Thursday, May 2, 2024

Croatan Buck Fifty

 If you like gravel and live in the Southeastern US and haven't heard of or participated in the Croatan Buck Fifty, you have been slacking! I first heard of the race while scrolling through Instagram in the summer of 2018. I was riding my fixed gear to commute to work and back daily as well as just bombing around town. So my fitness level was pretty high at that time. I figured since the race takes place in the Croatan National Forest in Eastern North Carolina and is mostly flat I would crush it. The main event and namesake is a 150 mile race through the forest on gravel roads. But they have other options as well, like 100 and 50 miles. I signed up for the 50 and started "training". My training consisted mostly of commuting and bar hopping for what its worth. 

They did not have a fixed gear division so I just signed up for the single speed division. But I rode the race on a fixed gear. This proved a wise choice. I had so much fun bombing down the forest roads and passing the other racers. A lot of folks were dreading the section colloquially known as "Savage Road". This section was no joke. There was a lot of puddles, and you would be wise to avoid them as some were quite deep. You really had to choose a good dry line and inevitably that line would crisscross from left to right and back again. I got stuck in some traffic as the good lines were often only wide enough for a single rider. There was a fellow racer who thought he could bypass the traffic by taking a "wetter" line. That guy literally was swallowed by what I can only assume was an eight foot deep mud puddle. 

I ended up 4th out of the five 50 mile single speed finishers. Back in 2019, the race was smaller than it is now days. It also had a more laid back atmosphere, at least to me it did. Its still not very pretentious or anything and everyone I encountered was super cool. But I mean they did have free beer from Crank Arm Brewing out of Raleigh back then and I don't think I've seen that since.

2020 and 2021 saw the race interrupted due to the Covid nonsense. But by 2022 we were back in action. Class of 2022 we saw the fifty single speed swell to 7 brave competitors. I ran a lower gear, still fixed gear. The lower gear was great in the cornfield and other tough spots, but I felt really limited on many stretches of smooth gravel. But the weather was really nice and of course the race organizers did a hell of a job setting things up as we have come to expect. I ended up placing 6th out of the 7 of us. 

In 2023 the fifty single speed had grown to 14 beastly competitors. I *think* this was also the first year they had a staggered start. There were more people here for the race than I had seen before. This is great for the race organizers, the competitors, and the local economy. This year I changed things up a bit and actually ran a freewheel single speed. It was higher geared than 2022 which was helpful. I ended up in 7th out of the 14 finishers. 

2024 I had to skip for a couple reasons. One being the fifty would be raced on Sunday, meaning I would want to take the following Monday off work. When they had it on Saturdays, I just came down on Friday, ran the race, hung out, and went home on Sunday. I also just had a baby, so that kind of complicated things. I'm pleased to hear the 2025 edition will take place on a Saturday as it had in years past. I do plan on registering again. Probably going back to fixed gear, and hopefully kicking ass!

Monday, April 29, 2024

Weapon TC01

 After destroying my poor Kilo WT I needed to find something else to fit my needs. BikesDirect has been out of stock on the Kilo WTs for a while, and I am an impatient person. So I searched around various websites, shops looking for what was available.

My next frame had to be steel, allow for fairly wide tires, and be either chrome or raw finish. It also needed to be less than a grand in price.

There was a lot of decent options out there. I even considered getting a custom frame made just for me. Ultimately I settled on the Weapon TC01. The price was right. They claim it is triple butted steel in the main tubes. I have no way of confirming that as I am not about to cut the tubes to find out. It has clearance for some pretty beefy tires. It was available in a raw kind of finish too. 

I just moved most of the parts from my kilo over to it. I did buy a longer stem and black hplus son wheelset. Oh yeah and some black omnium cranks.

So far I only have a few hundred miles on it, but I'm really digging it. Currently it's setup for commuter duty. It will likely stay in this configuration until late winter. At that point the front rack will be removed and the gatorskin/thickslick tires will come off in favor of some gravel kings.

My plan is to commute and bar hop on it in this setup and then convert it to a fixed gear gravel crushing monster for the Croatan Buck Fifty next March. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Eighthinch Scrambler V2

 While preparing to sell my house I was forced with pairing down some of my extensive bicycle collection. I had two single speed/fixed gear bikes at the time. It didn't seem right to keep two of them especially since where I was moving had a lot more limited bike storage. One of my fixed bikes at the time was my beloved Eighthinch Scrambler V2. There was nothing special about it. In fact as far as frames go it was kind of cheap.

But it was the first decent fixed gear frame I built up. I rode like 10,000 miles on it. There was just something about it I really liked. I could ride a century on it and still be as comfortable as you can expect to be on a bike. The Scrambler went through several iterations over the many years we were together.

I had bullhorns on it for a bit, sticker bombed it, rode it with risers, you name it. I wore out a couple pairs of cranks on it even. There was one thing that I felt it was lacking though; tire clearance. I think the maximum I ever got to fit was 28s. So I eventually purchased the Kilo WT. And as much as I enjoyed the Kilo, the Scrambler remained my daily driver. 

One thing I liked about the Scrambler was that raw finish. After years of rain and sweat, it developed a great patina. And the nice thing about a rusty bike with no gears and no brakes is most bike thieves will pass it up and try for something more flashy. It was also cool not having any logos (headbadge fell off years ago) on it. So real bike nerds often inquired about the frame and its origins. 

Unfortunately the Scrambler has been out of production for a long time and the Eighthinch brand itself seems to be defunct at this time. Such a shame too. I would buy another of these frames without hesitation and build it up tomorrow if I could. Hell, the last time I saw them offered for sale, the frame was like $100. 

I rode this bike in several states, in all weather conditions, and made a lot of fond memories atop of it. I also made many friends along the way. But when it came time to thin the heard, I just felt my other fixed gear could do all the things the Scrambler could and more. I sold it to some dude on Facebook Marketplace. I really hope he is still riding the hell out of it and enjoying it as much as I did.

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

RIP my Kilo WT

 I have had my Kilo WT for about seven years. Unfortunately, an episode of inattention has taken the Kilo WT out of my stable. I really loved the bike. It carried me many miles through many interesting places both in my personal life as well as geographically. I used it as a solid commuter, beer run bike, and race bike. 

For a short time I even had it pimped out with Profile BMX cranks, which were heavy as hell  but they added a big bling factor and were super stiff. I raced the Croatan Buck Fifty on it several times, even got a podium on it once. I rode this bike exclusively after I was forced to sell the EighthInch Scrambler. 

You might be wondering how a fairly sturdy and reliable steel frame such as the Kilo WT could have been rendered unusable. A buddy and I went for a nice ride one Saturday morning. When we got back to my place, I lazily just rested my beloved Kilo WT on the side of my truck. I went in, showered, and then wrapped up my honey-do list. A couple hours later I was informed it was my turn to cook dinner so I headed out to the grocery store. While leaving I heard a strange noise, but didn't think too much of it. 

But when I arrived at the grocery store it hit me. That noise I heard was probably my Kilo WT. I thought to myself, "Ehh, its fine, that thing is a tank. Better check the truck for any damage." As it turns out the truck was fine. But when I returned home from the grocery store I saw my bike was pretty much done for. I was heartbroken and felt like a complete jackass for running over my own bike.

The downtube was completely bent to crap. the front wheel (H Plus Son laced to Formula hub) was also toast. To make matters even worse, bikesdirect is sold out of them in any color/size. It was a sad day at dudeonabike's house for sure. As I drank my sorrows away I started looking for a replacement frame. But trying to find a decent fixed gear/single speed frame (with wide tire clearance) that doesn't totally raid my daughter's college fund is no easy task. 

Sure I could get a Squid Bikes So-EZ frame and build it up. I have all kinds of parts lying around. But that rear spacing would require me getting another rear wheel. So that option was out pretty quick. I thought about a State, but felt like that was just too obvious an option. The 4130 they currently offer reminds me much of a Squid So-EZ though.

I thought about a Mash frame, I thought about a custom build. But I went with something completely different and hopefully of decent quality.