Monday, August 21, 2017

Gravel Worlds 2017: Wacky Lodgings

Gear pile ready to load out and go.
Well, I had a plan, but it fell apart in the end. How did I get there? Well, first of all, I had to get there. You know, to Lincoln, Nebraska to ride in Gravel Worlds.

My friend Tony and I had planned on going to this for months. I had tweaked and trained and tried to refine my ideas for this year's ride. I felt really confident in how it was all going to result in a finish again at the Fallbrook area of North Lincoln.

I decided to take the Tamland. Last year I had been dealing with a damaged rotator cuff injury incurred when I body slammed myself on a slick patch of ice. Pretty much the only thing I could stand riding for hours was my Fargo Gen I with the discontinued Luxy Bar. But this year the shoulder has shown a lot of improvement and riding a different, lighter bike was a real possibility. I got some Ritchey Venturemax bars to try out so I decided to use them. The bike was also kitted out with the Redshift Sports ShockStop Stem and Cirrus Cycles Body Float titanium post. Besides that I had the Gevenalle HYDRAULIC system which utilizes the hydraulic brakes by TRP. The bike rode like a Cadillac, worked perfectly, and oh by the way, I used the WTB Resolute tires which were perfect. So, my rig was dialed. You'll hear more about that as the report goes along. Also- my shoulder did not bother me one iota. Bonus!

Anyway, the host hotel for Gravel Worlds changed hands over the course of the last year. It had been a Holiday Inn, but it was now called "The Graduate". I thought the Holiday Inn was more than adequate for our needs, so this change was met with some skepticism by myself. However; I was not prepared for what we found when we walked into the lobby and when we saw the room. It wasn't worse, it may have been better, but it was certainly weird. 

It was supposedly a take on college dormitory life but it came off as a Vegas stunt.
 Now, you'll have to forgive me this indulgence in to a description of a motel, but this was so odd, it bears a paragraph or two. First I will admit to not being all that well traveled. That said, I've stayed in many motel/hotel rooms in my day and I have been to Las Vegas numerous times. So, with that said.....

Motels and hotels are usually somewhat similar. There are basic, no frills places all the way up to the hoity-toity joints with saunas and what not. I've seen all that plus the crazy theme motel/hotel stuff in Vegas. The Graduate is a college life/dormitory based theme motel, which, on the surface of it, makes sense since it is within sight of the University of Nebraska's stadium. I'm sure Husker football weekends pack the place out. But college buildings and dormitories would never pass for a hotel experience. Those of you that have been to college know that.

So, the place was trying to be a kitschy, campy take on college life with upscale amenities. It was extremely well done. No detail was too fine for the remodel. Tony and I were constantly amazed by the details which ranged from relic'ed doors, mirrors, and picture frames which looked as though they might have been dinged, handled, and worn over 60 years of use. Heck, even the lobby's brick walls were painted white with faux chips and flaking! Anyway, it ain't cheap to stay there but the staff was exemplary and the experience is like going to a Vegas theme hotel without the Vegas part.

A Cosmic Stallion in the flesh!
Once we had everything settled in at the hotel we scurried off to Cycle Works to get checked in and join in on the "gravel family reunion" and cycle expo which always takes place there. Once again, I saw so many people that I really like and don't get to see often enough. Warren Wiebe gave me an Iowa atlas to enable my future route findings and that was well appreciated. I got a great hug from Matt Wills, saw MG, and even met some folks again from years ago that I met at other events. Good times!

But all good times must come to an end and we needed to eat and then head for The Graduate to try to sleep a bit before the alarm went off at 4am. It was not a good night of sleep for me. I tossed and turned most of the night and basically only ended up getting a few hours of quality sleep. Oh well! I still felt confident of a finish despite a poor night's sleep.

Next: Beautiful Sunrise

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Minus Ten Review- 33

Rich Dillen has a town named after him in the Cheese State? Who knew?
Ten years ago this week on the blog here I actually had images posted! Crazy. Anyway, one of the deals I got to go to back in the day was Trek World, the dealer only show Trek holds in Madison Wisconsin. Well.......except that it isn't a "show" anymore. And, not all dealers can go, plus the ones that can have to pay to get in. It isn't any big deal though, because you can learn all about Trek's newest bicycles online these days if you have a dealer portal. Still, it isn't the same as seeing the bikes with your own two eyes. That was special.

Plus, you got to meet people like Gary Fisher, the engineering team, product managers, and more. It gave a face to the company and you felt as though you were not working for some cybernetic, faceless corporation. Yes.....some dealers and international dealers do still get this treatment. They get to see the people and the bikes. It's pretty obvious that Trek doesn't see the US bicycle shop as being worth courting. In fact, they are buying up bike shops. But that's another story.....

In other news I talked about what was going on with my Special Projects. The two bicycles were the custom builds I had done in 2007. The Pofahl would be the first to get built but at this time ten years ago I was waiting on the fork to get corrected as it came to me with the rear disc mount instead of the correct front disc brake mount brazed on.

I got this swank Ergon rucksack to try out.
Jeff Kerkove was gone by this time and living in Colorado permanently, which he has been ever since that time. He arranged to have a new Ergon BD-2 sent out to me to try. It was an odd ball rucksack which had this solid plastic hip stabilizer and a ball joint which the pack actually hung from. The idea being that the rider could move without having to overcome the weight of the backpack to do so. The ball joint, or "Flink", as Ergon called it, allowed the pack to pivot on the back of the wearer.

It worked as advertised, but the rigid bits of the pack were.......annoying. The design also pushed the weight of the backpack and its contents away from the rider, which seems like a benefit at first. However; it meant that the weight of the pack and its contents had a more effective lever on your back and a heavy load seemed to be more of a burden than it should be since you were always countering that weight hanging off your back instead of having it closer to your body, which feels more natural. Anyway..... It was a neat pack.

Actually, I still have it. It's in a gear pile in the basement. It just seems like there is something about this which was a "parting gift" from Jeff, and I am a bit sentimental. So, I really should ditch it, but......anyway. 

I also was telling folks ten years ago that I was a confirmed member of "Team Stoopid". (Some say I always have been!) Team Stoopid was a four man endurance racing squad that tackled the 12 hour racing category at the Iowa 24 in 2007. All of us used rigid single speeds to race on, thus the name. It was the most fun racing I had ever had up to that point. But more on that in the near future.....

Friday, August 18, 2017

Friday News And Views

This new gravel grinder that spans the Mitten will happen next May
Point To Point Madness:

There is something about a point to point gravel race/ride that appeals to people these days. It's weird. Think about this a minute.....

The idea to span a state seems to be the intriguing factor here. I doubt a point to point event from, say Sibley, Iowa to Mason City, Iowa would generate the interest that a border to border state crossing does.

Then there are the logistics. You cannot do something like this on your own, unless you ride back to get your car at the start. There is a level of teamwork involved in doing something along these lines. I remember when Trans Iowa started out the riders thought Jeff and I should have a bus to drive everyone that finished back to the start again. I wonder if the guys that put on The DAMn or that are putting on this "Coast to Coast Gravel Grinder" get e-mails with that subject in them. Anyway......

The days of yore were different. When the gravel grinding scene was getting cranked up over ten years ago, promoters were thinking border to border was a cool idea, but really bad for logistics and in reality, who cares? Border to border is an arbitrary thing anyway, but apparently, there is some cache' to doing things point to point, border to border, which appeals to the psyche of the gravel road rider.

I know I've had folks tell me they would never do a Trans Iowa unless I did one border to border across the state of Iowa. Really?!! I find that.......weird. Plus, if I did do one that way, it would be so hard to do logistically that no one would want to do it. There would be no checkpoints with teams waiting on riders, or even a course that anyone could know about to find the riders. Then you'd just have to go to the finish and wait on folks, to see if they did finish, or fetch them when they called in from a previously unknown point in Iowa. I don't think anyone wants to do that. Besides, it would suck about 150% more to put on than a loop course. You couldn't pay me to do that.....again. Not that I got paid for the first two, but you get the point

Anyway, who even says there would be another Trans Iowa? I haven't......and maybe I never will again. So, go race across Michigan. You'll love it. It is a way of life........

The gravel family reunion at Moose's Tooth/Cycle Works will happen again today. Image courtesy of unknown
Gravel Worlds: 

Well, today I am gone. I am traveling to Lincoln, Nebraska to be a part of Gravel Worlds for the third consecutive year now. It is a great event which, in my opinion, brings the best of all of the elements of the gravel culture together in one place. For one thing, it can be argued that the Lincoln scene was one of the earliest gravel grinding hot spots in the nation, predating Trans Iowa or most any of the gravel events you've ever heard about. The folks there get it, and it shows.

But it isn't just about riding, fun, and camaraderie. There is the serious competitive aspect of the event, for sure. The jersey idea may be tongue in cheek, but over the years, the Gravel Worlds jersey has come to mean something. Not just any ol' jack or jill gets one of these deals. That's why there are some heavy hitters racing this in 2017, and I bet you'll start to see more in the future.

That said, the good Pirates of the Cycling League do know how to keep it fun and keep it real. That's why so many folks return year after year to see each other and ride over hill and dale in the humid late August air there in Nebraska. That's why, since Odin's Revenge folded, this is my favorite gravel event that happens that is of the mold set when gravel riding and racing took off in 2005. It isn't my all time favorite event. No.....that would be the Gent's Race, but since that is a team event, and not like most others, Gravel Worlds is my favorite "typical" style gravel event. Anyway........

I'm there and if you are, look me up and say "hello'!

Otherwise, have a great weekend. I'll have an event report starting on Monday.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A Couple Of New Things

This is a new book by gravel aficionado, Nick Legan.
First- A New Book:

Well, I've been waiting at least a couple of years, maybe it has been three? I don't know, but I've known about this book being written by Nick Legan for quite some time. The reason being is that Nick was leaning on me with several questions about the gravel cycling scene and I helped give him some answers/opinions about his queries.

So, now it is almost time for this book to be hitting the shelves at Velopress. However; in the meantime you can pre-order this book from Nick on his site, "Rambleur"

Note: I have no skin in this game other than that Nick may have written something about me or used information on things I told him about. So, order the book, or not. It doesn't affect me. That said, Nick Legan is a good writer, (he wrote for "Velo News" for several years among other freelance gigs). He is a good dude, I've met him a couple of times, and he has always been gracious and kind. He also loves gravel road riding and racing. I actually got to congratulate him after his 2016 Dirty Kanza 200 finish when he was riding his pink Black Mountain Cycles frame.

So, all that to say that Nick is the real deal and I expect this book to be pretty good. I actually ordered up a copy for myself already. I'll have a review of the book here and maybe on once I lay hands on it.

Jones Bikes SWB w/27.5+ rear and 27.5 based fat front
Second- A "New" Bike:

Jones Bikes- Love them or hate them, there isn't anything else really like them. I'll give Jeff Jones credit- He has evolved his design and continues to do so. It would seem that he never quits trying to push the design ideas he has forward. Not many can say that in an industry that trashes a design one year and jumps on another the next for their models.

This news isn't all that surprising, but Jeff Jones now has two basic design ideas which facilitate two different ways to approach the "Jones Geometry". The "Plus" bike was the longer, 29+ wheeled bike and then you had the original design with 29"er wheels. Well, it's a little more complicated than that, but that's the basic idea. Now the original was not "plus" rated, but going forward, it is. That bike gets a new moniker, the "SWB", which stands for "Short Wheel Base". It can handle 27.5+ and 29"er wheels and tires. The "Plus" model now will be known as the "LWB", or Long Wheel Base" model and will be the go to bike for 29+ and 29"er applications where a longer wheel base makes sense.

So, the old "Plus" model remains unchanged, it goes forward with just the name change. The SWB is; however, slightly different in that the wheel base was lengthened a bit to accommodate the 3" 27.5+ wheels it was intended to handle. Not by much, but that's the main difference. Here is a super-detailed look at the two models.

I've always been intrigued by the Jones Plus, or now the Jones LWB model because Jones claims that it" quite possibly the best bikepacking, gravel road, and general purpose bicycling bike ever made...". Best gravel bike? Hmm..... Well, I'd give that a shot. I do know that it looks as though Jeff Jones went to great extents to make a 29+ wheeled bike work well. That's really what I'd be interested in- a 29+ wheeled bike that works well. My experiment sure wasn't a very good experience, that's for sure!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Pack Rat

It's not like I don't have enough places to put stuff!
Packing for Gravel Worlds has started up and I have to be careful. Careful not to go overboard and pack too much. I tend to overthink things when these big, self-supported events come up. "What if......" (Fill in the blank)

That can kind of drive you nuts, if you let it go on. I have to try to pare back things when I get going on packing up. I also tend to forget what I already packed and pack the same or a similar item again later. Like small bottles of lube, or multi-tools, or bits of chain. Things like that. I've come back from these events and unpacked three multi-tools out of bags I've had on the bike, and found several items that I've packed that I never even came close to having to use.

I know some people pack up, then unpack, to check over what they have done, and pack it again with deletions, and so on. The thing is, I have so much going on that packing for these events has to be fitted in to an already tight schedule. I have one shot at getting it right. Not an optimal way of doing it, I know, but it is what it is. When you throw in variable weather, this can be amplified, but fortunately, Gravel Worlds is just hot and humid. Makes it easy to figure out from that perspective! I cannot imagine what packing for a Trans Iowa must be like!

Then there is the finding of stuff. I have a terrible habit of just coming home, parking the bike, and letting everything sit for days, sometimes weeks, before getting around to de-bagging, unpacking, and cleaning up stuff. This means that in the meantime I might cherry pick out items from bags and maybe even just take bags off bikes and use the bike, then totally forget where stuff ended up. Then when it comes time to "get the band back together again" it is almost like the "Blues Brothers" when they try to find all their old band mates. It gets comical sometimes around here!

So, I'm doing that dance again this week. Hopefully I don't forget anything important!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Missing Linkage

I rode this fork in the 90's. Linkage forks could be a good thing, if not a tad ugly.
So, there was a bit of a hullabaloo in the mtb community about this "new" design which features a linkage fork. Actually, it isn't anything new, or revolutionary. Linkage forks have been attempted and used in mountain biking since suspension became a "thing" back in the 90's.

My friend from So Cal, Grannygear, suggested that the "newest" incarnation of  this idea as shown recently could be miniaturized and employed as a gravel going fork. Actually, even that already exists. It is called the Lauf Grit fork, which doesn't use pivots, but it uses "leaf springs" which link together the two separate structures which make up the drop out and fork legs respectively. Lauf manages to eliminate pivots and a separate spring which a more "typical" linkage fork uses by making the links the springs. It is genius, and it seems to work. The negative here is that there is zero damping. Of course, with the short travel and higher frequency of bumps a gravel going bike would see, this is less of an issue than it is for a mountain bike.

An example of the German Answer "Kilo" linkage fork.
 Let's say we want damping though, well, then you get into pivots and a separate damper unit. Okay, but why? Why would you even want to put one of these ghastly contraptions on a bicycle?

Well, I happen to have some experience riding a linkage fork. I rode an AMP fork for a few years there on a couple of different bikes. In fact, I have two of these unicorns in my basement. Anyway, they did have a very good small bump compliance and steered really well even deep into their travel. There are reasons why that was.

While there have been, and are, many different types of these beasts, what is attractive here are two things. First; You can rid yourself of stiction- the term refers to the energy required to break free from/overcome the friction of bushings and seals on a stanchion sliding in uppers/shock can in a typical cylindrical, telescopic damper unit. (Suspension fork/rear shock) Linkage forks rely solely on pivots which are much freer to move, or as in the case of the Lauf, just any input overcoming the spring force will allow the wheel to move upward.

Secondly, linkage forks can be designed to control the axle path and can be designed to have "anti-dive" characteristics when applying the brake. Think "Split Pivot" for the front wheel, if "anti-dive" doesn't make sense.

Obviously, eight pivots and a damping unit are going to be susceptible to dirt and moisture and the damage those things can incur upon bushings and bearings. That's why most linkage forks put "the business end" of things where the fork crown is. That arrangement, well......actually anywhere you put linkage, is typically not a very attractive solution but it is an effective solution for bump absorption. Much more so than a telescopic suspension fork is, and generally speaking, lighter to boot.

A linkage fork wouldn't necessarily have to look ugly. Weird? Well.....yes.
In terms of gravel riding, a long travel of the wheel isn't a desirable trait, nor is it necessary. Many forks being positioned in this category feature 30mm of travel. That isn't much and wouldn't require much of a damper unit.

So, in my estimation, a fork like the recently shown mountain bike fork, with its frame altering design, is not at all necessary. A short linkage could be designed which would not only give the right amount of travel, but be aesthetically appealing as well. It may even be able to be made to be so compact that the fork could look nearly traditional. 

But then it could be argued that we don't need a suspension device at all. In fact, many would argue that a simple, rigid fork with an adequate amount of compliance will work with a voluminous tire to provide just the right amount of wheel movement without any unnecessary complexity. I happen to be one of those folks, and I think that many companies miss the boat on this when they spec these big section, beefy looking, unforgiving carbon fiber forks.

Many folks feel that carbon forks will damp vibrations. Really? If you own one of these beefy looking carbon forks you should check this out: When your front wheel impacts a road irregularity sometime, watch the fork blades. (Being extremely conscious of where and in what situation you do this, of course.) More often than not you will see the fork blades remain in plane, but the wheel moves backward a bit. What you are witnessing, most times, is a flex of the top and down tubes of your bike, not the fork blades themselves. This is because manufacturers are deathly afraid of fork failures, the industry testing standards are too stringent, and because of the manufacturers reliance on the fairy tale that carbon forks absorb road chatter. Now some do, but most don't on gravel bikes. 

That said, a smartly designed, short travel, tunable, good looking linkage fork with damping is possible, it just hasn't been done yet. If it ever is, I'll definitely want to try it out. It may just be the missing link between rigid forks and full on, traditional style suspension forks for gravel bikes. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Dusty Shakedown

Smoke on the horizon? No- That's just a car up ahead in that dust cloud!
Gravel Worlds is coming up this weekend and I am focusing my attention on this event now. I made some changes to the Tamland that I wanted to get out and test, just to make sure I liked the set up and to make any small adjustments if necessary.

The day was perfect for riding. There was a North breeze, but it wasn't bad. I decided to ride up Burton Avenue and it was really, really dusty! We sure could use some rain around here! UPDATE: Wish granted! It is raining pretty good here this morning!

I was kind of hoping it would be really humid, as Gravel Worlds tends to have that sort of weather. Unfortunately, as I said, the weather was perfect. Low, low humidity instead of the typical "dog days" we get in August. I could feel the sweat evaporating off my body and it actually chilled me. I'm sure that Gravel Worlds will not be so dry and comfortable. Oh well......

The set up is a suspended one- BodyFloat seat post, Redshift Sports ShockStop stem, and I am using a Ritchey Venturemax handle bar. The tires are the very nice riding WTB Resolutes. All combined to make the test ride a comfortable one. I did end up tweaking the position of the handle bars a bit. Otherwise, it all should be great for Gravel Worlds 150 mile course. Now all I have to do is clean up the rig and check over the drive train.

It was so dusty Saturday that my tires looked white at times.
So now I wait and see what the weather will bring. I see that right now the weather for Lincoln is to be mid-80's with Sun and it is supposed to be humid. Mid 80's? That would be a gift, in my estimation. I believe that is about the same forecast as last year. Of course, most of the middle part of the course will be in to a head wind. Why wouldn't it be? Well, maybe I'll be wrong about that part. That would be good, actually.

The course gets sent out Wednesday. I have to figure out if it will download in to my Lezyne, and of course, I will print out cue sheets. I will be leaving for Lincoln on Friday morning with my friend Tony, so I have a lot to do before then. Buy nutrition, dial in the fine details on the rig, and get packed up and ready to go.

Oh! A side note on Saturday: There is a new dog on Burton about a 1/4 mile South of the church on the corner of Burton and Gresham Roads. The house is on the East side of the road. I hadn't ever had any trouble with a dog here until Saturday when a herding type of dog came out and expertly cut me off and I had to stop. A big old Lab came trundling out behind, so I had both these dogs to contend with. I had them talked off the ledge when suddenly they went berserk, and that was because the owner came out. A tall, middle aged woman who was very apologetic. She said the herding dog was new, and that it hadn't been trained yet.

And the ironic thing is that the dog is named Tony, just like my gravel riding companion who is going to Gravel Worlds with me. Ha!

So, anyway, if you are a local, and if you ride up North on Burton Avenue, you may get a welcome from Tony. Now you know.......