Monday, December 31, 2012

Rear View 2012: The Last Third

September kicked off with the weather still pretty dry, but the heat had backed off a wee bit at least. Still, the effects of all that dryness were everywhere to be seen, and the gravel roads and dirt trails were crazy dusty and cracked.

Well, I was in the throes of trying to get two things accomplished before Interbike. One was getting my Clement USH tires to set up tubeless. After weeks, (literally), of trying, it finally did happen. However; the other deal was not going as fast as I wanted it to go. Getting everything together for a sub 24hr overnight bikepacking gig sounded easy, but it turned out to be something that took too long.

I went to Las Vegas again, for the last Interbike in the Sands Convention Center. It was a good show, by most accounts, and I did get around to see almost everyone I wanted to see. Big trips always kind of freak me out though, so I was super happy to set foot back in Iowa afterward and find out it was in the 50's and raining. Whew! Fall was showing up after a long, dry, hot summer.

The bikepacking thing was just coming together when illness struck our household and I had to put all those plans on hold to take care of things that needed done at the time. By the time everyone was well again, it was November and too cold to really do anything with the warm weather gear I had accumulated to use for this. Next year.....

One really cool thing I got to do in this period was to ride in the Moonlight Metric. Craig, one of the guys who had been showing up off and on for the 3GR's was putting this on, and I went down with Robert, (another 3GR rider), and we got our night time gravel on.

A crazy moon over Iowa in October
It was super dusty! The worst dust I'd ever seen out riding gravel roads day or night. The dirt B Maintenance roads were like cocoa powder 4 to 5 inches deep. Weird stuff! But this was a very fun and enjoyable ride I won't soon forget. Craig hosted a great ride with an after party that featured enough to eat and drink for five times the amount of folks that did show up. Very awesome and very much appreciated.

That was my last big organized event for the year. Closing out October, I was very busy getting testing and reviewing done on several things while still doing the weekly 3GR events. The gravel Saturdays were a favorite part of my week, and even though I had days where it was hard to get out of the sack to do those rides, I miss them now a lot. 3GR went up into November before I shut it down for the season. These rides will pick back up again in the spring.

The next big deal on the horizon was registration for Trans Iowa V9. It started in early November with the Finishers claiming their spots, then the Veterans, then finally the Rookies got their shot.

The registration was "okay" from my standpoint. I got some nice things, which I appreciate, but what I really mean is the registration has lost a bit of the frenzied atmosphere it used to engender in years past. Hmm.....probably has something to do with how I've tweaked it out these days, so I can only blame myself!

I decided to allow 120 registrants this time and the roster did fill up, so we'll see how many are left when I toot the horn at 4am April 27th, 2013. Usually there is a precipitous fall off in roster population before any Trans Iowa occurs.

Another surprise came in mid-November when I learned that the documentary film about Trans Iowa V7 called "300 Miles of Gravel" won a regional Emmy for "Best Sports Programming- One Time Event". That was kind of exciting to learn that I was a part of an Emmy winning project. In other T.I. related goings on, the recon was completely finished by December when in two separate shots, Jeremy and I got it done. It was the quickest, easiest recon of a Trans Iowa course yet.

December arrived and I sort of held my breath thinking Winter would hit at any minute. The first couple of weeks went by and I snuck in several "last rides" for the year before a big blizzard, the first in several years, hit and dumped a ton of snow all in one hit.

I signed on for another Triple D event, and commenced training even before the snows came. All the family birthdays, Christmas, and my up coming 14th wedding anniversary were all consuming parts of my time and mind in this period, but it has all been pretty good this season.

Looking Ahead: So, that's that. 2012 is shot and another year is about to begin. I have lots of things gelling around in my mind that are fun, exciting possibilities for 2013, but ya know what? I'll likely get swept away in a totally different, fun, and exciting direction than I think I will. We'll see, won't we?

2012 was a banner year for this blog, by the way. More hits, more readers, and the second highest post count I've ever had for a one year period. First- thank you to each and everyone of you that has ever landed here and read anything. I appreciate it very much, and I am humbled by that fact. Secondly, I guess I still like to write a lot, eh? That was one of the main reasons for firing up this blog in the Spring of 2005 in the first place. Onward then.....

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Triple D Winter Race: Training Log 5: Firming Up

Snow Dog in its element
The snow around these parts has been down now for about a week and a half, and it still mostly stinks for riding on. Well, except for where it has been pummeled into firmness against its will. Because this snow seems to fight being compacted.

I saw a post on CVAST's Facebook page, (local cycling promoters), that a path was suitable for fat biking in North Hartman Reserve. That's great, but ya gotta get there first! So I devised a route over there and back. The snow was better in spots, but just as bad as ever in others. Still, far more riding than pushing this day. That was good, since it bumped the needle on the fun-o-meter higher than last week's big ride, (er....push fest), did.

The route took me around the back side of the National Cattle Congress along the backwaters of the Cedar River, high up on a dike. It was windy, but the wind had scoured off the sand-like snow and left a good crust in most places. The sheltered bits proved more difficult, but were still rideable. After dumping down off the bike to back streets along the Cedar, the going got quicker.

This leads me down to Hartman Reserve, and the specified trail. It was as advertised. Nicely packed in by foot traffic, apparently, because it was pretty bumpy. Packed, but bumpy, which was good, since it was single track in the woods, and this is hard to come by right now.

Rare trail these days in these parts for fat biking.

Well, that didn't last long and I was headed back to Waterloo on old Shirey Way, (The gravel through North Hartman), which proved to be almost....almost....unrideable. It was tough going, but I managed the section with one rest stop. My heart rate was pretty pegged through here. Burned some matches there, but it was a good test of skill and handling.

Then it was a bit of easy stuff to the Trolley Car Trail. This was total hike-a-bike from North Hackett to Green Hill. Then it got rideable again because of a lone passing of a snowmobile. It was tough going, but doable, and I popped out the other side to run across an old acquaintance from my first shop days. We chatted for a minute or two then I set off for home by way of alleys and city streets. 

I tried a different clothing combination today, and although one worked, I am going to go back to a previous set up on another set of layers. One new thing was a pair of Answer "Sleestak" mittens.   (Answer sent these to Twenty Nine Inches for test and review at no charge.) The site says they are rated down to 20F, but I was riding in the mid-teens for 2.5hrs and was perfectly fine. They seem to be windproof, but the site doesn't claim this feature. I will say that the rubbery grip application to the palm and "finger" area is really tacky and grippy with my Ergon Grips. I think these matched up with a thin glove liner would take you well down into the deep freeze on most any ride. We'll have to see how these hold up over the long haul though.

Okay, that's a wrap on the ride. I'm going to detail my set up in a post soon, once I dial it in here.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Trans Iowa V9: Thoughts On The Past, Present, & Future

So, since the "end of the year" stuff is running rampant all across the internet, I may as well fall in line with a version of that concerning Trans Iowa.

T.I.V1 Gnome: Sitting on some guy's mantle these days...
The next year's Trans Iowa is #9, of course, and that means I've been dinking around out in the rural countryside of Iowa in search of Iowa's most interesting gravel roads for nearly a decade now. Why is that even something that matters? Why would anyone want to do that for nearly 10 years?

Well, I think it goes back to when I was a kid, bouncing around in the back seat of a '66 Dodge Coronet. Most all of my relatives lived on gravel roads. The seemingly endless ribbon of crushed rock was mysterious, and I wanted to know more back then. Where could you go? What could you see?

It even goes back to my first out of town rides on an old ten speed. The vastness of the countryside at slow motion was intriguing to my mind. Then came the over the road, self contained tours, which were another building block on my way to route finding, riding over long distances, and organizing that for others.

Along the way there were detours for college, a career in jewelry repair and construction, rock and roll, mountain biking, and working on automobiles. But finally I found myself back out on the gravel back roads, and I remembered what I had a passion for years earlier.

T.I.V8: Image by W. Kilburg
Okay, so that's what motivated me to start out, but what keeps me going? Honestly, I still enjoy putting the race together. Seeing it go off, with the flaws and successes, makes it interesting yet. I am challenged to tweak it out better, make less mistakes, and become better at Trans Iowa than I was the year before. I like the challenge, and it drives me to become better in ways many of you will never know.

I call it "Endurance Promoting", tongue in cheek, but in many ways, that has a ring of truth to it. There are some super-fans of Trans Iowa, some very passionately committed folks to the event, but beyond that small cadre of folks, this is an event that is just an oddity on the cycling landscape. (At least, that is what I perceive.) Trans Iowa is mostly an unknown, under the radar cycling event that most folks have never heard of, and never ever will. So, the "normal" modes of motivation to do this are not there. I really am okay with that, because I never got into this gig for those "normal" rewards. One must have the endurance of passion for this sort of weirdness, (be that good or bad, I'll let you be the judge), and that paired with the actual physical and mental demands does make this sort of an "endurance event" for me.

But maybe that is stretching things a bit? Hmm......

Re-route: T.I.V4
The low key, oddness of Trans Iowa is intentional too. You see, one day there will not be a Trans Iowa anymore. Things will change. If the structure of the event is more akin to the local gang's sprint to the corner stop sign, it will be a lot easier to dismantle this beast and walk away from it. I won't owe anyone, I won't have too many things left over that are not already used up, and I won't have anything I have to sell off.

Not that I do now. Many folks may find it amusing to know that all of my Trans Iowa stuff would easily fit into one big storage tub. Hmm......come to think of it, maybe even a medium sized tub would do. That includes everything from the first one to the eighth one. There isn't much I want or need to do a Trans Iowa. I don't want it to be bigger, badder, better, or more popular for those and other reasons. Low key. Small. Easy.

And in the future I hope it stays that way until the day I make the announcement on the internet that I am folding up the card table and putting T.I. away for good. I know a lot of folks do not want to see that day, but that is being unrealistic, now isn't it? Besides, there are things I want to do. Changes that will be good to have happen, and if Trans Iowa is holding me back from those, that is not a good thing.

I've got something up my sleeve that I want to pursue, and it has something to do with gravel road riding. So, I won't stop having things to do with gravel road cycling. I just will not be doing the organization of a major event like Trans Iowa. Someday. I'm not stopping this T.I. stuff just yet. But I've had a plan for several years now, and I am sticking to it. You'll all hear about it when it happens.

But that's in the future. For now....

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Friday News And Views

We interrupt the "Rear View 2012" series for your regular Friday screed......

By-Tor sheds his gears...
I wasn't very sure about this idea, but I was game to give it a go. The single speed gearing was a bit of a guesstimate as well. I decided to go 32 X 22, and after trying it on a dry commute a while back, I was a bit afraid that it was a mistake.

However; I now have ridden it in the conditions it was intended for, and I must say, it is nearly- if not spot on. I can power through the drifts, and get slow speed maneuvering down without feeling way over-geared.  Some of the icy spots were tricky, but the 3.8" Larrys did okay. It might be nice to have those super-spendy Dillingers in a pinch, but I find that the asking price is too extravagant for a need that seldom seems worth having studs for here. Others may find those tires a god-send. Not I.

But the main point here is that the single speed should be great in the traffic induced slop-snow and icier times when drive train issues could crop up. Like the beginning of the big snow storm here last week, when The Snow Dog was suffering from icy build up on the cassette.

I'll give this a few good runs off road as well before passing final judgement. Hopefully the trails firm up a bit from a week ago. Then it was super shifty, sand-like, and not very rideable. If I think the gearing is still too low, I may opt for a slightly larger chain ring up front. I'm getting due for a new one anyway.

Fargo Gen II- Off Road Ready
Last September I did an "Experimental Vehicles" post where I slapped on a G2 offset 100mm travel Fox fork on this Fargo to see what I thought about doing something like this as a permanent installation for the Gen II Fargo.

As stated back then, I liked the feel and the idea. I ended up not getting back to the finding of a fork until just recently though. I was able to track down this new 80mm Reba RL with G2 offset and a 9mm quick release front drop out. I really was hoping for a 15mm through axle, but oh well..... This should do fine.

With the Cane Creek ST ThudBuster seat post, I think this will prove to be a super versatile rig for most average mountain bike trails anywhere. Plus- I can do gravel road riding in a pinch as well. Heck- this might even end up being a great Dirty Kanza 200 rig with a wheel/tire swap.

After a short spin around the block, the platform seems pretty tunable. It is going to be a bit odd at first to have a Fargo with some give up front, but it will be something I'll quickly get used too. This gives me two completely different Fargos. The Gen I is the ultimate gravel travel exploration machine. The Gen II is the ultimate drop bar off road exploration machine. Either one could do the other, but they are tuned to their specific tasks now.

My Son is at the top of the hill....
And in some family related- non-cycling news: I got a nice, long-ish plastic toboggan for my Son, (and in the end, for me too), so we could do some good, long sledding. We hit the local dike and checked it out. This is going to work out great. The snow.....well, not to sound ungrateful, but the snow we got has to be about the worst type of snow for winter sports you can imagine, besides the really wet stuff. It is like sledding in sugar. Of course, it sucks for fat biking too, but hopefully this will eventually form a good base and we'll see some better snow dump on top of this....or it will get warm and turn to slop. Whichever!

But back to sledding. This is an activity I have always loved. I just never kept up with it. Then too- finding a decent sled is really not easy. This plastic toboggan is.....well, it barely cuts the mustard, compared to what we used to be able to get, but at least it seems like it'll hold up for more than a few sledding sessions.

I'm looking forward to getting into some more sledding with my Son soon. If things hold out snow-wise, I know of a good hill south of town that should be a speedy little good time. It might even scare us just a bit. But as long as we don't get any broken bones, it'll all be good!

That's a wrap for today. Have a great weekend and ride those bikes if ya can.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Rear View 2012: The Middle Third

Looking at the middle part of the year, I am reminded that I put in a lot of riding this year. The big push came from the 3GR. That is a ride I started on Friday evenings, but moved to Saturday mornings after a few Friday runs at it.

The moniker stands for "Gravel Grinder Group Ride". Three "g's" and an "r"- get it? Ha.......well then... Anyway, besides my attempt at a clever name, the ride eventually became a success, although I wasn't sure about that a few weeks into it.

It ended up proving to be more than just a way for me to get better fitness. It became a way for me to get to know some guys and gals better and I hope that they all got something out of it in that regard as well.

There were fat bikes ridden a few times, and I even got a few folks out for their very first gravel grinders. A couple folks even signed up for Trans Iowa V8 because of this ride, at least in part, so that's pretty cool. In the end, I was in a groove and looked forward to Saturday rides. I probably became a better rider for it, and I had a ton of fun doing it.

Towards the end of May one of those niggling failures in riding was put to rest when I ascended the hills, and in particular, one hill, on the way south out of Traer on an older gravel route I used to do a lot. The big fail always came at "Frank Brothers Hill", so called because of the mail box at the top of the climb with that name on it. Oh....and this had to be done on a single speed. 

Well, I overcame that challenge, finally, and on a tough day with a stiff head wind on fresher gravel. 

June came, it got real hot and dry, and I was busy trying to get ready for two things: One was a Salsa Cycles Demo Tour appearance at the end of the month, and the other was the "Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational", which would happen in mid-July.

GTDRI 2012: Image by C. Matthias

I also got the old Fargo back up and running again. It had been awhile since I had been using it on any kind of "regular" basis. In fact, some parts had been pilfered from it for other builds. That wasn't cool, because I really like that rig, so I got it back out on the gravel roads this summer.

The Salsa Demo went really well and I got a lot of good feedback from it. I think this is definitely something we'll be doing again.

The weather continued to be beastly hot, and it looked as though things were getting a bit too dry, but no end was in sight. We got progressively dirtier on every 3GR ride, which a few I did on my own in this stretch.

The real kicker came in mid-July though as we set off from Grinnell on the GTDRI. It was a 120 mile course with lots of challenges awaiting us. 9 guys showed up to start, and 6 of us finished. But not before it went from 57°F to 104°F and not before we were rained on, did a "C Maintenance Road", and many B Roads as well. It was a big milestone for me, since I don't usually do very well at all in that sort of heat. In fact, it was a very "Dirty Kanza"-like heat that day, just without the extreme of the wind thrown in.

Summertime is Saddledrive time for QBP, and their brands- Salsa Cycles and Surly. Big news came out of that, and one of the things I pontificated upon got me into some passionate discussions with certain individuals close to a certain gravel road bike project, (specifically, the Warbird). Be that as it may, (I still hold to my concerns on that rig), the news was awesome and excitement abounded for the new fat bikes and Surly's new Krampus 29+ model.

Two friends on gravel: What could be better?
In August things continued to be hot, there was a fat bike 3GR, and I went to a Salsa Cycles Demo in Minnesota while making a side trip to visit Ben and Jason on a gravel ride. It had been way too long since we all had ridden together. A memorable ride, as well, since we had to push Ben about 7 miles after he whacked his derailleur. Good times!

I had a bit of fun when I saw an article I had penned printed in "Dirt Rag". It was about the history of the modern 29"er. A longer version of the idea is available if you look under the header here and click the link to the "Beginnings Of The Modern 29"er A History" page. The page will have a lot more detail than the DR piece, but you'll get the same idea, I hope.

I started a couple of "sagas" in terms of projects. One got finished, the other got derailed. My tubeless Velocity A23/ Clement USH experiment started, and so did a bikepacking project. I'll get into those things and more in my last third of 2012 report tomorrow.

Otherwise the next big deal on the horizon was Interbike and oh early August I announced that I'd be doing this silly little event again in 2013 called Trans Iowa. Preparations started in earnest soon after...

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Rear View 2012: The First Third

Yes readers- it is that time again. The annual year end review.

2012 started off with the continuing "non-winter" conditions that allowed for a glorious day of Trans Iowa V8 recon in Southern Iowa. It was a huge break to be able to get away and have gotten almost the entire recon done after an initial 170 miles had been knocked out previously in Fall of 2011. I found all but about the last 20 or so miles of the course that day, and then was able to move on to doing cue sheets.

The next big deal for me was doing the Triple D Winter Race, (which I am scheduled to do again next month.) I was wondering if I would be taking a mountain bike, but a few days before the event, Winter actually showed up and dumped out a fair amount of snow, which made the course a true winter course. I went with By-Tor, the Titanium Mukluk, and scored a finish at 22nd place. It was a great learning experience and I am looking forward to this next one.

Then the annual Frostbike trip happened again. I went to Northfield, Minnesota, hooked up with Ben and other regular characters, and went back to do some hot laps inside of Mike's Bikes. Frostbike itself was a good event, as always, and it was fantastic to hang with old friends and new at the show.

Later in the month of February I was scheduled to attend CIRREM and try my hand at that event again. Unfortunately, circumstances prevented my getting there and riding. That was a bit of a bummer. Winter had started to fade in a big hurry by this time and sloppy, wet conditions prevailed. I still got in several wet, mushy fat bike rides and started to ride some gravel by early March.

 Then it was off to El Paso, Texas again where I visited family and rode some killer off road trails in the Chihuahuan Desert at Franklin Mountain State Park. 

The desert is an awesome place to ride, and it didn't disappoint, but the best was the last ride where I took a look at the East side of the mountain where I had never ridden before. It was an eye opener! The trails over there are so much more flowy, and burned in much better than the West side trails are.

The weather was perfect, until our last full day there when we experienced a full on dust storm, which is not unlike a blizzard in Iowa, only warmer, with sand!

March then closed out with a full recon of Trans Iowa V8's course by the cue sheet drafts. We found a few mistakes, and one closed down section of road! I came back with some minor work to get the cues straightened out, but then got squared away with near perfect cues for the event. Printing ensued, and by mid-April cue sheets were all done and ready to go.

Then with all the Trans Iowa preparations going on, I took some time out to do what has become one of my favorite events I've taken part in, The Renegade Gents Race.

It's a different gravel grinder in that you compete on a team of five riders. All riders must start, go through a checkpoint, and finish together, team time trial style. Teams are handicapped based on the promoters decision on who has the weakest team. Slower teams go first, final starters are the fast guys. I think there were 29 teams in 2012's running of this event!

It was a lot of fun to get hooked up with the same four guys as last year, and just as we were about to head out, we got a full on dump of heavy rain to ride into. That cleared up after a bit, but it was a soggy, gray, chunky, windy event. Still, we all had a lot of fun, and I think we didn't do too badly. At least we beat the fat bike team!

Funny, but I think that was the last major rain before Trans Iowa V8, which had 67 starters this year. The event was marked by bookends of rain and a heavy East wind. Fresh gravel at the end, and a surprise B Road played hell with a few of the riders, but the event saw 19 finishers and a few came in outside the time limit as well. Commentary post race was very positive, and as you all know by now, T.I.V9 is set to happen again next April.

That takes us to the end of the first third of 2012 when I started doing the weekly 3GR. Summer came, it got hot. Gravel and dirt was ridden, and more. Stay tuned....

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!!

Today is Christmas and I hope that if you are with family and friends that you have a Merry time.

Thanks for coming to read the blog and look at my images. I appreciate that very much.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Cheer

The weekend saw a great lowering of cycling buzz out there on the internet. No wonder- Christmas is a day away.

Most folks traveled over the weekend, if that's what they had to do, or were out getting that last bit of shopping done before the big day.

Mrs. Guitar Ted took me out to the local store where she led me to the wine and spirits section and told me to "pick two...just don't make it too expensive."

So there are my two picks. While this sort of adult beverage may not be your cup-o-tea, I have no issues being responsible with this sort of thing, and I was tickled that she even thought about this as a gift idea for me. So to my wonderful wife: Thanks!

Anyway.....I hope you all have a wonderful time ahead of you. The holidays can be rather stressful, and many lose sight of what is important now.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Triple D Winter Race: Training Log 4- Humble Pie

Last time I posted concerning the training I was nursing a bruised knee back to health. Well, that has not been an issue again, thankfully, so the riding continues unabated. Since that last entry we also have finally received some snow. Well....saying "some snow" is a bit misleading. We got dumped on, and a blizzard came along with that.

I'm not sure what the "official" totals were for our area, but I do know that I shoveled a good ten inches of white stuff off my sidewalk. I also know that it blew like the Dickens and when it was all said and done, we had gone from late fall to deep winter in 24 hours. It's all good for fat biking, and especially for getting a heads up on what to run for Triple D. This time I took out The Snow Dog.

I also have By-Tor the Titanium Mukluk, but he is a single speed rig these days. I wasn't sure I wanted to hit the, (what would most likely be), loose trails with only one gear. I was right not to do the single speed, as it turned out, but then again, it wouldn't have made all that much difference in the end due to the conditions.

The blessing of the snow was great, but there are several different kinds of snow, and we got a whole lot of the not so great type. This snow is really broken down by the crazy winds we had, which in turn has made for a very loose, almost hour glass sand-like consistency for this snow which is very difficult to pack down or get a grip in. Top this off with the oddity of the front end of the storm, which brought wet, heavy, very packable snow in, but the water content sure dropped off in a hurry after the initial three inches or so!

Gettin' started.
The first bit of my training ride had me on some bike path. This turned out to be a quick lesson on how the entire ride would go for me. It wasn't the best to follow snowmobile tracks, human tracks, or even dog tracks! Busting my own line worked best everywhere. Secondly, getting any lateral motion under the tires was going to doom your forward motion. Lean over a bit too much, hit a sudden harder patch or softer patch, or turn the bars too much and it was over. This made for really slow, technical going. Finally, there were a lot of drifts, and they were too deep to ride through 80% of the time.

I ended up getting as far down the bike path along Sergeant Road as the Martin Road turn off to the little lake over there. I thought maybe there may be a way to ride around that. Well, I was wrong, and this proved to be a frustrating bit for me. The snow had been beaten down by snow shoers, but the base was still unconsolidated, and I couldn't even begin to ride on this. That ended up in a lame attempt at riding on the shoreline, which met with some success, but eventually I abandoned the loop for the near by dike.

I had already been pushing as much as I had been riding. The dike top was clear though, and here I got a stretch of ,(mostly), rideable terrain that was very demanding. The old lessons were coming back to mind, and as I rode, I was able to practice getting better at these deep, loose snow techniques.

But still I was getting stymied by the very deep drifts and there I would be back to hike-a-bike for a bit. Then back at it with just a slow, steady pace.

It's funny, but if you learn not to react too quickly, this actually helps you ride more difficult snow conditions. The bike might start to go into a mini-slide/turning off line, and if you just let it roll, and meet that with a very subtle, gentle correction, you stay on top of the bike and keep on truckin'. The thing is though, we're conditioned as mountain bikers to react quickly before we lose control, and that doesn't often work on a fat bike in the loose stuff.

Snowplow scree.
I continued riding the dike top until I reached University Avenue, then down, back up, then down, under a bridge, and back up. Each ascent was walking/pushing/post holing which is great training. The Triple D will start out with a salvo of just this sort of terrain along highways going out of Dubuque. Getting used to pushing and ramping up the heart rate will be good. I was thinking along about this point!

Well, as I worked my way along Black Hawk Creek, I came up to the downtown area of Waterloo. Here I turned back west along the buried bike path along the Cedar River, which was mostly rideable. It was a rough ride though since most of the way it was covered in nuggets of semi-rock hard snow which had been flung up off the snowplow's blade. Missing here was the deeper snow, since the wicked winds had seemingly pushed off the top layers of snow leaving the now frozen solid first three inches which were very wet when they fell.   I figured I'd cross back over the river and hit the bike path on the other side going back the way I came along the opposite bank of the Cedar.

Cutting a deep slot.
I was feeling pretty stoked when I descended the embankment, turned onto the path on the North side of the river, and was cruising almost effortlessly through a pretty deep drifted in section of snow. Then it got too deep and that was that.

I had to walk almost all of a mile if it wasn't a mile. This was the worst part for me. I could have bailed off at any of several points to clear pavement, but I said, "no". I had to crush the desire to take the easier way out and learn to suffer the hardship of slogging it out in calf high to knee high drifted snow and just push. Why? Because Triple D will have something like this at some point. There will be that section that totally sucks the mental lifeblood out of your mind and you'll want to stop. But......

I ended up gutting it out till I got to another dike and ascended it to clear riding. Man! It felt great to just be pedaling again, and the efficiency of that activity was awesome to feel at that point. Now it was on to the last bit of urban traversing and up the hill into my neighborhood.

I don't know how far I went, (it wasn't all that much in terms of mileage), but the level of difficulty was high, and I was out for 3.5 hours, which was awesome. I felt pretty okay afterward too, which is amazing since I was totally beat down the previous day from all the shoveling required from the blizzard.

Hopefully this is something I can build on. I was using some clothing as a test, and I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable it was. Then it was only in the low 20's too, with little wind. More to contemplate there. More on all the Triple D training soon. Room is reserved for the weekend of the race and all systems are go now....

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Trans Iowa V9: Thoughts On Different Courses Every Year

Renegade Gents In Iowa
I was perusing blog stats and when I looked into this popular post, I was reminded of a question posed in the comments concerning Trans Iowa. That question was concerning the fact that I put out a different course for Trans Iowa every year.

"Why don't you just run the same course every year?"

I could answer that in one simple word:


But of course, it is much more complex than that. There are many reasons, actually, but cheating is one of the top reasons. Maybe I take a dim view of humanity, but here is why I think this way....

What would stop someone wanting to win, or set a record, at Trans Iowa from having cached supplies at critical points? Or heck- just having someone standing there somewhere with a hand up? (Think I am dreaming this up? I've seen it at Trans Iowa and at another long distance gravel grinder.) What would stop someone from cutting the course?

Nothing, that's what. Yes- there are upright guys and gals that will do the right thing, and there are a few bad apples which ruin it for those folks because they employ cheating methods. It's the way of the world. If you think otherwise, I think you may be fooling yourself, or perhaps you are very idealistic and naive. Whatever- cheating exists and gravel grinders are not exempt from it.

T.I.V7: Image by S.Fuller
Trans Iowa is a free of charge event set up to allow those who choose to ride the course to do so with no support, no previous knowledge of the course, and they agree to the time limits set forth to complete the pre-arranged course within. Sure- I could have the same course every year, and I could set it up so that I could have it be assured that no one is cheating. But that would actually be far more difficult from my side than making a different course every year, especially if I want to keep this a free event.

Besides, if folks don't like the idea, they do not have to come and ride in Trans Iowa, do they? No- there are going to be other events which will satisfy your curiosity for a pre-arranged course, no time limits, and ultra-distance. (Yes- Dirty Nellie. I don't live under a rock, ya know!) And to address that specifically, I wish Mr. Skogen nothing but the best in his debut of this course. That event is his deal. As for Trans Iowa, that is my deal, and the way it is set up came out of years of trial and error, not only on my part, but even before Trans Iowa existed.

As I said though, there are other reasons I do a different course every year. One of those reasons is to show off other parts of Iowa. I get to see stuff I wouldn't normally see, and I get to share something of that with others that are of like mind. Doing the same ol' same ol' every year isn't in my DNA anyway.  I like going different places- maybe you do too? If so, then having a different course works.

Don't be afeard of the B's! Image by S.Fuller
Another reason is that I feel that each Trans Iowa should be a unique event. And despite the possibilities of having a singular course, this probably would be the case anyway. Why? Weather, that's why. Each year is different in a dramatic way simply because the weather can be so different. Rain, snow, wind, no wind, pleasant weather, cold, and warm can all happen depending on the year and greatly affects the outcome of the event. It kind of takes away from the reasoning for having a singular course, which to my mind is for direct comparisons to be made. I don't think that this is a fair way to gauge Trans Iowas against each other or to gauge participants efforts from one year to another.

For instance, it seems to be human nature to want to set a record for the fastest to do a course, or heck, just part of a course! If I am wrong, then why is Strava a thing? Right? Well, I get asked sometimes, "Who did Trans Iowa the fastest?" And you know- I find that to be a very difficult question to answer. I guess my final reply would be to ask another question: "In which version of Trans Iowa are you asking about?" Because, you know, each version is a different course, a different length, and run under widely varying circumstances. How can you say one individual has a record in Trans Iowa overall for fastest anything? You can not.

Oh, I have read where a couple of past Trans Iowa winners have written that they did it the fastest, but ya know what I think? They are both right for the respective years they actually rode in Trans Iowa and finished first. Last year it was Eric Brunt. That's his Trans Iowa. Make sense? That's another reason I do different courses. The winner each year was the fastest. No one can take that record down. And they say records are made to be broken.......

Gravel: It's what it is all about.

Added to this is my philosophy that each finisher, each participant that didn't get all the way through, they all can say "I was in that Trans Iowa. The one where..." See? The T.I. that went through such-and-such, the T.I. that had this crazy B Road, the T.I. that had this amazing view.

In other words, how can each Trans Iowa be special if it is mostly the same every year? It even kind of bothers me that I use the same city to start in more than once. (But Grinnell has been too awesome to deny.) Trans Iowa is a gift, in a way, that wouldn't mean as much if it were the same thing every year. That's just my own personal feelings on the matter. Others can do whatever the heck they want, and I'm okay with that. They are not me, and I am pretty odd, (or so I've been told), so I would never expect anyone else to do it the way I think is best. That's not an expectation of mine, anyway. But I do expect that of myself, so Trans Iowa is what it is.

I hope that better explains where I am coming from with my reasons for a different course every year. Again- this is just the way Trans Iowa is, and will be, as long as Trans Iowa exists. I feel it is one of the unique features of this particular event. It makes it different. It suits me to do it this way. I think it also creates a fair and level playing field for each year, and by doing a different course every year, folks get a special experience that will not be recreated ever.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Friday News And Views

First snow
Beginning Of Snow Season:

The recent big dump of snow has gotten us off to a fantastic start for fat biking, XC skiing, and snow shoeing. I decided I couldn't wait and not long after the snow came in earnest on Wednesday evening I went out for a bit of a cruise.

It did not take long before I realized that the snow was so wet and so thick that I was hard pressed to see where I was going. Then the fork packed up with snow as well. Probably should have chosen the single speed. The cassette was packing up, or the rear derailleur jockey wheels- not sure which, but the snapping sound emanating from the rear end could only be quelled by switching gears every five seconds or so.

Time to head for the shed.

I only got in about two miles, but it was fun. I came home covered in sticky snow, wet through to the legs, (since I ran out wearing only blue jeans for pants), and a bike covered with a layer of wet snow.Even if I had worn proper gear and brought my repair kit, this would have been very difficult snow conditions. I'm sure the drive train issues would have eventually been my undoing.

Most road disc brakes have tiny rotors- A bad thing?

Road Bikes With Disc Brakes: Hold On There!

You've heard it, most likely. Road bikes will have disc brakes any day now. Well........yes, but maybe not. 

I just read a very interesting article in "Bicycle Retailer and Industry News" in the December issue that stated several reasons why this may either be delayed, or why it may never happen on a wide scale.  Most of the issue revolves around heat dissipation and strength of the frame and fork. It seems that with regard to getting folks on board with disc brakes on road bikes, designers and product managers are spec'ing 140mm to 160mm rotor sizes to keep the weight down and obviously give the bike a not so "in your face" disc brake look. However; these little rotors have to deal with a lot more heat than a mountain bike would, especially on repeated use during a long down hill descent.

I remember hearing from Shimano testers a few years back that in Japan, Shimano ran brake tests on Deore XT and XTR brakes against other mountain bike brakes by going down this mountain there which featured a very long descent measured in miles. At one point it was related to me that the tester, aboard a new Shimano braked bike, passed another tester on a competitor's brakes who had pulled over to the side because his brakes were on fire!

These were guys using big rotors and heavier duty hydraulic brakes that road bike aficionados wouldn't dream of sticking onto their bikes because of weight issues. So, a road bike going down a mountain, slowing from 50mph to 15mph repeatedly going around switchbacks isn't going to need bigger rotors, with better heat dissipation characteristics, and would not need a beefed up frame and fork for these purposes?  That's going to be somewhat of a hurdle to get over, not to mention the making of a proper, good looking hydraulic capable brifter. (Sorry SRAM- your proto looks ridiculous.)

Trans Iowa Talk: 

Once again, on Mountain Bike Radio I had the honor of speaking with Trans Iowa veteran and finisher, Tim Ek. Tim brings a great perspective to what it means to him to be in Trans Iowa, to ride during the night time parts, and has great insights and stories regarding the event he has ridden in several times now. You can listen to the show we did last night by clicking the link below here.

Listen to internet radio with Mountain Bike Radio on Blog Talk Radio

And speaking of Trans Iowa, there will be a big post tomorrow regarding the question: "Why do you use a different course every year?" Look for that to go live in the wee hours for your reading pleasure.

Otherwise have a safe and fun weekend. See ya soon!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

End Of Dirt?

One last time in 2012....
The forecast wasn''t sounding too great. Blizzard warnings and all. The "smart phone" made sure I knew about that at 4am in the morning! So I figured that it wasn't too bad out, and that I should get one last dirt ride in, and then get out the fat bikes!

So I hauled the Camber Comp out to the South Side trails for one last go around. The trails were looking frozen with the remnants of the "dandruff snow" that fell from the sky Tuesday. But the looks were deceiving. In reality, it was a weird combination of moisture, dirt, and frozen components that made for a sticky, clod-fest of a ride. You would have thought I was riding a moto-cross bike with the amount of dirt that was being flung about me as I sped along the trail.

It was fun for sure, but I did not push it too hard to start out with. I think many of the readers here may find it amusing that I did wear knee pads on this ride though! You know......just in case. Turns out I was in no danger of needing them this time.

The woods were strangely devoid of deer this time. Only the cackling of crows was to be heard far overhead. There was no wind to speak of at this point. Just a grey sky and mostly silent woods. I didn't see anything alive until I reached the nearest point to the Cedar River. There they were again- two Bald Eagles this time. That makes three out of three trips where I have seen the Bald Eagles at this same spot on the river. 

Then it was on to the technical bits. The Camber, with its plush suspension, was a good match for the quick down/up of the new section. But then you gotta go back down. Here is where I appreciated the long, kicked out wheel, short stem, and wide bar on the Diamondback Mason. The Specialized took more care to get it to go around the corner here.

Overall the bike was good though, just not as stiff and stout feeling as the Mason hard tail. But then, the Mason and the Camber weigh almost the same amount, and the Camber has dual suspension, so, ya gotta figure the Mason is a bit burlier than the Camber just from that stat.

It was a great "last" ride at The Camp. I started out 2012 with some trepidation concerning this trail system. It was not known what was going to become of it, since the rumor was the Boy Scouts were selling it off. Would it end up becoming a few high dollar residences? Would it get closed off to public use? Who knew? I rode out there as much as I could get away with early on since I figured it would be the last year.

Well, now it seems that the trails will stay open. Bremer County owns the land now, or so I hear, and the scuttlebutt is that new sections of trail are being planned. In fact, some was put in late in the year after word of the sale went through, and it has been a great addition to the already fantastic trails out there. Next season should be really a good one.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Beginnings Of Endings

Last version 2012
The ground clear of snow, and with it, skinny tired outdoor riding, is coming to an end. But that's a signal that the big, fat tired riding is about to start up. Endings and beginnings. The beginnings of like that, anyway!

So here I am- merrily going about my days when it comes to pass that the weatherman says a big, nasty snow storm is coming, and hey! there is a week until Christmas? Whoa....hold on a minute. 

One last, spirited, but too short, a ride on the "Orange Crush". In its final version for 2012. That's one of the things I really like about this bike. I can re-imagine it several different ways. It is going to change again for sure. Some things are going to come off. Some things will stay put, while yet other things need upgrading.

Yesterday morning was weird with this granular, "dandruff-like" precipitation on the ground and fog. A precursor to the big snow coming later today, I understand. Well, the BMC needed to be ridden one last time to end the year right. The tires and frame felt incredibly smooth, and when I checked them at work, it was no wonder why that was. 23psi or so in the rear? Wow. I don't think I'd ever run them that low before. And I was curb poppin' and not taking it easy at all.

I'm going to do something about this...
Amongst the changes I foresee are getting the front rack leveled, or pitching it. I didn't have the time to mess with this earlier, but now that the Orange Crush will be sidelined for awhile, it is time to get after this. I have an idea, so we'll see if it works or no.

The next thing is to upgrade some components. Brakes, fenders, and bottom bracket. Although I won't probably go year long with fenders, I will probably do something hammered and metallic. The STX brakes have done yeoman's service, but there are better cantis and lighter out there. The bike is worth it, so I will take a look at what is out there. The bottom bracket is toast. Well.....not totally toast, but it is getting gritchy. (That's a word that describes a bearing's smoothness, or lack thereof, by the way.) I will turn to Chris King for a suitable, anodized, replacement.

There may be other changes, but I am not at liberty to speak of a few of them. I will be keeping the Retroshifters on board though. These things are dead reliable and I like the simplicity which should prove to be durable in the long haul. My brifters have already shown signs of degradation, and if I had subjected them to the brutal dust we had this year, the wear would have accelerated. The Retroshifters should outlast a brifter by a long shot despite the severe conditions I've abused them in.

More on the end of the year stuff coming in the final daze of 2012 here. Stay tuned.....

Note: The Guitar Ted Show has been scheduled for Thursday evening at 7:30pm. We'll be talking more about Trans Iowa. Tune in or plan to call with your questions and comments.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Standards: A Moving Target

Through axles- good..
"Something considered by an authority or by general consent as a basis of comparison; an approved model."

Well, that explains everything! It is the "authorities" fault. No wonder nothing stays the same. The "authorities" can not make up their minds, apparently, and here we are- mechanics, consumers, and retailers- all left to sort through the ever changing morass of component "standards".   

I think if we were to ask "General Consent", he would dang well sure say this component hopscotch is a bunch of malarkey.  At least I would think so.

Sometimes the "standards change for the better though. I don't think you'll find too many folks that will say threadless head sets are a bad idea. At least the non-tapered variety with external cups.  When that sea change happened in the early to mid-90's, manufacturers and consumers both won. It was just a good move for both parties. But, of course, the "authorities" couldn't leave well enough alone, and now we have a plethora of head set "standards" out there. Are any of them actually better?


External BB's, okay..
Then you have the whole bottom bracket thing. There's a good story. When I became a bicycle mechanic, the industry was just starting to switch away from the serviceable bottom bracket with adjustable, angular contact bearings. There were square tapered spindles in a few varieties and a ton of different lengths. The shop where I started had a machinists cabinet full of different spindles in varying lengths.

Then "cartridge bottom brackets" came about. The UN series bottom brackets from Shimano cut down on servicing and numbers of parts necessary by a huge degree. Another "win-win" for the industry and consumers alike. (In fact- these BB's are so good, you can still buy them!) But once again- "the authorities" deemed these improvements as "not good enough" and we jumped from Octa-link/ISIS to the current two piece crank with how many bearing set ups? This "BB Whatcha-ma-call-it" crap is waaaay outta hand.  Heck- outboard bearings weren't good enough? Nope. Now we've got plastic cups  holding our bearings in place. Yeah......that's a good idea. 

And having to buy adapters for running different cranks in weird bottom bracket shells? I'm going to say it- That's just stupid right there. Just stop it already.

Wheels- well they've been changing a lot too. Bigger mountain bike wheels came along, upset the applecart, but made hard tails and single speeds make sense. Okay- 26 inch wheels work great for long travel and DH, right? Nope. Guess again. The "authorities" are about to unleash something different for that too. Gonna try and kill 26"ers, they are. That'll be interesting to see. Of course, how you attach those wheels is also changing. I don't mind through axles. They are good, but when you sell wheels that do not convert? That's kind of silly.

There is more, of course, but my clock is telling me it is time to stop this rant for now. At least the authorities haven't messed with that standard.......much!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Family Matters

It's never too cold to ride, Son.
The weekend was a whirlwind of activities, but most had nothing to do with bicycling. That's okay with me when it comes to family things. That stuff matters more than cycling any day.

So it was that we spent Saturday celebrating Mrs. Guitar Ted's birthday. Made her breakfast, took her out to lunch, and spent the entire day with her and the rest of the family.

On Sunday my son wanted to watch a professional football game. I used to be head over heels for football back when I was his age, so I obliged him and we had a good time. Knowing football as well as I do, I was able to spot things the announcers were missing, or ignoring, I don't know which. Frankly, I was appalled by the lack of insightful commentary by the crew doing the game. This must be the norm, I don't know, because I don't typically watch this stuff anyway.

So, anyway, we hit the streets after the game on our bicycles. (You knew I'd sneak in a bicycle ride, right?) My son and I trekked down to a local park where he played on the structures there and I goofed off on By-Tor the Titanium Mukluk. Well, I managed to slide my rear tire on the wet timbers surrounding the play area and biffed on my left knee. Okay...that's three times in the same area.  Can this be over with now?

The rest of the ride went without incident, and we made it home to a house full of the smell of home made chicken soup.

I did get in some other bicycle related stuff. I made a big dent in maintaining the fleet. I managed to almost get a special project done, I mounted fenders on my Orange Crush for the winter, and did a bit more cleaning. But the main focus was family time, and it marked the first Saturday I hadn't ridden in months and months. But it was all totally worth it.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Trans Iowa V9: General Banter On Random Topics

Cue Sheet Questions:

I've been getting a smattering of questions about the cue sheets for Trans Iowa V9 . First of all, you should read this post I wrote from last spring concerning the cues for T.I.V8. The same will apply for T.I.V9, for the most part.

Sizing will be worked on a bit from last year. I had some issues with formatting the cues so I ended up with random sizes for the cue cards. All will fit into a small sandwich bag, but this year I hope to get all the cue cards the same size.

This will depend on how they lay out. I may put all the first leg on one card, as T.I.V8's were done. We'll see. I am formatting and printing these on my own to cut down on costs, so they probably won't be formatted 100% perfectly, but they should be 100% accurate, which is a bit more important, I think.

I'll have more details on how the cue sheets will lay out once I get them drafted, which will probably be after the 1st of the year. December is just too crazy for me to get anything done with that now.

Live Audio: I'll be commenting on Trans Iowa again this coming Tuesday at 7:30pm CST on Mountain Bike Radio. This show will be a continuation from the last show which featured two T.I. veterans, MG and Steve. They chimed in with some great insights about the event, and I also added a few tidbits which may be interesting to you as a rider in the upcoming T.I.

If you hit the link for the upcoming show, there is a phone number there which you can use to call in live. During the first show, you get the back ground info on Trans Iowa, and a bit of what it takes to wrap your mind around this event. As MG said, "the weather and the overnight" are what make this event really an obstacle.

This next show will take things from there and I'll hit on some things we have tweaked out in the last few years and where this event is going.

Scott Ronken- T.I.V7
The Hardware:

There has been some discussion lately on different forums and media about the bicycles used for gravel grinding in general, and I suppose Trans Iowa has figured into some of those thoughts as well.

I get asked a lot about what should a person ride in T.I. My answer almost never wavers- Ride what you are going to be the most comfortable on for a day and a half or more. That might be a fancy-pants carbon fiber CX rocket, it might be a drop bar mtb bike, or it might be a rat-ride cross bike, but whatever it is that you can ride for long distances, ride that. Then tweak on it. But there is no "gravel grinder" bike that will suddenly factor in to making you a Trans Iowa finisher.

You'll see more on this subject coming up, but that will have to wait. For now, that's the thoughts on the event for today.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Friday News And Views

Gravel Grinder News:

Lots going on now with Gravel Grinder News I have added a slew of events, some new ones, some newly discovered ones, and updated on some of the traditionally listed events.

As always, feel free to hit me with any event you think might fit. I'll take a look and paste it onto the site if it works.

By the way, my last contributor to the site wondered why there are not many eastern events on Gravel Grinder News. He sent me a link to an event that has been going on in New York for 18 years. So, there must be some rides out East! Come on folks. I need some East Coast gravel/backroad love for Gravel Grinder News.

 I have been asked to write an article about gravel grinder rigs, and about tips folks that put on these events have for potential gravel grinders. I can't say who it is yet, but this will come out next spring in print. I'm pretty excited about this, and a good friend is also a part of the project in another vein.

Finally, this coming Tuesday I'll be back on Mountain Bike radio on the "Guitar Ted Show" with Part 2 of our chat about Trans Iowa V8 and the event in general.  Feel free to call in at 7:30pm CST Tuesday to ask a question or just tune in to hear me ramble....

Speed wars current champ. Unlikely source!

The Bicycle Equivalent To The Arms Race?

Probably a lot of you saw this come around on certain internet sites lately. The Tiso 12 speed components package.  Not only can these guys boast of the most cogs on a cassette, they have done it with an electronically controlled derailleur system that runs on AAA sized batteries! Oh....they also say it will be cheaper than Shimano's or Campagnolo's electronic groups. 

Yes- that is all amazing right there, but the one thing I noted was that this system works wireless. That's right, you can remote shift this system from across a room, and the promotional video shows this. Think about that for a few moments....

What would stop a coach, or team Director Sportif from riding in a team car and shifting the bike for the athlete by Bluetooth and doing so by watching live streaming power data on a laptop computer from inside a car? Or from across an ocean?

Weird, eh? I may be overstating the capabilities of this here, but it can't be far off the mark, can it? They always compare Pro road racing gear as the equivalent to auto-motive's F1, and this technology makes that comparison even more close to the mark.I can't wait to find out if I am right, and if so, what the UCI thinks about that. Maybe it wouldn't be an advantage, but it sure seems that way to me.

Then on the heels of this comes the new Dura Ace 9000 mechanical group which, by the sounds of it, is so much better it might make you not want electronic shifting bits. Oh yeah, and it is 11 speed. So if you have a 9 speed road bike? Yeah.......start hoarding parts my friends!

Hydration pack, or not?
To Backpack It Or Not- That Is The Question:

Okay- I go back and forth on this. I happen to like a good hydration pack, and I think the newer versions of them are really dialed.

But frame bags are cool, and I get all that "getting the load off of you" thing. I do, but whether the load is on you or the bike, you still weigh the same going up and down. The only bennie I see is that the weight isn't beating you down as the rider of that bike.

However; a hydration pack is super-portable. I don't have to fit it to different bikes, I just have to fit it to me.....once, that's it. The bladder hose is right there for a drink, and with some of those you get actual, functional hip belt pockets you can stuff grub into. Nice feature that. Then I have to wonder if a hydration pack isn't more beneficial in a wind. Frame bags are pretty much sails waiting to happen.

Then again, maybe the answer doesn't lay in an "either-or" question. Maybe it is a combination of both things. Well, whatever it is for you, I have to figure out some things regarding this question. It will affect a certain event I am doing soon. Stay tuned.....

That's it for today. Stay tuned for tomorrow's Trans Iowa V9 Thoughts. Have a great weekend, ya'all. Ride yer bikes!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Day Of Dusting And Cleaning

Random dirty pic of my Fargo- Needs Cleaning!
Usually on Wednesdays I go riding and you might expect that I did just that because it was actually pretty nice out yesterday. But, I had some necessary domestic issues to attend to involving the water supply to the house.

Well, this meant that a long, long overdue dusting and cleaning of my work area needed to happen. I got busy in the morning with pecking away at the monster.

I actually made some headway before my lunch break, and with the results I was seeing, it spurred me on to get the deed done with plenty of time before the municipal "professional" came over to swap out the meter. That ended up leading to other issues, which ended up taking up the rest of my day. So, no further progress was realized in terms of cleaning the shop, or for taking care of my bicycles, for that matter.

My bicycles are due for some maintenance and cleaning too. Especially the gravel rigs. We had such a dry, dusty Summer and Fall that the dust is amazingly thick on frames and components. I'm sure there will be some drive train replacement parts entering the picture due to all of this as well. That's one thing about gravel riding- It is hard on the parts!

Gold Midge and new stem installed
One of the bikes due for some work in the drive train department is the Fargo Gen I. It already has seen some attention since the colder weather has settled in. I got a gold anodized Midge Bar and since that was a 31.8mm clamp diameter, the old stem went away and this Origin 8 UL stem went in its place.

This change also will mark a slightly lower front end position than I was using before, but since this bike is going all gravel all the time, I don't see it as an issue. I maybe came down a few millimeters, so it shouldn't be that big of a deal. Besides, the front end is pretty high on a Fargo Gen I as it is.

At this time, I could have swapped back to STI levers, but these Retroshifters are nice, and even though shifting from the drops is not possible, I am liking these better in every other way. They are staying on for the long term!

The drive train needs some attention though. I'll likely get a new cassette, chain, and maybe a different crankset. I may need a different bottom bracket as well, depending on the crank set chosen. If this crank stays it is getting a new, smaller drive ring. The one that is on it is 2 teeth too big for my tastes. Funny how only a two tooth difference can make a difference worth pursuing on a bicycle, but with this rig, I can say it is "fine tuning". I've had it long enough now that things are getting refined to a greater degree.

There is also the "Orange Crush" and the Gryphon to look after as well. Both dustier than all get out. The dusting and cleaning has only just begun, I am afraid!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Gravel Grinders: The New Black

Image credit: C. Matthias
It is the time of the year where I ask for new dates on Gravel Grinder News for the 2013 Events Calendar. I am constantly amazed by the new events that keep cropping up every year. Already this calendar is filling up with new events that will happen for the first time in 2013.

(By the way, if you know of any, or have an event not listed, let me know. I'll put it up on the Calendar.)

Last season I was also floored by all the new events I got wind of. It seems that the grassroots nature of gravel events, and the relative ease with which they can be put on is attractive to folks wanting to organize a bicycle race or ride. Of course, part of the appeal is just the nature of the beast, so to speak. The other part is the low key attitudes found on these rides. (All that is well documented in the comments section of this post I did a while back.)

Then there is all the media coverage that I am hearing about, or have been a part of. And let me tell ya- that part is still cranking away! You will see more coverage in print media on gravel grinders soon, as well as from other media sources. Then add in the attention that manufacturers are giving this category. Components and complete bikes geared specifically at gravel/back road riding will be introduced soon. If these items seem to fly out of the bike shops, this will only increase the amount of attention given to gravel road riding.

It makes me wonder: is gravel grinding the new black? What I mean by that is- Has gravel grinding become a fashionable trend in cycling?  Hmm.....maybe that's overstating things.

But just when I think gravel road riding is as big as it'll ever get, I hear about five more new events, another product idea, and hear about more media attention. I see ideas being floated that I never imagined before, and even I get amazed by what I conjure up in my muddled brain.

Must be breathing in too much limestone dust or something. Whatever it is, I am enjoying seeing it all go down around me.