Friday, April 28, 2017

Friday News And Views

Time to roll......
Months of preparations, thought, planning, and work come to a head today as I am off to Grinnell, Iowa to put on one more Trans Iowa.

These are my quick thoughts as I head off into the crazy daze waiting for me....

  • Volunteers: Wow! You folks come out of the woodwork every year to help and I couldn't do this without you. Thanks isn't enough for what you do for the event and for the riders. 
  • Work: The volunteer work starts months ahead of Trans Iowa and Jeremy Fry,Wally Kilburg, George Keslin, Sam Auen,and Mike Johnson have done major things behind the scenes, sacrificed money and time, and have made the production of this event easier than I could have imagined it to be or hoped that it could be. Thank you for your sacrifices. Also, there are a couple of folks that don't want to be mentioned that also help out. You know who you are. Thanks!
  • Sponsors: WTB- WOW! What you guys have done is phenomenal. No words.... Will Ritchie: You are a special person and you have been very much a friend and supporter. Thank you! Pedal of Littleton/Andrew Christman- You have been there for several years now just quietly being a support and gravel promoter in your own way in Colorado. Thanks so much! Velocity USA- Again, a long time supporter of Trans Iowa. Thanks for being on board again for v13. Finally, Lederman Bail Bonds who has helped get the riders the fantastic t-shirts we are giving away this year. Couldn't do that without them.
  • Trans Iowa Radio: Ben, you are a great guy and sacrificing your weekend to facilitate the call ins is a phenomenal thing for this event. I appreciate it and I know that the riders do along with all the listeners.Thank You!
  • The Riders That Show Up: You are awesome, and I admire you for being there. Your commitment is awesome. Your follow through is to be commended.Your support of the event is appreciated. Thank you!
  • Grinnell: Thank you to the Grinnell Steakhouse, the Grinnell Chamber of Commerce, and Bikes To You/Craig Cooper. You've made the last seven years a lot less of a headache. In fact, you have been downright enjoyable. Thank you!
  • Media Interest: Wow! So much interest from media people this year. I am astonished and flattered.  Thanks to all who asked for interviews. I am sorry I couldn't do them all. 
I don't know what's in store, but here I go! A brief report may pop up here Sunday evening, but the big recap won't start until Monday.


Geezer Ride 6.0 will be coming soon!

Geezer Ride 6.0: May 13th, Hudson Iowa: 

In two weeks I'll be heading out for the sixth Geezer Ride I've put on. These are no-drop, casual rides which are for folks curious about gravel travel, or for those who are looking for a fun, social experience out in the country.

This year I am doing what I dub as the Four County Tour Geezer Ride. The plan isn't fully developed yet, but post-Trans Iowa I am going to buckle up and get down to business getting the route details down.

We will definitely start and end in Hudson, Iowa. Black Hawk, Bremer, Butler, and Grundy Counties are on the docket. At least tentatively. I may delete one county in favor of a destination to stop at and ride back from. In that instance it may end up becoming a three county tour. Kind of a ship-wreck, "Gilligan's Island" theme. Instead of a "three hour tour" it would be a "three county tour".

Okay, moving on now.......

So, the point being that I am working out ideas here and I will have to be hopping on the bike and laying down some miles doing the route recon in the coming days. Hopefully a Trans Iowa recovery is quick and painless this time......

Okay, that's all for today. Remember: Trans Iowa Radio is found on RidingGravel.com HERE.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

They Said It Couldn't Be Done: Part Two

Santa Cruz Bikes' new V10. A 29"er DH bike? Yes!
Subtitled: I Also Said It Couldn't Be Done

All along the 29 inch wheels development, I said that the big wheel was best for a lot of things. I figured a lot of things would be possible to design around 29" wheels. One thing I have always said I thought wouldn't work was a 29 inch wheeled down hill racing bike. A serious effort at one would never happen, right? I mean, first of all, who would even think about doing a fork? There were a couple of things made- White Brothers and Manitou Dorado forks were efforts that pushed the envelope, but weren't going to be taken seriously by any Pro level rider. But a true, Pro-worthy DH fork? Yeah.......right! When pigs fly.

ATTENTION! Pig flying at 12:00 o'clock

Times have changed and things have developed to the point where riders seeking to roll faster down hill have discovered big wheels. 29 inch wheels, and the companies that support that size now include companies that are serious in the DH world. Fox, Enve, and Chris King. Santa Cruz, also a stalwart bike company in the DH scene, started the ball rolling with their team, but it has been hinted at by some that many other 29"er DH bikes are in the wings waiting to be revealed. That Fox made a special fork for this is a huge clue. As I have said before, companies like Fox won't do tooling and manufacturing set ups for small production runs and one-offs. No, there are other companies involved and I wouldn't at all be surprised to see Rock Shox also debuting a big, 29"er DH fork.

Yep. I never thought I'd see the day when 29 inch wheels were a thing in every form of mountain biking. But they are now.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Trans Iowa v13: The Weather Is The Wildcard

Sure looks to be a wet and cold one.
The weather for Trans Iowa is usually a topic of great discussion and cause for consternation amongst those involved in the event at this point every year the last 13 years now. This single factor has such a great influence on this event that besides mental fortitude, it probably is the single most important influencer on how or if anyone can finish in any particular year.

Take last year, for instance. Yes, it takes tough, prepared athletes to finish any Trans Iowa, but I don't think anyone will argue that having a tailwind for the first 160 miles, a clear blue sky, warm temperatures, and a relatively calm, warm night period contributed to the record number of finishers. I also think it is obvious why Trans Iowa v11 had zero finishers with the awful weather that was experienced on that weekend.

So, you might understand why folks wring their hands and over-think their gear and set ups when Trans Iowa gets close and the weather forecasters start to dial in the forecast for the weekend of the event. Especially with how this forecast has been shaping up.

Here's a snippet of what I've been reading about the weather from the Iowa Storm Racing Network: "Despite several periods of rain, the trend for heavy rainfall is shifting to the South and East of Iowa. We should still see periods of moderate rainfall but the threat for heavy rainfall is shifting southeast. Although temperatures will fall into the 30’s, expected cloud cover and winds at 10 to 15 mph should prevent frost from developing over the area."

Last year this was the only mud we saw on Trans Iowa, but the riders didn't see any of it. This year?
 So, it is fairly certain that this year the Level B roads likely will be muddy messes. Ironically, there is a large contingent of Trans Iowa riders that wouldn't have it any other way. They call years with these conditions "real Trans Iowas", or they describe the years that are challenging as the years they wish that they could finish a Trans Iowa.

So, there is that distinct possibility that the weather will cooperate to provide just such a Trans Iowa. Not so difficult that it cannot be done, (v11), but not so......easy?, hmm...... Well, not so T.I.v12, let's say, and that a greater challenge would exist. I am just relating what I see on social media with those comments.

Personally I just want to see everyone come out on the other side safe and with something to take home with them. Whether or not they finish isn't the biggest deal. There is a lot more to it than that, I believe. I'll leave off today's post with a quote sent to me by Jess Rundlett, who does work with the State Historical Society, I believe. Anyway, she sent this from a National Historic Register concerning travel in the days before the great Lincoln Highway crossed Iowa. Jess thought it rang true for Trans Iowa, and I agree. Here it is:

"Traveling over these sorry roads, which were dusty in the summer and quagmires of sucking mud in the spring, was complicated by the fact no one knew where the roads led or whether there was a dead end or a river crossing beyond the next hill."

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

New Tire Day For Gen I

New tires AND different wheels.
The ol' Gen I Fargo has been modified for the umpteenth millionth time. This time it is the wheels and tires that got swapped out.

I had been running some Sun Ringle' Black Flag wheels which have rims that are based on the Stan's tubeless bead socket standard. That doesn't play well with many tubeless ready tires since Stan's bead socket thing is really meant to convert non-tubeless tires to tubeless. This means that the tighter tolerances of many tubeless tires are not an ideal fit to a Stan's rim.

Now, before y'all fire up your keyboards to tell me how your such-and-such tires have been awesome on Stan's rims for years with zero problems, you need to understand that I am not saying you cannot put tubeless ready tires on Stan's rims. You can. I have. It is just that many tires are not an ideal fit. As in, you may break tire levers getting them on or off. That isn't a good thing if the fit is that tight.

Ideally, you should be able to mount and dismount tires with no tools. If you have to sweat bullets and use a massive DH rated steel tire lever to mount your tires, or if you have to use some "slippery-slide" type concoction to mount your tubeless tires, something is not right. Why? Because you won't be field servicing that set up if the need arises, and you should be able to do that easily. 

So, the long way around to say that my Teravail Sparwood/Sun Ringle' set up was stupid tight and was a big problem waiting to happen. So, I ran that set up for as long as I felt I had gotten some good out of the money I spent on them and then I was going to ditch those things off. Actually, I had figured that this wouldn't have happened just yet. The thing is, the Sparwoods, while great in Kansas Flint Hills, really aren't very good in Iowa. In fact, they are what I would term as "not very good" riding tires. But that's another story for another day.

Terrene Tires' Honali 700 X 50mm
So, I have these new Terrene Honali tires in for testing at RidingGravel.com. They have tubeless ready casings and I wanted to use a tubeless ready designed rim. I happened to have a wheel set I built up for an old TNI test with WTB Frequency rims. 

These rims are tubeless designed and have a 23mm inner rim width which is perfect for a 50mm wide tire. They mounted up with the Honali tires with a simple.almost dead, 15 year old Blackburn floor pump. I mounted them by hand. I could remove them with the aid of one plastic tire lever if I needed to do the job quickly. In other words- This set up is completely field serviceable with your hands or simple bicycle tools with little effort. 

Now, it is completely possible that I won't like the Honali tires any better than I do the Teravails, but I can say that the Honali feels twice as supple already and that the profile of the Honali on the rim is already better than that of the previous tire set. So far.......so good. 

The wheels have American Classic hubs, which aren't the best in terms of engagement of the hub, but they have been reliable and for gravel travel the slack engagement shouldn't be an issue. Plus, these hubs are loads quieter than the Sun Ringle' ones were. Those things were really loud! That got on my nerves a few times on longer rides. 

So, at any rate, I am set with new wheels and tires. I'll give this a go and then report back soon......  

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Calm Before The Storm

Des Moines International Airport.......waiting.
I had a long weekend. Not by choice, and it was weird, and it was good in the end. Things happen for a reason, I guess, and several things came together in a way that they wouldn't have otherwise.

So, to kick things off I had to fetch my wife back from her trip to see her family and arrange and attend her father's funeral. She was flying in to Des Moines, the kids had the day off from school by chance, and so we were all there to greet her. That was great.

Then the Trans Iowa t-shirts were finished, so my friend Sam had them ferried by bicycle from the printer to his establishment, Tacopocalypse. It just so happened that Mrs. Guitar Ted came in at about 1:00pm, so we went to Tacopocalypse for a late lunch and to pick up the t-shirts. Bonus: Sam met us down there and we all got a chance to chat with him. Sam even helped load the boxes into our car. Thanks Sam!

None of the above was "planned", necessarily, but it all came together in a way that was better than we could have planned it. Draw your own conclusions........

Of course, there was a long trip home and then we settled in to have something to eat- leftovers, so Mrs Guitar Ted wouldn't have to cook, and we cashed it in for the night then.

I did manage to mount the Terrene Honali's on the Gen I Fargo before bed Friday night. 

Friday afternoon I got a text from Mike Johnson, who had the cues printed for T.I.v13, and he wanted to know if I wanted to meet at a local restaurant to eat and then have our "cue sheet stuffing party". I agreed to meet him and so at 7:00am I found myself sat at the table ordering up breakfast and staring at a job which entailed collating and bagging 280 sets of cue sheets. By hand...... In a busy restaurant. 

A crab apple tree in bloom. Image taken while on a ride with my son in Waterloo
We finished in a little over two hours, but the middle set of cues had one bag with a mixed up set of pages. We knew this because we were short one page for the last set and had a duplicate page left over. So, I left a hefty tip for tying up that table for so long and went home to sort through 96 bags to find the one with the messed up set of cues. Of course, I had to sort through most of them before I found the one, but I found it. With about 35 bags to go! I and my daughter went ahead and inspected all the bags anyway, so we know we are spot on now.

That was it for Trans Iowa work, and I spent the rest of the weekend with the family. Next weekend I will be gone the entire time except for late Sunday. So, I wanted to invest my time wisely by spending it with my family now. I cycled with my son a couple of times, barbecued, took a couple of walks, and generally just hung out with them. It was nice and fairly peaceful, never mind the drive-by shooting Sunday morning and the SUV that caught on fire down on the corner. All just part of living in the 'Loo.

So, now four days till "go time". It is all coming together for another go-round with this Trans Iowa deal. The weather is looking rather on the wet side. There will be wind of some sort. It should be a scene. I'll get to hang with my gravel family Friday night and then it'll be myself and MG squirreled away in a Suby for 30-ish hours. Stay tuned, it'll be something to share, as it always is.

The calm before the storm was good, but now I am ready. Let's get this over with........

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Trans Iowa v13: Cue Sheet Details

All cue sheet pages are numbered for T.I.v13
The cue sheets are an integral part of how Trans Iowa works. This year we decided to add a couple of features that we wanted you to be aware of if you are in the event. We think you will appreciate these new additions.

This year all the 4.5" long by 4" wide cue sheets will have numbered pages. The numbers will appear as  follows: First you will see a "P" followed by a numeral. The numeral will indicate which set of cues that page belongs to. So in my example here with the number circled in red, you see "P1". That means this cue sheet is from the first set. The next page would also have the "P1" designation. A cue sheet for anything after Checkpoint #1 will have a "P2" designation, since that sheet would be from the second set.

Following the "P" and the accompanying numeral you see a "-2" in my example above. This indicates that this cue sheet is page #2 from the first set. The following page would have a "-3", and the previous page would obviously have "-1".

So, if you drop your cues, or if they get messed up in your bag, or if you want to make sure you have them all, you can use this handy-dandy page numeration scheme to figure out what is what.

And no.........I am not telling you how many pages there are. That doesn't matter. Just ride the route and you'll know. All the bags have been checked and all bags have all the cues. There should not be any bag with doubled up or missing cues this year. That is the main reason we numbered them, by the way. You just get the side benefit.

You'd better plan on keeping track of this card!

Secondly there is a new information card that will be handed out to riders at the Pre-Race Meat-Up. We tried to do something similar a couple of years ago with a laminated strip that was printed pretty small and wasn't part of the cues. So, a lot of riders didn't remember to use it. This year we actually printed this as a cue sheet.

This sheet has information on it that you as a Trans Iowa rider will want to hang on to throughout the duration of your ride. First and foremost is the DNF number which you should call if you are dropping out. You can also call this number for questions about the cues, route, or to get directions to have someone get you off the course.

Next is the Trans Iowa Radio number. This is your opportunity to call in and have anyone you know following the event get an update on your progress and state of mind. Ben from RidingGravel.com is doing this service all weekend for the riders, so please give him your shout-out for doing this with his time.

Following that is a detailed description of the Trans Iowa reroute procedure which you may need to navigate by in case we have a bridge out, road closure, or some other concern.

At the bottom you have the cue sheet legend. We used to have this on about every card or every fourth card. We decided not to do that and use that space now for actual cues. So......this is the only cue legend you will have. Another reason not to lose it.

So, we are liking these changes and new features. Hopefully you riders will also.


Minus Ten Review- 16

I got this saddle from the Sea Otter in trip in '07 and now it is my son's saddle on his fat bike.
Ten years ago on the blog there were only two subjects talked about- Sea Otter and Trans Iowa. Some things never change.

A decade ago it was my first trip to the Sea Otter venue. It was a big deal for me, but after three of those trips I'd had enough. Sea Otter followed directly be Trans Iowa was just too much. By 2010 my friend Michael, who was helping me with Twenty Nine Inches, was willing to do the Sea Otter gig. He lived in California and it was only a five hour or something like that drive for him.

Trans Iowa, on the other hand, was my gig after 2007. Yes, I had David Pals as my helper starting in 2008, but as much as I wanted to try to make him a co-presence when people thought of the event, it just never worked out that way. Honestly, I don't think David was all that comfortable with being that anyway. So, it became "my deal" whether or not that was how I actually thought of it. Back then, I certainly did not think of it that way. In fact, I was going to stop the whole deal after V3, (which was before David joined me), since I thought that it was all Jeff Kerkove's deal and that it wasn't Trans Iowa without him.

Obviously, that never happened

Friday, April 21, 2017

Friday News And Views

Honali. The tire, not the land where Puff lived.
Yesterday I received two Terrene Honali tires for test and review on RidingGravel.com. These are not really tires for gravel, specifically, but since they are aimed at the touring crowd, gravel would be on the menu for these. Especially in a "world touring" sense.

These are  a claimed 700c X 50mm tire and tubeless ready. I found both claims to be very true. They pumped up with some sealant with a rotten old floor pump on my WTB Frequency i23 rims easily. The width at 40 psi was 50.22mm right after mounting.

I put these tires on my Gen I Fargo because it is most like a touring bike and it does gravel very well. Plus it has the clearance for the tire! That's kind of important. The Honali also has a reflective sidewall and a nice, capable looking tread pattern. It will be interesting to see how it does on gravel and dirt. Terrene says that they designed the tire with dual sport motorcycle tread in mind, and the tire does give me that vibe. So, it will be fun to see how "dual sport" the Honali really is.

By the way, the Honali I have is the "Tough" casing model but there is an even burlier version available for those who abhor the thought of getting a flat, or who just are wanting a bombproof tire for some expeditionary concerns. I'll be mentioning this tire from time to time here but the real review will be happening on RidingGravel.com.


Haulin' the goods for T.I.v13

Trans Iowa T-shirt News: 

 My friend Sam is really getting back to his roots by having gone all by bike of late. That's right, he has eschewed his vehicles for bicycles and is doing all his errands by bicycles now.

Here is a pic of Sam's rig picking up the Trans Iowa v13 t-shirts with his "Bill" trailer from Surly Bikes. I love that Sam is back to this routine again and it warms my heart to know that these t-shirts started their journey being pulled on a trailer by a bicycle.

I have a trailer, but I don't often use it. I find that I like doing things by Big Dummy better. To each their own, but there is something about hauling stuff on a Big Dummy that I find more satisfying than I do by piling it all on a trailer. I suppose there are certain things you have to use a trailer for, and that is cool. I just don't really even think about my bicycle trailer much.

At any rate, the t-shirts are on their way to me. I have to meet up with Sam today and pick them up from him. I will be in Des Moines anyway to pick up Mrs. Guitar Ted from the airport after her trip to be with her family. So, it should all work out for the good.

Trans Iowa Radio:

Just a reminder that next week at this time we will be cranking up Trans Iowa Radio again on RidingGravel.com . The deal is that not only will you be able to hear about the goings on with Trans Iowa v13 from me, but also from the riders themselves. This is a great way to keep track of anyone you care about that is doing the event. They just have to avail themselves of this resource we are providing.

The way it works is that the riders will have a number to call. There will be a short message and a bit of a pregnant pause, then the rider can leave up to a two minute long message on whatever they want to talk about. Most give a brief update about how far along they are, the conditions, and a bit about how they are feeling.

It will be a fun way to keep track of the event and with the goings on lasting 34 hours, you could probably find new updates when you go to the bathroom at 3:30am Sunday morning. If you want to, that is!

Okay,that's all for this week. Have a good one and ride your bicycles!!