Thursday, July 27, 2017

Like, Venture To The Max, Dude

The "Captain America" rig with the Ritchey Venturemax bar
Handle bars that were flared for off road use, and also great for gravel travel, were rare as hen's teeth only a few years ago. I can remember putting On One Midge bars on my Karate Monkey back in '06 or so and thinking how weird that was that you could even do such a thing.

Even before this, getting flared drop bars was no joke. It was really not a very easy thing to find. WTB probably can be blamed for putting flared drop bars on the map, and Specialized/Nitto also helped in that regard, but even those were super rare. Not many folks had a use for such a beast as a flared drop bar.

Compared to those days, you would have to consider thinking about how these days, flared drop bars are almost commonplace. This is the "golden age" of flared drop bars, if you will. There are more companies than ever offering them, and you can even get carbon fiber ones now. I never figured on seeing that happen, by the way.

So, now there are more flared drop bars than you can count with both hands. One of the late comers to the game is Ritchey. They have a "Venturemax" model out, which they have sent me to test for The overall flare, sweep, and drop is probably most like a Cowchipper. That's what I've found the best comparison is. But when you look at the thing, it looks kind of like the cross between a Cowbell and a Bell Lap bar, which were both Salsa Cycles offerings. That "ergo bend" in the drops.......I am not sure about that. 

And I know that now days that everything is trademarked, so coming up with a name for a product is a real pain. Names that are obscure, mythical, ancient cultural things have become names for components and bicycles. It's almost as if you are taking a World History and Ancient Religions classes when you are trying to figure out names for things like tires and forks and the like. So, Ritchey uses a naming convention that is a bit of a uninspired thing in a world of oddball names. Their names are almost campy and hearken back to a time when "valley girls" meant a way that you walked and talked. I mean, "Venturemax"? Like, venture to the max, Dude. 

Well, at least they are consistent with their names. More on the bar to come.....

Ritchey sent the Venturemax drop bar for test and review to at no charge. I have not been paid nor bribed for this review and I will strive to give my honest thoughts and opinions throughout.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Authentic Austenitic

Meet the Warakin. It is austenitic stainless steel.
My gig has afforded me the opportunity to try something out I've never tried before. After having been on so many different bikes in my lifetime, and especially in the last 15 years, that's saying something.

The thing in question is the frame material this bicycle from Otso Cycles is made from. It is a frame made from stainless steel. The bike is called the Warakin. The steel it is made from is not only stainless, but it is a certain kind of stainless.

I remember seeing the press release for this model from Otso Cycles and seeing an image of the frame tubing sticker. It had "Austenitic Stainless Steel" printed on that sticker. I laughed. I thought someone got "Authentic" spelled wrong. Well, the joke ended up being on me. You see, there are actually three kinds of stainless steel, and Austenitic Stainless Steel is one of them. (Click and learn, my friends. Click and learn) I had no idea before I saw this sticker that there were three major groups of stainless alloys. The internet sometimes really is the "information super-highway" and not always the "Info-tainment Super-Highway". Who knew?

Well, now I know! Anyway, stainless steel frames were ballyhooed a few years back and were said to be the "next big deal" in bicycle frames. Stainless (I checked and it seems that the big promoter in this was a maker of martensitic stainless steel), was supposedly lighter than Titanium and stronger than typical steels used in bicycle tubing. But then I never heard a lot about stainless frames until Salsa Cycles made their Vaya Travel. I thought that frame was rad, but I never did end up getting one.

So, anyway, all that to say that this bike is one of the rare ones out there made from stainless and as far as I know, the only "austenitic" stainless steel one. At least, the only one advertised as such.

Ya learn something new everyday........if you have an open mind!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Dirt Home From Work: Adventure Time

Impromptu wading with bikes here.
I went on another "Dirt Home From Work" ride yesterday. I used my Singular Buzzard and went out to see the old fitness trail that the CVAST guys opened up again. This would be the one that comes off the hard trail right after crossing the Pfieffer Park Bridge. Anyway.....

It's an old trail. I recognized much of the old parts. There used to be a great swoopy connector to the main hard trail back in the day that either is completely lost or that they don't know existed, but either way, that isn't available anymore. Chances are it has been swallowed by nature never to be recovered again. So I went on past the "T" that used to be the main entrance from the hard trail and which may still be, I just never went that way yesterday. I continued Eastward to see how far they had opened the old thing back up. Well, I found out soon enough.

Flooding had introduced a drainage from the low lying area to the North of this trail and with high water it was full again. I had to dismount and pick my way across via some roots that were exposed. Having successfully crossed without getting wet, I was off again. It wasn't long before I realized I was on an island!

So, another water crossing, eh? I waded through some deep weeds to make my way toward a tree fall which had a root ball where I figured I might find some footing. I walked directly behind my bike and the bike acted as a plow of sorts, parting the way through the weeds toward my goal. When I got to the water's edge I found that the logs there were floating and would not provide the best footing. I wedged my bike across the channel and tried a few different steps, none of which were going to keep me dry footed. I tried one more thing and........whoops! 

The rest of the ride was incident free.
 I went down on my right foot, sinking until I reached the bottom with that foot and was up to my hip in water. Only my grip on my Buzzard saved me from going all in. I managed to get out, and edged my way up a steep embankment to dry ground. Now I had both feet soaked and my right shorts leg was dripping wet. Oh well! Advenure time will do that to you!

Getting wet is a bit of a shock, but really...... After that you cannot get wetter. Only my squishy Vans were really annoying. Oh well. A small price to pay for fun times. I mean, it is better than duking it out with cars on my main commute line that I always use. That's pretty boring. So, I made my way through the Geo Wyth Park and out the other side. Then I went on home. No more notable things happened, but it was a good dirt ride with some time away from the normal grind. I hope to do more of this sort of thing now that the "slow" season at the bike shop is at hand.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Happy Birthday Jacob!

This is a photo of my son, Jacob, photobombing a family picture I was taking recently
14 years ago today at approximately 5:00am in the morning I was sleeping in a motorhome in Oskaloosa, Iowa when I was awakened by a phone call. It was Mrs. Guitar Ted. She said, "My water broke...". That set in to motion a series of events which saw me leaving my post as a mechanic on RAGBRAI, getting dumped off in front of a HyVee grocery store with my duffel bag, and trying to get a hold of my sister, or anyone, to get me back to Waterloo so I could be there when my baby was born. We knew it was to be a boy, and his name would be Jacob.

Well, as it turned out, that was the last time I wrenched on bikes for RAGBRAI. It was a bonus that I got off the route early, and my sister did get me back in plenty of time for the birth. I wasn't sure I'd make it at all there for a while, as I sat on a pile of water softener bags out in front of that grocery store, looking like some kind of hobo. Fortunately, RAGBRAI's presence in the town masked my oddity. So, this rascal's birthday is always a good reminder of that day for me.

Anyway, it's been a blessing to have had him come in to my life and I just wanted to give him a special shout out on the blog here.

Happy Birthday, Son!

No Dust Ride

A field of flowers and puffy clouds. A near perfect riding day.
We've had some real gully washers lately around here. Rain at night, generally speaking, has been heavy and persistent, most of the end of last week anyway. It rained once while I was at work so hard that I knew it was raining by the sound I heard on the roof. Where I work it has to rain really hard for me to hear it.

Well, Saturday was sunny, but it was beastly humid. I rode a couple errands on the Big Dummy, and that about wasted me. I think I got a bit of heat stroke last week on my Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational recon, so the residual effects have stuck with me throughout the week.

I ended up not doing much after the errands so I decided to wait until Sunday afternoon when the weatherman was saying that the humidity was going to start clearing out. Only one thing- there would be a stiff, Northwesterly breeze. I'll take it over no wind and high humidity and heat any day!

So, I set up the Tamland for the ride. By the way, my daughter has named this bike "Captain America", since it is red, white, and blue, and she is in to all the super-hero movie stuff. I'm good with that, so from now on, you'll see the Tamland referred to as "Captain America". Okay, so with that out of the way.....

Yeah, I was ready for a ride after lunch and headed out straight North toward Burton Avenue. There was a wind, sure enough, but it wasn't so bad that I could not just keep grinding away at it. I stopped to take a picture of a field full of flowers and then headed on Northward. I never really knew how far I was going to go. I was just making plans as I went based upon how I felt.

I saw a lot of Monarch Butterflies.they seemed to like these orange flowers.
I ended up going all the way in to Bremer County and then hitching a ride East on the Waverly Rail Trail which then turns into the Readlyn-Grump Trail, (Really! Readlyn-Grump!) Readlyn has a "Legend of The Old Grump" and holds a celebratory "day" every year to observe it's legend. Anyway..... I didn't go to Readlyn Sunday. I turned off before that thinking I'd get a nice tail wind push back to town, (which I did), and get in about 40 miles of riding. I came up short on the mileage by a mile and a quarter. Oh well! My math skills aren't the best.

The gravel was pretty chunky Sunday. I couldn't find much for smooth lines in either county I rode in. The weird thing was that it wasn't dusty. Usually chunky, fresh gravel equals dust and lots of it. However; those rains I mentioned must have washed all the dust away leaving just rocks. I looked down several times at my WTB Resolutes and they were clean and bluish-black looking. Generally you look down at your tires after riding several miles here and they are off-white. The dust usually coats the tires in a fine gritty mess. Even the cars I saw, which were few, weren't kicking up much dust. That was kind of weird since it wasn't cool and wet or raining.

The ride was good.  I didn't feel anything negative due to last week's rough ride nor did I have any issues, really. It was fun to get away form the town of Waterloo for a bit and enjoy some solitude on the bike. While I did not get any further with the recon for GTDRI, I did get out North on the gravel, which I had not done for a long time. Too long. I like riding up that way a lot. I also thought that it was a nearly perfect riding day. It was so beautiful out, and despite the wind, I had a great time. I likely won't experience a "no dust ride" anytime soon out there, that's for sure!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

GTDRI '17: Update

As of now.....this is the route!
GTDRI Update: 

Due to last weekend's recon, I had to revise the route. That was actually a good thing. Now, I may have to revise it again. I may find something this weekend that will cause further rerouting. I also may do a "B" route without dirt roads in case of wet weather, but I may just fly by the seat of my pants and not do that. If it rains, what the heck. We'll decide to do something else. Whatever that may be.....

Here are the salient points so far, including news on the reroute.
  • The reroute actually forced me to clean up a couple of oddball things I had in the route and now it flows beter.
  • I also got in three more miles of dirt road, but I likely lost at least one. Net gain- Two miles of dirt, including the low water crossing of Wolf Creek near Traer. 
  • There should be a solid 25% of the mileage in dirt roads on this 102+ mile length route. 
  • We will pass by Dysart, but I really do not want to have to stop there. It would add two miles- out and back- to get to the Dysart Casey's convenience store. 
  • The first planned stop will be in Traer at about Mile 49. 
  • The second planned stop will be at Mile 76 in Garwin, Iowa
  • After Garwin there will be approximately 27 miles to finish up at the Broad Street Brewing Company in Reinbeck. 
  • Start Time: 6:00am in front of Broad Street Brewing
  • Finish time: Approximately 6:00pm. This will depend upon weather, the group, and winds. 
  • Plan to meet rain or shine. If it rains we are going to wing it. The dirt roads won't be rideable. The route could be completely different. Be prepared for chaos and adventure if the weather goes pear shaped.The route could be 25 miles or a century if that happens. 
  • Plot A Route gpx file will be available pending recon. 
  • The ride has no fee, no swag, no prizes. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOU!! 
  • Be prepared to ride at least 50 miles with all food, water, and repair items you think you will need to be self supported. 
  • NO SAG AVAILABLE! Plan accordingly
  • Cell service WILL BE SKETCHY!
  • There will be farm dogs and possibly wild animals. 
  • There will be deep, fresh gravel, dirt, and maybe some sand. 
  • We will cross highways and run alongside HWY 63 for a 1/2 mile total in two different places. 
  • This ride will be primarily in Tama County with short forays in to Grundy County and Benton County. 
Stay tuned......................

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Minus Ten Review- 29

"The Pines" on the North Side of Ingawanis
NOTE: Due to computer maintenance this post is a little late today. 

 Ten years ago on the blog this week I posted about riding on the trails at the Boy Scout Camp Ingawanis. Ironically, there was little going on for riding on the South Side in those days. All we rode was on the North, for the most part, and those were the best trails by far back then. They still would be, but for some oddness having to do with two factions.

The most grievous thing was that the North side trails were also used for horseback riding. When the trails first opened up to mountain biking in the early 00's, the mountain bikers cleaned up and extended the trails in the North Side until there were some issues with the horse folks. They used all of the new stuff, but even though they were not averse to complaining about trail conditions, they never lifted a finger to help out. Secondly- The horse folk, who tpically have a lot more disposable income, were paying rent and event fees to pasture horses on Camp properrty and to have horse back trail riding events at the Camp. The Boy Scouts were looking for money any way they could get it and a measly mountain bike race didn't compare to the thousands of bucks horse people threw at them to use the land.

So, when we bikers complained bitterly about having to maintain the trails with no help, having to deal with trail being obliterated by grazing horses, and having the trails shut down to us during horse back riding events, the Scout Ranger turned a deaf ear to us. That's what pushed the development of the South Side into high gear, because those trails were off limits to the horse back riders due to the fact that the COPE area was there, and the rules for the Boy Scout Camp forbade the horses and riders to be anywhere near that area. Somehow or another mountain biking was allowed, but even we had to keep our distance from a certain hilltop on the South Side. Anyway..... it worked out that by about 2010-2011 we were not riding on the North Side much at all, and a couple years later we weren't riding that side.

David Pals checks his camera settings during recon for the 2007 GTDRI in Tama County
By 2014 the Camp was in such dire straits money-wise that the Scouts had dispensed with the on-site ranger and pretty much had shut down any mountain biking on the North Side. Logging of both sides, which the Scouts allowed to get more money,  also disrupted trails. The South Side trails were repaired, the little used North Side ones weren't always maintained back into rideable shape. The increased development of more sustainable and exciting trail on the South Side made this a moot point, however. Now there is talk again of re-entering the North Side and doing trail work for mountain biking, but the equestrian question and how we would deal with the Boy Scouts of America has not been addressed, so I am not too hopeful at this point that anything will happen in the near future.

Also, I was discussing Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational details. The route was mainly devised by my then Trans Iowa co-director, David Pals. He devised a route in and out of Marengo, Iowa, where he lived at the time. The recon took in several gnarly Level B Maintenance roads, one of which is pictured here. David inferred at one point that this pictured road, along with another that followed it, are now no longer open to travel. I have not been down that way since T.I.v6, so I have not confirmed that, but I need to get back down that way to have a look and see what the situation is.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Friday News And Views

This and three other designs coming soon....

I found out yesterday that my partner in Riding Gravel, Ben Welnak, has come up with four new stickers that should be available sometime soon. When I know more I will pass it along here.

There will be "Addicted To Gravel" stickers in this run, in case you were wondering. Stay tuned.....

News on next year's Grinder Nats has come out...
 Grinder Nats, Gravelleurs Raid Join Forces:

The Gravelleur's Raid event has been an annual event for a while now and when Grinder Nationals announced that they were going to have an event in the same area, but later in June, it sent out a red flag to the organizers. To their credit, instead of fighting with each other these events have now joined forces and Grinder Nationals will now happen in conjunction with Gravelleur's Raid on April 7th, 2018.

Here's the Press release:

PRESS RELEASE: Alright gravel peeps here we go.
The Gravelleur's Raid 100 mile gravel road race will now be your gravel Grinder Nationals event. It will be a fully supported gravel event.
It is owned and operated by the United States Endurance Cycling Federation.
We will be growing the event and making it one of the top gravel races in the United States.
More info to come.
The 50 mile non-competitive event will be called Gravelleur's Raid and become a bigger and better event also.

There ya go......

Commentary: There will be a lot of folks that want to piss and moan about how "gravel racing is being  ruined", or by expressing some similar comments. I have talked with one of the USECF head honches, Troy, worked alongside of him, and have interviewed him. He gets it. The USECF grew up out of a grassroots background. The USECF wants to keep the vibe that gravel racing has always had, but they want to also have an opportunity for its best racers to gain recognition and be rewraded with a jersey that shows that. As far as I know, that's all they want to do. 

Like I have said, I've spoken with Troy from the USECF. Have any of the other commenters dug into this and asked folks from the organization what's up? Or are we just shooting from the hip? Uh huh.......

I will pass along this: The USECF jumped at the chance to do a "Gravel Nationals" because they knew that the USAC Federation was going to try to do it. I doubt that USAC would be interested in doing things in a "grassroots way" judging by how they have operated throughout their history. So, there is that nugget to chew on as well.

Finally, I feel that the Grinder Nationals is not doing anything now, or will do anything in the future that say, an event like Dirty Kanza has not already done before. That's likely what the organizers are shooting for here. So, the DK200 draws well over 2000 racers and supporting folks to Emporia every June. If that is the Grinder Nats template, I don't see how that "ruins" gravel racing, or the scene. I guess if it rankles your feathers, you could always just not bother with it, ya know....... We do have a choice.

2018 Trek Roscoe 8- A 27.5+ rig (Image courtesy of Trek Bicycles)
Trek Resurrects The Roscoe Model, Gives it Plus Wheels:

Remember the old Fisher Roscoe? Well, Trek has dredged up another old Fisher Bikes model name and tacked it on to this new, 27.5+ wheeled hard tail. You can think of it as a smaller wheeled Stache.

There will be two models offered to start with. The Roscoe 7 will retail for right at a grand and the Roscoe 8 will basically be $1200.00 list. The Orange Roscoe 8 has an aluminum frame with internal rear derailleur and dropper post routing, an NX 1X 11 group, and comes with a dropper. It also has a 141mm, open drop out rear end that is like a Boost hub but with a quick release. The fork has 120mm travel, by the way, and the bike is surprisingly shown with Schwalbe tires.I imagine at some point Bontrager will have 27.5+ rubber for these bikes.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out going forward because the X Cal series, also redesigned for 2018, is in this same price point. Trek will certainly be eyeballing which line does better and I wouldn't be surprised to see one or the other go away in the future. But then again, this is Trek and they manufacture a boat load of models.

I like the Roscoe 8. It seems like a better spec than a Timberjack and you'll likely be able to actually find one to test ride. I am a little leery of the rear axle spacing, which seems out of step with the current "axle du jour" standards. But otherwise it seems like a decent entry to plus bikes from a good name brand company.

Okay, that's it for this week. Have a great weekend and stay cool!