Saturday, May 30, 2009

A nice ride home, and big tires.

I had a great ride home on the Big Dummy the other day. The bike just plain rocks. With the Schwalbe tires installed, the bike feels like a freight train. Stable, solid-feeling combined with an upright seating position and wide ranging gearing, the bike begs to be ridden hard and loves to keep going through whatever is under the tires. I rode home on a mixed gravel and tarmac. The tires roll well on gravel, though lacking side knobs they roll when leaned. All around, they are a nice choice for mainly paved riding conditions.
Bike path flowers. These are blooming everywhere along ditches and the river bottoms around here. Certain paths in the Nature Center will be flanked on either side by 4' tall flowers. The smell is a bit of heaven, and it's a pretty stunning sight.

One of the four valleys along the route to work. The valleys make for some killer hills on either side. The Dummy rolled the hills really well. Spinning is really necessary to maintain speed, but works really well. On the ride into work the next morning, it only took me 55min instead of the usual 50! I weighed the bike when I got to work. It was 58.5lbs with my work clothes and some food. For a 55 min ride over 14.1 miles it breaks down to about a 15.5 mph average. Not bad on a 60lb bike!
Some shots of the back entrance to the Rice County Wilderness Park. This would be a ridiculously cool log ride! It's about 6' at its height, and about 30' long.
Ditch blooming wild flowers.
Nice woods shot. It was a really gorgeous afternoon.
Random bridge shot in Northfield. This will give me a route to avoid the busiest intersection of my route. I really can't wait. What a way to change the river scape of Northfield, it's awesome.
Big Dummy revisions #1. Like any MTB I ride for long periods of time, this one got a set of H Bars. I simply can't ride flat bars comfortably any more. Ever after only two rides totaling abut 30 miles, my whole upper back and neck are so much tighter. These should make for a huge comfort increase, while providing alternate hand positions on longer rides.
Here's a shot of the necessitated goofy shifter set up. This is temporary, as a set of Paul's Thumbies will be here next week. Odd as it looks, it works rather well.
I'm a tire whore. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Tires change a bike noticeably more than any other component. This bike will have two sets, the Schwalbes for tarmac, and these XDX 2.4" tires from Bontrager for dirt and long gravel. I love this tread pattern irregardless of wheel size. These tires weigh in at just over 700g, not bad at all considering how they roll. They casing size measures 61mm on these rims, with the side knobs measuring about 63mm! They just look right on this bike, and should expand its capabilities greatly. I'll be riding this on the group ride on Tuesday, and it'll be interesting to see how it all works out.
I saw this on the way back from taking pictures. I just love the looks of these. Red with tan interior would be one of my first choices as well. This was really well done, and was an easy 1' car. It's a good one.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Two new Pofahl's.

We've had the pleasure of having some nice Pofahl's through the shop lately. One has been a build that has been ongoing here for some months now. It's finally finished, and in the hands of a very happy lady.
Mike bought this bike by yesterday. It's built for his son Brandon, who will be riding it across the country on it soon. Built of primarily Columbus tubing, it's representative of a classic road form. Modern parts such as a really light Alpha Q fork, 10spd Ultegra grouppo and Fulcrum wheels round out the build.
Nice;y bent seat stays.
Tasteful red accents.
The proud owner. Good luck with the ride!
This is the really pretty one. It is a stainless lugged tourer. The lugs are finished in a workmanship semi rough state. She wanted something kind of matte, and wanted to see the tool marks. Overall, it looks stunning against the British racing green metallic Spectrum powder coat. The geometry of the bike is pure WSD design. The owner is 5'9" with a 33" inseam! The bike is a traditional 58cm ST, with a 53cm TT! The saddle is high in the pictures.
The parts mix on this bike is straight forward. Money was spent on the components that really matter, while the bike is pretty modestly speced. Superb brakes from Tektro provide excellent stopping power and adjust ability. These are some of the most highly under rated brakes out there in my opinion. They may not be as pretty as Paul's, but at 25% of the cost, they perform very similarly.
A King headset blends in rather nicely I think.
LX rear cassette and XT shadow derailleur provide no BS performance and durablility.
Square taper Sugino XD600's shift well and roll smooth. Replacement parts if needed are easy to come by. These stainless Trek bottle cages are elegant and really nice.
These babies are the heart of the wheels, and are definitely something that will be around as long as the frame.
Overall this bike is built just like I think they all should be. A smart, well designed frame, killer wheels, and time tested parts to make it all go 'round. Congrats Cindy, this one's a winner.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Joining the Big Dummy Nation, and a new fork standard.

We welcomed a new member to the Milltown family this week. After rocking the Xtracycled Klunker all last summer I really saw a purpose in stepping up to the Big Dummy. The stability, stiffness, and overall handling are so markedly improved over the conversion it's nuts. The idea of buying the right tool for the job really is exemplified in the design and execution of this bike. Needless to say, this thing rocks. The Big Dummy is pretty much stock at this point, though there will be significant changes made to bring it to where I want it to be. The complete bike is speced really smartly though, with component choices that are classic Surly. The build of mostly LX and SLX parts speaks of frugality and functionality. Nicer bits like Surly's fabulous Mr Whirly cranks and no nonsense XT/Gordo wheels really round out the build.

Surly has this to say about the bike.

"The Big Dummy was a natural. It's designed to carry a lot of stuff easily, and that's just what it does. It was designed in conjunction with Xtracycle, whose modular plug-ins make it easy to carry groceries, garden supplies, tools, and just about anything else you'd normally carry with a car. It's got an upper limit of 400 pounds (180kg) total rider and cargo weight, which is more than you'll probably need, but not so much it's impossible to pedal. It does ride a bit different than normal bikes, due in large part to its long wheelbase, but a couple of trips to the store is all it should take to convince you that this bike is not only exceptionally useful, but fun too. Surly includes Xtracycle's V-Rack bags and snapdeck, but more options for attachments are available."

That about sums it up. I'm excited

I got this in from Mr Pofahl. The 135mm front fork is finally here. As the bike it will live on has been out on loan for a while, I was not really in a hurry to get it. It's a great piece of steel though. There's just something really nice about a very black, well built fillet fork. I'm really excited to get this in the bike and up and running. The bike will be coming home tonight, so I'm thinking a build for tomorrow.
Dimensions are 435mm with 46mm of rake.
Just nice, really smooth unicrown.
This will be fun to look at! The tire is about 60mm at the casing on the Gordo. All for now, happy hump day.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Throwin' Down the Gauntlet.

So we've got a grill at the shop finally. It's been here about a week and a half, and has so far been a complete paradigm shift from the dark days of Subway. The bike shop gourmet is in full swing. Last week's menu items included Fillet Mignon with asparagus, country style pork ribs with baby red potatoes, and a bunch of chicken breasts. Today we went for beef kabobs with grilled sweat corn. Total cost for 2 people was under $9.So here's the challenge, what's the best you bike shop guys can cook at work?

I cannot say enough about how easy this has been to do, how enjoyable it's been for staff and customers, and how cheap really good, simple food can be.

There it is. The glove has been thrown. Whatta ya got?

Pinball Maintenance.

After 20 some years of cheating, the pinball machine is now legit. Thanks to a friend of the shop, Brian, a piece of glass finally made it on the rack. As the story was told to me, the original top was broken when my father's, cousin's son jumped from the top of a piano onto it.The piece of glass was just slightly under sized, needing a total bike shop shim fix. I grabbed a set of worn out cartidge pads from the bench, an blade, and trimmed them to fit. After a few taps with the hammer, perfect. It's awesome.

A couple of taps and we're good.

Last night brought some people down from the Twin Cities. We set up some tubeless wheels, drank some beer, played pinball and hung out. It was about the perfect end to a week that a guy could ask for. A Thursday night social at the shop is something we're considering to make nights like that happen more often. Lemme know what y'all think of that. Cheers.

Happy Memorial Day weekend, ride safe.

Friday, May 22, 2009

What a week.

It's been another fun week here at Milltown. My week started Monday with getting my wisdom teeth removed. It actually went as well as you can hope. Even with all four pulled, I was up at 5:30 the next morning and was able to work all day relatively pain free. Grab some Ibuprofen in the morning and go. Gotta love that.

Big things are happening in relation to the July 4th Crit. This year is all pretty much done, though we are always looking for volunteers day of for corner flaggers and general help. If you're in the area, it's a killer crit to watch. There is also a kids parade and community events as well. More on that later.

Tuesday brought some great repair work into the shop. I also had a meeting with some interested folks about the future of the July 4th race. Things are in the works that may make this one of the biggest road races in MN, second only really to the Nature Valley Grand Prix. I remain cautiously optimistic that all of that will come to fruition. There's a lot of talking, planning and work to be done, but next year should just kick ass!

We got 16 new bikes in yesterday to round out some nice stock. I was less than happy to learn that Trek is out of some of our most popular selling bikes until August! I understand that they have cut supply to meet lower that expected demand, but August?! Damn. That will make some things interesting in the next few weeks. I am taking this as a good indicator that other's in our industry are having a great year as well. It's all good so far, but with $4 gas on the not too distant horizon, I think that demand will only get higher as summer progresses.

I received an email from our new custom builder yesterday that he's started drawing up my new bike. I am more excited about this bike than any I've ever owned. It's a totally drool worthy dream bike, with a smattering of killer parts that should add up to a really cool bike. I'll say that it's ti, but that's all for now. Shouldn't be too much longer.

Mike Pofahl has also finished up the new 135mm fork for the Paul 135mm front hubs. I am stoked to finally get some miles under those wheels, it's a concept I really think will be a noticeable difference in handling, and should look really nice on my OS. More as I get it on this.

Happy Friday, have a great weekend!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


It's been a good day of work today. I was down at my father's garage this morning at 6:30 putting a new set of tires on the racing Volkswagen. This car, has been all over in the past month. Two trips to Fargo, one to Iowa to see Mark, and today it's going to head up to Duluth. That's a lot of driving for me. Looking at the tires we took off, I really think that I should have changed them out long ago.

Along with wheels, tires are one of my big things to like. Be it on a car, motorcycle, or bike, tires can drastically change ride feel, handling, and comfort. Often I'll recommend that a person has at least 2, possibly 3 sets of tires. They are the easiest way to tailor a bike to riding conditions, and the cost is usually minimal as compared to the cost of the bike in general. On the car is a similar thing. In MN, a set of good 3 season tires combined with a set of winter tires is the cat's ass when it comes to safely traversing the frozen tundra of upper Midwest roads.

As on the bike, these tires are a pretty phenomenal change from what was on there. Cabin noise is much quieter, the suspension feels like it's actually working, and cornering is much improved. The car is so much nicer I'm genuinely surprised. I knew it would be better, but this is awesome.

All of these things will be a big help on the way to Duluth today. This will be a business specific trip, no time for mucking around. I'm heading up to see my partner in crime Jake. Our annual Fourth of July Criterium is coming up, and there's a lot to be done. By now we pretty much know what to expect, and a lot of the stuff to be covered are just formalities at this point. We need to discuss things like volunteer coordination, food, race fliers and the like. It'll be good to see Jake, and I am excited to line everything up for the race.

For those of you around the area, or for those looking for a good time on the Fourth, we are looking for both spectators and volunteers for the race. Let me know if you're interested in coming to town to hang out, or to help. This is regarded by many to be one of the best road races in the state of MN. We've doing our best to live up to that reputation started by Andy Dahl. This year should be the biggest yet, and will be the 10th year of it's running. We're stoked, it's going to be awesome.

All for now. Take care.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Muni Progress

Two steps forward and one back. I got about an hour of muni practice in this morning. While waiting to go to church with my mother, I attempted to tame the beast somewhat in her driveway. They are going to start shingling their roof soon, and have a large dumpster in the driveway for the old materials.

I started off holding onto the side of the metal and just balancing in place. This took a while to get comfortable with. With the railing acting like a training wheel of sorts, I am getting a feel for how the thing behaves. It's a weird feeling, but there's just a center point of sorts that feels very sound somehow. I think that's the point.

Moving on from there, I started slowly moving along the side of the container. Slowly, as to get a feel for the crank rhythm, I crawled along. This went pretty well really. The muni I'm trying to learn how to ride uses 140mm cranks, and they feel hopelessly short. Even with the saddle at what I think is a proper height, I feel a bit cramped up. I am left wondering what a larger wheeled uni feels like. This one also seems to be very rocky, and rather quick handling. I don't know how much more stable a larger wheel would feel, but I know how it works for bikes. In my experience, the larger the wheel the more of a given input is required to make the same thing happen. That may make this easier for me, as I get the feeling that I'm trying to drive a nail in with a sledgehammer. It's like I'm trying too hard to get it done.

This continued for a while until I began to have the confidence to start to make short stints across the open concrete. I made it several rotations usually, before hopping off in a slight panic. This was all well and good, and I was actually feeling okay about the whole thing, when it happened. During one of those little jaunts away from the bin, I leaned back a little too far. In a panic, I found myself unable to get my foot down in time. Quickly, I reached for the side of the dumpster and unfortunately I caught it. The backward inclination of the fall was completely arrested, with the consequence of dislocating my shoulder forward from the socket.

For those of you who have never done this, it is a puzzling way to find yourself. Looking down at my shoulder, there was quiet a bit of pain. Kind of that dull ache that comes from an especially bad bruise. My shoulder was stuck forward of the socket, and I was unable to move it straight back in, even with some pressure from my other hand. I slowly rotated my arm up towards may chest, which took enough pressure off of it to allow it to pop back in. Ouch, really. It's not so bad now, though it does feel a bit sore and rather loose if you will. I'm taking some Ibuprofen regularly, and that is managing it well. I went for a longer ride around town running some errands this afternoon, and it certainly was noticeable. I am afraid I won't be on the mtb for a few days at least.

Over all, even in spite of this minor annoyance, I remain undeterred in my wish to learn to ride. Though I knew that this was going to be a bit of a challenge, this is a bit of an unexpected consequence. I'll keep trying, though maybe on a softer material. I may also see if there is a 24" uni around somewhere, as I do think that may be better. Hopefully I can learn to do this well, and have the balance fundamentals transfer over to the other types of riding I enjoy. It may well prove too much for me, though it is still fun to try.

Happy Mother's Day all. Cheers.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

A cool end to a great week.

It's been a fun week at the shop this week. We have really worked hard and have put in a lot of repair hours. We're currently finished up with all repairs other than what came in this morning. That's a pretty rare thing this time of year, and it's not because we haven't been busy. It's really all thanks our newest employee Curtis. Curt's been a friend for longer than I can remember, and is a great mechanic. He's the reason that the shop is in such good shape right now, in more ways than one. Stop in and say hi if you haven't met him yet.

It's also been a killer week for riding. Starting out with the 40 miler day on Sunday, I got to ride into work 3 days this week. Combined with a mtb ride on Tuesday, it's been a 160 mile week. That may not be a lot for some of you, but it's a whole bunch for me. It's been great, and the legs are feeling awesome. Riding to work has been really nice as well. It's a good little 15 miles each way, with four big hills evenly spaced in between. The Lemond has been working excellent, it's just a killer. I hope to be in shape enough to deserve it soon. I'm going to get some kind of riding in tomorrow. Mother's Day being my mother's birthday as well, time is going to be a little tight. Should be a lot of fun though!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Bike Shop Gourmet #2, and a muni.

It was a great day to ride into the shop today. The weather is a perfect low 70 deg, light wind day. Things have been going well in the shop, and we're up on repairs from just two das ago. On this afternoon's list of things to do are build a Rawland, finally finish the build on the latest Pofahl tourer, and upgrade Curtis' road bike beforethe ride home.
Today's lunch. Baby red potatoes and marinated sirloin steak. Total meal cost for two people, $5.50. Awesome. We got this in today for a guy in Northfield. These things are killer! It's a Kris Holm 24 complete. The thing is burly. Everything on it is serious stuff, and it should handle the light off road and trials stuff really well. The uni has some seriously bling parts, including the new KH Moment cranks.

Drilled rims also bring weight down, while the machined brake track opens up Magura possibilities in the future.
KH's famous saddle and handle round out the build.
Really good looking stuff. This has inspired me to try again at my so far failed attempt to ride a muni. I really want to, it's just tough. Serious props to anyone who can ride these well!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Weekly Recap.

Sunday was a riot at Lebanon. The 36er worked really well, save for a bit of a headset problem. The bike feels like it was made to ride there. It's just a destroyer, particularly on the last fast, flowing sections. The weather was near perfect, and the company superb. The infamous Mr. Epp and crew provided a days worth of laughs and good times. I had a great day myself. I rode 4 full laps, no small feat for me with the year just starting. My legs felt really good, and I'm going to try for a session like this once a week or so. In addition to riding into work, this should add serious miles to my schedule, without sacrificing a lot of family time. Here's a shot courtesy of Sean, me rolling the entrance to the XX loop. Easy as cake. Big wheels baby!Monday Meg and I took a little trip down to Redwing. We had a nice lunch at one of my favorite little cafes, Lily's. After a nice light lunch on the patio we headed up to Barn Bluff. It's a nice little hiking trail up the bluff overlooking Redwing. The day was just about perfect, and we casually picked our way up the hill. The bluffs harbor some pretty cool isolated prairie type fields. All of the flowers were starting to bloom, be it there or in the shaded woods. It was a great day just to hang out and take pictures. It was a nice rest from Sunday's big ride as well.
Little gardens like this were everywhere in the pockmarked limestone. Really neat stuff.

We had a great group ride last night. We had 6 people, which is really good so far. The weather rained on us for a bit, but it was a warm night, so no matter. The trails were a bit wet after a few days of showers, so we mainly stayed on the ski trail to prevent any undo erosion. I was reluctant to get the camera out in the rain, but here a few shots of the ride. The place is remarkably greener since just last week. After the ride we chilled outside where the deck will eventually be, and decided it's going to be good!

There were some really cool clouds, and a killer sunset. I couldn't get in the right spot to capture it, but here's a decent one. Really a beautiful night.

I spent a great morning hanging out in downtown Northfield. I had a bunch of little errands to run before work, so I took advantage of the killer morning just to hang out for a bit. Northfield is spread on either side of the Cannon River, which runs right along downtown. It's pretty nice. Here's a shot of the dam and the original Mill. River walk scene.
Sushi and Blue Monday coffee. Breakfast of champions. Damn it was good. Sunshine also makes everything better, and I had that in spades.
Lastly, today we received a new Salsa Podio. This bike flat our rocks! It is a purpose driven, go fast machine. The frame is really light, and almost floats out of the box. Paired with the really nice Alpha Q fork, this package is ready for smokin' club rides or local crits. The graphics are superb, and present a no BS face to folks. The frame set is going to an aspiring racer, and should be just what the doctor ordered. Pricing on these is really competitive. Give us a call if you're interested in putting something together.

The colors combined with the heavily manipulated tubing make for a very striking profile.

Phew. There you have it. That's all I know for now. Happy hump day!