Why Haven’t I Ordered My Wednesday, Yet? Part 2

Tubes or tubeless?

In the 90’s I raced triathlons on a DaVinci time trial frame. In search of speed I vainly attempted to keep up with the Jonses (literally) by switching to Tubeless Tires. Why? Today, I cannot name the advantages, and after one season, I switched back to tubes. I still patch my flats to this day, usually after walking my bike home. I have seen it done on the open road, and am confident in my ability to do this myself.

These days, however, I prefer comfort* to speed, and bumpy forest trails to smooth paved roads. My next bike will be a 2020 Surly Wednesday, large, in Blue Monday. But for some reason(s), I have not been able to bring myself make to a final decision and pull the trigger. First it was the matter of the Thru Axel, and now this. The Experts, people who should know better, keep advising me to equip my fat tire bike with Tubeless Fat Tires. Not this again. Why?

Following my own Rule #1, “Don’t doubt the engineer until you have a look at his plans,” I decided to take a closer look.

Experts’ Opinions

Surly Bikes puts it this way in their “Surly Tubeless Kit” ad copy, “A properly set up tubeless fat bike tire is like the holy grail of suppleness.” Superlative words, but not the Holy Grail of informative helpfulness. The Surly blog has more info on the kit (and the Edna 4.3″, my tire upgrade-of-choice) here: “Edna 26 x 4.3 tires and the Tubeless Tape Kit”, but no data concerning the costs and benefits of Going Tubeless, in general.

ThorHammer’s tubeless Edna 26 x 4.3” tire build

Scott Lamont (a Canadian with no vested interest), of Drenalin Adventures also recommends tubeless tires. In his youtube video “Bikepacking in the snow with my Specialized fatbike. Winter Camping with my dog.“**, just after describing the handling of fat bikes as “not the bulky, klunky bike that they look like they are,” Lamont goes tubeless:

“One tip, I suggest to people, is if you’re going to get a fat bike, go tubeless. This is a fat bike tube [holds tube up for camera], it almost weighs a pound and a half, with no air, just the rubber tube itself is almost a pound and a half. So, two tires, that’s almost 3 pounds of weight that you’re spinning around. Go to your local bike shop. They’ll hook you up. Basically what you’re going to do is, you’re going to drop the tubes and they’re going to put some sealant in your tires, and they’re going to tape up the rims, and the sealant covers all… It’s like a car tire. Car tires, truck tires there’s no tubes in automobile tires, right? They just rely on the sealant aroung the rim. Kind of the same thing with bike tires, except that you need some sealant in there that spins around with the tire just to make sure if there is a pin hole, it gets filled up. It works great for flats. If you run over a thorn, it seals itself up. So, as opposed to a tube, you’d have to take it out and patch it.”

Tubeless Pros and Cons from the Canadian Mountain Co-Operative

What if you run over something bigger than a thorn? Or a number of somethings? How easy is it to repair/replace a truly flat tubeless out on the open trail, compared to patching a tube? How much extra gear would I have to carry? What if I had multiple flats, far, far from the homestead or the nearest shop?

With a fully stocked patch kit, it would be no problem. Annoying, but somewhere before bedtime I would arrive at my destination under my own power. Can tubeless tires do that?

Day 20 of Team French’s 2016 ride across America on a pair of Surly Long Haul Truckers; Get a flat out here, and you had better have EVERYTHING you need to repair it. This was flat 1 of 3 for the day. Read more about this Father and Son trek here: “In Search of Long Lost Friends“. A life changing adventure I was so fortunate to join for a few days in Michigan.

This article on the the Canadian Mountain Co-operative‘s web site presented the facts I needed to make my decision: “Mountain bike tires: tubes vs. tubeless“.

Interestingly, MEC does not rank weight saving as a key factor. “Once you take the tubes out and replace them with sealant, you often get a slightly lighter system, but weight savings shouldn’t be the reason why you choose to get rid of the tubes.”

These are the KEY considerations for me:

Tubeless Pluses

Cuts down on flats: “Unless you slice your tire open, flats will feel like a thing of the past.
Better Cornering: “You can run your tubeless setups at much lower pressure without the risk of getting pinch flat. This means that you’ll be able to take corners much faster before your front wheel washes out.”
Better Climbing: “The lower tire pressure you can run with tubeless increases the contact patch of your tires to help you gain extra traction up steep hills.”

Tubeless Minuses

Tight Fit: “Tubeless tires have a tight bead that helps keep the air in, but this also means a tire that is harder to get on the rim – sometimes frustratingly hard.”
Spare Tube Required: “That’s right, if you end up with a puncture big enough that the sealant can’t fully seal it, you’ll want a way to get back home. For most riders, that means carrying a spare inner tube.”

My decision comes down to prioritizing puncture repair over performance. How often do I believe I will be a fair distance away and beyond practical help, where walking home is not a viable option? Once would be enough, wouldn’t it? But, if I had tubes on my rims, a pump, and a patch kit, I could ride home. And what about that tight fit? Is that something I want to deal with 60 miles from nowhere? And I would have to carry a spare tube anyway, not just a patch kit?

Prioritizing the tube’s ease of flat repair over the tubeless’ handling performance, I choose tubes.

How I equip the bike will ultimately depend on the next ride’s risk factors. I will most frequently not be venturing very far afield. So at some point I might own multiple sets of wheels for rides of different risk levels. I considered ordering my Wednesday with tires for the majority of my riding, and put off till later the “long haul” wheelset, especially now that tubeless tires have made flats “a thing of the past.” Why was it the Titanic had too few life boats? “Unsinkable,” right. I will order my Wednesday with Edna 26 x 4.3 tires, WITH TUBES. Hopefully, the extra width will add some cornering and climbing performance, even at the higher pressures required to avoid tube pinch flats.

Rule #2. What’s right for one may not be right for another.

Leave a comment if you learned something, too, or if you disagree. Especially if you disagree.

Paul Guernsey
The Guern

*Try riding triathlon-style aero-bars day after day, with your upper body weight resting on your elbows and your neck cranked back in order to see the road ahead? #PityTheFool #GregLemond #TourdeFrance1989

**Don’t you just have to trust the words of a Canadian who bikepacks with his hound?

Back to Part 1 (What the heck is a Thru Axle?? )

On to Part 3 (Deadly virus layoff and minor hurricanes)


Why Haven’t I Ordered My Wednesday, Yet? Part 1

The Surly Wednesday comes with, “front and rear thru-axles”.

What the heck is a Thru Axle?? This DiyMountainBike.com web page, What is the difference between a Quick Release and Thru Axle? answered my questions.

In the early 90’s I raced triathlons on a DaVinci time trial frame. This bike had style and class. It was fast, responsive, and reliable, at least as reliable as a skinny tired road bike could be. It also had quick release hubs, NOT THROUGH AXELS, because Campi hadn’t invent one.

Tullio Campagnolo (26 August 1901 – 3 February 1983) invented the quick release hub out of personal frustration with the standard hubs in 1923. Campanolo was having a day of it on his ride up the passo Croce d’Aune. Back then, you had to flip your wheel around to change gears since each side had a single sprocket. Unbolting and reinstalling the wheel was a pain, especially with cold, wet fingers. Changing gears should not be difficult and physical pain painful.

A must watch video re-enactment: How Hard Did Cycling Used To Be? [Modern Cyclist, Retro Bike, Classic Climb] on GCN’s [Global Cycling Network] YouTube channel. Ollie, the reenactor describes the results of his mid-climb gear change as, “Positively Magical.” #scarcasm. His new rear cog was a single tooth larger.

Tullio Campagnolo’s invention would remain standard bicycle hardward for 80 years, so why would a bike manufacturer BRAG about using inferior, non-Campi-based designs? Who do these Fat Bike people think they are?

Time to take a step back and follow my own Rule #1, “Don’t doubt the engineer until you have a look at his plans.” At least try to grasp the problem he is attempting to solve before you pretend an understanding greater than his. This DiyMountainBike.com web page answered my through hub questions.

Positively Magical.

Part 2 (Tubes or Tubeless?)

Enjoys long walks on beach…

broken shell in hand
carving words in firm wet sand
rising tide erased

smooth skin bronzed by sun
ever watchful lifeguard stares
only surface deep

plover scurries forth
on urgently churning legs
skirts the bounteous wave

2018/05/07 © paulGuernseyPlayer haiku

3 haiku, written after one of my “Beach Triathlon” workouts, and after reading the Introduction to

by Robert Hass

Hoping to get a deeper, more substantial grasp of what haiku was meant to be; hoping to read some true haiku, some truly good haiku and to Learn From The Masters. Really enjoyed the introduction, can’t wait to read more.

I have started work on my Poetry, a Definition series; The Final Word, but may have found something more fun than Proving Myself Correct, for now.

WordPress site “Tagline” changed to,
If you want more readers,
write better poetry and prose.

Spirit of Triathlon

Ground speed vs. Liquid speed

While waiting for my new roller skis to arrive, I revert to Spirit of Triathlon. Which way to the beach?

Today’s half mile against the tide, cross wave swim felt more like a mile. Although the wind was just moderate from the west, the waves were menacing. Not big in amplitude, but fast and high frequency. I suspect Hurricane Harvey had something to do with this.

I have swum in rough water, but this seemed more difficult than other swims I recall with even higher seas. I was being lifted and lowered about every two to three seconds. Normally waves are more like ten seconds apart around here. Maintaining forward inertia was difficult with all the up and down and side-to-side going on.  It felt like I was swimming on one of those old vibrating football table games [they still make them!]. My travel was not entirely up to me. Add to that the strong incoming tide and you have a striking difference between “ground speed” and “liquid speed”. I really needed a more fluid-dynamic swim suit. My long sleeved shirt kept billowing out and bunching up, constricting my shoulder movement and increasing drag. Pretty much the same deal with today’s  shorts.

The lighting was interesting. Clearwater’s water is seldom clear, and today the bottom was being churned up pretty well. The water was a chalky white cloud. The horizontal light from the nearly setting sun would get blocked by the taller waves, darkening the water just before passing under me and lifting me back up into the more brightly illuminated surface. Dark shadow, chalky light cloud, dark shadow, chalky light cloud, …

North American Vasa -164 days

-164 days (today): Spirit of Triathlon, under sunny skies

-165 days (Tuesday) Spirit of Triathlon, rain soaked)

-166 days (Monday): 6 mile run/walk, rain soaked

Ready to Climb


The vertical profile of the Noquemanon 50 km Ski Marathon has me inspired to climb.

Right at the half-way point of the course described as “deceptively tough” is a climb described this way on the race web site:

As you get closer to the Basin, you’ll come upon aid station #3 at the 29.8K mark. Leaving that party, skiers cross South Camp Road and drop onto the Basin for a 250 meter lake crossing. The rugged hills to the North provide a beautiful backdrop; beautiful, that is, until you realize that they’re up next to climb! Upon leaving the Basin at 27.9K, skiers begin a 400′ uphill climb into the hills of Granite Point.

The Granite Point area contains old growth white and red pine forests and some of the best scenery on the course. This Granite Point section has been revamped in the Fall of 2016 and most of the tight turns and difficult hills have been removed. This section used to be 7K long and is now a 3K stretch straight through to county road 510. Although most of the technical difficulties of this section have been removed, skiers will still reach the highest point on the course with an elevation of 1635 feet at the 25K mark. With 25K’s to go, skiers start to reap the rewards for their efforts as they begin the 1,000-foot “net” (key word) descent to the finish line on the shores of Lake Superior. A 1.5K long downhill cruise leads to County Road 510 – the starting area for the mBank Half Noque.

It is flat here on the “West coast of the East coast of North America” [#Florida], but our bridges rise about 25 meters above the Intra-Coastal Waterway. So, back and forth over the bridge 3 times would result in six climbs, roughly equivalent to that one climb on the Noquemanon. To match the 1,784 feet of climbing over the entire course, I would need to complete 24 bridge crossings. And given the length of the bridge at .77 km, I would need to add about 1.3 km extra to each crossing to make the whole workout match the 50 km race distance. Ok, ready to start with my first one!

Skiing Halted by Another Flat Tire

Got home from work yesterday ready to head down to the Memorial Causeway out to Clearwater Beach and do some bridge climbing. Alas, another flat V2 Aero XL 150 tire. Although I have a spare tube, I cannot change it. The tires are just too tight on the rims unless you have the special V2 Aero Tire Station ($$$), which I have no intention of getting. My option has been to ship the wheel up to the Cross Country Ski Shop in Grayling, Michigan and miss a week or two of training until they come back with new tubes.

I am no longer willing to miss that much training, so today I ordered the cheapest pair of standard (100 mm x 24 mm) solid wheeled skate roller skis on the internet: Ski Sket Shark with NNN bindings for $168 plus shipping, from NordicSkaters.com in Norwich, Vermont. Even Bob at the Cross Country Ski Shop approved. I was warned by [guy at store 1] that my 230 pounds put me over the max for this ski and that they might sag, or even bend #NotGood, but that I could cut and insert a piece of hardwood as a splint into the interior cavity of the ski to reinforce each ski, at least until I get my weight down. Ok, I can do that.

naVasa2018 -164 days.Ski Skett Shark

The [2009] Ski Sket Shark skis, made in Italy are on their way. #SolidTires #NoFlatTires

North American Vasa -167 days

Spirit of Triathlon:

bike: 4   miles
run:  4   miles
swim: 0.5 mile
bike: 4   miles

A glorious day at the beach.

Got out and back before lunch and before the mid-afternoon downpour. Did the whole run segment without stopping to rest. I must be getting lighter again. The water was slightly cooler, with just enough wave action to keep the swim interesting.

The lifeguards had the yellow flags up. The girl manning lifeguard stand #5 said it was due to an undertow condition. After my swim I could see what she was talking about, but the conditions I swam in would cause yellow flags only at Clearwater Beach. It was a beautiful day for a swim. The guy at lifeguard stand #2 agreed, although he said he had swum a mile or so earlier in the morning, and the undertow condition was more pronounced then. Lifeguard #2 also mentioned that he will be doing a longer swim out in California, the Escape from Alcatraz even. Now, that could be a place with reason for yellow flags.

Target Tips

I cannot bring myself to spend $15-20 for roller ski ferrules.  I have been disappointed with how quickly they become rounded and start slipping on asphalt. Forget about concrete. For that price, I expect better. I have also tried rubber tips, but those lasted no more than a week or two before the aluminum tube of my poles began to slice clean through. Since the steel tips will be rounded and start slipping after a few ski åknings, I came up with a dime-a-dozen solution. Well, it is really about a five-or-six-dollar-a-dozen solution, and it involves archery target tips.


I obviously left my old tips on a wee bit too long, but there is still enough plastic left for the steel threads to bite into. There shouldn’t be a problem with them staying attached.

I have a theory that having pole tips that tend to slip at very low angles is a good thing for encouraging development of proper leg technique and strength. I believe in letting the lower body do the majority of the work while the upper body assists with balance and  maintaining the inertia gained by the legs. This is the exact opposite of swimming, which gets 80% of its power from upper body parts. Since I like to swim, too, I will maintain this dichotomy, at least during my summer training. So, when my target tips begin to wear, I do not even bother to rotate them 180° to expose the sharper edge to the pavement. This does work to make the tips bite better, but the effect is short lived and tends to encourage more reliance on upper body strength.

When I do eventually get onto actual snow with frozen ground beneath it, I may change my mind about letting the upper body “kick in” more.

Michigan has more than just the North American Vasa?


This morning before heading out for my Spirit of Triathlon, I discovered two more Michigan Nordic distance events that I simply must add to my schedule! Yesterday I was watching youtube videos of biathlon athletes, equipment, training and racing, when I had the stupendous idea of Googling [traverse city bithlon]. Google kindly corrected my spelling and showed me results for [traverse city biathlon], which included a 2016 article titled, Winter Brings Fierce Snowsport Competitions to Traverse City, . This article mentioned something called the White Pine Stampeed, and somehow I also stumbled upon the Noquemanon Ski Marathon.

I am so excited to have these new goals in addition to the North American Vasa. I am jazzed because it seemed a bit senseless to move to Michigan for two months, just for a race. I was considering attempting Saturday’s 48 km skate and Sunday’s 30 km classic races, back-to-back, which worried me. The 48 km still feels a bit daunting. Even though I completed 56% of the distance in a single åkning, heading back out and repeating that distance is not yet real to me and I have not had a chance to train with classic technique.

Well, now I have three skate events in the 50 km range, each a whole week apart, the first in the U.P.*:

Noquemanon Ski Marathon
50 km; Saturday, 2018/01/27

White Pine Stampede
50 km; Saturday, 2018/02/03

North American Vasa
48 km; Saturday, 2018/02/10

#excited #jazzed #stoked #happySkier #OffToTheRaces

*U.P.: Upper Peninsula; the northern part of Michigan, across the Mackinac Bridge from the Lower Peninsula; The Lower Peninsula, however, is never referred to as the L.P.; The Northern part of the Lower Peninsula is referred to as Northern Michigan, but lies south of the Upper Peninsula.

North American Vasa 2018 -171 days

Skiing was rained out, so I rode the fixie to Pier 60 for a beach run. I also jumped into the water for a few strokes, so technically it was a Spirit of Triathlon workout. I knew I was attempting to thread the needle between several fast moving storm cells [ #again #WelcomeToFlorida ], so I was not surprised to get caught at the Pier 60 pavilion when the winds blew and rains came and darkness covered the face of the deep. I ventured out for my beach run when the rain slowed a bit, splashing through the lapping surf for  about half a mile before nearby lightning drove me back up the beach to the relative shelter of Lifeguard Stand Number 6.

There I met two ladies from New Orleans also seeking shelter from the storm. One was having her birthday.  I saw the weather radar map on one of their cell phones. We were just on the northern edge of a “train” of thunder storm cells making their way from the east toward the Gulf of Mexico. There seemed to be no end. But eventually there was another lull and the ladies gathered themselves under an umbrella and scampered off to their dinner at Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill.

After another ten minutes I determined the coast to be clear, literally, although there were still lightning strikes happening two to three miles off and heading away. The drama had drained out of the immediate vicinity and I enjoyed the light show from a relatively safe distance, if  in a slightly apprehensive sort of way for the rest of my darkening beach run.

Spirit of Triathlon*

Rode the fixie to the beach in the high heat of the Florida summer for a run and a swim. Today would have been [North American Vasa 2018 -188 days], but two an a quarter hours might be exercise enough.

I watched the first half of the 2013 Vasaloppet on youtube. The back of the pack had moved two kilometers in the time the leaders were passing the 20 km mark. Did they get cold waiting to climb that first hill? That hill looks H U G E, by the way. I would not have been surprised to see a ski lift.  The broadcast focused on the leaders. Way too much focus for a four hour race. Couldn’t watch any more, and I don’t know the players well enough to care who won. I, of course, am more interested in the back of the pack and what the race looked like for them. How did their form and speed compare to the leaders? Did they double-pole 98% of the race, too? Who were they? What were their stories?

I was also horrified by how much Swedish I have forgotten in forty years, since my year as a Rotary Youth Exchange student in Nyköping, Sweden (1977-1978). I was not extraordinarily fluent after just that one year, but Jag kunde Svenske, lite grand. Unfortunately now I do not know the difference between “Det gör inte,” and “Det går inte.” Watching the race reminded me so strongly of my life as a foreigner, not fully knowing the language. Every day straining to understand what was going on around me. Math class was the best. Though I did not fully comprehend the big picture of differentials, I could muddle through. And don’t talk to me about emotions. Oh, I had them, I just could not communicate them. I am seriously thinking of starting in on Rosetta Stone Swedish, just to recover some part of that time in my life. Did I mention my genetics are one eighth Norwegian? I am one of the rare Dark Haired Norsemen.

What was I saying? Triathlon, right.

Bike 5 miles; run/walk 3 miles; swim 0.6 miles; bike 5 miles; Gulf of Mexico water temperature: 87° F (30.5° C); Bath, anyone?

*Why do I call it “Spirit of Triathlon,” and not just Triathlon? Because I do not do organized Triathlon races any more. I did an IRONMAN distance race in 1992, and many other sprint and Olympic distance races, but I no longer care to pay the $100 entry fee and have a number painted on my body. Being disqualified in this year’s Dunedin Rotary Triathlon also turned me off to the Official Race idea. The race official did not allow either of the two bikes I brought. Why do I need this? I do not. I can ride to the beach any day of the week and run, splashing ankle-deep through the lapping waves, swim just as far as I want, and take my bloody time in the shower before getting back on my bike for the trip home. I imagine the original 1974 triathletes in Mission Bay, California where the modern incarnation of the sport was invented had this same Spirit. Enjoying the day is more important having a good race, perhaps more important than having a race AT ALL.