I decided that a new bike was in order for Trans-Iowa. My choice was a 2011 Redline D660, which may surprise some long-time readers and friends.
I made some modifications to it right away. First, I replaced the stock wheels and tires. The stock wheels seemed fine, but I wanted to save a bit of rolling weight and add a generator hub for all-night riding.
I used Sun Equalizer EQ23 rims, which are light and cheap. I used another Sun Equalizer rim (ELQ21) on the "race wheels" for my Goodrich, and they are doing fine after 1500 miles of fairly hard use. The new tires are Kenda Small Block 8, which are a good combination of light, cheap, and non-aggressive tread that seems ideal for gravel roads.
The bike came with one of the new SRAM 2x10 gear set-ups.
So far, I like it.
Even though this bike is a departure from my usual style, it's the aero bars that really cause confusion:
Bike people tend to like neat and tidy categories of bikes, and among the neat categorizers, aero bars belong in the pigeonhole occupied by time-trial and triathlon bikes. Why would a normally sane person attach such an accessory to a mountain bike? Why would that same sane person ride a mountain bike at all when the intended use is lightweight endurance touring on roads? I'll let you know when I have answers to these questions. But at present I am busy searching for and/or creating a high-capacity food-bag that will hang off my aero bars. This search has led me to some weird places on the internet. Mostly Slovenian midget porn, as it turns out.