Every year I get all these big ideas in my head. I guess that is what happens when you have all winter to look at maps  and dream of places that are not here. I feel like this year I have a ton of plans. I really just need to scratch that itch of being in new places, and seeing new things.   I hope to get them all  crossed off the list this year, and maybe more. There are still some months toward the end of the year I want to fill up with more trips, and I have a million ideas.  Let me know if you want to share a passenger seat or carpool or something. Lets make this a good year of new trails and hard challenges.

-Week in L.A.

-Can burn in hell. Maybe a small trip a few hours south to get some gravel training miles in for Trans-Iowa. It’s amazing how warm Carbondale usually is. Carbondale has some killer roads too.

- Landrun 100 in Oklahoma, with stops in Missouri and Arkansas for epic single track pre/post.


-Gravel Metric(volunteer)
-Dirty Kanza 200 (Single Speed)

-Chequamegon 100 (Single Speed)
-Trans-Iowa Masters Program (June or July)

-To be named 200k Axletree event

-Single Speed USA
-(MAYBE)Trans-northern Georgia

And then comes a big open space of time I need to fill. Between a Bro-Co trip, and a ton of over nighters around IL, we will see what trips we plan. Bikes.




Trek Stache

It is finally finished.
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Now I just have to wait to ride real trails so I can get rowdy on it, and getting rowdy and throwing it around
is pretty much the reason I have this.

Also, since I have so many bikes this will be a bike I let friends borrow. I already have a few friends that want to give it a
go at a race or two next year. It is a 19″ so if it fits and you want to give it a ride let me know.

10,880 grams is the final weight, well, until I actually ride it and decide how much steer tube to chop.

This is quite the Christmas bicycle. The reason behind that is I was offered the wheels for $250 from a Trek employee, which
is a deal I couldn’t pass on. I am not an avid fan of Industry Nine wheels, but they were the steal of the day.

The carbon Thomson bars look pretty perfect with the seapost and stem.
The dual release on the XTR shifter is baller, and I love the drilled metal paddle.
The matching red tubeless valves are neato. I paid five more dollars to get them colored like that.
Most people would say that the 1×10 drivetrain setup with a 38t in front is too tall, but since the bike I usually pedal is a SS, this feels easy.
There are a bunch of mounts and cable routings on the frame I will never use, but options win over simplicity, I guess.
Tubeless. I am stoked on these tires, they are going to help me snag some nasty lines.
My plan of attack for this bike is to go down to Brown County and work until I clear the Schooner Trace trail, no foot downs. Current best = 4

I can not wait for sweaty days of carving berms hard, and boosting floaters and doubles. I wish I didn’t have to wait so long for fun riding.

Pic Dump


My wife’s pranks are easily distinguishable from my co-workers.


Few people know that Shimano was doing road disc back in 1975. There was even a hydro version for flat bars.


I got a death threat from the actual actor that plays the Predator. Guess I better pedal!!!!




My custom extend a fender. Top 10 commuter item right here.


In 11 years of wrenching on bikes, i had never seen hub shell fold in on itself. holy cow. Story is that the rider was JRA. Good job wal-mart.


Longest bars ever.


Hot summer days, come back.


Most nights are like this, looking for new untraveled roads.


Steepest road in America. 37%, cobbles. As always, pictures are inadequate.
This day was 100f, it was wonderful.



I just want to disconnect and get lost in new places to experience that feeling of solitude and foreignness that I can only describe as freedom. I hate that which is familiar and repetitious.

Mason Dixon Madness

Every winter Liz and I go down to LaGrange Georgia to visit her family for the holidays. It’s pretty convenient that we visit in the winter and they live in the warm south, so I take at least one bike, usually two.


If everything I owned burned in a fire and I had to buy all new bikes, a Ti Warbird and El Mariachi would be the answer.
These bikes are perfect.

After driving from 6pm-10am through the night I took day one off the bike and slept in and relaxed.

The following three days I got some great riding in with weather that let me wear a short sleeve jersey and short sleeve base layer. Magical for a No-ILL resident like myself in November.

I ended up driving to ride single track 2/3 days, and riding the Warbird  to explore some hilly pavement the middle day.

All you need to know is Coldwater Mountain in Anniston Alabama is the real deal. There are 20-ish amazing miles of trail there, and I am going to ride them every chance I get. I rode every mile of trail there and had the biggest smile up and down each 3+ mile climb and downhill. There are berms all over, well made rock features, and mile after mile of tables and doubles to float as you fly downhill at 20+. Combine that with Racoon Mountain in Chattanooga and that area has some amazing trails worth checking out.   My pictures and the ones online don’t do anything justice, and I was surprised at how good the trails were when my wheel hit the ground.
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The Driftless or: Where the wild things are

Where the wild things are

Where the wild things are

As their number one priority, my bicycles are my means of exploration. New roads, trails, and places have always been my #1 motivation.

Lately, as i have traversed 99% of my local roads, my attention has turned to the area of land known as “The Driftless”.

Simply put, it’s an area of land that the glaciers avoided as they flattened out the midwest during the last ice age, about 500,000 years ago.
The term “Driftless” comes from the sediment and silt glaciers leave behind, called “Drift”, and the fact this area has none.  All you really need to know is the glaciers didn’t erase the chalk board in this tiny part of the state, and made life miserable for the rest of us in the other 95% of Illinois.
Look at the roads on the map above, how pretty and curvacious they are in the driftless, now look at the east, and how sad and square they are.
The hills here are wonderful, not massive but plentiful. It is quite easy to accumulate 1,000ft of climbing for every 10 miles. Surprising, for Illinois.

Morseville Road, looking east. One of my favorites. Beautiful.

Morseville Road, looking east. One of my favorites. Beautiful.

The driftless (along with the rock river valley watershed) has become an important refuge for me this year. This place has restored my sanity while living in a flattened windswept agricultural industrial park. I have had weeks long depression lifted (however so temporarily) after an 8 hour ride in these hills. They have given me a new local to explore and diagnose on maps and on bike, and they have given me great rides with friends also.

I hope to share with you the things i have learned after many hours of studying maps, and the nearly dozen rides i have done there this year alone.
I hope when you get to see it this place treats you in the way it does me, and you are physically destroyed while mentally restored.
I hope wherever you are you are you seek out the wild places of your surroundings, and discover what they have to offer.

Lets go ride bicycles and explore new surroundings.

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My Dream Bike: Salsa Warbird TI



I ride a lot of gravel, I build a lot of gravel bikes, and i spend a lot of time thinking about what exactly i would do to make my perfect gravel bike, down to the smallest of details. When we first learned of the new Salsa Warbird back in Feb of 2012, i knew i had found what i was looking for.

This bike was designed by the guys at Salsa for long distance gravel domination. Among the Salsa engineers are guys like Sean Mailen, who is a multiple time Trans-Iowa finisher and Almanzo Royal winner. To say the least, Sean knows a thing or two about riding gravel and has spent an enormous amount of time thinking about how to engineer a bike to be the very best at it’s chosen task at hand.  Gravel.

One example of experience meets engineering is this excerpt from the Salsa blog where Sean introduces the Warbird.
“At the Trans Iowa two years ago I remember standing at the end of yet another muddy B-road. I was in the lead group of five and we were all stopped, kicking, scraping, and poking mud out of our frames with any stick we could find. I realized at that moment that if I could have a frame that shot mud out as fast as it came in that I could have an advantage over my competitors. While everyone else was stopped poking the crud out of their frames I would be able to just keep riding. We’ve tried to eliminate as many mud catching points as possible., including removing the chainstay brace, using a top pull-only Shimano CX front derailleur, and disc brakes. Warbird is an absolute mud-shedding freak.”


I have had a few experiences with muddy roads, and the difference between the amount of accumulated mud on my bike compared to the other guys i was riding with was noticeable. This isn’t something that will get noticed on every ride, but it might make a difference when it counts. It might also save you some watts from spinning tire against collected mud.

Another design feature of this frame of special appreciation for me is the water bottle placement. With the growing use of frame bags to carry items on long endurance rides real estate inside the front triangle becomes more strategic. Salsa placed the seat tube bottle cage mounts very low, creating a big open space to easily fit a size large Revelate Tangle bag on my 56c frame. I can fit bottles with out any contact or cramming under the bag, and getting them in and out with side access cages while riding is much easier. My old frame had the mounts positioned closer to the mid part of the seat tube, and getting that bottle in and out was a huge hassle, and as such i only used my down tube bottle and would have to stop to swap bottles because of the cramming it took. Now all of that hassle is gone, and i am a happy man. Well done Salsa.


Lets talk about tire clearance. For the gravel world, you are going to get all kinds of opinions on what is a good size tire to run, and it usually comes down to where that person lives. It’s interesting how much gravel varies county to county, and it’s because there are multiple tiers to gravel quality.  Which tier of gravel quality a county purchases, and how often they grade the roads determines how smooth or loose the roads will be.


Sometimes you can get away with a road bike tire, and sometimes you wish you were riding a mountain bike.

At Trans-Iowa this year the roads were much like the picture on the right. The route was fresh gravel about golf ball size, for probably 140+ miles of the 240 miles i completed.  Riding on fresh golf balls gets old quick, you want at least 40c tires. For those sections the guys on mountain bikes were doing well, especially on the fast downhills at night they showed a lot of confidence.

Salsa says the largest tire the Warbird will clear is a 38c, but i and many others have been running 40c Clement MSOs with ample room. As with any tire and rim combo there are a lot of variables, but i can vouch for MSOs on Iron Cross rims fitting quite nicely. I am curious to see how the new 41c Knard fits, more out of curiosity then anything, i am extremely happy with my current tires performance.


The frame i was riding gravel on in the past was a Raleigh CX bike, and it was designed for riding CX, not gravel. When i got the Warbird built and started hitting fast downhills with loose gravel, i was in a situation where i was bunny hopping washouts at 30mph. I immediately felt a huge difference in the handling of this frameset compared to my old Raleigh.
My Raleigh was always twitchy, and not a bike i wanted to lose focus on, i always had to stay sharp. Riding the Warbird in comparison is very forgiving, and fixes more mistakes i might make. The wheelbase is a bit longer, and the bottom bracket is lower, keeping everything planted between the wheels.  In more controlled riding this also makes eating while on the bike much easier, as well as searching around in frame bags and sitting upright to eat some calories, or take some pictures.

Since this bike was designed for the long haul of abusive events that can span 12-34 hours, frame comfort is key.
Salsa used what they learned from experience with some of their aluminum frames with flattened chain and seat stays and applied it to both the Aluminum and Titanium Warbird. My prior Raleigh, as a 45min CX racer, had round tubes on the back that while stiff and transmitted power, was quite abusive. That was great for 45 min CX sprints where you are out of the saddle half the time anyway, but i hated it for my all day gravel fests. Prior to getting the Warbird i had spent some time on Salsa’s Chili Con Crosso, which is an aluminum frame with flattened stays. The difference was huge. I never knew an aluminum frame could be manipulated to ride in such a way, it was amazing what tube shaping could accomplish. When i saw a Ti gravel frame with the same principles applied to it i was overjoyed.

The production switch from Lynskey to a new manufacturer overseas caused some upset, but it’s easy to see the new supplier makes a better product then Lynskey did. Something about forging titanium dropouts was one of the capabilities, and the fact that this frame uses double butted seamless tubing that isn’t rolled and welded like cheaper Ti might be another.

If there is one thing that made this bike what it is that would be the people behind the scenes. This bike comes from a company that knows gravel, has personally felt the pain of 340 mile races, and applied that knowledge into creating their own dream bike. We are just lucky enough to be able to ride it also.
Specialized recently came out with a Fat bike. I remarked that the designers probably haven’t ever rode in snow, and it was wittingly joked that Specialized built a “snow tunnel” for testing. Pretty hilarious, but the same thing applies to every facet of the industry. I want to buy a snow bike from people that ride their bikes in snow, a lot. I also want to buy a gravel bike designed by people that ride bikes on gravel, a lot. This is also why Cali people love Spec’s low BB mountain bikes, and east coasters love Cannondale’s high BB mountain bikes. They were designed by people who live in those areas, so the bikes ride well in those places, but i digress……..

After getting well more then a thousand miles on this bike this summer i am smitten. I left my road bike in pieces, and will be selling the frameset. I ride this bike too much. I am forming a bond that can not be broken i feel, i think it’s the one. I have found my perfect bicycle. It’s everything i hoped for, and more. Here is to the start of a long relationship, let the pain and adventures begin.


There are other aspects of this build such as drivetrain and gearing that i want to address in future posts, see you then.


Explorer Route #2

Route #1 was in a micro region of a river valley i love, and #2 follows suit. This ride is in the beautiful Rock river valley, and was where i did lots of training for Trans-iowa this spring. It has some wonderful rolling hills, grasslands, and trees.

There are a lot of roads out here that are great, and i couldn’t hit them all that i wanted to show, i got a great cross section in. You will have a fun ride, gather your friends to share it with.


Basically a big lollipop, so you will see a few hills and roads from both directions. I am personally in love with Twist road, and while the north half of it is on the route, you get bonus high-fives for riding the out and back to the south also. It is probably my favorite road in Illinois outside of the Shawnee or Driftless.
Feel free to park anywhere in Franklin grove, either Atlasta Park or anywhere downtown looks promising. There is a Casey’s in Franklin Grove, and another gas station in Grand Detour for refueling, so be prepared with at least 40 miles of water and food for the entire lollipop loop.  A few mile section of this is on a bike path, which mapmyride.com cues don’t really explain. Look this over in advance, it’s pretty easy.

Things to take pics off:
-John Deere sign, any of the many in Grand detour. The river landing one has nice bit of history on it.
-Mill Stones at Franklin Creek forest preserve. You will pass them twice on twist road.
-Remote Bike Path

I hope you love this area as much as i do, i still drive out there to ride these roads frequently. I look forward to your pictures and stories.