Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Solstice 100 Report: Part 3

Moving through the farmland of Nebraska on a rail trail towards....?
In the last part of this report I told you about how I got off-route and that I had found a rail trail. I decided that, wherever it went, was in the general Southward direction I needed to go. I knew the race route took us pretty much straight North of Malcom, more or less, and I also knew a rail trail was sure to come through a village or town sooner than later. Plus, with supplies running low, I also knew the easier railroad grade wouldn't force me to deplete my stores as quickly. So onward and forward.

In my mind at the time I was figuring this path would lead me back to Dwight where I had taken my leisure under the shade of the cottonwood tree. However; I noticed something before I reached the next village. The rail-trail was shadowing a road, and that road was gravel. It was down below me a bit, and there were trees and shrubbery shielding me from view of whatever was on the road that was moving in the same direction as I. It wasn't a vehicle, at least not a car. Then I made it out. A cyclist! maybe it was a random person cycling, but my first thought was that I had come upon some part of the route again. The cyclist path took him out of view again, so I focused on the task at hand and moved onward. Then I came out at a rustic trail head. Still, other than the name of the trail, there was no place name I could see. I went out onto the road, and then I suddenly recognized the place.

I had been here before. Not during the ride I was on, but several months ago. It was Gravel Worlds. The route last year took us up into some high country North of Lincoln for the very first time and it turned out to be my favorite part of the course. The near ghost town I was in was Loma. I cruised to the right, which I knew was backward on the old Gravel Worlds course. I hadn't even thought about what I was going to do when I saw two cyclists leaving the Loma Tavern, an old wooden structure of indeterminate age. A woman walking out of the door of the tavern mentioned that the burgers were good inside. I dismounted, and figured I would eat, resupply, and find out how I could get back to checkpoint #2 to announce my DNF, or perhaps I could ride back, or.... I didn't care at the moment. Food and drink were at hand!

The bar at the Loma Tavern is a throwback to a simpler time.
I walked in and as my eyes adjusted to the darkened room, I noted that the place was deep and had many tables running back to two "back rooms" of sorts. The bar was on the right side as I walked in, but a large white, porcelain beverage display cooler was the main focus of the room before the bar started on the left side. It caught my attention, and amongst the several brands of beer there, I spied a tallboy Schlitz. Then I turned to see a young family- two parents and four small children- sitting at a table, with one elderly woman behind the bar.

I sat myself at the end of the bar, closest to the cooler, and the elderly lady approached me and asked what I'd have. I asked for the can of Schlitz. I hadn't seen one in years. My grandfather used to drink the stuff. Anyway, I also replied that I had heard she had tasty burgers on sale. She replied in the affirmative, and then she said something I wasn't expecting.

"Could you come back to the kitchen with me? I need some help".

Now, just what help did this woman need that some big ol' sweaty cyclist could provide? The woman was short, certainly, and my first thought was that she might need me to reach something on a high shelf for her, but otherwise, I had no clue.

What she wanted me to do though was partake in making my own meal! She walked into one of the two "back rooms" I had seen when I walked in. It was the one on the right side, and it looked like someone's disheveled old kitchen. There was a stove like you might see in an old, old house, and some cupboards on the walls with a large table in the center of the room that was covered with stuff except for a corner that was exposed. There the woman placed a paper plate, reached into a bag of Lays potato chips and gave me a handful of the crisps. (No plastic food gloves here, by the way!) And then she plopped a hamburger bun down on the plate, saying, "Here! You can split that open. Put some pickles on it! ", as she placed a nearly empty jar of pickles on the table produced from the refrigerator. She gave me a spoon and I fished out four slices of pickles. In the mean time she put ketchup and mustard down for me to use. When I had prepared the bun, she used a spatula and gently placed a burger on my bun. "There you go!", she said. And I thanked her and walked back to my place at the bar.

That was about the best tasting burger I had ever had at that moment. And I helped make it!
The beer was cold and tasted great. The burger was satisfying and tasted wonderful. The chips were salty goodness. I felt like a million bucks after that simple meal. Meanwhile, the old woman came out and was chatting up the young family. I learned that the old woman's name was Mary. I also learned that she had owned the Loma Tavern for approximately three years. One of the young children, a girl of no more than 4-5 years old, asked how old the place was. Mary said she didn't know, but it was built before there were cars. Apparently it had always been a tavern, except during the Prohibition years, when the tavern became a community center of sorts, but I had a hard time hearing that part of the building's history.

Well, it was time to go and I asked where the best route was toward Malcom. Mary said, "Well, I don't get down that way much.", but she offered that the bike path I was on was the best, easiest way to get toward that neck of the woods. It led to Valparaiso. Perfect! I knew that town and the area between there and Malcom fairly well. Mary was a bit surprised, but I explained that Gravel Worlds was always held in that area and that's why I was familiar with the country down that way. I took my leave of Mary, the young family, and the Loma Tavern. I headed Southeastward toward Valpo on the trail.

I hadn't gone far when I got sight of a lone rider ahead of me. I considered hanging back, so as not to ruin their solitary experience on the trail, when my phone buzzed me. It was MG texting me that he had called it a day due to intestinal issues. If I needed a ride, I should let him know. I immediately stopped and told him I was headed toward Valpo, and that he should come to meet me there. Okay....so now I had a bail-out at the next town. My mind was at ease.

The ride ended at the Sinclair station in Valparaiso, Nebraska, for me at any rate.
I started riding again and didn't see the lone rider until I was almost upon her. She was off to the side of the trail doing......something, I don't know. She waved and smiled as I rode on by. Then I overtook some horses and riders. Two young girls and an older man. They trotted, galloped, and walked until they pulled up to let me pass. I respectfully dismounted and walked by the horses as I spoke with the man. They were pleasant folks. Then I ended my ride in Valpo at the convenience store.

 I purchased a tall boy can of poor domestic beer that does not deserve mentioning, and walked outside. Curiously, the lady at the counter did not place my beer in a paper sack, or even seem to care that I was obviously drinking it outside the place. A lawnmower cruised up the main street just then with a wild haired, overweight male driver aboard. Apparently, lawnmowers pass for reasonable transportation in that village. Later, a young rider, no more than six or seven, raced up on his BMX style bike, carefully parked it on the curb, and shot a brief, nervous glance my way before disappearing into the store. Just some interesting stuff as I waited for MG. Of course, he eventually collected me and we were off back to Malcom to share our stories and eat some grub.

That was pretty much the story of my Solstice 100 experience. Someone said at the start line, it may have been Corey, "Cornbread" Godfrey, that this was a true "grassroots gravel event" and I would have to agree with that assessment. It was fun- yes I had fun- despite my getting lost, DNF-ing, and not making a 100 miles. I had a great, memorable adventure. I met some interesting folks and saw some interesting stuff. Experiences. Gravel travel. Fun. Well.......that's my kind of fun anyway. 

Certainly, I need to continue to try to get into better shape endurance-wise. I need to ride more. (Weather permitting) But I am not down at all. Joe Billesbach, Rob Evans, Jamie Grandquist, and the Gibson family, plus all the volunteers and sponsors of the Solstice 100 should be proud of their efforts. I would recommend this ride to anyone- fast racer or adventurer alike. Word is the Solstice may move to a new venue next year. Hmm..... Perhaps new adventures await me wherever that is.

Thanks: MG and his family for providing lodging and great friendship. Thanks to Joe, Rob, Jamie, The Gibsons, The Volunteers, Kevin Fox, Lippy's Barbecue, The Town Of Malcom, Mary at Loma Tavern, and everyone that stopped to say hello or said hello along the way on the journey.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Solstice 100 Report: Part 2

At times you are reminded that Nebraska was once one big ocean of grass.
The day was clearing and warming up as I rolled on toward Checkpoint #1 in a little town called Garland, Nebraska. This is one of my favorite reasons for riding gravel events. The way the event directors take you by and through towns and significant sights and history that dot their backyards that I would miss otherwise. I mean, who drives to Garland, Nebraska to see what is there? Maybe a few folks do, but I would never have thought to have gone there. So, next time you do an event, keep that in mind. You are likely seeing and sharing things that the event directors think are cool and relevant about the area you are riding through. (If they are anything like me, in regards to routing. I'm betting most are.)

So, I rolled on into Garland and the checkpoint was set up in the downtown area of the village. A guy was barking out rider numbers and some other volunteers were handing out pipe cleaners which were to be used as "proof of check point passage" markers. It made me think, because a lot of events have borrowed this form of checkpoint marking of riders and I was trying to remember where I first saw that. It was at an Odin's Revenge where, I believe, I first came across this practice. I don't know where it originated from, but Nebraska is where I first ran into it. Anyway......

There was a well stocked aid station under a tent there and I was very glad of that. I had not seen a convenience store and I was in need of water and something else to munch on while riding. I didn't see anyone I knew there, so I wasn't distracted, and I re-filled the bottles, used the Hammer Heed that was available to all riders, and grabbed a couple of packets of fig cookies.

An old, classically inspired bank in Garland, Nebraska.
I rolled on out of Garland, but not before I stopped to take a picture of this cool old bank building. This is another thing I have noted about Kansas and Nebraska. Unlike in Iowa, where the small villages kind of let everything moulder into a deteriorated state, these tiny communities in the Plains States seem to keep up some of their more significant architectural gems and even if they are seemingly unused, they look kept up. Not sure why that is, but I saw more of this in the next town on the route too.

While the event directors wisely took out all the minimum maintenance roads, there were still some pretty rustic byways in the Solstice 100.
During the pre-race chatter with Ashton Lambie, I picked up that there was going to be a "flattish" section from around Mile 20-something for about ten miles. Well, it obviously wasn't before Mile 24, because that was what I had ridden to CP#1. However; there was a short section after Garland and before the next town out that was flatter and it was good to have a break from the hills. Of course, that flat section didn't last. The hills kicked back in and the Sun was riding high in a clear blue sky. Now it was hot and humid. Something I hadn't experienced in Iowa yet this year. By the time I got to Dwight, Nebraska, I was hoping to hammer out to the 50 mile mark and then take the next break. But when I rolled through Dwight, I saw a big cottonwood tree and the shade was too inviting not to take advantage of right then and there.

Another example of a nice building in a super small village that has been kept up really well.
The view from under the nice, shady tree in Dwight I sat under.
When I sat down, I happened to notice that my legs looked like they had worms crawling just underneath the skin. They were twitching and moving oddly, yet I couldn't feel that. I saw this the first time years ago on one of my Death rides, so it isn't an unfamiliar site. Anyway, I made the decision not to go on until I noticed that phenomenon was gone. That took about 15 minutes, and I was up and off into the blazing Sun again.

It was one after another on the Northern side of the route. 
So, as I was out rolling up one long, steep grade after another, I was trying to figure out where I was on the loop of the course. I knew that soon I was to be coming back down Southward toward Malcom. I figured it had to be around the 50-ish mile mark based upon the knowledge that the next checkpoint was after Mile 60 and was on the route back to the start. So, I was thinking I may have to take several breaks, but perhaps I could piecemeal this thing into a finish. I knew it wasn't going to be pretty, since I was at the ends of my rope in terms of fitness.

Of course, that was predicated upon having everything go right besides that part. Mentally I was fighting between stopping and carrying on. Nutritionally I was okay, but I was going to need a resupply. I also needed to have the bike to continue to work well, and I needed to keep navigating well. There was a town on the route I was supposed to be coming through, so I was hopeful that would provide the re-supply.

I did stop and take a short "ditch nap". I probably would have slept longer had it not been for the biting black flies. Dang sleep interrupters! So, I decided I wasn't getting any further sitting there and took off again for the next long climb. Interestingly, I hadn't seen another rider since I sat under the tree in Dwight. No one had passed by as I sat in the ditch for about 15 minutes. One good thing: The clouds gathered again and it was cooler when I started again. I felt reinvigorated, at least for the time being.

I reached a "T" intersection right on cue with my mileage, but instead of "Road 25", I was pretty sure the sign said "Rd 27". One small note about Nebraska rural road signs. If the name of the road is short, so is the sign, and their font is about 3/4's the size of what Iowa uses. Add in nearly 60 year old eyes and well...... I wasn't sure I read that right, even after two double takes. Hmm.... Concerned, but the mileage was right and the direction for the turn was there, so I took it. The next cue was in another mile. When I arrived there, nothing made any sense. None of the road signs matched anything I had on my cues. Only the mileage was correct. I pulled up my mapping program on my phone, but it did not show a "Rd 25" at all in the vicinity. Bah! Lost in Nebraska!

The only way that made any sense at the time. A pea gravel bike path to somewhere......
Now something was way off, and I wasn't game for finding the route again. Besides, if I was going to continue, I knew I was running low on water and I was going to need more to eat. Especially if I was going to go scrambling around those hills trying to get back on course. So, that didn't make much sense. I saw a pea gravel bike path which also terminated at this spot. There was no signage, and my maps program did not show any bike trails in the area. Only gravel roads and small villages. This thing looked like it headed in the general direction I needed to go to get back to Malcom. That was it. This path was sure to take me to a town with water, at least, and hopefully food. I was off route and done with the Solstice 100 at that point. But I still had adventure to enjoy.

Next: Part 3 of the Solstice 100 Report.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Solstice 100 Report: Part 1

No turning back this time. I didn't forget anything!
The third year for the Solstice 100 was this past weekend and I made it there. No forgetting of shoes, or anything of that sort this time. (In fact, I got something recently that was a huge help in that area. Stay tuned...) At any rate, the plan was executed and it began with leaving work Friday at noon to make the 300 mile drive to Lincoln, Nebraska.

Things started out on the moist side as it was raining lightly when I left town. However, within about 50 miles in it stopped and the rest of the way I had a mahoosive tailwind and partly cloudy skies. Since I didn't get underway until 1:00pm, I had to hoof it straight through to make sure I arrived at the Cycleworks shop on "O" and 27th Street in Lincoln in time to pick up my race packet and get checked in. No thanks to the gridlock in Omaha. That was stop and go traffic all through that city. But I made it with time to spare, and MG, who I was to be staying with, was already there.

Later on we hooked up with the race promoters and a few of the volunteers and went out to a local Mexican restaurant for something to eat. It was good that I did, because I hadn't eaten since breakfast! (No stops on the way out, so.....) Then MG and I caught up on things until way too late and I finally got a few winks on his basement couch until the cats his family has started in on their pre-morning hi jinx. Well, it was okay, since we had to get up at 5:30am anyway.

There was a chance for a morning shower in the forecast, and so as MG was starting the drive to Malcom, Nebraska, I mentioned that it sure looked like we were going to get grazed by a thunderstorm complex moving in from the Southwest. MG peeled back to the house and we grabbed rain jackets, then we hightailed it outta town to Malcom.

MG and others were chatting with eventual Solstice 100 winner, Ashton Lambie (Bent over here) at the start.


Rain at the start line forced people to take shelter wherever they could find it. This is the Malcom General Store porch.
We arrived and started getting ready to go. It hadn't started raining yet, but the skies were threatening to unleash the rain at any minute. We rolled up on Ashton Lambie, who made a stir when he won a track racing World Championship recently, and we all chatted him up a bit as he slipped into his skinsuit. He, of course, went on to win handily later in the 100. But before that happened, it started into raining, and the event director, Joe Billesbach, announced that the event would start a half an hour later, to allow any potential lightning to clear the area. This ended up being extended for another half an hour, so MG and I went back to his vehicle and chilled out for a spell.

Waiting out the rain and lightening in MG's rig. 
Eventually, as 8:00am rolled around, the radar was clearing and we headed over to the starting area to get the event rolling. Kevin Fox gave a blessing over the racers, and then at 8:00am, Joe rolled out in front in some vehicle or another and we were off! I haven't been in an event since the beginning of April, so I was excited and ready for some riding. Well......in spirit. I knew going in I had a woefully low amount of miles for the year so far due to weather, circumstances, and whatnot. So, the goal was to finish, and short of that, just to have a good time. Pretty lofty goals for someone going into a very hilly century whose longest ride up to that point maybe was 40 miles. But, whatever. Ya gotta start somewhere.

Headed out of Malcom on rain soaked pavement.
It was cool, wet, and humid, but the rain soaked roads were firm and the skies looked hopeful. 
Well, I was underway. I held to a pace that was within what I considered to be fairly easy, but above a 10mph average, and just let everything else play out around me. I tried to stay calm, and not chase down riders passing me, or ones I was coming up on. There were hills. One after another, and Nebraska hills are longer and just as steep as the nasty steeps we have in Iowa. That meant getting into a rhythm when climbing and blasting out some high speed descents. I decided to pedal as much as possible during the opening miles, staying within "the plan", which worked well. I actually passed a lot of riders to start out with.

The hills are longer, but no less steep than where I am from.
The first checkpoint was about 24 miles in, and I was cruising along with no issues. I hadn't eaten any breakfast, and honestly, I typically ride better when I don't eat in the morning. I tried nibbling on some things I had brought along, which was okay, and I was keeping tabs on water, figuring about a bottle an hour, which was working well. I used Elete hydration additive, which keeps me from cramping well. So far, so good. I didn't even get the nasty "sleepies' which I have gotten in the past which makes me want to just nod off while riding. Dangerous! I had that happen last year at Gravel Worlds.

Anyway, I shifted early and often, spun as much as I could, and was doing nicely as I approached Garland, Nebraska and the first checkpoint of the day. The Black Mountain Cycles MCD worked perfectly, and it was super comfortable. The roads were firm and smooth anyway, and rolling along the first portion of the day couldn't have been better.

Check In Tomorrow For Part 2

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Trans Iowa Stories: The Influences Of Mike Curiak

Mike Curiak, (seated) had a huge influence over what made Trans Iowa what it was. Here he is at T.I.V1
Another big influence on Trans Iowa came from a man who ran a few ultra-endurance events in the Rocky Mountains. You may recall a couple weeks ago where I told of the influence that Richard "Deke" Gosen had. Deke set the tone for the "spirit" of the event.  Mike Curiak had perhaps the greatest influence upon the event in the sense of the rules and the way we implemented the event. So, maybe more a nuts and bolts kind of influence, but it was very important.

Early into our planning for the first Trans Iowa, Jeff Kerkove contacted Mike and asked him for advice on what to do and how to do it. Mike was free with his advice and was really a very important resource for us. In fact, I'm pretty sure Jeff just copied and pasted one of Trans Iowa's rules straight from what Mike allowed us to see of his rules. (I wrote a bit on this before which you can see here.)

Jeff shared with me what Mike was giving us to go on. I recall a few salient points:
  • Make sure you do not charge anything for the event.
  • Make sure you have the start in the dark.
  • Make sure you make it VERY CLEAR that riders are on their own- YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOU.
Of those things only the last was willingly adopted by Jeff. He reasoned that we should have insurance for this crazy deal and that the entry fee just cover that. I basically was on the fence about that, but in the end, I agreed. He also wasn't quite so game on the night start, although he wasn't totally against it. I thought it was a great idea. In the end, facilitating the riders coming in kind of dictated a start after Sun up. Of course, eventually all these ideas were adopted into the event. By the second Trans Iowa we were starting at 4:00am and by Trans Iowa v3 we weren't charging money anymore for entry.

Mike had very specific reasons for those three items. One I won't get in to. We all understand the responsibility clause. But not charging for an event? This was a new one on me. However; Mike made a very good point. If we charged an entry fee, people would have expectations of us. If we didn't charge, we could place those expectations back upon the riders. Plus, we weren't going to be seen as "providing any service", since we weren't getting paid. Mike felt this put us on a different legal ground.

Mike also felt that by starting at night you forced riders to use the required lighting, and they couldn't "cheat", or be stupid, and not bring lights. We ended up starting at night so the time cutoff for the event could be earlier Sunday. But yeah....we didn't need to inspect anyone's bikes for lights either.

Speaking of cut off times, I don't remember discussing this as a feature based upon Mike's influences, although it is true that the Great Divide Race had cut off times for half way and for the finish. That is exactly what we did at T.I.v1. I do remember thinking with Jeff that we didn't want to have his parents, (the CP volunteers) or us waiting around till who knows when to have riders finish. I believe T.I.v1 had a published cut off for the end of the event at something like 4:00pm Sunday. The check point cut off was not decided upon until late into the planning stages and was announced at the start of T.I.v1, which caused all sorts of grumbling. But at any rate, it very well could have been that Jeff got the idea for the cut offs as being legitimate based upon what Mike had told him, or it could purely have been a coincidence.

Mike also shared with us how he did cue sheets. It was pretty interesting from the standpoint that his need for being clear on a direction necessitated more information than we really needed to give. Of course, he was dealing with wilderness, we were dealing with well marked gravel roads. But that said, he had an influence on those early cues.

I know this doesn't make for much of a very interesting "story", but Mike was like that. Very direct and to the point. This was about setting up the framework for an ultra-endurance event, and since we were doing this via e-mails, the chances for personal interaction with Mike weren't there. None the less, I feel this is a very important part of the story to tell, since everything about Trans Iowa afterward was framed by the influences of Mike Curiak's helpful advice and tips.

Next: Jeff Kerkove And Guitar Ted- Part 3

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Minus Ten Review 2009-27

The Badger Dorothy. Not many of these around, and it is a sad tale.
Ten years ago on the blog it was Summer in full swing. Green was everywhere, and so were the skeeters. Hmm....2019 seems about the same, ya know?

But there was this one thing I had going on back then that I didn't say a whole lot about at the time. Probably still won't. It has to do with this baby blue beauty pictured here. It's a Badger Dorothy. One of six ever built.

And I got to ride two of the six. The first one I tested for the old "Twenty Nine Inches" site was a hard tail with verticle drop outs. That was a magical handling bike. Man! That thing could slice and dice Mid-West single track like nothing else. Then that had to go back, and well, that was that, or so I thought, until I got a strange e-mail one day in 2009.

The current owner of the rig wanted to sell it, and supposedly, the only person he could sell it to was me. Stipulation of the original owner of the Dorothy brand. apparently, and so, I was quite puzzled by this. Of course, remembering the previous ride of the Dorothy, I did want the bike. It was set up as a single speed and had Paragon sliding drop outs, a blinged up spec, and one bad thing- It had a dent about the size of a half dollar on the underside of the downtube. I maybe posted about this bike a few times, then I dropped it. The story was just too volatile and personal at the time.

Well, the price was negotiated and I ended up getting it. I rode it maybe three times, but the ding in the downtube weighed upon my mind, and I ended up stripping it, using the parts on other bikes, and hanging the rare bird from a peg in the Lab. "Someday", I thought, "I'll get that fixed."

Well, "someday" still hasn't come. I need to get that taken care of, but yeah. It's a pretty bike. I love sky/Robin's Egg, powder blue colors and the combination of that and the sparkly panels in deep blue. To die for. Plus, no one makes anything like this anymore. This is a hand made, fillet brazed frame and it does ride really sweetly. I should get it back together again, but..... Too many projects!

Friday, June 21, 2019

Friday News And Views

Let's look at these flowers from my yard and try to forget about the rain.
Trails Close Due To Flood Damage As More Rain Hits The Area:

Wednesday it was learned that a major connector trail from down town Cedar Falls to the George Wyth State Park had been closed due to flood damage and also from damage incurred when a person drove a car down that part of the trail.

This is on top of the closure of the River Loop Trail in Waterloo for repair of a sewage line that ruptured and is sending raw sewage into the Cedar River.

As if that weren't bad enough, now we are supposed to have possibly severe weather and up to two inches of rain through Sunday. What do you suppose our water logged ground and swollen rivers will do with that? Yeah..... Hopefully it isn't as bad as they say it might be.

Then there is the chances for bad weather as I try to get to Nebraska. I'll have to be on guard for any severe weather and gauge my chances carefully before trying to drive through any potential storms. Saturday looks better down that way than Friday, but I have to get there safely first. If I manage to miss the bad weather, things should be okay, but I imagine the roads will be wet to start out with for the event.

Stay tuned.......

The Topstone Carbon Ultegra RX. The Kingpin rear end is pretty interesting.
Cannondale Introduces The Topstone Carbon With Kingpin Rear "Suspension". 

Secrets..... For about as long as I've been writing this blog I have had some secret or another I have had to keep under my hat. The Topstone Carbon bike is one of those secrets. Yesterday it was finally announced, so now I can talk about it openly.

I've known much about this bike for about a month, and I saw actual images of one a few weeks ago. In fact, MG, who broke the story on RidingGravel.com yesterday, has one. Of course, if you think about it, we all pretty much knew Cannondale would eventually come out with a carbon version of their Topstone aluminum bike, but the Kingpin rear end was not foreseen.

As far as the bike goes, I am sure there is something to it. It makes sense, and I think the idea is sound, but as with anything that moves on a bike, it eventually will become a problem. How this Kingpin deal wears and acts after a couple of thousand miles is what I am interested in.

I'm a little dismayed at the lack of tire clearances, (40mm tops for 700c) , but I feel this is more of a Domane competitor than it is a gravel bike. The whole geometry package is basically a Synapse, so that kind of tells the story there. Cannondale isn't concerned about working on a solution for the front end of the bike to mitigate vibrations because they are hedging their bets against a fall off in the gravel scene. If that happens, well, with Synapse geometry and a slick 32mm road tire this is right in the Domane/Roubaix bike wheelhouse. Not that this is a bad thing, but I think Cannondale isn't really making a gravel bike in the vein of a Warbird, for example, either.

Next thing ya know they will make brake actuation electronic.
 In The "Answers To Questions Unasked" File: 

I know you've been wondering when these brake manufacturers were going to get rid of those unsightly and snaggy brake lines. They are just always in the way, right? (Said no one ever) Well, Magura is your huckleberry as they have just announced a hidden master cylinder/hydraulic hose/handle bar set up which only leaves the lever sticking out now.

This is radical stuff. It's cool that they can do this, but do we really need it? Sometimes I like to turn the reality of new designs on their head and look at it 180° differently. So, in the case of these levers, what if we all had this sort of set up, and had it for years. Then suddenly we get an introduction of a product with exposed brake lines. What would be "better" about that than the internal, hidden brake stuff? Then I like to take the answers for that and compare to what the marketing says about the "new" way. Magura says the new set up is more crash resistant, (real world data? I just don't see this myself), and the design is "cleaner and more integrated". Soooooo.......it's about looks? 

The way we've been doing things allows for quick and easy stem swaps, handle bar changes, and ease of installation. Brake systems can be moved from bike to bike easier, and replaced without much fuss.

You tell me which way is better. If you want to explore this concept more, the Magura page on this "innovation" is here.

That's it for this week. Have a great Solstice and get out and ride if you can. The days get shorter from here!

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Country Views: Something Green- Something Strange

This is not a Level B Maintenance road- It's Airline Highway, which is usually gravel.
Heading out into a mostly cloudy, cool-ish day, I found the wind was out of the Northeast. Well, it was hard to say, really. More East than North, I guess. There were puddles of standing water everywhere, and many places were found where the gravel was wet enough that it caked up on tires and plastered the down tube of the bike.

Ruts were everywhere. The roads looked really torn up. It was a handful at times just trying to find the good line. In some places I actually had to slow down and weave my way through the messed up road way. I kept looking at the darkening skies, thinking that a cold, East driven rain could break out at any point.

The above two paragraphs don't sound like anything I should be writing in mid-June, do they? No, they sound more like a Trans Iowa race report, or some blogpost I put up in March. But no- that's actually what it was like Wednesday, June 19th, 2019. It was weird, what with the crops all emerging and things looking like Summer in the fields, but the roads said, "It's still Spring!".

Of course, the rains we have had of late have kept the roads saturated, the late Spring/early Summer planting has conspired along with that to keep roads torn up, and lack of heat and humidity here have kept things loose and sand-like. Now the dirt is working its way through the old limestone and many roads look like minimum maintenance roads, not at all like a gravel road should look like.

These pretty ditch flowers at least made it look like Summer.
The corn is barely canopying here. Most fields are not canopied yet. Growth is way behind normal.
With that aforementioned Northeasterly breeze I decided to head North up Sage Road and while I had grand plans, I figured wearing myself out a few days before I was to ride a century wasn't a good idea. Just a good ride to open up the legs, and so I kept it chill. The softer roads and headwind going out were bad enough as it was.

Barns for Jason
Long stretches of torn up, slightly wet, muddy dirt roads were the replacement for the typical gravel in many spots.
I rode the Noble Bikes GX5 carbon gravel bike with that Force 1X stuff. This was a far better experience than the first go-round with Force 1X. I think this drive train is okay, but it still is slower, has bigger gaps between gears, and that SRAM shifting is for the birds. I'm still not convinced that my set up is sub-par, or that 1X is the way to go. But to each their own. This system hasn't let me down, and it does work okay. So.......there's that. 

Coming back I thought it looked a lot like I might get wet. I didn't. 
 
Schenk Road is a good one for barns and smaller farms.
I headed back via Schenk Road, which is the road I would take a gravel noob on for their first gravel ride. It is relatively flat, has tons of character, and lots of things to look at. The Northern stretch of it was heinous though. Really badly torn up and mostly dirt. Then it metamorphosed into the nicest plain ol' gravel road you could ask for. It was a great respite from the absolute mess of roadways I had been on.

Barns for Jason- Part 2
My last few miles were east and boy! Was that fun. The roads were very surprising as I had been up this way a couple of weeks ago and it wasn't anything like the way it was Wednesday. Then as I rode the last mile into town, I saw it. A grain truck as big as a dump truck. These heavy, dually equipped trucks and semi-tractor trailers are really what is tearing up the roads.

Anyway, it was a great ride leading up to the Solstice 100 Saturday. I'm looking forward to hooking up with MG and getting some Nebraska gravel under my wheels again.