Thursday, April 30, 2015

Trans Iowa V11 Report: The Struggle To Get There

Click on this to make larger. Note the rain slashing down. (Image by Wally Kilburg)
The Struggle To Get There

While I was wrestling my truck down sloppy roads, and feeling dark and depressed about things, there were 94 other stories being told out there that were far more difficult and taxing to go through than mine. While I cannot speak for any of them, I can show you some images and relate what was told to me by the riders.

I expected there would be lots of attrition as far as people dropping out before Checkpoint #1, but amazingly, many actually rode all the way in, despite being late. Some didn't though, and cut back to town the quickest way possible.

5:34 am: "Brian McEntire #69- out Just going too slow. No way I'll make the CP. Riding back in."

That was an example, and the very first text I received during the event. Oddly enough, I only received about 27 texts concerning dropping out. Most of the folks just arrived at the checkpoint and called in their rides while letting us know they were okay.

Central to the missed cut off times was the obvious- the weather- but there was a "knock out punch" in the form of a B Level Maintenance Road about 13 miles away from the checkpoint. Many riders playing with the edge of not making it on time were assured they would not make it on time once they figured out how long that one mile took to traverse. There also were the regular gravel roads, which were giving us fits in our trucks. George , in the "media truck", reported to me that he was in four wheel drive and probably would have been stuck several times without it. You can imagine how the roads may have been on a bicycle then. Finally, the course itself went East a few times and right into the teeth of the wind and rain. All of these things were, in the end, just too much for all of the riders. Even though Greg Gleason made it past Checkpoint #1, he only just escaped, and ultimately it all caught up to him as well.

An unknown rider turns to get a rare tailwind push during Trans Iowa v11: (Image by Wally Kilburg)
The first riders reach the unrideable B Level Road going to Checkpoint #1. (Image by Wally Kilburg)
 Sarah Cooper (L) and Gerald Heib struggle against the elements and their effects on the roads. (Image by Wally Kilburg)
A rider passes the media truck making their way toward Checkpoint #1. (Image by Wally Kilburg)
Riders were forced out into the mud as the ditches disappear on the B Level Road. (Image by Jeremy Kershaw)
A rider tries to make up time on a more solid section of gravel during Trans Iowa V11 (Image by Wally Kilburg)
Bruce Gustafson splooshes through a mushy gravel section on his way to CP#1. (Image by Wally Kilburg)
Riders were relating to me at the checkpoint that they were having to put out "maximum effort" all the way to the checkpoint, which still didn't get most there anywhere close to the cut off time. The conditions were just too bleak, and for many, it also was causing issues with hypothermia. The Trans Iowa lion had roared and unleashed its fury, as if to say "You shall not pass!", and what could anyone do against such a foe?

The results of the battle waged were seen at Checkpoint #1, which suddenly became a triage center for cold, weary riders.

Next: The Carnage

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Trans Iowa V11 Report: Hopes Dashed In A Lonely Truck

The time when I give the riders my "Fatherly Admonishments" just before the 4:00am start. (Image by Wally Kilburg)
Hopes Dashed In A Lonely Truck: I woke up when MG's alarm went off, which he had set a little ahead of mine, and then I got up when mine went off. I had been drowsing off and on, but it wasn't the worst pre-Trans Iowa sleep I've ever had. About the typical, I would say. At any rate, I had gotten ready to go and was standing waiting on MG for several minutes before we were about to leave. MG had said something about feeling all hot and sweaty, but I didn't take too much note of it. We planned for MG to hit the convenience store for some grub and drinks, and I would park the truck around front. MG was to be my ride-along partner for this version of Trans Iowa.

I came around front by 3:30am and there were a handful of people milling about in front of Bikes To You already. Usually there are at this time before a Trans Iowa. One of them was surprise visitor, Jason Boucher, who made arrangements to ride with Wally and George and did not tell me. I saw him the night before, and it was a big surprise for me, so they were successful there. (Thank you Jason!) Jason then wanted to take my portrait in front of the shop, and afterward I went about checking on who else was there. Riders were trickling in, but at 3:45am, there weren't very many folks down there. There should have been many riders by this time. This was strange. I saw Sarah Cooper roll up with Fasterkatt boots and typical riding shorts but no leg coverings. "Wow!", I thought to myself, "I hope she'll be okay." Maybe she had some new "anti-cold" embrocation I wasn't aware of, but I thought this was odd. John Mathias told me that Joe Fox would be late. He overslept and John called and woke him up. Joe rolled up just as we were leaving, but George later told me three other guys went through the start line about ten minutes late!

Things were normal other than that, but where the heck was MG? Then, some bad news struck.....

The blackness of the Iowa night on the start of T.I.v11 was deep. This was my view for the first two hours of Trans Iowa v11.
MG was sick! He was vomiting and he didn't look good at all. I talked to him minutes before the start, and told him to stay in town, maybe rest up in Coop's loft, and we'd figure out a plan later. MG was terribly ill, and felt worse for leaving me alone at the start, but we didn't have time to figure anything else out. In a few short minutes, Trans Iowa v11 would begin, so I left MG and took my usual spot in front of the racers and gave them my usual speech. Then at 4:00am, I tooted the horn and we rolled off.......

It was an anti-climatic start from my view. Well, the news of MG's illness was part of that, but I also felt that there was a muted feel this time, an almost "hope against hope" feeling. Everyone pretty much understood it was going to be a very difficult start out there. Just what we all would face was not forecast. It wasn't supposed to be terrible, but in fact, it was. Worse than I imagined.
Once the Sun enlightened things, the full impact of the weather could be seen.

I hit the first section of gravel and the truck slowed as if I had hit the brakes hard. The gravel was really soft, mushy, and driving was treacherous. It's really hard to give you any idea of what it was like, but think of a bad, slick roadway in winter with lots of snow on it, and how you cannot drive one handed or you'd lose control. Maybe that image would give you some idea.

But that wasn't the worst of it. Not three or four miles into it, before I made my left hand turn on 90th going North, I saw it. Lightning. My heart sank.

Was this a T.I.v6? Would riders be scrambling off their rigs in near 30mph winds seeking abandoned farm houses and barns, ala T.I.v10? I was struggling with emotions at 30mph in a truck that was barely staying on the roads with limited visibility and I was alone. Another flash of lightning and I got sick to my stomach. This was my lowest point in T.I.v11 by a long shot. The darkness outside was only matched by my dark, depressed mood inside that truck at that time. I gotta say I really missed MG right then, and there are a lot more things I can't say about those nightmarish minutes in the dark.

Nuff said there..........

Riders struggled against a strong Easterly wind and sideways rain coming to CP#1. (Image by Wally Kilburg)
Later on, Wally texted me at 5:14am Saturday morning: "Riders passing us at 322 and 70. Rain hard here. Running at 15-16mph. Good spirits!"

I had trouble at that section of road. I had stopped to put up a Trans Iowa update there at about 4:30am and when I started out again, I nearly slid sideways into the ditch and mud was flinging off my tires as if I were really on a muddy B Level road. I was glad to read that the riders were in good spirits, but this rain, which didn't start in till about 4:20am, was getting worse, and the winds were relentless. The lightning tapered off and disappeared for good. That was one good thing.

This was a far cry from the ".24 inches of rain" we were supposed to get the entire day, and the winds were far more fierce than forecast. Trans Iowa was a lion this time, and was roaring loudly. Would anyone be allowed to pass? My hopes for a long, successful event were dashed then.

Next: The Struggle To Get There

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Trans Iowa V11 Report: The Family Reunion

Wally Kilburg displayed his work at the Pre-Race Meat-Up
The Family Reunion:

Moving to the Pre-Race Meat-Up location, the Grinnell Steakhouse, I was eager to see everyone that was to show up there. The Bonk King and Gumby were already there waiting, and not long afterward Tony, Mike Johnson, Wally and George, and Tim Bauer from NoDak were there ready to get the scene up and running. The Bonk King and Gumby handled all the bag stuffing and watching over the cues. Tim and Tony manned the registration table, and the rest of us floated in and out while riders steadily streamed in to register for the eleventh running of Trans Iowa.
Two bottles for the number "11". Jason Boucher's image of me at the Pre-Race Meat-Up

I always am really happy to see how the Pre-Race plays out. So many folks reconnecting or making new friends and acquaintances.  Families, friends, mothers, fathers, relatives, and all there to see their loved one get ready to hit the gravel the next day. The buzz in the room gets louder and louder every year as more and more riders feel comfortable talking with other riders. It's like one big gravelly, dusty, bike riding family reunion. Only there are no weird cousins and drunken uncles. Well........maybe a few odd balls! 

MG and the Bonk King look over the bags racers would get later in the evening at the Pre-Race Meat-Up
The massive indoor grill at the Grinnell Steakhouse which was busy all night Friday night.
 The meeting proper was good. Ya know, I always feel a bit odd about all the attention, but it really is for Trans Iowa. It is also about me to a degree, but Trans Iowa is the star here, and......well, I'm just the emcee of the the deal. The bottom line is that it went well and despite it not being the quickest meeting, it may have been the best one we've had since the showing of "300 Miles Of Gravel" at T.I.v8's Pre-Race. At least it seemed so from where I sat.
After the Meat-Up, The Wisconsin Gravel Syndicate sponsored a beard contest. (Image by Wally Kilburg)

Coop telling us the story of a 1939 Schwinn Paramount- the white bike hanging up there.

With that over MG and I made our way downtown where we were to shack up above Bikes To You. First we spent some time down stairs with Coop and a few others as Coop showed us various cool old things like a Schwinn Paramount and other stuff that you just don't get to see all that often. Bike geeks geeking out!

Then we went up and got settled in up in the empty loft apartment. MG and I chatted a bit before we bedded down and tried to get some shut eye before our 3am alarm went off. I fell asleep fairly quickly, but at about 1:40am I woke up, feeling very hot, and I had to use the restroom. Then I couldn't really get back to sleep. A freight train laying on the horn going through town at two in the morning sure didn't help. Oh well......

Next: Hopes Dashed In A Lonely Truck

Monday, April 27, 2015

Trans Iowa V11 Report: It Was Almost Too Good

The "Truck With No Name" ready to roll
It was almost too good: 

T.I.v11 planning came to a head in the week prior to the event with all the cue sheet production, stuffing the cues into bags, (thanks in no small part to Mrs. Guitar Ted), and getting small details lined up. Things like re-routing supplies, (thanks Bonk King), and the "kit" to implement the reroutes replete with tape, hammers, knives, duct tape, and more that I have to check and replenish just for Trans Iowa. Roster sheets for the pre-race, checkpoints 1 and 2, and the finish line were produced. Pre-race meeting notes, materials for releases, and making sure the numbers made it to the event for the riders, (thanks Ari and the Bonk King), were all things I needed to keep my mind on. Oh.....and I needed to pack my personal items for the weekend as well!

To keep everything straight, I made a checklist that I used to make sure I did not forget any small detail. Just before I left, I reviewed it once again, went over everything in my mind for the packing and where those things were, and then I jumped into the truck and went to fill the tank before leaving town to meet one of my volunteers, Tony, who was to do a ride-a-long for a final check of the roads to checkpoint 1.

A portent of things to come
I got started and just was thinking to myself as I left town. I couldn't believe how smoothly everything seemed to be going so far. I decided that maybe things were almost too good. I just had to have forgotten something, right? So, I began to run the checklist in my mind for the umpteenth time in the past few hours.

Checkpoint 1 stuff? Yep.......Checkpoint 2 stuff? Uh huh........ and so on and so forth. I couldn't come up with anything I was missing. I thought about my checklist and that maybe I should stop and review it once again, and not rely on my memory. Now I could just pull over and look in that black note book.........

The black notebook! The one with all the enlarged county maps where the route was going, with the roster for myself, and with all my notes? I left it on my desk! I wasn't maybe 8 miles out, so I stopped, turned around, and headed back to grab it. Once I retrieved it, I was off again, but I would be late getting down to meet up with Tony. I was hoping he wouldn't be too cross with me about my being tardy. On my way down I ran into heavy, intermittent showers, and I was worried that we may lose the course to conditions too tough to ride in. We'd find out soon enough though. I met Tony at Bikes To You, where, surprisingly, there were many racers milling about and buying up gear to meet with the conditions that were forecast for Saturday. It wasn't looking good......

Despite the showers in the area, we were able to drive the first B Road. It wouldn't look anything like this on Saturday.

The last bit of Sunshine we'd see for T.I.v11. 
Tony was marveling at the scenery and enjoyed the ride along. We finished up by checking into the first B Road past Checkpoint #1 but we dared not drive it as it had been subjected to enough rain that it already looked unrideable by bicycle. The roads were fresh gravel, for the most part, and soft in most places. I understood that if we got the rain that was forecast it would be very difficult to ride on Saturday morning. I just hoped that it might hold off to allow the riders somewhat of a head start against the elements.

I had to fix a tail light on the truck when we got back to town and with that repair made, I was ready to head over to the Grinnell Steakhouse to set up for the Pre-Race Meat-Up.

Next: The Family Reunion

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Trans Iowa V11 Report: Prologue

In many ways, this personifies TIv11 for me

Last week I posted about the weather being the "wikd card" of Trans Iowa and stated the following: "This is shaping up to be a Trans Iowa that just might be a super tough one."

Spot on.

It was a super tough one. It was so tough that no one finished. So tough that only one individual made the time cut off for Checkpoint 1 in Guernsey Iowa. So tough that cranks broke, derailleurs sheared off, and tires were shredded to bits in the span of 54 miles.

But that isn't the story of this Trans Iowa. In fact, there are so many stories, stories I don't even know about or can begin to tell, that it would amaze you- the readers- to know about them all. Hopefully there will be stories posted elsewhere that I can link to to illustrate this in some some way. Truly- it was overwhelming to hear about some of them for me. I am going to be processing this event for some time to come.

In the meantime, I will tell the tale from my viewpoint. As usual it will take up most of the upcoming week, and I will start out with Friday, move on to the Pre-Race Meat-Up, and then talk about the day Saturday which was so packed with action for me it felt like three days when it was over. For now, here are the facts in terms of numbers and a few stats for you all to chew on till I crank out the first installment of the T.I.v11 report Monday.

  • 92 started with 2 Volunteer Exemption riders: Total 94
  • There were 2 no-shows at the Meat-Up
  • Checkpoint #1 Cutoff time was 8:30am
  • Greg Gleason cleared CP#1 with 5 minutes to spare before the cut off
  • Bruce Gustafson came in 10 minutes after the CP#1 cutoff
  • Greg Gleason covered 123 miles of T.I.v11 in 12 hours and 20 minutes before he stopped.
  • T.I.v11 ranks as the "shortest" of all Trans Iowas so far. 
More soon........

Friday, April 24, 2015

Trans Iowa v11: Sponsors And Tidbits

Listen in all weekend..... we go! It's time to crank up another Trans Iowa. Hard to believe it is the 11th version. But it is, and here are a few of the sponsors and folks behind the scenes I owe thanks to......

Trans Iowa will be supported this weekend by Europa Cycle & Ski. In fact, the event has been supported by the shop since the beginning. The early Trans Iowas were noted for being graced with the old, blue shop van, and now the shop still helps out with the weekend's travel expenses. Thanks Europa! (Not to mention, I get time off from work to do this deal!)

Next up are the team that supports me with their time and efforts to make sure the route and cues are spot on. Jeremy Fry, who does recon with me, and crunches the numbers because I suck at that! He also does a lot of the cues proofreading. Then Wally Kilburg and George Keslin give up a lot of time and drive hundreds of miles just to recon the course, check cues, and look for good photography opportunities. Finally, the Slender Fungus are now big supporters of the event and have stepped up to provide the numbers this year and some other small items which Trans Iowa needs to run smoothly.

The Truck With No Name ready to go for T.I.V10
New this year, I have decided to have a co-rider in the "Truck With No Name". My good friend, Matt Gersib will be assisting me and keeping me awake all weekend. Also new this year, Ben Welnak will be here doing Trans Iowa Radio all throughout the weekend.

WTB is offering all official finishers of T.I.v11 a set of Nano 40 TCS tires, so we really appreciate them. I also wanted to give Pedal of Littleton a shout out for the Salsa Cycles bar tape we will be handing out as prizing. Another big supporter of Trans Iowa is Lederman Bonding Company, who are big supporters of cycling. The aforementioned Slender Fungus, Mountain Bike Radio, and Guitar Ted Productions are also supporting Trans Iowa this year. Finally, a special shout out to Sam Auen and Tacopocalypse.

We will also have a couple of special announcements and whatnot at Trans Iowa from Heck Of The North and The Wisconsin Gravel Syndicate who are doing a Best Beard Contest at T.I.V11 and a special women's award called the "Gravelista".

Okay folks......see ya on the other side......

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Trans Iowa V11: It's All About The Weather And More

Could we be seeing B Roads like this for v11? (Image by W. Kilburg)
"The weather is the wildcard"

I'm pretty sure Jeff Kerkove said that about Trans Iowa way back when, but if it wasn't him, it was a wise man's utterance. Trans Iowa is totally shaped by weather, and what I do with the course, timing of checkpoints, and what have you, well that all is only a small percentage of what makes Trans Iowa so difficult.

Sometimes the weather doesn't show up, in a manner of speaking. Things like sunny skies, light winds, and warmer temperatures have happened at Trans Iowa before. In fact, there was a time when riders swore that there was an "even year curse", which early on seemed to be true. T.I.v2 was an absolute washout. T.I.v4 was a wind swept, bitterly cold, truncated version of the event. T.I.v6 was another wash out. However; things began to switch around after that.

T.I.v8 started out right after a night of angry thunderstorms, and I was sure that it was headed down the storm drain as another version which was to be wiped out by wet weather. I was wrong. It actually turned out to be a rather great version, and who could ever forget the valiant Braun Brothers attempt at a sub 24 hour Trans Iowa? Then at V10, we nearly were derailed again during the evening with a squall line of thunderstorms that sent riders scattering into abandoned barns and farm houses. However, after a two to three hour delay, of sorts, the event was contested to the bitter end with 19 finishers crossing the line.

Odd numbered years were hailed as being the ones to attend with great weather and high finishing rates. And again- it seemed that this was the rule. T.I.v1 was very sunny, but folks forget the horrendous winds and frigid night time temps. But after that, V3, V5, and V9 probably had the best weather Trans Iowa has ever had. I still say V3 was the best, but regardless, those three versions stand out as being some of the best April weather Trans Iowa has ever enjoyed. V7 wasn't bad, but it wasn't stellar either. Cloudy, somewhat cool, but obviously a great weather day compared to the "even years".

Trans Iowa V9 was marked by tranquil, warm weather during the day.
Now we're looking at an odd year, which is supposed to be a good weather year. I've been saying that sooner or later an odd year would be not so nice. Well, it would appear that this year just may be that year. 

The weather forecast looks rather, well.......shall we say wet? It doesn't look to be a whole day affair, but it will be cold, (50-ish), windy, (E-NE at 20-ish), and that will all translate to a tough day riding in the boondocks. Oh........and the night time low looks to be around freezing. That'll be fun, won't it? Definitely does not fit into the "odd years are good" theory. It definitely doesn't play into the sub-24 hour Trans Iowa finish wheelhouse either. Nope. I do not expect to see that happen this year.

This is shaping up to be a Trans Iowa that just might be a super tough one. At least from the standpoint of the weather. I know the course will be tough, but this "wild card" that is about to be played should amp things up just a hair, I think. Want to listen in and follow along? Check out Trans Iowa Radio HERE. The riders will be calling in, and Ben Welnak will be out in the field driving around getting interviews and more. This will be a well covered Trans Iowa from that standpoint. The best Trans Iowa Radio production ever attempted. That said, do not expect every rider to be talked about, reported on, or tracked. We don't plan on doing that, but you could encourage that rider you care about to use the call in number. That would be the way to do it.

One more post for tomorrow and then I'm out for the weekend. Stay tuned to's Trans Iowa Radio page, linked above, Twitter by following the hashtag #TIv11, or myself- @guitarted1961. or at the Riding Gravel Facebook page. I'll not be posting anything here after tomorrow until maybe Sunday.

Well..........maybe sooner, depending upon that weather wild card!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Trans Iowa V11: Answers To Anticipated Questions

Okay, it is Wednesday, and time to answer some questions I get every year before anyone asks them again this year. See......I aim to please! Why waste valuable time and energy asking me the same ol' questions again when you can just look at this post and be satisfied with answers without any effort on your part besides reading!

Now I'd call that a fair deal! Here we go......

  • So, how are things going for Trans Iowa? - Well, you know.......busy! But that said, everything is coming together far!
  • So, how many did you get signed up this time? I have always had a certain number "sign up", but through injuries, life happenings, and what not, not all will show up. Hopefully these folks all have let me know, but right now we have 97 riders out of an original 120 that signed up and two Volunteer Exemption Riders. By the way, there will be less than that at the start line. We always get a few "no-shows". 
  • So, do you need anymore volunteers? Nope! I don't. Thanks to all who have stepped forward and have heard back from me that I have jobs for ya. That I have to turn down volunteers is amazing and a huge blessing as this beast has gotten pretty intense from the standpoint of facilitating the challenge. 
  • So, where can we go to see the event? Can we check out the course? No. I do not allow spectators nor do I provide details on where the course is going. Only Trans Iowa Riders are provided with cue sheets to navigate with and a couple of us that are helping with the event have these cues. We will not tell you anything about the course or where it is going unless cleared by Guitar Ted personally.
  • So, can we hang out at checkpoints to see the racers? No. In fact, other than Checkpoint #1, which will obviously be leaked information Friday night after cues are handed out, we will not tell anyone where the remote, rural location of Checkpoint #2 is. Not even CP#1 volunteers will have knowledge of where it is. The CP#2 location is literally just a crossroads in the middle of nowhere. There is no parking, no facilities, and therefore we do not want, and can not allow anyone to be clogging things up by hanging out there. 
  • So, is there anyway we can follow the event? Yes! Check out the Trans Iowa Radio site which is part of HERE.
  • So, where is the finish line? Can we come to that? YES! The finish is at the barn located approximately 3 miles West of Grinnell. The easiest way to get there is to take I-80 West from Grinnell to Exit for County T-38 and go North. Approximately a quarter mile North of the exit, T-38 bears left, but right at this point there is a gravel road to the East named Jacob Avenue. Take this right turn, go around a left hand corner in the gravel road and then look to your right. You should see a red barn with several vehicles parked up the road leading to it. On your left will be the Nature Center which you should park your car at and walk down to the barn. By the way, that Nature center is also the only restroom facility in the area that the public can use. The barn will be going strong from just before sunrise Sunday till 2:00pm when it will all be over with. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Something Offbeat

Things will be changing here soon.........
Well, I figured that all this Trans Iowa nonsense needed a break on the blog, so I have a bit of an update on a project I am working on involving the Blackborow.

The project will be a bit of a slow moving one because everything I need to gather together for this will be expensive stuff and will take time to source and pay for. So far there is a wheel set, and there is a fork coming as well. Then I have to get some drive train parts.

The "old" bits are not going anywhere, by the way. Oh no! I will definitely be keeping this dingle speed set up for Winter and maybe for some other stuff as well. The dingle speed thing is fun, and it works well for me. I was skeptical about the gearing range, but I worked into it and so far so good.

I know I'm being all cagey and whatnot, but I am not ready to go with more than this until I get some of these parts in and am ready to go assemble this bike idea I have. It should be really good, but that's all I'm gonna say for now. That's the break from Trans Iowa stuff for now.......

Monday, April 20, 2015

Trans Iowa V11: A Big Hurdle Overcome

My view for most of the weekend
The cues are printed. That's a huge relief for me to be able to write. A lot goes into the production of these cue sheets and a lot of combined efforts are needed to gather the information and verify the data's accuracy. All of that comes to a head when I push the button to print. That process takes a while in itself, since I do everything "in house", literally, since it costs a lot less for me to do it that way.

The ol' printer is accurate and does a great job of printing, but it is sloooooow. How slow? You may be surprised to find out that I have about 13 hours on the printer just to do the cue sheets. It isn't like I can throw a switch and walk away either, since the paper tray can only handle maybe 20 sheets of card stock at a crack. That means I have to be around to keep the thing fed. I've learned how to do that so the printer never stops as well, which saves a little bit of time.

I know, many of you are probably thinking I should do something or another to save time, or make this more efficient. The thing is, I save a lot of money by doing this myself. Time? Yes, it costs me a lot of time. In this case, pretty much an entire weekend of free time was eaten up by this process, but I cannot afford to print these at a printer for anything near as cheap as I can do this at home. I know, because we used to have Trans Iowa cue sheets printed at a printer in the early years. That's when we only had 50 folks to provide cues for. And it was still far more expensive then than it is now for me to do it for almost twice as many people. So save your ideas unless they are super cheap to do.

At any rate, I now have to only do a bit of chopping, bagging, and packing then I can comfortably say Trans Iowa v11 is pretty much ready to go. There is the outstanding 76 miles of the end of the course that we didn't get to look at last weekend. I have a plan to check that out along with the bit to CP#1 on Friday before the Pre-Race Meat-Up, just to make sure there are no surprises.

Then the only thing we have to worry about is the weather. Of course, it rained heavily all over the course Saturday and Sunday. That said, it looks like we are to have several days of sunny skies before the event and no rain. If that happens, it should dry things up nicely, but it will be rather cool, with night time temperatures to dip below freezing a few nights coming up, which will delay drying somewhat. I really don't expect that we will have water or wetness issues coming into the event though. Whether that holds up for the weekend is still not 100% known yet, but things look to stay dry throughout the weekend right now.

Finally, I want to apologize to the readers here that are not so into Trans Iowa, but if you've been here long, you know that this is the time of year that Trans Iowa dominates the blog postings for a couple of weeks here. Stay tuned.......

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Dirty Kanza 200 Chronicles V2: On Track But Getting Derailled Again!

Getting sidetracked by Trans Iowa- Maybe worse than a flat tire!
Well, I've been really pleased with the riding of late. The last time I checked in I had just done the Renegade Gent's Race and had felt really good. The next weekend was the Geezer Ride and I was really happy with how that went. The next step would be taking some longer rides, and I sure would like to, but, ya see.......I have this little race to put on.

Honestly, Trans Iowa is one of the main reasons I don't usually sign up for Dirty Kanza or the Almanzo 100, as well. They come just a bit too close on the heels of the grind I put in for Trans Iowa. Doing any sort of meaningful training is pretty much out of the question the week beforehand. The week afterward I am emotionally drained while trying to get back to some semblance of a decent backlog of repairs at work. That brings me right into May with an almost two week time period where all I can get done is commute to work and back.

I suppose I'll have to chalk it up to a period of "rest" for the body. (<===HA!) It is what it is. I sure hope that I can put together a few long rides in the few weeks I'll have left to me before I hop in a truck and head down to Emporia. I'll have to make the best of things in the meantime.

Tamland call up to duty......
Equipment Choices:

Well, I still have to decide what bike to ride, so I have made a decision to swap the WTB rims/tires from the Vaya over to the Tamland and ride that bike in the event. I'm going to carry water bottles, I think, and I can easily get four on the bike, five if I think I need to. The race intel is that there will be "oasis" stops in between the start and the first checkpoint and between there and the final check point. That means I should be able to count on four refill opportunities. I figure on consuming a bottle per hour.  Maybe a bit more. I should be okay with this plan if I stay within a pace that I can maintain without burning myself to a crisp.

And that may not be avoidable, depending upon the weather which, if very hot, will roast me and it will make things very interesting, that's for sure! Heat and I do not have a very successful relationship when it comes to longer rides.  I have slogged through a few, so it isn't like it is impossible for me to do it, but the margin of error becomes very thin indeed when the temperatures soar and I need to do big miles.

Well, I don't expect I'll have another update on the Dirty Kanza for a while.......

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Trans Iowa V11: Update

The Super-Limited, Hard To Get, T.I.V11 Shirt
Well, this year I decided to do something that I am pretty excited about and I wanted to share the story of how this all went down. But first, I wanted to give a shout out to a few people without whom this would have been totally impossible to pull off- Ari, Sam, and the staff at 8/7 Central.

First is Ari Andonopoulous. Ari is a good friend, a great supporter of Trans Iowa, and heads up the Slender Fungus Cycling Association. Ari is also a fellow bicycle mechanic. He was crawling around in some forgotten place at the shop where he now works and found a rare, ancient bicycle tool with a certain caricature on it. He suggested we might be able to do something cool with this. I decided to play around with the design a bit, and drew something up for the shirt. But then, how to get it done? 

Well, now I have to bring in 8/7 Central and Sam Auen of Tacopocalypse fame. I found out that Sam has his businesses t-shirts done by 8/7 Central in Des Moines. So at the Gent's Race, I asked if he could tell me about the place. He offered on the spot to help facilitate the design process and work with the 8/7 Central staff. I sent the design rendering down to Sam and he and 8/7 Central did the rest. 
So, the t-shirt is done and will show up at Trans Iowa V11. But it will be only going out to a very limited set of folks. Ya see, I only had 50 done, and they are all spoken for. These folks that get these will be mostly behind the scenes supporters and foundational people to the event. Last year it was all about the riders, and this year it will be about those that help bring this event to the riders. I hope that makes sense. 
The Weather: Of course, a big topic of discussion going into any Trans Iowa is the weather. It hasn't looked all that great up until now as the forecast has been getting fine tuned as we get closer and closer to the day. Now it's looking cloudy, windy, and cool. That describes about 80% of Trans Iowas ever held, so no big surprise there. However; we're still waiting on what the final say will be on rain. Right now they've taken the rain out, but I wouldn't make any bets until Thursday this coming week! One thing for sure- It sure looks as though we are not in for anything severe. Not like last year, at any rate. 

Last year's sticker
Last year a few of you got these Trans Iowa "mileage stickers" and those were courtesy of T.I. finisher and Tour Divide finisher, Mike Johnson. Well, Mike is up to it again and is going to have a little "motivational" sticker for Trans Iowa again. You'll have to show up to find out what it is exactly. 
There should also be some of the "traditional" Trans Iowa stickers in the racer packets as well. So, look for that when you come to get your stuff Friday at the Pre-Race Meat-Up. Finally, a word on that "packet". Maybe you've gone to some events that have some fancy pants stuff for a race pick up, or swag in the bag, or maybe you've gone to the Almanzo 100 and got one of Chris Skogen's fantastic creations when you signed on. Well, Trans Iowa is decidedly "dirt bag" in its presentation, so all yer gonna get is a number, some cues, maybe some stickers, and all of that in a plastic Wall Mart bag.


I have spent the coin and now I have all I need to start cue sheet production. Once those are printed we're pretty much home free and Trans Iowa will be a go. Stay tuned on Facebook and Twitter for updates on my progress! 
More soon.............

Friday, April 17, 2015

Friday News And Views

They grow up so fast!..........sniff! (Image courtesy of B Fornes)
Raleigh Introduces A Carbon Gravel Bike:

Back when I got my Tamland Two, I guessed in a post here that if this gravel bike thing caught on, there would soon be carbon examples for the genre. I turned out to be correct, but I was disappointed to find out most of them have cyclo cross inspired geometry, or are merely cyclo cross bikes with more tire clearances. That isn't at all what would work best for gravel road cycling. It is merely marketing to a group of cyclists with what is convenient. It is easier, and therefore, you get the following: "why do you need a gravel specific bike when cyclo cross bikes already do that." Or: "All road bikes are gravel bikes". That last one is one of my favorites. Daft logic for sure.

Anyway, Raleigh didn't fashion this carbon bike by tweaking an existing cyclo cross offering. Nope- this has Tamland geometry, now in carbon fiber. Even the fork rake is the same as the Tamland's is. It's dubbed the "Roker", and will be available in early Fall, '15. It features three bottle mounts, a flared drop bar, and will come with tubeless ready wheels.

WARNING! My Opinion Follows: I'll tell ya what- if it rides like my Tamland does, it will be the premier gravel road riding rig available today. I've seen what the projected weight is for the complete Roker Two, and it is very, very competitive with the upcoming Warbird Carbon. That Salsa bike may have those wild seat stays, and the Roker may not have that sort of compliance, but I'm betting this new Raleigh will be neck and neck with the Salsa, and handle slightly better. We'll see......

Twin Six's Standard Rando (Image courtesy of Twin Six)
Steel For Gravel:

However cool a carbon fiber gravel travel bike may be, there are many that adhere to the steel frame camp for crushed rock roads and won't be changing their minds soon. Twin Six has just started shipping their "Standard Rando" rig to satisfy such cravings and at a very reasonable price. $600.00- $670.00 gets you the frame, fork, and maybe some cool painted to match fenders if you go to the upper end of that range. 

Now, ya know this rig is going to look killer because it was designed by those Minneapolis whiz-bang designers at Twin Six. Their stuff has been cool since like, '05 or so. They are trying their hand again at doing a bicycle line, and this time I think they hit it outta the park. The geometry is pretty dang good, and it has clearances for big tires, which is good. Overall, "good" is going to work well for most folks. Plus, like I say, it looks awesome. The price is right, and if it rides well, then this could be the best deal in a steel frame for gravel out there.

Well, well! Looky there! (Image courtesy of
The 27.5+ Wave:

My friend, Grannygear, who steers the ship over at these days, told me he expected a huge wave of 27.5+ stuff at Sea Otter, and it looks as though he wasn't wrong about that!

I checked the Facebook page and all there is to see are 27.5+ rigs from Jamis, Specialized, Rocky Mountain, and over at the WTB booth, he saw this strange apparition with Salsa livery.

Now, I am betting that this whole "Plus" sized wheel thing will go in two directions: One is for Enduro. The bigger meats with higher volume will be perfect for swallowing smaller bumps, giving beau-coup traction benefits, and a boost in diameter to almost 29"er proportions for better roll-ability. Two: Bikepacking/Adventure riders will eat this up because of the easier acceleration of the smaller than 29+ wheels and fatness of those larger wheels in smaller packages which should help with sizing up smaller folk as well.

Don't get me wrong- 29+ has a place at the table too, but the "Industry" is going to decide that 27.5+ is where the focus will be at, so get used to it folks. It's the "Next Big Thing" in mountain biking and we're just seeing the tip of the ol' berg, as it were.

Oh! And that bike is a prototype Salsa rig with Boost148/Boost110 axle spacings and 120mm of travel.  We'll probably see more of that around Saddledrive time, I'd expect.

Okay, that's a wrap for today. Get ready next week for an onslaught of Trans Iowa craziness as I am one week away from the Big Dance. Weather, packing, last minute preparations, and more will all be discussed and fretted over. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

News Season 2015: Titanium & Weirdness With Big Wheels

Wait.....what the....!! Half an elevated stay?!!
Elevating The Species:

Trek has had the Stache model in the lineup for a couple years now and while it was well received, I thought they kind of missed the boat by using too long a chain stay length when everyone else was clamoring for sub 17" stays and was getting it from other companies. I stayed away and got a Singular Buzzard instead.

Then Trek came out with a 29+ tire in late '14 dubbed the Chupacabra. Of course, they did not have a bike for it. Well, it was no secret that they would do a bike for this tire, the question was what it would be. Waiting for the frame geometry to be dialed in and for a fork to be produced specific to the design, Trek was biding their time.....until now. 

There is a lot going on here, and Trek has been doing work on this idea for three years now. The testing showed that the design needed to have shorter chain stays than the original Stache and that the then new 29+ idea was perfect for a trail hard tail design. In fact, Trek is claiming this redefines the trail hard tail. Being that the Manitou decided to jump in and do a 29+ and 27.5+ specific fork, Trek could push this idea to fruition. The fork comes in at two levels and is dubbed the "Magnum Pro" and "Magnum Comp", by the way. It takes its design cues and internal workings ideas from Manitou's previous Dorado and Mattoc forks and features the new front spacing standard of 110mm, called "Boost110". This makes for a more laterally stiff wheel which is smart. (I think they should have just gone to 135mm, but hey! Whadda I know?) Clearances for 3.25" tires on the fork, by the way.

So, 420mm stays when the through axle is pushed all the way back in the sliding drop out, (Stranglehold drop out is actually an ovalized slot type drop out that is fully enclosed.) , and it is single speed compatible. Compatible with 29, 29+, and 27.5+ type rubber, so its really versatile. Three versions, (Trek says more are coming, and I'll bet some are 27.5+), plus a frame set.

Obviously, with all the elevated this, squished seat tube that, you aren't going to run anything but a 1X system here. This is what makes a frame like this possible though, and in many ways, this is the culmination of an idea Gary Fisher and Mark Slate worked on back in 1999/2000 where Gary wanted short chain stays, longer front center, and a suspension fork, which ironically was a modded Manitou back then! Looks like things have come full circle, eh?
Stache 5 with rigid 100mmOD fork

Stache 9 with dropper post and Manitou Magnum Pro

The return of a classic gravel bike.
 Vaya Titanium v2: 

Ever since the Vaya came out in a titanium version, I have wanted one, because they make killer gravel road bikes. The geometry of these rigs is darn near perfection, and with the frame done up in smooth titanium, it makes the perfect gravel travel rig. However; the titanium Vaya was always hard to come by, even when they did make it at first, and then they switched to stainless steel with couplers. Not a bad idea, but not exactly titanium either. Plus, that steel frame came with a titanium price tag, which was vastly misunderstood by most riders. May as well buy a titanium bike, right? So, I decided to stay on the sidelines again....

Then yesterday, in a surprise announcement, Salsa Cycles comes back with a Titanium Vaya, and it has a modernized head tube, fantastic geometry again, and big tire clearances. WooHoo! But, it isn't all perfection here.

I still am not a huge fan of an adventure bike having paint on it if it is a titanium frame. Frame bags, dust, and the rough and tumble nature of gravel riding means that stuff isn't going to look good after a while. Titanium always looks good if it is bare, and maintenance of the finish is simple. I like the "purposeful" look and when you slather on the frame bags, who cares what color the tubes are?

The other thing is that while the rear drop out is replaceable, it isn't single speed compatible. While SRAM thinks we need 1X for gravel to simplify our gravel adventures, they and Salsa didn't think about what usually happens out there- rear derailleur carnage, that's what. Give me a solution to that and keep yer durned 1X gruppo and replaceable hangar to yerself! But, yeah......I am digging this new Vaya.

Deore XT 11 speed
SRAM Says 1X, Shimano Says "Whatevs!"

Shimano is killing it, in my opinion, and the new Deore XT is another step in the right direction. Offering everyone an option, and not forcing the front derailleur-less group on the masses, Shimano has come out with such a wide range gearing set up it is crazy. 3 X 11? Are you kidding me? 11-40 and 11-42 cassettes without a weird driver? Nice.

Now don't get me wrong, I like 1X stuff and I see where it makes sense, but when you deny me triple, and even double ring, crank sets, that's not cool. I rode a Deore level triple on a test bike last Fall/early Winter and it was eye opening. The cadence and momentum advantages were very evident. The shifting was super smooth, quiet, and not an issue at all. The range was spectacular. This was a 3 X 10. Imagine a wide range 11 speed cassette and a triple that was efficient in shifting performance with a bike packing set up. I mean really, when was the last time anyone blew up a front derailleur on a tour? Rear derailleurs and cassette bodies? Yeah, those get roached all the time, but you rarely hear about a front derailleur issue, only that it wouldn't shift. And Shimano has that sussed out now. The front derailleur isn't evil, (Anymore. At one time, yes- maybe), and I feel many would benefit from using them if they understood how. Because some people do not is not a reason to dumb down the drive train to 1X, but again- maybe it will make for a great entry point for non-cyclists until they learn the skills necessary to operate a triple. You know, gaining a skill set should be seen as something worth doing, not something to avoid, or made a negative.

Okay.....rant mode off!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Trans Iowa V11: Important Things To Know

With a mere ten days to go till Trans Iowa V11, here are a bunch of important things to remember or consider before we all show up in Grinnell, Iowa April 24th for the Pre-Race Meat-Up. Remember- the sign on at the pre-race meeting is mandatory and you must show up before 6:30pm or risk not getting to ride. This is serious and not just a threat. Here's what one T.I.Vet said to me recently in an e-mail concerning this:

"I kind of view the Friday 6:30 pm signup as checkpoint zero: One cannot even start the race if (they) don't make this (check point). Might as well sign up at 4 pm just to be safe."

I think that sums it up perfectly.

But besides this, I can tell you that getting the space to hold this Meat-Up is due to the Trans Iowa folks coming that will eat at the Grinnell Steakhouse, or at least get a drink or two there. I really appreciate those that come and eat and drink. It is helping Trans Iowa, and it helps a local business, which is cool. I can tell you that the staff of the Grinnell Steakhouse is very excited to see all of us, since I was there chatting with them last weekend after I ate an awesome hamburger there. Did you know the Grinnell Steakhouse is always one of the finalists for the best burger in Iowa?'s true.

Trans Iowa Radio: This will be a similar set up as it has been for the past two Trans Iowa events. Mountain Bike Radio's  Ben Welnak will be running the knobs and sliders for the call ins from the riders and myself. The number for this year is 888-573-4329. Riders can use this number to leave a brief message about how their ride is going during the event and listeners can tune in to the updates via the Trans Iowa Radio Page, (Where you can listen in to the past event's updates), and there are phone apps that will allow you to listen in that way as well. 

We're still planning on having Ben show up at Trans Iowa v11 to get in the field reports as well, which will be a new feature for the event and Trans Iowa Radio. Stay tuned for more on this as it develops.

The Barn: Again, this year we will have the big red barn West of Grinnell on Jacob Avenue as our finish line. The festivities there will be limited to Sunday morning only, so please be aware of that. It shouldn't be a big deal, since that is about the only time anyone has shown up in the past. Usually, in a typical year, a finisher comes no sooner than around Sunrise, but be advised that the best info concerning how riders may be finishing will be found on Trans Iowa Radio. 

Check this out and give your feedback!
Rider Info Cards: Thanks to a suggestion from Trans Iowa Vet, Mike Johnson, and his work on this, we will be putting a laminated card into your rider bag that has the DNF number, the Trans Iowa Radio call in number, and a short explanation of the re-route procedure should there arise the need for that. 

Please comment in the comments section on your reaction to this and if you think anything needs to be added or subtracted. We felt that it would make for one less thing to try to remember and might be an easy reference for you folks out there during Trans Iowa.

Changing Classes: You can change classes from Single Speed/Fixed to Men's Open or vice versa, yet this week, but after Saturday, things are locked in. Also- if you cannot make it to Trans Iowa v11, please let me know ASAP!!

  • Ride Right- Keep to the right going up hills!!
  • Cue Sheets: The cue sheets will be the same size as previous years with a similar formatting. If you are not familiar with T.I. cue sheets, Read This.
  • Numbers: Please read this concerning our number plates for Trans Iowa HERE.
  • Checkpoint #1  53.49 miles CUT OFF @ 8:30am Saturday
  • Checkpoint #2:  167.09 miles CUT OFF @ 8:00pm Saturday
  • Finishline The Barn: 331.77 miles. Cut off time 2:00pm Sunday
  • Convenience stores will be no more than 90 miles apart and all available stops past CP#2 are open 24 hours a day 
Okay, that should cover things, but of course, if you have any questions, feel free to add a comment or e-mail me @

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Trans Iowa V11: Final Recon Report

Sunday mornin' comin' down- Recon started bright and early.
Thanks to Wally & George, who once again volunteered to drive five hours to Grinnell and spend a day bouncing around on gravel to check out my cues, Trans Iowa has had an excellent reputation for accuracy. The triple checking of cues never ceases to turn up mistakes and suggestions for fine tuning the cues. I am deeply grateful and without their assistance, along with that of Jeremy Fry, I would not be capable of doing cue sheets with such a high degree of accuracy and clarity as I have been able to provide with their capable guidance. If you get the chance to meet one of these three fine gentleman, please give them a hearty thank you. They more than deserve it.

The recon went pretty smoothly and, as mentioned, turned up a few things I need to straighten out before I can print up all the sets of cues we'll need for T.I.V11. However; the intentions of this post for you readers is to let ya'all in on how things are shaping up out there for the course. So, here is what I saw and my comments......

It's Really Dry Out There! Despite the recent rains, we didn't notice very many wet areas at all, and when we did, it could be chalked up to the rain received Sunday in parts of Iowa. Creeks and streams were noted to be extremely low, and the gravel was dusty, loose, and blown out in many places. However; I wouldn't read too much into that right now. With two weeks to go, the county maintenance crews will be changing things in many places. In fact, we saw lots of freshly laid gravel all over the route.

This was typical: Fresh gravel. Deep, and looser base. Hard to drive on. 
George was driving his Ford truck, and he had his hands full a lot of the day. Looser gravel spots would grab a wheel and cause the big truck to jerk sideways and lurch as the momentum of the wheels would be sucked away. We saw a lot of work that needed to be done in areas as well, and I am certain that if dry weather persists over the next two weeks, we'll see more of that fresher gravel and grading to help smooth out those softer spots.

The B Roads were dry, but many were rutted so badly that we're not sure they will be rideable anyway if they do stay dry.
B Level Maintenance: Again, we didn't get to see two or three stretches of B Level Maintenance road, but what we did see was dry. That's good, but they were not "smooth". There were many badly rutted dirt roads and some were so bad that we had a hard time keeping the bottom of the big ol' Ford from scraping on the dirt due to the unevenness of the roadbed.

There are a few low water crossings. Only one had water actually running over it, and it was maybe a couple inches deep at best. However; we do have re-routes available for these if necessary. I am having the capable help of Tony McGrane and Mike Johnson, who has been in five Trans Iowas, to help advise me on roads like this ahead of riders going through. Again- we'd like to have it be challenging, but there is a point where we will make a re-route if we feel the conditions warrant it. Right now my feeling is it would have to rain a lot over several days to get us into a range where this will become a problem. You can check the 14 day forecast yourself and see what I am seeing. I don't see a of now. 

Overall Thoughts: My feelings now are that this course is challenging in ways that are new for Trans least from a recent Trans Iowa perspective. I have taken several comments made in recent years to compile what I think is going to be a very different course than I have devised before. I think once the riders that are Vets of T.I. have seen it, you'll hear them remark about certain features, and the truth of what I am saying will come out. I think it adds a dimension we haven't exploited before, and we'll see how it plays out. For these reasons, I am a bit anxious and worried about this Trans Iowa, more so than in years past. I'm not worried about the riders- the roster is stacked with veteran talent. The Rookie Class is small, and there is a lot of experience that will be out there this time. The riders should be fine. What I am concerned about is how this course will be received and how it will measure up to past T.I. courses. Time will tell. When you do something risky, I guess being anxious and worried a bit is only natural.

For some other perspectives on Trans Iowa V11, the Geezer Ride 2, and  on how you can get some images from Trans Iowa, see Wally Kilburg's post HERE.

Anyway, time to get cues cranked out and put the finishing touches on T.I.V11.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Geezer Ride 2: Report

Steve Fuller rode over from Des Moines.
The second Geezer Ride was instigated to get the two yahoos I created the deal for over to actually participate. It was decided that since Wally and George were going to be in Iowa for the final Trans Iowa V11 recon, they may as well ride the day before. The recon was based in Grinnell, so that's why the second Geezer Ride happened there as well.

April- You never know what you'll get for weather. It could have been 40 degrees with rain, or it could have snowed the night before. Who knows? I was certainly concerned what it may turn out to be, but I cannot decide or change the weather, so whatever it was to be, it would be. Unbelievably, it actually turned out to be one of the best Spring days I've ridden on in years. Actually, the last two weekends have been glorious. Who knew?

Anyway, I headed down to Grinnell after waking up at 4:00am in the morning, packing up, and driving down to meet Steve Fuller, Robert Fry, and whomever else might show up, for breakfast at the Frontier Cafe in downtown Grinnell at seven o'clock in the morning. It was quite chilly when I left Waterloo, as it got down to 30°F. Ice was all over my windshield, but temperatures were forecast to rise dramatically just after Sunrise. There was to be a Southerly wind, but they claimed it wouldn't be too crazy.

Once again, the turnout for the Geezer Ride was bigger than I expected.
Steve Fuller rode his Tour Divide set up over from Des Moines the evening before, camped out, and finished up a short jaunt into Grinnell Saturday morning to meet us. I walked in to the cafe to find him and the proud new owner of a 2016 Warbird, Kevin, sitting there at a booth. I joined them, and not long afterward, several other riders came and sat down for a fine Frontier Cafe breakfast. If you ever get to Grinnell for breakfast, I highly recommend this joint.

Anyway, I was stoked on how many were there and I knew we'd have a great ride, however, I wasn't prepared to see just how many did end up coming. In the end, we had 24 riders, some from many miles away, and several locals. One rider came from Michigan, and two from Illinois. Really, I was quite blown away by the participation. Maybe more so by the fact that Steve, a man I graduated from high school with 36 years ago, and hadn't seen since those days, showed up to ride as well. I was very humbled by the turnout.

So, there we were standing in the crisp air with a bright morning Sun shining down. I said a few words and we were off to find the gravel North and East of Grinnell. (No! Not on the T.I.v11 course!) The crew was in good spirits and there certainly was a lot of chatter going on!

Riding past Grinnell College on our way out of town.
Starting to string out on the rolling hills North and East of Grinnell.
We made it out of town without causing too much of a ruckus with traffic or what have you. No small feat given the size of the group and given that the town was fully awake and going about their normal business on a Saturday morning. Things around Grinnell are hilly no matter how you slice it, but I tried to devise a route that was as kind to "newbies" as I could, and we had several professed "new to gravel" folks on the ride. My recon man, David Long, had informed me that a week prior there was very little new gravel; however, it was soon apparent that the maintenance crews had not been idle for the preceding five days. There was a lot of freshly laid gravel and patches where the riding was tough and good lines were either hard to find, or non-existent. Not that the two fat bikers seemed to mind. They just rode wherever they wanted- even in the ditches at times! The rest of us quickly learned to adapt to less than ideal gravel road conditions.

Trouble with Dogs: This Corgi got away from its owner and was frolicking amongst the riders stopped at a corner. 

The owners finally corralled the pooch and gave him a lift back home.

We stopped several times to gather up stragglers. It was a no-drop ride, after all.
Big skies, gravel roads, and a bunch of fun loving cyclists. What a grand day out!
Since the terrain was a bit challenging and the gravel was fresh, or there were loose, moondust kind of spots, we found ourselves getting strung out pretty quickly. The riders were great though, and patiently awaited me to help usher slower riders back to the group. Unfortunately, about 15 miles in, Wally and George decided to pack it in and turn back. I couldn't blame them. Wally's first ride all year? The Geezer Ride 2. Not necessarily the friendliest awakening to a body not accustomed to being upon a bicycle saddle. He did great considering, and afterward George and Wally recounted their adventures on B Level Maintenance roads which sounded really fun.

Speaking of B Level roads, I witnessed several folks pulling over to look, and even ride up and down, these curiosities, which I found amusing. They would get their dose of these roads soon enough! 

Geezer Ride Barns For Jason
Kevin rocking the gravel on his brand new Warbird 105
Dropping in to the B Level road. This was the same stretch of dirt road used in the 1st leg of T.I.V8. 

We had to turn South and the big, rolling hills North of Brooklyn were taking their toll on the group. Down to 22 riders now, we were strung out a long distance over the windswept gravel. The gradients here were likely in the 12%-15% range and many riders were walking their bikes up the steepest stuff. It didn't help that the wind, now blowing at around 20mph and gusting higher, was straight into our faces.

Still, the faster, stronger riders were courteous and would wait at intervals for the stragglers which I was busy trying to keep track of so we wouldn't lose anyone out there. Finally we reached 370th and our left hand turn out of the face of the wind. The really bad hills were now behind us, and the dirt was just ahead. I sped ahead of the pack so I could grab some images of most of the riders coming down into the dry dirt road. A few exclaimed as they went by that the best road of the day- so far- was this one. Ha! If only they had been on this when it was wet, blowing hard, and rainy for a Trans Iowa. I bet the opinions may have been opposite of what I was hearing Saturday!

Waiting on the final rider to pass, and then I followed down this hill and up the next onward to Brooklyn.
Avenue Of Flags in Brooklyn, Iowa

Once we crawled South and East a bit to Brooklyn, we stopped at a convenience store for vittles and drinks. A couple more riders decided to head back to Grinnell on pavement. They'd had enough, but were gracious and claimed that they had a great time. Just not quite ready for the level of effort that was required this day. The gravel was tough every mile. Deep, fresh, or with the looser, soft spots. Hardly any "typical" cleared paths and harder tracks to follow out there. Add the wind and it was quite the workout. Even the seasoned riders exclaimed at the finish that they were worked over out there.

More rollers- not as steep and big though- West of Brooklyn. Note the fresh gravel and how the tire tracks pressed into the looser dirt on the side here. 
Heading to the South turn to Malcom, Iowa. Somewhere between there and Malcom I pinch flatted.
The rollers were back, just not as steep or as big as before Brooklyn. The Westward direction helped take the wind out of the equation, but with all the previous efforts put in, many riders were straggling off the back. I waited quite a while for the last one to come, number 20, and escorted him up to the corner where we turned South to Malcom.

Now, somewhere between that corner and the middle of Malcom I must have pinched my tube, because as we were rolling through Malcom, one of the riders pointed out my tire looked rather low. Sure enough, my rear tire was pretty soft. I tried to just pump it up and to see how far that would get me. We continued on after a short vote to add in two more miles of dirt road which the riders were eager to try out. It was Diagonal Road which is at railroad grade, and since the roads were dry, I said let's do it!

Me shooting someone who was shooting us on Diagonal Road West of Malcom.

Putting the mechanic skills to good use: Image taken by Steve Fuller
By the time we reached the end of the B Level Maintenance section and were to rejoin the original route, I determined that my rear tube was not going to make the cut. So I stopped and began to repair the flat. Steve Fuller, Robert Fry, and Tony McGrane stopped along with me to chat while I fixed the flat and pumped up the tire. With a bit of time put into this, everyone on the ride had caught up and passed us by. We were the last four on the route.

Once we got started I had to stop within a few hundred yards to add a bit more air, but I got going again, and by this time we all were really off the back. It was a mile or so North then West for the final miles of the Geezer Ride.

It wasn't but a few miles and we found Steve, the fellow I graduated with, then a few more, along the roadside. We were seven or eight strong and headed back, but Steve was feeling the miles and fell off the pace. I slowed way down to help tow him up, and he caught on to me a couple miles from town. I decided to take the first turn into town, instead of the planned second turn into town, just to get Steve back out of the wind sooner, and we ended up pulling in, as what I assumed were the final two riders in. However; good ol' Steve Fuller, Robert, and Tony were waiting for Steve and I at the second turn into town, and when they hadn't seen us, they called and messaged me to see what was the matter. Well, I was a bit embarrassed to have not thought about them waiting for me, and told them we were already done. Not long after, here they were, and we were all accounted for. The Geezer Ride 2 was over.

Epilogue: The Geezer Ride 2 was a big success from the standpoint of its intentions. It is meant to provide those with none to very little gravel road riding experience with an avenue to try it out under the least competitive atmosphere possible, yet have a challenging experience that may have them achieving something they didn't think possible. It is a casual, fun atmosphere for the seasoned cyclist and a time to share fun and adventure with like minded cyclists. I think all involved fit into this somehow and all seemed to actually have a good time.

Some riders asked about future Geezer Rides and some even said they would come to the Fall Geezer Ride. (?!!!) Which, ya know........I have never mentioned doing, but I guess there will be one! I am planning to do a Geezer Ride 3 with the venue to be up here in Waterloo/Cedar Falls sometime in August, so stay tuned for that. Anyway, it is obvious that the concept is popular and that folks really want to do this more. That speaks to the success of the ride more than anything I could say.

Thank You: Thanks to all 23 other Geezer Riders. I am still humbled and deeply grateful for your attendance and excellent attitudes. Some of you had a really hard ride, overcame adversities, and finished. I am very blessed to have witnessed your experiences. Thanks to David Long for doing the recon on this ride. Without his ride to make sure the route was good a week before I would have had a bit more stress coming into this one. Finally- Thanks to Wally & George for inspiring the Geezer Ride concept and for your attendance at this ride.