Thursday, March 22, 2018

A Road Bike by Black Mountain Cycles

Mike Varley of Black Mountain Cycles designed a steel bicycle frame and fork that works wonders for long rides over rough roads. But that's not news. Not around here.

In early 2014, after a year of riding gravel on a zippy cyclocross bike, and more than a little research, I built up a Black Mountain Cycles "monster cross" frame and fork as a durable, dependable bike for long rides on remote gravel and dirt roads. It's the most comfortable road bike I've ever ridden.

My Black Mountain has faithfully carried me through memorable all-day-and-into-the-night races, such as Odin's Revenge, Almanzo Royal, Dirty Kanza and Gold Rush Mother Lode, as well as many shorter races, weekend explorations, Black Hills BackBone and DoubleBackBone reconnaissance rides and attempts, sub-24 hour and multi-day bike packing trips and daily commutes. I love it.

My Black Mountain after its 30 month/12,000 mile frame-off overhaul in late 2016.

I'm not alone. From his one-man shop, Mike Varley sends his bikes all over, even to the remote back roads of central Iowa. Mark Stevenson, aka Guitar Ted of Trans Iowa fame, has ridden an orange Black Mountain monster cross bike on Iowa gravel for years and regularly writes about it. As a result of Mark's reviews, many others apparently found their way to Black Mountain. To show his appreciation, Mike Varley is sponsoring Trans Iowa this year with a Black Mountain frame and fork to be awarded to the "grittiest rider." Black Mountain Blog - Trans Iowa. How sweet is that.

Now, it's all coming together for me. In April, I plan to journey to Trans Iowa as a volunteer. A Gravel Pilgrimage. Sometime after the event, I'll ride at least a few of those storied gravel and dirt miles around Grinnell on my Black Mountain. Something close to zero percent chance of not doing so.

So, it seems timely to post another unabashed endorsement of the Black Mountain Cycles "monster cross" bike as a rough road slayer. The steel frame with its relaxed geometry and clearance for up to 45 mm tires, paired with a compliant, sloping steel fork designed for rim brakes, create a comfortable, stable ride at speed for long rides on rough roads. Old school semi-horizontal drop outs allow a simple field conversion to single speed for those gravelly mud misadventures. Many other thoughtful features adorn this frame and fork. It's a well-conceived and well-executed bike suitable for all kinds of cycling. It's now the only road bike I own and it's just the right bike for how and where I ride.

For more detailed information about this bike, go directly to Mike Varley's words and pictures on his Black Mountain Cycles website. Black Mountain Cycles.


Addendum. For more details, here's a 2015 post on my rationale of choosing this frame and fork, as well as each component. An All Road Bike. Later I highlighted a nifty frame feature that allows an easy field conversion to single speed, a rarity these days. Make it Single Speed. Then after 30 months and about 12,000 miles of mostly rough roads, I overhauled everything and wrote a seven part series about it. It's TimeFrame and ForkWheels and Tires, Drivetrain, Brakes and Shifters, Controls, On the Road Again. I love my Black Mountain so much that I relinquished my beloved Torelli lugged steel cyclocross bike. Letting Go. Love this bike. I rode it on every ride that made it to this blog, so you'll find pictures all over.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

2018 Black Hills Gravel Series - a Lucas Haan production

Gravel maestro Lucas Haan announces a return engagement for the Black Hills Gravel Series.

Hip! Hip! Hooray!

Over the shoulder, I hear Race Director Lucas Haan, out on the course at Week 6 of the 2017 Black Hills Gravel Series,
welcoming newcomer Dave Litzen, with veterans Jessica Linquist and Eric Linquist pulling up to join.
It's a party of five, rolling toward Spearfish on primo South Dakota gravel.

Last spring, Lucas created something special with the Black Hills Gravel Series. For six consecutive Saturdays, area cyclists awoke to the opportunity to embark on a remote rough road adventure into the unmatched scenery and tucked away history of the Black Hills of South Dakota. Each week Lucas actually offered two routes:  a loop of about 50 miles/5,000 feet of elevation gain and a shorter, less difficult loop of about 25 miles nestled therein. Great spring rides.

As cool as the courses were, the best part of this labor of love was the creation of a low key, regular gathering for area cyclists of all kinds to connect and re-connect. Each week drew a patchwork assortment of cyclists, from speedsters to tourists, seasoned to beginners, young to old. Half hailed from Spearfish. A quarter were women. All were welcomed to share the experience. What a fabulous contribution to the Black Hills cycling community. Here's a link to my post of last year's festivities. A Six Course Feast.

This is grass roots cycling. No fees. No licenses. No aid stations. No course markings. No course marshals. No on course support of any kind. No t-shirt. No schwag bag. No specialized bike, gear or clothing. Routes that are rideable on most any bike, although a road racing bike with tires skinnier than an inch would be a challenge. Bring friends and family. All are welcome and will be welcomed.

Deep into the Black Hills, the Black Hills Gravel Series throws in some dirt roads, too.

This year looks to be even better, with more folks learning about it and with a true "Starter"10 mile route added to the "Social" 25 mile and the "Scenic" 50 mile. For updated information, go to the FaceBook page for Black Hills Drop Bar Dirt, Gravel and Cyclocross Riders. Black Hills Drop Bar Group. Also, here's a link to a post about registration, which is free. 2018 Black Hills Gravel Series - Registration. Finally, the schedule, straight from Lucas.

See you out there.


*******Black Hill Gravel Series Post*******
Schedule:
#1 - Sunday April 8th @ Crow Peak
#2 - Saturday April 14th @ Moonshine Gulch ...
#3 - Sunday April 22nd @ Mt. Rushmore Brewing
#4 - Saturday April 28th @ Silver Dollar Saloon



Thursday, March 8, 2018

DoubleBackBone Daydreams

Daydreaming over a fresh cup of coffee and the cue sheets for the Black Hills DoubleBackBone, I sketch out a rough map. So many possibilities.

One continuous ride, a series of days, or sections over time.

Self supported, shuttled or fully supported.

Solo, buddy or group.

Maybe some combination, or even all of the above.

Rough map hand drawn from the DoubleBackBone cue sheets.
Sweet dreams are made of this.

Here's a few thoughts to kick start your own daydream.

1. Dakota Marker Start:  After a night at the Picnic Spring Campground, start at the North Dakota border, ride the original BackBone route to Nebraska and return on the DoubleBackBone route. That's a border-to-border-to-border ride, through a big chunk of the Black Hills, sandwiched by some surprisingly sweet prairie to the North and South. This was my initial concept of the Black Hills DoubleBackBone.

2. Spearfish Start:  Ride south on the original BackBone route, dip your wheel into Nebraska, return to Spearfish on the DoubleBackBone route, restock and reassess if necessary, ride north on the DoubleBackBone through Camp Crook to North Dakota and return to Spearfish on the BackBone. By eliminating the three hour drive to North Dakota and by knocking off that Tinton Road climb right off the bat, this is my current preference.

3. Anywhere Start:  The beauty of a looped course is the ability to start wherever you choose and finish at the same spot. It may be convenient for you to start from Custer.  If you're driving in from Colorado, maybe from Edgemont. If from Nebraska, perhaps Oelrichs.

4. Something Completely Different:  It's not all or nothing. For example, take a look at just the Southern Loop, which takes one through about 200 miles of Black Hills and 100 miles of prairie, with about 15,000 feet of elevation gain. Talk about a DoubleBackBone sampler.

I'd start a Southern Loop in Buffalo Gap, ride North to overnight atop Flag Mountain for the sunrise view, ride the second day to Edgemont for steak dinner and spin home to Buffalo Gap on day three.

That actually sounds pretty good. Now, to find a three day weekend.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Black Hills DoubleBackBone Cue Sheets

I like cue sheets and hard copy maps. Just an analog guy.

So, here are cue sheets for the entire Black Hills DoubleBackBone route. From Mile 0.0 at the historic Dakota Marker on the North Dakota border, to Mile 310.5 at the Stop Sign Finish on the Nebraska border, all the way to Mile 640.6 back at that same Dakota Marker. Drawn on a single large map, it essentially looks like a short string from the North Dakota border to a large Northern Loop, with a string connector to an even larger Southern Loop.

The signature shot for the Black Hills DoubleBackBone. Miles of stuff like this out west.
I have verified the names and numbers of these roads, as well as the mileage, from field research. More specifically, I have ridden all these roads, one way or another or both, but for Camp Crook Road going North, and that one I have driven. I will use these cue sheets, along with hard copy maps, when going back out there.

You are certainly welcome to create on your own a digital file from this information. Please know that several of the primitive National Forest Service roads may not appear on a given mapping program, or may appear under a different name. You are on your own.

For that matter, you are always on your own out there, whether using these cue sheets, other information from this blog, a derived digital file, or anything else. Bring what you need to ride whatever you decide to ride, including navigation tools, skills and decision making. That's the message throughout this blog and just affirmed here. You are responsible for you.

This is not a race. This is not an event. This is not a marked course. The road signs identified on the cue sheets may not be there, or may be different, when you get out there. The mileages may be off. This is just a remote road route that I scouted and now intend to ride. If you go, you are on your own.

"Are we CLEAR?"

"Yes, sir."

"ARE WE CLEAR?"

"Crystal. Colonel, I just have one more question before I put Cyclist Arritola, Cyclist Litzen and Cyclist Sorge on the stand. If you head out on the Black Hills DoubleBackBone, what happens when things go sideways?"

"YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOU!"

You can handle the truth. Get out there.



Turn
Direction
Road
Miles
Total
-
S
Table Mountain Road (733)
0.0
0.0
R
W
Table Mountain Road (733)
1.6
1.6
R
W
Ladner Road
7.2
8.8
L
S
continue on Ladner Road
4.2
13.0
-
S
straight on Bullock Road
2.0
15.0
R
W
Bullock Road
7.7
 22.7 
L
S
Bullock Road
2.8
25.5
R
W
U.S. Highway 20 - pave
8.0
33.5
L
S
Harding Road
0.6
34.1
-
S
HARDING - STOP WATER
13.0
47.1
R
W
Old Highway 85
17.3
64.4
-
S
GEOGRAPHIC CENTER OF THE U.S.
14.4
78.8
L
E
U.S. Highway 85 - pave
7.8
86.6
R
E
Brooker Road
0.5
87.1
R
S
Arpan Road
7.3
94.4
-
S
Arpan Road - pave
9.3
103.7
R
W
U.S. Highway 212 - pave
3.6
107.3
L
S
Fruitdale Road - pave
1.7
109.0
-
S
Fruitdale Road
1.7
110.7
L
E
Snowma Road
1.1
111.8
R
S
Crooked Oaks Road
0.7
112.5
L
E
Sale Barn Road
5.6
118.1
R
S
Sale Barn Road
2.2
120.3
-
S
Sale Barn Road - pave
0.2
120.5
R
N
U.S. Highway 34 - pave
0.5
121.0
L
W
St. Onge Cutoff Road (196th Street)
1.9
122.9
L
S
Lookout Mountain Road
4.0
126.9
R
W
Kerwin Lane
2.8
129.7
L
S
U.S. Highway 85 - pave
1.9
131.6
R
W
Hills View Road - pave
1.7
133.3
-
-
SPEARFISH - WATER
-
133.3
-
W
Hills View Road - pave
-
133.3
L
S
Higgins Gulch Road (214)
2.5
135.8
R
S
Tinton Road (134)
12.1
147.9
R
W
U.S. Highway 85 - pave
16.9
164.8
L
S
O'Neil Pass Road (391)
1.7
166.5
L
S
South Rapid Creek Road (231)
0.8
167.3
R
W
Black Fox Camp Road (233)
11.4
178.7
L
E
Flag Mountain Road (189)
5.4
184.1
R
S
South Rochford Road
7.0
191.1
-
S
South Rochford Road - pave
0.6
191.7
L
E 
Deerfield Lake Road - pave
1.0
192.7
L
N
White Tail Loop (USFS 421)
1.7
194.4
-
E
WHITE TAIL CAMPGROUND (USFS) - WATER
1.0
195.4
R
W
Deerfield Lake Road - pave
0.9
196.3
L
S
Williams Draw Road
0.3
196.6
R
W
Six Mile Draw Road
8.0
204.6
L
S
Ditch Creek Road (291)
0.2
204.8
L
E
Custer Limestone Road (284)
9.5
214.3
R
S
Upper French Creek Road (286)
5.7
220.0
L
E
U.S. Highway 16 - pave
5.9
225.9
R
S
6th Street - pave (1 block) HARBACH CITY PARK - WATER
1.8
227.7
-
N
1 block back to U.S. Highway 16
0.1
227.8
R
E
U.S. Highway 16 - pave
0.1
227.9
R
S
Sidney Park Road (793) - pave
1.6
229.5
L
E
Hazelroot Cut-Off Road (343)
1.3
230.8
R
S
Glen Erin Road (337)
2.6
233.4
L
E
Flynn Creek Road (336)
4.7
238.1
L
E
Beaver Creek Road (391)
8.6
246.7
L
N
U.S. Highway 87 - pave
1.1
247.8
R
E
Rankin Ridge Road (NPS 5)
2.0
249.8
L
E
7-11 Road (101)
10.3
260.1
S
R
In Buffalo Gap - 4th Street
5.0
265.1
R
L
Elm Street
S
R
2nd Street
-
-
BUFFALO GAP TRADING POST - WATER
0.1
265.2
-
S
Buffalo Gap Road
-
265.2
L
E
Fall River County 2 - pave
7.1
272.3
R
S
Ash Road
1.5
273.8
L
E
Hay Canyon Road
3.0
276.8
R
S
Sand Creek Road (Fall River County Road 2)
1.0
277.8
L
E
Smithwick Road
4.1
281.9
R
S
North Butte Road (Fall River County Road 2)
0.4
282.3
R
W
Milligan Road
9.1
291.4
L
S
Old Highway 79
1.1
292.5
R
W
Antelope Lane
1.0
293.5
L
S
Hard Scrabble Road
4.0
297.5
R
W
Black Bank Road
2.0
299.5
L
S
continue on Black Bank Road
2.0
301.5
-
S
Dakota Line Road - STOP SIGN FINISH
9.0
310.5
R
W
Dakota Line Road
---
310.5
R
N
Dakota Line Road
3.0
313.5
L
W
East Ardmore Road
1.0
314.5
---
W
Ardmore - No Services
13.0
327.5
---
W
East Ardmore Road - continue West
---
327.5
R
N
Edgemont Road (FRC 6412)
7.8
335.3
R
E
South Highway 471 (gravel)
10.9
346.2
L
N
Plum Creek Road (FRC 65)
3.0
349.2
L
W
Indian Canyon Road (FRC 3292)
4.0
353.2
R
N
Lookout Road (FRC 6) - stay left, turns to pave
2.0
355.2
R
N
Highway 471 - pave
4.0
359.2
L
W
North Highway 471 - pave - Edgemont
1.1
360.3
R
N
North Highway 471 - pave - water/supplies
0.2
360.5
R
E
U.S. Highway 18 - pave
0.2
360.7
L
N
Red Canyon Road (FRC 15)
2.5
363.2
L
W
Pilger Mt Road (317)
9.4
372.6
R
E
Pleasant Valley Road (715)
8.3
380.9
L
W
Richardson Cutoff (276)
6.6
387.5
L
W
Pass Creek Road (273)
5.4
392.9
R
N
Mann Road (270)
10.7
403.6
R
E
U.S. Highway 16 - pave
8.6
412.2
L
N
Mud Springs Road (282)
0.5
412.7
L
W
Antelope Ridge Road (283)
2.7
414.4
R
E
Custer Limestone Road (284)
5.4
419.8
L
N
unmarked brown sign (383)
3.4
423.2
L
W
Gillette Canyon Road (296)
5.1
428.3
L
W
Six Mile Road (301)
6.5
434.8
R
N
Briggs Spring Road (384)
2.2
437.0
L
W
South Castle Creek Road (294)
3.0
440.0
R
N
Boles Canyon Road (117)
1.3
441.3
L
W
South Rapid Creek Road (231)
15.9
457.2
R
E
O'Neil Pass Road (231)
2.8
460.0
R
E
U.S. Highway 85 - pave
0.8
460.8
L
N
Tinton Road (134)
1.7
462.5
L
W
Higgins Gulch Road (214)
16.9
479.4
R
E
Hillsview Road - pave
12.1
491.5
L
N
U.S. Highway 85 - pave
2.5
494.0
R
E
Kerwin Lane
1.7
495.7
L
N
Lookout Mountain Road
1.9
497.6
R
E
St. Onge Cutoff Road (196th Street)
2.8
500.4
R
S
U.S. Highway 34 - pave
4.0
504.4
L
E
Sale Barn Road - pave
1.9
506.3
---
E
Sale Barn Road  
0.5
506.8
L
N
Sale Barn Road
0.2
507.0
E
N
Crooked Oaks Road
2.2
509.2
L
W
Snowma Road
5.6
514.8
R
N
Fruitdale Road
0.7
515.5
---
N
Fruitdale Road - pave
1.1
516.6
R
E
U.S. Highway 212 - pave
1.7
518.3
L
N
Arpan Road - pave
1.7
520.0
---
N
Arpan Road
3.6
523.6
L
W
Brooker Road
9.3
532.9
L
W
U.S. Highway 85 - pave
7.3
540.2
R
N
Camp Crook Road
2.4
542.6
R
E
U.S. Highway 20 - pave - CAMP CROOK
54.6
597.2
L
N
Latham Road 
3.3
600.5
L
N
Bullock Road
8.5
609.0
L
N
River Road
4.4
613.4
--
N
Ladner Road
6.4
619.8
L
N
Ladner Road
5.8
625.6
L
N
Table Mountain Road (733)
6.2
631.8
L
N
Table Mountain Road (733)
7.2
639.0
--
--
DAKOTA MARKER FINISH
1.6
640.6