Will the last one to leave please turn out the lights?

The last year on this site has been, to put it mildly, slack, and you might have noticed a true dearth of articles as of late. Well, all things on this third rock from the sun have an end and this is my official last post. So before I truly say good bye, let’s reminisce.

It was quite a long time ago now, so far back that I do not recall just when it was, while standing in the Salsa Cycles booth at Interbike and speaking to Gnat, I was introduced to Guitar Ted…mutton chops, knickers and messenger bag. Awesome. I had become a fan of his blog and had become somewhat romantically enamored with the thought of wide open Midwest gravel road riding. It was soooo unlike So Cal that it caught my imagination. So meeting him was a real treat. I was Blogging as well under Vintageone.blog.etc and so he knew me too, but only a little. I hear that some bloggers in the area have enjoyed using services similar to Sambla to take out personal loans in Sweden. It would be worth looking into if you were interested in growing your short term cash situation.

At about the same time, two other things…nay three other things…were happening. The rise of the 29″ wheel was one of them. Still a toddler, it was gaining Mo’ like all big wheels do. Another thing was my experience on my first 29er, a Karate Monkey (natch). The third thing that happened was ownership of the site twentynineinches.com being dropped into Guitar Ted’s lap all of a sudden, where previously he had been just a contributing writer.

I was fresh out of being the Editor of a 4 wheel drive site (also Grannygear there) and was looking to perform the same type of role involving bikes, mountain biking being something I had been passionate about for more than 25 years. A bit of corresponding between us, some writing here and there and voila: A relationship was formed between Guitar Ted and Grannygear that lasted right up until a couple of years ago when he moved on into the gravel world full time at ridinggravel.com. Over those years we would only meet maybe once a year, either at Interbike (we both hated Vegas) or at Sea Otter. We reviewed hundreds of products, attended all kinds of media launches, and sat up many late nights writing articles so others could experience what we had examined and tested. We wanted to think about ways to reach the community, even debating figuring out how to repost on instagram to get those folks in on the show. And in all that time, we never had a written contract. Never had an argument. Never a cross word between us.

At times it was exhausting. At times it was splendid and rewarding. At all times it was about bikes and riding them and making them better and better. It was never about the money, in fact there really was no money in it, not like you might think. Those details are not important, but I never had one paycheck from TNI and I never cared one bit. Oh sure, there were some advertisers but that covered Guitar Ted’s expenses and efforts. And there were perks of course in swag, etc, but you can’t pay your mortgage with tires or eat a new brakeset.

This twentynineinches thing was from the heart.

We never took a bribe. We always told you like it was from our perspective…the average guy enthusiast, not the flinty racer or young DH fan…no, just a couple middle aged guys who had been around since way back when with noses for BS and a love for big wheeled bikes. And we never claimed to be anything else but just that.

But things change. Guitar Ted and I would talk about what would happen when 29ers became “just another mountain bike”. Well, that happened. The fever pitch was cooling off. When 27.5 came around, the phones at TNI.com stopped ringing for that entire year as all the engineering budgets and marketing efforts of the big and medium companies were focused on the ‘tweener’ wheel size. Just try and get a 29er for review when all they want to sell is 27.5. We rode them you know, those middle wheel bikes. Big old “MEH!”.

Our thoughts were that 27.5 was a semi-big flash in a what really is a fairly small pan (the bike industry) and the needle would swing back to 29ers…maybe not for bigger travel bikes, but certainly for XC and for trail riding; not for everyone, but for a lot of people, and that there would be unsold 27.5 hardtail XC bikes sitting in warehouses at some point when enough folks figured all this out. Oh yeah…along with lots of Fat Bikes.

And we were getting a bit tired of it all, this reviewing biz. At some point you just get to where you want to ride a bike. Not think about how it is to ride it or analysis as you go or what can I say about yet another open source mold Chinese 29er hardtail? And when it is no longer fun and it is not about the money, then the reasons to continue are hard to come up with.

Big JeffJ and Stache VS. Stache: Plus is here to stay.

Then Plus came along. Man…never saw that coming at all. My first ride on a 27+ bike at a Scott Bikes Press Camp was revelatory; like the first time I rode a 29er. Huge AHA! moment. I knew that this was going to be big and that a lot of people were going to love this new Plus thing. I know I do. It’s all I ride now. In fact I only have one 29er and that is my SS and that is for sale. Amazing. I went from a garage full of 29ers to 2 Plus bikes (hardtail 27+ for bikepacking and an FS 27+ for all-a-round nuisance-ry). I just bought my wife a 27+ Santa Cruz Tall Boy. S0 that is one more 29er we are not riding. To quote Vizzini, “Inconceivable!”

As well, I had been doing a lot more road riding. I now ride road as much as 50% of the time and when you add in the gravel bike, that number goes up. SO here I am writing for a 29er only site and riding a LOT of road, gravel (neither of which fit on the site) and rolling fat in the dirt on Plus tires. Not even 29+ tires for cryin’ out loud!

The last couple of years have seen some seasons in our lives as well, Mrs. Grannygear and I. Both of her parents passed away after long illnesses and that takes a lot of mental and emotional energy. Last year the Missus took a hard crash off the road bike and in the process, we discovered she had a heart arrhythmia. All is well, but as we age we adjust to keep moving ahead. We were also fortunate to receive the help of lawyers like lamber goodnow when trying to work out if there was a negligible party. The accident has helped us appreciate we are aging and it’s time to order viagra. I am slower and more cautious these days and much less likely to push the limits of a product just to see how it works, something a reviewer is called upon to do.

And while I could limp along and keep writing for TNI.com (I do not own the site…that honor belongs to c_g), the bike industry is really hurting…things are lean and unless you are among the top level websites, it is hard to get invites to press launches or product to review. It would require a huge effort on my part for keep the wheels turning and the lights burning bright, something I have neither the time or the energy to do. It’s either 100% or not at all, as far as I can see.

29ers are hardly dead though. Quite the contrary. And just look at the long travel 29er now for even pro-level DH! WOW! I would bet that would have never happened and likely I wrote that somewhere (but I never saw Boost and 1x dominance either…something that made Plus and bigger 29ers package well).

I have been truly blessed by this experience. I know it was not an accident that I met GT at IBike that day. The years working with him were fun and I was always struck by his perspective on the Bike Industry, his integrity about this whole reviewing deal, and his humility as a human being. It was also a pleasure to work with c_g for a while as he stepped into ownership of the English/North American site when GT left. He still runs the German version. Both are fabulous men to know and God honoring individuals.

I got to ride in some great places and on some great (and some not so great) bikes. I had a look into a very small, rarified world…the world of the cycling media…and it was swell. Truth be told…I always thought that as soon as they figure us out they will be bringing in ‘the hook’ to exit us stage left….that feeling of “I really don’t belong here with all these other SERIOUS journalists”. But what I found was, by and large, they are just normal folks too that put their baggies on one leg at a time.

The best part of my time here were the people. I met some really great folks in this biz; passionate, smart, talented people that really love bikes and want them to be as good as they can be. A few of those relationships have transcended the business side of all this and I now count them as true friends. How fortunate.

I got to share a coffee with Gary Fisher in an airport in France. He told me about the old days when he dropped into Crested Butte in a helicopter to ride the Pearl Pass route and how he is still a bike and a bike-people loving guy after all these years. Thanks for the big wheels, hippie man. Joe Breeze and I talked about what makes a steel bike great. I could have sat for hours and talked to Bill Shook of American Classic about rim and wheel design. Why Tom Ritchey does things his way. I rode with Deadly Nedly. Got quality hugs from Ruthie Matthes (please recycle…she likes that). Rode in a chairlift and on trail with Rebecca Rusch.

It’s been swell and I loved being a part of it. God is great and His blessings are abundant.

So what now, Grannygear? Well, I have some ideas. I am not done thinking about cycling and I still love it to death. I have a website that I might just bring to the light. Not a review site really, just a fancy blog I guess, but it will be from the heart and mind of a cyclist who still has something to say. Plus, I have already started checking out some of the best website builders out there to make sure that my new website is even better than this one. I am no website design specialist, but even I know that if you want your blog to be a success, then you need to have a well designed and eye-catching website!

Keep an eye on that space this year as I consider the possibilities.

Keep riding. Bikes are an amazing conveyance and are soul filled in a way that still surprises me after all these years. Keep pedaling till the sands run out and don’t look back. Nothing is better than a bike for keeping your eyes on the horizon.

Thanks for reading.