Monday, October 12, 2020

Converting a Cyclocross BIke to Gravel using the Kona Jake CX

 


Converting a older cyclocross bike into a gravel bike can be a great way to get into gravel riding without the harsh price tag. Cyclocross racing bikes are essentially gravel bikes with one big exception. Cyclocross has always been happy with around 32mm tires when the new world of high performance wide tires allows gravel riders to use much bigger tires. So determining if your cyclocross to gravel conversion candidate is a good choice is finding out what the widest tires that can be used. That is not always an easy task. Previous owners may have never used anything over 32mm tires so they may not know what will work. 

Do some google searches for your choice and see if you can find any posts from people who have used your candidate for a gravel conversion.

In this case my choice was the 2012 Kona Jake CX offered on ebay for $689. I found references that it might support at least a 700x40mm tire. It turns out it supports a 700x43 with room to spare. It makes a great cross to gravel conversion.


 

 

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Carver ALLROAD custom titanium gravel bike



I found I loved gravel biking through Germany and Italy on my Cinelli Zydeco gravel bike but I hated the disc brakes. They just plain don't work as well as rim brakes despite lazy journalists repeating the marketing hype over and over until people believe it.

Since the disc brakes are so bad I had to find an alternative but it is not easy. The marketing world has converted everyone to road bike discs whether they want it or not. It is hard to find rim brake rims, rim brake hubs and rim brake forks.

I finally went to Davis Carver to see if he could build me a gravel frame with cantilever studs. He said sure. So I snagged the last new old stock Enve cantilever fork on the planet and waited for my frame. I like working with Davis because he does a great job of communication and he checks my requests for foolish mistakes. He also delivers incredibly fast by custom bike standards at just 90 days and his prices are very competitive.

The frame arrived as promised and I set it up with Hope RS4 rim brake hubs with a campy cassette in 135mm spacing. I laced them to HED Belgium plus rims and mounted Gravelking 700x50 tires. The frame had plenty of clearance for the tires but I had to get a number of examples of V Brakes to find a pair that had adequate clearance.



It rides beautifully. It feels road bike responsive on the road and is cushy comfy when I dive off the pavement. It fits me perfectly and it is fun to ride on the road but also on anything including mountain bike single track, to the point that you really need a suspension fork due to drop-offs.

So if you have not discovered gravel biking you owe yourself to find out what it is all about.

Davis Carver can be found at bikeman.com and he offers two different gravel bikes. The Asian made ALLROAD I purchased and an American made Gravel frame. I choose the Asian made offering because of the wide variety of options you can select, like my cantilever studs, the travel couplers and custom geometry.



Saturday, December 14, 2019

Gravel Biking in Germany Austria and Italy


We did our first major cycling trip with our new gravel bikes. I LOVE it!



In previous years we have enjoyed the fantastic dedicated bike paths in the Veneto region of Italy. These are paths that are separated from the road, paved and wander through vineyards and apple orchards for hundreds of miles.

I found an online tool called Komoot at www.komoot.com. Komoot does for hikers and cyclists what google maps does for cars. It's a router that allows you to set a starting point and a destination and then it will find a route for you based on whether you are a hiker, a road cyclist, a mtn biker or, in our case, gravel cyclists.


The fantastic thing about this is that Komoot sewed together the separated bike paths with small roads, gravel trails and vineyard paths to create a route that was 600 miles long and was 70% separated from the road. We got very spoiled not having to ride with traffic. The route took us from Munich, Germany through the Austrian Alps and over the Italian Dolomites of the Alto Adige.


The walled city of Mariostica, Italy

This was a very different trip than we've done in the past because we embraced the ultralight backpacking techniques that bikepacking has borrowed from backpacking. In previous trips we used our folding road bikes and pulled trailers which weighed about 60lbs. This trip we used bikepacking bags and all our gear and bags weighed 25lbs. That light-weight setup makes a huge difference when you're climbing.


I'm totally sold on gravel biking. The siren song of these new gravel bikes is a tune that speaks of lightweight road bikes with quick, fun responsive riding but with wide tires that can go anywhere. The paths we traveled went from smooth pavement to almost mountain bike gnarly and the bikes did a great job in every trail condition. On the pavement they still felt like performance bikes rather than heavy touring tanks. Yet, when you head off the pavement, they are still fun to ride and give you a secure connection to the surface.

I could easily give up all my bikes for my one gravel bike. Except for the brakes. I believe that disc brakes for road bikes are a con job created by marketers to get people to spend more money on brakes that are inferior to what we have been using for decades successfully. I hear the same lies being passed all over the internet about how superior disc brakes are on road bikes. It is my experience that it is just not true.  After spending months adjusting and trying to get the disc brakes on my gravel bike to even function at all, and taking the bike to multiple bikes shops to see if they could make them work, I have given up. In the Alps the rotors on the disc brakes got so hot going down long descents that my gloves would smoke on contact when checking the rotors for overheating while stopping every 100 yards to let them cool down. The brake pads lasted only one long ride before they would have to be replaced. This is on rides we've done before with caliper or v-brakes and with heavier loads without incident.

So I am getting a new gravel frame built with V-Brakes.



I highly recommend gravel bikes and gravel biking. It is a way to get off the road onto paths that are peaceful and safe without having to deal with car traffic.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

PavePlus: Gravel extended road rides

I hate bicycle touring. No, that is not right I do like bicycle touring I just don't like touring bikes. Heavy. Sluggish. Like driving a dump truck. I have tried over the years to like touring bikes but I just can't. I like road racing bikes. Fast and agile. Twichy. Responsive.

But I like riding on small village roads, through vinyards, and orchards too. A lot of those wonderful roads change to gravel or dirt. Which is not happy time for 700x23 tires.

But since the popularity of gravel racing bikes there is emerging another variation. Fast road bikes with wide tires. Something made for the roads but comfortable to keep going when the road turns to dirt. A bike with a road pedigree. Lightweight and responsive but with clearance for tires that allow you go almost anywhere.

I assembled my dream Paveplus bike this fall. It is a Cinelli Zydeco and it rides great on the road with 700x43 tires. It feels like a road bike should. With a set of bike packing bags it will make the perfect touring bike for me. Credit card touring for sure and using the required ultralight backpacking techniques. The return for the investment in trimming off the classic touring fat, will be enjoying the ride, as well as the where. Climbing the Stelvio without heavy touring racks and slack angles. Why carry 50lbs when you can carry 20lbs.
Passeo Stelvio
Enjoying those little paths that start at the end of the pavement. Ride the Pave Plus. Check out my new website at

 www.paveplus.club

Friday, May 12, 2017

Windcheetah Recumbent Trike





An ancient Greek philosopher by the name of Heraclitis claimed that "All things are fire". I never understood that when I was young. But after a few decades under my belt I began to understand that change is constant. You can either learn to adapt or curl up in the corner and sob. I am not saying all change is good nor do I believe that "you can't fight Progress".

One of the difficulties of being passionate about something, like I am with cycling, is that if you lose that thing it can be devastating. As I age and things don't work as well as they did when I was twenty I am looking for ways to adapt.

When I was twenty all I saw and lived were racing bikes. Narrow high pressure tires, 4 inches of seat to handlebar drop and a 53/42 front chainset. The recumbent trike would have looked pretty weird to me in those days. But these days it looks pretty darn good.

The benefits of the recumbent trike are many. First it almost eliminates pain from your arms and hands having to rest on the handlebars. You have a panoramic view of the world without bending your neck. No looking at a patch of asphalt 6ft in front of you all day. You can stop on a hill and start right back up again.

It is so different than riding a bike that it seems closer to kayaking to me. Kayaking is wonderful because you are low, right next to the water. You get to see the world and it's critters up close and quietly.

I am not ready to give up my bikes yet but I got the trike as an insurance policy for that day when I must give them up.




The Windcheetah was designed by Mike Burrows back in the early 1980's. He has always been into Human Power speed racing and needed a way to train in the winter safely. He designed the "speedy" as a recumbent racing machine and just added another wheel to the front to make it more stable in the ice and snow of winter. But the speedy became popular because it is a different kind of cycle that had interest to people beyond speed records.



Mike Burrows went on to design the  record setting Lotus superbike for Chris Boardman and worked for Giant designing the very successful TCR road bike. He sold the company when he went to work for Giant.




Windcheetah is currently owned by Karl Spartenburg and he builds Windcheetahs to order for each customer in England. There are many recumbent trikes on the market now made all over the world but the Windcheetah design has survived the test of time.




It is narrow and fast. A real kick to ride. In fact I may not wait till I can't ride bikes anymore. It's too much fun to wait.





                   www.windcheetah.co.uk



Monday, April 10, 2017

More Millium and more Drillium

04/2018
I am very sorry to report that Jon Williams died suddenly of a heart-attack while riding his bike. He was a special guy. As talented a fine art woodworker as he was a machinist and a Music lover. He will be missed by the whole bicycle community he was so much a part of.
********************************************************************************

One of the more popular articles on this blog was the article about Jon Williams of Drillium Revival. Jon's take on 1970's Drillium and Millium is an artform in itself. His ability to bring a unique treatment to new customers is one of his strong points. But I wanted to show some of his new work which takes newer components that are much more modern and yet applies the Millium and Drillium. The results are not retro poured over the top of modern but instead and new take on modern. More on his Flicker Pages.

If you would like a truly personal and unique set of parts for your new bike you owe it to yourself to chat with Jon: drillium@yahoo.com













Friday, March 31, 2017

Sandhill Crane Migration on the Platte River

For 9 million years the Sandhill Cranes have been stopping by the Platte River to rest and refuel on their migration from the warmer southern winter grounds and their summer nesting sites in the north. Did you get that number? 9 million. How long have our ancestors existed on this planet?

They come from wintering grounds coast to coast and all fly into the middle of the country around Kearney, Nebraska. This year about 400,000 were counted at the peak. To be honest I never thought I would visit the plains. I am a west coast guy raised backpacking into the Sierra Mountains.

But this event is something worth taking a break from your urban insanity and sit quietly in a field and listen to the sound of a 9 million year tradition.

Get started by stopping by the Crane Trust or the Ian Nicholson Audubon Crane  Center at the Rowe Sanctuary.



They are both easily accessed from Interstate 80.
There is no cost to drop by and the volunteers are waiting and ready to help you learn about Cranes. You are welcome to drop a donation in the box if you would like to help support their work. Each operates blinds that allow viewers closer access. There is a small charge and you need to sign up in advance to be sure of getting a spot in the blind. But for me the grandeur of the large groups flying and soaring together is the main attraction.

The Cranes start arriving earlier each year. The peak was in early March but good viewing extends through the end of March. Individual cranes might stay for a month gleaning the fields of insects and left over grains.



At night they fly back in groups to the Platte River for a safe place to sleep. Cranes can't swim so that is why the Platte River is so important. It is known as "being a mile wide and an inch deep".





When they feel ready to move on north they begin to join up with large groups staging to fly on. The groups soar in circles, called "kettling" gaining altitude to find a warm current heading in the right direction. Cranes will return to the same nesting grounds year after year.




So what has all this got to do with cycling? Well the Crane trust has a fleet of Surly Moonlanders and take folks out on Fat Bike excursions. Contact the excursion manger Ben Dumas at 308-384-4633 for more info. Because there is a lot more to see in Nebraska than just Cranes.