Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Touring Series: Approaching The Big Lake

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

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


We join the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour" as it embarks from Gillett, Wisconsin to begin Day Six.......
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As Troy, Steve, and I got our things packed we looked at the maps and decided that we would need to get East in as straight a direction as possible. That meant hopping on to the State highway that ran straight east after leaving town on the northern end. We got geared up and set off in a thickening fog on a cool morning.

After setting off down the road from Gillett, it was obvious that our choice was a rather sketchy one. Even though we had our "blinkies" on, the fog was so thick that we didn't see cars coming from the other direction until they were nearly on top of us. We all knew what that meant, even though we hadn't communicated about it. We were nearly invisible to cars!

Well, we hadn't gone down the road far, in pretty constant traffic, when we heard the unmistakable sound of an air horn being applied from behind us. The driver didn't just toot it either. He was laying on it, and it was getting louder and louder from behind us. First Troy bailed off the road, then Steve shortly after. I contemplated holding my ground, but with the deafening noise of the air horn seemingly right in my ear, I thought better of it and steered for the ditch. Good thing too. A huge dump truck went by in a blur right down the white line where we were riding just moments before.

Well, that had us pretty shook up. We gathered ourselves up, and pulled out the map to find some sort of way out of the death trap we had found ourselves in. There was a little discussion and then it was decided to go to a county road leading northwards off the highway not more than a half a mile up the road. It wasn't to Troy's liking, since we didn't take the time to figure out where to go after the turn, but Steve and I were insistent that we get off the busy highway as soon as possible, then we could talk. Troy wanted a plan laid out so we wouldn't have to stop, but our desires won out.

Once we found the northward road, the moods changed dramatically, and the quietness of the back road was a welcome reprieve from the mayhem of the highway. We found a straight road east not far from us, so we headed out in search of it and the next town up the road. Once we got rolling we found the fog lifting, but it was very calm and cool this morning. Eventually we rolled up to an intersection and a town just across from it.

It was a little town called Lena and as we rolled through we caught a waft of fresh pastries. That was a siren call to stop. Even Troy fell to its power and thought getting something to eat would be a great idea. We all were very pleased with our purchases and devoured them accordingly. It wasn't long before we were back in the saddle again heading eastwards for a turn northwards towards Peshtigo, where we hoped to be before noon.

After anxiously looking for what we thought was our turn, we stopped right in the middle of the road and consulted the map. I don't think we had encountered a car since leaving the highway out of Gillett, so we all felt confident in stopping right there in the road. We were all confused, because we felt that our mileage was enough to have carried us eastward to the turn off, and very near Lake Michigan, but we couldn't see anything. The fog was to blame partly, as it wasn't right on the ground anymore, but caused enough haziness as to make sighting anything around us very difficult. Suddenly, as if the veil had been lifted from our eyes, what we thought was a field of grass in the distance in front of us was finally seen for what it was- Lake Superior!

We now knew where we were. The turn was found, and we headed northwards to a highway and our final run in to Peshtigo. It was about 11:30 am and we were looking for a bite to eat. We found a small cafe, where there was a waitress that struck me as being sad, with far away eyes, but I really had no other reason to mark her out. Something about that look in her eyes. Anyway.......

We got on our way after much delay. Troy was very anxious to put in some miles towards our Canadian destination. Time was running out, with only one more day to go for the tour. Troy wasn't going to let this slip away without a fight. I thought I knew what that meant, but I was in for a surprise or two!
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After all these years this is one of the days from that 1994 tour I often am reminded of. That foggy morning was super sketchy! Traffic was heavy on a narrow, two lane highway on a Friday morning. I imagine we escaped by the skin of our teeth that morning, but what was really crazy was that Steve and I had to practically argue with Troy to get him to not go back to that madness again.

Ironically the peaceful morning stop for pastries was met with gladness by Troy and the vast difference in feel to that point from earlier made it seem that these two memories happened on different days now.

Then the mirage-like appearance of the Lake, Michigan, was amazing. That is something that seemed magical and I won't soon forget that day just because of that. Then the slog into Peshtigo was reminiscent of our departure from Gillett. Many cars, stressful, no fun at all.

Lunch was a respite, we lingered a while in that small cafe. I still can see that waitresses eyes......

Next Week: Speed Touring

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Minus Ten Review -25

I got this old El Mariachi from a friend at the time. What a great bike that was!
Ten years ago on the blog here I was gabbing about all sorts of things. I got an old El Mariachi demo fleet bike from a then friend of mine. That was a great bike too. Then later in the week I was up in the Twin Cities for the media launch of the Salsa "Big Mama" full suspension bike. Remember that one? It was pretty rad at that time, but it quickly fell off the back as geometry, standards for frames, and more were quickly changing for 29"ers. For instance, the Big Mama had a head tube angle of 71°. Imagine a bike with that steep of a head angle today!

Then there was a move to ban bicycle group rides in Dallas County by way of making the requirements to have such a ride so burdensome that the ordinance would effectively wipe out any chance of organized rides happening in that county. Here's a snippet from back then:

On June 24th at 9:30 am the Dallas County Board of Supervisors will meet at the Adel City Hall, 301 S. 10th Street Adel, IA 50003, to discuss an ordinance that will require bicycle events to obtain $1 million insurance policies for bicycle events. This could effect rides as small as 10-20 people.

Fortunately that never happened!

Then a significant date in Trans Iowa history happened, which was a bicycle ride and blog post about it that had nothing at all to do with Trans Iowa. You can read that post HERE.  If you click that link you will read about the day that the second Big Wheeled Ballyhoo was to take place in Decorah, Iowa, but did not happen due to the raging flooding that affected Decorah and Iowa that year in general. 

How in the world is this tied to Trans Iowa? Well, after that blog post was published, I received an e-mail from a disgruntled, influential member of the Decorah cycling community who shall remain nameless here. Who it was doesn't matter today. The person in question was offended greatly that I had suggested certain things were the way I described them in my post. I had a back and forth e-mail conversation with the individual to settle our differences, but, this individual asked that I ".....not consider Decorah for any future cycling events." With the situation being what it was in 2008, and my initial plans for doing another Trans Iowa out of Decorah for 2009, I had to stop and reconsider those plans. I discussed the situation with my then co-director, David Pals, and we agreed that this was now not a welcome home for Trans Iowa. Such sway this person held over cycling matters in Decorah at that time would have made planning difficult at best. So we decided to move Trans Iowa's start for the second time in its history.  

That story will come up later this year....... 

Friday, June 22, 2018

Friday News And Views

Riding off into the Sunset.......
Hold On A Min......

 Just when you think you've left it all behind you, then this..... A blog about a Trans Iowa v14 experience, but not just any experience. This was from one of the riders that got DQ'ed, Stefano Tomasello. You should grab a cuppa whatever, and settle in, because despite what Stefano may think, this is a compelling read. (Click Here)

First off, I appreciate his transparency and his honest feelings. I had imagined that he was going to be disappointed and then doubly so when he found out I wasn't going to do another Trans Iowa. Apparently I was right about that, judging from this blog post of his. As for myself, I already said my piece about the incident in my race reports here on the blog immediately following T.I.v14. But here is a quote which sums up those thoughts and feelings that I had about the incident which I pulled from my report:

"I felt sad. Sad that this happened, but I didn't place any blame. None of us did. What actually happened amongst those three riders which precipitated the decision they made is only a story they know. I'm not really interested in the full story, to be honest. It is what it is."

Of course, I know a little bit more about the story now, but my mind hasn't been changed. It is what it is. I find what people do after they DNF, or as in this case, get DQ'ed, is what is fascinating. So, for me, Stefano's telling of that bit was of great interest to me. The pre-event happenings were also shocking to me. Amazing things happened to that man. It is a wonder he even made it to the start.

Anyway, a great story, and I was glad to have been able to read it. Thank you, Stefano. 

A Pirelli tire
 Will The Bicycle Tire Market Be Changed By Big Players?

One of the sub-stories of 2018 is that two large tire makers, known more for their automobile, truck, motorcycle, and other vehicle tires, are entering the bicycle tire marketplace. In both cases, for a second time.

Pirelli and Goodyear seem like oddballs in the cycling world, but both companies are communicating a serious effort will be made to be a "player" in the marketplace. There are a few folks taking this message seriously in the industry. I am less convinced.

I don't know, color me skeptical, but I find it hard to believe that high performance cycling aficionados will be taking a "car tire company" seriously. I know that seems like a specious statement, since Continental makes automobile and motorcycle tires and many other Chinese made brands, like Maxxis and Kenda also do vehicle tires. Somehow Goodyear seems different. Pirelli? Maybe..... I could see that.

But I also can't help but wonder if the interest some motor vehicle companies are showing in e-bikes isn't the real motivating factor here. Yamaha already has e-bikes and Ford Motor Company is talking a pretty serious e-bike game as well. Could it be that these motor vehicle related tire companies are getting a foot in the door to be players in a marketplace where vehicles with two wheels are electrified? Wooing folks off pedelecs fitted with these brand's tires and onto full on e-motorcycles will be a pathway for these brands and others to stay players in a post-internal combustion vehicle future.

Wolf Tooth Component's new bags for stuff.
Wolf Tooth Introduces Bags For Bike Storage:

In the old game of bicycle bags, there are so many players you cannot keep track of them all. Bikepacking, (or "Amateur Homelessness:, as one blogger calls it), has fueled the bag rage to insane heights. Now Wolf Tooth has entered the fray with accessories to it's "B-Rad" system.

The "Pump Bag" holds a 12" pump, but can carry more things than that, of course. It will mount off a B-Rad base, but it comes with straps to mount to frame tubes as well. The other bag is a roll top affair dubbed the........wait for it......."Roll-Top Bag"! It is dropper post compatible and also can be mounted to a B-Rad via an adapter plate or directly strapped to frame tubes.

I like these ideas since many bikes, and especially gravel/all road bikes, have inaccessible water bottle mounts which seem like perfect places to mount "other stuff". Tool kits, extra clothes, etc all can be toted onboard with easy access. This could be a space saver and make room for other things in hydration packs or seat bags and top tube bags. You can check out both bags HERE on Wolf Tooth's site

"On the water" soon!
Pink MCD Update:

I got word mid-week that the pink MCD frame by Black Mountain Cycles is sitting in a container waiting to be loaded onto a container ship bound for the U.S.A. soon. Proprietor, Mike Varley, says the ETA is around July 2nd.

I have a link to track the ocean going vessel as it comes across the Pacific Ocean. That isn't the typical "dot watching" I would normally be engaged in, but this seems like a good diversion for the meantime as I gather more bits and pieces together to get this rig road worthy once it arrives.

I forgot to mention that I decided on some Marque Cycling pink bar tape to put on the Salsa Cowchipper Bar I already have sitting down in the Lab. Those will be fitted with Gevenalle levers which will be retrofitted with some 11 speed Shimano bar end shifters I have squirreled away. Those levers will also pull some TRP Spyre calipers I have sitting around and I may look into some Center Lock rotors to go on the Irwin Cycles Aon Carbon GX 35 wheels. If not Center Locks then I already have the adapters to go six bolt style.

Well, there will be a lot of parts acquisition going on soon, so stay tuned for all of that......

In the meantime, have a great weekend and stay rubber side down!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Uncertainty

Made some tweaks to the set up
Well, this weather pattern sure has been rough in terms of my getting chances to ride. That's brought on a level of uncertainty for this weekend's Solstice 100. One hundred miles......

That would make it my longest ride, by a long, long way, this year. I had expected to have had a few 100 milers under my belt by now, but no. It wasn't to be for whatever reasons. But, that makes this weekend's goals easier to ascertain. Have fun and finish. However long that takes.

The theme of uncertainty was furthered on Wednesday when it wasn't supposed to rain at all. (Ahem!) Yeah..... So, I woke up to rain and all morning the weather app kept saying it would rain again around noon. It didn't, of course. It waited until 3:30pm to pour forth again. In between it was misty, threatening rain, and I wasn't sure I could get a decent ride in all day. So, I got the bike dialled in by making a few rounds about the neighborhood. That'll have to do.

And so if the whole deal is going to be about uncertain things, why not use an untested bike with brand new wheels? Seems consistent with the latest theme. Then there is the fitness. I have done all the off the bike things I can do to give myself an advantage. But some fatigue inducing stress at work and maybe a mild bug have seemed to keep me feeling not so hot anyway.

So whatever...... I am planning on leaving for Lincoln, Nebraska again Friday come hell or high water, and I will just give 'er what I've got Saturday. It won't be pretty..........

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Proposed Tarifs Could Make A New Bike Spendy

Lots of average priced bikes may see price hikes in the near future.
There are some new PROPOSED tariffs which are being talked about with great concern in the cycling industry today. The tariffs are being considered against Chinese manufactured goods and bicycles are on the list of products being taken under consideration for these tariffs.

First off, Taiwanese products are NOT part of this. That excludes a big chunk of the higher end bicycle market. However; many mid to entry level bikes are made in China, and a proposed 25% tariff would really hike the prices of these bikes so much that sales would suffer in the near term, for sure. That's because at these price levels consumers are not really willing to spend a lot on a bicycle.

The industry's press/media is covering this issue as an "e-bike" scare, pretty much ignoring the fact that the largest segment of the cycling market, that being big box store bikes and entry level bikes, are also in the bullseye for these price hikes. I would wager that the industry will suffer more from any negative impacts at these price levels than it will by having e-bikes get slapped with a tariff. Sure, the dollar amounts per unit will be impressive on the e-bike side as far as impact, but there are way more Next bikes sold than e-bikes.

As a mechanic, while I see e-bikes being bandied about as "the next best thing" and while I see the alarmist reaction to this proposed tariff on the e-bike side, I wonder about the rest. The folks that I see that depend upon these lowly mart bikes as their sole means of transportation. They barely can afford to keep the bikes running they have now, and if this tariff goes into effect, it may price many of these folks right off getting new bicycles. Which, by the way, they do on a regular basis. People that cannot afford a tariff hike on an e-bike are, most likely, NOT relying on that bike as a sole means of transpo. They likely don't have the choice of "bike or walk".

Well, this bears watching, for sure, but I have to say that I am very disappointed in the cycling press and their blind eye to everything but e-bikes these days.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Fork Got Boosted!

The new "Firestarter 110 Carbon Deluxe Fork"
The news came out Friday, I believe, but the Ti Fargo was announced as a go again for 2019, which in reality means it will be another small batch that will be gone in a month or so. That is what happened last year. So......was the 2018 Fargo in Titanium really a 2018 model? Same can be said for this run..... Whatever! Marketing!

Leaving that behind the big deal now is that the Firestarter fork is now Boost 110. That means you won't have to be put in the awkward position of getting a non-boost front wheel and a Boost rear. (Or getting the reduction plates for the Alternator to make the rear standard 142mm through axle)

Basically- totally boosted now. But that's not all.....

Now there are four sets of Three Pack bosses, front-ish facing and rear-ish facing. I've always preferred the rearward facing cage position for bottles, myself, but now you have options. Added to this are fender mounts, low rider mounts, and internal routing for a dynamo hub. These are suspension corrected for 100mm travel and have 51mm of fork offset. I find that offset figure interesting since the standard steel fork and previous Firestarter Carbon forks are listed at 45mm offset.

Wheel sizes that work are standard 29"er, 29+, and 27.5+. So, Salsa is still claiming compatibility with all of those differing diameters.

Finally, this may or may not be a sign of things to come. My opinion was that if a Boost spaced Firestarter wasn't produced, it could be the end of the Fargo. But here we have that fork. The Fargo is ten years old as of the release of this so-called 2019 Titanium Fargo. Will their be an anniversary Fargo? Maybe...... I was asked about what I would do for one several years ago at the DK200 by a couple Salsa engineers close to the Fargo. Salsa has done anniversary models before. So, we will see in a month or two when Saddledrive happens, at which time Salsa generally releases news on the next model year.

Whatever happens my Gen I Fargo isn't getting replaced anytime soon.

Monday, June 18, 2018

A Hot But Chill Weekend

The sled for this weekend's Solstice 100 gravel race.
Man! Was it hot this past weekend. Just brutal humidity around here with temperatures in the 90's. I really wanted to push it and go long this weekend but I have to keep it chill for this coming weekend's Solstice 100 in Nebraska. Besides, it was Father's Day weekend and my family was wanting to spend time with me.

Friday I got a couple of wheel sets in and one of them I bought for the pink MCD project I have coming up. More on that in a minute, but there is another wheel set here for review on RidingGravel.com which is pretty cool. It is the Industry Nine Torch Road Ultralite CX 235 TRA wheels. I already own two sets of older I-9 single speed specific wheels and I have ridden on a couple of others. All have been spectacular in two ways- performance and looks. Well, this set that came in on Friday is no different- so far- in terms of those things. The looks are killer. Well, as long as you like anodized orange hubs and spokes! Of course, you could get other colors too.

I was really hoping that wheel set would get here in time for my attempt at the Solstice 100 this coming weekend in Nebraska. That wheel set went on the Jamis Renegade Elite, also on test at RidingGravel.com. What better way to test things out than at a 100 miler on unfamiliar gravel roads, eh?

Well, I got these set up tubeless with some tires I had and went on a brief test ride Saturday. Things should work out just fine here! The distinct I-9 "buzz" is there, and it is pretty loud. If you don't like a loud hub, than this ain't for you. But these wheels should help make the Nebraska hills a little less painful since they come in at a little over 1400 grams with tape and valve stems installed.

Irwin Cycles Aon GX 700c wheels
As mentioned, another wheel set came in and these are them. The Irwin Cycles Carbon Aon GX 700c wheels. I bought these for my pink BMC MCD which should be coming at the end of the month or the first part of July sometime.

These should be pretty tough wheels and I already know they set up really well tubeless. That would be because I tested the 650B version earlier and it worked great. My initial plan is to run these new wheels with the WTB Resolute tires.

The really interesting thing about the new MCD frame is that it is supposed to handle a 650B X 2.25 tire, and a 2.1 29"er Nano will barely fit, so lots of ways to go here. I should have a set of Compass Antelope Hill tires coming too, but I think those will be too much for the MCD. We will see.

Next up on the docket for parts acquisition is  a crankset. I spent some time on the phone with my old friend Ben Witt on Sunday talking about this. I really like the White Industries VBC crank set, but that is waaaay expensive. I just don't see anything else right now that competes with it on looks though. Especially on a pink steel frame. In my opinion, Ultegra is just too weird and "heavy" looking.

The rest of the weekend was pretty chill as far as activity went. I guess I did mow the lawn! Otherwise I was chillin' with the family on Sunday as it was Father's Day and they were wanting to spend some quality time with their Dad and of course, my wife wanted to spend some time with me as well.

So, that was my weekend. Hopefully it isn't this blazing hot this coming weekend in Nebraska.