Sunday, March 29, 2015

Ingawanis Endurance Clinic

Mike Johnson speaks on nutrition at the Ingawanis Endurance Clinic
Yesterday I rode on up to the Ingawanis Woodands lodge to attend the Ingawanis Endurance Clinic which also functioned as a fundraiser to help out the Bremer County Conservation Board with purchasing the former South side of the Boy Scout Camp. First, let me give you all a bit of the history from a mountain biker's viewpoint......

I first heard about Ingawanis Boy Scout Camp from a few of the older/more experienced mountain bikers way back in the early 90's. Details were not freely given, but from what I gathered back then, it was considered one of the best mountain biking opportunities in the local area. However; it wasn't open to mountain bikers. You had to "poach" the trails, and then only at night, or so the story went. Otherwise you might face the wrath of the Camp Ranger and possibly be fined a hefty amount.

Fast forward almost 15 years later, and I received a call from Ward Budweg, who was, at the time, the owner of Decorah Bicycles. I was invited to come out and see Ingawanis Boy Scout Camp to see if there were any possibilities for trails and what I thought about a mountain biking program that would also open trails to the general public. This would have been about 2003, or so, I think. Anyway, it was my first ride at the Scout Camp, and I was stoked by what I had seen there. It was all that I remember hearing about and more. Definitely the best terrain for off road cycling within riding distance of Waterloo-Cedar Falls. Maybe better than 90% of anything in Iowa.

About 20 folks showed up and raised over $900.00 for the trails.
It took a couple more years, but by 2006-07 we were doing regular rides up there and expanding upon the opportunities for single track. Later on, the South side of the Camp, so called since it lay on the Southern side of Quarter Section Creek, was developed and slowly came to rival, then surpass the trails of the North side. With some conflicts arising due to the damage caused by horse back riding, it was quietly decided to cease riding the North side a few years ago. Then the Boy Scouts decided to put the South side up for sale.

This was alarming to us as cyclists, runners, and hikers since there were a couple of development companies eying the land to turn it into exclusive, woodland home properties. This, of course, would have effectively taken away a huge resource from the public domain and would have been a huge blow to recreational opportunities in the State. There just are not very many tracts of woodlands in Iowa, let alone in the Northeast part of the state, due to the vast agricultural interests here. Fortunately, the Bremer County Conservation Board saw an opportunity to add this resource to the public domain, and they were able to secure a loan through the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation to get this land locked away from the developers. The Boy Scouts even helped facilitate this as well, since they did not want to see the South side scrapped and developed into privately held homesteads.

Mike detailed his bike set-ups for gravel. Tour Divide, and more for the cyclists in attendance.
This brings us back to the Endurance Clinic, and the reasons for it. Dave Roll, a local cyclist, got the vision for this and set up the clinic as a way to help runners and cyclists share knowledge and also to help draw awareness to the fact that the Bremer County Conservation Board needs to pay a lot of money back to get the lands at the former South side of the Boy Scout Camp secured for public uses into the future. Dave got Mike Johnson, a former Tour Divide finisher, multiple Trans Iowa and Dirty Kanza 200 finisher, and runner Wendy Foote to help facilitate the clinic. A person from the Bremer County Conservation Board presented the case for donations and a jar was set out. A fair amount was donated by the 20 or so guests, but it is barely a drop in the bucket. If you are local to this area, consider giving to help secure this resource for the future by checking out this link here.

So, the clinic was actually really fun, and informative. If you missed out, this may happen again at sometime, and if it does, you should go. If only just for the food, which was tremendous, I might add!

Thanks to Dave Roll, Wendy Foote, Mike Johnson, and the rest of the volunteers and guests for showing an interest in this resource. Thanks to those who have given and will give. I really like riding out there, and it would be a shame for Iowans to lose this great woodland area.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Building From Scratch

Chase And Face
It isn't every day that you get to build up a bike from the "frame up", but I was given that opportunity at the shop the other day by a local rider. He was keen on doing a gravel/touring/any road bike and since he is also a Minnesota Vikings fan, the obvious choice was Surly's Straggler model. He got the frame, fork, and a box-o-parts and brought the whole shootin' match down to the shop where I began the long process of making it all a bicycle.

Now if you are an older bicycle mechanic like myself, you get all excited when the frame you get to build up is a steel one. Why? Because you get to "chase and face", that's why. It all involves a nearly antiquated tool that is made of machined steel cutting bits and a heavy, steel shaft and handle apparatus. This hand run thread chaser and bottom bracket facing tool was made to clean up the threads in a metal bottom bracket and "face" the outer shell so that both "edges" of the bottom bracket are perfectly flat and perfectly parallel to one another. This makes for a nicer, smoother, aligned bottom bracket. Is it all really necessary? Probably not as much as it used to be when serviceable bottom brackets were still being used, but I'll tell ya what- those cups threaded in so smoothly it was uncanny after the machining operation. So, makes a difference.

After that was accomplished I always move on to what I consider the next essential step in building up a bicycle. That's installing the head set and fork. To my mind, it isn't a bicycle to build until the head set and fork are joined to the rest of the frame.

Chris King, Gevenalle, Old Edge wheels, and Cowbell bars.
The owner chose a gold anodized Chris King headset for this project and so that was carefully pressed in and then it was on to the matching Straggler fork. This is where things can get touchy since you never know how much steer tube is too little. So, after I consulted with the owner, I chose to err to the "too long" side and added three 10mm spacers in addition to the spacers provided by the owner for the build. That should be enough, right? The thing is, Surly Cross Checks and Stragglers have notoriously short head tubes for their size. It's a good thing I added those three spacers!

Well, now I had a bicycle. The rest went pretty well until I ran into a missing couple of bits that were essential to getting this build completed. The old style shifter bosses that Surly uses needed cable stop adjusters. Bah! The owner hadn't thought of those, which is completely understandable. Those little gubbins are easy to forget about until you need them! Fortunately, I am something of a pack rat when it comes to the essential gubbins, and after a half an hour search, I came across a pair of old Profile cable stop adjusters in black ano. Perfect for this build. Now it was on to stringing up cables in some blingy gold Jagwire housings.

Finished build- (Image by Andy)
Fortunately, Jagwire sent its brake housing in one, giant length because I needed a full run housing to the back of the bike. The rest was easy-peasy, and then it came time to mount a Brooks Cambium c-17 saddle on a vintage Dean titanium post, wrap the bars with some synthetic Cinelli tape, and dial in the Gevenalle GX shifters. The chain is a blingy gold KMC ten speed chain and that wraps around a 11-36T cassette and a Shimano 105 triple crankset for a big, wide range of gear ratios.

The owner was pretty stoked when he saw images of the bike on the shop's Facecrack page, and was only a bit ambivalent about the tires, but those may be swapped out soon. Otherwise the build was dubbed a success.

Anyway, building a bike up like this with quality parts is always a fun thing and definitely a good respite from the typical "MalWart" bike tune ups and neglected road bike refreshes that normally populate my work stand.Thanks to Mr. Z for the opportunity and I hope the rig brings you joy for many years to come.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Trans Iowa V11: Update

Time for a bit of an update on all things Trans Iowa today. Let's jump right in.....

Pre-Race Meat-Up: The roster was sent an e-mail about a month ago concerning the Pre-Race Meat-Up. I am happy to say that all but one person has responded to the call. Since I am such a nice guy, I am giving this individual one more week to respond to me and after that time the assumption will be this person isn't coming and the name will be stricken from the roster. (See the Trans Iowa site's "Latest News" section for the name)

The main purposes from my standpoint are to help out the Steakhouse with preparing for our meal choices and to ferret out anyone who may not be coming. You know, I often post here that I really need to know if you are not going to show up for Trans Iowa, and yet it seems that the annual e-mail about the Pre-Race Meat-Up is the only way I end up finding out about most of the potential drop outs. This year was no different in that regard.

The roster attrition is about what I would expect. It has become clear that we won't have a record field take the start, and this will be the smallest Rookie field to take the start since T.I.v8. That year we only had 26 Rookies, and we aren't far away from that number right now. It still may sink a bit more. I know for a fact we will not have everyone show up that plans to. We always have about 3-8 no-shows a year. By the way, last year we started 108 folks, which was the record all time and looks to stand again this year.

Recon for final cue sheet checking is set for April 12th, and the day before will be the next "Geezer Ride", which will also happen out of Grinnell, Iowa. Look for details on the Geezer Ride here within a couple days.

Also- - the site that will be doing our Trans Iowa Radio call ins again,just may be at the event to do more in-depth reporting. This idea is still in developmental stages.UPDATE: I just received confirmation that this will be the case. Stoked!

Stay tuned......

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Marketing "Average": Not Interesting But Necessary

This- Not more Mega-Halo-Pie-In-The-Sky Bikes.
Well, you all know that I am a certified "bike nerd" and as such, I love checking out the "latest-greatest" things that come out on the market. So, listen up here- I am as guilty as the next guy when it comes to being seduced by five figure bikes that get bandied about in the cycling press. However; I can't help but feel that the "upper end" has gotten bloated and over-produced. Seriously- how many of those bikes actually are sold versus entry to mid-range bikes? Why is it that there seems to be a vacuum when it comes to press and banter on a bike that costs less than 2G.

First off, before I go any further, this is not about whether or not those big dollar bikes are justified or necessary. This isn't about that. In fact, I would be one of the first to stand up and say those "halo" bikes are totally a good thing. But c'mon! There are far, far more bikes being sold for less than two thousand dollars that we almost never hear a thing about.

I read an article about a full suspension 29"er the other day. I liked what I read, and the review even referenced that the technology was available in aluminum framed examples which were assumed to cost less. Then I looked at the one they actually rode- a bike costing more than $8000.00. 

My gut reaction? "Whoa! Yeah right! Forget about that bike." The whole review was almost instantaneously forgotten. Is that a poor way to react? I don't know, but that was my honest reaction. I bet I'm not alone in that.  I also bet the marketing department of that brand wouldn't be too stoked to know that.  And that made me think. A lot.

Now for a bit of a disclaimer- I just got in a new review bike for It's a middle of a three bike range model with all the models being sub-$1100.00. This is a bicycle that is a bit hard to talk about because, well......frankly it is boring to most. However; in my opinion, totally necessary. It's what the cycling press should spend more time on talking about. Well, that is if they weren't worried so much about regurgitating press releases on bikes you can't even get yet or spouting off about bikes with such low production numbers that they are barely relevant to most riders. That's just my opinion.

And to be fair, there are some reviewers spending time on stuff like this. Just not enough. But, you know, it isn't sexy, exciting, or "new", and that's where the industry thinks the attention is grabbed. I don't see that changing anytime soon.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Decade Of Nonsense: Part 8

This came into my life in 2011 and has made a lot of appearances here since.
Okay, I'm going to lump 2011 to the present into one post here. The blog grew by leaps and bounds every year, but never more so than in these last years. Heck, I've had a stat counter pretty much since day one and I can remember thinking getting 300 page views in a day was awesome. Now I get that somedays in an hour. Not that I am bragging, but you know- it's just how it is. And trust me, my numbers are small potatoes compared to many blogs. However; whatever this blog lacks in numbers it gets back in other "intangibles".

One of those has been my ranting and commentary concerning gravel road bikes. Well, that has resulted in something called the Tamland. I am not going to be shy here. I am rather proud of that. Amazed, for sure, and proud. It's not every day you can say that your ideas for a bicycle were actually implemented in a production model.

I had a lot more to talk about than that though. Trans Iowas, Renegade Gent's races, CIRREM, Triple D's, GTDRI's, and one of my favorite events- Odin's Revenge. Some of those events went well, some not so much, in terms of finishing, but all were very, very memorable and got their stories told here.

Still going.......
Now things have changed dramatically since 2011. There is no more The Cyclistsite, Gravel Grinder News, or Twenty Nine Inches that I have to shepherd, write for, and manage. That's been a good thing, actually.

I've had a lot of opportunities since '11 as well because of this blog. I've been a subject in the chapter of a book, a major character in a film, and I've had my work published in three different magazines.

All because I was convinced to start writing a blog.

To be honest, I feel very uncomfortable even writing that stuff above. I don't talk about it much here or anywhere, but those are the facts. I often downplay these things when folks talk to me about them, and it is why I decided to name this series "A Decade Of Nonsense" because I feel this whole ten year ride on this blog is crazy. It doesn't make any sense at all to me why it happened.

The bottom line was that I wanted to talk about what I cared about concerning bicycles and my adventures with them. It didn't take long before some folks- some in the industry even- were saying that I "had better be careful" what I was saying because it was "influencing" people and making folks edgy, and whatever it was I was supposed to be careful about. I always figured I was just a mechanic in Iowa with an opinion. No one had to listen to anything I had to say. You know.....just a guy spouting a bunch of nonsense, right? Apparently many of you out there think/thought otherwise.

Well, for better or worse, I don't plan on changing anything about my writing here anytime soon.

Thank You: To All The Readers- Many thanks and I cannot properly express how fun it has been to write all this for you. Thank you for your comments and on those rare occasions, for your comments to me personally when we have met. 

Stay tuned for more...........

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The End Of One Thing And The Beginning Of Another

An old Gravel Grinder News header
Well, that was a quiet ending. Gravel Grinder News, the stand-alone site that I launched as a spin off of a recurring feature of this blog, "went dark" the other day. Of course, I knew it was going to at some point. That was the plan after all.

The site was mainly a calendar and a bit about the events happening all over which I began to compile in 2008 here on this blog. That got to be kind of a distraction so I had to break it off on its own at the very end of '08 and I launched the site proper in '09. That cooked along just peachy until 2013 in June, when Grannygear helped me launch the "new and improved" GGN. That lasted a year and a half until I merged with That happened on December 1st or so.

The new livery-
The entire effort all along was and still is focused on bringing a calendar of events that is updated and made as accurate as possible so that anyone that wants to seek out a gravel adventure can do it more easily. I think that with over 220 events and counting, that has happened at the calendar.

The funny thing about the name- Gravel Grinder News- is that is angered some folks. It was a flashpoint for folks and I have read, heard, and got wind of plenty of comments that were derogatory and degrading.


That's never bothered me in the least. Most make those types of negative comments because they have an agenda- getting more hits on their sites, or are doing that simply as an outlet of "cycling based rage and anger". They don't care, don't "get it", and don't want to. That's all good. Why? Because there are a whole bunch of folks that do "get it" and are out "grinding gravel" miles and having a lot of fun doing it. I started Gravel Grinder News for those folks. You know what? There are a whole lot more of them than I ever thought there would be.

So, the "something new" part? Yeah...that's all the other facets of The forums, the reviews, and the Riding Gravel Radio Ranch podcasts. Of all the things I've done "on the web", I have the most fun doing these podcasts. This sort of feature is something I am really glad to be a part of. It's something that just wasn't possible for me with Gravel Grinder News. So, while it is kind of sad to see GGN pass away, I am stoked to have become a partner in and I think most of you folks will find it has all of the "old" with a lot of "new" stuff that makes the whole even better.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Spring Break: El Paso Photo Dump 2

Here's a bunch of images from our trip home, which takes two days, from a few days ago. Enjoy!

Our motel was fronted by I-10. Those mountains you see are in Mexico.
Mountains Northeast of El Paso wreathed in Sunlight and Clouds
Passing Alamogordo, New Mexico on the bypass.
A freight train south of Carrizozo, New Mexico
The clouds began to gather and we ran into some light rain over the pass near Corona, New Mexico.
Scene off I-40
Kansas never has disappointed us in terms of spectacular Sunsets and HUGE skies.
The last bits of the day as seen from Greensburg, Kansas, which rebuilt after a tornado literally wiped it off the map in '07
After getting a bit of sleep in El Dorado, Kansas, we hit the road early toward the Flint Hills.
Sunrise over the Flint Hills, which had been recently burned to promote new growth grass.
Through Kansas, Kansas City, NW Missouri, and passing Des Moines, Iowa by 1:00pm. We were making great time!
While the Southwest had seen rain and was relatively green, Iowa is just waking up from its Winter slumber.

We made it back home on Saturday by 3:00pm, tired, worn out, and glad to be back in our own home. It was a good time seeing family, but now it will be back to the same-ol schedule, piles of tune-ups, and getting some ride tim in for the upcoming Gent's Race and prepping for Trans Iowa V11 and my attempt at the Dirty Kanza 200.

Spring Break: This Is Not The Vacation You Were Looking For

That's about as close to the mountain as I got all week.
You long time readers here know that from time to time I go with my family to El Paso, Texas to visit family and ride in the desert mountain State Park there known as Franklin Mountain State Park. Well, I went there last week to El Paso with every intention of doing that riding again. This time I took the Blackborow DS.

I have wanted to ride a fat bike in the area ever since I have had one and this was to be the time. I was very excited to do this too. However; it just did not go the way I intended. Sometimes, as my friend Jason says, "Things happen for a reason", and you know, I think this past week was a great example of that.

When we left to come down to the border city, we found out that my father-in-law had been laid up in hospital, so we were quite concerned, as this was very unexpected. He was in intensive care, and when we arrived in the city, we took every opportunity to visit him and try to lift his spirits. Bicycle riding was not even a thought then. However; he was making great progress and by Tuesday afternoon last week he was able to be released to convalesce at home. So, I was hopeful that within the two remaining days to us that I could get out.

Of course, that didn't pan out because my wife, my daughter, and I all came down with something Tuesday night late and I got the worst of it. Vomiting and diarrhea for 24 hours straight? Yep......really. I'm not making that up. It was an entire 24 hours of visiting the bathroom at least once every one of those 24 hours. Quite frankly, I didn't know it was possible to have that sort of output with no input of fluids and not actually die. Although, it felt like I was doing just that. 

Obviously on Thursday I was in no shape to do much of anything but work on a hasty recovery so I could start traveling on Friday to get back here. So, other than Wednesday, which I am chalking up as a lost day, I got to relax and spend a lot of quality time with family I don't get to see very often, and that is worth a lot more than a stupid bicycle ride any day.   I'm dead serious about that, and it is just fine with me.

But I will admit that it wasn't the vacation I was looking for!