 7, 2009

 

From the lovely state of Oregon comes news of Chris King’s plans to host another event involving food. (For those of you that don’t know, Chris King is a food afficianado of the highest order, and a pretty dang good cook to boot!)

 Chris King will host his first Gourmet Century in Oregon on October 17th of

this year. Registration for the event opened Monday June

1st and is limited to 350 participants. Chris King would  enjoy having you attend the event and ride the

fantastic roads of his beloved home state of Oregon.

In previous years, The Gourmet Century has hosted riders with themes

such as Italian Cucina, Salsa!, Greek, Country French and Pacific

Rim. This year’s theme, which was  revealed on Monday, the opening of registration,  celebrates the

cuisine and culture of Spain. The event also benefits the Livestrong

Foundation.

Check out this link for more information:

http://chrisking.com/events/events_gc_mmddyy

Be Careful When The Kids Are Around!

May 21, 2009

Editor’s Note: Anthony Coley, contributor to The Cyclist, gives us a good reminder why you need to be careful when the kids are around our bicycles.

Watch those kiddies and your chain.

Tonight me and my two boys ( 4 and 2 ) were in the garage and my 2 year old got his finger caught in my fixed gear chain. Ugh!!!! They always play with whatever bike I have in the stand and I’m always telling them “watch the wheel, keep your hands out of the spokes, watch the chain…” Tonight I was preoccupied with my 4 year old when I heard my 2 year old start screaming. When I saw him I instantly knew what had happened. Luckily it only caught the tip. It could have been much worse.

Here’s a pic of his little hand:

By the way, he's going to be all right.

By the way, he's going to be all right.

 

Take care of those kids!

One Man’s Commuting Story

May 21, 2009

Editor’s Note: Anthony Coley, contributor to The Cyclist, has a story of the commuting kind to tell…………

My bike commuting story:

It’s been a year since gas was $4.50 a gallon and I started bike commuting regularly. As the price of gas climbed year after year I
kept telling anyone that would listen “once gas hits $4.00 a gallon I’m done driving, I’m going to ride my bike to work“. Sometime in early 2008 gas hit $4.00 a gallon and I kept driving and changed my tune to “once gas hits $4.50 a gallon I’ll start bike commuting“.

Last year high gas prices motivated many to commute by bike

Last year high gas prices motivated many to commute by bike (Photo by A.Coley)

April 2008 in Southern California gas hit $4.50 and I started bike commuting. I didn’t commute every day because I quickly found it was a lot of work to gather all my things and leave my house at 4:45 AM to make the 13.5 mile commute so I can be at work by 6 AM. But, the more I commuted the easier it got and I gradually increased my days. I started commuting one day a week, then two, then three and currently do four days a week.

Unfortunately, my work doesn’t have showers ( or anything bike related ) and the gym down the street is one of the super high-end places with something like $150 monthly dues. Ouch! That’s pricey for me… So, I do the bird bath thing. I actually have a more colorful name for the bird bath process, but I’ll spare you… After a year I have it down to a science. Getting to work at 6 AM has its perks because I hardly ever see any one the restroom, so I pretty much have reign to take care of business. I tried the baby wipe thing, I tried the wet towel thing, but what works best for me is to use the pink soap, a water bottle and get busy. It’s almost as good as a shower, well, maybe not as good, but it works for me. NOTE: Just to be clear, I’m not washing my business ends over the sink. Also, I make a point to leave the restroom as clean as I found it so I don’t annoy my fellow employees or management.

Since becoming a full time commuter I’ve become slightly obsessed with gas prices and I see they are creeping upwards again, which I guess is to be expected since it’s summer. I wonder if will top $4.50 this year? Everyone hears the rumors about how high gas is going to get, but we won’t know for sure until we see it at the pump, or as we ride by the pump. 😉

I used the Gas Savings Calculator and last year I saved enough money to pay for my ‘new to me’ ( it’s used ) Specialized Langster I just bought last weekend.

Daily Savings: $3.25
Weekly Savings: $13.00
Yearly Total: $676.00

That’s great! I should have used this information when trying to convince my wife to let me spend the money on a new bike that I didn’t really need. She’s a sweetie and didn’t give me too much grief. I believe she makes a game out of messing with me about the number I have bikes I have. Hmm…

Anthony makes his regular commute on this Specialized Langster

Anthony makes his regular commute on this Specialized Langster

I read somewhere that people always post how many miles they ride to justify their rider status, so for the record, I logged around 2500 commuting miles and I feel that’s a pretty darn good accomplishment for someone who just started commuting.

How about you?
Do you have a bike commuting story to tell?

The Big Wheeled Ballyhoo 2009

May 12, 2009

Guitar Ted Productions along with Twenty Nine Inches presents the Big Wheeled Ballyhoo 2009 . The event, which is a big excuse to get out your mountain bike, join a bunch of like minded freaks, and ride, is set to take place October 10th and 11th in the Sand Hills region of West Central Nebraska.

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Nebraska? you say? Yes! The venue we have chosen is a great network of single track with hills and technical riding unlike any you will find anywhere else. It is a gem hidden in the Great Plains that only a few have ridden and we invite you to check into it. If you have further questions or are interested, click the link above and check it all out. Contact info can be found on The Big Wheeled Ballyhoo 2009 site.

Bike Culture: Garda Bike Festival, Riva Italy

May 10, 2009

Editor’s Note: This report is filed by chris_geotec from Italy. Enjoy!

Garda Bike Festival – Riva Italy: 

Hi there all you US citizens. Briefly after you have had your Sea Otter Classic we here in Europe are having our own cool bike festival – the Garda BIKE Festival. Situated in Riva at the north shore of the famous Lago de Garda (where all the freeride legends love to ride all out) we had our cool festival with a huge array of activities ranging from marathons, tons of guided tours at all skill levels, and a huge (that is for European standards) expo area with most major players present. They all had large numbers of test bikes for everyones taste from XC racer to DH. To me the most interesting things were the smaller companies, many of which haven´t touched the US market. So if you should find your dream bike within the next lines – you better make some good friends here in Europe real soon. If even you get a chance to bike here in Europe, the north of Lago di Garda sure is one of the most challenging and best riding spots here in Europe.

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After a full 5 days of rain just in time for the festival, the weather cleared up and it was gorgeous throughout all the 4 days from 30th of April to 3rd of May.

The first day I went on a guided freeride tour just to see whether I could keep up with those guys and whether I (coming from a rigid ride and with the experience of only short travel bikes) could manage a downhill bike enough to enjoy mayslef. I got equipped with a spanking new Scott Gambler DH and while I never really felt at home I managed quite well never kissing the dirt (unlike many of my freeride riding partners). With a bit of adrenalin circulating in my veins ( and an 10 mile flat ride on my DH bike, ughhh) I took on myself to conquer the expo area and test what I liked the most. Off we go for round two – the expo highlights: 

I stopped by the Geax booth and taking a sneak peek into their van searching for news and prototypes. While I cannot disclose all (and rest assured there are some really cool things coming your way in the seasons to come, 26er and 29er alike), I can say the following: Geax has taken up the ball from Italian standard of slim MTB tires to larger volume and will be offering some current and some new treads in various sizes. Hurray for us who like big tires. I got a spy shot of this new tread which will fall in as a very fast rolling but grippy XC to AM tread, called the AKA. Also they have worked on their largely successful tubular line and will be enlarging it by up to two new tires.  

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The GEAX booth at the Garda Bike Festival

The GEAX booth at the Garda Bike Festival

 

 

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The GEAX "AKA"

The GEAX "AKA"

 

 

 Another cool, if not spectacular feature, was seen on some Kenda tires mounted at the Trek booth. These tires had a reflective sidewall that looked almost ordinary with just a tad of sparkle at standard conditions but when illuminated (see the picture with flash) were giving a strongly reflective surface. I like things that contribute to my security and don´t look geeky. 
 

Kenda showed this tire wth a reflective sidewall.

Kenda showed this tire wth a reflective sidewall.

 

An all time favourite company of mine – Liteville – has just recently received the first production run of the new 901 DH frame that claims to be covering the full range from tourer to competition DH bike. In Europe Liteville already has a very good name for its debut bike the Liteville 301 (a XC to Enduro fully with 130 m travel) and its Liteville 101 hardtail. Both bikes received raving reviews and by my own riding experience are very good bikes.

The Liteville 901

The Liteville 901

The south Germany based company is known for its love of 120 % function, sometimes taking elaborate and unconventional approaches to smaller drawbacks of other designs – their X-12 rear axle, rockguard rear derailleur protection, or unconventional sizing (by length rather than height), or the Tuned Chainstay Length (TCL)  being only a few among many. They are constructed oversized and the 901 is no exception.

The frame looks and feels stiff. With a rear travel from 170 mm to 200 mm (depending on the shock mount) the bike is clearly gravity driven. At a frame weight of only 2700 gm you´d think differently and Liteville even advertises the 901 as a Dh bike that can be toured. After my experience with the Scott Gamberl (that clearly cannot be ridden uphill) I was curious to see and I first took it on a 1 hour climb up Monte Brione. Without lockout or Pro Pedal the bike remained neutral and stable at any cadence and climbed admirably well. Were it not for the broken TALAS feature on the 36 model Fox fork, it would have taken me up even the steepest sections without hesitation. On the downhill the bike certainly shone proving the potent 36 fork to be clearly to faint for the rear. Were it not for the slack head angle of 66° that felt awkward on slow technical sections but delivered confidence on the faster sections – I would crown this bike to be the closest to a do it all frame (only problem there is no fork to match the rear that can be locked out or lowered yet). Much like its smaller brothers the 901 had every detail of the frame thoroughly designed and built to such close specifications that it took close to 3 years before reaching production stage.

The unique shock placement gives this bike away as a Pronghorn

The unique shock placement gives this bike away as a Pronghorn

One of my personal favourites was a small company called PRONGHORN Racing from Denmark (no they do not only have flat lands). Their claim to produce some of the most sophisticated and thoroughly thought out bikes and components had me tempted and so I grabbed their most prestigious Carbon XC-Fully (1,7 kg for the frame) to the test. The CEO and founder of PRONGHORN racing himself Kenneth Daalsgard had the bike set up for me (see picture). The bike features a unique linkage that is supposed to eliminate bobbing but deliver a smooth ride (don´t they all say that?). Another cool design gadget is that all tubes have the exact measurement written on the tube directly, for you to see.

“Remember, this bike is best when ridden all out on a race track” were the words Kenneth sent me out with. Unfortunately my legs don´t take me to such levels but during my 2 hour test ride I put the bike through all imaginable paces and I was surprised. Unlike many race oriented fullies the Pronghorn did really deliver a plushness that was surprising. While the DT-Swiss shock had a lock-out I refused to use it and the bike was working continuously at a minimal level that could only be noticed by looking. But when hitting any obstacle it went through the travel very willingly. Would it bottom out on the rough? I pushed the bike hard on the partly very challenging and technical downhill sections ( that I had ridden on the Liteville 901 before) and was surprised how its progression kept it from bottoming out, while retaining a plushness surprising for the short travel of 115 mm. The frame´s looks can be discussed ( I liked it for its business like appearance) but its function is on par with many full suspension race bike with attributes that make it suitable for a wide range from fast XC-courses to rough endurance races. 

 

The Ibis Tranny

The Ibis Tranny

 

 

One of the cool bikes that I got to throw a leg over was the IBIS Tranny with its extremely sexy carbon frame and adjustable chainstays. This bike to me really put hardtails to a new level by looks and design. The quick ride I had on a bike just previously raced on the Garda marathon made me want to spend more time on the frame. The sale reps were really giving me a full tour of the bikes specifics, which I won´t bother you with; just let me say it really is a one-of-a-kind design. One of the first questions on my mind when seeing the bolted rear triangle of the Tranny was: “What if you could not only adjust the chainstay length (for SS use) but could swap into a 29er?” So I asked and while not confirming anything I was told that this issue head been raised and was not denied up to this point. So folks, if you think this would be cool to have a 29er Tranny or even be able to interchange,  then write to Ibis and tell them about it. I sure will. 

 

Rocky Mountain Altitude 29"er

Rocky Mountain Altitude 29"er

 Rocky Mountain was also there showing their full line-up, including a new 29er Vertex and a 29er Altitude prototype. Even after multiple requests to ride I was always denied because it was a prototype. When I already had given up I met Randy McGinnis, the Rocky international sales manager, who after some chatting would willingly let me take it for a ride. Later I found out I was the only one on the entire 4 days to ride it – thanks Randy.

Despite it being only a short ride with no real mountainbiking I could feel how capable the bike handled. Unfortunately the front and rear were not set up properly and so the bike felt unbalanced. But the geometry immediately made me feel “at home”, seating me very much in the frame and providing a quick but neutral handling. This bike would be so much fun riding in technical sections or longer rides, not to mention all the cool design features from tapered head tube to, hydroformed tubes and the proprietary “Straight Up Geometry.”. To date it was not decided whether the 29er lineup of Rocky Mountain will ever be for sale here in Europe … bummer. (Anyone in the US want to be my friend?)

Unfortunately here in Europe 29ers are catching on much slower than in the US. Some say it never will but I will remain optimistic telling everyone how great they are to keep momentum and smooth out  a the terrain.

One more good news is that Niner bikes are now available in Europe, too. They have been for a while now in Italy, where I was told some shops were now even selling 29er bikes exclusively (26ers only for trade-ins if you bought a 29er), but since February this year there even is a German distributor (Revolution Sports), who had a lot of Niner and Titus bikes, as well as the Niner carbon fork (in prototype models) on display. 

Beautiful scenery and mountain bikes. What could be better?

Beautiful scenery and mountain bikes. What could be better?