Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Adventure By Bicycle Simplified

Gino Bartali circa 1936- Showing not much has changed in a long time.
Bicycling has a problem with being an activity that on one hand wants to include more people and then tells you on the other hand how you are not doing it right. Bi-polar references aside, I often have to shake my head at how even the mainstream press in cycling does thing like this. Divisive, counterproductive articles that not only are not helpful, they also are not even close to being right.

Here is a newsflash for y'all: nothing is new in cycling. Yep. Nothing. The whole deal concerning one of my favorite cycling activities- gravel grinding- isn't new. Roadies started it, and it has been going on here for decades. I haven't advocated that this is a new, awesome genre' of cycling, but I have asked that we look backward to previous cycling eras for some ideas that work well for riding on gravel. So that we can have equipment much better suited to doing this activity than we've been able to get. And now we are getting that, and it is an awesome thing.

The other part of the whole marketing who-ha that is happening now is the debate about what to call this thing, this "not road racing", not "mountain biking", not "hybrid biking" thing that we are doing with these bicycles. Some are saying it isn't what people are calling it, while some try one name or another, and others throw their hands in the air in exasperation. Sheesh! How do we expect to invite new folks along for the ride when we cannot even agree amongst ourselves what it is we are doing or how we are doing it? Heaven forbid you bicycle and not know The Rules! Yeah........ what a freakin' mess cycling is! 

Just, you know.......having fun!
So you might ask if I am going to do something, offer an alternative, or am I just another whiner? Fair enough. Actually, I feel I have already done some things about it, to be honest. The Geezer Ride concept has successfully been done four times in four different locations. The rides attracted several cyclists, many first timers to longer rides, and was hailed at every ride as a great time. I saw another concept for a ride where folks are going to ride in the country, get back to a central place to barbecue, and play vinyl records while wearing old concert t-shirts.

So just what is it that makes these rides so attractive? Is it the specific bicycles that we are using? Are we following rules? Does it cost a bunch of money and have aid stations? What is it? I'll tell ya what it is that is going on here.......

These things called "adventure" and "fun" are central to these rides. You know......those things that made you want to ride as a kid? Freedom, a calming feeling, or a thrilling one. Whatever, but they all were not tied to what a gravel grinder is, or if an adventure bike is really a mountain bike. Bah! Phooey! 

The fact of the matter is that all two wheeled, human powered, bicycles are adventure machines. There is no need to argue. There is no need to tell me or you that we are doing it wrong, or that this bike is that kind of bike, not what you think it is. We don't need "The Rules".  No, we do not need all of that and more. We just need to be pedaling, having fun, and doing that in a way that doesn't get us killed just for having fun.

I just happen to think it isn't really all that complicated. Just go ride. Have an adventure and have fun. 

 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Riddler Riding

The WTB Riddler 37 on a Velocity A23
Okay, so here we go with the WTB Riddler tires. I mentioned these last Friday and said I was going to try them on my Velocity A23 rims, which I have done. You can read all the details on that HERE.

I am going to try to stay away from repeating myself between the RidingGravel.com stuff and here, so this post should have some different information than that linked one does. Okay, so as far as this tire goes, here are some thoughts I have.

It has the oddity of being what size WTB says it is. Tire companies have, for years now, said such-and-such a tire is "x" inches wide and you could easily win bets by saying that the tire would not be that width, but skinnier. Almost every single time, this was the case. However; now it seems that, for whatever reasons, tires are more than likely going to actually be the size printed on the sidewalls, or be bigger than stated width. The Gravel King 40's are an example where I don't think anyone has measured one of those tires at 40mm. It is always reported to be wider than that.

Weird. 

Don't get me wrong, I love that things have switched around in that way concerning tires. It makes you feel like you got more for your hard earned dollars when your 40mm tire turns out to be more like a 42mm tire. That said, your now 42mm tire may not fit the bike you had intended it for. That's the flip side of this tire deal, and it can be a bummer. But just know that as far as the gravel bike tire class widths go, you should be getting what you paid for, and you'd better have the room for that tire in your bike!

The Riddler 37 is just such a tire. 37.2mm average width across both tires I measured, and that is on a "roadie width" A23 rim. I really feel the 36-37mm width tires are the sweet spot for most gravel. Not too heavy, but just wide enough to give you most of what a heavier 40mm tire would. Not as skinny and as low volume as a 33-35mm tire either, which you are more likely to get a harsher ride out of because you can't go so low on the pressures. Plus at that width, around here, tires start "hunting lines", cutting into and not rolling over gravel, and that's wasting energy.

More soon.....

Monday, June 27, 2016

A Note From The Artist

The finish line for T.I.v12 featured the banner made from my original artwork.
Today I am going to share the story behind the original artwork for the header for the Trans Iowa site that represented Trans Iowa v12. The reason I am doing this now is because I was asked via a text message yesterday what I had intended with this version of the Trans Iowa header. Well, here is the answer, and it might be more than was asked for, but this is the story. Here goes....

My daughter, Izabel, is into anime and the Japanese art that goes along with that. There are a fair amount of dragons associated with this genre' and so she likes dragons quite a bit. When she found out that I used to draw dragons back in my high school days, she begged and pleaded with me to draw her one. I resisted until one day I decided that I could maybe do a dragon for the 12th Trans Iowa.

The  connection to Trans Iowa came along because ever since the race has existed, I have heard stories about how riders had to "wrestle their demons", or sometimes one or two folks would put it as "slaying your dragon". A sort of medieval reference to knights and their quests, I suppose. Well, at any rate, that all is kind of a mystical, spiritual sort of imagery, and that also fit in with my personal take on Trans Iowa, or any endurance event I do. In the end, drawing a dragon not only satisfied my daughter, who absolutely loved it, by the way, but it fit perfectly in with what I think several folks think of when they come to do Trans Iowa. That is, they come to "overcome" and what better way to represent that than with the idea of a dragon to slay?

Mike Johnson, (L) shares a laugh with MG. The dragon was made into a hat for the T.I.v12 volunteers.
Artwork for Trans Iowa used to be done by Jeff Kerkove. He had that task up through T.I.v9. When it came time for Trans Iowa v10, which I was pretty damn sure was going to be the very last Trans Iowa, I decided to draw my own artwork on the computer as a "swan song" of sorts to the event. Because of the importance of this to me, I decided to render up a couple of different designs, and actually, I ended up with three. I ran one, the original T.I.v10 header, until I was satisfied with what ended up becoming the T.I.v10 logo and that year's t-shirt design. When T.I.v10 was done, and I was convinced of running another, I just popped up the already finished artwork I had done as an alternative T.I.v10 logo with a modification to make it read "V11". Meanwhile, a t-shirt idea for the volunteers, (see Mike Johnson's shirt in the image), got me to do another design. Okay, so by now my old artistic ambitions have been rejuvenated, and I decided to take on the T.I.v12 artwork task. So, that is where I was coming from in regard to taking up the gauntlet and meeting the challenge of the artwork needs for T.I.v12.

That design was placed on a light blue background to represent a water color sort of backdrop, something often seen in Eastern art. Then I used a Chinese themed font for the lettering, and there ya go. T.I.v12's art work. Meanwhile, a benefactor to Trans Iowa was asking if I wanted a banner made using the original artwork, and hats using it for the volunteers. I agreed to allow this, and then the artwork was digitized, which is what you see on the banner up above. I, of course, was thrilled to have such a contribution to Trans Iowa, and I still am. The benefactor has asked to remain anonymous, or I'd be writing the name all over this post. Thanks again, and you know who you are!

It's kinda hard not to get a little verklempt as an artist when you see your work getting this sort of attention.
So, we had this banner at Checkpoint #1, to more or less identify us and make us more visible to the riders, then we carted it around to the other checkpoint, where honestly, I have no idea if we displayed it there or not. Anyway, it was at the finish line. Someone asked me if we should display it, and I tossed out the idea of attaching it to two of our wooden stakes right at the "finish line", such as it was. Trust me, I had not given this any thought whatsoever previous to opening my mouth and giving the command. Sometimes things don't go well when you don't pre-plan them out. Most of the time, I'd say. Trans Iowa is pretty well orchestrated by this point in its evolution by anyone's measure. But again, there are things I leave to a moment's notice, which may surprise some of you. In fact, sometimes I plan and plan only to have to think on my feet. (Like the meeting notes I "lost" for the Pre-Race Meat-Up that I had all along!) I think a balance of both is ideal. Anyhow.... All that to say that the banner deal at the finish couldn't have worked out more perfectly.

So, why was the dragon drawn like it was? Well, that is a "style" I have employed in drawings for years where I want to convey some sort of spiritual element. Thus the "fire"/"smoke" sort of look to the thing. Everyone's "dragon" is going to look different to them, and I wanted a somewhat ethereal appearance to the dragon to allow for personal interpretation. Hopefully that happened to some degree, but I don't know.

So, there you have it. The story behind the logo/artwork for Trans Iowa v12.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Clean The Machine

Cleaned up and ready for its close up, Mr DeMille!
I got the WTB Riddler 37's the other day, and I purposed to mount those on the Black Mountain Cycles rig using the Velocity USA A23 wheel set I have. No big deal, right? Just get it done. Wealth of bikes and first world problems aside, I had to do some cleaning of the beast, because I had "ridden it hard and put it away wet" one too many times. The old steed was in desperate need of a good, thorough cleaning.

The bike was last extensively used during the Winter and early Spring testing of three or four different tires. That meant I had done some muddy rides. I had to practically do an archeological dig to uncover the bottom bracket area! Besides that, there had been contact with oil, road spray, and whatever else one might find on city streets, so there was quite a lot of "elbow grease" applied while the cleanup continued through the mid-afternoon yesterday.

The old Bontrager bar tape was also pretty grungy, so I had this Origin 8 bar tape to try out, which is pretty close to "Safety Green". It's really comfortable and grippy, but I'll have to see how it holds up. The "Hi-Viz' thing is not really me, but hey...... I was given the stuff to try out, so I ain't complainin'! I'm sure after a few sweaty, dusty gravel rides it will tone down a bit. After that was put on, I was almost done. Two hours later! I still have to clean up the drive train some more and perhaps put on a new chain.

Then it will be time to give these Riddler treads a go. Stay tuned.......

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Minus Ten Review- 25

A peek at the original GTDRI course from a recon in 2006.
A ten year ago look at this blog from the week of June 19th-25th reveals a long look at the "Great Divide Race". Remember that? It was the precursor to the Tour Divide, which just saw Mike Hall finish in a record, sub-two week, time.

Well, ten years ago, the Tour Divide did not exist, but the roots of the race were being laid by Matthew Lee. That's right, this is the fellow you have to thank for the Tour Divide as it stands today. Here following is a snippet from a post I did ten years ago which better explains what the situation was back then......

"Hey enduro freaks! One of the most epic; if not the most epic, long rides is about to set off from Banff, Canada. It's the "prologue" portion of the Great Divide Race, otherwise known as the "GDR". This event is fully self supported, back road mountain bike touring/racing/ time trialing down the Great Divide Route as laid out by Adventure Cycling and utilized as the race course. Although "officially" the event doesn't start until the junction with the U.S. - Canadian border, the intrepid Matthew Lee, a veteran of the event, utilizes the Canadian section as a "prologue" to the event proper in hopes that one day the entire Great Divide Route will be utilized as the race course."
So, the original intentions Matt had were to keep the race as it was then, but to add the "prologue" portion, so as to make the Divide route complete. Dissenters to this suggestion were against Matt's vision due mostly to traditions and rules set as they were. Eventually, Matt's idea had to be set in a separate event format, and for a year or so, the GDR and TD events were run congruently, but when it became apparent that the TD was more popular, the GDR dropped out of the scene and ever since Tour Divide has been the way we've known this event. Interestingly, in 2008, there were 17 TD riders. This year there were 170 starters for the TD plus some in other categories.

Finally, I had a Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational recon ride.  It went about 80-ish miles in a day where I got rained on, blown away by the wind, and was delayed by an odd man on a Huffy asking weird questions about cycling related numbness of the nether regions. Yeah.... Just what you would want to discuss with a total stranger!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Friday News And Views

And the hits just keep on coming....
More WTB:

As if the Horizon 650B tires weren't enough, and as if the Nano 40TCS tires weren't good enough, now WTB has made another tire in the Riddler which gravel road enthusiasts can look forward to trying out. Of course, this was the tire WTB brought two samples of to Trans Iowa v12 and gave away to the Womens Open winner, Sarah Cooper. There will be a 45mm version coming in August, but for now, these  37's are here and will get tested on RidingGravel.com.

I saw these tires only briefly at T.I.v12, and of course, I had other things on my mind that weekend, so I didn't really get a good look at them back then. However; I have obviously taken a closer look now, and I think these will make some good gravel going treads, if I am right about them. First, they have a decent weight, at about 460gm/470gm for each tire. Secondly, the tread pattern is minimal in the center and the edge knobs look decent and I feel that is the way a gravel tire should be. If the edge knobs give lateral stability, and the width is true to spec, then I think these will be winners.

They are a TCS tire, so coupled with a WTB TCS rim, or a Velocity rim, they should pan out to be something that works really well tubeless. That's based upon my experiences with the TCS Nano 40. In fact, I will likely start out these tires with my A-23 wheels and stick them on my trusty Black Mountain Cycles Orange Crush. Later on I think I'll try them on the PWGW wheel set and stick those on the T-6 Standard Rando. Anyway, I am expecting great things from these tires since they are from WTB, and the Nano 40 and, so far, the Horizon 47's have been very impressive tires. I'll be very disappointed if these tires don't at least come out as well as the Nano 40 has.

Wish I was here.....but then again, maybe I don't. Image by Wally Kilburg
 Odin's Revenge

This weekend is Odin's Revenge, a race that I have participated in several times now. I've never been able to pull off a finish there. There are many reasons for that, one of the biggest being that it is an insanely difficult course and usually the event is run when it is very hot. I don't do well when those two factors come together.

Still, it is a "vision quest", a "sweat lodge", or maybe it is a Don Quixote kind of a deal for me. Perhaps it is all of that. I love the event, I really enjoy the people that put it on and how they do things, and I absolutely love the area. I wanted to go this year, and I fully intended to until just after the DK200 trip when I found out that my sister had planned a little something and it requires my attendance, so I had to back out. Honestly, it bums me out that I am not on the road with my friend Tony, headed west to the hills and canyons of West Central Nebraska.

Then again, I am also kind of glad I am not going. It's going to be brutally hot there this year. I'd have a really rough go of it, I am sure. Still........ I'll miss the deal. But the reason I am staying is undeniably a good reason. Can't argue that. More on that after the weekend.......

Tour Divide Track Leader board as of 6/23 @ 10:27pm

Tour Divide:

Looks like sometime today we will have a Tour Divide winner, and it will be in under two weeks time.

That's pretty amazing.

I think the pointy end of this event has been pretty typical of years past, only, ya know.......faster. Anyway, Trans Iowa veteran Chris Plesko looks to nab second and set a new single speed record in the process. A record he currently holds, by the way. Amazing X 2!

Okay, I'm gonna warn y'all.....this is going into retrogrouch territory, probably. But......this TD is weird. Facebook updates? It used to be that you had to hang on waiting for call ins on the TD site, or on wherever that was being hosted, if you got anything but the ubiquitous blue dot. Google Earth lets you look right at the trail, the buildings they are staying in, and it leaves everything void of any imagination or wonder out here as a follower. I don't know, but I bet someone is live broadcasting their ride. Don't tell me if they are, please. But I bet someone is. Is that wrong? I don't know that it is, but for me, it's weird. 

Am I guilty of doing social media too much? Yes. I probably am. However; I always thought the spirit of the TD was that you dropped off the face of the (Google) Earth and went on your own vision quest, with little to no (outside of locals) contact with the outside world. I thought it was a solitary pursuit and that there was zero broadcasting of your whereabouts to get the maximum out of doing this route. Sure, we might have gotten the occasional "he's made it this far" update in the past, but not a blow-by-blow accounting of what you've done for the day, every day you are on the route.

A couple of years ago, a local rider did the TD and we couldn't wait till he got back so he could tell us the stories. Heck.....now we won't have to sit around and listen to stories. Some of these folks have told their story while it happened. I don't know.....it's just weird to me. It takes a certain something out of it that, well.......it's hard to explain it right now for me. It just doesn't feel right.

So, like I said. I'm probably being old and in the way. Carry on.........

Hey, I want to wish all those riding and running the Odin's Revenge a great, safe, fun weekend. Everyone else- Have a fun, safe, enjoyable weekend too, and have a cycling adventure, why don'tcha?

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Trying To Kick Start It

I've got a project involving this bike that has been over a year in process!
Too many projects, not enough time. Maybe that sounds familiar to some of you out there. I know I have an ever revolving door of project bikes and things in need of maintenance. Oh! The stuff that needs worked on! Bah! 

Take the case of both of my fat bikes. They both need work and for different reasons. The Blackborow is the one that doesn't need much, but I have had a plan in the works for over a year to try to transform it into something else for Summer uses. I might have almost all the parts.....finally...very soon here. Then there is my Ti Muk which needs a complete drive train overhaul and I am thinking about converting it to a 1 X 10 or 11.

Actually, I have two more fat bikes that need attention. One is my forlorn Snow Dog, which is basically sitting as a frame and fork right now. I maybe have the wheels for it, if I swap a few things around, and enough drive train bits exist that I could probably get it back up and going again. The long term goal there is to do a 27.5+ wheel set for it though. Then there is a more "front burner" project and that is my son's new fat bike. He out-grew the Mukluk he had, but he has made me promise I'll never change it. Well.......it does fit my wife, but..... I digress, anyway...

I have parts to get that done finally too, but I have to get at it. You know......kick start the thing. Once I get going on it, I am sure I'll get it underneath him.  Can't wait to show that one off. It's gonna look great.

I haven't even touched on my Vaya, or my Inbred, or my bikes that need some tubeless refreshes, or.........

It never ends!