Saturday, July 23, 2016

Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational: Update

Okay folks- Here is the route. I'm not sure if you can make this work for a Garmin device, or if it is useful at all, but this is how I am sharing it!

I will have the cues with me, and since this is a no-drop ride, we shouldn't need any more cues, but just in case anyone thinks they may need to bail out, I would use this map as a means to plot your escape.

Looks like we'll have about 5 or so that I know of including myself. Should be a good time.

Minus Ten Review- 29

Master of "Zip-Thai".
Ten years ago on the blog this week there was one image posted. This one here...... I know! Pretty scary, huh? Well, it goes to show the kind of camaraderie and atmosphere we had in the shop during those halcyon days when Carl, Jeff, and I were the mechanics there. It wouldn't be long afterward, maybe within a year, I'd say, and both Jeff and Carl would be gone. Then after that I was the only mechanic there doing all the repairs for the most part. That went on mostly for several years then as I saw little assistance in the shop in terms of repairs. So, for me, this image is a reminder of when things were fun in the shop. Fortunately, things have gotten a bit more fun again after a long dry spell. Anyway.....

Nationals, that is the 24 hour MTB Nationals, were soon to happen back then. I talked about how Jeff and Carl were gearing up to compete in that event. The Tour de France was winding up, and that too good to be true ride Floyd Landis had in the Alps happened. What did they say about things that appear to be too good to be true? Yeah...... This was the straw that broke the camel's back for me. I swore off Pro road cycling fandom after Floyd's disgrace.

A "big deal" in the history of 29"ers occurred when Cannondale finally came out with the news that they were going to do a 29"er. The big deal was that it was going to be a hard tail, geared specific bike with a Lefty. At this point, Lefty's for 29"ers were an aftermarket hack, and an "official" Lefty for 29"ers was a welcomed addition to the Rock Shox Reba, which was the only other "real" suspension fork for 29"ers at that time.

29"ers in 2006 were still such an oddity that it was noted that only two major manufacturers were even offering them- Fisher and the soon to be available Cannondale. Raleigh and Haro were about to enter the market as well.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Friday News And Views

The key to the new drive train.
Think Fat. Think Snow:

My Ti Muk is a little overdue for a new drive train. What better time to try something new then? Well.....hold on a minute! Actually, this idea is reminiscent of the very first drive train this bike had. That would be a 1 X 10, which I ran for quite a while on the Ti Muk.

Well, now all the cool kidz are running 1 X 11 drive trains, so, hey! I may as well give that a go now, I figured. So, I have invested into a SRAM NX shifter, rear derailleur, and cassette. The final piece of this puzzle came in the other day. That would be the Surly XSync chain ring in a nice, low 28T size to fit my crank, which is the venerable Surly OD Crank. This ring replaces the two I have on there now.

While I am not a convinced rider when it comes to eliminating the front derailleur, it is something that does make sense for a fat bike. Why? Because the rear tire generally is dumping all sorts of garbage downward right about where a front derailleur resides on a seat tube. That means a clumping of debris that can stop a rear wheel from turning, in certain situations. No derailleur means less, or no clumping of debris. A good thing when you are swamping through the mire or dredging through sloppy snow on a fat bike.

The good news on gearing here is that the 28T ring in the 42T low gear on the NX cassette means I have an equivalent to a 22T X 36T which a triple or 2X system would have. I rarely have ever had to get that low, but I have done it a few times. With this 1X set up, I do not lose that range. The NX cassette fits on a standard Shimano free hub body, so I "only" have an 11T high gear on the cassette, which is a pretty slow gear in a 28T cog up front, but this isn't a speed weapon folks. This is a fat bike. It's a faster gear than my Blackborow DS, and I was fine on that all last Winter. So, top end speed will be fine for what I intend on doing with this bike.

A 1X drive train also will allow for a tiny bit more tire to chain clearance.
The final advantage is that the chain gets moved a tiny bit more away from the tire when I will be in the lowest gear. I am hoping this will allow me to squeeze in a Lou tire in back. If I can manage that, and have better traction, I think then I will have a great bike for many conditions I see around here. Finally, with the addition of the new fat bike for my son, and the tear down of the old Mukluk frame, I now have the original Enabler fork back for possible swapping in here when/if I need more carrying capacity. So, I feel it is all coming together here to make for a great set up.

Imagine something like this in aluminum, less wide BB, and with "Salsa" on the down tube.

So, the big deal coming up this weekend in the bike biz, (no- not RAGBRAI!), is Saddledrive, which is where QBP launches news of new bikes across its various brands. Salsa Cycles has been due to revamp their mountain bike hard tail range for several years. Rumors have been rampant, and totally based off of this thread on mtbr, you can expect that the following things might become reality by Monday when the press releases come out. 
  • A 29+ hard tail dubbed the Woodsmoke.
  • A 27.5+ hard tail dubbed the Timberjack
  • The El Mariachi is dead
  • Something new in their fat bike line.
  • Small changes to the Warbird. 
  • Boost frame/fork Fargo capable of running either 27.5+ or 29"er wheels. 
Again- all the above is stuff gleaned from the linked thread. Apparently,  some of this is pretty close to the mark since it has been said a "Salsa employee" sent one of the leakers a private message requesting that his post be taken down. Of course, I have a memory and some of what he posted was also corroborated in others posts. Oh well.......

We'll all know more very soon. Stay tuned.........

Sad News From North Carolina:

It is with sadness that I pass on the word that Jeff Archer, owner of First Flight Bikes and curator of the Museum Of Mountain Bike Art & Technology has died after being struck by a car while Mr. Archer was crossing a street in Mooresville, North Carolina. (See the news here)

I am a fan of all things mountain bike, and historical stuff is right up my alley, as far as interesting things go. Mr. Archer was a fine resource, keeping the MOMBAT site up to date, for a long time on the internet. In fact, I was aware of his work on the web before it was called MOMBAT. I would often look at the entries made as the site grew and be reminded of the past or learn many things I never knew about brands and the products and bicycles from the earlier days of mountain biking.  In many ways, Mr. Archer was similar to the late Sheldon Brown as far as the depth and breadth of knowledge compiled on the MOMBAT site.

I had a brief, over the internet, contact with Mr. Archer when I reviewed a handle bar from his Mountain Goat brand, which Mr. Archer revived. He was always kind, graceful, and quick to respond to my e-mails. I am sure there are many, many more out there who have had similar experiences with him. He will be greatly missed.

Hope that you all have a great weekend.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Birthday Bike

As the boy grows, so must his bikes get bigger!
This weekend is my son's thirteenth birthday. I bought him a fat bike when he was ten, I think it was, and since kids grow, well, it was time for a new sled too.  This time I went with a different brand, Origin 8, and I got their XLT Scout model, an aluminum frame that came with a head set and seat collar. This will be the story of how the boy's bike came together.

The old rig he had was an extra small sized Mukluk. Well, Salsa Cycles had a recall on the forks on those bikes. Since I had one, I was in line to get taken care of, but when we heard that forks were going to be scarce due to that dock strike back in '14, I decided to take myself out of the queue and wait till later so our shop's customers would get their forks. I had a steel Enabler fork I used on my son's bike in the meantime.

Well, time went on and I forgot all about getting that new fork. Anyway, the kid grew, and it became apparent that I was going to have to get him on a new rig this Summer, ostensibly for his birthday. That gave me time to pull something together, and when I finally got the fork for his Mukluk, I was going to put it on that bike since I do not have any other fat bike that a tapered steer tube for would work on, that is until the Scout XLT came along.

This frame came at a killer deal to me, but with no fork. Fortunately, I had the new carbon Salsa fork to go in there, and the old Mukluk was originally slated for mothballs because my son pleaded with me to keep it as it was. He really is attached to that thing! That meant I needed wheels. Well, "New York" Roll, a friend I know in town, was trying to ditch a pair of Beargrease wheels he had and no one was wanting them. I got them for the kid's new bike project. Good deal for me as far as the front went, since the Salsa fork is a through-axle type, and Roll's wheel was as well. Bad deal because the Scout XLT has a QR rear drop out and Beargrease frames are through axle. But wait! I could get QR end caps, right? Surely someone would have those.

I've got to cut the steer tube to length, but the bike is ready to ride.
Well, I asked at work about it, but after days of searching, we couldn't scare anything up. So, I put the word out on social media, and I got a bite and was provided with some end caps, but they turned out to be the wrong ones. I was standing in the basement looking at my project and decided that I was not only short the end caps, but I would likely need a crank, bottom bracket, and maybe some other small parts. That's when the hammer fell. I decided that I didn't really want to have an entire fat bike just sitting around, and that evening I stripped down the old Mukluk frame, which solved several problems.

First off, I had a QR rear wheel, which allowed me to put the Beargrease rear wheel QR end cap search on the back burner. I also had an entire drive train and a rear brake set up. My son's first fat bike only ran a rear brake. Now, let's see if that 31.6mm seat post will slip into that Origin 8........what?!! It didn't fit. Crap! Another road block. So, I had to sleuth out what seat post size Origin 8 used, and that wasn't easy, since it is cryptically buried in their site and is not labeled as a seat post size. All it says in a line of copy is "30.9", which I happened to understand is a somewhat common size for a seat post. Bah! So, I ordered that item and waited......

Well, the seat post came in just this week, and that meant that yesterday I was pretty busy all day building and test riding this new rig for my son. His birthday is Sunday, the 24th, so we'll get it out and cruise a bit then. Here's the spec:
  • Frame: Medium Origin 8 Scout XLT
  • Fork: Salsa Cycles Makwa Carbon
  • Front Wheel: Green Ano hub, Beargrease spec wheel with Rolling Darryl rim
  • Rear Wheel: Salsa hub laced to a Fatback 70mm rim
  • Front Tire: Big Fat Larry
  • Rear Tire: Fatback Sterling
  • Crankset: Origin 8 2X ISIS
  • Pedals: Fixation Mesa Platform
  • Seat Post: TruVativ 30.9mm X 400mm
  • Saddle: Bontrager Rhythm (Out of production)
  • Handle Bar: FSA SLK Carbon
  • Stem: FSA SLK Carbon
  • Shifters: 9spd Grip Shift
  • Brake Levers: Avid
  • Grips: Ergon
  • Brakes: Avid BB-7's
  • Cassette: 9spd
  • Rear Derailleur: SRAM X-9 9spd.
  • Front Derailleur: Shimano SLX High Direct Mount
  • Chain: SRAM
  • Bottom Bracket: 100mm ISIS TruVativ
  • Cages: Velocity Bottle Traps
  • Quick Release: Salsa rear- Maxle front through axle.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Where Are The Non-Believers Now?

Wait a Gol durn miniute! They were doin this in '08! Image by mtbr memeber "crashtestdummy"
"Nope, it can't be done. And even if it could, they shouldn't, because those big wagon wheels are just too heavy, fragile, cumbersome, and make a bike handle like a truck. "

What is it that I am talking about here? Well, if you go back ten years ago, that was the the common response to anyone asking why there weren't five and six inch travel 29"ers. The common wisdom at that time relegated 29"ers to single speeds and maybe a full suspension XC racing bike. Maybe. This was when 26"ers ruled the long travel category of the mountain biking world. You remember long travel 26"ers, right? Boy! Have things changed in the last few years!

Of course, they were all wrong even back then about 29"ers and long travel. Many won't remember, or even care, but credit for shoving the long travel 29"ers in the face of a disbelieving mountain biking world has to go to Devin Lenz and Mike Curiak. Devin was, and still is, the mad scientist at Lenz Bikes.  Mike Curiak was, and maybe still is, somewhat of a brand ambassador for Lenz. I actually rode a 5 inch travel 29"er in 2007 at Interbike courtesy of Lenz and Curiak. By the way, the bike actually worked really well. Then the following year I got to ride the newest, six inch travel version, and the following year Lenz brought a seven inch travel model to Interbike. So,, ahead of his time, and all of that.

I think the deal was back nine, ten years ago, was that there were no good components to go with the ideas. Lenz was using cobbled together forks from Manitou and White Industries. Tires weren't anywhere near what was needed to really get the platform working to potentials, and rims were hard to find that were wide enough, and stout enough. Still, it was plain for any big company engineer to see that a long travel 29"er was, indeed, not only possible, but worthwhile to check in to.

The 2017 Trek Slash ultra-spectacular enduro machine of doom!
As I said, I actually had the chance to pilot the six inch travel version of Lenz's bike courtesy of Mr. Curiak, (that's me above with said bike), and I was dutifully impressed to the point that I seriously was considering buying one. Like I really needed that kind of a monster! But the bike was so fun, handled so well, and was so capable, I wanted one despite the fact I needed it like I needed another hole in my head. So, wisdom prevailed, and I passed on owning a piece of history.

The thing was, all that time the naysayers were putting forth all their efforts to slam the idea of a long travel 29"er. Then 27.5"ers hit the scene hard in 2012, and, well....... I figured that was the nail in the coffin for any long travel 29"ers, and so did most everyone else. I had different reasons for thinking that way, but I never saw this day coming.

Apparently tinkerers and mad mtb scientists still inhabit the sport, because somewhere along the line, enduro racing was infested with 29"ers. You know, enduro racing? The whole reason long travel 650b bikes were taking over the 26"er bike category and killing them off? Remember that? The industry foisted the move on the market as the heat of the 29"er craze was waning in order to boost sales up for a bit longer. Well, that basically, in my opinion, not only killed 26"ers, but made 650B a thing it would never have become unless the industry did what it did back then.

Anyway, somewhere along the way, 29"ers started winning enduro races. Lots of them. Then companies started to take notice. Bigger companies, with bigger influences that could get things made to, ya know, actually make that old idea of a long travel 29"er that Devin Lenz was doing all along actually have cutting edge technology. Now we see the Slash 29"er with 150mm travel rear and 160mm travel front coming to the fore. A bike with a promise to be a very capable, maneuverable, robust, light, and better than anything else out there.

Where are the non-believers now?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Teravail Sparwood Review

The Sparwood is Teravail's widest gravel tire at a claimed 2.2" width.
NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned..... 

Okay, first off, these views are based upon my recent experiences with this tire and on observations I've made of others bikes and comments made by others who use these tires. I had to buy some new tires while I was in Kansas recently, and these Sparwoods seemed to have a good reputation with many whose opinions I trust, so I was willing to give them a go. Having ridden them in varying gravel conditions I feel confident in sharing my opinions on these treads.

When I purchased these tires, I did not have the liberty to weigh them, so I can only point to the Teravail spec on these tires, which is a claimed 690 grams for the 60TPI versions I chose. Hmm......that's a tad heavy, but the Teravail tires are supposed to have an under-tread flat protection, (only under the tread on 60TPI, bead to bead on the 120TPI versions), which is going to bring the weight up. That said, these tires seem to be a true 2.2"er, so that's not a stellar weight, just a tad heavy compared to many tires for XC in the 29"er world. Considering the design intentions- that these are to be tough, durable tires- I will give them a hall pass on the weight here.

Now I want to get back to that flat protection feature for a minute. This will help explain why I went with the 60TPI versions, and why I would never go with the 120TPI ones. When most any tire is designed with a flat protection belt or some other means of armoring the casing, be that with an elastomeric material, Kevlar, or what have you, it stiffens the casing. It only stands to reason that it would, since almost every material used to help prevent flats has to resist puncturing, and that usually means something stiffer than rubber and nylon carcass materials which tires are made from.

I've tried the bead to bead flat protection before
Adding anything to the casings, other than what you would have in a normal tire, not only adds weight, but thickness to that casing which is also going to make the tire less supple. As we're finding out more and more, less supple tires cause higher rolling resistance. I found that to be true with the Teravail Cannonball 38's with the bead to bead flat protection. Those tires, while probably being tougher than shoe leather, rode really harshly. Plus, they were shown to have a higher resistance to rolling in my testing. I did not like the way those tires performed or how they felt at all, and ended up trading them for a sixer of beer. Really. I think I got the better end of the deal there.

Anyway, to further anchor my opinion, a friend has the 120TPI Sparwoods and is running them at 6psi-8psi below the minimum recommended by Teravail just to get them working in an acceptable manner for him. I have found that to be the case with flat protection 29"er mountain bike tires as well. I recall the GEAX TNT AM version of the Gato was such a tire. I ran it at least 5-8psi lower than anything else I had just to get it to feel right and roll without excessive harshness. That's okay for off roading, but you give up some to rolling resistance on harder surfaces just to get a ride quality that is similar to other tires out there. I just don't feel it is worth it to buy into the full flat protection for my riding.

The Sparwoods showed their mettle on Kansan flint roads.
There you have it. That's why I went with the 60TPI versions over the 120TPI versions, and the theory was that the 60TPI versions would actually ride nicely. Given that I am a heavier dude, I cannot really compare my pressure settings to my friends, but I have been happy at right around the minimum recommended pressures by Teravail, which is 30psi. The tire works really well, the rolling resistance isn't bad, and it feels nice. Not at all harsh. Looking back at the Teravail Cannonball, I cannot help but think that the 60TPI version of that tire outshines the 120TPI one by a country mile in terms of ride quality and rolling resistance.

So much for that techno-babble. How do they do on gravel? Well, it isn't a bad tire, but I have found that it can be a bit squirrely on loose, deep gravel due to its very rounded casing. The Sparwoods also do a bang up job of squirting chunks of gravel laterally out from under the tires as you ride. I nailed my riding companion pretty good a couple of times this past weekend. I only mention that because it was told to me early on that these tires weren't supposed to do this. Well, so much for that theory! In the end, it isn't a big deal.

On a typical gravel road, the Sparwoods roll fast, are decent feeling, and cornering is better than some others due to the tread pattern. However; it is when the gravel gets loose and marbley that you have to pay attention. Again, it is that rounded casing, and the stiffness right under the tread area that is to blame. It makes the Sparwood want to roll on rocks laterally rather than absorb the rocks. On high speed descents you can only hold on and go for the ride as the bike jumps sideways in the deeper gravel sections.

The Sparwoods are keepers, but you'll have to forgive a few characteristics you may not agree with.
One thing to note on the tubeless feature- these are a super tight fit on Stan's designed rims or rims that use a Stan's dimension. The Sun-Ringle' rims I have are a Stan's design for the diameter of the bead seat, and therefore are a tick larger than your typical tubeless rim design. This slight variation in diameter causes the Teravail Sparwood to fit really, really tight on the rims I have here on my Fargo. I had to lever them on myself at the Sunflower Bike shop pop up store at the Dirty Kanza 200 expo area. The mechanic on duty couldn't get them on, they are so tight. This may be a big deal, if the Sparwood's beads do not stretch at all, or it may end up becoming not that big a deal. I'll find out when the Orange Seal sealant needs checking here in a month or so. Oh.....and Orange Seal is not on the recommended list of sealants on Teravail's site, by the way. Kind of funny that the tires were set up with that as a special deal since the sealant company is a sponsor of the DK200, whose "official tire" is offered by Teravail. . Anywho.....

So, in the end, these are okay tires, and probably pretty good ones if you are looking for a tougher, more cut resistant tire. They actually roll faster than the Maxxis Ikons I had on this same wheel set and bike before, although they are quite a bit heavier than those tires were.  They do not toss rocks, which is something a lot of other tire designers could do well to keep in mind when designing a tread for gravel, and they roll well on pavement. They do squirt out rocks laterally, so warn your riding buddies! I don't care for the performance in deeper, loose gravel, but other than that I find them to be good treads. I won't belabor the stiffness complaints. Just stay away from the 120TPI versions if you value a nice ride feel and lower rolling resistance. Get the 120TPI versions if you are deathly afraid of flats or cannot afford a tire failure in a remote area at all.

Note: I bought these tires at full retail with my own damn money. I was not asked to do this review by Teravail, nor was I paid or bribed in any way for this. The opinions expressed are my own and may not reflect the opinions of anyone else on the planet. So there........

Monday, July 18, 2016

Looking For A New Bridge

Leaving Prairie Grove Park we were watched over by a large Red Tailed Hawk on the line.
That dratted bridge was out and that cost me. Well, it wasn't too bad, in the end, but when I found out the bridge over the Wolf Creek on J Avenue was out during the running of Trans Iowa v10, it put me into a panic. So, cost me a lot of unwanted stress, but after all this time, it is kind of a laugh now.

I never went back after that Saturday night to see if it ever was replaced. I figured that there was really no other choice for the county but to replace it, but then again, in these times, weirder things have happened. So, it was always a plan in the back of my mind. The idea to go search for the new bridge, if it was there. I went on that quest early this Spring but was thwarted by a muddy B Level road or two. This past Saturday was "take two" on the quest.

I was planning for a while to make this a combination of recon for the upcoming Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational, and the quest for the bridge, so I had two motivations to get out there. A third motivation to get out on this long ride presented itself when I was texted by Marty, who asked if I was going on a gravel ride and if I was, could he join me? Of course, I said yes. So, we planned on leaving from the starting point of the upcoming GTDRI, Prairie Grove Park, and set a time of 8:00am to get started on the long day's riding.

Looking at the old Geneseo School as we went on our way to Traer. 
I got out of the house a bit late, so I had to "time trial" it down to the meeting place, which was 5.85 miles from my front door. Most of that being bike path, so it went by quickly and I ended up being 1 minute late. (Sorry Marty!) I hate being late, but now I know I have to budget a little more time when I leave the house in a couple of weeks to do the GTDRI. Lesson learned!

The day could not have been more perfect. It was in the lower 60's when we left with a light Southeasterly headwind. The day was drier, with low humidity. Really, a picture perfect day if ever there was one for riding on gravel roads. We headed out on the original GTDRI route which starts down Aker Road, but then it turns East to get over to Ansborough via Orange Road. The route then went all the way into Tama County before we turned East for one more mile to catch V Avenue South and then to a right on D-65 where that bridge was out for this year's Trans Iowa. That bridge is all in and complete, boding well for our quest to find the bridge intact over the Wolf Creek later on.

Barns For Jason: Some rural decorative choices are a bit hard to understand, but.......oh well!
Marty with his snack at our first convenience store stop in Traer.
We reached Traer by 10:00am, so we made decent time, but we weren't burning up the road either, since that was about 25 or so miles in. We checked out the convenience store there. The same one I've been visiting now for a decade or more by bicycle. Every time I stop here I see the place fall more and more into decay. It makes me a bit sad, I guess. Lots of memories here for sure......

Anyway, after a brief stop and a chance to freak out the locals, we moved on. South out of town on P Avenue, where we would hit up one of my favorite B Level Maintenance roads. You can read about that and see an image in the post previous to this, so I won't get into the details of that visit.

The corn is REALLY tall, and the gravel was REALLY fresh and deep in Tama County.
We hit up this super fast and smooth B Level Maintenance road just before getting to J Avenue.
We finally departed the GTDRI course at P Avenue and 220th Street where we went West and headed over to K Avenue where we would come back North a bit before jogging Westward again a couple of miles to set us up to be on J Avenue. Heading North, I saw no signs that would lead me to believe there was no bridge. I figured as much.

The new bridge over Wolf Creek looking back South. The old bridge is forever immortalized in the film documentary, "300 Miles Of Gravel" 
While we had turned out of the now steady wind coming out of the Southeast, we faced deep, fresh gravel at every turn unless we were riding dirt for a spell. The road coming to and crossing the new bridge was strewn with chunky goodness, making the road a real challenge to traverse. It didn't help that we had the infamous "Wolf Creek Wall" to climb!

Leaving the Wolf Creek valley can leave a mark on your soul! That's only the first of a series of steeps that goes on for a mile and a half.
The Wolf Creek Wall, again, immortalized as the cover shot for the documentary "300 Miles of Gravel", is only the opening shot in a mile and a half, or more, as was in our case, of painful steeps. We'd had it pretty easy up to this point on our ride, but if we were thinking we were in good shape, this section brought the truth home to roost! We both were really humbled by this section and I know I will need more of that pain to get ready for Gravel Worlds in a little over a month from now.

Marty and I then climbed up K Avenue to Ridge Road and we cruised straight into the wind, as Ridge Road runs Southeast/Northwest, till we returned to Traer again. We could have gone North before getting back to Traer, but Marty said we should take the "prettiest option". That was Ridge Road all the way to Traer without question, so we went through the town again.

You can see for many miles in any direction from Ridge Road.
Marty was taking in the views on Ridge Road from his trusty Fargo.
We stopped again at the convenience store for a refueling and refilling. Then we left Traer the way we had come in, but at T.F. Clark Park we went West for a mile then straight North. After a few miles we came across a lady on a riding lawn mower that was spinning her wheels, as if she was stuck. Marty motioned that we should stop and lend a hand, to which I agreed. We asked the elderly lady if she'd like us to push her, but before I could get the sentence out of my mouth she leapt up, got behind the mower, shoved it with a mighty heave, and sat herself back in the seat. Then she declared to us that she was used to getting herself out of her own messes. Now that's a true country gal! We were kind of befuddled, but she shut the mower off and we had a pleasant, short conversation before we bade her farewell and moved on down the road.

Now, that was maybe enough oddness to expect for one gravel ride, but we came upon an even odder sight after we had taken a good long rest stop under a tree's shade on the road because my stomach was fighting me a bit. I had eaten a bit too much and my body was shunting energy to digestion and my mind was falling asleep!

Anyway, I saw a blinking light bar up ahead, which is odd enough out in the middle of nowhere, but this was a accompanied by a string of about eight school buses parked on one side of a crossing road and up along our path. As we passed, we could see that this was a convoy of corn detasslers and a few vehicles ferrying the porta-jons they have to have to accommodate the youngsters who are hired to do this task. Apparently one bus had run into the back end of another, causing some significant damage. The kids were all restrained to sitting in the buses, and as we passed they hung their hands out the windows, waving at us vigorously. It was all a bit surreal, actually. Hope everyone was okay there!

Finishing up a long day out on the gravel roads of Black Hawk and Tama Counties.
And that's another for the Cup-O-Dirt tally!
The ride ended up well, and I got home by 4:30pm, 8 and a half hours after the start. Well, actually a bit longer than that, since I had left the house before 8:00am. Anyway, a good, long day in the saddle with some interesting things to see. A bridge confirmed, hills climbed, and rocky roads conquered. Plus we got to see an odd situation with the detassling crew's bus accident. I am pretty certain I won't ever see such a thing again in my lifetime, nor do I want to, really.

I was a bit surprised by the mileage total when I got back and checked it out. I was suspecting I had about 70 plus, but to have eclipsed the 80 mile mark was very surprising and satisfying. That will go on the Cup-O-Dirt Challenge totals for the year, and it will be a good base to build off of going into Gravel Worlds and the upcoming Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational. 

Speaking of which, this ride was also a test, again, of how my dinged up shoulder will react to a bigger ride and that on the Gen I Fargo. I have determined that for now, the big rides will all have to be done on that bike, with that Luxy Bar, because my shoulder still isn't 100%. I can tell right away when I ride one of my other bikes and the left shoulder starts aching badly after about an hour into a ride. Not always, but many times yet, that is the case. This ride wasn't easy, by the way, and I fought the shoulder pain for most of it, but it didn't feel like I was really doing more damage. Just an annoying pain at different times during the ride. Being able to take advantage of all the different positions on the Luxy Bar rotates that left shoulder joint in different ways so I can keep from having it get hammered by the gravel vibrations. Otherwise I am not able to really get away from it on a more standard type bar.

Thanks to Marty for the great companionship and I hope to get out this way again sooner. It had been far too long since I've ridden that way.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

GTDRI Recon- Part 1

The B Road is lookin' good on P Avenue.
I went on a partial recon of the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational course yesterday. (Full ride report tomorrow) The section I was concerned about seeing on this ride was the B Road on P Avenue, which I haven't ridden down in years.

As you can see, the road is in excellent shape and I was pleased to see that it has continued to be maintained by the farmer that lives on the Southern end of the dirt section. We'll be tackling this one at about 35 miles or so on the route.

I think there is only one other B Level maintenance road on our route which is a pretty tame one compared to many. This one pictured here is pretty fun and fast. It goes downhill not once, but twice! Yes......then you have to go back up, but it isn't too bad, really.

The rest of what we saw was spread over recently with a good layer of chunky, fresh gravel. That made finding the smoother line almost impossible. It also slowed us down a bit. But we managed. The main thing is that the opening 35 or so miles of the course look to be good to go.

More soon.......