Monday, September 22, 2014


Something about the Autumnal light
The first day of Fall found me waiting. (Well- I'm calling it the first day of Fall!) I was waiting to get out to go for a ride, but there were some "first things" that had to be done. A trip to buy some shelving and necessary things for the kids. A return of some broken light fixture glass to get new, good glass to complete a major outdoor remodel project I am wrapping up. You know.....stuff. 

Then I had to wait some more as we were dog watching for the neighbors and my wife was out getting groceries. After all of this and a late lunch, I was cleared for take off.

The bike was the Sawyer with the B+ wheels on it. Single speed, of course. The direction headed was Northwestward to George Wyth. The twisty-turny trails there are so different from what I see for single track trails elsewhere. I saw a video from a helmet cam the other day, as an example, where the trail was mostly down hill and had what I would call barely a twist from dead straight. Not that these sorts of rides wouldn't be fun, mind you, but I think some folks would be freaked out if they saw how twisted our trails are here.

Sight lines- The length of trail you can "sight" down to the next turn, or to wherever you cannot see the trail ahead. Here those lines are measured in feet. Not yards. Coming to a near stop, carving through the apex at walking speed, and hitting the gas? Normal in spots here. Lots of rear brake to get around the corner, lots of acceleration out of corners, and lots of concentration so as not to smack yourself on the narrow trees lining the trails everywhere. Well, if you aren't me, maybe.......more on that in a bit.

I'm standing at the entrance of the corner and the next is just ahead of my bike.

 The trails were littered with the beginnings of Fall's work, (even though astronomically, Fall doesn't start till Tuesday), and there was a fair amount of moisture in places. Slippery at times. The Trailblazers were gripping though. Cornering with a brrrippp! as the tread ripped along the dry bits of trail. It can lead to a zippy feeling if you can get the rhythm down right, lay off the brakes as much as you can, and trust your tires and bike to get you through the trail.

I learned a long time ago that I pretty much have to take my immediate focus off the trail and think about.....whatever. A sort of disconnected mind set. If I get too involved in thinking about the trail, I usually wipe out. Well, I was doing great, until I hit a patch of sand and ran into a downed log. Slow speed spill. I was okay, but a bit off my "flow". It took a bit for me to get it back, but soon I was zipping right along again.

It was a good ride, and after waiting so long, I think that may have made it all the better.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Trans Iowa V11: A Look At The Rules- Part 2: The Golden Rule

Last year I did a historical overview of each Trans Iowa up to T.I.V9. This year I am going to revisit something that I feel many folks have overlooked for a long time; The "Race Rules".

#1: The Golden Rule is the subject of today's look at the rules of Trans Iowa. Let's see it here and then I'll give my comments on it.

The Golden Rule. The sponsors, organizers, and anyone having anything to do with this race are NOT responsible for your safety. Think of this race as a 300+ mile hard training ride with prizes. We can't say this enough.....YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOU!
Okay, this is the "golden rule" because it is the lynchpin that everything depends upon for self-supported events like Trans Iowa to work. It is also the most copied rule Jeff Kerkove came up with for the event. It's pretty obvious why we have this rule, but interestingly enough, the first two Trans Iowas did have insurance, and the entry fee was set to just cover that fee we were being charged for the coverage.

The self-support factor and the "You Are Responsible For You" statement has been beaten to death over the years, so I will not plough through that old ground again. What I wanted to bring out is in this sentence: "Think of this race as a 300+ mile hard training ride with prizes."

Interestingly, the rules for Trans Iowa were written well before we had a course settled. Neither of us knew how long the event was actually going to be. So instead of nailing down a specific distance, which was our initial intention, Jeff wrote that rule with a vague reference to the distance. I had told him it would be over 300 miles by some amount, so he went with "300+ mile".    

Then there is a reference to a "training ride". Jeff had spoken of this event from the perspective he had at the time. He was a 24 hour solo racer. That's how he thought about this event, so in his mind, it was going to be something that might attract other 24 hour "nut bags" to come out and use the event as a training opportunity. Thus the "training ride" reference.

Essentially, this sentence was there to dial down expectations, which again, were coming from the world of 24 hour events. The big ones. Events where there was darn near a circus going on alongside the race and prizes and payouts were pretty substantial. In that context, the inaugural Trans Iowa was going to be a much humbler affair. Sure, we had some killer prizing for a first time event. Riders received Ergon grips and Tifosi eyewear in each race packet, amongst other things. However; we weren't going to pay out any money, there were no trophies, gizmos, or handmade awards at the finish, and certainly, there wasn't a bunch of start line or finish line hoopla. It was as basic as it gets from that standpoint.

Not that there were no extra trimmings, mind you. We were sponsored by Red Bull, (the endurance racers friend, you know!), and they set up a 40 foot high teepee at Algona where the Checkpoint was. A little known fact regarding the Red Bull sponsorship was that they had sent out two rather "hipster" looking fellows to hand up Red Bull all along the route. Yes....all 310 miles of it. These guys were pretty much out there on their own, since we were putting this on with a shoestring budget and almost zero volunteers. In fact, I never saw them again after Algona, but later I heard a funny story about them.

It seems that once they realized there wasn't a "peloton" and that the event was in Iowa's most rural environs, they sort of tried to guess where the riders might be stopping for resupply. Obviously, communication as to the whereabouts of any of the riders was almost nil. So they were left to wander about aimlessly, looking for any opportunity to turn on some unsuspecting Iowan to the virtues of their elixir. As it turned out, I heard they were seen in Cresco Iowa, off the route in the town passing out Red Bull samples to suspicious small town folk, who had mostly never seen a hipster or knew what one was back then. I heard they got some pretty odd looks!

Well, that's a wrap on the Golden Rule and and an extra story! Next week: We say it again.... Rule #2

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Kicking Around An Idea: Part 2

If you missed Part 1, go HERE. I just wanted to clean up a little of the loose ends here for everyone that may not have read through the comments.

It was mentioned that maybe having to rely on the mailing systems available wasn't good enough to ensure that post cards would arrive at Guitar Ted Laboratories on time. It was suggested that names be drawn from a hat instead. There are two things I don't like about that.

  • First of all, drawing names from a hat puts the random factor into my hands, (or whoever I decide to have pull names from the hat.), and I do not want that. There are just too many ways that could also go wrong, and then it is my fault. It also causes issues with the sizes, types, and numbers of post card entries. This was an issue with T.I.V3 registration. 
  • You are still at the mercy of whatever service you decide to use to send a post card. There would still be a cut-off date for entries. So the whole drawing out of the hat deal just is another layer of complexity. 
So, I am going with the randomness of the mailing systems and registration will be by post cards for all that want to ride. Registration will be done in three stages. Look for the details and the dates for registration soon.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Friday News And Views

My new cup
I have a new coffee cup. I know.....big deal. Well, it was a gift, and it is kind of a unique piece, so I am going to talk about it here.

I received it courtesy of Donnie at VeloDirt. Donnie and his crew have really got a cool scene going out there in Oregon where they have been riding gravel for several years and have put on some killer events. Their newest event, The Oregon Outback, generated a huge amount of interest from the grassroots riders and the cycling industry. Anyway, Donnie and I have e-mailed each other about events and how they are run and whatnot over the years. So, he sends me an e-mail the other day.....

Send me your address, I have something I want to send you. 

Okay, so I do that, and promptly forget that I did that. So, when a box shows up at the house, I am puzzled. What's in the box? I tear it open and find a very carefully wrapped ceramic coffee cup, as you see here. Thanks Donnie! (And thanks to Laura Cooke Ceramics)

I really should go visit Oregon......

This is fun.
B+ Update:

The fattish, large-ish wheels have made it over to the Sawyer for now. Suspension with mid-fat tires. Hmmm.......

I'm liking this even better with suspension and on this particular bike. The squishy tire and the squishy fork work in combination to erase bumps and the Sawyer is a nice riding rig anyway. The rear tire only enhances this.

Now the Sawyer, in its stock set up, was a nice bike. Heavy, but it rode very well, and I enjoyed it. The suspension fork was good. However; when I stripped the gears off, went with a belt, and changed a few other things, something went wrong with this bike. I never felt "right" on it after that. A switch to the taller stem and Carnegie's Bar helped immensely. It got my weight off the front. Now I see where an even shorter reach and a layback post will help even more.

But back to the wheels and tires- I don't think these can really be compared to 29+ wheels. This is just something different that is fun and should work on a lot of 29"ers. It has qualities of fat bike tires. I am running pressures in the teens with these. The absorption of bumps and the additional traction is there, but it feels much different than 29+. I'll be putting in more time on this set up, and maybe I'll resurrect an old full suspension bike here to see how that would feel. Maybe.

Nebraskan dirt
Omaha Jackrabbit:

On October 18th, I'm doing the Geezer Ride, but if I wasn't, I'd likely be going to this- The Omaha Jackrabbit

The fellows running the show over there are scouring the rural roads, leaving no stone unturned to find the most interesting roads to ride on that they can. This really appeals to me. I've been following along on their Facebook page and watching the puzzle pieces come together. Every image of a lonely dirt road makes me want to head Southwest and check it all out.

I've said it before here- Nebraska is not flat. The reputation for boring scenery is unwarranted. The Interstate route has been all most folks ever see of this awesome state. I'm telling ya again- Nebraska has more great scenery than you can shake a stick at. Get off that concrete ribbon and you'll find out I am right.

Now these brilliant Nebraskan crushed rock road rangers are contemplating a cross state gravel route and plan on riding it from West to East. I say it will be one of the coolest gravel road routes ever. 

 And I'm willing to bet I'll be right about that too.

Have a great weekend and ride those bikes!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Quick Ride On The Edge Of Fall

Well, it has been cooler than normal, maybe, but whatever.... If you haven't been stealing some ride time here you are nuts! This has been the best weather ever for single track riding around here.

It's funny how I've been seeing images from the Rockies and Alaska showing Fall in all its raging glory already while here things are just getting started. Blushes of color, a sprinkling of leaves, nuts on the ground.

I suppose Fall gets going in a flash and ends in a hurry in these other places, but here, in the Mid-West, it can be a long, slow burn. It is good from my standpoint, since Fall is what I consider the primo time for riding in the woods. The longer the transition to Winter, the happier a guy that I am. Yes......I like Winter, but it is the woods and single track that I love more. Certainly, a long, drawn out Fall would be my choice, even at the expense of a fat biking paradise featuring miles of packed snow trails.

So, on the edge of Fall I am hoping for a long drawn out season of woodsy riding, not a flash in the pan color fest and then a quick turn to snowy, frigid whiteness.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Kicking Around An Idea

I would have put the word "registration" in the title, but I fear there may be an unintended response if I did that. So, anyway, here are a few things that may shape how registration goes for T.I.V11......

Due to the fact that there are over 100 finishers these days, I am going to have to head off a potential problem with Finishers possibly taking most of the slots for the next Trans Iowa. One thing we all know is that there are 120 slots. We also know that Finishers will be taking the first crack at the roster. The difference will be that I will no longer take any and all Finishers for the next Trans Iowa. Here is how this will likely work out.....

There will be a spot given, no matter what, to any former winner of a Trans Iowa as long as they register in the manner specified and by the time that is allowed to do it in. (NOTE- I am not giving any details now for specific reasons.) The list of "winners" will include the following individuals:

Ira Ryan- T.I.V1, T.I.V3
Lindsay Gauld- T.I.V2*
John Gorilla- T.I.V4*
Joe Meiser- T.I.V5, T.I.V6*
Dennis Grelk- T.I.V7
Eric Brunt- T.I.V8
Rich Wince- T.I.V9
Greg Gleason- T.I.V10
Janna Vavre- T.I.V7
Monika Sattler- T.I.V9
Agytha Gryglak, Sara Cooper (tied)-T.I.V10

The Asterisks: Of course, there were times when Trans Iowa was truncated, or had no "finishers". However; in these cases we recognized "winners" based upon shortened courses, or based upon the furthest anyone was able to go.

I also decided to recognize the first placed Womens Open finishers in the years we had women finish the event.

That's a possible 12 roster spots.  I am allotting a total of 30 spots for Finishers. Last year we had a record 34 finishers take spots, but remember- some of those folks were former T.I. Winners. I think having 30 spots for Finishers is good, and considering I am only going to go up to 120 folks total, I have to draw lines somewhere.

Veterans & Rookies: The remaining spots will be split between the Vets and Rookies, and here is how it will play out. The registration will happen for Vets first before the Rookies. If the Vets take 40 spots, that's the cut off for them. If for some strange reason that number isn't reached, the remainder will be added to the Rookie's total of 40 spots. The Rookies will register last, and will only get 40 spots, (unless there are some added from the Vet's allotment), and once all the spots are taken, the registration will close. There will not be a waiting list kept, there will be no transfers, and there will be no "Industry Cup" this year. You either get in the "old fashioned way" or you do not get in.

In fact, I am toying with the idea of making all entrants send in post cards. Why? Because the e-mail thing seemed to be taken to mean that one could e-mail me at anytime before a Trans Iowa as a Finisher and somehow get a spot in the event. Making post cards the "official" currency for getting on the roster and that having a short window of legitimacy makes for a cleaner, more level playing field.

And hey.......I'm not gonna lie, I like getting mail! You know, old fashioned mail.

So, don't get your writing utensils and stamps ready right now. Nothing has been "officially" announced for registration just yet, but it will soon. Stay tuned..........

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

And Now For An Even Smaller Wheel...

Actually, they don't look too bad on there, but......
Last week I wrote about the B+ riding experience and that I've been messing with some wheels and now I've been riding these new hoops with 27.5er rubber on 'em. I had to scratch my head and think hard about what bike to put these things on, because I do not have a proper 27.5er rig, or do I....? 

The Sawyer is a cool bike but the thing has a bottom bracket drop of almost nothing. I always felt that as an odd thing when riding this bike. The front end is looooowwwww as well, I suppose it's just like Gary likes it to be. Well, the idea was that whatever amount these smaller hoops dropped the bottom bracket it wasn't going to affect the pedaling in a negative way. No dragging feet in the weeds. At least I hoped so.

It turned out that I was just fine. The 27.5er rubber was not dumping me too low, and I was good to go. It makes me wonder if this bike was supposed to have 26"ers on it from the get go. That would've made sense, in a clunker kind of way. Anywho.......

Riding the 27.5ers are not anything new to me. I rode them several times at Interbike years ago. I never really thought they were anything that different from 26"ers. Your mileage may vary there. The industry made a choice for riders to phase out 26"ers in favor of the "new" wheel size that would be all sparkles and glitter. So here we are with 27.5ers being the "new" 26"ers. That's what I have to to work with, so that's what I have here to test out.

The proper head badge.

And test I did. I found out that these wheels are twitchier than I remember. Nervous feeling. The main thing though is how fast you can spin these up and then how fast they lose that momentum. It was fun to play with for awhile.

Maybe the aspect of these being on a singlespeed was what made this a hamster wheel fest. Spin, spin, spin, coast a bit, spin, spin, spin...... This bike doesn't do this with 29"er wheels, that's for sure. The "coast" part lasts a whole lot longer. That and the roll over abilities are no where near that of 29"ers, and miles away from 29+. I spoke with my friend Grannygear yesterday and we both agreed that 27.5ers will remind you again of why you loved 29"ers in the first place.

But don't let me make you think I didn't have any fun. I did. These wheels just are not for me. In a world where there are 29 inch wheels, I don't have to stay with the smaller sized fare. Now, you may be completely opposite of myself, and that's great. Go knock yerself out with the 27.5ers. There are lots of great choices there.

This brings me to this point: That the difference between 26 inch wheels and 27.5 inch wheels is negligible, but the difference between both of those wheels and 29"ers is very noticeable. So, we aren't losing all that much if 26"ers go away, except that the old bikes have become maybe a sort of dinosaur. That kind of sucks in a way. However; it seems that is how it goes with mountain bikes especially.

Anyway, that's my take on the smaller wheel choice.