Saturday, April 30, 2016

Trans Iowa v12: Stop This Game

When I started this series on Trans Iowa v12 I mentioned that there was a lot of behind the scenes drama this time. Well, there was and some of it was pretty dismaying. It is a side of Trans Iowa I usually don't talk about, but I think it is high time to have a little "full disclosure".  Everything has its bad side, its negatives, and things that aren't all that fun to deal with. Here's a list of things from this edition of Trans Iowa.   

First off, I was made aware that an individual that came to Trans Iowa to help support a rider was, well......drunk and out of order. So much so that this individual was being inappropriate to others and got "sick" in a public hot tub at a motel where other riders were staying for the event. I heard from a good friend that went down to use this hot tub that it was a complete mess and that there was even more vomit spread elsewhere in a public area. A worker at the motel was so upset that they were crying as they had to clean up the mess.


Besides the completely obvious, many don't know that I sign a contract with the motels to guarantee the room blocks get filled up which has a clause about damages to rooms which I could be liable for. In this instance, it was a mess made in the common area, but still..... Just stop it already! This isn't high school prom or a college beer party. Grow up! Sheesh.....This is something that needs to be discussed and I am going to put it out there in the hopes that with the knowledge that stuff like this is going on, maybe the gravel cycling community can police itself and knock this nonsense off.

The scene at CP#1
Okay, so then after the Meat-Up, I find out someone is missing a page out of their cue sheets. Bah! Well, we had extras and I hit the fellow up at the start line with a spare. No problem. But then after CP#1, we had a guy missing pages in his set of cues. He hooked up with a following rider, then we had no further issues with cue sheets, but you start worrying, you know.

Then at Deep River some of the riders were being approached by an emergency vehicle on a gravel road just outside of the village and did not yield the road way. lights, sirens blaring.... You get the hell out of the way, right? I'm sorry, but this is unacceptable behavior. It really bugs me that people would not take a few seconds to just get out of the way. It's not going to affect the ride and their time. There is no excuse. Had I seen it, I would have DQ'ed the offending riders right then and there.

Well, that wasn't the end of it, as I had to apologize to the Deep River head of the EMS department which was necessary, but only because of some boneheaded riders actions. We're better than this folks. Really, we are.

Contested ground at Checkpoint #2
Next up was some tense moments at the location of Checkpoint #2 when we set up to receive the riders. Of course, we had the issue with the re-route, but that was well in hand. The Checkpoint seemed a benign deal, until we were approached by a local farmer, who was concerned that we were along the lines of what they normally see around there. Folks that tear up the dirt road with their cars, turn around on their land, and then get stuck. Finally, these nere do wells approach their farm asking for a pull out of the mud. Well, there also was the issue of "parking on their land", amongst other things. We were able to assuage the farmer's fears, and after some discussions, we were on good terms. But, that could have gone poorly and we may have had some problems with our checkpoint location. Even though we were on a public roadway. In the end, it was not a big deal, but it added to the stress levels.

Then we had a volunteer's wife get ill back home and she had to be taken to the hospital. That volunteer was released to go back home immediately, of course, but we were very concerned for that situation during the remainder of Saturday and Sunday. I should say that everything turned out well with them, so no worries now. 

I should also mention that we had a rider hit a large dog, go down, and separate his shoulder. More bad stuff to deal with, but again, it worked out okay and we were able to move along. Things went smoothly Saturday afternoon, night, and Sunday, until we couldn't track down a couple of riders. One called the wrong number to DNF, and the other forgot. That happens every year, but on top of the rest of the stuff that happened, it was not what I was looking forward to at the end of a long weekend.

I felt inside my brain like Josh Lederman felt here at the end of T.I.v12
Then there is the usual let down at the end of any Trans Iowa. Most of you have no idea what I go through, but after all the hoopla, stress, and worry of any Trans Iowa, I find myself alone and completely exhausted at the finish line area. It is really, really tough on me, not only physically, but mentally. It is a time I usually have to fight my demons and try to stay "up". This sometimes carries on for only an hour or so, but sometimes it can be a couple of days. These days, depression is talked about a lot more than it used to be, so I don't mind saying that I find post-Trans Iowa a time that can be a real struggle with that. This year things were compounded when on the Tuesday after the event my Grandmother died.

So, when you see me writing or hear me talking about not thinking about a future Trans Iowa, or maybe even talking about it not happening, maybe, ever again, that is real. I'm not joking, and these things I have outlined today all contribute to that feeling that I just want out. Stop this game. Walk away. Be free.

This isn't a post many of you thought you'd ever expect me to write about Trans Iowa. However; it is a side of putting this on that has always been there. Every year there is some level of drama, life happenings, and stress and yes- depression- that happens with this deal. It is a side of Trans Iowa that hasn't "won out" yet, but I have struggled mightily with it over the years. I figured it was about time to just get that out there.

Now you know.

Next: Photograph

Friday, April 29, 2016

Trans Iowa V12: American Horse

Me with Travis (L) and Al Brunner. The first father-son combo to finish in the same T.I.
Yesterday I spoke about the heroes that are unsung in Trans Iowa, and there are more than I mentioned. However; like I said, this is about T.I.v12 stuff that has struck me as being cool, important, or noteworthy.

One of those things is the event itself. I heard from a few folks before, during, and afterward about what they feel makes Trans Iowa so special. Many have picked up on the vibe and have commented on how they appreciated me keeping the thing strict to its roots and values. It isn't an easy ship to steer in this sort of "get bigger and better" culture. Not that some events and event directors haven't been successful doing that, because clearly, they have. I guess it just is defined by what you term as "success". Success, in regards to Trans Iowa, doesn't look anything like "bigger and better" and it never could.

I won't get into the reasons why I feel Trans Iowa couldn't be bigger and better, but I will say that it remains different, and I don't think anyone can disagree on that point. My wife, Mrs Guitar Ted, and I were discussing this just the other day. You can find a lot of events that are just big time deals, or that grow every year till they are that "big time deal", and with that, certain amenities are added, features are added, and many times that starts to cost the entrant more money. Hopefully the services rendered and experiences gained are worth the cash outlay. At least, that's the hope, and the sincere desire, of the promoters.

CP#2: Nuthin' fancy, but it gets the job done.
It is rare to find the event that doesn't get bigger, better, or change all that much. It is rare to find that event which has a spirit and feel that remain true year to year, and that hasn't changed going all the way back to its inception. My point to Mrs. Guitar Ted was that this is something that resonates with a few folks. You can't bottle it and sell it. Although, people will try to do that for you. People will try to nudge you into making it "bigger and better". So far, I think I've resisted that urge.

The event known as Trans Iowa isn't the only one that is like this, by any means, and there are great events doing similar things to Trans Iowa. They are out there keeping that steady hand, not changing, and attracting those that don't want that spit shined, polished event production. Some say it is the "grassroots" American gravel grinding ethos. Maybe it is. Some say these events are not races. Some say that they aren't events at all, because they don't have timing chips, "proper" finish line areas, or prizes. Whatever.

It's maybe a unique, "horse of a different color" kind of thing that you either get or you don't get. Whatever side you find yourself on regarding that view, Trans Iowa is like an American Horse, and its spirit will never be broken as long as I am running it.

Next: Stop This Game

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Trans Iowa V12: Heroes

Wally Kilburg, photographer and TI hero, making us look like heroes.
You know, a lot of the time we tend to focus on the winners, or the people we think are steering the ship in an organization, team, or event. However; in any endeavor, I am of the opinion that there are unsung heroes. People that have much more importance than we may know.

There are time limits in Trans Iowa, and as many of you know, if you miss them, you are done, in terms of the event. It was set up this way to weed out slower folks and so we wouldn't have to be standing at the finish line and checkpoints waiting on riders for hours and hours. We have jobs and families, so waiting until Monday morning for you to finish is not an option. By missing a checkpoint, you don't get cues for the next section, so your ride is essentially done. However, back in T.I.v8, a few riders figured out that if they made checkpoint two, the last one, that they could finish on the route despite missing the 2:00pm cut off time.

Since then we've had probably at least one person a year, with exception of last year, that came in far past the cut off time. So it was to be again this year. Three folks who gutted it out, despite knowing that they had no chance of getting an "official finish".

A couple of heroes, just for one day. Image by Jon Vandis.
Two of these folks were first timers to the event. Crystal Wintle and Jon Vandis. Thinking about that, it occurs to me that if you, or most anyone else I know of, were knowingly going to fall short of a challenge, especially one so tough, I think most of us would just throw in the towel. I mean, why torture yourself? 

I don't know the answer to that, but I do know that when I drove away from T.I.v12's finish area, it was just as we left it. A nice green park. No traces of Trans Iowa ever having been there were evident, yet here these two are, smiling like champions where that finish line was for them. They reached the end of the cues, and took away a personal satisfaction that they had just knocked off 340 miles in one sitting. Amazing! Truly heroic.

There were three of these folks though, like I said before, and perhaps the last fellow out on the course of T.I.v12 is the most curious, in a way.

Scott McConnell coming to the intersection of E 84th St N & HWY 14
His name is Scott McConnell. A past Tour Divide finisher, Scott has finished outside the time limit at Trans Iowa three times now. Three. That's absolutely incredible, and I'll tell you why....

Just the other day a few of us were remarking on how the fast guys are out there for what? 24 hours to 30 hours? Okay, so taking that into account, think about this image of Scott, the last image I took during T.I.v12, well......actually after it was over! Anyway, consider that in this image Scott is still 15 miles out and it is 4:00pm in the afternoon! That's 36 hours folks, and he was battling 20+ mph head winds, heat, fatigue, and still finished the route later that afternoon. 

Now, I don't give out any "Official" recognition for finishing outside the time limits of Trans Iowa. It is a challenge that you either overcome, or that you do not overcome. However; that doesn't mean these folks aren't champions. It doesn't make them "less" for not being on the "official finisher's list", and in many ways, I feel they are the toughest, most determined Trans Iowa riders the event has ever seen. You could call them my heroes.

Heroes, just for one day......

Next: American Horse

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Trans Iowa v12: Gypsy Road

 I'm drivin' all night . I end up in the same ol' place.
The second deal that I can think of that was important for me on this- or any- Trans Iowa, is the roads. The condition of them, what they show me, where they take me, and just being out there on them. Sure....being on a bicycle is better, but Trans Iowa has evolved into this roving band of gypsies not only on bicycles, but in the chase vehicles as well.

Now days we have three, sometimes four of us roaming around in cars doing things that are unseen or unknown by the riders. Sometimes the things we're doing are evident. The riders see us out there, sure, but sometimes, unless they are the front runners, they do not see us at all. I would fall into that former category. It's a weird existence for two days, but it also is a great time now. It wasn't always so fun though!

I won't get into it too much, but those years where I was out on my own in the "Dirty Blue Box", or the truck were hard. Really hard. Once David Pals came on board for T.I.v4, I realized that I didn't need to repeat the nearly catastrophic trip I endured coming home from v3, and having someone to hang out with all weekend was fun. After David left Trans Iowa I missed that for a few years, which were the really hard years. Last year I was going fix that by putting MG in the passenger's seat, but v11 was pretty much a bust. So, for v12, MG asked if it would make it easier on me if he drove and I played the role of event director. Wow........that was a great idea! 

Steeper than it looks, really off camber and rutted. Oh....and this is the widest part of the road! It gets narrower on top.

Sometimes we make wrong turns too!
 So, MG brought his wife's Forrester and we put that all wheel drive vehicle to the test. We drove it all the way through 270th in Tama County, which, if you were in Trans Iowa this year, you know was no small feat. For those of you unfamiliar with that "road", and I use that term loosely, it is a dirt scar cut through a ravine and a hillside that is barely wide enough for one small sized car, and has ruts eroded into it which are 4-5 feet deep in spots. Not only that, but the gradient is pretty steep. MG expertly navigated us through this road, and well, we just had to celebrate that fact. A quick pull on the flask for each of us, and then back at it. More miles to go!

Tony and Mike were having their own adventure, and that included a wrong turn on a super muddy Level B that went steeply up a hillside. After some scrambling, Tony realized he had a rear axle lock out and he used it! He revved the 302, dropped in in drive, and all four wheels spat out clay and mud while the truck lurched forward, pitching sideways, jumping in the air, and spurning the earth under its four wheels. It was a sight to behold, and MG and I were cheering like college boys at a bowl game.

My coworker Andy brought down a relatives 1980's era Winnebago and we slept in that Friday night. Just another way Trans Iowa feels like a road trip for me. The whole event, in a way, is like playing hooky on the World for me. Sleeping in strange places, running around in the hinterlands, goofing off, spending time with good people, and just generally dropping out for a while. Sure, there is the event, and running it isn't easy, but playing the part of a wandering soul on a gypsy road is kind of fun for a while.

Next: Heroes

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Trans Iowa v12: With A Little Help From My Friends

The Truck With No Name wasn't the only thing toting a lighter load this year!
Trans Iowa v12's report is going to look a little different this year than it has in years past for other Trans Iowa events. After doing the event for 12 years, the reports all start looking the same. Pre-Race Meat-Up, starting line, yada-yada-yada..... Samo-ol, same-ol. Blah....

So I was thinking that instead of the same old formula, I would just hit the things that impressed me the most about putting this on again. I am going to speak to some of the "inner workings" of Trans Iowa. Some of the stuff no one sees, and few know about, maybe. If it is a race break down you want, well, you won't get that from me this year. There are a billion Facebook posts that will satisfy that craving if that is your cup of tea. Blogs are dead for that. Everybody just does a Facebook post with an image and Bam! Movin' on.........

Okay, so the first thing I wanted to say about T.I.v12 is that I have some amazing friends. Just amazing. That wasn't always the case. Four years ago, when I was left with doing a Trans Iowa without a partner, I was driven by the singular theory that goes something like this: "if ya want it done right, do it yerself! The ball had been dropped in many ways over the previous years in areas that I was not going to allow to be anything less than perfect going into T.I.v8. I had a belly full o fire, and it carried me on through that one with a good result. But that wasn't a "sustainable model", so to speak.

Friends: The most valuable asset a man can have.
I made it through Trans Iowas 9 and 10 merely based upon a goal of quitting after 10. However; during those years I found out that letting go of the reins a bit was feeling good. I had gained a few friends that were coming alongside of me to partner in the effort that it takes to produce one of these deals. People that are integral to the event, like Jeremy Fry, Wally Kilburg, George Keslin, Mike Baggio, Arik Gum, Mike Johnson, Tony McGrane, Steve Fuller, and my brother from another mother, Matt Gersib.

So, proceeding past T.I.v10 became a reality, mostly due to how I gained these friends and because of their talents and abilities. The stability and support of people and entities like Bikes To You/Craig Cooper, the Grinnell Steakhouse, and the City of Grinnell were also huge keys to my abilities to make a Trans Iowa a reality.

This year, I let go a little more, and the result was that now more people than ever are invested into the "family" and feel a part of something bigger than themselves. I gained peace of mind, less stress, and the ability to play more to my strengths and talents. It has been eye opening, humbling, and I have been immensely blessed. I have a great group of friends and people that want to come alongside me now to be a part of Trans Iowa, and I find that it has made the event better than ever.

You know what? The riders even see it. I was told by one of my volunteers, Todd, who did Checkpoint #1 and the observation post 60 miles from the finish that almost to a person everyone made mention of how thankful they were for his service to Trans Iowa. I mean, how awesome is that?

So, do not make the mistake that it is I that makes Trans Iowa what it is, or has ever been. "I get by with a little help from my friends", and that's the real secret to the success of Trans Iowa.

Next: Gypsy Road

Monday, April 25, 2016

Trans Iowa v12: A New Plateau

Dragons were slayed.....
It's over.....

New records for finishers.

A fat bike finishes Trans Iowa for the first time.

Fastest Trans Iowa ever.

Longest Trans Iowa ever done.

Most drama behind the scenes ever.

First time Trans Iowa was used to debut a cycling product.

There probably is more than I can think of right now. But.....I am tired, and again, amazingly awake. This was a very different Trans Iowa, and I have a lot to process through. I will try to break this all down throughout the week.

Stay tuned....

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Minus Ten Review 15 & 16

Done wore it out
Hey! I missed posting my Minus Ten review, a look back ten years ago here on the blog, last week, so this week is a double edition.

There was the post Sea Otter feedback which featured several new 29"er introductions and tire announcements. One of those 29"ers that debuted was the new Salsa Cycles El Mariachi. Yep! She's the longest running model in Salsa Cycles current line up, and I am betting it gets retired for 2017 for something Boosted, slack, fat tired, and new. We will see.

Then there was the case of my, then, ten year old Campy rimmed wheels I was commuting on. Wore out the sidewalls finally one day in April of '06, and BOOM! The rim bead let go and I was about deaf! Hey, it coulda been worse, because I didn't crash, since I was slow rolling an alley at the time.

Of course, this was the time when things ramped up to the second Trans Iowa ever, and, unknown at the time, the last to be attempted across the state. We were pretty stoked, Jeff Kerkove and I, and we had the event well in hand. Since we didn't get to pull through the entire course due to the super lousy weather that year, it ended up being one of the shortest Trans Iowa experiences ever. Only last year's horrendous drenching was shorter. We had volunteers for a special observation point lined up that never got to do anything that year. I often wonder how it may have played out, but we'll never know.

Speaking of never knowing, there was a story series I was asked to write for the now defunct "Biking Hub" site where I was asked to tell the story of Trans Iowa. We didn't have much of a history back then, of course, but it was very curious to me that Trans Iowa had struck such a nerve in the cycling community. Here was a down hill/free ride oriented site that wanted to know about an extreme distance gravel grinder event that had only been executed once. To my mind, that is odd, and that says something about the event. Here is an interesting tidbit I wrote back then....

"I've been asked several times by different folks to write a story about Trans Iowa. The thing was, where do I start? There are so many angles to a story like this. It's pretty hard to find focus when you are mired in the middle of it, like I am. When you are so close to the story, it's like having a girl friend that you think is cool, but all your friends can see that she is sooo wrong for you. (Didn't you just hate it when you found out later?) Anyway, I digress.............."

I miss this bike many times.
 There were other things cooking up back in '06, like the first Dirty Kanza, and my bike for that event, a new Inbred 29"er. 

I really liked that bike, and it rode very well. I ended up selling it to a coworker I had at one time and he in turn gave it to his brother, who cruises along on this rig in Kansas these days. Funny that...... Odd how things come around. I built this up for Dirty Kanza and the bike ends up there. 

Anyway, the fact that I even got the thing is almost purely by chance. On One, as you may know, is a UK based. direct to consumer brand that really did not have a presence in  the US. With 29"ers becoming more of a big deal in the US, then On One designer, Brant Richards, penned this frame and fork up, but to sell these in the UK? That was an uphill battle at the time, but one I am sure Mr. Richards relished. Well, anyway, On One got J&B Importers to take on the distribution of On One here in the States. Things sputtered, and then the whole plan was scrapped by J&B before any inventory even made it out of their warehouses to dealers. The J&B rep happened to be in one day at the shop where I work, and he found out I liked 29"ers. He took the opportunity to inform me of a close out deal on the few On One Inbreds they actually had gotten in. So, that's what happened there. 

It was my second 29"er, and it was really sweet. Well, except for those mini-sliding drop outs. Those were a pain! 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Friday News And Views

Trans Iowa v12:

Yes, today is finally the day. The twelfth edition of this nutty gravel road cycling event will occur tomorrow starting at 4am in the morning. There will be a pre-race event tonight at the Grinnell Steakhouse, and that will be the big "family reunion" for many Trans Iowa veterans and a big welcome to the Rookies into something I don't think they will quite understand till afterward. It will all lead up to 339.9 miles of gravelly goodness, stories for a lifetime, and memories we will never forget. Let's hope that they are good ones, eh?

Trans Iowa Radio Presented By You can check in on many of these memory making moments as they happen by going to the Riding Gravel Trans Iowa Radio Page. Go to the page, scroll down a bit, and hit any of the icons with an "arrow" to start the player and hear what is there. Make sure your volume is turned up and you speakers are on, and you can enjoy hearing from myself and the riders as they try to make it through the maze of Iowa roads. There is one update as of now but there will soon be many more from myself, at least! This should be going on until Sunday at around mid-afternoon when I will likely wrap things up. Yes......I am expecting Trans Iowa to be finishable this year! 

The Truck With No Name will be taking a break this year.
 Driving Mr Ted:

 I'll get to the weather here in a bit. First off, there is something that is going to happen this year that has not happened since 2011, and that is that someone else will be driving me around the route this year during the event.

My good buddy, MG, from Lincoln, who was to ride shotgun with me last year, but fell ill and ended up chasing me around in his Honda, is going to ride me around in his Subaru so I can concentrate on the event and surrounding activities.

He offered about two weeks ago to do this, and I accepted gladly. It will be a monumental task for him, make no mistake, because, well........I know! Driving gravel roads is no picnic and some of the roads we will be on should be a bit hairy, especially if there is fresh gravel laid down anywhere on the route. Add in fatigue and tiredness from being up for 24 plus hours and you can understand how it might be a tough job. So, to super-volunteer MG, I tip my cycling cap. It'll be more fun to have him along, and my job will be easier as a result.

Okay, Now For The Wild Card:

I said I expect Trans Iowa v12 to be finishable, but I don't expect the weather to lie down and give over. It won't. Here's the scoop as I understand it. There will be no rain today, but there has been rain for three straight days on the course. Nothing huge, just fine soaking rains and showers. One day of drying before we get going will likely mean that the gravel roads might be perfecto. The Level B dirt roads are another matter. In my experienced opinion, there will be some that are fine, while others will be sticky and wet. There will be walking at some point.

Besides that, there will be a healthy wind out of the South-Southeast at 20+ mph with higher gusts. I've heard reports that the gusts could be as high as 40mph. Hmm..... Well, we will see, but it is almost a certainty that there will be a tailwind and headwind at certain points during the event. How that plays out with the route I've designed is only known to but a few others besides me. I will not say too much, so as not to give anything away, but I suspect that the word "tough", or variations thereof, will figure into many reports about this version of Trans Iowa.

Speaking of reports:

A very brief statement on the event will be given here Sunday night, most likely. There will be coverage on the Trans Iowa Radio page, mentioned above, on my Twitter feed @guitarted1961, and on Facebook. The hashtag will be #TIv12. Search that. I may also do some Periscope live videos. You can find those linked to my Twitter feed. Then on Monday expect a full recounting of events to begin, which probably will take us into the first week of May here. So, if you are sick of Trans Iowa, maybe it is time to tune out till May gets going. If so, see ya then. If not......

Hang on folks! Here we go!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Trans Iowa v12: As We Prepare For Launch

Numbers are VERY important!
There are a few details about this weekend's Trans Iowa that I needed to make a point about. This should be a pretty short post.

Numbers: The number plates are personalized this year by your's truly, but the biggest thing about these numbers is that our volunteers will be keying off your number to check you through the check point. So, your number needs to be visible at all times!! 

I suggest pinning or tying them to the front end of your bike. Too many times what happens is that a rider will tack a number onto a jacket, then it warms up and the jacket comes off and gets stowed. Guess what? The number doesn't get moved to the jersey many times, so then our CP#2 volunteers have a more difficult time tracking you. Or, the opposite happens, where a number gets pinned to a jersey and a coat goes over that and guess what? Same deal only in reverse.

So, please make it easier on everyone and pin that number on the bike! Then make sure it is visible! Numbers are easier for our volunteers to deal with because names can be misunderstood and misconstrued which leads to confusion. We want to track you and score you as accurately as possible, so please follow the number on the bike protocol which seems to work best for everyone.

Trans Iowa Radio Presented By Once again, you can check out all the call-ins from the riders and my reports on the event starting Friday at Trans Iowa Radio.  Here's the deal for this year: The audio will only be on the site which I have linked to in the previous sentence. You can bookmark the page and keep checking back periodically for rider's call ins and reports from me, GT, which Ben Welnak will be feverishly posting up as fast as he can get to them. Each audio post will be about two minutes in length, so it will not take long to check them out.

The Trans Iowa Radio page will have the call in number riders need to use to call in with. Just call and listen for the prompts. It is a great way for you, as a person wondering what the heck is going on with your favorite rider, to find out just that if they post a message. Please encourage everyone to do that who you know is in the event. The more calls, the merrier!

Cut Off Times: There should be no confusion about cut off times. Here they are again...

Checkpoint cut off times. Know them!

Start Time: 4:00 am in front of Bikes To You
Time Cut Off for Checkpoint #1- 8:30am Saturday
Time Cut Off for Checkpoint #2- 7:30pm Saturday
Time Cut Off for the Finish- 2:00pm Sunday
Mileages: Overall: 339.9 miles. Distance to Checkpoint #1: 53 miles. Distance to Checkpoint #2: 160 miles

Let there be no misunderstanding- If you are even one minute late, you are done. No questions. Period. 

There will be people missing cut off times. It is what it is. 

Oh! And let's not forget another "cut off" time, which happens at what riders are calling "Checkpoint 0" or simply "CP0". Of course, they are referring to the Pre-Race Meat-Up at the Grinnell Steakhouse. Riders must check in by 6:30pm at the Steakhouse or risk missing T.I.v12. Again- DON"T BE LATE. Would I really not let you ride if you are late? 

You don't really want to find out. Trust me. Just don't be late.

See ya Friday! 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Six String Side: Circa 1978 Epiphone SC 450

When I started this blog over ten years ago, I stated that it was a "Bicycle and guitar oriented elixir....". Well, the "guitar" part sort of got pushed out by the bicycle stuff, but I've always been playing. In the Easter post, I mentioned playing my '90 Strat, and someone suggested I detail the fleet, so here ya go. Hopefully ya'll enjoy the change in pace. I'll post something periodically throughout the year. Here's #3

Circa 1978 Epiphone SC 450. Note- The red line on the upper bout is a reflection of my red camera body. 
 This guitar has quite the history with me. I'll have to go waaaaay back to my younger days to start this story. In fact, back to when I was barely twenty! I've had this guitar the longest of any that I own currently.

Back in 1981 or so, I was dating a woman from Chicago. No.........not a suburb of Chicago, but really from the South side of Chicago. Near to 83rd and Western, as I recall, for those familiar with the city. Anyway, I had gone to her parents home on a visit with her. She had been wheeling me around to meet old friends, see old sites, and since she knew I liked guitars, she took me to Guitar Center. As far as I was concerned at the time, it may as well have been heaven. I still remember the scene vividly.

Three rows of guitars hanging from three of the stores four walls. The center of the store was lined with more guitars on stands and amps in neat lines. There was a loud cacophony of guitar noises going on due to the gaggle of guys cranking out riffs in about five different keys and tempos so that the dissonance was deafening.

The "SC" in SC 450 means "scroll". The upper bout features this distinctive feature.
I didn't care about the noise, although today that would drive me nuts! Anyway, I was approached by a salesperson to see what I might be interested in. Of course, in 1981, if you were a rocker and liked guitar, you wanted to sound like Edward Van Halen. So, the sales person found out what my budget was, and brought over two completely unrelated to Van Halen's "Brown Sound" type guitars. Of course he did. He was just trying to move some old inventory.

The first was a Les Paul Recording Model guitar. An odd beast, but I knew what a Les Paul should look like, and this thing, with its odd ball pick ups and a million knobs and switches, wasn't it. Besides, it had a head stock repair, which was poorly done, by the way. Okay- no sale. The second guitar was a mysterious, sexy, curvy chunk of wood that had "Epiphone" on the head stock. Hmm.......Pretty cool. How much?

I can't remember exactly what the price was, but it was North of $200.00 and I had $188.00 and some change to my name. I told the sales person this, and he said he'd have to go talk to the manager. Well, after about ten minutes, the sales person comes back with a rather abrupt answer, "You can have the guitar, but no case at that price!"

So, I left the store with a brown guitar under my arm and an empty pocket. Fortunately, I was to go home the next day and my trip back was free. I wrapped the guitar in a blanket for the trip home, and for the next twenty years, that's how I transported it wherever I went in life! About 15 years ago, I traded for a red Squire Strat, (gave that one away to an old friend), and got a gig bag in the deal which this guitar now resides in when not being played.

I could go on and on with stories that have to do with this guitar. For the sake of brevity, I shall not go down that path. I will say that I did modify the strap button placement from behind the neck/body joint to the upper bout. The strap is a gift from the guy I bought my first guitar from and went to High School with, Jim Skyrme. The strap is literally screwed to the body at the upper bout. I hadn't heard of Strap Locs just yet! I also lost the truss rod cover back in college at some point.
The only number on the entire guitar is stamped behind the head stock.

The SC 450 was part of the efforts of Gibson, Epiphone's parent company, to find a new way to market the old name. These guitars were an experiment of sorts, being made in Japan, and were cheaper than their Gibson counterparts. The styling of the SC series was somewhat reminiscent of the older Gibson guitars which also featured a scrolled upper bout.

The SC series featured three models- The simple, bolt on neck SC 350 with twin humbuckers, the SC 450 with glued in neck, twin humbuckers and coil splitting switch, and the SC 500 which had the same neck/body construction and electronics as the 450, but had rectangular fret board inlays, a bound head stock and neck, and an optional Leo Quan Badass bridge. The 450 and 500 were constructed of maple with a three piece body and three piece neck featuring "Gibson-esque" tilted head stock, angled neck joints, and three on a side tuner arrangement. These guitars also featured a long-ish 25.5" scale and 24 fret necks.

For the first twenty plus years I owned this guitar, I never even knew what it was, besides the fact that it said Epiphone on the head stock. I had seen maybe one or two others during this time, both in the optional natural maple finish instead of the stained brown, like mine is. Since then I have seen a few all black ones as well. Finally, a person somewhere put up a site on these little known guitars and I learned the history. Apparently, these were produced from 1977-1979, but I have seen some places claiming 1976 dates on these. At any rate, there aren't a whole lot of these around, and I happen to like mine very much.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Project 1X1: Long Term Review

Many of you long time readers know the story of the Surly 1X1 that has been passed down from one mechanic to another at the shop where I work. Well, there was the big wheel build I did last Fall to get this thing running again. Velocity Cliffhanger rims, DT Swiss spokes and nipples, and Velo Orange hubs. Then I stuck on a pair of the Surly Extraterrestrial tires tubeless to top it all off.

The frame is from 1999, so no disc brakes here! Otherwise, I have a mish-mash of 1990's mtb parts, a few items that are more "late model", and some nice Planet Bike Cascadia fenders which have turned this bike into a urban shredder. The only period of time I did not ride this a lot was when there was a lot of snow and ice around. Otherwise, this is my go-to bike for commuting to work, errands, and sometimes just to get around the city when I can't get away further for a ride.

I am just going to throw out my current thoughts on this bike with no real particular thing being more important than the other. Think of this as an "off the top of my head" stream of consciousness type of review of Project 1X1. Keeping in mind that this bike was about the most evil thing I had in my stable back last Fall, I feel this bike has had the biggest transformation of anything I have tinkered with in years.

The wheels have been awesome.
The Wheels: Every time I ride this bike I think about the wheels on it. I find that the fact that they are 26 inch wheels makes the bike squirrely as all get out. That's one thing that just jumps out after I've been on 700c stuff, 29"ers, or any of my fat bikes. So, I've kind of come to think of this bike as my "adult sized BMX rig. It is easy to toss around, pop over stuff, and it changes directions in a manner that is alarming sometimes. I get why people bitched and moaned when 29"ers came along, because all that instability they were feeling was gone. Instead of pushing harder, which 29"ers allow you to do, they slagged them off as being "barges", or worse. But.....different strokes for different folks. 

The Tires & Rims: I think a lot about the tires and rims too. These Extraterrestrials are just downright awesome fun in an urban environment. I actually push these tires into areas that maybe they were not meant to go as well. Mud, sand, dirt, and snow to a degree are all conquered with ease. I think the tubeless nature of the set up is paramount to the tire working as well as it does. That thanks to the Cliffhanger rims, which are the only wide, tubeless ready, rim brake compatible 26" rims I know of anymore. Maybe there are other rims, I don't know, but when I was looking at stuff, these were the only rims that ticked all the boxes. Together these tires and rims have been bombproof. I had to slightly true the rear the other day, but I cased a curb hop, and I figured it would be a lot worse. Otherwise, these are great wheels and tires. The Surly tires might be heavy, but they roll so well and are so cushy, I really don't think anyone should care about the weight.

The tires are tough as well. No cuts or punctures that I am aware of. The only negative I can think of is that I wish that Velocity did this rim in a 35mm wide version, because I think the tires would work even better than they do now. Oh heck......I may as well ask for a 45mm wide rim while I am at it, because, why not? A 65mm wide tire on a 45mm wide rim sounds about right to me.

The Rest Of The Bike: 

The rest of the Project 1X1 is.....well, simple comes to mind. Basic stuff, sturdy, pretty durable, and low maintenance. Of the other things about the bike, the standouts for me are the way the frame rides, and the fenders. One is a subjective, feeling based thing, the other is pure practicality. The 1X1 frame and fork are either flexy due to 17 years of rusting from the inside out, or were just done right from the get go. Flex isn't a "bad word" in bicycles if it doesn't take away from the ride experience, and they are good words when one feels it adds to the experience. In this case, it adds to the experience, but I cannot say if it is due to age, wear, and tear, or if it really just has always been that way.

The fenders have been something that I still am not enamored of when it comes to simple, stripped down looking mountain bike frames, but they do add a certain air of class to the over all look. Of course, they do a great job at keeping the muck down. If they could only have been about 4mm wider over all though. Oh well.....

So, in the end, this has been an unqualified success. I was so ready to give up on this tube eating machine last Fall and I nearly did do that deed. Instead I have transformed this into one of the most practical bikes in my stable and it even rides pretty nicely. I may add a rack on the rear soon to increase the utility factor even more. Otherwise, this rig has gone from goat to great, and I think I'll hang on to it for a while longer after all.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Trans Iowa v12: Final Recon Report

See all that dust? It was the theme of te day!
Well, another big hurdle was crossed on Saturday. The course was checked for the last time before the big dance is set to go off this coming weekend. Following are some fine details, comments, and observations. PLEASE READ CAREFULLY!!!


The course checked out 100%. There were no surprises in store for us out there, and everything was as expected as far as the route overall. No mileage changes, no time cut-off changes. please refer to the Trans Iowa site for those details.

Course Notes & Commentary:

From the start to Checkpoint #1- Okay, here's the deal folks, and please, if you are in this event, this is very important- THERE ARE NO RESUPPLY OPTIONS AFTER YOU START UNTIL WELL PAST CHECKPOINT #1!!  This means that you must have provisions and water to sustain you for 100 miles. NO EXCEPTIONS!! Don't ask if there is a store at the checkpoint location, because there is none. Don't ask the volunteers at CP#1 how far it is until you can resupply, because they will not know. You should not plan on resupply until well past CP#1, but within 100 miles. No.....I won't tell you where the first stop can be made at, but if you make sure you can last 100 miles self-supported, you won't need to worry. The first stop is a Casey's, and you will be going right by it. If you are so blind that you are afraid you won't see it, maybe you should not take the start. 

You must obey all rules of the road, including stopping for trains!

  Secondly, and maybe as important if not more so than the above is that you must obey all rules of the road!!

This means stopping at all paved road crossings, looking both ways, and proceeding with caution. There will be FIVE crossings of a state highway within the first 70 miles, maybe two of a US highway, and there will be several county roads. Many of the county roads will NOT BE INDICATED ON THE CUE SHEETS!! This means it is totally up to you to be aware, use your head, and don't be stupid. This is a 339 mile ride and, despite what many think, it won't be won, or made more finish-able, by racing into intersections and throwing caution to the wind. To overcome the challenge of Trans Iowa, you must first finish. Being a dumb ass and not paying attention to safety and traffic signs is not a finishing strategy.

Also, and this is paramount- RIDE RIGHT UP HILLS!!! That means STAY TO THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE ROAD WHEN GOING UP ANY HILL!! This could save your life, as we were about waxed by a Chevy 4X4 Saturday that blasted over the crest of a hill going straight down the middle of the road. Had we been in the wrong place......Blammo! The guy was doing about 50mph too, so a cyclist would have no chance, and if it is windy, you may not even hear a vehicle until it is too late.

Speaking of farm trucks....... It appears to us that the crops are about halfway put in. I expect that most of the corn will be in by Trans Iowa, but if farmers turn their attention to beans, or haven't gotten all the corn in yet, then you should expect LOTS OF FARM TRAFFIC. We saw tractors, semi-tractor trailers, trucks, and many cars. More traffic than usual, but planting season breeds that sort of thing. Be AWARE!!

Level B roads will likely be dry, but not necessarily "smooth".
Level B Roads: 

Okay, these were all dry. All pretty hard packed, as in hard like cement. Trouble is, none of them were smooth when they "set up". So, you will have to be extremely careful not to get tripped up by a rut. There were some softer, worked up spots on one Level B to the point that the silt is about six inches deep in spots, maybe more. I doubt you'll be able to ride that one. Kinda more a fat bike's wheel house, but that was the odd Level B. All the others were really rutted and rough.

I am going to highlight one particular Level B that, if you get this far, will be traversed in the dark on Saturday night. This one is so rutted, so steep, and has loose shale on the backside that is really treacherous, that I recommend walking it. Am I overstating the difficulty? Well, consider that we could not drive it. It was far too technical for George's 4X4 Ford truck. Being that this will be in the dark, I feel strongly that you should walk this We did, and even in the daytime it was something we had to watch where we stepped. In the dark? Yeah..... You'll know this one when you see it. It is by far and away the craziest B road I've used in several years. It almost isn't a road at all, really. In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if this road is decommissioned soon and returned to the local landowners.

Some fresh gravel, some regular, every day roads, all really dusty!
Road Conditions:

Everything was super dusty. We noticed lots of what I would call "normal" roads early on. Then things changed to roads that had a mixture of frost heaved spots, soft roads, and maintained patches. Later on we saw a lot more loose, fresh gravel roads.

Things will change in a week, and I suspect we will have more fresh gravel. Regardless, the roads are all pretty much covered with gravel, and there is very little of what I would call "clear" paths or clear road way.

Some of the roads, well.......a lot of them actually, are pretty narrow. A lane and a half wide, I would say. So, it is really important that you all ride on the right side. Getting over the center to the left side will be really easy. So pay attention folks. It's pretty tight out there in some places and passing cars will not likely give you a lot of leeway, if you see them.

There will be several unmarked corners, and I have them marked on the cue sheets as "n/s" at the end of the description. If you see this, look for a flag on the right side of the road at the intersection. If the cue says "L" for a left turn, then look left and identify a similar flag on the right side of the road as you look left. Go that direction and continue following the cue sheet. Follow a similar rule if the cue says "R" only you'll be going right, correct? Yes. Hopefully.....

Pavement: There will be several short, half mile sections or less of pavement that I had to use where roads were offset at the paved roads I wanted to cross the route over. Please ride on the white line at the extreme right side of the road, or on any graveled shoulders that there may be. Veterans have seen this before....

There's a semi-tractor trailer in that "cloud" there.

 Dust- With the forecast I am looking at, and considering we "maybe" will get one day where it might rain, I am going to say that it is going to be super, super dusty out there.

We found out that when big vehicles go by, they kick up so much dust that you cannot see anything after they pass by for several moments.

So, be very careful not to ride into a dust cloud that you cannot see into. There may be another vehicle coming that you cannot see.

Also, this dust will infiltrate everything. Be prepared with lube, both for you and your bike! Wet wipes might be nice. A bandana to cover your face may be wise or to get something that will help with breathing clean air instead of a steady diet of dirty air. Just a thought. Eye drops. I bet those would be nice at times. is crazy dusty this year! 

This may change with the weather forecast, but for right now, I would have to think it would take a big rain event to reverse these conditions out there, especially with how windy it has been lately. Unless we get three days of rain, which, as you know, could happen. It is Trans Iowa time, after all!

Barns for Jason

 The weather! It will be the "wildcard" of the event once again. It would appear at this point that it very well could be a carbon copy of what we experienced out there Saturday. Maybe more clouds, but high 70's-low 80's, very windy, and very dry.

My take is that you will have to consider more water than you think, make sure you consider sunburn and wind burn as real possibilities, and remember that you will probably have a wicked head wind and an awesome tail wind at different points, off and on, all day. Bike handling skills will become a premium as wind compounds the handling  issues. Especially going down. Down hill that is......on your bike, not off it! 

Any questions? Hit me in the comments section. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Trans Iowa v12: Recon Images

Saturday the final checking of the course was done. I have a full report filed which will go live on Monday. PLEASE MAKE NOTE OF THIS> It will be VERY IMPORTANT to read through it all.

In the meantime, please enjoy the following images from the recon I did with Wally Kilburg and George Keslin.

The recon rig, George, (L) and Wally (R).
You know what that sign means!!
Sometimes you cannot even use a recon vehicle. Wally walking a Level B to check it out.
Barns For Jason: Level C Road Version.
Iowa should be pretty beautiful next weekend. Trees are popping leaves and the grass is green!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Trans Iowa v12: Updates's come to this, has it?
All right, I have some explaining to do. First off, if you have been on Facebook and you have seen this image on a t-shirt, I want you all to know that I had absolutely no input on this. It was all the brainchild of one of my volunteers, so as far as the image goes, it was never my intention to have my face on a t-shirt. I wouldn't do that.

I also have to point out that the image used was from a photograph by Jason Boucher, and that I have no idea if he was contacted or asked if this was okay to do. So, Jason, if you see this, I didn't have anything to do with this idea. Trust me, I would have asked you first. No......I take that back. I wouldn't have asked because I would never had requested that my face be on a t-shirt. But maybe that's just me. Apparently, it is.......

Now, with that all made public, here's the intent behind the shirt. My volunteer, who had the idea and did this, was thinking since volunteers are coming to help with T.I.v12, that something on a t-shirt indicating these folks were volunteers for me would be fun. The shirt idea was meant to be a fun thing only for the volunteers and the riders that would see them. Okay. Fair enough. I get that.  A few folks would have these, we would all have a laugh, go home, and it would all go away. Right?

Well, since it got posted by my volunteer to Facebook Thursday, a fellow rider and entrant to T.I.v12 thought it would be good to put it out there to have a group buy in on these for certain riders that were interested. me on this....the t-shirt idea has struck a nerve with some folks. I's my face...but for whatever reason, some folks are kind of going gaga about having this on a t-shirt. Okay......that's weird, but whatever. Maybe I have a hang up about stuff like this. Again- I had nothing to do with this at all other than green lighting an idea for a t-shirt for the volunteers that I was told would be a surprise.

Boy howdy! Was it ever!

 I just wanted to set the record straight on this and let everyone know that if you see this image on a shirt somewhere, you'll know the story behind it all. You know.....The story of the completely narcissistic race director that was so full of himself that he authorized t-shirts to be made emblazoned with his own image. Yeah......that story! #sarcasm

Finally, I am in possession of the original run of these shirts now and I am carrying out the will of their creator to have volunteers get these for the event. If they want them...... Again......I find this really weird. Okay, nuff said.

BarYak Prototype "Q" holders.
Sponsor News: 

A few days back I mentioned some of Trans Iowa's great sponsors. I forgot to mention a couple. One is who do mostly handle bar solutions for bike packers. They decided to get into cue sheet holder after seeing how many riders were homebrewing solutions or just getting by with sub-par hacks. The new prototype Q Holder from BarYak solves many of the issues for longer, self supported cyclists by making a sturdy, stable platform for your printed maps or cue sheets. Trans Iowa has two of the very first ones made, and they will go to two random riders at the Pre-Race Meat-Up.

Then we need to mention Velocity USA who are supporting T.I.v12 with a Bottle Trap for each racer. I use Bottle Traps on many of my bikes and have found them to be secure, durable, and they do not mar your bottles.

Please be sure to go to these sites, send them e-mails, and tell them thank you for being such great people for supporting grassroots gravel racing. Thanks!

Final Recon:

By the time most of you wake up today to read this over your coffee I will probably have been to Checkpoint #1 and beyond tracking next week's Trans Iowa v12 course.

Wally and George are in Iowa helping out by navigating by my cues and telling me if they make sense. Then too, if we find anything amiss, we can possibly find a work around, or reroute a portion of the course. This could happen if a bridge is closed, or a road shut down. I haven't been out there since October, so anything could have changed since then. Hopefully it has not, since that would make life difficult with only a week to go, but if I have to, I have to. The show must go on.....

Anyway, if things go well or not, there will be a final course report coming. I will detail the conditions of the roads, what the route plays out like, and give you my final comments on the course. There will be some images, of course, and the story of the day's travels.


The weather is looking really, really good for Trans Iowa v12. maybe too good. Like "too good to be true" good. Mid-70's, sunny, and dry. I suspect that it may be a lot like T.I.v9 which was about as good as it has ever been for a Trans Iowa. That one wasn't windy. This one might be. We will see.

At any rate, I think sun screen and hydration may be the buzzwords of T.I.v12.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Friday News And Views

Trek joins the fat bike full suspension bike category with the Farley EX line.
 FN&V- The Sea Weasel Edition

New Trek Fat Bikes:

Trek dropped a bunch of new fat bike info for dealers to chew on which will represent the bikes you will see this Fall in dealer showrooms. Don't go lookin' for these just yet!

The bikes, highlighted by a new, full suspension line up dubbed Farley EX, are pretty cool and heavily laden with 27.5" fat bike wheels. There will be new Barbegazzi 27.5 X 4.5" wheels on some, while many others will get the 27.5 X 3.8" wheels. Trek will also still do some hard tails in the 26 X 4.7" wheel format, but from what we are seeing, it sure looks like they are pushing the 27.5" stuff hard. My guess is that the 26"er stuff will go away at some point. Or maybe Trek will see that as the WSD version of a Farley's wheel size? Hard to say, but it is obvious that Trek is going big on the 27.5 format.

Come June, Trek will also offer a Bontrager branded dropper seat post in three travel lengths and, for now, only in a 31.6mm diameter size. The post is a cable actuated, hydraulic, infinitely adjustable post that can be internally routed.

The last tidbit I have is that we, (at the shop I work at), have it on good authority that a Manitou fat bike fork is coming that will "blow the Bluto out of the water", so look for news on that later in the year. There also should be some news on aftermarket availability of the tires, rims, and possibly the fork as well.
We were digging this version of the new Farley hardtails which will feature the Barbegazzi 27.5 X 4.5" tires.

Salsa Redpoint: You know, I don't think I saw the word "enduro" in the entire description!
Salsa Redpoint- Long Travel FS:

It's not a Pony Rustker, and it is not a Horsetheif. Nope- it's a Redpoint. It is a slack angled, long travel 27.5"er bike which can also fit 26Plus.  How much travel? Well, 150mm out back, and that's a heck of a lot. Salsa bills it as the " ...150mm travel trail bike for tackling the roughest and most remote all-mountain terrain." So, yeah.........probably not the bike to have in the Mid-West, but it is a cool option for sure. I may be mistaken, but it is the first dedicated "small wheel" sized full suspension bike since the demise of the El Kaboing about six or seven years ago. (The Pony Rustler doesn't count because it is not a 27.5 specific design.)

You have to hand it to Salsa Cycles. For a smaller brand, they have a really diverse full suspension line up. From the XC-ish Spearfish, the wheel morphing Pony Rustler and Horsethief models, to full suspension fat bikes, and now this long travel, back country brawler.

Electronic XT: Much, much more affordable.
  Shimano Deore XT Di2:

Of course, it was a no-brainer after we saw XTR, but the cost to gain entry to Di2 XTR a was a huge barrier. Not that the new Di2 XT is "cheap", by any means, but it is much less expensive. Definitely a "do-able" price for many folks. There are the eleven speeds, and the single or double front crank sets. This, in my opinion, is the group that kills SRAM Eagle. Unless you have issues with rear tire/front derailleur/chain clearances, (ie: Fat bikes, Plus bikes, and some FS 29"ers), then Di2 XT takes your front derailleur fears and kills them. Oh! But you say that SRAM only requires one shifter? So does Di2 mtb stuff. It can actually shift the front derailleur for you at the most appropriate moment. So, I just do not buy all of this, "I dropped a chain once so front derailleurs are bad." talk anymore. Unless it is a clearance issue, the smaller jumps between gears on XT Di2 and the front derailleur giving you a wide range of gears simply trumps the huge gearing jumps on the low end of the cassette on Eagle, or XX-1, for that matter.

Yes, it is great we have workable 1X stuff from SRAM, because many designs would not be possible on fat bikes, Plus Bikes, and FS 29"ers without that stuff, but for everything else, this new Shimano stuff pretty much does everything better.

2017 Raleigh Stuntman. Image pinched from Grannygear of Twenty Nine Inches
 Don't Call Them "Gravel Bikes" Anymore!

The blog here is littered with posts that I have written which say that "gravel grinder bike" or "gravel bikes" probably is not the best idea for a name for this newer genre of road-ish, fat tired, go anywhere machines. I even did a post which got 40-50 comments suggesting new names for this sort of bike several years ago.

Well, the industry finally figured out that, quite frankly, "gravel" as a term pisses people off. So, what to call these bikes? Well, the newest, (ahem! Salsa Cycles circa 2008 anyone?), buzzword is "adventure bikes" and I am noticing a lot of companies are pushing that term now. Raleigh, Breezer, and Marin were all pushing new concepts out at Sea Otter yesterday for 2017 releases that are being pigeon holed into this "new" category.

Probably the "poster child" for this sort of bike right now is Cannondale's Slate, but what I am seeing coming along now is more akin to Raleigh's preview of the '17 "Stuntman" bike. You could say "monster cross", and you wouldn't be wrong. Two inch wide tires, a 1X drive train, and a dropper post! This bike is, for all intents and purposes, also a look at the '17 Tamland, which will feature less width on the tires, but will also have this carbon fork, integrated head set, and will likely have the exact same frame. It's not a stretch to say that, because I can slot in 2" wide tires on my current, 2014 model Tamland, albeit just barely. It wouldn't take much to get to a place where there was a bit more clearance, Clarence.

Okay, that's a wrap for this week! Have a great weekend and stay safe!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Windy Ride (Again)

Some fresh gravel action out there yesterday
Wind. It happens in Iowa a lot during Spring, but the ferocity of the wind this April has been strong and unyielding. Good thing I got used to it at the Renegade Gent's Race! However; it is apparent that I am not really very fast into the wind, so my big plans for a high mileage day were cut short due to how much time it was taking to make headway against the ongoing gale.

I always get a kick out of what the weather program on my phone says about wind and temperature. That morning it indicated the wind speeds at 18mph. Right......

If that was 18mph, then I have a bridge in the desert to sell you. I was crawling, and at one point nearly stopped dead in my tracks by a gust. That is not happening with 18 mph winds and occasional, higher speed gusts. Nope. This was a full on gale strength wind like we've had going on for almost every day this month so far. Hey April! Quit being "all-March-like" and let's get on with a nice Spring, shall we?

The plan was to go for an extended ride, but with that wind, and some other pressing things, I decided to cut the ride short and head into town again. Going 18mph with the wind was super easy. Another reason to believe the wind speeds were much higher than being reported. Oh well..... It's making me a stronger rider. I'd just like a "normal" wind day thrown in for good measure. That's all.

The farmers are out working the fields up all over now.
It wasn't like the ride sucked, by the way. It was an interesting ride despite the wind. I saw a beautiful fox, right in town less than a mile from my home. I surprised it when I came down off an embankment to the bicycle trail. It barked at me then sprinted off into the woods. Then, not 50 yards further down the trail, I spied two blue birds busily catching insects. Go blue birds! Those birds are voracious insect eaters and help keep pests at bay. Glad to see that we are attracting more of them nowadays. There was a time when seeing one of these in the wild was akin to seeing a unicorn. Later on I think I saw some falcons and maybe a cedar waxwing. It was pretty cool.

The farmers are all out churning up the land in preparation for planting. I suspect that with this forecasted dry, warm weather we have coming up in the next 5 to 7 days, the fields will be buzzing with tractors and equipment non-stop. Word is that this Summer is to be very dry, so the farmers are itching to get everything planted as soon as possible. It all may be done by Trans Iowa time in just over a week from now. We will see.