Saturday, April 06, 2013

Trans Iowa V9: Thinking About All Kinds Of Stuff

Well, well, well! We're getting right down to it, aren't we? Soon we'll be in Grinnell and then spread out over the roads of rural Iowa doing this Trans Iowa madness. I ran across some images that prompted me to think about a few points I wanted to punctuate before we get to the dance floor....

Image by S Fuller
Ride Right:

There is a protocol I hope all of you follow while riding in rural Iowa. Here it is in bullet point form...
  • Crest hills on the RIGHT SIDE!! On coming traffic does not have a centerline, (gravel- duh!), and "typically" cars will crest on their right side, (your left), and if they are in the center, then you'll have a chance to get out of the way. If you ride up the center, or left side, it could spell trouble. If we notice riders not following this rule of the road, you will be DQ'ed.
  • Wherever possible, ride on the right side of the road, and always break up double file, two abreast riding into single file riding when vehicles are present. Wave nicely to motorists and farmers out there. They like that!
  • Be careful when crossing to 'clearer lines" in the gravel. The deeper gravel can upset your balance easily and cause you to crash. 
  • Make sure you have your tail light and a head light on at all times at night!
  • Make sure you STOP at all STOP SIGNS and YIELD the RIGHT OF WAY to vehicles in towns you pass through. Numbskulls that disobey this tenet will be DQ'ed. LOOK BOTH WAYS at paved crossings marked "DANGER" or "CAUTION" on your cue sheets!! Do not try to beat cars and trucks across intersections, or blow stop signs. You will lose that battle. 

Image by S Fuller

 More On Rural Iowa:

Other things to note: MOVE when you see farm implements!! Get off your bike and stand near, or in the ditch if you have a big field implement coming at you. Farmers will be late getting into the fields this year, so expect encounters with farm tractors and equipment. These people are at work and they have little time for bicycle shenanigans that slow them down.

That said, by being civil and nice to these folks, you can be a great ambassador for cycling. Smile, wave, and get out of the way quickly! They will be kind to you in return.

A Word Or Two On Dogs: will have dogs barking and chasing after you. For the most part, these mutts are excited to have someone to run off their property/territory, and then are satisfied to turn around and go back to their home. You might get the occasional mutt that is on the attack. Get off your bike, talk normally and calmly. This is important. If you yell, you will only escalate the angry attitude of the dog further. Get your bike between you and the mutt and back away slowly until the dog calms down or stands his ground and stops pursuing you. I doubt you'll have an encounter go this far, but it can happen. Typically talking to a dog kindly will diffuse 99% of dog/cyclist encounters to becoming no big deal.

Image by S Fuller
Other Animals: It is entirely possible that you will be dive bombed by Red Winged Blackbirds. Typically they are males defending their 50 yard circle of territory, which doesn't sound too bad, except that the next door neighbor will pick up the dive bombing where the first one let off, and this can go on for a mile or more. Just don't worry about them. They won't hurt you, they just get close and make a racket. The good thing is that if it is windy it makes getting close to cyclists hard. But then it's windy.....

You may run across a sudden deer, bounding across the road, and at night, racoons, skunk, and coyotes are not rare sights. Look for several hawks and occasional Bald Eagle sightings  during the day, especially around rivers.

Help Your Fellow Man: Keep in mind that by riding in small groups you increase the chances for success in Trans Iowa immensely. You can navigate together, encourage each other, and bail each other out in times of breakdowns- both mental and mechanical. In fact, it is your bound duty to help a fellow rider in need. this may be a race, but the racing takes a back seat to helping out a brother or sister in need on the road. It is my opinion that anyone that doesn't offer help to riders in need is a jerk. Period.

On the subject of help- Anyone that finds themselves in immediate need of water, directions, food, or assistance may find that an Iowa farmer or small town folk can be an extremely helpful resource. Just keep in mind that if you leave the course, and need to rejoin the route, you must start where you departed the course. Likewise, if you accept outside assistance in the form of a ride, or pre-arranged help, (from say- a support person for you or another racer), you are done, and you need to call in and report a DNF.

Trying to keep the rabble straight

Which brings me to keeping all of you straightened out in regards to record keeping. I know that sometimes I am not going to be the first thing on your mind when and if you decide that you've had enough and are pulling out of Trans Iowa. However; it makes a big difference in getting information out to folks that maybe are worrying about you, or concerned, or just want to hear about you and cheer you on. But the biggest thing is for me to know when you are done, so I and the volunteers do not have to worry about looking for you anymore.

Most of you past Trans Iowa Riders have been really great about this point- calling in from the course, letting me know when, and often times why, you are done. However; every year there are a few of you that have not called me until hours after the fact, or in a few cases not until the following day! I even had one instance where a rider didn't call me until he happened to think about it when he got home.

Please- don't do that! It would be awesome if all of the entrants finished as far as this goes, but I know that is not the reality of Trans Iowa. If you are going to pull the plug, ya gotta call the DNF line. (The number will be provided on race day) It is tremendously important to me that I know when to quit looking for you, and to tell my volunteers not to expect you through a checkpoint.

Thanks! I'll have more thoughts next week. And by the way, if you want to hear more about Trans Iowa, check out the podcasts on Mountain Bike Radio from the Guitar Ted Show

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