Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Another Option

"Well, of course they did.", is what I thought several weeks ago when my buddy MG let on that he was in the "DKXL" , a 350 mile version of the event, the Dirty Kanza 200. A couple of months previous to that I had been contacted by the Dirty Kanza 200 event director/co-founder Jim Cummins with a question about how I set up cut offs for Trans Iowa. I also noted that he and a group of other riders did a huge "bikepacking" excursion through the Flint Hills about this same time. Hmm.....something is up here, methinks! 

So, when my friend MG let on about the DKXL I wasn't surprised. It makes sense that is what they would do, especially after the other DK events on gravel seem to be maxed out in terms of numbers for participation. When your aim is to diversify, provide new ways to satisfy demand, and "grow", this news fits the bill. When your sponsor says things like, "The DKXL is very exciting to us because it represents a continued progression......in a gravel event..", well you know that some goals were set that are making them happy too.

At least, that's how I read the press release. YMMV.

So, some folks have asked what I think, because I run Trans Iowa. Well, I don't really mind one way or the other, frankly. It's their gig, they can do what they think is right by them and their customers. As far as a ride goes, yeah. It's cool. It would be a great challenge. I'm not sure what the DK Promotions has in mind for 2019, when they say they are going to have this idea fine tuned and ready for the masses to engage in. I would hazard a guess that it will be more expensive than the 200 miler. I cannot imagine it wouldn't cost some serious money to get into. So any ideas of this being like, say, an Alexander type event, well, that probably doesn't fit the DK200's "MO" of the last seven years or so. Maybe I'm wrong on this, but I wouldn't bet on it.

So, fundamentally I think it would be a different event than the older style ultra-distance events, but that's just a guess. When MG does this, I'll hear about it, and we'll know more then, I am sure. But at any rate, I  wasn't surprised about this and no- I really don't have any strong feelings about their doing this one way or the other. I'll be interested to see what they make of it next year for sure.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Iowa Gravel Expo/Bike Party Report

Guitar Ted pontificating. Image by Izabel Stevenson
The Saturday evening gig at Doughy Joey's almost didn't happen. Both myself and NY Roll, who was also helping to put this on, were deathly ill on Friday. I was fighting the flu and NY Roll had food poisoning, (he thinks). At any rate, collective sighs of relief were had by both parties when on Saturday morning we both woke up feeling human again. Whew!

So, I puttered around getting stuff together most of the day as we had to head over to the venue at 4:30pm to set up. NY Roll was already there, so we started hauling stuff in from the car. Oh yeah......I said "we". I should mention that my 17 year old daughter decided to help out. Izabel took all the images for today's post, by the way.

Anyway, people started coming in almost as soon as we got there. Des Moines was represented, and a few locals were showing up. I wasn't expecting a huge crowd. I had told NY Roll that if we got 30 folks I would consider it a success. He was fully convinced we were going to see a lot of folks. So we made a friendly wager that there would be more than 50 or less. I took the "under". Well, I was sooooo wrong!! 

People started coming and for a while, there was a line of people waiting to sign in for the raffle for tires and a seat bag. It was crazy! I was busy yakking to folks and before I knew it, NY Roll said, "That was 50!", and there were still folks rolling in. I think we eventually had 76 show up. Amazing!

A full house! Five more people and we would have been making the Fire Marshall upset. Image by Izabel Stevenson
A lot of people stayed and hung out well after I was finished. This started at 6:00pm and this image was taken at about 9:30pm. Image by Izabel Stevenson
There was free Grain Belt beer and pizza for all. Image by Izabel Stevenson
So, we had folks from all over Iowa and a couple of guys stopped in from Michigan as well! I was totally blown away by the attendance. The crowd was attentive for the most part and I received a lot of great feedback from people that talked to me afterward.

A few event directors were in attendance so we had them speak on behalf of their events. The Iowa City Gravel event director was there as well as the guys from the first time "Three Bridges" event which is happening in June from Waverly. We also talked about getting another Geezer Ride going locally this Spring for the gravel rookies in the area and, of course, anyone else that just wants to come and have fun. Then I was approached by the guys from Cresco Bikes that want to do a route in their neck of the woods and host a Geezer Ride, so it looks like I'll be heading North at some point to help with/ride that event.

Lots of great connections were made and I am hopeful that the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area can come together and get a vibrant, fun, inclusive gravel community together and that we start seeing a lot more gravel travel in the area. It certainly won't hurt to have more people on bicycles having more fun.

Soooo.... The $64,000.00 question: Will there be another Iowa Gravel Expo/Bike Party? Based upon the feedback we have received already? That answer would be a "yes". Very positive feedback. So, I don't know what that will look like, but I assume that this time next year we can expect something akin to what we had, at least, and maybe more. However; this was financed out of pocket, so funding for something like this in the future is a big question too. Stay tuned on that front......

Thank Yous: NY Roll, (financing) Riding Gravel (personality, resources, schwag), Doughy Joey's (venue), WTB (tire giveaway) Lezyne (seat bag giveaway), Izabel Stevenson (assistance, photography) and everyone who came out that made this evening worthwhile in spades!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Grassroots Events, Sponsors, And Sanctioned Racing

A Guitar Ted Productions Editorial
The series I posted dubbed "The State Of The Gravel Scene" a while back spurred a lot of positive commentary. Mostly I get the feeling that many of you out there lament the potential loss of the more "grassroots", inclusive events that don't have the "uppity", cliquish feel that maybe your USAC criterium is often accused of having. (Note- It isn't necessarily my experience, because I don't race crits. But it is an accusation I hear a LOT about crits.)  I don't know if any of that matters, I just know that the "feel" a lot of events I go to has is what it is that people are attracted to.

Well, with that in mind I found a parallel instance where the "grassroots feel" is being threatened by change and a change motivated by the need to accommodate sponsors. This is something which I feel is kind of a subtle influence on events and promoters. Of course, having a great sponsor is a wonderful thing for a lot of reasons, but sometimes, perhaps, there are perceived obligations that, maybe, can influence where events go in their futures. Well, I think the following link will take you to an article that paints a good picture of what I am talking about. It is an example from motorsports, a sector of sports I follow, and has to do with an event specifically. It is called the "Chili Bowl" and is a dirt sprint car event in Oklahoma. Here is the article by Jeff Gluck which might help explain how sponsors become influential on the "feel" of an event.

The other thing I want to say here is that sponsors are not a bad thing. It's how promoters and events use those sponsors and cater to those sponsors that can be a reason things get beyond the grassroots level. I know of great events that have excellent sponsors and still retain that "feel". So it isn't like we have to eschew sponsorship totally and refuse to be "influenced" by the monetary or other tangible and intangible factors at play when you get a sponsor. It doesn't have to be the "you sold your soul to the devil" thing that some folks I've talked to and messaged with say that it is.

And, as I stated in my series- some people actually like events where sponsors have radically changed the feel of the event. That isn't crazy talk either. It is a real thing. Just look at the Dirty Kanza 200 as a prime example. They wouldn't be having that lottery they had Saturday for entries if people didn't actually like how that event has changed over the years. So, in the final analysis, grassroots events still exist and serve their purposes, but so do the slick, high end, "bucket list" experiences that many people want. Choice is good, so don't be a hater. Just support the events that you believe in. The rest will take care of itself.

Another point that I wanted to make was on sanctioned racing. This scares the hell out of a lot of the grassroots folks. Here's the thing- there are a lot of folks that believe points, categories, closed courses, and "proper race environments" have a place in competition. Some are saying gravel events should be offered to satisfy this segment of racing. Now, I am not one of those folks, but hey! If they want it, build it and they will come. As a matter of fact, it already exists in many places. Try the Iowa Spring Classic as a prime example. Those events have occurred for several years now and guess what? It hasn't affected grassroots gravel racing one iota. They both coexist in harmony. Again- Choice is good, so don't be a hater. Just support the events that you believe in.

I'm not big on all the categorizations and points and whatnot, but hey! It trips some folks triggers and why not let them have an event on gravel. Ultimately it will be something that flies or not.  Grassroots or "big, slickly produced event", doesn't matter if you just pay attention to what you like and let the rest go. Both ways have their place. I think it is a good instance of "Live and let live".

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Minus Ten Review- 2

The first Gary Bar, offered in silver, has been long discontinued.
Ten years ago on the blog here I was gabbing about stuff still relevant for 2018. One of those things was (surprise!) the weather, which ironically mirrors what we've had here this week. Snow looked great, then there was a thaw, which ruined the snow, then fog, which froze, and a threat of ice or snow that would sit on ice and basically screw up Winter sports activities for the remainder of Winter. Yep! Checked all the boxes for what is happening here currently. Weird!

Then there was the mention of "rumors" and knowledge I had of products about to be revealed. Same. The situation this time is that I happen to know about two new series of gravel bikes that are going to be pretty significant. On one hand there will be a "price point" set of gravel bikes coming that I think will present a great value to the consumer who is looking to get a "serious" gravel rig but doesn't want to spend a lot of cash on one. The second will be an innovation which I have seen coming and will, upon its debut, be the best gravel bike you can buy, in my opinion. It will become the bar everyone else will shoot for in gravel bikes. Expensive? Yes. But there will be a range of models and there will be some more affordable ones in the range.

Then there was Trans Iowa. Well, of course that is the same, but the details were not. In 2008 we were looking at doing the second "big assed loop" version of Trans Iowa. I was hinting that it may only be 320-ish miles maximum, and that the route would be "awesome". It was notable that I mentioned that I had many folks asking me to let them volunteer. That's been an ever-present thing about TI ever since then. I never have had to push for volunteers, ever. That's incredible and it still is happening to this day. In fact I had a request this week. One last week, and I will get more, I am sure.

I'll forever be amazed, humbled, and grateful for the volunteers I get for Trans Iowa. There is just no way to thank those folks enough when I know that other events have a tough time even getting enough folks to run their events. I have to turn folks away every year! Amazing! Thank you, thank you, thank you, volunteers! You rock!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Friday News And Views

Paul Components Klamper brake. Now works with Campy. Or would that be "Kampy" now?
Paul Components Klamper Brake Now For Campy Levers:

Paul Components did what SRAM had over a decade to try, but never would- That is to make a high end Avid BB type brake. Well, as the saying goes, if ya snooze, ya lose! I still cannot believe that SRAM never did a better BB-7. Actually, SRAM downgraded the BB-7 over the years, going to a two piece caliper body, which is far inferior to the one piece caliper version. I know, I have examples of both in my fleet.

Anyway, where there is a hole, something is going to fill it. Paul Components filled that hole with the Klamper. Now they offer a special one that works with Campy levers. I suspect that this was, in part, driven by the NAHBS builders who probably pestered Paul to do a Campy compatible actuation lever for the Klamper. But however that is, it is cool to see an American small builder/manufacturer doing things like this.

I also get that Paul Component parts are insanely expensive. At $208.00 per caliper, it isn't going to be on many people's radar to have these on their bike. That said, if you'd rather avoid hydraulic Campy calipers and be able to score a high functioning, silver anodized caliper for your Potenza 11 speed disc bike, well, here ya go

Mike Varley's Black Mountain Cycles "MCD" prototype
 Black Mountain Cycles "MCD" Update:

You might remember that a while back I was gabbing about the new disc version of Black Mountain Cycles "Monster Cross" bike. I bet you do remember, because I have it from Black Mountain Cycles' proprietor, Mike Varley, that many of you tell him you heard about the BMC rigs here. (Thanks for the mentions folks!) Anyway, here is some news on this new Monster Cross version dubbed the "MCD".

Mike has pulled the trigger on production, but don't get all up in his face just yet about a pre-order. He ain't takin' yer money just yet! (See his latest post here) However; when that day comes that he will take yer dollars, he will only ask for $695.00 of them. Just think- you could buy a MCD with four Paul Klamper Campy compatible brake calipers and get change! (Whatever that would be in parts!) But that probably wouldn't work. I doubt Mike would take exchanges like that!

But really, only $695.00? (!!!) That's incredible for a through axle frame and fork which will, if I am not mistaken, be an awesome gravel rig. I'll let you read Mike's post I linked above, but there are a few subtle changes and sizing is a bit differently described, but ultimately physically should feel the same as before. Kind of hard to wrap my mind around what size I'd take just now, but hey! I have some time to figure that all out.

So, yes. I am getting one of these and I will retire a couple of rigs once I get one. That doesn't look to be happening anytime real soon. That means parts acquisition mode shall be activated this Spring. I have a pretty good idea on the build. Gevenalle shifters, White Industries crank, hubs, and head set, and probably some TRP Spyre brakes. In fact, I already have the calipers in the Lab here. Stay tuned for more on this coming up throughout the Spring. Whatever colors Mike decides upon will be a big factor in my decision making. He mentioned pink was in the running. (PLEASE! MAKE THE MCD IN PINK!!)

Trans Iowa v14 Sponsor News!

This is a good segue way into my next bit of news which is that Trans Iowa v14 is going to have sponsorship from Black Mountain Cycles. This Trans Iowa will see a BMC frame/fork given away to the rider in T.I.v14 that finishes and puts in what I and the volunteers deem as the "Grittiest Ride".

We did this same theme in T.I.v10 where Charlie Farrow won. He didn't actually finish, coming up about 6 miles short at the 2:00pm Sunday time cut, but we have the right to bend the rules a bit at Trans Iowa in instances like this, so be advised that the winner will be chosen at our discretion and the decision of Guitar Ted will be final.

Mike Varley told me that since so many folks have mentioned seeing and hearing about the BMC frames via this portal he wanted to support T.I.v14 in this way. So, if you would, don't hesitate to let him know that you heard about this and want to thank him. http://blackmtncycles.com/

More Sponsorship News! I also have Lederman Bail Bonds back as a sponsor again for Trans Iowa. The company believes Trans Iowa is a great event and puts Iowa in a good light, so they are helping out again as they have for several years now with swag items and behind the scenes support of the event.

Wolf Tooth Portable Master Link Pliers
Wolf Tooth Introduces New Gadget:

Quick links for chains are boon to riders in the field who need to fix a chain issue, or who need to go to a single speed set up due to a rear derailleur failure. While they can be assembled with ease, they often can be nigh unto impossible to undo. That's where the Wolf Tooth Master Link Combo pliers comes in. This tool pinches the rollers together to help release the link so a chain can be disassembled in the field. (NOTE- You still really need a chain breaker, so don't be ditching that tool just yet!) Here's a feature set from Wolf Tooth's press release:
  • Compatible with 9-, 10-, 11-, and 12-speed chains
  • Holds two pair of most brands' replacement links (sold separately)
  • Compatible with most tubeless valve and presta tube locknuts
  • Compatible with most standard (5mm) Presta valve core flats
  • 38g tool weight
  • CNC machined from 7075-T6 aluminum
  • Type II anodized in red or black
  • Choice of five pivot bolt colors on black pliers
  • Designed and manufactured in Minneapolis, MN USA
Since it serves a few functions besides being a quick-link pliers, it makes for a great tool to put into your kit. At 38 grams it won't weigh you down either. I can see this being a contender for a place in my kit for sure. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Cold Weather Head Gear Strategy

The Blackborow DS post ride.
Everytime we get some "Real Winter" to enjoy I am thinking a lot about how to deal with the cold weather. I have a lot of my cold weather strategies figured out now after having the opportunity to be on a fat bike every year since 2011. Even the few years before that I was regularly out riding 29"ers in the Winter trying different things to stay warm.

One thing that has often been a struggle for me is how to keep my face warm when it gets around 0° or below with any wind at all. Exposed skin is vulnerable to frostbite pretty quickly in these temperatures and the first instinct is to cover everything up. That may work for some folks, but for me, it was never an option. Everyone has their own issues, preferences, and style when it comes to cold weather head gear, but I thought it may be helpful for some of you dealing with these things to read about a solution I have found works great for me. But first, here's what I don't like.....

I don't like balaclavas because I feel uncomfortable in them and they shift on my face enough that I spend way too much time futzing with the position to get it "just so" that I get frustrated. I have tried using the Cold Avenger thing which I found wasn't dealing with my air intake efficiently and it just felt awful to me. It didn't fit right and no amount of positioning could help with that for myself, anyway.

Then I tried Buff type fabric tubes. This has been a lot better deal for me, but I still had issues with how the fabric, in my case the synthetic type meant for cool weather uses, compressed my nose down if I tried using it as a face mask/balaclava-like deal. I almost always pulled it down to just cover my mouth, if that, and well.......then your nose is sticking out there. Not ideal in sub-zero weather.

Cruising some internet information on fat bikes I started to notice guys wearing strips of fabric across their noses which were like bandanas. Separate from whatever they had on their face/jaw area. Jay Petervary then posted about what he was doing. He used a cut down Buff and then put it around his head to just cover the nose with another fabric tube used lower down over his jaw/mouth area. Of course, he had head gear on up top, but that isn't hard to figure out. I decided to give that idea a try this Winter.

Not much  for looks! But it was the best set up I've tried.
I happen to have about five fabric Buff-like tubes, all stretchy, thin ones meant for warmer weather use, but for my uses, work perfect in Winter. Anything that keeps the wind off is all I need, typically. That said, Buffs come in heavier fabrics like wool if you want to go with a more insulating layer.

My head gear layers went something like the following:
  • Polarfleece beanie
  • Twin Six Wool hoodie
  • Buff fabric tube over the top (The camo piece you can see in the image here.)
  • Red cotton bandana rolled up to just cover my nose with a corner draped down over my mouth.
  • Spy Optic amber lensed "shield"type eyewear.
  • "Old Man Winter" Bontrager coat
That was it. The temperatures I was riding in were at 5°F or slightly below with a bit of wind, so the windchill was well below zero. Now typically I would be only able to put up with cold on my face like that by either using a system I was unhappy with and had to fuss over constantly, or this new set up which was a joy to use. The difference maker was the bit over the nose and how I had it set up.

With the bandana corner hanging down over my mouth, I had a couple things going on that were pluses. One was that my breath was directed away from my glasses which kept them fog-free throughout the ride. Secondly, if I needed to drink, spit, or just wanted to have my mouth free I simply flipped that corner of fabric up and I could easily have access to my mouth or be able to spit, etc. Note- The bandana froze at the corner which made this even easier to do.

Now, I am not saying this is "the way to go" for everyone. I am suggesting that what JayPee and others are doing is a smart solution and by using different fabrics and arrangements you probably could achieve similar results. As for myself, I am good with my simple, easy to use, and readily at hand solution for these brutal temperatures and conditions. I rode 2.5hrs with this set up and went home only because I wanted to. I could have ridden a lot longer in total comfort.

By the looks of things, I may not have to bust this system out again this Winter, but if the really cold stuff comes back, I will be ready.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Gravel Clinic

From the Facebook Events Page
The grandiosely named "Iowa Gravel Expo/Bike Party" is something I am involved with here locally and will be happening on Saturday at 5:30pm at Doughy Joey's restaurant in Cedar Falls, Iowa. We will be in an upper room and we will have a few things going on as follows:
  • Drinks &  pizza- Limited quantities available.
  • Cash Bar
  •  Bikes on display for discussion purposes
  • Two Sets of WTB TCS 37mm Riddler gravel tires. One set for guys, the other for the gals. Must be present to win
  • One Lezyne XL seat pack for the person who comes the longest distance to the event. In the case of a tie a quick raffle will determine the winner. Must be present to win
  •   Discussion on the what/Why/How of gravel riding is and can be for the casual cyclist and budding adventure cyclists. 
  • Q&A
  • Route sharing for local rides
  • Hobnobbing with other cyclists
If parts of this or all of this sounds good, please come. You are invited! There is no fee to attend but we will be taking free will donations for our time and to defray the costs of the room. Thanks!

Is The Answer Technology?

Will emergency vehicles, regular traffic, cyclists, and peds all be connected wireless someday?
In my series on the gravel scene posted last week, (and which can be accessed now on its own page link under the header here), I mentioned how that paved road riding by cyclists and distracted driving were things not likely to get sorted anytime soon. Well, the Consumer Electronics Show, (CES) is happening now and developments are being shared which point to a possible future where all road users might be connected wirelessly. In one story we can learn about how radio connectivity between emergency and mass transit is going to sync with traffic lights. This is something that is happening in many cities but this story is about Madison, Wisconsin's efforts to test a system which will allow traffic lights to sync with ambulance/fire/police vehicles and also allow busses to stay on schedule, as examples.

Another example is Trek who is working with a company called Tome and also with Ford Motor Company to start down the path of putting technology to work in vehicles and on bicycles so that cars, in the future probably autonomous/driverless cars, will be made "aware of" the presence of cyclists, and probably at some point, pedestrians.

You may have heard about how driverless cars are having issues "detecting" the movements of more random road users like cyclists and peds. Well, if each ped and cyclist has a "beacon" which signals these autonomous vehicles, the theory is that the vehicles could better recognize when and how to avoid these more mobile urban users. You can check out that story here. This sounds plausible, but wait! There is a possible downside here:

Maybe this is more "number of the beast" than "future urban utopia"? From a recent Twitter thread.
Obviously not everyone will be wanting to, or will buy into this, but one could imagine a scenario where insurance and licensing gets tied into a system like this making it virtually impossible to get around without becoming a part of the plan.

Also, this stuff, according to the stories I've seen, is at least a couple of decades off, but Trek states it is pressing for "in the field studies now". It's also worth noting that the Madison experiment is set to go off this year, with results garnered from the trial test soon as well. Given that Trek is based nearby in Waterloo, Wisconsin, it is reasonable to assume they will also be watching that study closely. Trek promises to publish the results of their findings when they are available.

So, what does it all mean? Likely that technologies to use AI and other user interfaces on autos and bicycles will be trialed and tested in urban areas in the very near future. How this will look in the future, I don't think anyone quite understands just yet. I would be interested to know how much of our liberties in freedom of movement would have to be ceded over to make this all functional. Hopefully that would be considered in any solutions chosen and implemented.

At any rate, it all bears watching, and at least in metropolitan areas, it looks as if some sort of wireless communication between all urban transportation users/vehicles is set to happen at some point.