Behind the Scenes with All-City Cycles

It all started in the summer of 2015 when All-City Cycles had an idea for a new colorway, and new feature, for their bikes. All-City needed to put it through the paces of societal acceptance, and see if it passed the necessary awe requirements to appear on a brand with such artistic caliber and reputation. 
 
I was approached and asked to put a third bottle cage underneath the downtube of a bike not normally featuring one, and then paint the bike in a sharp orange and red fade, angled forward from the rear to front. These two features would be shown to the world for two years, and conversed about in detail, to gather data on the emotional reactions they would cause.

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The extra bottle mount was added to a The Official Intergalactic Surly Regional HQ Cross Check by the phenomenal people at Comrade Cycles, with the paint artistically applied by yours truly.
 
This configuration was raced at Dirty Kanza. It was commuted around both the cornfields of Illinois, and the urban environment of Denver. It was photographed with the pictures disseminated around the internet. All, evoked much emotional response, involuntarily, it simply held the observer captivated.

All the data and numbers were compiled and were crunched into a computer machine that spit out a result not seen before by the likes of the cycling mankind. 

 
Today, you know that bike as the Gorilla Monsoon.

BEHOLD!

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Chad Ament
April 1st, 2018. 

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Trek Checkpoint: Late to the party, still out drinks everyone.

In early Feburary I was invited up to Boulder Colorado to see a new gravel bike Trek was planning on releasing this summer. I was invited because our business owner worked for Trek as the Road Product Manager for many years, and me being the midwest gravel guy, he wanted my impression of the new platform.

I went into the secret showing having heard some conjecture about features, but there were lots of unanswered questions.
Would this bike have Iso Speed on both ends?
What would tire clearance be?
650b wheel compatible?
Would Trek design some new packing system like they did with the 1120?

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My initial impression was tons of stoke. Almost all of the questions I had were revealed to go the direction I had hoped. First off, while subjective, the colors are fantastic. I fell in love with multiple colorways, and when I drop the coin for one, which I will, It’s going to be hard to choose a winner.

After the paint, the next thing that grabs your eye is the dropped chainstay. While not anywhere near as visually dominating as the stay on the Trek Stache, it’s there. Doing this allowed the engineers to get a 45c tire into the back of the bike without making the rear end super long. Clearance for 45c is what I was hoping for, and I was worried we’d get a bike made to fit 40c, but Trek went all the way to deliver the goods. The taper on the stays, however, does not allow the use of 650b wheels. For me personally, this is irrelevant. I love big tires, but would rather have a big 40-something 700c tire, than a fat small wheel.

The Checkpoint has bolt on top tube bag provisions, so you can carry your stuff without velcro all over your tubes. Talking with an engineer I learned this was a big internal battle among the design team, and it made the cut. As I ride with one such bag almost all of the time, I am excited they made the final draft.

One of the biggest questions going in was if there would be Iso-Speed on the front of the bike. It was a forgone conclusion the rear would have it, but the front is only used on about half of the Domane bikes, depending on pricepoint.  I honestly assumed the bike would have it, and it made me a little sad. I haven’t always felt that the weight added with the front Iso-Speed was as beneficial as the rear version, so when I saw the bikes only sporting a rear Iso-Speed I was grinning on both sides of my face.  An engineer told me they decided with tires as fat as the Checkpoint operates on, the Iso-Speed achieves less than on a road bike with small, less forgiving, tires. Another area of concern was the end user adding 15 or more pounds to the front of the bike for bikepacking, and the complexities of how adding loads to Iso-Speed in front would work. Keeping the front simple and letting bigger tires handle the burden was the best solution here.

Another curiosity is the ability to fit 3 bottles inside the front triangle, as well as a 4th under the downtube. If you aren’t putting bags inside the front triangle, this is pretty rad. Also, if you ARE putting bags inside the front triangle, this gives you the ability to have a custom bag made that uses the bottle bolts to attach the bag instead of velcro. You will still need velcro for the top tube, but much less all around. Pretty rad.

The gearing across the line is setup with a 50/34 compact crank, paired with an 11-34 cassette. Every bike has a pro level top gear, AND a 1 to 1 low gear. No excuses, just ride, and be prepared for anything out there.

Another thing every model has without exception is hydro brakes. Trek even spec’d the entry level aluminum model with them. It’s exciting that this is removed as a conflict for people trying to decide which model to purchase.

I am disappointed the bike will be spec’d with 35c schwalbe tires, because on the sales floor they will not look as capable as the bike actually is. I told everyone I spoke to at the secret meeting Bontrager NEEDS a 700×42-45c CX0 to sell inside this bike, it just demands it.

This is a platform I am really excited about, I think Trek nailed it. I have some ambitious routes on some wild jeep roads in my future, and I am hoping that I can put the Checkpoint to the true test sometime this summer, and create some incredible memories together.

I wasn’t able to take any photos during this secret meeting, but > Cyclingtips < has so many great ones, you should go give it a drool.

XOXO,
Chad

Whoa look I’m not dead

Welp, started packing for the Dirty Kanza 200. I figure now that everyone is there and settled in I should start packing and roll out in the morning to make the riders meeting.
I’m not lazy, it’s just bike season in the bike shop. And I’ve been working hard doing some bike event recon myself as of late in my free time and things sort of crept up on me.

This is Dirty Kanza 200 #4 for me this year, and despite spending the majority of my time on the mountain bike recently, I am certain I am going into this year in the best position I have. First off, I am not riding a fixed gear this time, thank god.  I need at least another year to forget how bad an idea that was(It wasn’t that bad, but coasting downhills is much looked forward too). Maybe again for #5, or maybe not.

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Blood Wagon. DK200 2015 Fixed finish

But I digress.

Things I am super stoked on that put me in a better position:

-I’ve got a dedicated pit person this year, which I haven’t in the last few Kanzas, so that is super comforting. No more checkpoint foraging for friends to rescue me.

THANKS ASHLEY

-I am riding wheels+tires I am super stoked on. Clement Ushuaia wheels with new 36c tubeless MSOs with added sidewall protection. 45psi or so, will drop if needed.

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-My bar setup is dialed.

I’ve spent enough time dialing in my aero bar setup that I am super cozy in them for hour after hour. For events this long, I can’t imagine not having them.

Take an old moldy water bottle and cut it into a cue sheet holder, attach with zip ties, hold cards with c clips. Boom. You are welcome.

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-40×17 gear ratio

It’s settled. I love this gear. I keep debating bumping up to a 41t up front, not because I want or need a bigger gear, but because 41 is a prime number, as is 17, so it just seems like the PRIME RATIO.

-Liquid calories.

I’ve gotten pretty into drinking my calories. This helps take load off my digestive system and absorbs fast. Try it! Carborocket 333 and Infinit Go Far are my favs, with Hammer perpetuem being a runner up, mostly because it goes sour after 3 hours while the other dont. Drink shortly after mixing!

-Last but not least, I am really pretty stoked on the Lauf fork taking the edge off my front end, especially while in the aero bars. This thing lets me stay in the aero bars longer on rougher terrain, removing some of the annoying back and forth that usually occurs on rough roads.

Seriously stoked.
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See you tomorrow Kansas. Lets kick some ass Saturday. Lets beat the sun. (And/or just ride with Watts all day. Win/win)

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This is why we can’t have nice things.

Hours ago, BOO Bikes owner Nick Frey posted This article about his disqualification from the 2016 Dirty Kanza, where he would have placed 6th.

Nick Frey, for those of you who don’t know him, is a strong bike rider, a really strong one. He won two national championships, one for the U23 time trial in 2007, and one for the Collegiate Road Race in 2009. After this he raced professionally for the Jamis-Sutter Home road team. This guy knows a whole lot of things about road racing, and being strong on a bike.

What Nick does not know a thing or two about, is reading directions, or carrying more than 2 water bottles so a team car does not have to follow him around a course and save his unprepared ass.

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Riding some sweet doubletrack, while being glad there isn’t a boo bus ruining the ambiance.

 

Gravel events attract a wider range of participants than any single other type of cycling event. Nothing else has the ability to attract seasoned roadies scared of technical  singletrack, and mountain bikers that are bored of pavement. You will see it all at the Dirty Kanza starting line.

One thing you will not see at the Dirty Kanza are team vehicles roaming the course, supplying their riders like a Tour de France road team. This is because the event is a self supported event where it’s not just the fastest rider that wins, but the fastest rider that is capable of supporting himself between checkpoints. This rule is clear and easy to read, unless you are Nick Frey of Boo Bikes.

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Enjoying the golden hour, while being really glad there was not a Boo Bus ruining the ambiance.

It is quite simple. A rider needs to carry enough supplies to make it 50 miles between checkpoints. Did you run out of water 20 miles outside the next checkpoint? You failed.
You did not succeed in self supporting yourself along the route. Sure, leaving with two water bottles and nothing on your back, as we can clearly see in your photos, made you faster, but it made you incapable of completing the course under the given conditions.

You failed.

Get off the course, see you next year.

That said, was there a farmer with a hose on the course you filled your bottles with? Ok, that is fine, that is part of the natural course terroir. All riders have the ability to enjoy the same  benefits, and this “natural” benefit is both unpredictable, and poses no safety danger to the thousand plus field of riders participating in the event.

If someone was DQ’d from the Dirty Kanza based on an action such as this, there should be a plea to reason that the action should be rethought.

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Riding through the cows, while being glad there isn’t a Boo Bus ruining the ambiance.

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However, was assistance from a known source, such as a non-participating friend or team vehicle  received outside of the confines of the checkpoint? You have not only received a tactical benefit that others did not, but you have created an unsafe environment for the thousands of other racers on the course. Imagine if all the racers had a car patrolling the course? Congratulations, you have just ruined gravel riding for everyone.

“At one point, my partner Drew was taking photos of the race, of the countryside, the epic nature of the event, of me racing my Boo gravel bike…and I screamed at him for water.  He gave me gummy worms as well.  My two compatriots passed the water around, shared the worms, survived for some more miles.  We stopped again at the top of a hill to get more support from race volunteers from a local town.  I literally told one of the men that without his bottle of water, I would not just have made it to the next aid station…” ~Nick Frey

In your own words Nick, you were incapable of finishing the event on your own without outside help. That right there is when you have failed to finish the race, and deservedly should have been disqualified.
 The race rules clearly state this, it is no gray area that you have fallen into. What you have fallen into is projecting your past road experiences onto a scene that functions entirely differently, and expecting others to bend their will to your ways.

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A rider fixing his own flat, while we both are glad there isn’t a fucking Boo Bus ruining our ambiance.

After attempting to create a grey area in the rules where none exists, Nick essentially goes on to write in his blog post how Gravel Racing should become more like the road racing he is good at. Road racing is what Nick understands, it is what he is good at, and I can understand why something different bothers him, especially the little things like a 3rd , or 5th, water bottle.

Nick fails to see what makes Gravel racing unique and special, and how all of his suggestions would strip it of those very things that make it so.
Those 50 miles between the checkpoints are the special part, those parts where you feel alone and isolated, knowing you only have yourself to rely on, and knowing there are no  cars or outsiders to worry about. Just being immersed  in the terroir of a special place. 50 miles is not a far distance, and if you can not support yourself for 50 miles, you need to reevaluate what you are capable of.

“I fear mainstream gravel racing could be maligned as yet another failed experiment to bring together competitors in a positive way.”~Nick

Nick’s closing comment just reinforces that he fails to understand what makes almost two thousand individuals attend the Dirty Kanza. Nick, of those 1,800 or so riders attending, probably 1,700 don’t give a fuck about the “race” aspect of the event, despite what those at the front think about hero worship.  We are there to challenge ourselves, best our own prior times, do something we may believe is above our capabilities, become immersed into the countryside, and let effort and achievement be the spice of life that nothing else can compete with.

I hope you found something fulfilling outside of competition while in Kansas, the Flint Hills are a wonderful place, and the camaraderie second to few. Maybe we will see you back next year, better prepared and with an open mind to cultures outside your own.

Chad

Fish and Chips

Did I really need to stop for that order of fish and chips 4 miles into my 9 mile commute home? They were undeniably fantastic, but really, did I?

I was being warned by drops of water tapping me on the shoulder, telling me to look behind me, at what I could so easily have avoided.

The winds picked up and with them brought moisture to the desert. Standing stationary at a busy stop light, I assessed surrounding buildings for shelter, and the distance I remained from home. The light turned green and I pushed the pace, though the faster I went the harder the rain fell.

I reached the point of complete dampness where I accepted my fate, and was reconciled with my commute home. I thought about how silly and unfortunate I must have looked to all of the cars passing by, and that I should keep my eyes wide and wear a huge smile, so to look as joyful as a child playing in a puddle.

The idea itself made me start laughing out loud, and fiction became reality.

Plus, those were some really great fish and chips.

4/25/16
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“Things that gain from disorder.”

There is a book titled “Antifragile”, in which the author makes the case that in order to refine and improve a thing, it is essential for the thing to experience disruptions, chaos, and volatility. In some cases this can shake the thing that has become too comfortable out of complacency, and in others it forces the thing to adapt to new circumstances, but in almost every circumstance, disorder is a catalyst for improvement.

During an unpredictable and unsettling 2015, where I abruptly left a long stable work place, amid heaps of uncertainty about what was next in life, I had been scooped up to travel with the Raleigh-Clement cycling team.

Those four months with Raleigh-Clement gave me an incredible opportunity to travel to, and ride in, some really fantastic places. It also gave the  opportunity to learn differing aspects of being a mechanic, the chance to see how professionals live their every day life and their race day procedures, and form relationships with some really great people. Coming from my prior situation, the apt word for the experience would be cathartic.

The most valuable thing the entire experience offered me, was perspective.
I had the opportunity to grab a couple backpacks of clothes, and step outside of everything in my life for four months and contemplate what I missed, what I desired, what do I want to experience in life, and what was I going to do about it. I felt like a nomad, driving a caravan 24,000 miles around the country, spending my days stoically pondering how I got there, and where I was going.

One night I found myself sitting alone in a bar in Flagstaff, reading a book called “The Man Who Walked Though Time”, which is the penned journal and collected thoughts of a man as he walks without human connection the length of the Grand Canyon. Coincidentally, Flagstaff is quite near the grand Canyon, so I decided that night, around midnight, that I should wake up at 4am and go read the last chapter at the canyon, in the first light of the morning.

I parked in darkness in the small town of Tusayan, and rode the last handful of miles up to Mather Point in complete peaceful silence, passing herds of wildlife so silent they could have been ghosts.

Arriving at the rim, I was awe struck. What an incredible sight. My face may have moistened.

Once I got around to reading what I came to read, in the place it was originally written, a paragraph grabbed me. It read: “You cannot escape the age you live in, you are a product of it. You have to stand back from time to time and get your perspectives right. But then you have to come back and resume the task of contributing in your own way to your own age.”

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It was hard to leave the canyon that early morning. Through reading the book, and then having the experience that day, the canyon had left a significant impression on me, and I was one step closer to figuring out what I wanted, and how disorder would further refine me and my future.

I was able to put my finger on one of those itches I wasn’t able to scratch while living on the road that day. I missed the creative and creation process, and I missed the ability to intimately know a place and landscape, and develop a comprehensive understanding of it.

I am so excited to tell everyone that Liz and I will be moving to Denver, where I will be joining the amazing people at Elevation Cycles. We can’t wait to explore endless new and captivating environments, spend weekends hiking in National Parks, challenge ourselves in new situations, build off of the work we have behind us, and create new adventures going forwards.
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