Friday, July 20, 2018

Friday News And Views

A map showing the long range plans for the state's bicycle trail network
Honorable Mention: 

It was pointed out to me by a friend on social media yesterday that the Iowa Department of Transportation's Long Range Plan for Bicycling and Pedestrians had a thinly veiled nod to Trans Iowa in it. Here is the particular paragraph in which TI was hinted at:

Unpaved road network
– Iowa has an extensive network of unpaved roads—gravel or earthen—totaling approximately 73,000 miles across the state. Many of these roads are classified as “Level B” roads by the counties, which mean they receive a very low level of maintenance and are used on an “at your own risk” basis. Iowa’s unpaved road network provides an opportunity for gravel road bicycling, a small yet growing form of bicycle riding and racing. This sport could encourage and support tourism and related economic development opportunities. A number of gravel road races and rides have occurred over the last few years and many have originated in Grinnell, which has become the de facto center of gravel road bicycling in Iowa


(Italics added for emphasis)

So, that was kind of neat. Trans Iowa, and Guitar Ted have been subjects of books, an Emmy winning documentary, has been mentioned by news and periodicals, and has been the cover story on a couple of well known cycling publications. Now it is (kind of) a part of a government report! But all that aside, I just hope that gravel cycling in Iowa stays strong and gets even more popular. 

 Bad Weather
The courthouse in Marshalltown seconds before the bell tower was ripped off. Image courtesy of KCCI TV
Tornadoes are a thing here in the Mid-West and you never know when, or if, you will be next in line to get hit. Thursday was a particulary bad day as tornadoes swept through central Iowa hitting the towns of Marshalltown, Pella, and Bondurant, Iowa along with several sightings of funnel clouds elsewhere. 


What is crazy about yesterday's storms is that they destroyed some significant businesses and damaged some important buildings. The famous historic Marshall County Courthouse got damaged, the big Pella manufacturing business, Vermeer was heavily damaged. Marshalltown's hospital was disabled and all patients had to be transferred. Another big manufacturing plant in Marshalltown was also heavily damaged. Tornadoes are very random, so having so many important structures damaged is very odd indeed. 

My thoughts are with all those affected. 

 Feedback From " Streets of Danger"-

The post the other day about how our media covers the issues surrounding cyclists safety and all brought a lot of sympathetic comments to the issue, but there were a couple that ran far deeper. I thought it was enlightening, so I thought I'd share a bit more concerning that. 

If you don't know what I am speaking of, here is that post's link. Please go back and get caught up so the rest makes sense here....

Okay, so what I got out of some of the feedback was that many of you recognized that this is really a cultural issue. This whole bicyclists getting struck down dead thing is basically a symptom of deeper issues the culture has with how our lives, especially in the US, are centered around cars. One of the things going around now is the ridiculous amount of car parking we give space for in our urban areas. That is one example of how deeply we went in for cars and how our lives are centered around these plastic, rubber, and metal cages. 

It's a really complex ship that will not get turned around easily. I think sometimes we get overwhelmed by the complexity and enormity of these issues, but in reality, all we can do is change small things now and leave it to future generations to finish up. This isn't an issue that happened overnight and it won't get solved in a week, next month, next year, or in the next decade, most likely. 
 
From Twitter yesterday. You knew it was going to happen again someday.....


  Tour Fans get Punchy, Act Like Nincompoops:

When I used to watch the Tour I was always amazed that the organizers allowed crowds to interact with the riders so closely. Obvious issues with this policy have caused troubles going way back. Most famous being the Eddy Merckx punch in 1975 and then Lance Armstrong getting taken down by an errant musette bag wielded by a fan. Now we have a rider taken out of the race due to fan interaction, another punching incident, and people spitting (again) at riders they don't like. 

The women are clamoring for their own version of the Tour. Maybe we should cancel next year's doper infested, boorish fan attended men's edition and start all over again with the women's version of the TDF. It has to be better than this circus side show. At least from what I am hearing. It's hard to ecape this stuff when you follow so many cyclists and industry folk on social media. 

Okay, so that's that for this week. I'll have some last minute updating on the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational for the 28th, and an update on the pMCD build, all coming next week. Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Introducing The pMCD!

The "pMCD", a Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross Disc frame and fork.
I think it's been seven years ago now that I got my first Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross frame and fork. I chose it over some other choices at the time because it was the closest thing I could find to what I thought a gravel bike should be. Turns out that it did that job pretty well. So well that many other Monster Cross bikes were hitting the gravel roads with Black Mountain Cycles livery on the down tube. You know, I don't think Mike Varley of BMC, or anyone, saw that coming!

Now fast forward seven years and here I have received my second Black Mountain Cycles frame and fork. The main difference here is that this bike will have disc brakes and through axles. There are some other subtle changes, which I will get around to sharing as well. Some now, some later.

Mike Varley had hinted for years that a disc version might become available. You never know with smaller brands if hinted at plans will ever come true, so since this one has, I wanted to say, "Thanks Mike!" I know these projects are never easy, so I appreciate this.

Mike actually had e-mailed me about Trans Iowa prizing earlier this year, (BMC sponsored T.I.v14 with a frame/fork for the "Grittiest Ride" prize), and during those discussions at some point he e-mailed to let me know pink was a color for the new MCD frame/forks which were about to be announced for sale. I put my name in the line for a pink one then and there.

The fork is all new and features rack & fender mounts
The color pink for a bicycle doesn't seem like a good thing upon first thought, but after seeing a few pink bicycles and especially after seeing Nick Legan's pink BMC Monster Cross at the Dirty Kanza a few years ago, I decided I had to have a pink bicycle someday. I knew I was going to snag a disc Monster Cross whenever Mike decided to release one, and so the combination of pink and disc was a no-brainer.

The frame and fork arrived a day early even! So, I had some time to take a few beauty shots and then it was down into the Lab for the building process. No.........it isn't done yet. I had a couple of parts coming in today that were needed first, but in a surprise, I found out my build is taking a turn from original plans. Stay tuned for that twist.........

That means that I likely won't have this built until this weekend. Maybe early next week. There already have been a few changes to the original plan, even without the aforementioned "plot twist". In searching around for the bars and the Redshift Sports Shock Stop stem I was planning on putting on here, I found that my Ultegra 11spd levers were already mounted to the bars. Hmm........I thought I sent them away on a sale or used them on something, or.... Oh well! Here they were, all ready to cable up, so why not! Actually, those levers, the TRP Spyre brakes, the front derailleur, and the rear derailleur were off my Tamland originally.

Then I found out my 32mm CroMag purple anodized seat collar needed to be a 30mm one. Doh! So, I will be using the black one that came with the bike for now. I'll have to source a new purple collar later. There is one other purple bit to consider, but that should be here now and I'll have an update next week where I will tell you about that and the news I got today.

So, until then this will be on hold and I will be doing some minor stuff like mounting tires and what not until these new things come to pass. Stay tuned.......

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Streets Of Danger


Read the article HERE
Perusing Twitter yesterday I came across a Tweet by the Kansas Cyclist about how dangerous it is to commute by bicycle in Iowa. I guess my city of Waterloo came in 7th on the list of the Top Ten Worst.

My response is seen in the image of my Tweet to the left there. I guess what I was trying to portray is that- yes- commuting by bicycle here is dangerous, but it is everywhere. 

Supposedly there was a study and all, but look, when it comes down to it, things are just as bad or worse most everywhere in the USA. I mean, Waterloo, Iowa isn't that great to ride around in but we aren't especially bad. Distracted drivers are everywhere and they do not discriminate in who they mow down by region, state, or town.

And that's the thing, really. Distraction. That's the problem. Three foot passing laws and whole lane passing laws are fine, but who cares if those laws exist if people are distracted and don't see what they are hitting. I mean, that is something that is happening in Waterloo (just last week, as a matter of fact), and all over the nation. The problem isn't that we don't have laws and bicycle lanes, or that we do have those things. The problem is that people are distracted.

Period.

Fix that, and you will have solved the problem without the other stuff. Yeah, so Waterloo is a bad place to ride a bicycle. Big whoop. Nothing new about that and nothing unique about it either. Articles like this don't help anyone.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

pMCD Update: Getting Closer

The parts are accumulating on the desk at Guitar Ted Headquarters
The new rig from Black Mountain Cycles is very near to the Guitar Ted Headquarters now. I have a few more items coming yet, but things should come together very quickly once the frame and fork get here.

This has been an interesting purchase. Mike Varley has been very transparent throughout the process. He showed production images, provided shipping information, and even provided a link to follow the boat the frame and fork were in. Then he provided a FedEx tracking number with which I have been able to track the progress of the frame's travels with. Never before have I been able to follow the progress of a mass produced frame and fork like this. It's similar to how some custom builders treat their customers. The only thing better would have been if I had images of the frames being made. We probably could have had that as well.

The point is, this has been an engaging process and maybe it is a lesson for bigger companies. The "dot watching" thing for racing is a well known phenomena, but it works for bigger purchases as well which require lots of hand labor and are sourced from a far away land I'll likely never see. It makes things more "real", if that makes any sense, and I feel a more personal connection to this frame and fork than I did with my first Black Mountain Cycles purchase.

Well......anyway...... Now the thing is almost here. I have nearly very part to build it up which has drained my resources down to almost nil, but I'll have just enough gas to get 'er done. I also wanted to finally name this build/bike. Usually I will go with "Project......" something or another, but that is getting old. It is also too obvious to use "Pink" something or another, but I wanted to give a nod to the color. So, I decided "pMCD" will do. "Pink Monster Cross Disc", obviously, and it is what it is. Besides, "pee-em-cee-dee" rolls off the tongue nicely.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Truncated

Broken parts........Gah!
Well, that wasn't the weekend I was looking for! (Apologies to "Star Wars") Yeah, the recon of the Guitar Ted Death Ride course didn't happen. That was the first bummer. Of course, the wet weather we had on Friday and into Saturday pretty much made that impossible. Then I got caught up doing things with the family instead, which isn't bad. Not at all, that was good.

So, I figured Sunday might be better. Given that it is Summer and all, the heat of the day and whatever winds we may have gotten might be enough to dry out the dirt to the point I might be able to get through. I chose a piece of the beginning of the route to check out and got going in the afternoon. It wasn't a bad day, really. Not too hot and there was zero wind. That was kind of weird. But then again, we are getting into the "dog days" of Summer when it can be this way.

Things were just starting out and going well until I noticed the water bottle on the right fork leg was bouncing around violently. I stopped to find out that I had finally experienced what many others have with their Salsa Cycles Nickless cages- a break. Dang it! It broke right at the weld at the base by the lower bolt, like I have heard most of these do when they break. Well, I thought about it and decided I needed to carry that bottle in my jersey pocket and leave the cage on there. Without any weight in it, I figured it would be able to ride things out until I got back to the house.

They say we are the Tall Corn State. There might be something to that. 
I remounted and started back up the road. Then I saw it. That weird wobble in a tire that signals imminent death of the casing.......well, at some near future point. I wasn't sure I was seeing it right, so I kept going and watched it to see if it would be getting worse. I went about two more miles before I was certain I was seeing something. I decided to stop at a turning point which would take me even further away from town and make a call.

When I stopped it was evident that the casing was coming apart and the tire wasn't going to live a lot longer.How much further could I get? Well, one choice was to just take a chance that it would hold up and I'd get the ride in. Or.......it would blow out on a descent at 30+ mph, I'd cartwheel into the ditch, and well..........yeah. It might not be quite that dramatic, but I didn't want to find out. I made the turn back into town. Truncated rides suck, but catastrophic tire failures suck worse.

I made it back just fine and the tire will be removed and disposed of. But I was bummed that I didn't get out more than I did. At least I got out to pedal some!

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Touring Series: Rained, Over, And Out

 

A Guitar Ted Productions Series
 Welcome to "The Touring Series". This series is a re-posting of a story I told here on this blog in 2008. The story is about what I named the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour". This was a fully loaded, self-supported bicycle tour from just Northeast of Waterloo, Iowa starting in a little village named Dewar and the goal was to get to Sault Ste. Marie, Canada in one week's time. The plan called for us to be picked up there and taken home by car.

  As mentioned, cameras, smart phones, and the like did not exist for us in 1994, so images will be few. There are some though, and I will sprinkle those in when they are relevant. I will also sprinkle in any modern images of places we visited when applicable and when I can find images that convey the same look as 1995.


We join the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour" on its seventh day out from the start as they are held up by rain in Manistique, Michigan.........
_____________________________________________________________________

It wasn't too long before noon, and the rain was steadily falling. Each passing minute was a moment slipping away that was painfully palpable. The whole point of the tour had been to reach Canada, but now, so tantalizingly close and yet so far away, we all were increasingly aware that it was over. We were going to have to throw in the towel, and it wasn't anyone's fault. Not Steve's for Steven's Point, not for having stopped so many times, not for lack of effort. It was what it was.

We sat there and waited, and even when it did clear up, we all knew it was pointless to go on. Steve called his girlfriend, Troy made a phone call. We sat around waiting to find out where and when we would be picked up. I got something to eat and munched it quietly outside. Steve suddenly perked up and pointed out a bumper sticker on a pick up truck. "Shoot 'em all! Let God sort 'em out" it proclaimed. It was a bit of comic relief that somehow fit the moment and lightened the mood.

Troy came out and between he and Steve they figured out that there was a State Park just a bit back west out of Manistique up a black top road. We finally talked it over and decided to cash it in and spend the night there. As we rolled up the road, down a darkened tunnel through tall pine trees, I could sense the release of tension. Troy and Steve were joking and carrying on. It was a relief not to have a deadline anymore. We passed a rustic country store about a half mile from the park entrance that was selling beer. We made a mental note of that for later!

As we pulled in to Indian Lake State Park, we were dismayed to see that it was packed. We rolled up behind a couple of cars waiting to check in at the Ranger's Station and we thought about a possible Plan B in case we were turned away. As we reached the drive up window, (Ride up window?) we were met with wide eyes by a female park official. She stated the obvious by saying the Park was full, but then she said, "...but we will have to find you a place. Let's see what I can do." I said, "What?...." She replied, "Oh yeah, it's Michigan State law that if a hiker or cyclist asks for a camping spot in any State Park, we have to find them room." So, she looked and found that a spot had been unclaimed that was reserved. It was now ours. It happened to be directly across from the shower house!

We secured our spot. It was windy, with hurrying clouds from the north right off the lake. We set up our tents and bugged out back to that country store. Troy put two and a half cases of canned beer on the rack of his Voyager. I'm sure that exceeded his racks capacity! It was funny how Troy could wiggle the front half of his bike but the back half wouldn't move due to all the weight of the beer.

Once back at the campgrounds we drank lots of beer, laughed, played Frisbee, and kicked back for a bit. It was a lot of fun, and honestly, we should have done more of that maybe. Whatever......... The wind was wicked off the lake, and Steve's tent got zapped, so he moved his stuff in with me for the last night. We sat around and talked into the darkness, but all good things come to an end, and somewhere in an alcoholic haze I zipped my self into my sack and passed out breathing in the cold night air laced with the scent of pine trees.

That was it for the tour. But we still had to get home. The ride back would be an all day slog in Steve's girlfriends Blazer. Shouldn't be a big deal, and I was anxious to finally get back home.
____________________________________________________________________________
Yeah........kind of anti-climatic, eh? Well, we came up 120 miles short of our goal, so that is why we weren't ashamed. Yeah, we could have made it sans a rainy day mid-week, and we knew that. (I will delve into more about the way we strategized and what was good and bad about that in a separate post.)
For the time being I wanted to focus on the dichotomy between the arrival in Manistique and leaving for Indian Lake State Park. The morning was all "speed touring", as it had been most of the week. The last hours were more like what people normally think of when touring. Fun, free, and careless. Oh, we had our moments, for sure, during the week, but the aftermath of not getting our goal was so liberating it was uncanny. 
In fact, I didn't want it to end, but I was also ready for a trip back home to "normal" life. It was odd. Part of me was never the same after that week. I kind of knew this as the evening wore on at Indian Lake. I remember watching the white caps crashing into the shore and thinking about how I'd had such an adventure and that, sadly, it was over. The sight of those wind driven waves still can be seen in my mind's eye.......

Next week: In A Blazer Of Glory

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Minus Ten Review - 28

The Blackbuck, day lilies, and a muddy Cedar River
Ten years ago this week I was busy getting together the third Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational. The plan was modified in the last days leading up to this one so that I could accommodate a special guest, Jason Boucher, then the head honch of Salsa Cycles. I've mentioned a few times here why this GTDRI was a special one, but since that will come out soon enough, you'll just have to wait for the full story.

Here is a little tidbit of info I posted about the GTDRI back in '08:

"Ride Intent: I sometimes wish I hadn't chosen the name I did for this ride. It has been a source of confusion and misunderstanding from the outset. Some of you got it right away though, so I know that not everyone falls into this category. Here's the two things most commonly misconstrued concerning GTDRI.

#1 It's not a race, it's not a "group ride" (using that term to describe the competitive nature generally found on such rides), and it's not a training ride. Nope! It's not any of those things at all. It's something else altogether. So, if your expectations are that we are racing, competitive, or even going to go at it at a training pace, you are barking up the wrong tree.

#2: It's open to anyone not interested in racing or training. (In the strictest sense of those terms) It's open to anyone that just wants to go on a long ride that happens to be tough. You don't necessarily need an "invite", even though I've used the term in the name. It was done tongue in cheek. It's kind of a joke, okay. So please, if you are cool with long rides more for fun than anything else, check us out."