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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Back to a Single Speed Gold Rush

By June, spring may swing by for a few days. Maybe just long enough for the Gold Rush.

Right here in the Black Hills of South Dakota, the Gold Rush Gravel Grinder draws cycling enthusiasts from all over for a spring gravel festival featuring the 70 mile Gold Dust, the 110 mile Gold Rush and the 210 mile Mother Lode, along with a host of attendant activities. Over the years, I've ridden each distance and enjoyed each one. Choose one based on your condition and ambition, and you're bound to have a good time. Gold Rush Gravel Grinder.

Powering up an early hill at the inaugural 2013 Gold Rush Gravel Grinder, John Sundberg leaves me in his dust.
John crushed it on his geared Salsa Fargo with mountain bike tires, while I cruised on my cyclocross single speed.
We both had a great time. (photo by Gold Rush Gravel Grinder)

If you love the vibe of the Dakota Five-O mountain bike race, you'll love the vibe of the Gold Rush Gravel Grinder. Kristi and Perry Jewett know how to put together their events.

It starts with a Friday evening packet pickup at a city park, followed by a social gathering at a local microbrewery. Motels are convenient and a camp ground rests next to the start/finish area. In the morning, the high energy start launches riders into the forested Black Hills, where energetic volunteers amp up the wattage at the aid stations. Eventually, it's party central at the finish line, with live music, food, vendors, awards and door prizes. You're certain to leave with a smile.

There's your 3rd Place Single Speed (out of three) at the 2013 Gold Rush Gravel Grinder.
I'm exhausted and happy just to finish. (photo by Gold Rush Gravel Grinder)
Back in 2013, I entered the inaugural Gold Rush as an alternative event after my grandiose scheme for a reunion 24 hour mountain bike team relay fell apart. Knowing virtually nothing about racing 100+ miles on gravel, I chose from my stable a cyclocross single speed shod with 32 mm knobbies. It worked out just fine, as it did for many others on many different types of bikes and tires.

Since then, I've learned a little from riding a few more gravel miles. I've sorted out some equipment issues, including finding a bike just right for where and how I ride. I've shared some memorable experiences with old and new friends. I've looked up and down for gravel and dirt road adventures.

 But now it's back to my gravel race beginning. It's back to the Gold Rush on a single speed.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

A Mountain Bike by Jones Bikes

One mountain bike. A Jones 29 Plus LWB. Dressed in black. Ready to rumble.

When unpacking the Jones a few days ago, I exhaled, "Wow. That's a Big Bike." Capital "B" Big. Tall. Long. Wide. Wow. It looks like a whole lot to handle. Wow. I may need a bigger engine.

Jones 29 Plus LWB = Jones (designed by Jeff Jones), 29 (29er mountain bike), Plus (3"+ tires), LWB (long wheelbase)
(photo by Chani Groseth)
Abruptly, I flash back to building up my Black Mountain monster cross bike a few years ago. Compared to conventional road racing bikes, the Black Mountain was mammoth. It stood tall and upright. It stretched down the road with slack frame angles, long chain stays and a sloping fork. The 40 mm tires triggered thoughts of mountain bike tires. However, although it looked like a sluggish beast compared to conventional road racing bikes, it was not. The Black Mountain proved to be a great road bike for me. I hope this Jones mountain bike is the same for me on the trails.

Smooth and comfortable, although the upright position and short reach is a radical change.
(photo by Chani Groseth)
Although I am confident in my research, analysis and conclusions in committing to the Jones 29 Plus LWB, my final answer will emerge only after many miles in the saddle. I'll be out there to find out. I'll take pictures and write about it. Can't wait.

The large main triangle, truss fork and handle bar support voluminous bags, tailor made for Jones by Revelate Designs.
(photo by Chani Groseth)
Of course, I got the Revelate Design bags designed for the main triangle, fork and handle bar, to go along with my existing assortment for the rest of the bike. Lack of capacity won't be an issue, although excess capacity may be. No limits from this bike, but only from my ability, ambition and time.
Although it looks like catalogue copy to me, Jones emailed me three pictures of my bike after they built it up.
(photo by Jones Bikes)

Tire clearance looks good, even with 3.25" Vee BullDozers.
(photo by Jones Bikes)

The more I look at it, the more I see and the more I wonder how it all works together.
(photo by Jones Bikes)

Jeff Jones regularly posts on his website, with text, pictures and videos, showcasing his design philosophy and build execution, as well as the resulting bikes in action. I found it fascinating, if you're open to some unconventional thinking and a little wild-eyed passion. Here's links to some samples. Jeff Jones Talks BikesJones Plus Video. Jones Plus Design ProcessJones Plus Build & Talk. A Ride on the Jones Plus.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

A Mountain Bike Companion?

My Black Mountain Cycles monster cross bike now is my only road bike. It rendered obsolete all the others and I turned them all loose. One bike for all kinds of rides on all kinds of roads. It's that good. At least it's that good for me. A Road Bike by Black Mountain.

Overnight trip to Robert Cota's 2016 Bikepack Extravaganza.
The capability and versatility of the Black Mountain eventually led me to question my fleet of mountain bikes.  Each one had a purpose and a history, but so did those old road bikes. Could one mountain bike - the right mountain bike -  be the single track companion to the Black Mountain?

One mountain bike? Hmmn. One bike to confidently and comfortably ride single track of all kinds. Short local jaunts. Afternoon excursions. Day long explorations. Overnight adventures. Multi-day expeditions. One mountain bike? Casual cruises. Group rides. Events. Races. One mountain bike?

Why not? That's how I started out, more than a few years ago. That's how most everyone started out.

My Black Mountain wearing the effects of the 2017 Robideaux Quick and Dirty gravel road race.

What would that one mountain bike look like? Back in late 2015, I started to wonder. Then I started to research. Over the course of more than a year and a half, I studied reviews, reports, blogs, forums, press releases, web sites and anything else I could find. I asked loads of questions to lots of different cyclists. I rode as many different bikes as I could. I pushed the fun limits of the Black Mountain, unloaded and loaded, on rough roads and trails. The options expanded quickly, narrowed gradually, and expanded again as more bikes appeared on the market. Mountain bikes, fat bikes, plus bikes. 26 inch, 27.5 inch and 29 inch. Drop bar, flat bar, not-sure-what-it-is-bar. One or two derailleurs, internal gears, single speed. Chain drive, belt drive. Even generator hubs. Every combination imaginable. This was going to take some time.

Meanwhile, I adored the Black Mountain monster cross, prompting me to further thin my herd of bikes from 11 to 3, leaving just the Black Mountain, a rigid single speed and a fixie. I also shed some other weighty possessions, including a room sized home gym and a 40 year old four wheeler. I downsized quantity to upgrade quality.

Then, about a year ago, I found it. Maybe it found me. It wasn't love at first sight. It took time. But I just kept going back to it. All the others lost their luster. Eventually, I committed.

The one mountain bike for me. And now it's on its way here.