Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Gravel Worlds '19: Part 3

Rolling into the high country of the "Bohemian Alps" at Gravel Worlds
My plan was working excellently. I felt great so far after 30 miles in, and I almost had an hour "in the bank" to spend on stops, if need be. My first planned stop was going to be at Loma which was about 40 miles into the course.

While on my way there I ran into a couple of folks giving me props on this blog and for (Sincere thanks again to anyone who mentioned my work while we were riding. I totally appreciate it.) I cannot remember everybody, but I remember Shane, and of course, Warren. I do also remember seeing Ben Petty who is from my area and he quipped, "I think I see you more in Nebraska than back home!" I generally run into Matt Wills, a former Trans Iowa finisher and GTDRI veteran at some point during every Gravel Worlds I do, and this one was no exception. Matt took notice of my square taper crank set and said, "Square taper! How do those arms even stay on the bike?!" He was being sarcastic, of course, as he was spinning a set of square taper White Industries cranks!  Anyway, the interactions with other riders was fun and much appreciated.

As I was chatting with Warren, we ended up in Loma. Warren pushed on riding his black single speed, and I pulled up for my first stop. I needed to use a restroom, get more water, and maybe look for some suitable road food to take away with me when I decided to leave. By the time I reached Loma, the Sun had cleared the clouds and it was bright and sunny. Of course, it was also getting hotter. That didn't matter to me. I was having a great ride so far. But I also new that there was a long way to go.

The scene outside the Loma Tap. Free water fill up at the red pick-up truck. That's Pell Duval in the orange tutu. 
The owner of the bar plugging in some coins to get the music rolling. Mostly country music from the 60's and 70's here.
Upon entering the bar I did a double take. There was a woman working there, probably into her 60's, and in good shape for that age, with a raging beehive hairdo, heavy eye make-up, and a shirt that said "Loma Is My Second Homa". She looked like a brunette version of Tammy Wynette. Anyway, I was floored because I don't think I've seen a beehive hairdo in the wild since I was a younginz.

I didn't spend a ton of time there, but I moved on with a full compliment of water and a couple of granola bars for the road. Next stop on the course was going to be Valparaiso. I didn't plan on stopping there, but instead I thought I'd put in another 20 miles and stop next at the first checkpoint at Mile 60. The roads were very hilly, but since we had passed the highest part of the course, it was mostly downhill to Valpo. I think it was in this section where I hit 39.8 mph at one point, which was my max speed for the day.

Valparaiso, Nebraska
I was cruising along when I saw a couple of cyclists as we were about to make a right hand turn. One was a smaller woman on an Ice Cream Truck fat bike and the other was a guy on a nice looking red bike. I almost missed the turn and kind of cut off those two in the process. It wasn't intentional, but I felt bad about that. Anyway, the guy on the nice looking red bike came up alongside on my right and I noted that it was a Singular. Now, those are rare bikes, and so I thought, "Hey! Maybe I know this guy!" Upon more scrutiny, I found out it was Scott, and it was his old red Singular he's had for years. We chatted a bit and then I moved on down the road. I saw Pell ahead of me, and I eventually passed him as well and went right on through Valpo on my way to Branched Oak Farms which was about another ten miles down the road.

In this section I was passed by a young woman on a bike and I thought I recognized her from breakfast earlier at the hotel. I sprinted up to her and sure enough, it was her. We had a fantastic conversation and I was duly impressed with her personality. She suddenly said, "By the way, my name is Meg. What's your name?" Well, of course I answered, but having such a direct question like that was attention getting. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with Meg. Thanks, if you ever read this. That made my day better.

So, Meg finally outpaced me and disappeared up ahead. I plugged along feeling okay as the heat got hotter and the Sun rode up into the sky. It was getting to be about 11:00am and I had a good hour plus in the bank time-wise. I was looking forward to a bit of a rest at the checkpoint. I thought I wouldn't spend much time there and then just push onward to Malcolm, another ten miles up the road, and rest a bit more there since there is shade in Malcolm, not so much at Branched Oak.
The Branched Oak Farms volunteers were awesome.

Eventually I pulled into Branched Oak Farms and I was tired, but I was feeling like I had more miles in me yet. The weather had gone hot and humid with a good stiff wind. That's always a tough deal for me. But I had time in the bag and my plan at this point into the ride was to take it easy and rest when I needed it. At this point I was just interested in getting water, maybe eating, and then getting out and back into some kind of rhythm.

As I was getting something to eat, (a handful of Fritos, a plain hot dog, and a Coke), I ran into Meg again as she was just getting ready to head back out on the course. We chatted a bit, then I went around the backside of the small outbuilding there to get into some shade while I sipped my soda. I spoke a bit with Steve and Kathy who were doing a tandem class ride. After I sipped the last of the soda. I grabbed my bike to head out. Just as I did I saw Meg take off. I wouldn't see her again, but I heard she finished strong.

WooHoo! A MMR in Gravel Worlds!

I hadn't gone up the road far when I realized something wasn't right. My guts were churning and I was starting to feel like I was not "running right", for lack of a better term. I turned onto a dirt road then and this was where the course was two-way. The 75 mile course riders were going against us and so on these rutted out tracks on the dirt road, I had to watch carefully as I climbed a steep hill and the others were bombing down the same. Yeah......ahhh....Frankly I wouldn't have ever considered doing that in one of my events. It just sounds like trouble in the making, but I made it with no issues. That is, other than breaking off a water bottle cage!

Wait a minute! Something is missing here!
It was comical, actually. I was thinking I needed to get more water down the hatch and climbing slowly was as good a time as any to start hydrating. I grabbed my right fork mounted bottle, and as I did, unbeknownst to me, the cage pulled through the bolts that were holding it. It was a Velocity Bottle Trap, so a plastic cage, not metal.

I took several swigs as I kept an eye on any traffic that might be speeding downhill toward me. Then I tried to replace the bottle in the cage, while not looking, and kept missing the cage, which was frustrating. I have had this bike so long, I can "no-look" a bottle in that fork mount cage any day. What the heck!...... 

So, finally I bend down to look and no cage! What?!! I stopped and looked 20 yards down the trail and there it was laying in a rut. So, I fetched it and stuffed the bottle in my Chaff Bag after rearranging some other stuff. Then I was back on the bike. By this time the heat was raging on that dirt road and I was feeling not so great. I climbed slowly up and finally back on gravel. It was becoming quite the slog and my gut wasn't getting better, it was getting worse. The legs felt fine, I didn't have any dizziness, no sleepy feelings, just a big, bloated gut feeling and churning in the intestines.

Well, my power was being sapped since my guts were shutting down. It wasn't far to Malcom now. I figured on cruising into town, finding some shade, and just giving myself some time. I had a lot of "time in the bank", my average speed was above 12 mph, and it wasn't even noon yet.

As I was assessing my options, Pell Duvall caught me again and asked how it was going, as I tried to answer I just about belched up my dinner. I probably should have. Maybe it would have been gross, but maybe it would have made me feel better. Anyway, Pell gave me some thoughts to chew on and then he rolled on. I made it into town and sat down besides the Post Office in the shade on some cool concrete. I felt awful by this point. My gut was not happy. It was getting painful now. Things weren't fun anymore.

Well, I gave myself until 12:30pm to make a call on whether to go on or to cut the course where the return loop of the next 75 miles came back to Malcom. Rob Evans and his crew were in the car wash building and invited me over. I walked over, a bit light headed and sore in the gut, and by 12:30pm, despite feeling kind of okay, but weak, I had to say no more. I knew what lay ahead. Some of the biggest hills, the hottest part of the day was yet to come, and this would be the furthest point away from the start which I would be headed into.

Crash landing site back at Fallbrook neighborhood.
I made the prudent decision, as I was responsible for myself, to get myself back to the start without encumbering anyone else. I knew it wasn't going to be easy to ride about ten more miles, or whatever it was, but I figured the last drops in the tank needed to be about making sure I got back.

I set off, bidding Rob and his merry men farewell. I felt awful. Not just physically awful, but I felt shame and a lot of disappointment. This last section was going to be populated by guys finishing. Fast guys. I had heard that the winning lead packs were about finished up, and had gone by Malcom already, but surely more were coming. It wasn't going to be fun cutting the course back to Lincoln getting passed by the serious racer crowd, but whatever.

I did get passed by about six guys going, what I assumed was, cruising pace for them. They were guys that probably had gotten shelled out of the lead group. Now, with "nothing to gain" they were kind of like me. Just riding to get back to the finish. Only they were a lot faster at that! 

It was slow, but I slogged it out to the finish area. I stopped at one point to take my number plate off and disable my chip timer. When I made it back, I stopped well short of the finish line to inform a volunteer I was not a finisher, then I dismounted, giving the finish line a wide berth. I did not want any confusion that I was a finisher. Gravel Worlds, to my knowledge, doesn't have a "DNF Line", so this was the best I could think of at the time and in the condition I was in. I ended up walking around the SchillingBridge Tap House looking for a suitable place to sit in the shade but there wasn't anything appealing to me. So, I walked back to Tony's truck, saw some shade under a pine tree, and threw myself into the grass. Just about 77 miles down.

By the time I got back to the finish area, it felt like someone was stabbing me from the inside out. I definitely made the right decision to head back from Malcom. There was no way I was getting much further down the course without assistance later. I writhed in half awake pain and fitful napping for about an hour before the pain relented enough that I could get into Tony's truck with all the windows down and just concentrate on relaxing and recovery.

Then I grabbed my phone to pass the time and take my mind off my disappointing finish. That's when I saw that someone posted on my Facebook timeline and was congratulating me on finishing 11th in Gravel Worlds. What?!! Oh! Hold on! I figured it out. That timing and scoring loop must have picked me up anyway! I sent a message to the person who posted as a comment on that post of there's and made sure I set the record straight. Not long afterward, the guys from Gravel Worlds contacted me and we got it all straightened out. I apologize for that mess! I had no intentions of "finishing" like that!

Oh, and remember my rear tire that had gone soft the day before Gravel Worlds?

Tony ended up finishing at around seven o'clock. We met up then and were going to go out to eat when Tony discovered that my rear tire was dead flat on the bike rack on the truck. Crazy tire! It was fine all day! Well, at least as long as I needed it to be.

This ends the Gravel Worlds '19 report. Thanks to the PCL, volunteers, and riders that make this event so special. I had another awesome day with rad folks.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Gravel Worlds '19: Part 2

The Cycle Works gang (Me in center) Image by Michaela courtesy of Rob Evans
Tony and I got our gear on quickly after breakfast and we were out the door with plenty of time to get to the Fallbrook area North of Lincoln for the start at SchillingBridge. I noted that my tire held air again all night, so..... ??? Weird. (More on the rear tire later)

The bikes got unloaded and as we were riding over to the staging area for the start, I could hear Tony trying to shift his front derailleur. But it wouldn't shift. It was just grinding, grinding, and this after Tony had said that his bike had been working perfectly. Great! Why is it that these gremlins rear their ugly little heads at the most inopportune times?

Well, we stopped under a street light and tried to diagnose what the issue was. Everything looked normal upon a visual inspection. The cable tension was thought to be the culprit for a brief minute, but that wasn't it either. Tony tried shifting without him in the saddle as I held the bike's rear end up off the ground. It shifted! So, Tony went for a brief test ride. He came back with more positive, but guarded news. It shifted, but it wasn't a real inspiring shift. He was going to live with it.

With that done I moved to the back end of the starting chute where I belonged. Suddenly I found myself surrounded by many in the Cycle Works crew. Their distinctive "Rasta" striped jerseys are hard to miss. I saw Rob Evans, (he was at my GTDRI ride in July), and his girlfriend, Michaela was there as well. I moved over to chat with Michaela a bit and next thing ya know I was in the middle of the Cycle Works start line image. Literally. I was in the middle of it. Anyway.......

Tony looking over his bike pre-race. It turned out to be okay.
Then we all chatted until the minutes wound their way around to close to 6:00am, which was the slated start time, and we began to get a bit more focused on what was about to happen. I even remembered to turn on my Lezyne Super GPS unit! Amazing, right? (By the way- I hate that you have to mess with the menu and physically turn on two different things to get the stupid computer just to read out the info on your ride.)

I was taking things calmly. No need to stress out about my lack of training, my rear tire, or whatever. I just wanted to give it a go and see what would happen. My plan was to "shift early- shift often" and as an alternative to a maxim I heard from former Trans Iowa winner Dennis Grelk, I was going to "go easy on the hard parts, and go easy on the easy parts". Dennis didn't say, "go easy on the easy parts" though!

We were talking amongst each other at the starting line about how when Gravel Worlds used to be led out for the neutralized start by an old Ford pick-up truck with a very throaty exhaust note. You could tell when the driver dropped the automatic transmission into "Drive" as the RPM's would cause the exhaust note to lower in pitch. You knew to get clipped in then because it was about to be "go time". Now, with a police cruiser doing the escort from town, that is a distant memory. Suddenly, I heard a chorus of metallic clicking noises. Lots of clipless pedals being engaged all at once. Guess we were off! With the start chute being so narrow, we had to wait about 30 seconds before we could get ourselves mobile. Then it was a left turn out into the neighborhood. The course was pavement for the first mile plus, so jockeying for positions is pretty common here.

An overcast sky greeted the riders. It actually rained a tiny bit before the start.
The scrum on the initial parts of the course wasn't as bad as I have experienced in years past. The riders seemed to holding lines, not cutting people off, and everyone just seemed to be working well around each other. At least where I was in the group. The overcast, very humid, but cool weather was also odd. Typically it is baking already an hour into this event and you are looking at a long day in the heat. However; the overcast skies made the temperatures hold down in the upper 70's longer than expected, and everyone I came across seemed to be having a lot more fun than we would have been had the Sun been out.

The full moon hadn't set yet as the riders get strung out over the Gravel Worlds course.
I got settled into a groove and found out I wasn't working too hard but was "putting time in the bank". My goal was to keep well above a 10 miles covered per hour pace so I would be able to take longer breaks when necessary when and if the Sun came out and it got hot. It would get hot, right? I mean, it is Gravel Worlds we are talking about here. 

Everything was working so smoothly it was scary. I was eating, drinking, and keeping from horsing the pedals too much. Then I got up to around Mile 30, a left hand turn at the bottom a fairly fast downhill. The road was graded here, fluffed up, and the surface was loose. What's more, the turn was off-camber, and also very loose. A woman on a small fat bike was just entering the apex of the turn as I started to enter the turn. I was gaining on her quickly and I figured that as she straightened up off the corner I would pass her on the outside. But just then she stabbed her brakes, and drifted to the outside, right into my planned line!

You know when you do something pretty outstanding and you wish someone would have filmed it? I made a pretty spectacular, one-footed save, and rode the bike to a halt just before entering the ditch. One person behind me who didn't see what caused my fancy stop said, "Get in too hot?", with a smirk as he flew by. Whatever. I know what went down, and in the moment I was pretty upset that this woman bailed out and got on her brakes. She ran me right off the road.  It wasn't her fault, just one of those deals, and I quickly got over it and moved on. I was just glad I didn't eat it and go for a ditch header.

Next Gravel Worlds '19: Part 3

Monday, August 19, 2019

Gravel Worlds '19: Part 1

Pared down the load to the bike and one bag for 2019.
Friday morning I was ready to go. Everything was ready from a gear standpoint. But you readers who have been paying attention know that my outings in the country have been sparse in 2019. Long rides? Ha! That hasn't happened with the exception of the Solstice 100 and the GTDRI for me, neither one of which I managed to finish.

So, the goal going into this Gravel Worlds? Just have fun and go as far as I could go. That's it. Realistically I knew going in that finishing a brutal 150 mile course was pie in the sky thinking for 2019 on my part. I pretty much figured that finishing would be a very low percentage point wish on my part. So, I just wanted to get as far as I could with no issues until there were issues. If that makes any sense. I wanted to do things smartly, which is the #1 reason I chose the Fargo. It fits me perfectly, and it has a triple crank, so the widest gearing range I have access to was on that bike. I knew that would be a boon to my chances of going far.

I also was counting on the water bottle capacity to be a big advantage, as I am a heavy sweater, and Gravel Worlds is typically very humid and hot, in terms of weather conditions. Finally, I just tried to have a very casual approach to the event, because I knew it wasn't going to be easy for me, or likely an effort that resulted in a finish. I just didn't put in the proper amount of time to expect anything more than a fun ride in the country. I knew that, and accepted that fact ahead of time.

So, my friend Tony picked me up and we were off to Lincoln, Nebraska. The drive went well, we actually made it there in record (for us) time and had time to kill. Fortunately, Gravel Worlds had a bit of a vendor expo that we viewed and, as it turns out, was profitable from a perspective, although I was not expecting that at all.

Schwag from Gravel Worlds- (t-shirt was optional upon registration)
Tony and I eventually went in to get registration completed, got our t-shirts, and the "schwag-bag" of goodies, including a sweet coffee cup and "spork" dealie-bob from presenting sponsor Lauf.

My brother MG was there, and we hung out for a bit until it was time for MG to head back to tend to his children. That was the cue for Tony and I to get some grub. The "homebase" for Gravel Worlds is SchillingBridge Cork & Tap House. So, we ate there, which was a wise choice. My meal was awesome and I would highly recommend the place. Gravel Worlds had a special Radler-type beer brewed by SchillingBridge and I must admit, it was the best Radler I have ever had. 

Then after all that Tony and I retired to the Graduate Motel in downtown Lincoln, and we downloaded our stuff into our room for the weekend. Upon getting everything unloaded, Tony noted that my rear tire was soft! Oh no! But I pumped it back up and it seemed to be okay. Now this was the same tire that went soft Tuesday last week on me. Crap!  Just the thing you need to have on your mind before a big ride. Well, there was nothing to do about it late Friday evening but to forget it and try to get a good night's rest before the 4:00am wake up call. 

The night's sleep was "okay", interrupted as it was by loud children in a room across the hall and by fireworks later in the evening after a University of Nebraska baseball game. 4:00am came and Tony and I quickly went about getting dressed for the free breakfast the motel was providing. As we were munching down scrambled eggs, and perhaps the best bacon I've had, a young lady came over and asked about sitting with us. Of course, we obliged her and had a bit of small talk before begging our leave and going to our room to kit up and get down to getting down. A minor deal? I would think so, on the surface of it, but later on, this small, seemingly insignificant meeting would have a bigger impact upon me. 

Next: Gravel Worlds '19 Part 2

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Trans Iowa Stories: Tales Of v2 Part 2

The start of T.I.v2- The first 4:00am Trans Iowa start ever, in Hawarden, Iowa.
 "Trans Iowa Stories" is an every Sunday post which helps tell the stories behind the event. You can check out other posts about this subject by going back to earlier Sunday posts on this blog. Thanks and enjoy!

The road to Trans Iowa v2 was a bit smoother, we had more confidence, and things were dialed in a bit better. Yeah, there was the "Rogue Seven" incident. That was a big scare for us. Well.....for me anyway. The story was that Jeff had set up online registration to go live on a Saturday night. What happened was that it went live on Saturday morning! I was getting e-mails about it and that is how I found out. I was at home, and Jeff was working. Since he wasn't at his home computer, he couldn't get to fixing it right away. So before he got it shut down, a bunch of registrations went through. We were immediately aware that seven guys got in, but the number turned out to be slightly higher than that. In the end, "Rogue Seven" stuck, and the guys that slipped in early kind of had a cult-like status for a few hours.

 I remember the days leading up to v2 at the shop where Jeff and I worked. We were pretty loose. There was a good feeling about this one. But then, the weather turned on us. Three days before T.I.v2 it started raining over Northwest Iowa. Not just any ol' rain, but the steady, soaking type of rain that swells the Earth, causes the rich Iowa soil to become a sticky mess, and the kind of rain that fills pools and ditches to overflowing after a while. This is what we faced going into it.

But it didn't seem to dampen our spirits much. We were stoked and hopeful that the event would be a great one. I remember loading up the shop van behind the store and it was like Jeff and I were playing hooky. It was as if we were off on a "road trip" and leaving all our Worldly responsibilities behind to go do some crazy stuff in rural Iowa. The drive out was one of the most fun times I've ever had during Trans Iowa. We were having a hoot!

Things got a bit more sober when we came into an area not more than 40 miles from the start at Hawarden and took a look at a road we were going to have on course. Now it matters that you understand the gravel out there to get a handle on what the conditions were like. Later, after T.I.v2, we were told by Rich Gosen, a man learned in the ways of geology, that the gravel out there was mainly "glacial till". This gravel, local to Northwest Iowa, is mostly quartz, granite, and sand. It makes for a gravel that can hold a LOT of water, not letting it run off. If you've ever been in Minnesota, upper Wisconsin, or around the Great Lakes, you'll understand it when I say that the roads for T.I.v2 were like a soaked lake beach.

This shot, taken West of Paulina, Iowa, illustrates the Northwestern Iowa "glacial till" gravel conditions during T.I.v2
Jeff and I were concerned, but we shrugged our shoulders and headed onward to Hawarden anyway. What could we do? We had decided weather wasn't going to postpone this event, and so, we moved forward. Once we reached Hawarden, the gray skies continued to spew a mist here and there, but we were focused upon our task at hand. That being the "pre-race meeting", which was going to be facilitated by Jeff and I at the local Pizza Ranch in their party room.

Jeff doing some ninja moves while I look on. Pre-race meeting, T.I.v2 Image by Dave Nice
The event was marked by the appearance this time of the LaLonde Brothers. Both were single speed aces in the MTB fields at the Wisconsin based WORS Series. The Pre-race meeting had to happen the night before now, with the 4:00am start. We held the meeting during the get-together at Pizza Ranch and had a "rider call-up". This started the annual tradition of the T.I. racer call up I used until the very last one. I started calling riders up for v2 in alphabetical order that year as Jeff did the handing out of bags. Jesse LaLonde approached me just as I called him up to ask that I announce his brother, Mark, as "The Darkness", and that he'd be especially pleased if I would do that. Of course, I did. I think he was actually happy about that too.

The pre-race was marked by the sobriety and solemness that an event going into nasty weather often has. We had a fair number of "no-shows", so even though we had let 70 people in, only 51 actually started. This was also the event that marked the beginning of our relationship, (mine, actually, since Jeff left for Colorado by the next year) with the Nebraska Crew. There were several good friendships that came out of that race.

The pre-race ended and Jeff and I went to the same host home we used for T.I.v1, but if I recall correctly, there may have been no other racers there, just us. Anyway, the host family had put in a new toilet since we'd been there a year prior and it was so loud when flushed I awoke every time it was used throughout the evening. As would become typical, any sleep for me prior to a 4:00am start of a Trans Iowa was minimal to none. We got up at 2:30am and started our day.

There were a few Canadians in the event this time and they wanted Jeff to ferry their van across the state as the event progressed. So, at the start I was kind of back on my own again, driving the shop van, while Jeff kind of laid back and did......? I really do not know what he was doing and would not see him again until well after Sunrise.

Next: T.I.v2 tales, part 3.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Minus Ten Review 2009-35

The last one. The ill-fated 2009 Big Wheeled Ballyhoo poster.
Ten years ago this week on the blog there was a LOT of 29"er news. Gary Fisher Bikes, (remember that brand?) announced their new MTB's for 2010. It would be the last year that Gary Fisher would be a stand alone brand. But, of course, we didn't know that then.

I also had news of a 29" Maverick American bike with one of those Maverick American forks on it. Remember THAT brand?

Weird handle bars were still a big deal back then and several were introduced into the market. What was it about 29"ers and "alt bars"? Gotta say this- 29 inch wheeled bikes really opened up a can-o-worms not just in the wheel size realm, but in several other areas as well.

I also announced the details on the 2009 Big Wheeled Ballyhoo. While it didn't all turn out the way I wanted it to, due to a family emergency and weather, this was the version I had in mind from the beginning. No vendors. No hoopla. Just a bunch of yahoos getting together to ride 29"ers. In fact, it was still too tied to media and the industry for my tastes. But whatever..... It was what it was.

Ah! The "what ifs" about this idea still haunt me to this day. Had I not listened to Tim Grahl and just done it my way, ya know? But you cannot re-live the past. Only learn from it. In fact, the failures of the Big Wheeled Ballyhoo actually reinforced my desires to do better and to "do it my way" in regard to Trans Iowa. The lessons from this deal finally pushed me out of "Twenty Nine Inches" and into doing something else I really wanted to do. The lessons of the Big Wheeled Ballyhoo helped me to end Trans Iowa in the way I wanted to do it.

So, while on the surface of it, the Big Wheeled Ballyhoo may seem like a colossal failure, it was not. It gave me some good lessons in life. It helped me forge friendships and I owe a lot to the event for that. Yes- I have regrets. But had it not gone the way that it did, who knows what my life would be like now.

Not as good, I bet.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Friday News And Views

Knolly Bikes steel Cache frame which is progressive and forward thinking- NOT carbon! Image courtesy of Knolly Bikes
It's Not Carbon Fiber?!!

A new gravel bike gets introduced. Big deal, right? Probably another carbon framed, "same-as-the-last-verse" deal. Well, not this time! Not only that, but this bike is steel, and it isn't some neo-classic, rando deal either. (Not that there is anything wrong with that. But it is expected more so than this)

Nope, Knolly, who did a turn with a similar design in titanium earlier this year, have rendered this design in steel. Steel is less expensive than titanium, and while I'd love a Ti version of this bike, a steel one is more attainable. I also happen to like the Sky Blue Camo color option. (pictured here) You don't normally paint Ti, so a nice paint scheme over steel, that's kind of neat right there as well.

Of course, I don't really need another bike, but...... If I keep on with, I do need to do something about the Tamland Two. It isn't up to date with through axles and what not, where this Knolly rig is, and if I replace the Tamland, I'd rather that bike be steel than not. This Cache fits the bill. Plus it would be both 700c and 650B compatible, and it can handle 2X or 1X, which is helpful.

So, the interest is there, but right now isn't a good time for me to invest. We'll have to wait and see......

The jersey I'll be wearing for Gravel Worlds celebrates their tenth year of the event.
Gravel Worlds #10:

A decade of Gravel Worlds is about to pass by after this weekend's running of the Pirate Cycling League's tongue-in-cheek take on Pro roadie World Championships. Of course, it isn't really a Worlds of gravel. But that never stopped the PCL from just running with that presumptuous idea and poking holes at what was going on in the Pro ranks.

The event is just the PCL's irreverent, punk rock attitude put into an event which initially was designed to be a challenge, fun, and all-inclusive. The event grew out of what was the "Good Life Gravel Adventure", and for all intents and purposes, if you had attended the last GLGA and the first Gravel Worlds, you'd have noticed barely anything was different. (I happen to have done this very thing) For all intents and purposes, the Gravel Worlds of today is about as "Good Life Gravel Adventure" as it gets. Just an evolution over a decade, really, and the fact that there are more folks riding now. The first Gravel Worlds had 96 riders. This coming one? Over 300.

Signing up at "race central" (The former Oso's restaurant in Lincoln) for the 1st Granel Worlds
 Ten years is a long time to run an event. Figure 12 if you include the previous two GLGA events that preceded Gravel Worlds. The PCL is celebrating its accomplishment by offering a cool poster at the pre-Race get together, and I may have to buy one. I have the limited edition, one of 50 first GW poster on my wall right now. It needs a friend, don't you think? Ha! Well, maybe I will get that poster, we'll see.

Anyway, Gravel Worlds is still, in many ways, the GLGA it always has been, but the PCL guys have managed to bring in the more competitive, "pointy" end of athleticism and its attendant trappings. This all co-exists with the down-home, grassroots feel they always have had, but it also brought some unwanted attention back in 2017. Well, actually, myself and my partner Ben at were the ones that got the unwanted attention first. You know, when you get an e-mail with this heading: "Subject: Illegal use of the UCI Rainbow colours - gravel worlds", well, THAT grabs your attention straight away! Especially when it really is the UCI that is getting upset with you!

I won't get into details, but that e-mail eventually got directed to the proper party, and this is why the Gravel Worlds "theme" for their jerseys and merch has changed. Another pitfall of being an event promoter and being a bit subversive. Lawyers don't have a sense of humor. Trust me- I know from a T.I.v8 incident involving the mocking of a certain vegetable juice can design.

So, here we are. Ten years of Gravel Worlds and I'll be there to ride it. Expect a full report starting on Monday.

Low water crossing at the DK200 in 2015
 It's A Risky Business:

Well, you know, every so often I see stories about how gravel events aren't doing it right, and the story writer continues on to "set us all straight on how it could/should be".


Okay, so here's my take on the linked article above from Marshall Opel, a road Pro at one time, and the guy Cyclingtips pegged for their "Endless Gravel Summer" tour of sorts, with sponsorship and some support from several industry brands.

The premise of the article is to "do away with finish lines", or some such malarkey. I have to wonder if he felt the same way when he was racing on pavement, but we do not know. Anyway..... Several misguided assertions are made here which, unfortunately, are going to lead not more than just a few folks off into the weeds. Here's the deal as I see it.

Mr. Opel, first off, got himself injured, and I wish him a speedy and full recovery. He is a fellow human, and I don't like seeing anyone get hurt. Now as for what he wrote, well, for one thing, he seems to assert that "gravel, in its current state, is not optimized for racing", and then states that without road closures most events are really just group rides.


Thank you for letting us in on that secret, Mr. Opel. Thousands of us had no idea we weren't racing, but were on "just big group rides taking advantage of low-traffic areas".

Mr. Opel then goes on to describe a couple of events that take the greyhound chase out of the events a bit, which is fine. Gravel events like this have existed for well over a decade. Had Mr. Opel done even just a little research, he could have informed readers that there are literally hundreds of different types of gravel events, one or two sure to suit anyone's desires for full-on competition, or all the way down to chill group rides for adventure. It would have been easy to have just written about how those choices have existed for all this time. Apparently, Mr. Opel doesn't know, or neglected to tell us these facts.

And when you know those events have existed and are available, well then- you can do what is comfortable for you to do, if "comfort" and "safety" are what concerns you.

Then, curiously, we get a somewhat detailed accounting of how Mr. Opel got injured in the heat of "racing", (I guess it could have just been "just a big group ride" if the roads weren't closed), and ended up getting some internal hardware from his mishap. He admits to making an error in judgment, then states, "... you do what you can to hedge risk while knowing full well that shit happens in races. It’s a part of the game."

And that's it, really. Full stop. It's a "risky business, this riding bicycles, and when you sign that waiver, you assume the risk." And like ol' Mike Curiak told me once, "If you don't like that, maybe this event isn't for you." Find something you are comfortable with. Those events are out there. Tons of them.

Gravel racing, (or big group rides.....whatever), are dangerous. They are not like Pro road events for a reason. Without the danger, the risk, then what is there? A fun, chill group ride? That's fine, if that is what you want. But thousands of people sign on for these "races", and yes- some of them are going to crash, some of them are in over their heads, and some of them are inexperienced riders. It's a beautiful mess where everyone gets to try to figure it all out together. You should know that going in, and if you don't, you are ill-informed. No one is making you enter these events. You do not have to ride in them.

That's why we always said "You Are Responsible For You". It means that you assume risk, that you assume research into the activity beforehand, and that you accept that sometimes, as Mr. Opel so eloquently put it, "...that shit happens in races." 

Have a great weekend, y'all. Get out and ride some bicycles!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Remembering A Milestone

You know, it is very ironic that I became a person that writes so many things. If you'd had known me as a kid, you would have never guessed this would have happened.

My earliest memory of writing was when I was in the second grade at Lincoln Elementary School in Charles City, Iowa. Mrs Scmidt had me for a special section in English. My regular teacher was Mrs. Ruesch, who was, for some reason, not teaching this section. Anyway, the assignment for several days was to write a story about some random image given to you on the spot.

I remember having a severe case of what you might call "writer's block", although I did not know I was a writer at the time. I just have a vivid memory of staring at an image one day in class and feeling a tremendous pressure to perform which paralyzed me. Somehow I overcame it, because I remember subsequent days afterward I was able to write things.

Then there was the sophomore year in high school. We were supposed to have English taught by a teacher, but she fell victim to what was described as to us as a "nervous breakdown" just before the year started. So we had substitute teachers. One we ran out of the class room by our poor behavior. The other was so laid back nothing mattered, and so I did not learn anything at all about English in high school as that was my last English class I ever had. I guess that means the last "real" English class I had was in 9th grade. So, you are reading stuff from a guy with a 9th grade English education and no formal training in journalism, writing, or editing whatsoever.

Why go into all of this? Well, yesterday I got one of those "Facebook Memories" notifications that reminded me that seven years ago I got published in my favorite MTB magazine, "Dirt Rag". It was a feature story for that particular issue and was all about the history of 29" wheeled bicycles. Now think about that for a minute. They could have asked a LOT of other folks to write that piece. Gary Fisher? Wes Williams? (Built the first 29"er and advocated for "The Tire" to be made) Maybe even one of their own staff could have written it, say Maurice Tierney, a Mountain Bike Hall Of Fame member himself and one that witnessed the entire 29"er thing alongside of those that developed it. Maybe some others, say like Bob Poor, who was intimately familiar with 29"er development and had the first 29"er specific website.

But, for whatever reason, I got the call. Me. A poorly educated bike mechanic from Iowa. Go figure......

So, forgive me please for bothering you today with something from the past. I am still amazed and blown away that my life has taken the turns that it has taken. This memory from 2012 is another one of those milestone moments in my life that fits into the "I can't believe I did THAT!" files.

Thanks for allowing me to reminisce. Thanks for reading, as always!