8.22.2011

Weekend in Review... Videos and Photos

Lots of cycling events going on in Grand Rapids this past weekend. From the Grand Rapids Grand Cycling Classic (which played host to this years USA Cycling Pro Criterium National Championship) and Bikestock 3 on Saturday to the Tour de Gaslight on Sunday. It was a great weekend for the sport.

Many of us took part in building the bike polo court for Bikestock which brought in players from Fort Wayne and Ann Arbor. Despite a brief thunderstorm that ripped through downtown raising havoc on vendor tents and racers, Saturday went great. The guys at Slingshot took a few other photos from the event which you can see by clicking here.

Otherwise enjoy just a brief look at some of the festivities...










spinning wheels & melodies from M|A|Mesa on Vimeo.

8.09.2011

Introducing... Bob and his Cannondale

A few months back as we saw one of our family head out East, we welcomed a new member to the Velocity family, Bob. Bob has been with us before, a few years back during his college years for an internship and has returned to now take over all the shipping duties. As we all have, Bob has paid his dues in the wheel department - learning what sets our wheel builds apart.

With the itch for all things cycling - Bob is one of the original members of GR Bike Polo, has taken part in the Edmond Fitzgerald ride and had is part in helping shape the Grand Rapids Bike Park, to name a few. It's a privilege to have Bob part of the team and what better way to introduce him to you than to have him show off one of his rigs. So... Bob, world - world, Bob... Enjoy:

This is my 1987 Cannondale SR600. It was given to me by a friend who was unable to keep it. I am eternally grateful for it.

As the finest steed in my stable, it is a pleasure to ride. The aluminum frame is stiff, light, and fast. I enjoy taking it for rides to the beach, for a refreshing swim, or to a distant micro-brewery for a cold beverage.

Back in it's day, it came stocked with Shimano components as listed in this vintage catalog.

It still has friction downtube shifters, which are old school for a reason, but they are carbon which I don't see a lot of so I've kept them around. The drivetrain is still a 2x6, with no shift ramps on the rings. I had to replace the brakes with stock levers and modern Campy Veloce calipers since the quick release was broken on the previous Modolos. The paint shows its years, but is still pretty nice as I get compliments on the color and condition.

Other parts-
Tires: Conti GatorSkin 23c
Wheels: black Velocity Aeros front and rear laced up to Campy Record hubs with double butted DT spokes,
Cranks and Rings: Sugino Mighty Competition
Front Derailleur: braze on Campagnolo Nuovo Record
Rear Derailleur: Suntour Cyclone
Shifter Levers: downtube Modolo carbon
Seat: black Turbo
Cages: Velocity Bottle Traps of course!

8.08.2011

Guitar Ted - A23 Ride Impressions

Won't say I mind waking up on a Sunday to read this... thoughts on the A23 by Guitar Ted.

SUNDAY, AUGUST 07, 2011

Velocity A-23 Wheels: Ride Impressions

For quite a while now, I have been running a set of Velocity A-23's on my Black Mountain Cycles "Monster Cross"bike, and here are my thoughts on these pre-built wheels from Velocity U.S.A.

Minimalistic Front Hub!

First off, these rims and wheels are designed by Velocity to be used for road and cyclo-cross racing and riding. The rims are a bit wider at 23mm which seems to be the fad these days for road rims. (The rims get their name from the width, by the way) The rims, spokes, and hubs are all hand assembled and tensioned at Velocity's Grand Rapids , Michigan facility and each build is signed and dated by the builder. Nice touch.

Velocity offers the A-23's in a Pro or Comp build, but they will do custom builds as well. My set is somewhat of a custom set up based on the Comp wheels with a 28 hole front and rear set up. The front is radially laced to a very minimalistic front hub and the rear is laced radially on the non-drive side, two cross on the drive side to a Velocity branded hub. I have had these since May, and I have forgotten what they weighed in at! Velocity lists the Comp Build on their site at 1445 grams, and I think my set came in at a shade under 1500 grams, but remember, my set has more spokes in the front wheel than for the Comp Build on Velocity's site. Let's just say that for a Clydesdale class rider on gravel roads, these are reasonably lightweight wheels.

The A-23 comes in several drillings
As is typical with Velocity, the rim does not have spoke hole eyelets. The design compensates for this by being thicker in the spoke bed area. I have built with Velocity rims off and on since the mid-90's, and have not seen any issues with doing things this way.

The inner rim width is a bit wider than is typical with road designs, and so my big 29"er tires are just fine with the rims and sit well on the A-23. Narrower tires will see a different, wider profile on the A-23, and as I mentioned, this is getting to be a common feature on newer road rim designs. The rims also feature a very smooth machined brake track which my brakes feel like butter on. Finally, the A-23 has a soft, triangular cross section, which should help a bit on muddy cyclo-cross courses.

Ride Impressions: With several hundred miles of gravel and commuting miles piling up on these, I am amazed by a couple of things with regards to this particular build of the A-23's.

Lateral Stiffness: The wheels are remarkably stiff for a guy my size. I have only ever gotten the rear wheel to flex noticeably once during a hard cornering effort. The front has been rock solid. I wasn't expecting this from these rims. To go along with this, the spoking pattern is something I wouldn't have ever considered for a guy my size, but it has worked really well. Radial lacing on the rear wheel just doesn't make a lot of sense to my mind, and I'm not a fan of it at all, really. However; it has not been any problem so far. Ay least Velocity did a good job of drilling the hub flanges so that radial lacing should not cause a hub flange failure.

I haven't been very nice to this wheel!
Toughness: The other thing that jumped out at me is the toughness of this particular build. I don't know how other A-23's are holding up, but this wheel build has been bounced, bunny hopped, and banged through rough terrain quite a bit with no apparent causes for concern at all. They still remain perfectly true, and the hubs and rims seem to be just dirty. No issues at all to report with the A-23's from me.

If there is anything at all I find fault with it would have to be with the skewers that were provided with the wheels. They are not very "hand friendly", and they don't hold the rear wheel in a horizontal drop out worth a hoot. I'd say get a different set of skewers, (which I did), and you'll be golden.

Conclusions: I can not see any reason why these wouldn't make great cyclo-cross wheels, or why they wouldn't be a great set of training/racing wheels for a roadie. For the gravel grinder, these also make a lot of sense. In fact, I have heard rumors that these set up all right tubeless with some sealing tape, like Velocity's kit, or Stan's. But I can't say for sure you'll get them to work that way, as I haven't tried that.....yet! If that would work out, I would rate the wheels a bit higher still.

As it stands, the Velocity A-23, which can be bought as a rim, or as part of a complete wheel, seems to be another really nice rim from Velocity.

Note: I own these Velocity A-23 wheels and was not paid, nor bribed for this review. I strive to give my honest thoughts and opinions throughout.

8.05.2011

Place your bets!!! NAHBPC 2011!!!

THE NORTH AMERICAN HARDCOURT BIKE POLO CHAMPIONSHIPS ARE THIS WEEKEND!

THE NORTH AMERICAN HARDCOURT BIKE POLO CHAMPIONSHIPS ARE THIS WEEKEND!

THE NORTH AMERICAN HARDCOURT BIKE POLO CHAMPIONSHIPS ARE THIS WEEKEND!





Photo by
Brad Q






And we've got a pony in the race...

A while back we struck up one of those cool endorsement deals all the kids talk about. Velocity is a proud sponsor of the one, the only, Beaver Boys from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.


Who could deny their boyish good looks, Midwestern charm and oh, rad polo skilz? Not us, that's for sure. In reality, our relationship was kindled through a beer fueled wheel building discussion between Kremin and I in a Lafayette, Indiana bar. Eric calls wheel builder his day job at one of our favorite places, Ben's Cycle. So naturally, we were drawn to one another. Wheel builders...the salt of the earth. Really though, all personal and professional associations aside, these guys are the best in the world. Literally.

So they're riding our wheels (two sets of Deep Vs, one set of Chukkers), giving us feedback and helping us stay atop the dad gum heap for strong polo wheels.

They'll be rocking them this weekend at the NAHBPC in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

You can follow the action live right here.

All the best to you boys! I leave you with these encouraging words from a few of our friends in Ann Arbor:


8.03.2011

Matt's Perspective: GTDRI '11

So, you know, Alo and I drove 16 hours to do a 100 mile gravel ride through Nowheresville, Iowa...big deal. Barreling west down I-80 this past Friday I mentioned that I'd never been to Iowa before. Turns out that wasn't completely true, I'd driven through it twice on the way to and from a spring break trip out to Colorado, probably pushing ten years ago. In spirit, though, I'd never been to the Hawkeye State. Whoa boy have I been missing out! Fell in love...in love I tell ya! I mean everyone there is super duper friendly, there's corn everywhere, and the best part...gravel roads for miles in every direction. Not to mention it's the home of the one, the only "Guitar Ted", who was Iowa style friendly enough to invite all souls brave enough to his annual Guitar Ted Death Ride.

We rolled into Cedar Falls around 10PM, hit the sack by 11, and rose at the ungodly hour of 4:30AM to prepare for the ride. We arrived at Hickory Hills park, met up with our crew of around a dozen, and took off a bit after 6AM. The scenery during the roll out was flippin' amazing. Really, it made waking up so early worth it, and for me to say that it takes a lot. This morning's fog was thick but the rising sun blasted on through making for some incredible scenery. Magic Hour.

That's me on the right, gettin' all emotional

We all commented that even though visibility was limited, the fog and low temps would be a fond memory later in the day. More on that later...

We chatted the first 15 miles or so away and made it to the town of Traer to fuel up and shake the dew off. A scant mile or so down the road Adam comes rushing to the front of the group, declaring he's left his keys back in town. So we pull off while Adam goes on a little recon mission back to Traer. This proved to be the perfect opportunity for Mark (Guitar Ted) to drop a little knowledge bomb on us. Apparently, there's a phenomenon called "derecho" that afflicts Iowa from time to time. One of these straight line winds had come through the area in the previous weeks, and the effects were obvious.

Destruction

There were entire groves of trees that had been uprooted. Farmers placed the once great spires into roadside ditches, now transformed into make shift burn furnaces. Outbuildings were ripped apart, bits of tin roofing material were strewn everywhere...it was serious carnage.

So yeah, Adam comes back, defeated, still without keys. We soldier on, hoping the attendant at the gas station will turn something up and call, or some other miracle would happen. I think we just tried not to think about it. If you've read Alo's post, you know the outcome of this episode so I won't try to hold you in suspense.

The next 35-40 miles went off pretty smooth with temperatures remaining manageable, only hinting at the heat that would come later in the day. We traveled over some chunky gravel, some finely ground smooth stuff, and put in some miles on some SWEET B level roads. These 'unmaintained' roads were smooth and fast. Some rutting, but I mean, who doesn't like to jump over stuff like that?

Friggin' awesome B level!!!

About five miles shy of Toldeo, our second and final stop, Alo hit the wall. The hills were getting more intense, the sun was waaay up in the sky, and we were both about out of hydration. So we limped on, caught up with another rider, Steve, and banded together for the final push into town. Upon arrival, we found the group chowing on pizza and ice cream, ready to take on the remainder of the course. Alo and Steve called a ride and headed back to the starting point. I hooked up with the group and we sped out of Toledo towards the hilliest section of the ride. Just out of town, the crazy mofo on the Mukluk picked up some glass and had a flat. I was in the middle of one of the larger climbs of the day when the call came up, so I made it to the top and pulled off to wait. A bit winded from the climb, I look to my left and what's standing next to me?

These guys!!

Zebras in Iowa say whaaaaat?! That really made my day. What better place to wait around for a bunch of dudes to take turns pumping up a Mukluk tire. There were five adults and one foal, just hanging out keeping me and a few others company.

From here on, it was hot. It was really friggin' hot. Oh, it was hilly too. Riding one of two singlespeeds in the group, I had no choice but to just throw down and get after each and every one of the hills. It was go hard or walk, and it was too damn hot to be walking. I needed the wind on me to stay cool. These tactics kept me going but split me from the group. I'd look back every minute or so and they'd be farther behind, so I decided to press on alone. Following Mark's perfectly executed cues, I made my way from one sweltering hot road to the next. Every so often a cloud would cover me, which was a welcome solace from the heat. There was even one point where I was riding under a cloud which was moving with me, which spiked my spirits in a big way.

Nature Boy, Iowa...Iowa, Nature Boy.

About 20 miles from the finish, I ran out of water. Things were starting to look bad. In what seemed to be a mirage, I caught a glimpse of hydration heaven in the form of an elderly gent cutting his lawn atop his Allis Chalmers tractor. I stopped over, said hello, shot the shit for a few minutes while he told me how crazy my directions were, then filled my bottles. Upon leaving he told me I was gutsier than he, to which I replied "more guts than brains, sir" and pedaled on into the heat.

Knowing I was near the finish, bottles full and with no companions in sight, I turned on the gas. Rolling into the park my legs really started to let go. Perfect. Mark, your ride whooped my butt. I found Adam napping in the air conditioned haven of his car, woke his ass up and started drinking beer. We waited around for the group to show up and proceeded to drink beer and eat cookies together. What a blast! I'm in love with Iowan gravel.

THE BIKE:

All City Nature Boy, 42x18 | 700c x 34 Hutchinson Piranha tires
THE WHEELS:

A23 Pro Build wheelset-

Seriously? 1,400 gram road wheelset, 20/24 bladed Sapim CX Ray spokes to alloy nips. SO AWESOME...didn't budge out of true. If my 180lbs can't knock these out of true on semi smooth gravel roads, bunny hopping B-levels, and through generally un-smooth riding habits, I've got to imagine a rider much heavier than I will have no issues with them for road riding. At around 52 psi, the rim/tire combo were like pillows. Pillows of fury ripping down the road. These wheels make me smile.

Most of these photos are courtesy of Guitar Ted. Check out his ride report here and here.

Don't Steal... bro.


On Monday, I was emailed by the one and only Tracko about having us donate some goods for the upcoming race at the Encino Velodrome - which we promptly got some Benny Gold rims headed out west. Unfortunately from the time of our correspondence word has spread that there has been a break in and items were stolen from their non-profit office. Below is from the president of Encino that Tracko posted recently posted that explains things better:
I am actually extremely upset to be sharing this news with you right now. Encino Velodrome is a non-profit organization which is run entirely by volunteers. Every volunteer works hard and puts so much heart into trying to keep the velodrome afloat. We don’t get paid (we’re volunteers), we’re in it for the love of the community. When crap like this happens it feels like a slap in the face.

For me, I’ve been working really hard to throw the Summer Race Series and raise some good prizes for the kids who race. Not only is it a bummer that some of those prizes were stolen, but repairing the door they busted will probably cost all the entry fee money we raised last Wednesday. I am sad. Thieves are assholes.

Anyway, here is the letter I received tonight from Kenny, the EV board president:

« I hate to report that there has been another break-in at the office of Encino Velodrome. Probably either Saturday night or Sunday thieves broke the back door of the office and got inside. Among items stolen were:
-White, very small size track frame
-Light blue, very small track frame with cut down Dura Ace cranks
-Yamaha loudspeakers, very large
-Tires and tubes
-Prizes for Wednesdays track race

If you see any of these items please contact me ASAP.

The velodrome has NO INSURANCE to cover these losses! Besides property loss, the damage to the door will be expensive to fix. The thieves have stolen from not just the track but from the kids who need these bikes! So if you have any information please let me know. These thieves are DIRT! They probably are people who come to the track and knew what was inside the office, so please don’t sit idly by while these people get away with this.

Thank you,

Ken Avchen
President- Encino Velodrome


Beyond dealing with inconsiderate drivers, those who steal hold a very special place in hell for me. If you happen to have any leads or information, please contact the crew at Encino.

And if you are out west, head to the race on August 10th. If for any reason to help support the non-profit Encino Velodrome, all entry fees go directly to the Velodrome itself. Spread the word!


8.02.2011

Fight!

First rule of Fixie Fight...

You talk about Fixie Fight.

Second rule of Fixie Fight.

YOU TALK ABOUT FIXIE FIGHT.

Recently we were contacted by the crew over at Fixie Fights about supplying them with a few prizes for their monthly contest Fixie competition.

In the spirit of other sites like Fixed Gear Gallery and Pedal Room, but instead of just showcasing your bike for the masses to see. At Fixie Fights, not only does your bike get showcase but it takes it a step further and then allows you, the public, to vote on bikes in a monthly head-to-head competition for swag from companies across the industry.

Check it out.
And most importantly, vote.

Only then can you get a chance to get your hands on some free gear, and everyone loves free.

8.01.2011

Wolfdrawn : Oscar Khan Edit

Just got an email from one of our favorite Brits, Oscar Khan, with his latest edit. Smooth riding on some P35's...

WOLF DRAWN: Oscar Khan from Matthew Spencer on Vimeo.

Alo's Perspective: GTDRI '11

This past weekend myself and Matt headed back to my old stomping grounds of Iowa for Guitar Ted's annual Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational.

In the spirit of the epic gravel rides and races that have sprung up in the last few years, the GTDRI is a 100 mile no-drop ride through the A and B gravel roads of Iowa.

Sounds like a great weekend doesn't it? Especially given the 90 degree temperature and 80%+ humidity. I mean, who doesn't drive from Michigan 8 hours to wake up at 4:30am to ride for 11 hours?

But in all seriousness, I was excited for this ride. Granted this year, due to a fluke injury during a game of Octoball (an interesting mix between Dodgeball and Foursquare) the amount of miles that I would normally have at this point in the year was dramatically down. Nevertheless, the no-drop appeal of this ride along with Mark's, aka Guitar Ted, assurance that my fitness shouldn't be an issue; followed by the normal banter between the crew here that I was going home to die, I believed I was ready - not to do great but to be able to finish.

So Matt and I packed up early Friday and headed to Iowa. We arrived at my parents homestead around 11pm and quickly headed to bed. Waking up, we drove to the starting point of Hickory Hills State Park about 40 minutes from Cedar Falls for the 6am/sunrise start to the ride. In the parking lot, we put the finishing touches to our bikes - I decided to ride my 1x9 Cannondale 'Cross bike with A23 Comp's (35mm front / 32mm rear).

After meeting up at the ranger station 12 of us set out for a day of gravel, most on 'cross bikes and one on a Makluk. Riders showed up from Iowa, North Dakota, Minnesota and Michigan looked out on a beautiful Iowa sunrise which included an interesting mix of fog in places. We made good time through the first 20 miles to Traer for our first stop where everyone put down the highly nutritional convient store breakfast and filled up water bottles.

After a few minutes of small talk, we set back out - another 40 miles to Toledo. Right as we hit the gravel, panic set in for me. Sliding to the side of the road, I checked my jersey pocket to make sure I had all my gear.

Cell phone - check.
Wallet - check.
Sunglasses - check.
Bottle - check.
Granola - check.
Car keys...

Car keys...

Car keys - not in the zip lock baggy with the wallet and cell phone.

Crap!

Being 8 hours from Grand Rapids, of course not bringing a spare set - I proceed to throw everything back in my pockets, race up to Mark to let him know I thought they might have fallen out at the store. Mark then graciously stops the group as I turn around to head back to find them.

If there is one thing that small town Iowans are, it's helpful. As I panically walked back into the store and retraced my steps, my confidence of finding my keys is quickly diminishing. The store attendent starts looking through the store with me - soon enough I realize I should probably start dumpster diving to see if I accidentally threw them away...

Let's just say, I didn't find them in the trash.

The time had come that I needed to push back to the group - so I left my number with the clerk, called my parents to have them start exploring options on breaking into my car once I finished and headed back to the gravel. Like many, for the next 20 miles all I did was retrace my steps. Hoping that somehow I had left them at parking lot where we parked.

After meeting up the with group we continued on. The legs felt great, the gravel was hard packed in most places with the rolling hills you'd expect from Iowa. I had set out not to allow myself to blow up, so my pace was well... mine. I was slow but the group was overly understanding and gracious, often Matt or a few of the other guys would come back and chat and pull me back up to the group.

I'd estimate around mile 35, we experienced our first flat. The group then came together, helping the rider in need, hanging out in the shade Mark told a few stories from previous years Death Rides. Departing from this stop. I felt good, confident how my body was responding to the heat and the miles. Mark had told us that we had a few hills ahead along with one to the top of a ridge that would then lead us into Toledo.

This hill is where everything changed for me.

I'm not one to be able to judge grade, and it was not that this hill had a steep grade but that is was long - real long. This is where the group began to pull away. Finally getting to the top, I see Matt waiting along the side for me. Matt then lead the way as we attempted to catch up to the group.

My water supply had started to dwindle, out of 3 bottles I was now down to my last with around 3/4 left. My power had begun to decrease to the point where I had begun to not be able to put much down on the pedals. At probably around mile 50 - it hit. The first hill, and may I say not a very big hill, I had to dismount and walk. Matt coasted on up the hill and waited. I remounted at the top of the hill and hints of cramping had begun. We shouldered on - dreaming of a cold Coke and salty food.

We limped for another 5 miles. Only to encounter another hill that I had to get off and walk. At this point, I was out of water. Matt had very little but shared what he could. The heat was becoming too much, by breathing had become a concern. I had to sit.

I sat. Trying to slow myself down. Talking to myself that I could continue on.

I got up. Walked a little further and the dizziness set in. I had to sit.

Matt discovered that I had a little water in each of my bottles that I could snag if I took off the top.

This little bit of water was a lifeline. I was able to muster up the strength to get up and continue up the hill. We then encountered another rider, Steve, who was having similar issues to myself dealing with the heat. Steve had some water he could share. Shortly there after we were able to mount back up on the bikes and continue on.

Matt's legs still fresh and was pulling the both of us along the way. At around 3 miles from Toledo we hit pavement and once over a hill, we could see the water tower and what a beautiful sight it was. Coasting into town, we found the convient stores. Rushing into get fluids - Matt was then able to find the rest of the group who were at an adjacent store. Steve had been able to get into contact with his brother to come and give us both a ride back to the start. My body was fried at the point - no power would be going into the pedals so continuing on was and seemed foolish.

Fortunately, Matt was able to continue on and has a story or two about his experience to share hopefully tomorrow. 60 miles was all I had in me, am I frustrated? Yes. But I learned a lot from this for the next time about base miles, heat, and hydration to say the least.

I can't say enough about how enjoyable it was to ride with all the guys and talk during and after the ride finished. A thanks goes out to Mark for putting on an incredible ride that lives up to it's name, a huge thanks to Matt for being a saving grace in getting me to town alive and to Steve for the huge help in getting back to my car. And let's not forget the amazing cookies brought from North Dakota!

Oh my keys... well, they ended up being in the door of my car in the parking lot. I guess every cloud has a silver lining.

For more recaps of the ride, check out Mark's site and check back to read Matt's thoughts.