Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Capping Off The Weekend

The sky was spectacular Monday evening
The long Memorial Day weekend was good on many fronts, but as for cycling, I was taking time off, resting, and getting myself in a state where I can take a crack at the Dirty Kanza 200, this coming Saturday. Well, at least I hope so. More on that later.....

This past Friday a box emblazoned with "Twin Six" showed up at the shop. Andy, my coworker was ready and willing to take it off my hands, sight unseen, but I told him to keep his grubby mitts offa dat box! Inside was a mean, lean, green machine. It was built up with SRAM Rival and had Avid mech disc brakes. The rig is a test bike for the RidingGravel.com site. So, you'll be able to find all the thoughts I have on that rig there. Well......soon anyway. I haven't written up anything beyond the introduction which is posted here.

I got it out and checked over the rig some during the weekend. It has these new Panaracer Gravel King tires on it. "Gravel King"......a pretentious name for a tire if I ever heard one. It was introduced earlier on with a maximum size of 28mm. That is not a joke either, but it is laughable. Now they have a 32mm, which is what this bike came with. It's an interesting tire, but from a Mid-Westerner's perspective, it is a pretty limited use tire based solely upon the width here. 32mm isn't going to give you a whole lot of volume to play with air pressures, and that can lead to unpleasantries. We'll see how they hold up.........

Fortunately, the Twin Six Standard Rando does have boatloads of tire clearance, so this nit could be rectified should the need arise. Only not with any tire named "Gravel King", which I find pretty hilarious. Mark one down for the marketing department at Panaracer. Of course, they could come out with a wider one, then things might be different.

Barns For Jason: Fresh round bales that smelled amazing.
So, anyway, the tires, being what they are, ride pretty nicely so far. The whole bike does, actually. I got it out at the end of Monday on actual gravel after a shakedown cruise Sunday to tune the fit and drive train. I headed out on the "short loop" which takes a little over an hour or so. I didn't want to get too far out of town for a couple of reasons- One: I wasn't 100% confident in the bike yet, (Would I like the saddle? Are the bars out there too far? etc),  and Two: I wasn't packing lights and the Sun was Westering already, casting long shadows by the time I reached the gravel.

It was windy from the Southeast, so I measured my efforts and concentrated on spinning circles, not wanting to pop a knee or something else stupid right before the Dirty Kanza. The gravel was really good. Despite the rains on Sunday, I didn't see much evidence of any wet roads with the exception of a few spots. It was good that way.

I did see some spectacular skies and smelled some great smells. Fresh cut hay. Animals. Dirt. I also saw some new flowers. Purples and yellows dominated the ditches in places. Turning out of the wind I began to pick up speed and it wasn't long before I was back in town, but that was an excellent cap to a long three day weekend.

Now as for the DK200- this could get interesting. They have had a lot of heavy rain which has caused minor flooding around Emporia, and I would imagine in the surrounding Flint Hills as well. The forecast looks more wet than dry going into the weekend and that will only prolong, or exacerbate the conditions they are currently experiencing. That said, here's a little blurb from the DK200 promoters concerning the situation which they posted on Facebook last night:

As promised, we will release course maps in the morning. If you are pre-registered for DK200, DK100, or DK Lite, you will receive an email from us with links to the maps. If all goes to plan, these will be the routes. If we get enough rain between now and race day to cause a problem, we'll enact one of our many contingency plans, based on the situation at hand.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day

Remembering those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom. I hope that all of you that see this will take some time today to consider what our men and women in the armed services have done for us in the past and in the present. Our freedoms didn't come free.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Dirty Kanza 200 Chronicles V2: Packing

Sifting through gear and nutrition choices for the coming weekend
It is getting down to it. In four short days I have to have everything packed up and ready to head down to Kansas to give the Dirty Kanza 200 another go. At this point my fitness is what it is. I cannot fix up anything more in that regard. I have my mental state and maintenance with sleep and eating and drinking right up to the event that I can do there. So, with nothing else to work on in regards to fitness, I have turned my attention toward packing up now.

The thing is with me, I have gear over here, over there, and all over yonder Guitar Ted Productions. I have set ups for this bike, that bike, and for a couple hydration packs. Heck, I have stuff that I can't find because it is in some bag or another in some hidden pocket. So, I spent the better part of Saturday evening just dumping out bags and digging through stuff. Sifting and sorting.

Some things were obvious- Lezyne pump, tubes, Remo patch kit. Some things were necessary due to the likely conditions this year- packable rain jacket, wind breaker, lights. Then there were choices to make for a tool kit from the three major ones I have assembled over time. Chain breakers, multi-tools, and special tool just for this event. I also packed in some Hammer Nutritional supplies since they were easy to put in there. Hopefully I don't forget about that stuff while I am out there! Usually I pack stuff in my top tube bag and totally forget all about it until I see it weeks later when I unpack my stuff.
An image published by the DK200 showing a rain soaked road.

I will be packing clothing and more yet today and Monday, but my goal is to be completely ready to leave before Tuesday. Then it will be onward to Emporia, where it has been raining and tearing up the roads out there. They received rain all day on Saturday after this image posted by the Dirty Kanza 200 promotions was posted Friday showing a rain soaked road being rutted up and washed clear of most of the smaller, finer road material.

So, all of that really bolstered my choice in bike along with my friend, MG's. He was up Saturday evening to visit and we chatted a bit about the coming event. We both agreed that since Trans Iowa many of the gravel events have seen their fair share of wet, nasty weather, and that perhaps the Dirty Kanza 200 was going to perpetuate that streak. One thing I know is that with the forecast that is out now, the temperatures don't look to be brutal, as they have been in years I have tried to ride this event. I'm not particularly good in heat. My record isn't too good in events with heat, that's a fact. However; if it sticks to what they are predicting down there, it would play into my wheelhouse. Rain? I'm okay with that as long as it is without violence and lightning.

Whatever the weather is, MG and I, (and my friend Ari), have decided that we're going to ride our bikes all day, have the most fun we can while doing that, and finish the course of the Dirty Kanza 200, no matter what it is.

This will probably be the close to the Chronicles for this Dirty Kanza. From here I will be putting up some random posts, but of course, there will be a full report here after the event is over. Stay tuned.....

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Don't Say The "G" Word

The word "gravel" is so divisive that even Twin Six wouldn't use it to name this bike.
I had lunch last week with a good friend of mine that I get to see far too little. But that's another story, and likely you wouldn't be all that interested in our relationship. The point is, he works for a company that is a purveyor of a "gravel road racing bike". They actually use that term. The thing is, this friend of mine related to me, is that not everyone "gets it", or even understands it.

This friend of mine, he is a wise man, despite his lack of years, and he deals with this lack of understanding in a clever way. He asks what the locals call their back roads or unpaved byways, and then he calls this gravel road racing bike the "_________bike". (Fill in the blank with whatever they tell him.) Then they understand perfectly what the bike is all about. Brilliant!

There are many others though, and this crowd bristles at the term "gravel bike", and they blame marketing for coming up with another "unnecessary bike " and trying to get people to part with their money, which, ya know..........is totally evil. Especially if they are foisted into  believing they need this so-called "gravel bike", because, ya know..........it isn't a thing and that kind of bike is evil. Or so we are led to believe by the punters and "Negative Nancys" that populate social media and forums these days. Many whom have pretty, niche bikes of their own hanging from pegs in their garages, apartments, and homes. But never mind those specialized purpose bikes........

Here's an idea for those who don't like this whole "gravel bike" deal- Ignore it.  I mean, how hard can that be?

Anyway, the mere fact that these people that react so negatively to that is telling. In the end, I find it rather disingenuous and sad, especially seeing how many of these same folks are not being consistent in their logic. And I need to take my own advice and ignore all of that. Which I do most of the time. Just consider this a Public Service Announcement to you to advise you that the "G" word may cause an unreasonable and unwarranted negative reaction from some people.

The more you know.......

Friday, May 22, 2015

Friday News And Views

Podcast #9: The latest Riding Gravel Radio Ranch podcast is live now. In it Ben and I discuss the scene developing in Montana's prairies, our participation in the Badlands Gravel Battle and the Dirty Kanza 200, plus we cover a bit on some pedals I reviewed and make an announcement concerning something from Twin Six. It is a rambling, information infested hole of doom, so strap on the headphones and give it a listen.

Lube-Off Update
A Note On The Lube-Off:

Once again- Thank you readers for all the feedback and interest in the "Lube-Off". I continue to get suggestions rolling in, and although I may never get to testing them all out, I appreciate all the passion and knowledge being shared.

Secondly, I wanted everyone to know that I have gotten one of the contenders into the mix. Wednesday was rainy, cold, and with me just coming off a mild cold, I thought it best to work on some bikes rather than ride myself into getting sick, possibly, again. That means the the Fat Fargo is now sporting the Rock and Roll Gold lubrication. It was applied as per instructions, so we will also be getting a good idea on how this stuff works soon.

Keep in mind that I already have the DuMonde Tech on the Tamland and I will be riding that bike as part of the testing as well. The other two contenders- Boeshield T-9 and ProLink Gold- will be getting applied to two other rigs here real soon and then we will have all four lubes in play for this test. I figure that I won't have a lot to say about this after that point until a month or so goes by, so sit tight on this and I'll be back with more as Summer gets cranked up.

Notes On The Nano 40 TCS:

Okay, so as many of you may have noted, I moved the Nano 40TCS tires over to my HED Ardennes+ wheels and set them up tubeless utilizing Velocity USA blue tape and WTB valve stems. This set up is still in consideration for the Dirty Kanza 200 and I may be swayed by a potential "thorn" in the way the set up has played out.

After having ridden a nearly 70 mile ride on these, I figured I was good to go until I noticed the front tire kept leaking down. Hmmm...... I don't like any issues at all with a tubeless set up, so I was getting less and less confident in the set up as I tried to diagnose the issue, and yet the tire kept leaking down. In fact, it was getting to the point that the tire wasn't staying up for a day when I finally figured it out. The WTB valve stem has a removable core, of course, and it was screwing out every time I put a pump on it, which accounted for why the tire was losing air at a progressively faster rate. I tightened it down and it seems that it has maintained pressure. So, back in the running then, right?

Not so fast! The commenters yesterday made me think maybe I should consider the Fat Fargo as being the "smart choice. Okay, so that's your Dirty Kanza rig then! But wait! I rode that bike yesterday and discovered the middle ring is shot, and I need a new cassette. Bah! 

All is not lost though. I have a plan, and I'll see about that this weekend as it rains....... 

Okay- ya'all have a great Memorial Day Weekend, and be safe! 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Dirty Kanza 200 Chronicles V2: Vacillating

Taking a good, hard look at this......
I know, I know...... Just last week I said I chose the rig for my Dirty Kanza 200 attempt. But what fun is getting ready for an ultra-long gravel ride if you don't question your choices five or six times before you leave, right? You folks that have done these events know exactly what I am talking about here. Anyway.....

So, here's the deal. Kansas has been getting a lot of rain lately. That will probably mean that the water crossings will not only be running, but that the silt and smaller rock will be washed away. I recall back in '09 or '10 when that was the case and every water crossing was followed with seven or eight riders on cross bikes fixing pinch flats alongside the road. I and my mountain bike tires did not even flinch at these obstacles. Of course, I have tubeless Nano40's now, but that isn't as big a tire as I have traditionally brought to Kansas.

I was talking to my good friend MG, and he is running a fat bike, but he has run cross and mtb tires at Dirty Kanza before. He made some great points to me. One which hit home was that comfort is king when you aren't racing it to win, but to get the finish. The bigger tires of an mtb bike can be light, and still allow comfort and they also give you some flat protection.

Plus I have some intel that leads me to believe that this new course is actually a bit rougher than in the past. That plays into the comfort/fat tires bit as well. We do know for certain that we are crossing private land, so that also leads me to believe that the roads, (if they are roads), are going to be rough.

I rode this Fargo at the DK 200 once, but I was sick that year.
Then there is the Fargo itself, which lends me the capability to carry more water bottles, for one thing, and also a top tube bag to put food in. I can get by on that rig without wearing a back pack, which is a big deal. This wouldn't be on my Gen I Fargo, but on my Gen II Fargo which actually has a longer rigid fork that would be more comfortable than the shorter Gen I fork. That Gen II bike has a triple crank and a pretty wide range cassette, so climbing is not a big deal.

So, there is all of that, but I haven't put the BMC out of the picture just yet. Maybe..... I just have to decide based upon my fitness going in. If I am not all that confident in that, I am going for comfort, water bottle carrying capabilities, and better flat resistance. In the end, weight isn't all that different, but the BMC is not as comfortable in terms of ride smoothness. How could it compete with those poofy B+ tires?  Then there is the titanium Regulator post I swapped over from my Ti Mukluk. I will be riding this, hopefully on a long ride, this weekend and making the final call. I bet it will be ultra-smooth. We'll see how it all goes.

Stay tuned for more last minute Dirty Kanza madness. I'm sure there will be more where this came from!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Freedom To Fail

The Trans Iowa Masters Course I designed last year
With the increasing popularity of back country riding, I have noticed that more and more folks have begun poking around asking questions about route finding, or where they can go to access a route. Every time I see a request I shake my head and my heart sinks. It really makes me sad. I feel like a little piece of freedom gets squashed when I see folks looking to "press the easy button."

I'm going way back now, so please bear with me. There was a time when a certain curmudgeon named Mike Curiak was seen to be posting stuff on-line that had to do with "researching your own stuff", except that Mr. Curiak had a better way of putting that. Anyway, I was a bit puzzled as to why he was being so darn standoffish and seemingly protective about his ways and means for bikepacking. I thought that since it was a small community, (then), and that we were all "helping each other", that it was in everyone's best interest to share ideas, faults, successes, and to have each other's support in all of this endeavor. However; maybe now I am just coming to understand a wee bit about where Mr. Curiak was coming from. Not that I "get it" entirely, mind you.....

Poking around for a way to go.....
You see, there is a certain freedom you give up when someone else does all the "work" for you. You lose the freedom to fail 

That probably sounds like a good thing to lose to most everyone, but I don't think that is how it really is. In fact, I think it is a freedom that makes us stronger if we embrace it, and weaker when we let someone else do "the heavy lifting".  Why? Because when you invest, put forth the effort, and it doesn't quite come out the way you thought, or wanted, you get a valuable lesson. You, (hopefully), learn, and gain experience, grow, and learn something about yourself. When you get that end result just handed to you, without the effort and investment, you miss out on the learning, experience, and there is no depth to what you have been given.

When I was younger, there were kids that had parents that bought them cars. This was a rarity back in those days because cars were something not everyone had. (I know- hard to believe that, ain't it? ) Anyway, those kids, almost to a person, were not appreciative of the gift. They beat those cars, wrecked them, and they didn't care. The rest of us, who had to scrape up a few hundred just to buy a barely running jalopy, were standing in amazement as we spit polished our pithy paint jobs and tried our best to make sure our vehicles were in the best shape possible. We worked hard for what we had, so maybe we appreciated what we got a bit more? Maybe. Perhaps there was something I was missing there.......

Obviously in Life we should seek balance. There is something to having some wise counsel, and to apprentice under a master, that is to be celebrated, for sure. However; I see a culture that is more and more about pushing a button, and getting things laid out for them. Instant results, little to no effort in researching, and not a lot of appreciation for those that did the pioneering. Maybe the "Age Of Information" should be blamed. Perhaps we've lost something in the trade off to have "social networks", instant access to weather forecasts, and  GPS maps.

Paper maps- They are still a thing.
Take the Tour Divide for instance. It's not what it used to be, that's for sure. Yes, it is an incredible accomplishment. However; with all the knowledge that previous folks have built up, disseminated, and with all the "touch points" of social media, well, it is hard to see how it could be the same as it was when John Stamstad did it. Oh......yeah, you should check him out if you haven't heard of him. Point is, the folks riding it this year are riding on the backs of many that went before them that paid their dues. Is that wrong, right, or does it even matter? I think it does matter somewhat, but it is hard to find that balance of just how much it does or doesn't matter. Maybe no one cares.....

Anyway....... What's all this have to do with route finding and what I do? Well, I am not anyone that I would consider in the same breath as Stamstad or Curiak, not even in terms of gravel road stuff. However; I still feel like people look at what I do as something extraordinary. It really isn't all that big of a deal, really. I mean, if you just spend some time with some good maps, even you could come up with a good route, I am pretty sure. But, ya know, that requires time, patience, and you need to go out see things out in the field to make sure they exist. That said, it doesn't take any strange talent or skill to do this. You just decide to do it..... Maybe you fail, or things don't turn out quite the way you wanted. Hey......it's okay. Chalk it up as an experience, learn from it, and apply what you got to the next try.

Someone wanted to know if I was going to run the Trans Iowa Masters Program again. I said that the route was a one time deal, that I wasn't planning on putting that out there again. Nope. This year is about more riding, less route planning for others. The individual in question replied that I should keep them appraised of any future routes I might "put out there". That's what makes me shake my head, and makes my heart sink. Why shouldn't this person, or anyone else, make their own challenge, devise their own route, and "put it out there".

You should. Don't be afraid to fail........