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!

Thursday, July 20, 2017


Velocity rim/hub on lower left- Bontrager rim/Velocity hub upper right
Okay, so back a few years ago I heard that Challenge Tires were going to make a big, fat tubular for gravel riding. In fact, they asked me if I'd try out a pair if they made them. Since I am all about tires, of course, I said "yes".

Trouble was that I did not have a tubular wheel set. That's kind of a problem if you want tubular tires. So, something had to be done!

That "something" was fulfilled by Velocity USA and they set me up with a Major Tom Disc wheel set. Disc because.....oh, I don't know. I figured that would be the coming thing then. I was mostly right about that part!  So, anyway, here I was, all set for some fat tubular gravel tire action. I was told that the ride quality would be amazing, and I still do not doubt that it would be the case. I was also told that there would be a new, pressure sensitive tape which would make gluing up tubulars a thing of the past. I was stoked about it all. So, I waited, and waited.....and waited........

And it never happened. Those wheels hung in the Lab for tubulars. I looked in to buying some to just give the idea a try out. Gulp! Fat, quality tubulars exist, but my goodness......... No, I wasn't going to pay that price for an experiment that, in all reality, not many people would have benefited from, and I wasn't that curious. So, what the heck! I had these wheels that were no good to me.

I tried selling them, but to no avail. So, I came up with this crazy idea to "spoke over" some compatible rim to this wheel set, freeing me from tubular prison. I looked at the wheels and they were 24 spoke count wheels?!! Uggh! That made finding a good rim candidate a lot harder. As did the ERD for the Major Tom, which is larger than many rims in the 700c category for disc use. 

Finally, I came across some close out Bontrager Scandium rims which would work. So, they were rim brake rims. this point, I didn't care. I got them and the process of swapping the rims out is complete now. Wheels transformed! Now I can actually make use of them. They are TLR, meaning the rims are designed to use the excellent Bontrager tubeless rim strip, so that will be getting installed soon along with tubeless valve stems. I was pretty happy that the wheels ended up weighing 1600 grams on the dot. Not bad at all.

Now, the wheel with the silver rim pictured above is not the "before", tubular wheel. It is a completely different wheel  from a set I just bought from a co-worker. That wheel set is going to go on the rebuild of my original Inbred 29"er. So, stay tuned for that.....

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Blame It On The Bottom Bracket

The lowly bottom bracket. This one is a thread together PF replacement by Wheels Manufacturing
Many of you know that I have been a bicycle mechanic for a long time. Just about 20 years now, and I also was a car mechanic for 5 1/2 years as well. I really like working with my hands for a living.

That said, in all my bicycle mechanic years, I would have to say that the lowly bottom bracket gets blamed for everything. Especially noises. Those always seem to come from the bottom bracket! 

Okay, before I go on let me say that I know not all noises come from the bottom bracket, and so do many of you. I speak as one who works retail. In that world, bottom brackets do get blamed for an awful lot of things that they shouldn't be blamed for. It's kind of like the proverbial saying where someone has a little bit of knowledge and then is "dangerous" with it.

Besides being blamed for all sorts of creaks and groans, some of which bottom brackets are to blame for, these components get blamed all the time for not conforming to "standards". I think what many folks get bent out of shape about is the seemingly never ending parade of different, competing bottom bracket styles. You have your Press Fit 30, Press Fit 41, Outboard Bearing cup, BB 30, fat bike, Press Fit 121, GXP, Shimano 24mm, BBright, and who knows what else. That seems absurd, but you really have no idea what absurd was concerning bottom brackets unless you go back about 30 years.

Remember these clunkers? This was actually pitched as a "standard" everyone should use!
I laugh at the complainers today when I think about the machinists cabinet we used to have to look through to match up spindles. There were about seven rows eight drawers across filled with different ones. Then you had to match up the cup threading. It could be English, French, Swiss, or Italian. Then you had a different taper for Campagnolo compatible square taper bottom brackets too. Then you either had bearings in a cage, or you packed in loose ball bearings in a few different grade choices. Oh yeah......and you had to choose your grease. Then you had to have the correct tools to install the cups, but wait! Did you chase the threads and face the shell first?

Yeah....bottom bracket standards. Those were the days, right?

I also remember a time when "The Industry" was trying to standardize the bottom bracket without Shimano. There was a bottom bracket which was an alternative to Shimano's "Octalink" cartridge bottom brackets that was going to sweep the industry and everybody would be using them. It was the ISIS style bottom bracket, developed as an "open standard" so there were no patents to observe or licensing fees to pay to utilize the design. There were only going to be three spindle lengths in three bottom bracket shell sizes. Simplified bliss! We would all cheer for joy because bottom brackets had finally been standardized!

Except that one niggling detail- they sucked at actually working for very long. 

Yeah....that's a problem. So then we all forgot about trying to unify the competing bottom bracket factions under one style to rule them all, and now we have all these wonderful choices.

Choices are good.......right?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

I Am A Road Rider

This is a road. I like roads like this to ride bicycles on.
I was made aware of this post about "never riding a road bike on the road again". I took a gander, and you know what? I kind of took issue with the post, but maybe not for the reasons you might think.

First of all, I am a road rider. My roads just are not paved. Small technicality, but one many people make a big distinction on. I know that I have been a big advocate of riding gravel, but I have been careful about not saying anything about it being a completely different discipline in the general sense, because in my mind, it isn't.

Now, the manufacturers will tell you it is different, and the cycling media heavyweights will definitely poo-poo the idea that I am a "road cyclist". They have condescendingly called what I do "groad" riding and people that do it "groadies", as if it is something to be laughed at or sneered about. And whether that is actually true or not, that is the vibe that these editors and writers put out there.

I call it "gravel grinding, because, ironically, that's what the old roadies that trained on gravel called it before me. But the media wonks don't want to hear about that. They had to come up with a dumber sounding name themselves for it, and they succeeded, I might add. What a stupid term for road riding.


This is a road bike. It is pictured on a road.
The point is that the story I referenced at the top says that road riding is too dangerous. Well, yeah.......if you ride where the traffic is heavy, or fast, it is. However; we have 70,000 plus miles,  just in Iowa, of roads that are not paved. These roads have almost no traffic. These are the roads I enjoy riding all the time without fearing for my life. These are the roads I ride where I do not get buzzed by cars going 60 plus miles an hour. These are the roads where car traffic, when I do encounter it, often slows down and pulls off to the side of the road to give me more than three feet. Heck, most of the time the drivers actually wave a friendly wave at me. 

So, my question is, "Why would I want to ride on paved roads anymore?" The answer is, I do not. Because I have a resource right outside my city limits that affords me the opportunity to ride all day long and see only a handful of cars, if I see any at all. 

I can also see things I would not ever see on paved road rides. I see remote, rustic farms, animals- both wild and domesticated- and I see landmarks and natural features I'd never see on paved rides. I can ride all day by myself, or if I ride with a friend, they can ride beside me and no one gets angry about it.

That said, I did agree with the author of the tagged post above that cars are too easy to drive. Combine that with the last decade of increasingly self-absorbed cell phone usage, and you get a dangerous stew. Cyclists are not the only ones suffering from the collateral damage caused by this phenomenon. Pedestrians and other motorists are also in harms way of the "distracted driver". While some things are being done about it, and more sweeping measures should be taken, I, in the meantime, will not be found on paved roads unless it is for my commute to work.

That isn't to say riding gravel roads is completely safe from motorist doing harm to you as a cyclist. (Ask me how I know.) But I'll gladly take the odds for being hit on gravel or dirt roads against riding on paved black top roads and highways any day.

Monday, July 17, 2017

GTDRI '17: Update- Some Recon

 I'd never seen a heli crop dusting till Saturday, and then I saw two on the same day!
Saturday I got out for a partial recon of the GTDRI route. My route has a road in it which I had never been on and which looked rather suspicious. It had a lot of Level B Maintenance sections, creeks running across it, and it was in the most remote part of Tama County there is. After having been bombing around the countryside since 2004 doing recon for gravel events, I have picked up a few tips on what to look for on a map when it comes to problems, and O Avenue had all the hallmarks of a road that had closures. Never mind that the DOT map showed that it all was there. That doesn't guarantee anything.

So, my goal was to ride to the start of where the route picks up O Avenue and run it through to see if we can use it, or if I would have to do a reroute. Of course, O Avenue is a long way from the house, so this wasn't a small undertaking. I chose the Fargo Gen I as my ride since it carries so much water and has meatier tires which deal with loose gravel better. With a beautiful day on tap, I had nothing holding me back from doing the trip.

I had loaded up the Fargo the evening before and I was out of the house by 8:30-ish, which wasn't too bad. I figured this trip at about 70-75 miles, depending upon what I found.

Fortunately, there were no workers at this site to say "no". I rode across.
I had a few maps, mostly to help me navigate around Wolf Creek and Twelve Mile Creek since the roads don't go across these rivers in many spots. I ended up choosing 130th Street in Tama County to cross Westward over to P Avenue which would eventually get me to O Avenue. There wasn't too much loose, deep gravel going this way, and the Southerly wind wasn't blasting me in the face. The going wasn't bad then. However; I passed a blown over road sign which looked all the world like a road closed sign. Dang it! Would 130th be closed? I had a sneaking suspicion I may be backtracking a few miles.

As it turned out, there was a new bridge being built, and fortunately, the new decking was already poured. I walked around the barriers and rode across, being very careful not to run over something sharp. The deck of the bridge was a complete mess of construction debris. No workers were there to say "no", so I scooted by and didn't look back. That was one check avoided!

P Avenue, looking South, just North of Traer, Iowa.
The low water crossing of Wolf Creek just West of Traer, Iowa on O Avenue.
Eventually I reached O Avenue, but North of where we will be getting on it. I wanted to check out the low water crossing of the Wolf Creek which is one of my favorite stretches of Level B Maintenance Road anywhere. I just think it is pretty odd that such a wide, vigorous creek is crossed in such a manner. Usually this sort of thing is reserved for much smaller, narrower creeks.

Then it was on to HWY 63, a bit of a jig-a-jog to the West to get to O Avenue's run South of HWY 63, and then on to five miles of Level B Maintenance road. Interestingly, all the Google generated maps have this first mile South of 63 listed as "Level E Road", which is very odd. Anyway,it is, in fact, signed "O Avenue", and it is black earth for about two straight miles.

Our GTDRI route joins this from the East a mile in on 190th Street. Then the GTDRI route will turn left and go straight South for several miles. Or that is what I was expecting. Following are several shots of the dirt roads on this stretch of the route.

This is after the black earth section and is mostly clay here. 
Then in the next mile O Avenue deteriorates into this grassy two-track. Note the dogleg in the road.
This interesting intersection leads out of the two-track.
The 4th, and last mile on O Avenue we will see of Level B, runs back into a grassy two-track before it turns back to gravel.
Unfortunately, I found out with a mile and a half to go on O Avenue that there road ends in a dead end. Actually, I wasn't surprised by this from the looks of the maps I'd seen. So, once again, it is always best to verify maps. They often are not correct, especially in rural areas. Now I'll have to do some rerouting....

But first, I needed to get back home, so of course, I rode all those rad dirt roads backward to Traer! Then I got off at the convenience store to resupply. I had a grilled chicken sandwich too. Then I took off again. By this time, it was getting really hot, and I was traveling with the wind, so there was essentially no cooling going on from the air. I felt like I was baking in an oven.

I helped escort this turtle off the road near TF Clark Park North of Traer.
I ended up stopping to cool off four different times. Fortunately, I had lots of water and a few times I used it to pour over my head and back of my neck to cool myself down. It didn't help that the night before was a bad night of sleep for me either. A couple of the times I pulled over it was to try to catch a power nap so I could continue!

I had a chance meeting on the way home with a gentleman who was mowing his ditch. He sort of looked at me with a quizzical look that indicated that he'd like to have a word with me, so I pulled over, he shut down the mower, and we chatted. At one point, he asked me if I knew anything about this, "....whatchamacallit.......gravel road.......a race......something about a hundred miles you know anything about that?"

I said, "Was it "300 Miles of Gravel"? Was it on PBS?"

He indicated that, yeah, he thought that was probably it. Then I told him, "Yeah, well I'm the guy that puts that race on."

You'd have thunk he met a celebrity.

Well, after that I rolled down the road about a quarter mile and collapsed under a tree for half an hour resting. Not very glamorous! Ha! But.....effective. I was able to limp it on home and I ended up with 69 miles on the day. I can say that I am definitely NOT ready for the GTDRI. Looks like I've got my work cut out for me. And I have to reroute the course.

Stay tuned.......

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Barns For Jason: The O Avenue Edition

Yesterday I did a recon of the proposed GTDRI course, mostly on O Avenue in Tama County. Here are some barns I saw, again in no particular order.

Look for my recon report on this portion of the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational tomorrow.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Minus Ten Review- 28

Huh...... The neighbor's privacy fence sure looked a lot nicer ten years ago!
Ten years ago this week on the blog I got this review set of wheels for Twenty Nine Inches. I noted when I researched this that I mentioned that only one set of tires were recommended to be used on these. 

One. Think about that.  

Now 29"er tires are a dime a dozen. Back then the selection could be recited from memory, the list was that short. These wheels were tubeless compatible as well, so the one set Mavic recommended, the Hutchinson Python, was actually a tubeless ready tire. So that was at least some progress. 

Ten years ago I also sold the Haro Mary I had received as "payment" for doing the Haro Mary catalog copy, which I had written the previous year. Like an idiot, I ordered a size medium, and that did not fit me at all. So, I sold it to a guy that moved to Kansas City and I never saw that bike again. I also, by this time, had probably sold my Raleigh XXIX single speed for similar reasons. I got a size medium. Lesson learned back then. I was a size Large in 29"er wheeled bicycles. 

I also noted something I had written ten years ago that relates to my "Views On Singletrack" post I wrote just last Wednesday. Here is a quote from that post entitled "Riding In The Jungle"

 "Man! It's like riding in the jungle!"

That's Captain Bob's exclamation there from yesterday afternoons ride in the GW. (That's George Wyth State Park for you non-locals) Yeah, it's high summer in Iowa and the vegetation is at it's peak right about now. Tree branches full of leaves hanging down, slapping you in the face as you speed along. Weeds with itchy oily secretions making it burn! Nice thorny scratches across your shin bones. Yep! It's a jungle out there all right!

Things have changed a bit in ten years..........