A Note from Fatty: I know it’s unusual for me to post twice in a day, but I needed to today. I just posted my review of Phil Gaimon’s Pro Cycling on $10 a Day: From Fat Kid to Euro Pro today. OK? Meanwhile, I just have to talk about this bike. Have to.
About two years ago I was talking with the founder of Ibis, Chuck Ibis (known in real life as Scot Nicol). I was telling him that I missed having an Ibis for mountain biking, but that I’m a hardtail guy. A 29er guy. And, increasingly frequently, a singlespeed guy.
“We’re working on something for you,” he said, conspiratorially. “A bike you’re going to love. You’ll be able to set it up as a geared 29er hardtail. Or as a singlespeed, just as easily. Or even with a Gates carbon belt drivetrain. It’s going to be so light, it’s going to be so versatile. It’s going to be your new favorite mountain bike. It could be your only mountain bike.”
“I want one,” I said. “How soon?”
“Stay in touch,” Chuck said. “We want to get it perfect.”
And I have. Relentlessly. For two years I have texted Chuck at least once or twice a month. “Got a picture for me? Got a date? When can I have this bike?”
“We’re still working on it,” Chuck said, over and over. And over.
And then, a couple weeks ago, he sent a couple pictures. “Show these to nobody.”
Here’s what he sent me:
“MUST. HAVE. NOW,” I texted him.
“It’s on its way to the US right now,” he told me. “Then some quality control checks. Then you can have one.”
“It’s called the Tranny 29?”
I confessed to being slightly disappointed by this. I had lobbied to have the bike named “Clyde,” my middle name (and also one of the Pac Man ghosts).
But this is a minor thing. A thing I can live with. And also, I can have decals made for mine.
Meet My (Your) New Bike
Over the weekend, Chuck told me they were going to be announcing the Tranny 29 today. Like, now. And that this is what it looks like set up as a single:
Chuck also pointed out that Jefe Branham had actually — the day before the planned Tranny 29 release — just won the Tour Divide on a Tranny 29. And that they had made a video just before Jefe had started the race. Here:
The Part That Excites Me
The Tranny 29 is a good-looking bike. And it’s an Ibis, so you know for sure it’s going to ride beautifully.
Those are things to be excited about, sure.
But it’s the rear triangle that makes all the difference to me. Its clever design makes it so you can break down and transport the bike a lot more easily than most mountain bikes.
And (for me, more importantly) it also solves a problem most singlespeeders have — or have had — for pretty much ever: chain tension.
See, when you don’t have a rear derailleur to tension your bike chain, you’ve got to do it some other way. For other bikes, this happens either at the bottom bracket, or at the dropout.
If you go with the dropout method, it means moving the rear wheel back to give it tension, which means adjusting the brakes and centering the wheel…and, at some point, probably having your wheel slip in the dropout.
Or if your bike has an eccentric bottom bracket, it means rotating the bottom bracket shell to give the chain tension. And I have never ever seen a bike using this method that doesn’t start creaking horribly at some point.
So I’m excited about the Ibis solution. You see that bolt down there by the crank?
That’s called the “slot machine.” You loosen that bolt and one more at the top of the seat stay, lengthen the chainstay to tension the chain, and tighten it down. Easy.
Meanwhile, the wheel, its centered-ness and its position relative to the brake calipers remain rock-solid and unchanged, thanks to the 142mm Maxle rear axle.
My Plans Have Changed
Would it surprise you to know that I have a Tranny 29 on order? No? Oh, you know me so well.
And would it surprise you to know that I have a SRAM XX1 drivetrain on order, too? Which means I’ll be able to change this bike from a geared to a singlespeed ridiculously easily? Like, almost on a whim?
Well, would it surprise you to know that I also have a Gates Carbon Belt Drive setup on order, too, since—by virtue of the ability to remove the rear triangle—this bike is beltable?
OK, I bet that was a little bit of a surprise.
And how about this: I’m changing my Leadville Trail 100 registration. Where I was going to go geared this year, I think it’s time—based of course on whether I love this bike as much as Chuck thinks I will—for me to singlespeed this course on the bike I’ve been wishing for for about two years.
Excited? Yeah, I guess you could say I’m excited.
PS: Count on a real-time as-it’s-built post in the near future.
Here’s something I’m surprised to be finding out about myself: I like reviewing stuff, as long as it’s really interesting. Like, if I really love something and find myself thinking about why I’m drawn to it. Or if I really hate something and wonder how it ever came to see the light of day. Or if I’m just confused by something and wonder what I’m missing — or if perhaps the creator of that something just didn’t think things through.
For things like bikes and helmets and power meters, I may not be (ha!) qualified to do good reviews. Hey, I don’t even really work on my own bikes.
But for things like books, well, I do write. And I read a lot. And I like stories about people who ride bikes.
So you might be seeing more reviews here. And I’m going to be honest. Which may come across as a little tough sometimes. But I’m also going to be fair, and try to maintain my core philosophy (be kind).
Read — And Then Meet — Phil Gaimon (Garmin-Sharp)
This Monday, I’m going to be reviewing Phil Gaimon’s Pro Cycling on $10 a Day: From Fat Kid to Euro Pro.
And then, Tuesday — 12:00noon EDT / 11:00AM CDT / 10:00AM MDT / 9:00AM PDT — we’re going to have a live video chat with Phil on Spreecast. I have a bunch of questions for him, but would like you to use the comments question today to start asking your own.
Plus, be sure to attend the Spreecast; I’ll be sure to let as many of you as possible ask Phil your questions yourself.
I want to point out that — as I did with my review of Hincapie / Hummer’s book — I extended the opportunity to Gaimon to have a chance to respond to my review and answer questions, but have not shown him the review itself.
Unlike with the Hincapie / Hummer books, Gaimon accepted, in spite of the fact that he doesn’t know what will be in the review, nor its tone. So kudos to him for that.
Check back Monday for the review and info on watching / participating in the Spreecast.
Have a good weekend and ride lots.
A Note from Fatty: This is part 7 of my 2014 Rockwell Relay report. If you need to catch up, you can go to the previous installment, or all the way to the beginning.
When you’re racing the Rockwell Relay, time becomes very, very strange. Weird even.
At one moment it’s early morning and you’re nervously awaiting the start of the race. Then the first teammate is racing and you’re cheering him on. Then — very quickly — your second teammate is out and you’re cheering her on. Then it’s your turn and you’re going with all your might. Then your fourth teammate is off and racing and you’re cheering her on.
And then it’s time to start that rotation again.
By the time this happens, you have two completely contradictory impressions. First, that you’ve been doing this race for all your life — that it’s just one endless cycle.
Secondly — and for me, this is the stronger impression — it’s that you’ve only been out racing for a very short time. That it’s still morning. Hey, you’ve each only gone on one middling-length ride after all, and you each got your respective rides out of the way pretty darn quickly.
So how was it possible that the sun was going down as Kenny was riding his second time?
And why — why? — did the wind have to kick back up, pushing hard against Kenny for the whole ride?
These are mysteries we will likely never answer.
What we do know is that while Kenny rode, a beautiful full moon came up, so that it was never really completely dark.
So, as Kenny rode his leg and we found it impossible to get photos of him, we turned on each other:
And then I got a shot of The Hammer and Heather, doing…some kind of dance or something. But the photo turned out different than I expected.
Wow, I think that was the chupacabra behind them. It’ too bad that’s such a dark, grainy, blurry shot.
Once you’re riding in the dark, time gets even more strange and distorted during the Rockwell Relay. I think this is because there just aren’t the visual cues you’re used to during the day time to help you get a sense of time passing.
It’s just dark. And you feel a little bit weird, a little bit uneasy, getting ready for your ride.
Photos get really difficult to take:
The only way I know that’s Kenny is because I recognize the Orbea.
We’d stare off into the dark, waiting to see a headlamp. Then we’d cheer for Kenny — at least we assumed it was Kenny — as we saw the light go by. And then we’d repeat.
When we got to within ten miles of the exchange, we left him, feeling just a little bit reluctant. It’s not easy to leave a teammate riding in the eerie darkness like that.
The Hammer’s Turn
Since I had already done the work of getting The Hammer’s bike ready, it was easy to get her ready:
Wow, those reflective belts really…reflect.
Then we stood around, waiting. Hoping that every light was Kenny’s. And soon enough, one was.
Kenny pulled in, having — as Kenny does — completely demolished himself on the ride. Kenny always gives it everything he’s got. That’s why he’s Kenny.
In endurance running relay races (like Ragnar), someone you pass is known as “roadkill.”
The Hammer was heading out with a monster climb in front of her.
Soon, that climb would be brimming with roadkill.
Which is where we’ll pick up next in the next installment of this story.
A Note from Fatty: This is part 6 in an ongoing series recounting my 2014 Rockwell Relay experience. If you’re new here, you might want to jump to the beginning. Or if you just need to catch up, this installment picks up where part 4 leaves off. The video of the event is part 5, but isn’t really part of the narrative.
We were worried about Heather. We had worried about her for weeks. Maybe months. And we had a good reason to be worried.
Heather was starting up what had been, last year, an utterly horrible leg of the race. Last year it had begun with an exploding tire, a mis-shifting derailleur, impossibly brutal heat, and a headwind that no person should have to battle alone…but which Heather had had to battle. Alone.
And we had watched her suffer.
That leg of the race has left deep psychological scars on every single member of Team Fatty. Deep scars on Heather; maybe deeper on those of us who had to watch.
And so we had prepared.
Kenny, Lisa and I had a plan where, if and when the headwind became intolerable, one of us would suit up and ride with Heather, taking turns pulling. This was an explicitly legal tactic in the race; we had looked it up and highlighted it in the race bible.
Heather, meanwhile, had been training specifically for this leg of the race. She had been seeking out opportunities to ride in the heat. To ride in the wind.
Imagine that: seeking those things out. So that she could kick butt on behalf of our team.
Heather is awesome.
And it was time to see how our preparations — our strategies — were going to play out.
I rolled in and Heather rolled out, then — after Kenny loaded my bike and I drank about a half gallon of cold water — we climbed into the Sprinter van and gave pursuit.
“What’s the temperature?” The Hammer asked Kenny.
“Not quite ninety yet.” Which still sounds pretty hot…until you consider this is about ten degrees cooler than it had been last year.
We caught up with Heather, worried that she would look like this:
Heather, head bowed, staring at her stem and battling the wind and heat.
Instead, she looked like this:
We didn’t even have to ask how she felt or how she was riding. The fact is, Heather looked and was riding great. It was that obvious. The big smile plus the guy she just dropped during the climb told that story pretty well.
Our mood shifted from anxious to excited and hopeful: just like that.
Heather was strong and feeling good! The heat was bearable! And the wind was at her back! And now I’m using a lot of exclamation points! I can’t help myself!
Deep breath, Fatty.
The point is, Heather was crushing this usually-demoralizing leg, in spite of the fact that there was nobody she could ride with.
The Secret of Our Success
In person, in email, in text messages and in comments, a lot of people have noted to me how much fun Team Fatty seems to be having in my video of this race. How it looks like it’s just a big adventure.
Well, let me let you in on a little secret: That’s actually how the race is for us. Sure, we like this race because of the route and the interesting format and the competition, but — more than anything else — we like this race because it’s a fun weekend with friends.
So let me make a recommendation to future Rockwell Relay attendees: if what you care about is winning or placing or whatever, find the fastest people you can for your team. But if what you care about is having an amazing weekend that you’ll never forget, make sure you build a team of friends.
Because that is what makes Team Fatty great.
Which leads in a tangential way to the way our team supports itself. We don’t use a “crew;” we crew for each other. Taking care of each other is part of the experience. It makes the race less about you and more about the team. And that’s a fantastic thing.
And extending from that philosophy is how much support our team gives each other. Which is to say, our team is never more than a couple miles away from our racer. We pull in front, pile out of the van (more enthusiastically during the day, less enthusiastically at night), and cheer our racer on.
Here’s Kenny (The Hammer’s right behind him, but you can’t see her in this shot), ringing the cowbell and hollering for Heather. Out in the middle of nowhere.
And here’s Heather about one second later:
Big smile on her face. Riding with intensity. Having a great ride, in spite of the fact that it’s a barely-there uphill that goes on forever, as if it’s designed to make you think it’s flat while still slowing you down.
I tell you, having your team there — and making some noise for you — makes a huge difference in how hard you ride and how much you’re willing to give. Huge.
Plus, when you’re supporting each other, you get chances to master one of the most subtle and complicated cycling moves there is: the bottle handoff. Here’s the windup, where The Hammer starts running backward, matching speed.
And the connection is made…
Annnnnd…success! The Hammer swings the bottle wide and out of the way:
A perfect handoff. Full marks, and ten bonus points for style to each participant.
Yes, Please Tell Me How Much I Suck
Heather passed racer after racer, and was passed by not a single racer herself. What a difference a few degrees and a tailwind makes!
So when she had ten miles to go, we left her and headed out to the next exchange point, where Kenny could get himself ready. Time seemed to go so fast during this race that it felt surprising that Kenny’d be riding through the sunset and into the dark. But that’s how it would be, and he got geared up in his reflective belt and headlamp — a blinky light in back.
All he needed to do now was wait for Heather.
I, meanwhile, was in the busiest transition of the day. The Hammer was up next, and she’d be riding in the full dark, with a significant descent. And then after her, I’d be riding in the dark with a big descent. And once it got dark, it would be a lot more difficult to get lights mounted on her bike, my bike, her helmet, and my helmet.
Also, the next two exchanges happen quickly; I wouldn’t have a lot of time to get the riders (The Hammer next, myself the time after that) as well as the bikes ready.
So this was my opportunity on getting bikes prepped for night riding, and I was pretty focused. And probably a little terse. And quite likely a little surly.
Which, somehow, made several people want to come and talk to me. And, apparently, they thought that this was a good opportunity to tell me how much faster they were than I was during our first leg. Or, in one case, how he could have been faster than me…but wasn’t really giving it his all.
Later, as I was telling The Hammer how much it bothered me that people would seek me out specifically to tell me they beat my time (or would have if they had been trying), she explained that it was really a compliment — that these people were using me as a yardstick of their own speed.
“Yeah, I get that — I do the same thing,” I said. I’ve used Kenny as my personal yardstick of speed for…well…pretty much ever. “But they don’t need to come seek me out to tell me they’re better than me.”
“You’re too sensitive,” The Hammer replied.
It’s true. I am. I’m not proud of it, but I’m extremely sensitive. Kind of a baby, really.
And I’m also the kind of person who looks for revenge.
That opportunity would come. Soon.
PS: To read the next installment in this series, click here.
Before the Rockwell Relay this year, I asked everyone in Team Fatty to do me a favor: keep their phones handy and take lots of pictures and video. This year, I wanted to put together a montage of moments from the race.
And I have to say, I’m super happy with what we wound up with. I think it’ll give you a pretty good feeling for what the race experience is like for us each year.
And, for those of you who care, don’t worry: this has no spoilers — other than the fact that we finished the race. Which I guess is a pretty big spoiler now that I think about it. But we’ve finished it three times in the past; I don’t think too many people were wondering if this would be the year we didn’t.
By the way, I recommend the following:
- Watch it full-screen
- Watch it without worrying about the captions the first time
- Watch it a second time if you want to read the captions. Keep the pause button handy.
PS: Part 6 will be posted on Wednesday.
PPS: If you feel really sad about not having something to read today and wish you had an epic race report to dig into, allow me to very strongly recommend you read Janeen McCrae’s (aka The Noodleator) Dirty Kanza race report. It’s wonderful.
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