Monday, May 20, 2019

A Big, Fat, Titanium Thank You

GT (L) and Sam Auen with the Ti Mukluk
Okay..... I'm not sure where to start with this, so I'll just go to the beginning of this story and hopefully it will all make sense. I'm still processing through what happened and I may never fully get my head around this, but here goes......

Several years ago, when I had my original Ti Muk, Ben Witt and I were gabbing about how "the perfect fat bike set up" would be a titanium frame and a Rohloff based drive train. Well, I already had my bike and a Rohloff is, while awesome, very expensive. That didn't stop Ben from trying though. He got a 2015 Titanium Mukluk frame and had built a rear wheel using a Whiskey carbon rim with a then new 170mm rear spaced Rohloff 14 speed internal geared hub. I remember seeing this in his basement when I stayed with him during the 2016 Fargo Reunion Ride.

Okay, fast forwrad a bit to when Sam Auen bought the partial rolling chassis from Ben and obtained another Whiskey carbon rim, (via from myself - long story), and built the bike up into rideable shape. Sam then added the bike to his fleet and did a few rides here and there on it. Then came the time when my good friend Sam realized he needed to "thin the herd". The Ti Muk was on the short list of candidates for him to shed off the fleet to someone who would use it more than he was.

Sam then posted the idea of selling the bike on social media where I jumped in and commented something to the effect that this was the "perfect fat bike set up" and that someone should own this dream bike. My intentions were to help bring some notice to Sam's trying to sell the bike because I wanted to help a friend. Then I forgot about it because it was a temptation I could ill afford anyway, even though I would have purchased it on the spot had I had the money. I figured some other lucky person would get it, and that would be that.

14 internal hub gears of doom.
Then this is where MG got involved. He texted me that very day asking about some things. One of the things mentioned was what I thought about Sam selling that bike. Did I really think that was a "dream build" for a fat bike? I responded to MG that I felt it was "the perfect fat bike set up" for me. That was that. We moved on to other things, and I went about my life, unsuspecting. MG, on the other hand, had a plan.

He contacted a list of people and got them, somehow or another, to contribute to an effort to make the bike mine. Their motivation for doing so was not, and is not, totally understood by me. MG wrote me and explained it this way

" It's funny how your influence stretches much farther than you might think. All of the people who donated have been touched by you and/or your work in one way or another....."

I still find this hard to believe.......

Anyway, it happened. I have the bike and a big list of people I need to thank, so this post is a public thank you to those folks. MG has said that these folks are okay with my publishing their names on the blog, (If you do have issue with that, let me know and I'll strike your name from the list, but I felt you all deserved recognition for this uncommon gesture). So this, in no particular order, are the folks who made it possible for me to get this awesome Ti Mukluk Saturday.

  • Bobby & Crystal Wintle
  • The Gibson family – Christy, Russ and Sofia
  • Joe Billsbach
  • Jason Boucher
  • Bruce Currin
  • Steve Fuller
  • Corey Godfrey
  • Ben Shockey
  • John Wilmeth 
  • Venny Alub
  • Rob Evans
  • Ed and Janelle Gerlach
  • Gary Little
  • Kristi and Tim Mohn
  • Errin Vasquez
  • Walter Zitz
  • Timothy Stephen
  • Todd Masters
  • Jim Phillips
  • Joe Reed
  • Joe Pahr
  • Warren Weibe
  • Ben Welnak
  • Matt Gersib
  • Sam Auen

And here it is. Thanks doesn't say enough, but THANK YOU!
 So, this past weekend my family and I visited my good brother Sam, collected the bike, and brought it home finally. This arrangement by my other good brother, MG is mind blowing. Wow...... Anyway, still wrapping my brain around what happened.

So, I cannot express my feelings. I just don't have the words to show my gratitude here. So, I'll talk about the bike, since it is unusual and I''m sure some of you are curious.

The fork is from an Advocate Watchman fat bike. It was the only 150mm spaced fork Sam could get his hands on at the time he built the bike up. He wanted that spacing for the SON dynamo hub he had someone lace the Whiskey carbon rim to.The handle bar is a Jones Carbon H-Bar with the ESI made Jones grips and the requisite Rohloff shifter. The seat post is another Salsa Regulator, which I love. The saddle is a Salsa branded WTB Silverado, (I think it is a Silverado), and that may go if it is too narrow. (Looks like it) The rims are the aforementioned Whiskey carbon ones in a 70mm width. The tires are the 45NRTH Dunder/Flowbeist models. I'll probably just run those till they are done. Brakes are simple Avid BB-5's with Avid levers.

The crank is a Race Face Turbine with a Race Face ring. Obviously, pretty basic outboard drive train stuff because the business end is all inside the 14 speed Rohloff hub.

The Rohloff is the 170mm OD model which came out a few years ago. Basically the internal gear hub is pretty bomb proof. As long as I keep changing the oil when it needs it and keep up on the maintenance of the external cog/chain/chain ring, the drive train shouldn't ever let me down either. That was why I was dreaming one day of owning a Rohloff. That and there are no "dangly bits"to get whacked off during explorations and in nasty conditions. 

I have ridden the bike for a bit. I haven't owned a Rohloff equipped bike before, but I have worked on a lot of internal geared hub bikes and they all have one thing in common- They do not like being shifted under power. Unlike a derailleur drive train, you cannot just shift while mashing the pedals. There is a bit of a special "hiccup" you have to learn to shift a IGH. (Internally Geared Hub) This is especially true with a down shift to get up a hill. I will need a lot of practice before I get this down smoothly with the Rohloff.

I also need to tidy up the wiring on the awesome Busch and Mueller IQ-X lighting system. It works fine, but there is a lot of extra wire and it needs to be routed a bit more permanently. This is also my first dynamo hub experience and so far, I totally see the appeal. I have worked on dynamo hubs before and I have a basic understanding of them, but owning/living with one is going to be a new learning experience.

Basically the entire set up will require some familiarization on my part. Just getting wheels on and off will be a bit more involved than your typical bike due to the complexities with wires, cables, and whatnot. But that said, this! Sam insisted several times when I got it from him Saturday that I have "adventures" on it, and get some good use out of it. That is the plan for sure. So stay tuned for a lot of that to happen in the coming weeks and months.

Once again...... Thank You! I am overwhelmed by this act of kindness.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Story Of Guitar Ted: The Road Mechanic

A Guitar Ted Productions series.

 Welcome to the third series on G-Ted Productions! This series jumps off from the time where the "Race Against Death Tour" ended and will take you up to the beginnings of Trans Iowa in late 2004. This is an eight year period where my life was transformed. You could say it was metamorphosed from the old to something quite new.

This won't have a lot of bicycle stuff in it at times, but it is all essential to the story of "Guitar Ted". This isn't about where the name came from. That's all here.  No, this is about the person. 

As with previous historical series on the blog, images will be a rarity. Cell phones, social media, and digital images were not available to take advantage of in those last days of analog living.  
In this episode of my story we get to see how I ended up getting back into being a bicycle mechanic and the reasons why.......
A typical LLV used by the USPS which I used to work on.

The Road Mechanic: Things were going along pretty well for me. I was married, I had a new daughter in my life, and my job had benefits and paid well. By the time I had gotten married I had become an integral part of Schuerman’s Auto Repair. I knew enough things that I could be unsupervised most every day, and my specialty, I guess, was tires, brakes, and oil changes. Oh, and alternators, radiators, and those USPS LLV’s. Uggh! LLV’s are a nightmare to work on, by the way. Every time I see one, I shudder with the memories.

I guess it would have been around 1999, 2000, I cannot remember now, but a former local cyclist named John suddenly appeared in the shop. He had a pained look on his face, and he told me that my old boss at Advantage Cyclery had died under some rather mysterious circumstances. I had heard a rumor earlier, and it was sad. I recall John saying it was “a waste”. I don’t want to share any details, but I was very sad about the whole deal. Tom had taught me everything I knew about bicycle mechanics. He taught me how to build a wheel. He showed me how to use the cutting tools, how to adjust a cantilever brake, and more. He walked me through Barnett’s Manual, and made me master all the lessons. It was a waste to have him gone as a resource, but hopefully I can pass some of that along……

So, I survived the 2000 expansion of Schuerman’s to a four-bay shop. I survived all the deep Winter weather and blazing hot days of Summer working on cars. 9-11 came and it was a dreadful day I’ll never forget. I was doing an oil change when our receptionist broke the news…. Anyway, it seemed like I would end up working there forever. Then I heard a rumor that Europa Cycles was looking for a mechanic to go on the road to help them with RAGBRAI. Vance, the old head mechanic there, advised the owner to ask me to come onboard for that week. I arranged a vacation and cleared it with Mrs. Guitar Ted. I was going on RAGBRAI as a mechanic! It sounded exciting.

I needed to go through my tools and get them ready, but I had nothing to put them in proper, so I went out and bought a roll-away tool chest branded by Craftsman from the local Sears store. I jammed a weeks’ worth of shorts and t-shirts in a storage tub, a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, and out the door I went on the last week of July 2002 to go do something I hadn’t done in five years- work on bicycles.

It was awkward as I was an "outsider". No one knew who I was because by this time I had been out of the bike business for so long. Since mechanics come and go in a typical bike shop setting, the guys at the shop had never heard of me, and didn't know if I was a good or a bad mechanic. I was certainly older than any of them. Most of these folks were still in college. Anyway, we got out to Western Iowa for the start, and I met Jeff Kerkove for the first time. There was another mechanic named Chris who also was onboard with the "road crew". Those two did on the route repairs, I was the "overnight stop" mechanic. This allowed me to bring a bike and I rode most of the 2002 route.

The week was a success for me and I impressed the owner of Europa enough so that I was invited to come back and do the same routine the next year. Afterward, the stress of working so much at the car repair shop, the long hours, and all the energy it took, gave me pause. I didn't want to be a Dad that worked all the time and had no energy for his children. Since the owner of Europa had expressed some interest in hiring me on full time, and after discussing it with Mrs. Guitar Ted, I went in late in August of 2002 and spoke with the owner. He and I made a handshake agreement that I would work no nights, no weekends, and that I had autonomy to take care of my children first. It was a BIG hit financially, but it was the right investment to make into my new family.

On Labor Day weekend, I broke the news to "Sherm", who was devastated and told me I would be a hard man to replace as he shook my hand. Two weeks later I was in civilian clothes and walking in to Europa Cycle & Ski. I was back in the bicycle game once again.

Between 2002 and RABGRAI 2003, Mrs. Guitar Ted and I found out we were going to have a baby boy in August. This precipitated my having to capitulate to the times and get a cell phone. That way if something happened while I was on the road for RAGBRAI she could get a hold of me. On Thursday, July 24th, 2003, while I was asleep in a motorhome in Oskaloosa, Iowa, I got a phone call that "it was time". That was the last time I ever was on RAGBRAI as a mechanic. My son was born later that evening. Now I was really glad I made the switch to being a bicycle mechanic again, despite the fact I wasn't making much money at all.

Next: Back To Shop Rat Status

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Minus Ten Review 2009-22

So, this was the poster for the last hurrah for this deal.
Ten years ago on the site I had just closed out the retelling of the Trans Iowa v5 story and was moving on. The next gig on my plate was The Big Wheeled Ballyhoo 2009.

Okay, so follow along here- The first one of these was in 2007. Two knuckleheads put the thing on and we were waaaay over our heads. But that said, it happened. It wasn't great, but it was not all that bad either. So, a second attempt was planned. Now, bear in mind that at this point I have zero idea of what a festival/mtb gathering/whatcha-ma-callit woodsie deal on bikes was supposed to look like for vendors and the industry. I mean, I knew how to have fun, but "fun" doesn't pay the bills and ya know..... The vendors have businesses to run.

So, 2008 comes along and the "BWB" is planned but major flooding ensues and the venue is not suitable for vendors or campers. I cancelled the event. Oh yes......did you notice the "I cancelled" part? Yes, I was ditched off on by Tim Grahl, the whole deal dumped into my lap with zero assistance on his end. bah! Then that precipitates the decision to move Trans Iowa. So, you'd think I'd have had enough sense to not do a Ballyhoo again. Nope. I was prevailed upon by a few folks to give it another go. Grahl ceded control of the website to me, and off I went. Well, the announcement was that the whole shebang was moving to Brady, Nebraska, which was the nearest village to the venue, I guess. I wanted to do the thing in Lincoln, but I was persuaded to try Potter's Pasture.

The rest of that crazy tale will be told later into the year.

In other news I committed to another Dirty Kanza 200, and my family was coming along with me. Also, my local reviewing friend in "Twenty Nine Inches" decided to quit. I understood why, but it did put the binders on me to step up my game.

So, I cannot recall now exactly when this happened, but by now I was taking Wednesdays off from wrenching on bicycles to do riding so I could review all the things entrusted to me to review. Good thing Mrs. Guitar Ted was supporting us, because I took another big hit financially, and of course, the website did not pay me squat to do all of that work.

Those were tough, tough days. Website crashes, bugs, spam attacks, monitoring comments on the site, learning web stuff, trying to make new advertiser relationships, and more. It was overwhelming. Then here I was trying to organize a festival. I shouldn't have been doing it. Too stubborn and loyal not to. See, I figured I owed the cycling community something back for what they had made of me. By 2009, "Guitar Ted" was a well known 29"er advocate. People treated me "weird", like I was some celebrity, and I thought it was......well, I didn't know what to think of it all. 

I remember telling Gary Fisher about it once, how I thought I was really just this "regular guy". He scoffed and said, "But you ARE Guitar Ted!"

Yep. He was correct. To a lot of people, I wasn't "just a regular guy". Just a short four years before no one had heard of me. This new thing was a blessing and a curse. It took me time to get used to it. In the meantime, I busted my head against the wall trying to make the website successful. Maybe someday it would turn around and I'd actually benefit from my work. That's what I thought anyway back ten years ago.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Friday News And Views

A map of the Butterfield Stage gravel route
Butterfield Stage Experience Route Announced:

People that ride bicycles LOVE point to point routes and having them drawn up for them ahead of time. I don't typically roll that way, liking to do my own research, but from time to time, I see something that piques my interest that is a pre-planned route. This new route announcement coming out of Missouri is just such a thing.

Here is the lowdown from the Butterfield Stage Experience site:

In 1858, John Butterfield personally carried the first bag of mail, boarding the Pacific Railroad in St. Louis. Butterfield's journey took him through Jefferson City, California, Tipton, Syracuse, Florence, Cole Camp, Warsaw, Bolivar, and Springfield--a journey you can live again by bicycling the Butterfield Stage Experience route in Missouri.

 Your ride on the Butterfield Stage Experience will bring you to all of these historic routes and places--and more.

In the 1920s the Dry Wood Threshers Association of Sheldon, Missouri, erected stone monuments at the location of every known Butterfield Stage Station in Missouri.

In the 1950s, to commemorate the centennial of the Butterfield Stage, the Missouri State Historical Society erected metal signs at towns along the Butterfield route in Missouri. Most signs direct you to the actual Butterfield Stage Station location (and corresponding stone monument) a few miles outside of town.

Tracking down those markers and monuments--as well as dozens more historically significant buildings and places across Missouri--is a big part of what makes the Butterfield Stage Experience a real adventure--and a real experience.

So, this ticks all the boxes for me. Self-supported touring, history, and gravel, all combined in a route you can do all of, or parts of. I think I need to make time on my calendar to experience this. 

 Controversy Over Almanzo Changes:

The chain of events started with the original founder of the Almanzo 100, Chris Skogen, announcing in August of 2018, that he was taking over the reins as the organizer of the Almanzo events. This after three years of being "retired" from organizing the events which traditionally have been held the weekend after Mother's Day in Spring Valley. Then, in a bombshell announcement in November of 2018, Skogen announced that the event was leaving Spring Valley due to some communications and requirements from officials in Spring Valley that seemed to be untenable to Mr. Skogen. The Almanzo events (100, 165, and 380 mile events) were moved from Spring Valley, Minnesota to Northfield, Minnesota, requiring all new courses for the three traditional event distances plus the addition of a 50 mile event which was added as well. 

Then, on Tuesday of this week, a mere four days before the inaugural Northfield events, Skogen announced that all the Almanzo events were not going to be timed and scored, and that there would be no number plates issued to riders. This announcement produced a flurry of both supportive and negative reactions. Skogen then, according to my contacts that saw it, posted a Facebook video claiming that the negative comments were inflicting too much stress and that this year would be the last Alamnzo. That video was pulled down within an hour of its posting. Then the following day, (Wednesday), Skogen posted on Facebook saying that he stood by his decision to eliminate timing and scoring and to not issue bib numbers since it was "a barrier to participation". Skogen then went on to cite failing bicycle businesses and falling participation in events as a reason for this decision to stand. The question of whether or not this will actually be the last Almanzo has been left unanswered by the latest post I've seen.

Almanzo's "Alexander" distance, 380-ish miles, was to have started by the time you've probably read this. The remainder of the Almanzo events, the traditional 100, the Royal 165-ish, and the new Malanzo 50, are to be held tomorrow. 

Okay, so I've recounted the facts here. Make of that what you may. My personal take is that I find this very odd. Whether or not Almanzo should or should not be a timed, scored, and otherwise "traditionally marked" race is up for debate. To me, that is all secondary to the timing of the announcements. This strikes me as being unnecessary. Why not run this year's events as they have in the past, and make your changes next week for 2020? (Unless this truly is the last Almanzo) What happens to the number plates and work done to time and score the event, which, one would think,  surely must have been in place a week before the event?  Odd. Seems a waste and ill-timed to me, unless....well. I don't know the particulars. So, my questions stem from having run events. Again- you are welcome to have your opinions, these are my thoughts as a race/event director. 

Good luck to those riding from Northfield tomorrow.  

The Bubblegum Princess with IRC Boken Plus tires.

 Records Were Made To Be Broken:

The record I have in my tire roll down test I conduct with tires I am reviewing was set several years ago when I ran a set of Gravel King SK 40mm tires. There were tires that came close, but none that exceeded the lower rolling resistance of that set of tires.

I used to use the Tamland for all those tests, as much as I could. The Tamland has disc wheels and QR attachment for those. Most every wheel I had was in that standard, so it made sense to make the Tamland the "control" bike and keep things as similar as possible. 

But as standards changed, (and I use that term loosely), I decided to switch from using the Tamland to using the Black Mountain Cycles MCD. It has through axles, disc brakes, and otherwise is very "Tamland-ish" in that it is steel, with a steel fork. Anyway, it is what it is. A change was necessary since almost every wheel I'll test now, or own, will be 12mm through axle until such time that some knuckle headed enginerd decides we need to change that.  

So, anyway- the record. Well, I use a big, steep downhill that is paved in town, (surface remains consistent), that spills out into a double tracked gravel/dirt thing. The Gravel King was one of the only set of tires that rolled without pedaling into this double track. Now I have a set of IRC Boken Plus 650B X 47mm tires set up tubeless on the BMC MCD and I took it over to the "test track". 

Result? Record blown away! I not only made it into this double track, but I went about an eighth of a mile up it. So, I broke the record not by a little- by a LOT.  By more than the changes in bike would seem to affect things. If anything, I would have pegged the BMC as slower since the body position is a bit more upright. Anyway..... 

It is clear to me that the IRC Boken Plus is the fastest tire I have yet tested on that course. Scary fast! I suspect that record will stand for some time, but..... Records were made to be broken.  

Have a great weekend! 

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Country Views: The First Hot Day

Rollin gravel Eastbound.
Wednesday it was a gorgeous day and was the very first day I would call "Summer-like". The skies were blue bird clear and the wind was nought but a breeze, not even worth mentioning, really. I was itching to get out there, but I had to work on first and then all the drama about the Almanzo events distracted me for a bit. But shortly after noon, I managed to load up the State Bicycle Company Warhawk single speed and I headed South, but with a twist.

Generally speaking, I go South and a mile over or so east or west and then straight back North when I'm headed out that way. But yesterday I decided to travel more toward the East than is my norm. The roads East are good, and I don't know why I don't get out that way more than I do. So, I made a concerted effort to get out of my rut in the route choice and go a different way. I am really glad that I did for several reasons, as we will see here.

Now, of course, the Warhawk is a single speed, but I took it out of fixed mode since I wrecked my hips riding it fixed a while back now. So, I wasn't worried about that, and the hills aren't super steep East and South of town until you get around Hickory Hills, but I wasn't going to have time to go quite that far.

I was able to wear just shorts and a shirt, a wool shirt, to be exact, from Showers Pass. It's a light weight Summer wool shirt with a chest pocket and it doesn't look like a cycling jersey at all. The shorts were also Showers Pass and were baggies. (Note: I reviewed the clothing here) I like not wearing Lycra stuff whenever I can. Oh yeah, and I put flats on the Warhawk and rode in the new Giant shoes I have for flat pedals. So, I was total non-racer out there. With my 39 X 18T gearing, I was all good to go. It was just gorgeous out, actually, borderline too hot at times.

Barns For Jason: Check out the pattern in the brickwork of the silo.
The roads are really coming around too. There is still a lot of damage to take care of, but the mud is gone, many of the ruts have been graded down, and there were lots of fresh gravel patches. There are also a lot of smooth-as-a-table-top parts, and along with that are plenty of loose, almost sandy parts. The dust was bad coming off the cars and trucks I met. So, the roads are bone dry now.

'merica. Check out that rare cab-over semi tractor. Don't see many of those around anymore.
Lots of gravel, green grass, and black earth on the ride. Farmers are planting like crazy now.
Like I said, there wasn't really anything to the wind, and despite it being a headwind going South, it was no big deal. I was glad for it actually. It helped drift the clouds of gravel dust off the roadway whenever a car or truck passed. Plus, it helped keep me cooler. It wasn't humid, but I was sweating! The softer roads in many places was making me earn those miles.

Lots of chunky, fresh gravel is being laid down too.
Another of the several planter rigs I saw working the fields of Black Hawk County. Note the dust.
I ended up crossing Kimball, then Highway 21, but I didn't get as far East as V-37, so then I turned South for a bit and back West on Reinbeck Road. When I came back across Highway 21, I saw that where I crossed was a stopping point for a pilot car to guide folks through a construction zone. The man holding the stop sign was busy looking at his phone, (what else?!), as a long line of cars and trucks waited behind him for their turn to follow the pilot car. As I crossed the pavement, I said hello to the man, who looked up in amazement with his mouth agape. I don't think he ever thought he'd see a cyclist on a gravel road, much less one that far out of town.

There are planted fields everywhere, but many are waiting to be worked yet.
It was a great ride. I was super happy to have gotten out and going a different way than usual was fun. As I rolled up the last miles into Waterloo, I realized something. I hadn't been accosted by any dogs! Maybe all I had to do was declare 2019 as the "Year Of The Dog" and that took care of things. Maybe I have paid my dues. Maybe it was just too warm for those furry beasts to give chase. I don't know, but that was the first time in a long time I haven't had to dismount to deal with angry mongrels.

It could have been the different route. I don't know, but I'll take it. Almost 30 miles, and I felt fantastic. The sickness I had been battling is almost a distant memory now and I am starting to feel more like myself again. Both on and off the bike.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Another Day- Another Gravel Bike

The new Santa Cruz Stigmata
It seems that about every day I am hearing about someone's new gravel bike that is coming out. And, really, it shouldn't be all that surprising. If it isn't gravel, it is the so-called "e-bike", or hey! Gravel e-bikes!

yawn...... Okay, so this all strikes me as being pretty crazy. You all know, if you've been here long enough, that I was bantering on about bicycles for this task ten years ago. I was researching the ideas, talking with trusted friends, and looking at the few things that were coming up that were "gravel oriented". The thing was, there weren't many that believed in gravel cycling as being anything worthy of making a bicycle for. Heck, even specific tires for the task were hard to come by.

But that was okay. I mean, it wasn't stopping any of us that were riding gravel from, you know......riding gravel. Now it seems like "you are doing it all wrong" if you are not on a gravel bike. Well, here is another thing I've been saying all along- you can ride any bike on gravel. Don't let anyone make you feel you have to have "such-and-such" bike to really do an event, ride, or adventure. But that said, there are sharper tools in the shed now. If you are so inclined, grab one.

And when it comes down to it, you all may also remember that I said most people would be better served by such a bike as a "gravel bike". (For the record, I really do not like that moniker. ) So, it would make sense that if the bicycle industry got off the "racing bike" nonsense, that more gravel bikes would be made, and it has happened. The people spoke with their purchases and whatta ya know? More gravel bikes are being proffered to satisfy demand.

They say this is actually going to happen this year.

Unlike fat bikes, which spiked and then fell flat within three years, this "bubble" hasn't popped yet. Now, I think it will, but I don't think it will fall flat on its face like fat bikes have done. But time will tell. All I know now is that another announcement of a gravel bike had better be pretty different to grab the spotlight these days. You know, kinda like that Niner gravel bike, or something radical like Canyon's weird handle bar rig. Otherwise it is just another day.........

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Thoughts On Bike To Work Week

Just a crazy commuter on an average day. Image by Joe Hackenmiller
"So, It's Bike To Work Week?", I asked Joe as I dismounted my 1X1 and walked into the back door of the shop. He said it was, and he was just thinking about trying to catch me as I rolled up to work for a post on the shop's Instagram. (I think he is stalking me, but whatevs...!) Promoting "Bike To Work Week" and other such "traditions" in the niche of cycling is expected of bike shops. But......does any of it really matter? 

 I'm going to say here that, at best, it is preaching to the choir, and at worst it is a lot of energy falling upon deaf ears. To wit- I didn't even know it was "Bike To Work Week" this week because I haven't seen anything ahead of this week saying it was. I bet I'm not the only one that was not aware. And......if I don't know, and I am "in the business", do you suppose anyone else that casually rides, or hasn't ever tried biking to work would know?

I'm going to assume that number of people is extremely low. Besides, just saying it is "Bike To Work Week" doesn't mean squat. Every week is a "National Something Or Another" week, so big deal. "Bike To Work Week". Ooooo! Lost in the noise, it is. Lost in the noise.

Recently, the founder of the Almanzo 100, and its subsequent additional events, Chris Skogen, announced that the Almanzo was now going to eschew having bib numbers and timing for riders. All in an effort to "reduce barriers to participation" for the riders. Say what you will about this move, but the philosophy behind the move is a template for what "Bike To Work Week" really should be about. We shouldn't be asking riders, or potential riders to bike to work until we've removed the barriers to doing so.

Making things safe would be one big move in the right direction. Recently two individuals have been mowed down by people poorly operating a motor vehicle in two different cities in Iowa. Unless we require that operators of motor vehicles actually be proficient in their skills, we need to separate bicyclists from drivers as much as possible. Until we do that, the promotion of anything akin to a "Bike To Work Week" is a farce. Until we have solid laws in the books protecting cyclists from poor drivers and their bad choices, and until those laws are vigorously enforced, a "Bike To Work Week" is going to fall on deaf ears. Until we use technology already available to limit how humans use technology in vehicles, any cycling promotion to increase ridership is a stupid move, and endangers the riders who might actually take up cycling from the suggestions of such promotions.

Until all these things and more happen, cycling to work is for nutjobs like me or the naive who do not realize how their cycling activity is endangering them on their city streets. But any rational person who considers the real possibility that they could be struck by a person wielding a motorized personal chariot is probably not going to listen to any poppycock about "Bike To Work Week", or any like promotion.

And I can hardly blame them.