The following is a true story, only the names have been changed to protect the guilty.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

22 Miles

Our starting line, Gray's Bay or bust
 The length of Minnehaha Creek is roughly twenty-two miles. On Saturday, Vandy and I began our cycling trek at Minnehaha Falls with our sights set on Gray's Bay, 22 icy miles away. We opted to skip the quarter mile section of creek from the falls to the Mississippi River mostly because we just wanted to get moving. We did however ride down to the base of the falls to admire the up-close view of the frozen backdrop and set the tone for the day.
depressions of broken ice are common the first 5-6 miles

This is a really fun section on a kayak when the water is moving fast
 The first ten miles or so were review. I've ridden them a number of times so I was eager to get to the unknown. Last year I rode (w/AF) all the way to 169 and a little further, so the unknown wouldn't come until the last 6 or 7 miles. The whole thing was a joy to ride anyway, it went so quick I wanted it to last a little longer.
Some one was kind enough to leave this chair in the creek so i could relax in the middle of our ride

This is the guy with the skates, we thought we were hard core until we met him
 With the really cold temps there was very little watery, wet, slushy, overflow. Not to be confused with the frozen solid overflow that makes the riding fast and smooth, the watery stuff can wreak havoc on a drive train. Many sections had newly frozen overflow that was smooth enough to ice skate. It just so happens we met one such individual who was skating the entire length of the creek just as we were riding it. He started at Gray's Bay and when we met him he was just upstream of Meadow Brook Lake. We were impressed enough to start plotting our own adventure on skates as we chatted and rode.
I just need a few things at the grocery store

Taco Bell, yeah were tough, anyone that can eat this shit and then ride a bike is tough 
 In the final few miles Vandy stepped up the pace quite a bit, and before we knew it we were face to face with our destiny, the dam at Gray's Bay. This small barricade at the eastern edge of the massive Lake Minnetonka is what makes the whole thing possible. If it were not for this little dam controlling the lake level the kinetic energy of flowing water might keep the creek open year round thus making our ride impossible.
beautifully frozen overflow

The final stretch
 When we got to the bay we had planned on "a little icing on the the cake" or "throwing a pancake on it" for the grand finale' by riding to Big Island. I am not familiar with Lake Minnetonka and had no idea just how large it is and how far the additional ride out to the island would be. After rounding the bend a few miles out on Wayzata Bay, in gale force winds, the idea was scrapped. We headed back to the western edge of Gray's Bay where our pre-placed shuttle vehicle was waiting.
I'm so awesome and I don't even know it  :)

This is what makes it all possible
 It was a great ride with a good friend. I was glad to finally make the goal I've had rumbling around in my head for a few years a reality. Not knowing for sure if the conditions will permit such a ride is what makes this one so sweet to have completed. I'm not the first, greatest, most awesome, or foremost authority, to ride this, but if you have not ridden the creek, do yourself a favor and get out there, it's a blast. No, it's not completely safe so use your best judgement.
Wayzata Bay, black ice 

More like Green Ice

Monday, January 28, 2013

Heat

Roll up the body
 While wasting time on the internet, just like you are now, I saw some examples of guys using small home built stoves in their 1-2 man retrofitted tents. The stoves looked interesting but were of crude construction and seemed dangerous. They were built from everyday items found in department stores, hardware stores, garages or dumpsters, and re-purposed into wood stoves. While I was inspired by, and admire the creativity of these stoves, I would not be able to bring myself to construct something that is well below my ability, and level of craftsmanship. I'm a sheet metal worker by trade and have all the materials and equipment at my disposal to craft something at a much higher level of quality.
I added 2 beads for strength 

Forming roll, used to shape the ends so they can be spot welded inside the body


The various stages of the ends during forming


I wanted my stove to be relatively light, and most importantly safe. My plan is to use it on short overnight bike-packing, back packing, and kayak trips during the cold months from late fall to early spring. I decided to go with a round body as opposed to a squared off one simply because thought it would look cool and be a greater challenge to build. As I mentioned, safety is of prime concern, I want to be able to use it with my kids. Many of the hacked together stoves look very dangerous, some rely on gravity to keep them together while others are so flimsy they look as if they would fall apart with a accidental tap of a booted foot or windy conditions moving or shaking the tent. In particular the vent/stack seems to be the most dangerous component of the stoves I've seen. Simply sleeveing together a multi-piece stack without any kind of fastener is an accident waiting to happen. Just because they slide together doesn't mean they will stay together. My solution is to pre drill holes in the stack and run long pins through the entire diameter. My stove also has a protruding collar in which to attach the stack. This may get in the way a little but it makes for a solid attachment of the stack and a place to put a proper damper. Some stoves are designed to have the stack fit inside the body of the stove, this is a bad idea since there is no way to secure the vent and the air flow is all wrong. Typically in the HVAC trade you want to "observe" air flow by telescoping the pieces in a manner that naturally will not leak. Small end goes into large end with air flow transitioning through the overlap in the same direction. I have not included pics of the stack but I have three different options that I will go over at a later time.
Spot weld the ends and follow up with a forming roll to get the crimp nice and tight

Di-acro bender used to form the legs

Legs in place
For the body of the stove I chose to use stainless steel, it looks cool and most people have neither the access or wherewithal to work with it so I thought it would be unique if nothing else. In testing I believe the stainless is not the best option, heat doesn't seem to radiate as well as black iron. Since making the first two out of stainless I have since constructed several others from black iron that seem to radiate heat better. Black iron is lighter, much cheaper, and easier to work with. The first stove was missing a damper in the front and the rear, I thought since this thing was so small the "rules" would not apply, I was wrong. The 2nd-5th generation of stoves all have two dampers and work a lot better.  
Door with clever but simple way to keep it shut

Layout of the vent collar

The collar is dove tailed and spot welded to the inside of the body
This little project is a work in progress, since my first stove was finished I have made several more including one with a heat exchanger to get as much out of these things as possible. I will share more when I perfect my system and have more pics for you to take a look at. Now I need to get going on a small tent suitable for a wood stove.
first test

I got most of the center section of the stove to turn red without warping. I need to make some changes and add dampers for better control



Sunday, January 27, 2013

Louisville Swamp

I was out here last year with "G Man" and was unable to ride out to the little island made of sandstone due to thin ice, this time I made it.
 Friday I got out of work a little early (11:30 am) and headed down to the Louisville Swamp. This is an area I have visited often with friends, family, and singularly. A good time can be had exploring this large track of land along the Minnesota River.  I have also had some of my toughest rides coming back through here on very long snowmobile trail rides. On an out and back from Shakopee to Belle Plaine by the time I hit "the swamp" I'm completely fried, and the last 8-9 miles is a death march.
The island
 For me it's hard not to associate the swamp with these really tough rides, but a day of just cruising and fooling around sure helps erase the negative thoughts. It's these fun rides and the beauty of the wide open spaces that keep me coming back. The really tough rides also keep me coming back since they are a necessary component of endurance racing, especially in the winter . It's all about balance.   
Sand Creek. A.F. and I paddled this much further upstream last spring 
 The snowmobile trail doesn't actually go through the Louisville Swamp but travels alongside the Minnesota River. This trail in conjunction with some of the trails in the park can be pieced together to make a nice loop any time of the year, except when it's flooded, or towards the end of summer when the stinging nettle and very tall grasses are at their peak on the snowmobile trail. On Friday everything was nicely frozen so I made my own route combining the swamp, sand creek, the trails within the park and the snowmobile trail to make a nice two hour ride.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Coward

That's me, a coward
 The sticker clearly states "Cowards Won't Show". For the 9th running of the Arrowhead Ultra I will be a coward. I've started all eight Arrowhead Ultras and finished six.  This race has been such a big part of my life over the last eight years it's really hard not to be part of it. The fact is I'm burned-out on this race, mentally. Over the last several years I've found myself thinking about it during the warm months of summer and stressing over it. The last two years I vowed to take a year off and still threw my name in the hat when the registration opened. This year I even signed up thinking I could pull off another one, I can not
This was my home-made bike for the very first AH135. This pig weighed about 80 pounds, I was lucky to get it over 5 miles per hour

There were only 12 of us at the first race.  You think it's dangerous now, back then  there was only 1 snowmobile checking on us and he definitely did not stay up all night patrolling 
 What I will miss most about not being there is seeing all my friends I've made over the years.  Some of them I see on a regular basis, but others I only see in International Falls over the extended weekend. They are a different and hardy bunch of people compared to who you meet at shorter, much easier races. I have always enjoyed hearing what kind of crazy stuff they are pulling off.
I thought the race would be fun, kind of like winter camping and bike riding combined. I was wrong and seriously thought I would freeze to death the first night when I bivyed ,completely drenched and exhausted @ 20 below zero.

Everything was going great during the day when it was nice and sunny.  The darkness brought very cold temps and a living nightmare of shivering and deals with God.
 I've already been reaping some of the benefits of not showing up this year, they include... saving money on new lighter gear, not having to ride my bike by myself for 4-6 hours in every winter condition imaginable, not having to pack my bike 100 times to make sure everything is ok, and not obsessing over long term weather reports and snow conditions.
This was the original check point at Turtle Lake, mile 83 approx. I dropped out here in the late afternoon on the second day after I was told I could only stay a short while because they were leaving and the lodge was closed. I could either go back out on the trail or get a ride with them to the finish. 

This is the original finish, I'm standing with Pierre Ostor to my right and Ron Cadera to my left.  The AH 135 was the brainchild of Pierre, not only did he bring the race to fruition but he also competed in it. He is one hell of an athlete and an exceptional guy, Ron is too. Ron was the first skier to finish and held the record for a while
 I will also not be missing.... The hours and hours of slugging through the boreal forests of northern Minnesota on a 45 pound bike by myself. (that's right, I've spent so much money  :( on my bike and lightweight gear it weighs very little, I also don't bring anything for back-up gear, bare minimum) The nausea experienced after about six hours of eating trail mix and candy and holding it down because you need this shit to survive. The fifteen minutes or so it takes to start feeling your toes and fingers after stopping for only a minute and having that repeated over and over every time you stop to piss, eat, or make an adjustment. The stinging that comes just before you start to feel those toes and fingers. Being freaked out by hallucinations of people and or ghosts, standing on the side of the trail during the night and realizing it's only a pine tree as you approach it/them. Going so slow that when you look at your odometer two hours later you've only gone 10 miles. Running continuous math equations in your head to figure out how long you have left, if you have enough calories in you to make the next checkpoint, how close you are to the next guy, how close they are to you, and why the hell you would ever want to ride your bike this slow.
Back in December of 2004 when I was getting ready for the inaugural AH135 there were no fat-bikes readily available. They were not even called fat-bikes then.  The only thing available were the rims, so I built my own by bastardizing my old StumpJumper

I built my own fork from the crown of a Rock Shox  Judy. The lowers were crafted from the down tubes of two other bikes I fished out of a dumpster. I welded on some home made drop out tabs and bosses for a disc brake.
 This sounds like I'm complaining, I'm not. All the difficult stuff is what draws a person to the Arrowhead 135 to see if they can conquer it. It's pretty amazing when you do. I failed my first attempt and it made finishing it the next year that much sweeter. Good luck to all who are attempting it this year, I truly hope you have prepared for it, because there is no way to fake this race.      To all my friends up there..... I will miss seeing and talking with you....... maybe next year...... D Rider   Out
This thing was really cobbled together but it got me through 1 3/4 AH135's.  This is not finished here but you get the idea of what it took, this also f-ed up the geometry but I had a race soon and didn't have time for such luxuries as a bike that rode well.  I added in the little spacer and filled the gaps with a tig welder.

I spliced in more parts from the dumpster bikes to get enough clearance for the  3" Nokian Gazzaloddi's.  Those tires absolutely sucked, they had soooo much resistance. I believe this was part of my down fall leading to a DNF the first year, later I cut off all the knobs, something every fat-biker had to do at that time before we had tires you could "just buy". 

This pic shows the disc brake mount and a reinforcement. If you look close you can see the chainstay was cut and a piece was added to make the stays longer. Most of the frame was done when I finally got the wheels and tires a couple weeks before the race. I had no idea of the diameter so when I put the wheel in it rubbed on the frame, no biggie, cut splice and weld.

This is the finished bike, I also had to weld in a new head tube to accommodate the 1 1/8 " steerer  tube. This really sucked too, the tube was something I found at work that sort-of fit,  the only way to keep the headset from wobbling was to tighten it down almost to the point it would not turn freely

This is the same bike the following year. I cut off the head tube and made it a little steeper. It was the same head tube so it still wobbled. I still have the bike and almost threw it out several times but couldn't. This bike really sucked and I'm thankful for factory made fat-bikes and John Evingson for getting the ball rolling. That's right Evingson is the godfather of  Fat-Bikes for the masses. He planted the seed on a cold day in February  at "Kid Riemer's original "Snowball's chance in Hell".   

This is from  08',  just before I left for AH 135 # 4. I finally got a real fat-bike, this one only lasted for a season  when I retooled and upgraded ........ several more times

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Racing, Minnesota River Bottoms

The only guy in the intermediate class  to ride the first deep water hole. 
 My second race of the year was at the Minnesota River Bottoms on Saturday. The top notch race was put-on by Pat Sorensen of Penn Cycle and several other volunteers including the Penn Cycle Race Team.  The weather was terrific, warm and sunny for most of the day. The racing kicked off at 10 am with the intermediate class and the beginners immediately after. I'm a little biased since I helped layout the course and Penn Cycle is my team, but it was awesome. We were able to make a complete loop by running a  second trail parallel to the existing one. On race day the newer trail was very bumpy, if we had snow it would have been smooth and fast.

Intermediate race leaders 
 With the warm temps overnight, the racers were greeted by a surprise when they rode the section along Nine Mile Creek. During the evening hours the creek level went up enough that it was necessary to ride through standing water on top of the frozen creek. I thought this was about the coolest thing one could ride during a race or any ride for that matter. I was looking forward to plowing through the water when it was my turn. As the day wore on the water level rose enough that the advanced class had about a half mile of it on the final lap.
Staying warm as the racers cruise by, out at Nine Mile Creek

good turn out for a winter race with very little snow and  competition with two other races being held on the same day in the twin cities.
 The race was a success with approximately 50 racers and will be back next year. In true Penn Cycle race fashion, a ton of schwag was given out, including a 9 Zero 7 frame. Check it out next year and pray for snow!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

No Excuses

Vandy and I got out right after work to enjoy the fleeting sunlight  
 The snow has been gone around theses parts for a while now, but that's no excuse not to get out and ride. The trails are sheer ice and it appears not many people are riding them. The real fun right now can be had on  the frozen bodies of water. We live in the land of 10,000 lakes, we might as well ride some of them while we have this perfect opportunity.

This is on the Minnesota, we were temped to ride across but wimped out

Someone put my ladder back up, it's visible from the trail, not cool. Next time please put it back in the hole so we can use it next year.
 I managed to get several decent rides in over the last week, because you never know when it might snow again and ruin a good thing.  Get yourself some studded tires and ride before it's too late, ice skates would be nice too.

Swamp cruisers

Changing a fat in the middle of the lake

Recognize this?

This swamp/lake had a lot of open water, Vandy fearlessly led it all :)