Lauf at the Moon

IMG_20180728_192702.jpg

For three years, I've wanted to do Lunar Kanza. Basically, since I got a gravel bike. Couldn't make the schedule work. But third time's the charm. 

Lunar Kanza isn't a hardcore gravel ride. It's not DK200. It's not the Native Lands Classic. It's not Land Run. Which is to say, it's not trying to crush your soul. It's a ride on the plush Kansas gravel under the light of the full moon. There's a scavenger hunt during the ride, and there's a party after. Beer, music, food trucks. Bourbon. Extraordinary adventures, remember? 

Still, 50 miles on gravel is 50 miles on gravel. Gravel is not kind. You think Oklahoma paved roads are crappy? Gravel roads don't even pretend to be smooth. That's why it's called gravel. 

We compensate in different ways. A lot of us ride steel bikes, which are heavier, but make for a more comfortable experience. Most the time, I ride a Surly Straggler. But back in April when we became a Lauf dealer, I hatched a scheme to ride one of the demo bikes for Lunar. A 17-pound carbon gravel bike with carbon leaf-spring suspension forks? Yes, please. 

IMG_20180728_174310.jpg

It should be said it's not a super great idea to take a bike you've never ridden before out for a 50-mile rural jaunt, especially without a seat you're used to. I mean, I did it, but that doesn't make it smart. Bad decisions seem to always start with a lack of forethought. 

Doesn't mean there wasn't any forethought. I took the Lauf home from the shop last Thursday and proceeded to put all manner of mismatched stuff on it. Orange pedals. One orange bottle cage, one black. A cage for my green flask. 

IMG_20180728_174318.jpg

Got the seat more or less in the position I needed it. I tried to mount the flask to the top tube, but it obstructed standing over the bike and it wasn't really easy to get the flask in and out. More's the pity.  

Good to go, right? 

The ride was scheduled to roll out at 6pm, the thought being you ride out to the halfway point and it'd be about dark so your ride back in would be with lights. Between the shop regulars and the Pandes, we had 16ish City Cycles people grouped up, which is half the thing, really. We were ready. 

GroupMe_201881_111830.jpeg

Rollout started. People cheered. 

We watched them leave because Chris forgot his gloves.  

And then go!  

We had a police escort all the way to the start of the gravel at the edge of town. Faces to the setting sun, we rolled basically a flat 12 miles to the first rest stop.  

There are some gravel aficionados who believe all gravel rides should be self-supported, that adding water stops goes against the dirt credo. Sure, there's a place for that. But I don't think there's a place in cycling to exclude, ever. People who want to ride should be encouraged, no matter how or why they're doing it. So what they're not doing it like you. 

During the first half of the ride, the Lauf kept wanting to go fast. I ended up pulling or outright riding off with faster riders knowing full well I wasn't in shape to sustain it for 50 miles (the butcher's bill came about mile 44ish). It was snappy. If I wanted to stand up and sprint to get around someone, it took off. Honestly, it felt a lot like my Scott road bike.  

Riding beside Adam, I looked over at his handlebars. They bounced up and down like a jackhammer. The Lauf's bars, barely a tremor. Visual proof of the smoothing effect of the carbon leaf springs. I should've videoed it. 

The hills started somewhere after mile 15, little rollers mostly, all the way until you got to the halfway point at the lake. No, I dunno what the lake was. I ate a bunch of mini Paydays and refilled my bottles. I took pictures of people taking pictures of the sunset. I contemplated the giant hill you get to climb right after the stop. Who puts a giant hill right after a rest stop?  

IMG_20180728_195424.jpg

We all goofed off, more or less. Whiskey was sipped. Jesse showed off the scavenger hunt item he found, then turned on his wheel lights … He had this LED rig he could program with an app on his phone. An orange cat taunted us from his front wheel the whole second half of the ride. The girls took turns avoiding the public … bathrooms. 

The second half hills were challenging rollers, and while climbing, the sun slipped beyond the horizon. The temp dropped. We turned the lights on and pedaled. No dogs, no traffic. Just smooth gravel and that big red full moon rising. It reminded me of summer nights as a kid, riding my BMX bike under the streetlights and hoping my dad wouldn't whistle for me to come home anytime soon.  

That's why gravel is awesome, in my opinion. It's less about doing your workout or average speed, and more about the experience. It's about remembering you're not your job or the things you own. It's about breathing deep and inhaling life and adventure.  

By the time we rolled back into Emporia, I was shot. Everything hurt. I'm clearly not in shape for 50-mile gravel rides. The Lauf let me punch above my fitness weight. If not for it, I wouldn't have finished. Loved that bike. I spent a great deal of the ride trying to figure out how to pay for it and a second wheelset for road riding. One bike to rule them all. 

As for Lunar Kanza … the after party was excellent. Had a giant carne asada burrito from a food truck and a couple of beers (included with your race fee). Listened to some dude with a guitar cover everything from Dolly Parton's Jolene to Toto's Africa. I would've given cash to hear him do a Metallica song. The girls admired the dust on their legs. 

I got the shaft on the scavenger hunt. Kari saw one hanging from a fence post and I waded through armpit-deep weeds and grass to get it. The prize was a nylon skinny wallet with the Dirty Kanza logo screen-printed on it. C'mon, man.  

After the party, we retreated to the giant old house we'd rented just three blocks away. Everyone stayed up drinking, laughing and reliving the ride. Except for Lance, who took his root beer and went to bed.  

The route, the scenery, the people and, man, that bike. Fantastic. Won't soon forget it, and it's a must-do again for next year.  

Get into the shop and take one of the Laufs for a test ride, preferably somewhere bumpy. You don't get the full experience until you're on a road that's trying to rattle the teeth from your head. The biggest advantage to the Lauf fork is the control you maintain. On a stiff fork flying down a bumpy gravel hill, it usually feels like the bike is in control and you're just along for the ride. The Lauf fork makes it feel like a paved hill. The difference is shocking and amazing.  

And did I mention the bike only weighs 17 pounds before you start bolting stuff to it? The fork and frame together weigh less than five pounds, with the fork making just less than half of that (you can add the fork to your existing gravel bike, after all).  

Thanks for reading. Hope you got a good Lauf out of it.  

Truth in Taglines

IMG_20180721_132629_1.jpg

You’ve probably seen our tagline: Uncommon bikes. Extraordinary adventures.

I think it’s easy to see the first, not so much the second, mostly because those depend on you. We can give you the horse, but we can’t make you take it to get a drink, if you follow me.

It’s easy to get caught up in miles ridden for the week, average speeds, calories burned, Strava segments and personal records (PRs). I would suggest that’s not the point of this two-wheeled journey.

Let me put it another way. How many training rides do you remember? Yeah, you really killed that WNR, but if there was nothing out of the ordinary about it, there'll be no recall. You could look up your Strava file for a particular date and have nothing to distinguish it.

It’s important, on a fairly regular basis, to do a ride that's going to leave a mark on your soul. I’ve had two of those in the past two weeks.

Exhibit A:

A couple Saturdays ago, Steve asked me if I wanted to ride on a Sunday morning. I said yes because that's what you do when your friends ask you to ride.

He said, “Are we going to do the shop route, or are we going to @#$! off?”

Me: “@#$! off, of course.”

That Sunday it was raining, but no lightning, so we went for it. We rolled out of the alley, headed west, and wound our way to Ollie’s on the west side where we partook of the breakfast buffet, which was excellent. Even the diner coffee was pretty good. I mean, c’mon, sometimes there’s nothing better than awful diner coffee, especially when you’re dripping wet and sitting in the a/c.

Sure, the rest of our ride, which took us downtown, and then back to the shop, was on the slow side, but … bikes, rain and a pretty good diner breakfast. #winning

 My camera was probably still wet from the ride, but you get the idea. All this for $8.99!

My camera was probably still wet from the ride, but you get the idea. All this for $8.99!

Exhibit B:

Last weekend, I was up in the mountains. Literally. Stayed at Estes Park, hiked Rocky Mountain National Park. Drove around where the trees stop growing. Took a lot of spectacular pictures.

While we were there, we went on a bike ride. I mean, duh.

In full disclosure, I was a bit mentally intimidated by the altitude. Sure, we’d been there for four days already, and should’ve been acclimated, but … the air at 8,000 ft, it’s thin, y’all.

We rented some bikes from a LBS, rolled out of Estes on Dry Gulch road and headed for Glen Haven. We were told there was a general store there where a Soup Nazi-esque character served up some of the best cinnamon rolls in the universe, so we figured we’d check that out.

Dry Gulch road turned into Devil’s Gulch road, which dives down toward Glen Haven with some gnarly descents and switchbacks. At that point, I was glad we’d spent the extra money for the carbon bikes with disc brakes.

Apart from not really wanting to just let the bike loose and roll 50 mph downhill, my brain started to not care about our mileage for the day. After all, this was an out-and-back. What goes down must climb up.

At the bottom, because we like to contemplate our doom, we stopped at the general store and had the cinnamon roll. It lived up to the rep, though I didn’t get any surliness from the shop keep. I mean, I didn’t poke him with a stick, either, so there’s that.

 The non-elusive Colorado switchback captured in the wild.

The non-elusive Colorado switchback captured in the wild.

Then we climbed out. Took twice as long to go up as it did to come down. I had a hard time getting my head out of my pounding heart. Stopped a couple of times because of that, but I didn’t walk. And once I’d gotten to the top, I realized I’d psyched myself out, and probably could’ve ridden the whole thing without the breaks.

But …

If I’d just climbed like it was my job, I would not have appreciated the scenery. I would not have taken the pictures, I probably wouldn’t be writing about it right now, and I wouldn't have it to share with my wife.

So what’s my point? Don’t forget to ride to remember. We’re on this big blue marble for such a short time, and once you get close to the end, you’re not going to think back on the stuff you bought, the training you did, or the hours you worked.

You’re going to remember the experiences that stand out, so you better be sure you have some.

I’ll leave you with a Hemingway quote:

“Good times should be orchestrated and not left to the uncertainties of chance.”

 Ugh. Those water bottles don't even match the bike.

Ugh. Those water bottles don't even match the bike.

Roster Update - Wrench #2

Daniel joined the crew, and per protocol, I sat down with him at the picnic table (the inside one because hot outside) and put him through the wringer. And by wringer, I mean I asked him a bunch of random questions, and not the hard-hitting journalistic variety, either. We're talking slow pitches over the plate.

What you mostly need to know is that the dude loves bikes, has always ridden bikes and will probably always ride bikes. He's been working as a bike mechanic since 2007. And he will answer any bike question you have. If he doesn't know the answer, he will go find it. I know that because I watched him do it.

Anyway. Questions and answers.

Why bikes?

Bikes have always been an element in my life. I've always ridden them. When I got my first car, it just sat there and I still rode my bike. Whether it's riding or working on them, it's just therapy. You can make it as simple or as complex as you want with every experience. I always find what I'm looking for in a ride. Wrenching is an extension of that.

What's your favorite thing to fix on a bike?

Wheels. Everything is balanced in wheels. It's a network of parts directly working together, and little nuances make big differences. I enjoy working that way.

What's the worst thing you've had to fix? 

It's dangerous to say tri bikes, but the pitted, ruined carbon on a couple aero bikes I've seen were the worst. They get so much sweat and sports drink encrusted that nothing will come apart. I've had Di2 cables crusted into place and had to chisel everything out. And the smell that comes out of it ...

Number one bike maintenance tip?

If you love her, use lube. Also, wipe the extra lube off. 

What else are you into?

Coffee. My wife and I got into roasting coffee. She's been a barista for years.

Where are you from and why Tulsa?

I've been in Tulsa since 2006, but I'm from Tallahassee, Florida. As for Tulsa, I've moved away and come back. I like it. Having lived in bigger and smaller cities, it feels like a sweet spot. I miss the ocean, but not enough to make a change that big.

Are you training for anything?

The 2019 Single Speed Cyclocross World Championships. The last time I started training for it, I had to get my tonsils out and it threw off my training. And it's too late to start for this year. It's more of a party than a real race, but there's a claim to it. (For flavor on what Daniel's talking about, check this out.)

What's your favorite bike?

Well, a single speed cyclocross bike of any variety. My favorite bike I ever owned was a Kona Major One. It's the bike I did 200 miles in a day on. It's the bike I rode all through Texas when I went to ask my father-in-law for my wife's hand in marriage. It carried me flawlessly through many stupid winter trips. 

What can our City Cycles customers expect from you?

I'd like to instill confidence that they have another resource with another mechanic in the house.

And there you go, folks. Daniel's been on the job since last Monday. Drop in, shake his hand, get to know him and welcome him to the party. 

29365796_10156388170550739_4187165738584244224_o (1).jpg

The Copenhagen Donut - Revisted

Copenhagen-Wheel-1_0.jpg

I call it the donut. Everyone looks at me weird when I say it, and they're probably right. I mean, there isn't a hole in the middle of the wheel. It's a giant red dot. But Copenhagen is a lot to both type and say every time. So ... donut. You can do you. As for me ...

I'm talking about the Superpedestrian Copenhagen wheel. We wrote about it a month or so ago when it first hit the shop, but at the time, I only used it to zoom up and down the alley. I didn't really ride the thing. 

So we hatched a plan. On of the Thursday shop rides, I'd take the thing out and do the shop ride, only that plan kept sliding for one reason or another and it ended up being the Thursday before Tulsa Tough while the Supermint pro ladies were in attendance. I showed up to the ride late planning to bail on the donut ride, but then my bike had mechanical issues, so I missed the roll-out. Perfect time as it turns out, for a little Donut shakedown ride. 

Rule one: Don't dress like a roadie when you're riding a hybrid e-bike. Keep at least some of your civilian attire on. Shorts. Flat shoes. You don't want anyone thinking you're out there hunting KOMs with your e-bike, right?

It's hard not to have a little bit of glee, perhaps some cheesy smile, when you first pedal a donut-equipped bike. Your pedal strokes are the throttle. You pedal, it assists and you take off. 

The donut works with your phone. You install the Wheel app (Android and Apple), and you manage the ride. You can choose from a variety of modes that provide differing levels of assistance. There's Turbo, Standard, Eco and even a recharge mode where your pedal strokes recharge the wheel. I did this at one point because the donut only had about 20 percent charge on it when I left the shop.

Incidentally, the app also serves as your car key. The wheel won't turn on without the app unlocking it. 

Anyway, I stuck the thing in Standard mode and took off. Not gonna lie, riding that hybrid I felt a little bit like that ... you remember the scene in the Wizard of Oz where the cranky old biddie rides her bike in the tornado ... I felt like that. 

But rolling past the Jenks HS pool at 20+ with minimal effort was kind of awesome. I mean, I still had to pedal. When you stop pedaling, the wheel starts braking. If you backpedal, the wheel charges (which you can see when the handy battery indicator turns green). I took it out on 91st, zoomed around the airport at 20+, again with minimal effort. I kept thinking about all those times where I nearly hyperventilated trying to hold 18, 19 mph on that stretch before I'd warmed up. This was way more fun than that.

Hit the stop light at Elwood and looked up the hill. I wondered how fast that wheel would push, and how hard it was going to hurt. Again, 20+ and I could've had a jaunty conversation about the wind speed of an unladen African swallow while doing it. By the time I got to the intersection of 91st and Union, I was having a good time.

This isn't to say I wasn't working at all. The app tells me I pushed between 150 - 220 watts all the way up the hill (yes, it keeps track of power ... STRAVADONUT!), but those were the easiest watts ever, and the speedometer never really dipped below 20 mph. 

It was then I started entertaining notions of waiting for one of the shop ride pace groups to come back and slipping into their peloton. I thought it would be funny. Alas, there were none to be found, so I headed back solo and messed around with the other bike modes. 

Rode some in recharge mode, and gave the battery back 2 percent of power in pretty short order. When I got to the meat of the hill, I stuck it in Turbo and pedaled hard, only to discover the thing must have some sort of governor on it. Couldn't get it up over 23 mph, even downhill. Booooo. 

The rest of the ride back to the shop I mostly goofed off ... at 20 mph ... and considered all the things I could do with one of these. Stick one on a cargo bike, and you could haul children or groceries around town easily. If your non-riding inlaws come into town, you could have it on a comfy bike for them and they could go for a ride with you. And one of these would totally revolutionize a paper route. (do they still have paper routes?). 

I said this the last time, but I don't think e-bikes are a gimmick. I think they could change the world. As our bike infrastructure improves and fossil fuels and health insurance become more expensive, e-bikes have a place in the future. Maybe they have a place in our present. 

In any case, the demo Donut is on the shop floor waiting for you to try it out. Give us a call and we'll have it ready for you. 

Roster Update

image (1).jpg

Lori joins the City Cycles staff today, so we thought we'd do a Q&A as an intro. Citizens, meet Lori. She's a shop regular and has been since we opened. If you've been around, you've met her. And if you haven't, just you wait. 

How did you end up working at City Cycles?

It wasn’t a planned job. I was planning on retiring next February but Jake texted me out of the blue one day and said he needed help at the shop. I decided it was worth leaving early from a job of 33 years to take on another adventure.  

What’s been the one thing that’s had the biggest impact on your life?

It’s not a thing but a person.   My mom is the most determined person in my life. She has had health problems my whole life and I have stood in a hospital many times with a doctor telling me that she might not live much longer. However, she fights back every time and at 82 she is the healthiest she has been in years. I know that if she can do it – so can I!

Why do you ride bikes?

Originally I started because I thought it would help with my some memory for my right leg which was affected by a stroke. I started riding with the Divas and although there is the fitness benefit, I love the people I meet and get to be with.   

What other lesser exercise activities do you participate in?

Walking (until I can get back to running since my accident), swimming and kayaking (yes – I plan to go back to kayaking even though that’s how I broke my leg).  

Why do you exercise?

To live. Sounds simple, but I decided after my stroke in 2007 I had to get moving and never stop.  

How many bikes do you own and what are they?

I have my Kona beach bike (blue of course), a Focus, my Cannondale synapse and my Focus gravel bike.

What, other than riding bikes, so you do for fun?

Anything outside. I love watching baseball, but only in person and of course, OU football. I knit and crochet as well. 

What are you going to be doing at the shop?

Administrative stuff at first – ordering, point of sale, inventory, organizing, cleaning, etc.   Eventually I’m going to start training to do some bike stuff.

Why would you visit City Cycles?

Broken record here. The people. They are the best. A close second would be the knowledge that you can pick up from everyone there about bicycles.  

What else do we need to know? 

I’m a Scorpio. Seriously, people at my old job used to tell me when they first met me, they were scared or thought I was seriously bitchy. However, I just take a while to get to know people. Once I know you and trust you, I’m all in. I’m also seriously OCD. I’m the 5th of 6th children and the first girl after four boys in my family. My dad was a Baptist preacher (which also probably explains a lot). I went to Jenks schools for 2-12 grade just two blocks from the shop, so Jenks is home for me.

Laufing Our Heads Off

 Lauf True Grit

Lauf True Grit

I did not expect the big guy by the front door of the shop to be the Lauf rep. Lauf Dave’s like, 6’ 4” with crazy brown hair and glasses, and later he’d tell me he’s pushing 300 pounds. Big guy. I shook his hand and it reminded me of shaking hands with adults when I was a kid.

He drug me outside the shop to one of the Lauf True Grit bikes leaning against the garage door.

“Put your armpit on the seat and touch the middle of the bottom bracket.”

I did. He adjusted the seat height, said, “There. That should fit you. Go find some crap to ride through.” He didn’t say crap. He said the s-word, and he said it in some strange accent. So I went and found crap to ride through.

There are probably four or five patches of gravel within 20 seconds of the shop on a bicycle. They’re not gravel roads, but there’s enough to give you some flavor. I found one, rode across it four or five times. My first thought was, “There’s no vibration.” And then it occurred to me what that meant on gravel. I usually ride a Surly Straggler. All steel. Steel fork. Knobby tires. When I ride it on gravel, there’s always this sense that the tire is bouncing but maintaining just enough contact to give you a semblance of control. It's a bit like floating. 

The Lauf didn’t feel that way. The Lauf didn’t feel much different than riding on a paved road. All I wanted to do was take it down a gravel hill at 30 mph. I may have been smiling when I got back, which was when Dave started to talk about the bikes. Not just the fork, mind you, but the bike.

Lauf only released a bicycle in August of 2017. Up until then, it’d just been the leaf spring forks. Dave calls their bikes “gravel racing bikes,” which given the weight is kinda accurate. The “weekend warrior” version of the True Grit comes in at just under 18 lbs for $3690. There’s also a race version for $4990 and an E-Tap version for $6500, both of which come in right around 16 lbs. It’s a whole different arena than my steel gravel bike. The bikes will fit a 45 mm tire.

They come in two standard colors, one a gray blue, the other a cream, but for $400 you can do orange, lime green, black and red, and for $800, you can pick your color.

Dave was also excited about the rake angle of the headtube, 70.5 degrees, which is closer to that of a mountain bike. The angle makes the bike very stable and comfortable, but retains enough stiffness that in a pinch, you can ride it with the roadies on a shop ride.

Dave smiled the whole time he talked about it. You see, he was in the Lauf fan club for two-and-a-half years before he joined the company. He’s a zealot.

“Lauf is very casual,” he said. “It’s a fun loving place to work. We’re small, so we can do things very fast.”

Not thirty minutes before I rode the demo bike, Jake had signed the dealership deal. Dave called the Lauf CEO in Iceland, where it was 11 pm, and the CEO put up a Facebook post welcoming the shop to the family.

While I talked to Dave, a couple of the other shop regulars rolled through, and Dave encouraged all of them to take the demo bikes for a ride. Everyone came back smiling. One of the guys wanted to know more about the leaf spring forks, and specifically asked about the durability of them as they’re constructed entirely of carbon and fiberglass.

“How long will they last?”

“We’ve put it through the machine and haven’t broken one,” Dave said. “So we can’t tell you how long they last.”

Then he said, “I’m a big guy. I exceed the recommended allowances. If I can’t break one, no one can.” And then he laughed about it.

The whole experience left me … considering. Considering how I’d pay for one, whether or not I wanted one of the standard colors or something custom, whether I should just get one of those forks for my Surly in the meantime.

Next week, we’ll have a couple Lauf True Grit demo bikes in the shop. Bring your helmet and then go find some of those gravel patches. I'm going to bet you'll come back considering, too. 

image.jpg
 What'll it be? Gears, or Beers?

What'll it be? Gears, or Beers?

IMG_0039_01.jpg

The Copenhagen Wheel

tech-copenhagen-wheel-mit-robotics-ebike.jpg

So there's a bike in the shop with this big red pie pan looking thing in its back wheel. That thing is called a Copenhagen Wheel and it is a big shiny red disc of awesomeness. 

E-Bikes get a lot of ... grief? ... from the hardcore cycling community. I mean, the point of cycling isn't really to make it easier. The work is half the thing. But looking at e-bikes that way is a bit myopic. E-bikes, especially in cities, are going to change the world. 

Yeah, I know. Sounds like hyperbole, but imagine what a major city will look like when most of its landmass isn't tied up with cars and car-related nonsense. 

But I digress. What you need to know about the Copenhagen Wheel is that it makes riding a bike Fun with a capital F. Fun like when you were a kid and did something for the first time. One of those things that plasters a smile on your face immediately.

Here's how it works: You start pedaling (yes, you still have to pedal), then it starts helping you pedal. You know how it feels when someone gives you a push and you sort of zoom for a moment? It's just like that, only sustained. And to get it to stop, you just back pedal and it starts braking for you (and recharging the wheel).

It looks super simple, but it isn't. It has app connectivity. You can choose your level of boosting -- Turbo, Standard, Eco or Exercise. It has security features built in to make it theft averse. And when you order one, you get to customize it for your bike. You can get up to 30 miles on a single charge. It has bluetooth. 

I know what you're really thinking ... how fast? The Superpedestrian folks, manufacturers of the Copenhagen Wheel, say ... 25 mph. I may or may not have done that in the alley behind the shop. Things that make you say ... wheeeeee.

Come in and check this thing out. Bring your helmet. After you ride, you can start thinking about how you're going to change your morning commute. And yes, we're a dealer. We'll hook you up.

Bike-Skinny-Jeans-Black.jpg

Ti Not?

Not so long ago, one of our shop regulars colluded with us to build the bike of her dreams. Doing custom builds is one of our favorite things, and we'd rather everyone who leaves the shop be riding exactly the bike they want, rather than one merely "good enough." We want them dialed in and grinning from ear to ear, which is why one of our favorite sayings is, "Have you thought about this?"

Kari, one of our shop regulars, has spent the last couple of years training and playing on an All City "Mr. Pink." It's a full steel do-it-all bike. On it, she can keep up with the "A" group shop ride, and climb any hill she wants. But she was always a little ... envious of those lighter bikes everyone else was rolling.

But she didn't have her eye on carbon. She wanted something more refined. Something tougher. Titanium. On top of that, she wanted disc brakes. Last year, she tried conquering the LandRun50, but the mud proved to be too much for her old-fashioned brakes. Two things. Enough to build a dream from?

Absolutely. She chose a Lynskey GR250, and then hand-picked all the components. And THEN we let her build it.

Why did you pick that particular frame?

Kari: I knew I wanted titanium. I love the look of the Kona Rove, so was seriously considering it. I compared the geometry of the Rove with the Lynskey Urbano, and different little aspects of the Lynskey started winning out. And then the day I was going to order the Urbano, the GR250 came out. It was really more geared for gravel riding, and that got my attention right away. The geometry of it and what it is built to do: "...adventure geometry that is designed for the rider to be in the cockpit rather than on the bike..." and its massive tire clearance won me over. I also like that Lynskey is US-based and has a long history of building great quality Ti bikes. I love the look of titanium. But more than that, I wanted a material that would dampen the road vibration and provide a comfortable ride. I wanted it to be super sturdy and relatively light.

Did you have a “vision” for what you wanted in a bike?

Kari: I wanted a bike that would be awesome on gravel, but that I can also throw a rack on and do some longer touring/bike-camping/adventure rides. And I most definitely wanted disk brakes. After attempting Land Run last year (and not being able to finish due to too much mud in caliper brakes and not enough clearance), and also running caliper brakes at the Pig Trail Gravel Grinder down some super steep downhills, disk brakes were a must.

Why not buy a complete bike?

Kari: I wanted something no one else had. There were also some upgrades/changes I would have wanted to do right away (handlebars, wheels, tires, carbon seat post, saddle) if I were to buy the complete GR250, so it just made sense to build from scratch.

Once all the parts were there, how did you like building a lot of the bike yourself?

Kari: It was awesome! I loved being able to be involved. It's rewarding, both watching it being done and working on it yourself, to know what all is involved in building a bike. Especially having hand-built wheels. A LOT of time and effort goes into making sure they're done right.

Now that you’ve had it a for a little while, what do you think?

Kari: It's so smooth and just such a great ride. It's smiles-per-hour and looks good doing it, too.

What’s your favorite part?

Kari: The hand-built wheels & Chris King mango hubs.

What’s your next upgrade?

I'm not sure. Nothing for a while; I'm pretty much loving it how it is. I would like to get a set of road wheels. And maybe down the road I will switch over to electronic shifting, but that won't be for a long time. 

If you'd like to build the bike of your dreams, stop by the shop and talk to Jake. 

We Can Rebuild It

I have a black Surly Straggler – The Struggler. The wife conspired with Jake to get it for me for Christmas in 2014. I assume they chose it for at least two reasons: 1) it’s black, like my soul, and 2) it’s a Surly, like my attitude.

Either way, it was love at first sight. Imagine, if you will, a shiny black steed with road bars and giant, knobby 41mm Surly Knard monster truck tires (that was before; now it looks like the above picture).

The Struggler was a machine built for gravel, and I’ve put it through its fair share around Kellyville and in Osage county, as well as two Land Runs. I did most of last winter’s Night Ops rides on it (the better to survive potholes that go bump in the night … ).

It’s an insanely comfortable bike, but also, a starter project. My road bike isn’t something I need to upgrade. The Struggler, on the other hand, well … Let’s just say I think I could do better than the stock Shimano Tiagra component set. But man, bike stuff. You have to budget. You have to plan. You have to budget and plan.

Here’s what got me off high center; Steph started talking about making another pilgrimage to Mt. Scott. What Mt. Scott is to a bicycle rider is about 1,000 feet of climbing in three miles, ranging from seven percent to 18 percent grade. It will punish you.

When last we did this, I’d had my Scott road bike for about a month. It was great on the climb, though I thought I was going to hyperventilate and die, but on the descent, it scared me. The crosswinds blew it all over the place, and I didn’t feel at times like I had enough braking power.

When Steph mentioned the return trip, I knew it was time to modify the Struggler. At the very least, slap some road tires on it. I assumed the weight of the bike would combat the winds, the disc brakes would help with stopping power and control when I needed it.

I mentioned the mission to Jake. He’d had heard me complain about the Tiagra stuff. It wasn’t that it was bad, it was that my road bike has Ultegra, and the transition between the two was jarring. When I mentioned the Mt. Scott trip and my desire to put some road shoes on the Struggler, he had another idea. He said: “I have a killer idea. I just got my hands on a better group set for you. SRAM Rival, hydraulic brakes … great price.”

I said, “Okay, but you have to let me build it.”

He said yes. He mostly lied. We rebuilt it a couple Mondays ago. There was bourbon involved. And in addition to the upgraded components, there were also new bars, a new seat post, new cranks and chainrings, and a set of 32mm Gatorskins. Even ended up upgrading from a 10spd rear cassette to an 11spd (which Jake accomplished by hauling my rear wheel to the machine shop).

Sure, I was trading weight for control, but … as it turns out, despite probably a significant weight difference between my carbon bike and the steel one, I didn’t feel I sacrificed a whole lot of speed, and I had another climbing gear out of the deal. Mountain climbing ready.

The Struggler was real.

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

I'm not a bike junkie. Don't get me wrong. I love riding bikes, but I don't get into the weight savings, or geek out about some magical component. I don't even really know as much as I should about the maintenance and care of my bikes. I appreciate those things, mind you, but I don't obsess about them. Because that's not why I ride. 

And to my thinking, why you ride is more important than what. What only comes up when it gets in the way of riding or not riding.

Riding = good. Not riding = bad.

The Thursday before last was one of those days that reminded me why I ride, because sometimes in the chaos of everyday life, when you're overburdened with responsibilities and stress ... you need a reminder.

I walked into the shop after work, tired and beaten down. I didn't want to ride, hadn't ridden in almost a week. It was dark. It was cool. Did I mention I was tired? Fred was on his way out while I was coming in. 

"Hey, are you riding with us tonight?"

"Yes."

"Great!" And it was the tone in that "great" that got me. He was happy I was going to ride, the same as he was happy everyone else was going to ride, too. My mood started to lift. 

Meanwhile, up near the workbenches, there was a crowd of people talking, smiling, laughing, drinking beers. Most of them weren't dressed to ride, mind you. They were just there to see each other. To hang out. It was tempting to just hang out and not ride. They're my people, after all, but we'll get back to that. 

I changed, gathered my gear, trod outside and hopped on the bike. At a couple of minutes after six, four of us rolled out and headed for the trailhead at the Jenks bridge. We picked up another handful of riders at the parking lot, crossed the bridge, then single-filed up on the trail and headed for downtown. 

We settled into a fast, but easy pace, one bike after another, headlights cutting through the pools of dark. No one talked much. Well, Ryan and I talked about our Mini Coopers, but after that, everyone seemed to relax and pedal. It was almost peaceful. The air had just enough bite to keep you cool, but not enough to chill. It smelled clean and fresh. It was difficult, in that moment, to think about anything else, which is as it ought to be. 

We re-crossed the river at 71st, climbed to Turkey, then barreled down the hill, outracing the view distance of our headlights, which was both exhilarating and terrifying. After that, the train of bikes reformed and headed toward downtown, then across the new pedestrian bridge at Southwest Boulevard, then back on the trail to return to Jenks. 

Everything continued smoothly until Lance missed a turn. We didn't, but Lance did. We yelled, told him to turn around. He didn't hear us, though we thought he did. When we finally got through the neighborhood detour and to the park at 41st & Riverside, someone said, "Where's Lance?" which then turned into a should we or should we not go look for him. Finally, Ryan did, which was when Lance showed back up. So we waited for Ryan. ... Who cares. Bike riding.

The guys tried to hammer it a little on the way back. Tricia and I fell off for a bit, Lance, being the nice guy he is, slowed up to pull us back to the group. I didn't care. I was just happy to be there. 

Something about riding at night changes things. Maybe because you have to be a little more careful, you can't be as focused on what your speed average is or how many watts you're cranking. Maybe you don't worry that you're not hitting your mileage goal for the week, or whether or not you're drinking enough water. Somehow, the dark distills it down to its essence. It's the closest feeling I get these days to feeling like a kid again, back before I had stress and responsibility, before I worried about the future of my country, my species. In this form, it is a pure therapy. It heals.

Back at the shop, beers were had. We ogled Kari's new titanium gravel bike. We talked about work and world events. We talked religion and politics like we'd been friends for years and that was the thing that mattered. No one got mad. We toasted and celebrated just being alive. 

And the thing about all of this is: this happens more than it doesn't at the shop. Sure, you can buy things. Sure, Jake will take make sure your bike is in perfect working condition, or help you build the custom bike of your dreams. All the things you'd find in any bike shop anywhere in town are there.

But I wonder about the community. I hope the other places are like this, too, because everyone should get to have it, this sense of community. And if you don't, and it sounds good to you, we're there all the time. We ride, still, most Tuesday and Thursday nights, and we're cooking up a regular shop ride for the weekends. We have a gravel group, if you're into that thing (and if you're not, you should be because it's the next best thing to night riding). 

I'll be back next week with a gravel report. Jake, Stephen, Bobby and I went out a couple weekends back and took a lot of cool pics. It's worth writing about ... unless I have a better ride come up between now and then. I also had the opportunity to ride a couple of really sweet bikes: A Kona Wheelhouse and a Kona Sutra, and I'll write up that experience first chance I get. The short version the Wheelhouse is that it is the single most comfortable bike I've ever ridden. I might get a second job to buy one of those. 

Anyway, high five. Hope to see you for the next night ride.