Saturday, August 29, 2015

Up Next

Fall is single speed mtb time
With Gravel Worlds over, my ambitious schedule of events has been completed. Quite honestly, I am surprised that I made it to all the events and rode in them. Completion rate stunk, but hey! At my age, there aren't too many guys out there even trying this stuff.

So, anyway, now Fall is on the doormat and coming through. It is my favorite time to goof off on my single speed mountain bikes and to go for lazy rides in the country on my gravel bikes. That will happen, but I also have to start getting things ready for Winter's coming. That means more than sprucing up the fat bikes around here! I have a few house related tasks that need attention before the frost settles in.

Around the blog here I want to get going again with the Lube-Off. I have some things to add to that very shortly, but I also have Fall to go before we get into wetter, colder applications for lube where we may see some different brands rise to the top. Then I also have some things I'll be adding to the Garage Sale page that I will be offering for sale. (Link at the top under the header) By the way, there is a nice deal on some brand spanking new CX tubular wheels on that page. Couple of SS frames as well.

Anyway, things will go from training/racing mode here to a more laid back mode. I will be doing more Trans Iowa related things coming up soon also, so if that tickles your fancy, stay tuned for that.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday News And Views

Trek's Gnarwall studded fat bike tires should be available this Winter
Fat Bike Tires:

Yesterday I learned that the new Gnarwall studded fat bike tire will be available this Winter and the retail should be about $245.00 each. Ouch! I was hoping that these might be a bit better priced, since the other tires out there for fat bikes with studs aren't cheap either. However; one can hope that you will actually be able to get these tires, unlike the competition's offerings.

 Trek will also have the 4.7" "Barbegazi" tires available aftermarket, which are nice looking treads. I'd be interested in these because of their tubeless compatibility, despite their not being as big as maybe the Lou tires are. Finally, I also saw that the 27.5 X 3.8" "Hodad" treads will be available aftermarket too, but obviously that may not be a hot seller right away! 27.5" diameter fat bike tires seem like an odd deal, and without anyone else moving toward that size, (as yet, anyway), I have to wonder how long that will last as a tire size for fat bikes.

On the 29+ front, Trek seems to be cautiously watching where the trends are going. It seems that the vibe I'm getting is that Trek is taking a wait and see approach before doing anything more with that format. Obviously, the trend industry-wide isn't backing Trek up on the 29+ front, so it should be interesting to see where 29+ goes in a couple of years from now. Right now all I hear is positives about the Stache 29+ bikes and that seems to be about the only 29+ rig out now that anyone is buzzing about, besides the touring/bikepacking Surly ECR and upcoming Salsa Deadwood bike.

Surly's new "Wednesday" (Really! That's its name) fat bike.
New Surly Fat Bike:

Surly Bikes unleashed a rather strangely named fat bike Wednesday at Eurobike dubbed the.....Wednesday. Yes, it is real. The bike is named after a day of the week.

Apparently the weekend days were trade marked already!

Anyway, what we have here is a continuation of Surly's updating throughout the line which started with the resurrection of the Instigator and then the ICT, Karate Monkey, and now the newest bike, the Wednesday which features many of the small details that Surly has been using of late. This one has geometry that reflects the Krampus and Instigator bikes with a slacker front and shorter rear/center. The 26 X 3.8" tires/wheels are the realm of this number and obviously, that makes it a primo candidate for a 27.5+ conversion. The front fork is "Bluto spaced" at 150mmOD, so the Bluto fork is an easy swap here.

I find this bike to be a great addition to Surly's line up, albeit about two years too late, and it brings up the question: "Where does this leave the venerable Pugsley?" Also, how is it that the Ice Cream Truck doesn't make the Moonlander obsolete? Anyway, I feel that at some point push is coming to shove and the offset fat bikes Surly has now will be a thing of the past.

MOBD fat bike rims from Surly- Coming Soon!!
Surly Announces New Fat Bike Rims: 

One of my biggest complaints against Surly fat bike rims was that they were not tubeless ready. Well, that is all about to change here very soon. Just announced at Eurobike, we can expect the "My Other Brother Darryl" rims to be coming out sometime in the near future.

These will be offered as stock on Wednesday bikes, but those will be pinned rim versions and you won't be able to purchase those separately. The aftermarket MOBD rims will be welded seam rims. There is also a difference in cut outs which reflects how the rims can be laced. The hexagonal hole MOBD rims can be offset laced to Pugsleys and Moonlanders. The ones with triangular shaped cut outs are meant for symmetrical fat bikes like Wednedays, ICT's, Mukluks, etc. Finally, you can get them polished or in black anodized finishes. Weights are claimed to be in the sub 700 gram area, but we'll see about that. If so, that is very competitive with the carbon fiber rims out of China. Obviously those carbon rims do not require rim strips, but the Surly ones will. I think a bit of color in the rim strips showing through is cool, so I'm okay with that.

I don't know much else about these now, but the polished ones would be cool on the Snow Dog.That and a good set of tubeless tires and a 1X set up..... That may become a new project bike.

And Finally.....

 I was reminded yesterday of the short time we have on this Earth when I learned of the death of one of my Uncles. Don't waste anymore time and say those things you should say to the ones you love, spend time doing the things that bring you joy, and try to do something nice for someone everyday. You never know when your time is done here.....

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Gravel Worlds '15: Final Thoughts

Checkpoint #2 Image courtesy of Scott Redd
The Gravel Worlds race didn't go as planned, and I sat in a hotel room on the edge of a bed watching it rain and lightning thinking about Tony still out there and the rest of the folks slugging it out for a finish. It was a bittersweet way to cap off what had been a great, fun, and physically tough weekend.

Tony did finish, by the way. It took him until 10:00pm, and he had to wait out a freight train and a thunderstorm, but he did it. I probably slowed him down a bit, but it was good to know he got it done.

My performance went about like Odin's. It was great until it got hot and then I wilted. Odin's wasn't like Gravel Worlds though, because I wasn't dehydrated like I was this past weekend. Ah well....... Things to work on. Things learned and to learn more about. My old friend Jeff Kerkove always said that everything has to be "just right" and if one thing gets off- be that mechanical, physical, nutritional, or environmental, then you have a lot less chance of finishing these longer distance races. I could not control the weather and maybe that was my downfall, but there are things I can improve upon on my end and some of those things I've already started doing.

I'm not having a pity party though. I am moving on, and I am pretty stoked about many things that were right last weekend. Not the least of which was how I was able to roll the big hills and in my bike handling, which was due in part to the Tamland Two.

The Tamland Two worked perfectly
The event was not as vastly different as I expected it to be after not having been to it for four years and certainly was worth all of the entry fee. The start was "okay", and was exactly as it had been in the past, only now the crowd is so big that if you stand in the back, you cannot hear what is being laid down. Not that this mattered to me, but for a first timer? Maybe they might feel a bit less apprehensive if the could hear the final instructions.

What was different was the level of the competition. With folks like Neil Shirley, Brian Jensen, Yuri Hauswald, and Rebecca Rusch coming out, this is more like Dirty Kanza, in terms of firepower, than it is many of the other events. I was interested in the tactics of the American Classic team that showed up. They had about five riders in the front group and tried to "road race" the event, but obviously, they misjudged how these events generally are won. Over the years, it always seems that a couple guys break away and just grind off the rest of the field, and that is exactly the way it went down at Gravel Worlds. In the gravel racing world, strong men and women tend to stand out on their own. Team tactics, for whatever reason, haven't been successful........yet. Maybe someday that will change. I'm just glad we don't have team cars, race radios, or any of that BS out there. That isn't what this is about.

The field was filled with all types of folks doing the event for all types of reasons. The set ups and garb were all over the place. It was as eclectic as ever, from my point of view, despite what some folks think. This is good, and this is representative of what gravel grinding is all about for me. Gravel Worlds is still one of the better events one could choose to go ride. That in itself is quite an accomplishment for the Pirate Cycling League. All involved should be proud, and I tip my hat to you great gals and guys on another event well done. Thank you!

The Reinkordts at their farm. Image courtesy of Scott Redd
Speaking of thank you's........

Thank You: Once again- thanks to Tony McGrane for being my traveling companion, doing all the driving to and from, and for patiently putting up with me during my meltdown at the end of my day. Congratulations on your longest ride ever! Thank you to all of the PCL- Corey, Schmidty, and all the rest of the volunteers. Top notch folks, and a well run event. Thank you to the Reinkordts. You are gracious and very kind people which the world needs more of. Thanks to Yuri Hauswald for your time before the event. Thank you to Cycle Works and Craig Sonderup for the pre-event venue. Thanks to the young couple and their baby daughter that gave me a lift back to Lincoln. I am sorry that I've forgotten your names, but I wasn't quite "all there". I do remember your faces and that you were extremely gracious to me.

If I've missed anyone- THANK YOU.

Okay, so that's a wrap on my "racing season", such as it was. Now I aim to have fun on bicycles, get T.I.v12 together, and work on becoming better at these long slogs, if I can. Thank you for reading! 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Gravel Worlds '15 Report: The Wheels Slowly Come Off

That's me bombing one of the long down hills. Image courtesy of Lisa Janssen
Optimism was high after leaving Malcom. Oh how fast things can change in ten miles! We still had a long slog Southward, some were saying 20 more miles, and there were ten to go until we reached the Reinkordt Oasis.

Now, I have to stop here a minute and give a bit of backstory here. Back at the 2010 Gravel Worlds, I was suffering like a dog on my Singular Cycles Gryphon in heat that was melting my resolve to carry on. That year, there were "oasis" stops implemented for the first time. These were farms or homes along the route that stated a desire to help give the riders water, maybe some food, and shelter if necessary. The Reinkordts were one of these few folks that provided that opportunity then. I stopped there in 2010 and talked with Mr. and Mrs. Reinkordt for at least an hour. I could have stayed all afternoon, but I had a race to get back in to. Anyway, I hadn't seen them or spoke to them since. The Reinkordts had since had Gravel Worlds start at their place and end there two years. This year, they were an oasis stop and just off the route to boot, but I had told Tony I really wanted to go there to say hello.

As we rolled onward, I thought the hills out of Malcom had some steeper pitches than we had seen before. Much more "Iowa-like", but perhaps not as long. Then there was also the wind, which, if anything, had increased as the day neared noon. The skies were devoid of clouds also, as the Sun began to get things nice and toasty. The gravel, which was very fine, and almost sand-like at times, was treacherous in areas where car traffic had not compacted it, or at intersections where turning vehicles had churned it all up into a sandy mess. So, while most of the time navigating a good line wasn't all that difficult, you still had to be aware of your surroundings because when the wheels slipped into that deep stuff, you were going to lose control.

I was working the bike to my best advantage so that I didn't really have any time for anything but eating and drinking when I thought I should. (Thus the lack of many images from me on this report.) I swear I used every single gear combination on my 22 speed bike multiple times all day on this ride. Shifting into higher gears on the downhills, pedaling to build momentum, and then clicking off the shifts back to lower gears as I climbed the hill ahead of me after the down hill. It was really a good method and I was stoked to be able to make such good time against this terrible wind.

But then something happened. I think it was at about Mile 67.3 when we crossed O Avenue as it ran East out of Lincoln. Tony said something about how that was the road out of Lincoln, that we could go right back that way. I thought the comment odd, but I acknowledged him as being correct. Later Tony said he was feeling down and would have made that left turn back to Lincoln right there had I suggested it. That said, I told him not a half mile later I needed to stop to take a break. We'd been working so hard, and there was no respite in this ten mile stretch. It seemed as if Nebraska miles were somehow a mile and a half in Iowan measurement. Yep. We were going to that "dark place", and I could feel it.

The stop at the Reinkordt Farm was a good one. 

We reached the Reinkordt Farm right at about noon. Right at about 70 miles. It wasn't our goal of 75 miles, but we both agreed that making 70 in these conditions was really good time......for us. Now keep in mind that the two leaders at the time were on the home stretch of Gravel Worlds, but, of course, we didn't know that. We only were trying to see the best in our efforts. I am pretty happy with that accomplishment.

Back at Malcom, I was kind of hoping to find a deli pickle, but never saw one, however, I knew the Reinkordt's would have these. At least they did in 2010. I wasn't disappointed either. Salt cured cucumbers in a big jar. I grabbed a couple and so did Tony. I reintroduced myself to the Reinkordts, and was surprised to find that they remembered me. That was nice of them. I sat for a spell, feeling our effort, but I worked on eating and drinking, so I could get going on the road again.

Eventually we took leave of the Reinkordts and their hospitality, which was greatly appreciated. We were told we had about 12 more miles into the wind, but we weren't real sure about that. It sounded hopeful, so we stuck with that 12 mile figure. However; we also knew that the dreaded "Denton Wall" was dead ahead.

This feature was really about four really steep hills that succeed one another with zero respite. Add in the brutal wind, which we headed straight in to and this was a really tough slog. Tony and I both climbed it all with zero dabs, but with temperatures at 90° or so and the dry wind, it sucked the life out of me. The following miles were barely tolerable, and I was hurting. It didn't help that the salt cured pickle was turning my gut, and I felt as though I had a balloon in my intestines now. Anything I tried to eat or drink wanted right back up again, but I didn't let it. I just quit eating and drinking at this point. Mercifully, we  eventually pulled into Checkpoint #2, which was out in the open on a sunny hilltop. Not at all what I needed. I need a cool tree's shade and a shelter from the insane wind.

Not to say anything bad about that checkpoint, mind you, because the people were super and very supportive. It just wasn't what I had envisioned, and by this time, I was so fatigued and dehydrated I was getting cranky. My fault. I don't remember a whole lot about this stop. I was losing it by this point. I stayed there quite awhile, and Tony was very patient and waited on me. Finally, we gave it a try. I figured I should be able to get 12 more miles to Roca, which was another small village on the route, and I would assess my status in the race there.

Uggh! Another big hill after Checkpoint #2. 
The first 4 miles were okay, but then my legs just lost it. I couldn't eat anything, my guts were doing flip-flops, I was super-heated, and I could barely go more than 3mph up the hills. This wasn't going to cut it. Tony was out of sight. I found myself coasting into a valley on a dirt road, I saw a tree overhanging the roadside, and I decided to stop to gather myself up again. I laid down. Flat on my back.

The thoughts you have on a random stretch of country road in the middle of nowhere while you are nearly insane with dehydration and fatigue are, well........messy. One thing is for sure, I wasn't in my right mind. I knew that. The wheels had come off my attempt at Gravel Worlds.

Right here on Wittstruck Road is where it all was decided. 

I got tired of folks asking me if I was okay. Now....I think that was very kind thinking back about that, but at the time, it was annoying. I wanted to be left all alone. I wasn't happy. I felt like I didn't belong with these riders. I was pissed off. I was sad. I was about 30 other emotions. I finally got back up and crawled on to the Tamland Two and weakly pedaled onward. I was reconsidering my decision with about every quarter mile I went in an insane roundabout of logic that was not at all making sense now, but sounded perfectly logical at the time. I finally saw a cyclist coming toward me. It was Tony. I told him I was done. He said something about getting to Roca and getting some shade. I said that sounded good.

 I finally limped into Roca, we parked the bikes, and I sat down and put my head on the table in the air conditioned bar. I was cooked. Totally fried. I eventually told Tony to take off, to go get his well deserved finish. Just before he took off, another rider that was dropping out asked if I needed a ride back to Lincoln. His wife was coming to get him and they could take me. A broom wagon. (It actually was a Subaru wagon!)

And so that's the end of my riding in Gravel Worlds. Tomorrow I'll give some final thoughts and comments.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Gravel Worlds '15 Report: The Dust, Wind, Heat, and Hills

3:11 am. Holiday Inn, Downtown Lincoln, Nebraska:

BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! "....What the......!!! "

I jumped completely out of the bed and stared at the source of the noise. It was the room's alarm clock, set for 6:00am, only it wasn't 6:00am at all. It really was 3:11am. The clock was waaaaaay off! By the way, if you know your Lincoln music history, this could be construed as a cruel irony. I blamed MW, who is from Lincoln, and whose brother is known as P-Nut. (That's a hint) I shut the danged thing off and went back to sleep, for a little bit, anyway......

Then I woke up again. No alarm clock this time. I checked the time on my iPhone. I was three minutes to having to get up anyway, so I shut off the phone's alarm, and started getting ready to head down to the Fallbrook neighborhood for the start of the 2015 Gravel Worlds. My traveling companion, Tony, was all ready to go and we hit the road at about 5:15 to reach the start with plenty of time to spare before the 6:00am rolling neutral start.

The start was oddly vacant of riders considering that there should be approaching 300 riders there. The time crept forward to 6:00am and we chatted with various folks we saw and knew from previous Trans Iowa events or from other gravel races we've all been to. Suddenly, a bull horn amplified voice was heard, but I have absolutely no idea what it was that was said, as it was from too far away for me to make out clearly. Or maybe my hearing is gone from all the Rock & Roll. One or the other.....

This was about the time that people showed up and the area got packed in with nervous cyclists. Then I saw Corey Godfrey, one of the principals of Gravel Worlds, up on the bed of an early 70's Ford Ranger giving something of a speech. Again- I've no idea whatsoever what it was that was said. I heard the truck fire up, and a cheer went up from the crowd as the thunderous V8 engine came to life. Then moments later I heard the RPM's drop slightly, and I turned to Tony and said, "This is it. He dropped it into drive". Then the cyclists up front were counting down to zero, and before I knew it, I was standing, straddling my bike, watching rows ahead of me clip in and go. Then, it came like a wave and it was our turn to finally set sail on our journey.

After a nervous start in the dark, this was the first image I dared take. 
Obviously we all had our lights on, as at this time of year it is dark at 6:00am. It would be about an hour before I dared turn off my lights. The rolling start in the dark, amidst the throng of cyclists was a thrill for me. I generally am the one driving the truck leading out the light show, but this time I was a part of it instead. I thought that was pretty cool. However, I also had to be very wary of every cyclist around me, not knowing if these folks were good night riders or not. Then the gravel came. Sandy, loose, deeper road surfaces, and riders were pitching sideways, slowing dramatcally, speeding up dramatically, or veering sideways to avoid someone else. We were a nervous bunch, but fortunately Tony and I were able to get around a lot of this and we picked our way forward through tens of cyclists as we motored along.

This jockeying in the dark went on for a half an hour, maybe 45 minutes, and then we were settling into a good place amongst the throng. Cyclists were fairly spaced out now and the nervousness of the start was forgotten. I noted a cyclist at the side of the road not ten miles in with a flat already. Bummer! But this was a rarity all day from where I was in the group. We did see one other cyclist having issues. At about 18 miles in, we saw a cyclist just remounting and coming back onto the road. Suddenly I hear a loud BOOM! and the guy jumped off his rig. I saw that his tire was completely off the rim. Tubeless failure! The Moots rider looked dejected as I passed him by.

The clouds dissipated as the morning went along. 
We were flying as the course went pretty much straight North and the 25mph Southerly wind was at our backs. We did go East a bit as well, but even in the crosswind we were making excellent time. Valpraiso was the first pass through town. Tony and I stopped there to re-up with water and eat some morsels. There was a cute pair of kids in the convenience store window I waved at, and they returned the wave with a smile. Good stuff that keeps you motivated.

We hit out from Valpraiso on roads I remembered like I had ridden them yesterday, as this was a similar path as the 2010 Gravel Worlds route. Eventually we were to turn South, and a very long, hard, dusty ride straight into a 25 to 30mph headwind was waiting for us. That said, by this point in the event, 30 plus miles in, I was feeling great.

Just after turning South. Three hours in, and I was all alone. This also shows the long, gradual climbs typical of the course. 
More "alone time" on my way toward the first checkpoint.
I was wondering how long it would take until I found myself without a cyclist in view. It was at about three hours in, just after we turned South, and Tony had jetted up ahead of me. It happened again a time or two before getting to Checkpoint #1, but I was figuring out how to meter out my efforts going into these hills and the powerful headwind. Typically, these hills wouldn't have been a big deal, but adding in the extra effort required due to the 25-30mph wind, the hills were quite a significant barrier to forward progress. So, I wasn't very focused on keeping up with Tony at this point. I was most concerned about how I was going to burn my matches here. Eventually, I figured it out and Tony either sat up or I caught back up to him, but we eventually came in together to Checkpoint #1 in Garland, a small village with hardly any buildings.

The action at Checkpoint #1. The volunteers were stellar here and everywhere at Gravel Worlds. 

Reaching the first checkpoint was a good feeling. Jeffrey Bonsall greeted us and the other volunteers were super helpful and cheering us onward. I felt great and Tony and I stayed a reasonable amount of time, resupplying and using the restroom, and then we were off again.

The next stop wasn't a "real checkpoint" but hearkened back to the old days of the Good Life Gravel Adventure and earlier editions of Gravel Worlds where the competitors were required to buy Nebraska Powerball tickets to prove they had passed through certain points of the course. Malcom was the village on our cues, and this village has been a mainstay of Gravel Worlds since the beginning. It was only 9 miles from Garland, but I think 8 and a half were all uphill!

The Malcom General Store: Face it- you'd never have come here if it weren't for Gravel Worlds. I'm glad we do go there.
 Okay, so the Malcom store stop went well for me. I had something to eat here as well. I had a Coke and some chocolate milk, then Tony and I headed out for the ten miles or so to the Reinkordt Oasis stop. I was feeling pretty chipper yet and we were looking to chop off 75 miles by noon. That was the goal. Even though the wind was contrary, we seemed to be making decent time, and we were optimistic about our chances.

Next: The Wheels Slowly Come Off

Monday, August 24, 2015

Gravel Worlds '15 Report: Getting There

Looking out over Lincoln, Nebraska to the South
Gravel Worlds happened over the weekend and my friend Tony and I headed down toward Lincoln leaving Waterloo at 10:00am. The trip was enjoyable and went by quickly. We pulled up into Lincoln and our first stop was Cycle Works bicycle shop where the race registration was taking place.

As we pulled up to the open garage door that acts as a breezeway to get into the shop, we saw a small, cordoned off area where there were a few bicycles in racks. Not bikes for sale, mind you, but some very special bikes. One I recognized immediately from recent social media posts. It had day-glo panels over a black frame and was to be Yuri Hauswald's rig for his first attempt at Gravel Worlds. Yuri is the reigning Dirty Kanza 200 champion, and he and past DK 200 champ, Dan Hughes, cooked up some crazy theme based upon the Japanese character Godzilla and one of Godzilla's nemesis, Mothra.

The bikes were custom painted or stickered up, and they even had t-shirts printed up, which you can get at the DK200 store, as I understand it. Standing near these fabulously painted rigs were the two riders themselves, Yuri and Dan, showing off the creations to whomever was within ear shot. We walked up and when the conversation came to a dead spot, I interrupted and introduced myself to Yuri.

The Specialized is "Mothra" and the Marin is "Godzilla".
Dan Hughes explaining how his "Mothra" bike will dominate to a listening bystander
I had the honor of interviewing Yuri Hauswald for the Riding Gravel Radio Ranch after his Dirty Kanza win. It was a very good interview, mostly because of Yuri, of course, so I was keenly interested in talking with him in person. He was great to meet and we chatted for about 10-15 minutes.

During his conversation with me, he revealed that he was running the new Clement MSO tubeless rated 36mm tires. So, it looks as though we'll be seeing those coming down the pike at a later time. I would look for further details on those shoes coming from Interbike.

So, anyway, we got registered up, got our brandy snifter with the PCL logo on it, some Gravel Worlds socks, our cue sheets, and I bought a Gravel Worlds poster. After that we skedaddled over to the hotel, secured our rooms, put our bikes away, and went back to the bike shop where they were serving brews and we hung out and chatted with fellow gravel riders.

Tony and I were looking for grub, so we finally decided on Yia Yia's Pizza, (recommended if you are ever in Lincoln), and then we hit the beds. I fiddled around with my stuff, fretting about all the fine details, but I was in my bed by 9:15pm. The plan was to get out of the motel by 5:15am and head over to the start. Then the game would be on......

Tomorrow: The Dust, Wind, Heat, and Hills

Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday News And Views

A map of the 2015 Gravel Worlds course
Ahoy! Gravel Mateys!

Today I'll be on my way to Lincoln, Nebraska to join my like minded gravel riding nut-jobs to take part in the Pirate Cycling League's 2015 version of Gravel Worlds . It's an almost 150 mile route through the hilly, (YES- Nebraska is HILLY), terrain circumnavigating Lincoln.

I will try to keep up on social media when I can, so if you do Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, I will post a few updates throughout the day Saturday. Don't count on a blow-by-blow covering of Gravel Worlds though. I'll just be posting so some folks that care will know I'm still sailing around the gravelly seas of Nebraska and not in Davey Jone's Locker.

This event used to be known as "The Good Life Gravel Adventure" back in '08 and '09. I was convinced to check out the second GLGA event by David Pals, at that time my co-director of Trans Iowa. It was a shoestring adventure and on a single speed, no less. I was hooked then and came back another time to enjoy the scene there. The second time it was co-named the "GLGA-Gravel Worlds", and again, I rode a single speed. I thought I had made it down one other time on a geared bike, but I cannot find any evidence of that, and so I guess it was twice, and I haven't been back in....gulp!, five years! Well, things have changed a bit since those early days!

The first time I rode down there the GLGA had under 50 participants. I think the first Gravel Worlds had 110 or so. Well, this one will have nearly 300! That's a big, big difference right there. I expect there will be other, "big" differences as well, so stay tuned for my thoughts on the Gravel Worlds and a ride report beginning next week.

Lou on the Left, Vee Tire Snowshoe 2XL on right
King Of Fat:

It used to be that a Surly Bud or Lou on a 100mm rim was the fattest tire you could get. Not anymore....

The new "King Of Fat", (which is what this tire should have been called, I think), is the Vee Tire "Snowshoe 2XL". For all the gory details on this beast, see's story here.  (The image to the left is from their story as well.)

My take is that this will be the ultimate flotation tire. In other words, if you find you are going to go out and bust your own trails, go where no one else is going, and you need to be "on top" of the terrain as much as possible, then this is your tire. Translation: If you run groomed trails, dry terrain that is the realm of mountain biking, or are running on loose, drier stuff that isn't sand, these tires won't do you one bit of good. They will just be heavier, harder to handle, and stroke your "I have the biggest tires" ego. Well......they also probably will not fit your current bike. At over 5" in width on 100 mm rims, there are only a few production bikes in existence that these will fit on. I'm not sure they would fit on my Blackborow, for instance, but I've heard these tires will "barely" clear the frame.

I won't say I would never get a pair of these, as they would slot into my usual Winter hi-jinx. I like bushwhacking powder and mud, and so flotation makes sense to me. However; I haven't reached the limits of the Lou/Clown Shoe set up I have, so I just don't see the need to jump on these right now. That said, it's a nice option to be able to go to if I do ever go beyond the limits of the set up I have now.

Blackborow and the Bluto
Looking Forward To Winter:

 Speaking of fat bikes, I haven't ever gotten my plan to convert the Blackborow to......well, you'll have to wait for that. Anyway, part of the plan was the Bluto fork, and I have been on it more since my first impressions of it a while back. I still really like having suspension on this bike for "Summer duties", but it does add weight. Weight is a bad deal in Winter, and so I'll be going back to the original equipment fork, and my Anything Cage HD racks along with that, for the colder months.

I still have my Titanium Mukluk, and for that rig I may be looking to a 1 X 11 group, which will allow bigger rear tires and no chain to tire rub in the lowest gears. With its antiquated 1 1/8th steer tube, I have stuck an On One Carbon Fatty fork on there which lightens up the bike and still gives a great ride feel. I think my direction with that bike will be to use it as a "fast" Winter set up. So, I will be getting it all set for "slop" conditions, groomed stuff, and general riding around.

I still have the Snow Dog as well, but currently it has been relegated to the back wall in the basement as I don't have wheels for it at present. That may change soon though, so I may have a new plan for this old girl soon.

There may be some parts tweakage on all three rigs coming along as the months crawl on by toward 2016. Stay tuned....

And that's a wrap for now. Have a great weekend and I'll be back Monday with the start of my Gravel Worlds report......