Thursday, September 29, 2016

Country Views: Harvest Time Starts

The harvesters are starting to hit the fields now
I got out on a proper gravel ride, the first in quite a while due to recent rains, and the first since the weather broke last weekend. The wind was rushing out of the Northwest and going up Moline Road was, uh........interesting. But before I get to that, I wanted to tell the story from the beginning, because it seemed that I was destined to not make it out of town at all.

It all started with me going around in a circuitous fashion to avoid various construction projects downtown. Once that gauntlet had been dispensed with, I found that I was blockaded by the train being "built" out in the Waterloo rail road yard which often times will block several streets going North/South. I decided to head West and see if I could find an end around, but the train arriving from the West was blocking off every crossing, so I had to wait for it to clear an intersection before I could free myself from being stuck in the grasp of Waterloo. Once across those dratted tracks, I thought freedom from the city was only a mile away, but not so fast!

Waiting on the train.
More evidence of harvest activity.
I found myself on the nice pathway alongside Highway 63 North which ends at Allen Hospital. That's where I wanted to turn right and cross the highway. I did all the legal stuff, I pushed the talking cross walk button and waited for the command and the light. When it came on, I proceeded to roll out, but something made me look left anyway, and boy! I was sure glad that I did!

A lady in a car was trying to turn right and she was going to go even though I had been standing over my bicycle to her right for several minutes before the light changed. Anyway, I stopped and glared at her and she stopped halfway out into my crossing. I went around her and pointed at the crosswalk sign. I didn't say a word, but hopefully those at that busy intersection all learned a lesson.

Sheesh! Was I even supposed to go on this ride? You know, I often wonder when I get so much push back from random things when I am headed out on a ride. Maybe I'm superstitious, or maybe I am "tuned in", but whatever it is, I still felt that riding was okay. I was just super wary after all of that non-sense!

The good news is that despite having to travel on busy Donald Street, I wasn't "pushed back" upon from making forward progress and I eventually made the hard left on to Moline Road and out of harms way. Mostly. I suppose I could still get KO'ed by a farm vehicle, but the chances are low. (Says the guy who got hit by a drunk driver while walking his bike alongside a remote gravel road!)

There still are some flowers out there. Lots of these late season bloomers- Asters- which are really beautiful.
I apologize for the slight out of focus here, but clovers are always a constant in the country. Here's a late season bloomer I saw.
I first saw that a field had been partially harvested going up Moline Road. That was a bit of a surprise, given the copious amounts of rain we received last week. Maybe it was just a test for moisture content or something. But then I heard a harvester, and after that, I saw one. Hmm..... They did say the harvest would kick off early this year, and I was traveling up on some higher ground out this way, which would help with drying.

More Asters.
More clovers.
Since the weekend, the weather has broken into Fall at full song. Blustery winds out of the North and cooler, very dry air is streaming in where once we had humidity so thick it hung like a haze in the air last weekend. The temperatures which had been in the 80's have been replaced by 50's and that wind made it feel cold.

Earlier in the week I rode to work on the Big Dummy and thought my finger tips were frozen by the time I got to the shop. So, yesterday I wore some thin wool gloves. I dug out my wind shell, and put on knickers and long wool socks.  I was certainly glad I did that. I wasn't over dressed at all. The wind was pretty brisk and without any direct Sunlight, things weren't warming up much out there.

I suppose we'd better get used to it. It is Fall, after all, and nearly October. I actually welcome the change in weather as I was getting a bit tired of being "swampy" feeling all the time and I just think it was high time for a change in season. I suppose when you are a born and raised Mid-Westerner, that is what you are accustomed to having happen anyway.

The other thing that happens now is that people like me become the "freaks of society". I am one of "Those" individuals that keep riding bicycles despite the weather and what it brings. Maybe that's the thinking behind that lady in the car back in town. Maybe. Still, it is no excuse, and I need to be doubly vigilant now because of that mentality.

I gotta roll back by here in a couple of weeks. I bet that Maple tree will be spectacular by then.

Barns For Jason
It is that time of year when the Green fades away. The Yellows, Golds, Browns, and the Reds and Oranges of the trees in Fall take hold for a brief time. Then it all goes dun for the Winter. The bleak, starkness of Iowa's countryside in Winter is a sharp contrast to Fall. Better get out there and enjoy this changing of the season!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Monkey Decade: Close- Very Close

There are some details to work through, but this is close to done.
Many of you regular readers are familiar with my 2003 Karate Monkey and the old thread I did on this bike starting back in 2013 which I dubbed "The Monkey Decade". That kind of drug on, and on, and on due to a stuck bottom bracket which I finally, with the help of the shop mates I have, got unstuck this past Spring.

Since then I have been, on occasion, fiddling with the fit by changing out some parts here and there. All the while trying to recreate the feel I had with this bike when I last had it dialed in back in 2007-2008. Have you ever had a bicycle you had so tweaked out that you could call it "nearly perfect"? This Karate Monkey was that bicycle for me. Then I went and started changing up stuff.

I was an idiot.

Well, of course, things changed with parts and what not until I got to a place where I just figured this bicycle would never be "that bicycle" again. Besides, I had other bicycles based off the old set up which were arguably better in some facets that mattered. me they mattered. Then I saw that Velo Orange Cigne stem and that gave me some hope that this part might get me close to "that bicycle" once again. And you know what?

I think it has done just that.

The Cigne Stem puts the drop bars right where they always should have been on this bike.

Now I have hope that with a few other key changes in componentry, I not only will have "that bicycle" back again, but that it will actually surpass that set up of old to reach a new level. The stem is the key. It puts those drops right in the pocket. I like the height of the drop section and the reach is dead on. That never quite was the case with the old Monkey set up with Midge Bars and a rise stem.

These drop bars are like the Velo Orange Dajia Far Bars but are actually Gary Ergo Sweep OS Bars from Origin 8. They are interchangeable as far as design, being the same thing. Anyway, I will reserve judgement until I get some longer rides in. So far they seem a lot like what their Origin 8 name implies, an ergo bend road bar in the drops, which I am not a huge fan of, but they are okay.

Like I say, there will be changes. A 180mm crank set with a bigger ring, a different cog on the back wheel, and the red will give way to green. But this is close to being done.

Very close!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Fat Bike Century Challenge: Update

Swapped tires.
Last Friday, after the deluge from Thursday evening which caused the flooding to get started, I decided to ride the Ti Muk in and test out the Bar Yak system on the way to and from work. I figured I may have some positioning issues I might be able to sus out on the commute. I am happy to say that there were no such issues though. Only a comfortable position which should prove to be stable and get me a bit more aero on the gravel this weekend.

My next issue was tires, The big, lugged tread Lou on the front and the Chao Yang whatchamacallit on the back wasn't necessary for the gravel. Overkill and far too heavy. So, I found my 5 year old Larry 3.8"er and a 4 year old Big Fat Larry to swap in there. The BFL went up front and that "skinny" Larry went on the back. It is really weird how a 3.8" Larry looks positively anemic these days when we have 4.8+ inch tires roaming the Earth. Anyway, the Larrys are mounted and ready. It is great to have a slightly lower bottom bracket again. Those big tires really jack the Ti Muk up like a 4X4.

On the nav/computer front, I put in a request for that new Lezyne Micro C GPS unit through work. I'm not sure that'll happen before this ride though. We'll see. If not, oh well. I'll just rely on Tony's computer and count miles for fun as I ride. The cues for this will be figured out ahead of time and perhaps I can write up my own for the route. And speaking of the route......

Tony had a route in mind but it followed one of the recently flooded out rivers, which we both agreed might prove to be a bad idea due to potential washouts and/or bridge damage. So, as of now, it looks as though we'll be heading West then back East again. At any rate, it will be 100 miles of gravel with some small towns thrown in as resupply points. We're going out Saturday October 1st at around 9am from an as yet undisclosed spot in town here. Interested? Join us if you can on your fat bike. We could have a "thundering herd' of fat bike tires the likes of which hasn't been seen in a while around these parts.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Too Much

The 6th Street railroad bridge getting lapped by the Cedar River's flood waters- Image pilfered from Facebook
It's been tough to think about anything here lately than water. Water that we don't need and that has fallen from the sky, swelling our local rivers and creeks to overflow. And not by just a little bit either.

The Summer of 2008 was a disastrous Summer from the standpoint of severe weather and flooding. We will never forget the Parkersburg F-5 tornado that claimed lives and changed that town forever, along with the community of New Hartford. The other thing that was devastating that year was water in the form of record level flooding of many of our rivers in Iowa. They said back then that the Flood of 2008 was a "500 Year Flood" event, meaning that the event was a once in every 500 year event. Well, so much for that......

My son and I checked out the river Friday afternoon. Note the railing down below him and the bridge in the background. 
On Saturday, at approximately the crest time, you can no longer see that railing and the bridge has a lot less light under it!
The crest of the Cedar River was on Saturday in the afternoon, and while it was not a record, it came in second highest ever recorded, only eight years after a "500 Year Flood" event. Yeah........ I guess we don't know as much as we think we know.

Anyway, the point is that even though we've made improvements with regard to flood protection in eight years, this is still a devastating situation. I'll keep it focused on bicycles here. There are a lot of bike paths, and arguably the most popular ones in the region, that are under water now. There are a lot of soft trails- single track and double track- that are all under water now, and will be for about two more weeks, in many cases. Drying in this season of the year takes more time- less hours of Sunlight, lower angle of the Sun, and cooler Fall temperatures play into that.

The awesome power of rushing water is frightening to behold up this close. That's a dam under there in the background.
Not only that, but many gravel routes are cut off now North, Northeast, and West of town due to flooded gravel roads which are closed. Case in point, the Geezer Ride route, which we rode only a week ago, is cut off in at least three places. It would have been impossible to ride this weekend.

Of course, there are a lot more effects from the flooding which are far more serious, and that is why it is hard to think of riding when so many are helpless in the face of this natural disaster. All you can do is watch it and hope for the best. The National Weather Service says that the Cedar won't go back in its banks until well into next weekend. You'll all have moved on by then, but the Cedar Valley will be dealing with this for weeks and months to come.

Let's hope that this was really a "500 Year Event"! We don't need this every eight years.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Trans Iowa v13: Registration Details

Okay folks, this is it. Your details on how, when, and where to send in your registration cards to get a chance at being in Trans Iowa v13. Read this very carefully, as I will not be answering questions about "how can I can get into the event ?" this year, or anything like that after this posting. Those emails will be trashed. There should be no need for them after you have this info in hand. Okay- with that stated, here we go.....

Concerning The Post Cards: Everyone will be using post cards for registration. I don't mind home made ones, but they cannot be multi-layered, or have things sticking off of them, or be anything other than paper. Size is limited to standard post card size, which is approximately 5" X 7" or smaller. All post cards from the USA must be sent by US Mail! Overseas post cards may be sent airmail to insure a timely delivery. There will be specific information required for each class, so please make note of this as you fill out your cards. NOTE: Illegible writing or missing information will disqualify you from the lottery. I threw out at least a dozen cards last year due to these two things. Don't let that be you. I don't care if you are a Pro, have done the Ironman ten times, or are a so-and-so athlete that thinks that they don't need to follow my instructions. It doesn't matter to me. Most riders figure this out fine and have for a decade. You can too, or if not, you won't get in. Period.

Plus Six & Active Winners List: <==Click that link. If your name is on that list, and you want to ride in Trans Iowa v13, simply send me a post card with your Name, e-mail address, Class entering, (Mens Open, Womens Open, or Single Speed/Fixed), and address it to:

Guitar Ted
311 Baltimore Street
Waterloo, IA 50701

Get that out to me anytime from now until October 8th when your window closes. If I do not receive your card by next Saturday, you won't get in.

Veterans And Finishers: <=== Check that link. If you find your name on it, you cannot enter Trans Iowa as a Finisher or Veteran this time. You must register as a Rookie. Sorry, but that's what I've decided. See HERE for why that is. Now, if you are not on that list, and have finished or participated in a Trans Iowa, you can register in the following manner.  Fill out a post card with your Name, Class desired, (Open Mens, Open Womens, or Single Speed/Fixed), your e-mail, and Rule #11 from The Rules. The whole thing, legible, and complete. NOTE- YOU WILL SEND YOUR POST CARDS TO:

Europa Cycle & Ski
C/O Trans Iowa v13
4302 University Avenue
Cedar Falls IA 50613

Your cards must not arrive before October 3rd and you must get your card in by October 15th to be eligible for the Lottery For Vets & Finishers which will be held October 16th live via Periscope. A link will be provided just before the lottery if you'd like to tune in. There will be a minimum of 55 spots up for grabs here.

Rookies & Inactive Rider List Folks: <==  IF YOUR NAME IS ON THE INACTIVE RIDERS LIST you will follow this procedure along with anyone new, (Rookie) that wants to try Trans Iowa v13. Rookies & Inactive Riders must have their Name, Class desired, (Mens Open, Womens Open, or Single Speed/Fixed), along with Rule #1 from the Race Rules page in its entirety, written legibly, completely, and spelled correctly. No joke. Get this wrong and your card will not make the lottery for the 40 spots up for grabs here. 

Your window for registration is October 17th to October 29th. Send those correctly sized and filled out post cards via USPS to -

Europa Cycle & Ski
C/O Trans Iowa v13
4302 University Avenue
Cedar Falls IA 50613

That lottery will be held October 31st, via Periscope. A link will be given to tune in and watch prior to the Lottery drawing.

NOTE: All decisions on legibility, content, post card size, post card deadlines, and all lottery functions are made by Guitar Ted and his decisions are final.

Good Luck!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Minus Ten Review- 38

Mr. 24 at work in '06. He's getting married here pretty soon! Congrats Jeff!
Ten years ago here on the blog things were changing. This week pretty much marked the end of what I would say was the "freewheeling, fun, rookie days" on the blog here. I was about to embark on my first trip to Interbike in ten years, and I was also about to be entrenched in to writing and reviewing product for Twenty Nine, a job I had up until the end of 2014. I was a person hardly anyone had ever heard of in 2006, but within a year that would all be a different story.

I've written loads about my feelings about that, so I won't rehash it all now. I will just say that those days are a cherished memory, and I am glad I got the time I did to spend those days at work with some great guys. Especially Jeff Kerkove, who I have to thank for a lot in my life. Trans Iowa, gigging on this blog, and what that all has brought into my life is really all because of him and the time we had back in the day. This all has become more present in my mind as Jeff is to get married here very soon. I won't be able to attend, since the service is in Colorado, but Jeff, if you read this, Thanks! And, Congratulations to you and Karen!

In other news, there was a lot of 29"er stuff happening. Loads of new tires were being discussed and introduced. I got a Bontrager Switchblade fork to review, and some new 29"er bike news was bubbling up. It was a time when the whole 29"er thing was exploding. Pretty crazy stuff back then.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Friday News And Views

Not this year: Interbike Outdoor demo was a ghost town and not like this at all.
In the "Hey! Didn't I just Say this?" (Like years ago) File

Interbike suffered its worst attendance in years this week and even the press had to admit what I had been witnessing for several years back in the day when I used to trek out to Sin City. Check out this missive from Pink Bike. But like I said, I've been ringing this bell for years now.

Back in 2010, Interbike said that the '10 show would be the last in Las Vegas. It was going to go back to Anaheim California. A lot of people were stoked about that idea. Then the I-Bike wonks yanked the carpet out from hopeful vendors, media, and attendees' feet and put the show back in Las Vegas the following year where it has remained ever since. Was that its downfall? Well......maybe partly it was. However; I think it has a lot more to do with what I've said all along- and what the author of the PinkBike story finally cops to- that being that Interbike is irrelevant. Check out this bit I wrote six years ago:

"The biggest question still out there is "Will moving Interbike and its date even matter?" I would have to say that without the bigger companies commitment to coming to Interbike, and instead, having their own private "dealer camps", Interbike will be ineffectual as a place for the independent bicycle dealer to come to for an overview of what to expect in the coming year. The other thing is that with Sea Otter in the spring, and Eurobike located where it is, I don't see Interbike gaining back much, if any, relevance in as far as introductions of new products and innovations that would draw dealers and the media alike."

Yep- I wrote that last paragraph six years ago. Makes me wonder if that PinkBike guy is just ripping me off. (<===HA! Not really. ) Anyway, this isn't news, it is just inevitability finally playing itself out. Anyone paying attention could see this coming years ago.

Need a set of 29+ wheels for your fat bike?
 Plus Wheels For 197mm/150mm Fat Bike For Sale:UPDATE- THIS ITEM SOLD

Okay, I wanted everyone that reads here to know that I have added a wheel set for sale on my Garage Sale page. For $500.00 you can get this 29"er plus wheel set made to fit a Blackborrow, Surly ICT, or similar fat bike with 197mm rear through axle and 150mm spaced front fork with 15mm through axle. Not only that, but it comes with an XD driver already mounted with a 10T-42T GX cassette. NOT ONLY THAT, but you will also get a brand new set of Bontrager Chupacabra tires, 29 X 3.0" TLR and still on their retail sale cards. The wheels feature Turnagain hubs laced to Velocity Dually rims. Basically, all you'll need to add is tape, valve stems, and your bike and you can have a turnkey 29+ set up for a fat bike. Also- these components have never been used! Brand new stuff!! 

I've decided to go a different direction and I am going to sell these things off as I won't be using them. They were going to go on my Blackborrow at one point. These wheels, tires, and cassette, plus spokes, nipples and labor to build the wheels would normally cost you $1000.00 for the pair. You are getting it all for half price.

Also- I have a lightly used Bluto fat bike fork off a 2015 Salsa Mukluk for sale as well. Make me an offer. I need it to go away as well. Thanks!

I am also adding a Mukluk frame in Xtra Small Size for sale. Great shape. It is the one my son out grew. Yours for $300.00. Frame only! I have a fork which can be added if you are interested, or you could buy the Bluto with this at a package deal price.

Let me know if you need them. See the Garage Sale Page for more details. 

Here it is! The longed for Big Dummy in the flesh!
Big Dummy In The House"

Some would say that the "big dummy" is me! Anyway, I got the Big Dummy home last weekend and started using it straight away. I have to say that I was right about this bike. It is sooooo much better than the Xtra-Cycled Schwinn that there can be no comparison.

There is a bit of an odd fit to these things though. I noticed that this bike has gobs of standover, but the seat tube is still 20" in length measured from the center of the crank spindle to the top of the tube. Yet the top tube seems 1990's short. I was a bit cramped and too upright at first. So, I yanked out the Uno seat post I got with the bike and popped in the Salsa Shaft post I had because of the greater set back. It was marginally better, but still not enough, mostly due to the Brooks saddle. Those saddles are notoriously difficult to get set back far enough due to the design of the rails and undercarriage.

So, I got another seat post! This one was a Paul's Tall and Handsome post. First off, it works, it is beautifully simple, and it is beyond well made. Secondly- damn! It is expensive!! I get that it is made in the good ol' USA and all, but it clears $100.00 retail by a lot and let me tell ya folks, it isn't that special. The thing is though, it does as advertised and gets that Brooks right in the sweet spot. Perfect, as a matter of fact. What would you pay for a perfectly set up Brooks? Answer: Waaay too much money, but the results cannot be had in any other way. So, in the end, it was worth it. It made the Big Dummy work better for me, that's for sure.

Three seat posts later and now I am happier yet. I have more to say about this bike. Stay tuned......

That's it for this week. Have a great weekend! get out and ride!!