Tuesday, July 23, 2019

GTDRI 2019: Final Update

Final Update:

Okay folks, this is the FINAL WORD on the 2019 Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational. Click that link for the "Latest News" section where there is a link to the route page. You can print your own cues at Plot-a-Route, or there are several ways to download the route. (Scroll down the Plot-a-Route page to find these)

YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOU!! I will not be handing out cues, and there will be no guaranteed support. NO SAG!! I am trying to arrange for a couple of folks that are gracious enough to offer to park along the route with coolers of water,  but do not plan on this happening! My advice is to plan on being self-sufficient for 75 miles, and then any trail angel activities will be a bonus. The minute you plan on having relief before 75 miles is when it will not happen. Be like a Scout! Be Prepared!

There has been some minor recon. Roads are said to be good. I have been thwarted in my attempts to recon the route by time constraints, weather, and and my desire to have this be a bit more adventure than planned route. That said, I have one last shot tomorrow to get some of the route looked at. I am pretty confident it will be okay, if not a little rough in the dirt.

I've heard from maybe ten folks that they are coming. However; I've seen this being discussed on Facebook, and I imagine some folks are "just going to show up", so here's the deal. Without advance warning, there is no way I can plan on providing enough water to satisfy demand. That means you are on your own if you just show up.  Either bring your own water, or go without. I'll know who you are, because I know who sent me advanced warning of their attendance. 

My feeling is that this could be the year that makes me start having people sign up ahead of the event. (If I decide to ever do it again) Typically the GTDRI has been about 10-ish folks, which is no big deal. Last year I had 24 folks show up, a new record. This year? I think that it seems like I'll have more than that, and this starts becoming an issue. We'll see, but keeping two dozen folks together on a no drop ride is akin to herding cats, and any more than that would be an inhuman ask of anyone to try to keep together as one cohesive group without any pre-planning. Of course, with no sign up, there is no way I can plan in advance for such an occurrence. Not to mention having a throng descend upon a rural convenience store where 25-30 folks might represent a doubling of business for an afternoon.

So, if you are coming, there is still time to give me a heads up: @g.ted.productions@gmail.com

We'll see how things shake out. Thanks! 

Monday, July 22, 2019

One Year Review: Black Mountain Cycles MCD

A year ago this past weekend I rode my pink Black Mountain Cycles MCD, dubbed "The Bubblegum Princess", for the first time ever, and I have used it in events, for testing purposes, and for just riding around since. This review will touch upon what I think of the design and may also include a few bits on some components I have on it as well.

Black Mountain Cycles, in case you are not aware, is a small, independent bicycle shop in Point Reyes Station, California. The proprieter, and as far as I know, only employee, is a man by the name of Mike Varley. Mike came up in the early days of the modern mountain bike and worked at a famous California bike shop that carried some of mountain biking's most famous brands ever. Then he went on to work in the industry as a brand manager/designer for Haro Bicycles. After getting out of the industry, Mike moved to Point Reyes Station, opened up a small shop, and then decided to dip his toes back into frame design. From the Black Mountain Cycles site:

"I spent years designing modern, cutting edge frames for Haro Bicycles and Masi USA. Aluminum, carbon fiber, and steel. It’s the steel frames I designed during my tenure there that always gave me the most pleasure during a ride, bikes like the Haro Mary 29” wheeled mountain bike and the steel Masi Speciale. Those were the two bikes that I always came back to after evaluating the latest and greatest. And it’s those two bikes I’ve kept from that time in my life."

Mike combined his knowledge of classic frames and his experience at Haro to design the Black Mountain Cycles frames which he offers now. I bought one of his first run of frames, a model he dubbed the "Monster Cross", back in 2011. Now, in 2019, he offers a disc brake only version of a Monster Cross dubbed the "MCD" (Monster Cross Disc). I hopped on the pre-order list as soon as they pre-orders opened up. My pink MCD arrived last June, and I finally got it built up and ridden a year ago. Pink was a limited edition color, so it is no longer available in most sizes, but a fine looking "Olive Oil" is still in stock.

So, first off, let's look at what the frame is designed around. The MCD is designed around 45mm tires in the 700c format. The bottom bracket drop is 70mm, the head angle for my size is 72°, and the chainstay length is 438mm. The MCD has a sloping top tube, so my size is a small sounding 53cm for my 6'1" sized body. However, the effective top tube length is 57.5cm, which is dead center on the sizes I like to look at in road bikes for myself, (57cm-58cm.) The fork offset is 50mm, so that is about 62.8mm of Trail, and of course, that varies with tire size. But, it's right in the ballpark for bikes like this.

The Black Mountain Cycles MCD as it appears now.
Interestingly, all the geometry from the MCD crosses over to the Black Mountain Cycles current version of the Monster Cross. This is where I need to note that my first generation Monster Cross, the bike I often refer to as the "Orange Crush", due to its orange color, is not this geometry. The differences are minor in terms of measurements, but in terms of ride, they are quite noticeable. So, if you are looking to cross reference the current rim brake ride with any differences to the disc brake version, I cannot help you there. I'll keep my comments to this MCD then.

First of all, the fit is extraordinarily similar to my Gen I Fargo. Both bikes have that immediate "I am at home" feel. I knew, based upon my Fargo, that the MCD was similar in terms of some of the dimensions. Between that Fargo and my Raleigh Tamland Two, I have two bikes where fit is so dialed in, that I wanted to emulate that on the MCD. I took several detailed measurements off both bikes and transposed that to the MCD. So, stem length, saddle set back, and handle bar width were all critically examined and transposed measurements from my two other bikes mentioned were dialed into the MCD with predictable results. The MCD fit perfectly first try. Everything is set just the way I did it a year ago. I have made zero changes, nor have I ever considered making any.

I've chosen to use the pink MCD at most events I've done since I got it.
A Word About Components: 

One of the things that makes this bike very comfortable is the Whiskey Parts seat post and handle bar that I have on the bike. Both of those are carbon fiber components and they have a lot of inherent "give" to them which really helps out with vibrations and bumps. That handle bar is amazing, but the stem I have, the Redshift Components ShockStop stem, is such a great vibration/small bump eater that the ride is nearly magic carpet smooth on the MCD.

I recently switched out saddles from a Brooks Cambium to my favorite WTB Pure saddle. The Pure, (or older Pure V) are so comfortable and fit me so well that nothing else has come close. Other than that, a few wheel sets have found their way onto this bike due to Riding Gravel testing duties. The latest, the Spinergy GX wheels, are still on the bike.

Besides that, my Shimano 2X drive train is doing great. It is an 11spd system with a 46/36 crank, an 11spd 11-36T cassette, and an Ultegra long cage derailleur. A Wolf Tooth head set does the head set duties well, and my Bike Bag Dude bags carry all the stuff I'll ever need for a self-supported gravel ride.

The Ride; 

Okay, enough gear gab. How does it ride? Well, it isn't a noodle, but it rides really smoothly. It is a combination of the seat post, stem, the frame, fork, and whatever tires I happen to be running. I cannot overstate the importance of the Redshift stem and Whiskey parts on the bike which contribute so much to the smooth factor. Get all of that, slap it on most any bike, and you will have a very surprisingly compliant, yet weirdly non-noodle-like bicycle, unless the frame and fork you have is already a flexy piece of crap. Then all bets are off!

So, does that mean the frame isn't very smooth? Well.......I doubt that is the case. But, honestly, I cannot say. The parts I mention that make this bike so sweet to ride have been on it since the beginning. I'll bet this frame and fork are nice riding bits though. Not as smooth and "magic carpet-like" as what I experience, but nice nonetheless.

I can say that the geometry is good. It isn't amazing in any area. It is stable enough, quick handling enough (for my tastes) and doesn't do anything weird, except for one trait it has which I've never quite been able to put a finger on. It has a bit of a strange wiggle in the rear end on fast descents, but not consistently. In fact, with the current Spinergy wheels, this hasn't been felt, but I've had it with three other wheel sets. I still am at a loss to explain this, because it is intermittent, and as I say, seems to be gone with the current wheels. Hmm..... It wasn't a deal breaker, but I recall the first time I felt this, at the 24hrs of Cumming last year, I was a bit surprised, and I didn't like it, but with it being gone for now, I cannot say what's up. I can say that the high bottom bracket on the Orange Crush, (it's 5mm higher than the current bikes from BMC), made a similar feel in the rear on steep, fast descents so much so that I don't take that bike to hilly rides anymore.

The bike with 650B wheels and tires.
The MCD is not specifically a 650B machine, but I have run that sized wheel and tire combo on it. With 650B X 47mm tires you have just enough tire clearance and it will work. I will say that these tires lower the bike a bit, (smaller wheel diameter than 700 X 45mm) , and they make the bike handle a bit twitchier due to how smaller wheels affect Trail.

I'm okay with the 650B wheels on this bike, but I am not enamored enough by the ride qualities to switch permanently, or even occasionally. I only use them because I have a need to have 650B wheels to test tires. Besides, the slight increase in instability the 650B wheels bring isn't the direction I want to go in with regard to handling on a gravel bike.

Which brings me to what I wish I could change. First of all, I'd go a little deeper on the bottom bracket drop. I understand where Mike Varley is coming from though, as he uses the MCD as an "underbike" on MTB trails at times. The higher bottom bracket being a necessity there. I would also probably go a full degree slacker on the head tube angle and increase the fork offset to 55mm. This gets the front wheel "out there" which, in my experience on loose gravel at high speed, is a good thing. Plus it makes the fork work better in terms of ride quality.

I do like the two down tube mounted bottles on the inside of the front triangle. I like that I can fit four bottles easily. I like the pump peg. The rear drop outs Mike designed in conjunction with Sean Walling of Soulcraft Bikes are awesome. The segmented fork is cool and actually rides well (despite my having the suspension stem and handle bar, I can see the fork "working" over the chatter and bumps, so I know it is smooth.) So, I like a lot about this bike, but it isn't "perfect". Close though. Very close.

As stated, it reminds me of my favorite bike of all time, the Fargo Gen I, and so you might ask, "Isn't the BMC MCD like a Vaya then?", to which I would answer, "No, it isn't really". The Vaya rides more stiffly, being a light touring bike, but that said, the Vaya is a great gravel bike too. (I've had a Vaya and have ridden it extensively on gravel) But as far as bikes on the market, the Vaya is a close approximation of a BMC MCD, just not quite as cool and a little more "touring bike-ish" for sure. Let's put it this way- the Vaya is no Fargo Gen I, and the BMC MCD seems more like that Gen I Fargo, to my way of thinking. A slightly faster, lighter Gen I Fargo, but still having that MTB component, which I think Mike brings to his designs for this and the Monster Cross.

So, to sum up- The way I have this bike set up in conjunction with Mike's frame and fork design is a recipe for ultra-smooth gravel riding. This bike is the one I reach for now most often if the ride is long and I am unfamiliar with the course. It is set up so that it will work as a great self-supported gravel grinder platform, and exploratory back country road bike, or just for everyday riding. Plus, Mike seems to pick out the coolest colors for his bikes. Add that to the great value and Mike's guidance in building up the bike, (you can go anywhere from full builds to partial set ups to just a frame/fork), and you cannot go wrong here. Plus you'll have a bike that you won't see on every street corner, which is cool. Highly recommended.

Note: I purchased the Black Mountain Cycles MCD with my own damn money and was not asked for this review. So there!

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Trans Iowa Stories: Changes And Evolution Part 1

Riders follow me out in the Europa Cycles shop van as the first Trans Iowa got underway. Image courtesy of Dave Kerkove
The first Trans Iowa started out right out of the gate with a controversial decision by Jeff and I to announce a "checkpoint cut off time" in Algona. This decision was met with a LOT of grumbling, especially when it was discovered that the day was going to be hard and elimination of numbers of riders from the event was going to be high due to this imposition. So, before the event was even over, it was decided that we wouldn't do that again. Not the cutoff time, no- that was staying. It was going to be announced well ahead of time if we were ever to do this event again.

Now, you might think having any cutoff is unfair, and not "how you or anyone would run an event", and that is perfectly valid and good reasoning for you. However; I will remind you of the influence of Mike Curiak again and tell you that "this event wasn't for you". So, with that said, here's why we had that set up.

Jeff Kerkove, as stated previously, was a 24hr endurance racer and as such, was very familiar with cutoff times. In fact, Trans Iowa was at first possibly going to be a 24hr event, but a quick session of math in the very beginnings of the event's life made us realize that was "super-human" territory. So, we had to rely on Jeff's knowledge of what it took to complete a 24hr MTB event, what sort of mileage was possible by the average finisher in the solo category, and then extrapolate that over our initial course length, factor in weather, cue sheet navigation, time for stops, and possible mechanical repairs. We arrived at a "ten miles covered every hour" formula to figure what time to set for the half-way checkpoint cutoff and for the overall time stamp of the event. Since T.I.v1 was shorter than any Trans Iowa afterward, the cutoff overall was 32 hours.

The cutoffs also did two other very important things- It kept riders moving, no time for sleep, and less temptation to cheat. Secondly, and most importantly, it kept us from hanging around all weekend and into Monday waiting for riders to finish. We had jobs to get back to, and vacation time wasn't a thing for either one of us. We already were spending a lot of money out of pocket, and losing a day of work? Not happening.

Drop bags, used for one year at T.I.v2, were an influence from the Dirty Kanza 200.
Another change or two happened due to my participation in the inaugural Dirty Kanza 200. That event, which had the original working name of "The Flint Hills 200", sent one of its co-founders, Joel Dyke, to T.I.v1, and both he and Jim Cummins, the other co-founder, strongly urged Jeff and I to come to their event. Jeff couldn't make it due to previous commitments, but after I experienced their "loop" style course, I advised Jeff that we should adopt that element into our Trans Iowa.

 We did not agree to use a loop course until v3 simply because the first DK200 happened after T.I.v2  However; I think the DK200 announced the drop bag thing ahead of T.I.v2 and we could see why drop bags made sense. For us, this eliminated the "pit crew" style support we observed during T.I.v1, and how some folks had escalated this into a highly organized part of their rider's experience while others did not have any such support at all. This disparity was a negative in our view, and we could see that if we allowed the practice to go unchecked, it would quickly become an outlandish situation. We already had folks running food orders, massaging riders, tuning up bikes, and swapping out clothing and gear. Jeff realized immediately that this was like the "best funded solo 24hr racer pits" and that this sort of thing was a clear advantage to have over those who couldn't afford such amenities. So, a simple drop bag was all the support you could have at v2. Whatever fit inside the drop bags we provided was what you could rely on.

Volunteers were another sorely needed addition to v2. Obviously, with Jeff's parents running the show at the checkpoint, and with Jeff in the event, I was left alone to run interference for the riders on course, looking for possible issues, and also to be a course observer in the end, with little to no sleep, and absolutely no experience in the matter at hand. This led to a very personal self-criticism when I felt I had fallen asleep briefly and allowed the winner, Ira Ryan, and second place Brian Hannon to go by me at my observation point without notice. What I didn't know, and would not ever have known without stumbling upon an obscure link on Ira Ryan's old custom bike website, was that he and Hannon did not go by me. You can read the details in my old post on Trans Iowa Ten Years Of Tales #4.

This fact led to all sorts of issues with myself and the Decorah folks, namely Richard "Deke" Gosen, who was pretty upset at our lack of organization. It should also be pointed out that had we been on the ball, like we eventually were for T.I.v14, Ryan and Hannon would have met the same fate as Gleason, Zitz, and Tomasello did. It wasn't that we were unwilling to enforce the rules we had, it was that we were incapable of doing so. That was on us, as I have said many times, so the results of v1 are official and only by hindsight and enlightenment from the participants after the fact do we get the true tale.

Anyway, I was impressed upon by all of those folks, by my experiences, and by my own pride to take things a few steps higher for v2. In fact, I had arranged for two folks to be "course watch dogs" nearer to the end of v2. I also had several folks lined up to be our finish line volunteers, but as everyone knows now, that wasn't necessary. Despite that, I knew that future Trans Iowas would need more folks to facilitate the running of a quality event. Thus the small crew we had at v3 and that continued on and grew until the last Trans Iowa where I had over a dozen volunteers.

Next: Changes And Evolution Part 2 

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Minus Ten Review 2009-31

In the "Whatever Happened To This?" files.
Ten years ago this week on the blog here I was sharing more 29"er news. There was news of a long travel bike by Niner Bikes dubbed the WFO 9, which was the precursor to the 150-170mm travel enduro style trail bike 29"ers of today. Keep in mind that even in 2009 people were saying long travel like this was always going to be the realm of 26" wheeled bicycles. Doing this with 29"er wheels was "stupid", "dumb", and other things unsuitable to put on the blog here.

Where are they who said these things now? Probably riding 29"ers, that's where.

Speaking of "where are they now", I also showed a sneak peek of a proposed livery for a Raleigh XXIX 29" single speed bike. Brian Fournes, the marketing honch for the brand back in those days, was fearless when it came to ideas to liven up the Raleigh line of bikes. This was back before Raleigh became the hollow, online retailer of today. Back then, Raleigh was enjoying some resurgence as a second tier brand and had some relevant mountain bikes for the first time in well over a decade.

Anyway, he forwarded this to me and I was very excited that it might become available in a very limited edition form. Now, I was , and still am, over-loaded with single speed 29"ers, but for this, I would have made room. And why not? I live in the town that put John Deere on the map in terms of farm tractor machines. But, as you probably have guessed by now, there was a visitation from some legal department in letter form and that was that.

Still, I gotta wonder where this ended up.

Also from ten years ago. Just look at that view! GTDRI course.
The Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational was run this weekend ten years ago as well. I had a successful ride and about seven or eight folks joined me.

I've said it before, and I still believe it- This is by far the most beautiful gravel course in Iowa that I've ever seen or heard about. At least from start to finish, and it is over 100 miles in length.

The views anywhere along this route are often beautiful, and in many spots they are jaw-droppingly stunning. I need to go try this course out during Fall colors season sometime, because I bet it would be even better, if that is possible.

Oh yeah, and it ranks as one of the toughest courses I've ever ridden as well. LOTS of climbing. I did not ever run my own GPS device on this route, but riders that did told me there are lots of 10+% grades and several in the 12-15% range. There is one grade that maxed out at 18%, according to what I've been told. It's such a tough climb that a local well drilling concern has to use a Caterpillar tractor to pull its rig up that particular grade. Trucks cannot do it because they lose traction on the gravel!

I also have a sort of reticence to riding here again though, as it is the course I was struck by a drunk driver on. I still deal with some physical issues from that impact to this day. So, there is that bad memory to this course for me as well.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Friday News And Views

Tour Divide Issues Precipitate Dismissal Of Jay-P:

Well, if you haven't been paying attention to Tour Divide this year, (and for the record, I have already said I wasn't paying attention anymore), there were controversial actions by a few individuals that precipitated the letting go of Jay Petervary as a sponsored athlete of Salsa Cycles (and related QBP brands as well). There is a LOT of conjecture and opinion already floating around the internet about this, and I am not going to add to that.

As I have said- I have a pretty solid opinion on Tour Divide. Read that bit if you want to get the background on what I am about to share here today.

Tour Divide, as an organization, is barely that. In fact, if there ever were an event with almost no rules, no oversight, and no current updates, it would be Tour Divide. Their webpage was last updated in 2014, and the Facebook page is a ghost town. The RD does communicate via e-mail, as far as I can tell, but as far as any oversight, it seems, well..... Pretty lax, that would be my characterization of it.

And in my opinion, this is what leads to the alleged actions we are reading about now. I have run an ultra-endurance event, and I have somewhat of a feel for what could have happened had I not been vigilant, had rules, and made them as well known and explained as I have over the course of the years. In my opinion, expectations not set ahead of time regarding actions of participants, in a very direct, explicit way, leaves the barn door wide open for crazy stuff to be thought up and to have those thoughts be acted upon. I know. I've had some very weird requests and people who tried to interpret my rules in unforeseen ways, which I had to act on in a very decisive way.

There should be expectations set ahead of time. From the research I have done on the matters regarding this Tour Divide, I haven't yet been convinced anything of the like was done. That, to my way of thinking, should be the central point of focus regarding this controversy. And that's all I have to say about that.

The new Cervelo Aspero gravel racing bike.
Getting All Racy:

The Cervelo company has had a decidedly racing focus for as long as I have been aware of the brand. So, it shouldn't come as a surprise that their latest bicycle is a racing bike, but this time it is all about gravel racing.

I also was immediately reminded that Cervelo was co-founded by Gerard Vroomen, who happens to be co-founder of OPEN Cycles, who also have done a very similar bike to the new Cervelo which is called the OPEN WI.DE.

OPEN have been in the gravel scene for several years now. I remember seeing my first OPEN UP's at the 2015 Dirty Kanza 200. So, the Cervelo seems a bit derivative, and the fact that both companies have a connection in founder is maybe irrelevant, but still kind of odd. Anyway, both bikes are pretty much lean, mean racing steeds and while that is fine, this isn't the sort of rig that will be right for most folks.

For one thing, they both are chasing the "long front/center, short rear end" thing. Short chain stays are generally less apt to flex, and they place the rider right close to being over the top of the rear axle. Both things that do not make for smoother riding. That's something that is important for many folks, and just hold on to those "bigger tire" comments for a minute. While the OPEN can handle pretty big tires, the new Cervelo is limited to 40's, if you want any mud clearances, and that isn't going to be enough tire for many places.

The other thing these short chain stays do is that they make the rear center less stable. So, to sort of counteract this, both the OPEN WI.DE. and the Cervelo have deep bottom bracket drops. Okay- so what? Well, to get you the bigger tires for comfort, you need to move to 650B's. Guess what? That lowers the bottom bracket a bit more. Yep.......pedal strikes. I know. I've tried 650B with a bike that had 75mm and 72.5mm of BB drop. So, maybe all this getting racy isn't right for everyone. (And I haven't even mentioned the fragility of carbon when mud, sand, and rocks get ground against it in muddy conditions.)

Good thing there are a LOT of choices in gravel/all road bikes these days.

As seen in 2017.
Fargo Resurrection....Again!

I have been looking at my Fargo Gen I sitting in the Lab forlorn and unridden for far too long now. I am itching to get back on it again. But.....I am wanting to swap out tires, and this rig is still stuck in 9 speed mode, which isn't a bad thing, but in terms of wheel swaps and what not, it is way off the back when all my other stuff is 11 speed.

I have a line on some Vittorias but that keeps slipping away and time is running out. Plus, I want to ride this bike for the GTDRI in a week or so. I had better figure it out real quick-like or it isn't going to happen and another whole year will slip by wthout many, or maybe any, miles put on that old thing.

Big problem, I know, when I have great bikes at my disposal to ride around on. I could always just use my Black Mountain Cycles MCD, or my Tamland, and I'd be just fine. I still have the Noble Bikes GX5 around, which is very light, and I always could ride the Ti Muk 2. So, I shouldn't whine on and on, but in my opinion, if you have a bicycle, you should use it, or get rid of it. I sure do not want to get rid of that Fargo though! So, we'll see. Maybe a set of tires will get slipped on yet this weekend.

That's a wrap for now. Thanks for reading and please get out and ride those bicycles. ALL of them!

Thursday, July 18, 2019

GTDRI 2019: Update

Wednesday outside of Guitar Ted Production's headquarters
Recon was going to happen Wednesday, then the weather had a say in the matter. A wide ranging thunderstorm complex made running dirt roads a very bad idea, so that plan was scrapped. I'll try again this weekend. That said, I have some other news to share.

After the last update, I was contacted by two individuals willing to help with the water resupply situation. First was Jon Duke, who is a local to this course and said he could do some of the recon. Plus, he also is willing to park his truck at a predesignated spot with a cooler of water.

Second was GTDRI vet Rob E who has volunteered his friend who is coming to be with him on the trip as a person who could meet us along the route to help out with water resupply. I am going to try to utilize both of these folks in an effort to ease our concerns a bit about water on a day that promises, (as of the latest long range forecasts) to be hot and humid. And why wouldn't it be hot and humid. This is the "Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational", right? It's hot and humid almost every year I put this on. So, ideally I think I want to put Jon somewhere around Mile 25-ish and Rob's friend Michaela at about 50-ish miles on a hard surfaced part of the route. That would leave the town of Brooklyn at about 70-ish miles as a convenience store stop. This would place water at about every 25 miles, which should be ideal for everyone.

If that works out, we should have the water distribution figured out. I plan on bringing a cooler of water, and if anyone else wants to contribute to the cause, let me know, or we can figure it out the day of with donations of cash/water. But we will need to get an idea ahead of time to make the logistics work. Hit me up with your thoughts: @ g.ted.productions@gmail.com

What the sky looked like 10 minutes later. Rain set in for most of the afternoon.
Now I have a bit on attendance, I have had a few folks confirm they are coming. While it is not imperative that you let me know you are planning on joining me, I do appreciate the heads up on attendance so I can head off any potential issues, (like parking, water availability, etc), so if you think of it, and you know you are coming, just give me a buzz via e-mail or text. I can then do what I have to do on my end to make sure we get everyone water and don't have any issues with parking.

My hope is that we can knock this route out in a decent amount of time so that we might be able to enjoy a beer or something afterward at Peace Tree Grinnell. That is right on Main Street, downtown. Easy to find, and there are a a lot of places to eat within walking distance. (Peace Tree doesn't serve food, by the way) So, if we can do 90 miles and get in by 5-ish or so I think quaffing a few cold ones will be on my agenda. If you have a mind to join me, please do.

By the way, just in case you don't know- The Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational will happen on July 27th. The ride starts at 6;00am sharp from in front of Bikes To You on Broad Street, downtown Grinnell. (Parking around the city park a block or so away would be preferable if you don't want your car towed) The GTDRI is a no-drop group ride at a casual pace, it is not a race, and if you want to go fast, this isn't your ride. We will stop A LOT. There will be a LOT of Level B Roads, and BIG HILLS. Other than some water, you'll be all on your own for support. So, if you have to bail, if you break down, or if the ride is too much- YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOURSELF. There is NO SAG. NO SUPPORT is offered other than some water at predetermined spots....maybe. 

Once the window for recon is past, I will clean up the GPS route and we will fly with what we have, good or ill. Re-routing may happen. Expect the unexpected. I suspect that I will announce the final version of the GPS track this coming weekend sometime. Stay tuned......

I cannot think of anything else here, so that's a wrap. There will be one final update next week and then a week from this Saturday we ride. Thank you for your interest in this goofy undertaking.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Alternate Realities

A view of the internals on Specialized's new Turbo Creo SL HPC (Hybrid Powered Cycle)
Seventeen Thousand Bucks?!! 

Yeah-hum. That's what all the Tweets and stories blared out about this new offering from Specialized. But....let's be real. That screaming bit of info was pretty much click-bait, as that is the price for the special "Founder's Edition", of which only 250 bikes will be produced. The "entry level" Turbo Creo is $9K, is a bit heavier, and doesn't have the range of the top end one.

The mainstream cycling press was all agape at the pricing, but otherwise was singing the praises of this technological marvel of Specialized's design team, who designed the motor system themselves on this bike. Even on social media, all the names in the biz were saying, "It's expensive yes, but if it gets one more person out of a car, it's worth every penny.", or some like statement. But c'mon! Does anyone really believe that anyone that buys one of these race inspired rockets is going to drive less, or give up driving altogether? Pfft! This line of thinking is so lame as to be laughable. It's more likely to be an added toy alongside the six figure sports car and two gas guzzling SUV's in the garage.

It's really interesting that in the mainstream cycling press, it was really hard to find anything negative, or even seriously critical, of this bike. However; non-endemic press wasn't so kind. I stumbled up a site called "electrek", and here is an excerpt from their reporting on this bike:

"So why is the bike so expensive? Well, you’re paying for the California design team to create this custom carbon frame and the Swiss engineering team to develop an entirely new e-bike powertrain. And you’re paying for a wide range of sizes including XS, SM, MD, LG, XL, and XXL. Not to mention the slew of high-end bicycle components that invariably adorn a Specialized bike.

But at the end of the day, you’re largely paying for it to say “Specialized” on the side.


The author also called it "under-powered" and basically a "status symbol". Truth. Definitely a refreshing look at a bicycle that is more design exercise than anything else. And at the end of the day, I have to ask myself, "Where is the critical thinking in the mainstream cycling press?" It's non-existant. And as far as introductions go, most stories I read were deep dives into the marketing "ga-ga" and tech-speak non-sense that no one outside of cycling "nerdom" even gives a rip about. It's no wonder most folks that these companies want to pry out of their interstate roving tanks can't be bothered with cycling as it is presented in the mainstream press.

Give folks a practical bike, reasonably priced, and a two wheeler with attractive features that do not have marketing campaigns that include things having to do with carbon lay-up, watt/hrs, and gold plated jockey wheels. Maybe make it exciting to ride, like the Harley electric motorcycle featured in a video on the same page as the Specialized article at the link above. That's the kind of stuff that is going to reach the folks out of the traditional bounds of cycling today.

But apparently, the cycling media and pundits live in some alternate reality to most folks.