Thursday, April 27, 2017

They Said It Couldn't Be Done: Part Two

Santa Cruz Bikes' new V10. A 29"er DH bike? Yes!
Subtitled: I Also Said It Couldn't Be Done

All along the 29 inch wheels development, I said that the big wheel was best for a lot of things. I figured a lot of things would be possible to design around 29" wheels. One thing I have always said I thought wouldn't work was a 29 inch wheeled down hill racing bike. A serious effort at one would never happen, right? I mean, first of all, who would even think about doing a fork? There were a couple of things made- White Brothers and Manitou Dorado forks were efforts that pushed the envelope, but weren't going to be taken seriously by any Pro level rider. But a true, Pro-worthy DH fork? Yeah.......right! When pigs fly.

ATTENTION! Pig flying at 12:00 o'clock

Times have changed and things have developed to the point where riders seeking to roll faster down hill have discovered big wheels. 29 inch wheels, and the companies that support that size now include companies that are serious in the DH world. Fox, Enve, and Chris King. Santa Cruz, also a stalwart bike company in the DH scene, started the ball rolling with their team, but it has been hinted at by some that many other 29"er DH bikes are in the wings waiting to be revealed. That Fox made a special fork for this is a huge clue. As I have said before, companies like Fox won't do tooling and manufacturing set ups for small production runs and one-offs. No, there are other companies involved and I wouldn't at all be surprised to see Rock Shox also debuting a big, 29"er DH fork.

Yep. I never thought I'd see the day when 29 inch wheels were a thing in every form of mountain biking. But they are now.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Trans Iowa v13: The Weather Is The Wildcard

Sure looks to be a wet and cold one.
The weather for Trans Iowa is usually a topic of great discussion and cause for consternation amongst those involved in the event at this point every year the last 13 years now. This single factor has such a great influence on this event that besides mental fortitude, it probably is the single most important influencer on how or if anyone can finish in any particular year.

Take last year, for instance. Yes, it takes tough, prepared athletes to finish any Trans Iowa, but I don't think anyone will argue that having a tailwind for the first 160 miles, a clear blue sky, warm temperatures, and a relatively calm, warm night period contributed to the record number of finishers. I also think it is obvious why Trans Iowa v11 had zero finishers with the awful weather that was experienced on that weekend.

So, you might understand why folks wring their hands and over-think their gear and set ups when Trans Iowa gets close and the weather forecasters start to dial in the forecast for the weekend of the event. Especially with how this forecast has been shaping up.

Here's a snippet of what I've been reading about the weather from the Iowa Storm Racing Network: "Despite several periods of rain, the trend for heavy rainfall is shifting to the South and East of Iowa. We should still see periods of moderate rainfall but the threat for heavy rainfall is shifting southeast. Although temperatures will fall into the 30’s, expected cloud cover and winds at 10 to 15 mph should prevent frost from developing over the area."

Last year this was the only mud we saw on Trans Iowa, but the riders didn't see any of it. This year?
 So, it is fairly certain that this year the Level B roads likely will be muddy messes. Ironically, there is a large contingent of Trans Iowa riders that wouldn't have it any other way. They call years with these conditions "real Trans Iowas", or they describe the years that are challenging as the years they wish that they could finish a Trans Iowa.

So, there is that distinct possibility that the weather will cooperate to provide just such a Trans Iowa. Not so difficult that it cannot be done, (v11), but not so......easy?, hmm...... Well, not so T.I.v12, let's say, and that a greater challenge would exist. I am just relating what I see on social media with those comments.

Personally I just want to see everyone come out on the other side safe and with something to take home with them. Whether or not they finish isn't the biggest deal. There is a lot more to it than that, I believe. I'll leave off today's post with a quote sent to me by Jess Rundlett, who does work with the State Historical Society, I believe. Anyway, she sent this from a National Historic Register concerning travel in the days before the great Lincoln Highway crossed Iowa. Jess thought it rang true for Trans Iowa, and I agree. Here it is:

"Traveling over these sorry roads, which were dusty in the summer and quagmires of sucking mud in the spring, was complicated by the fact no one knew where the roads led or whether there was a dead end or a river crossing beyond the next hill."

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

New Tire Day For Gen I

New tires AND different wheels.
The ol' Gen I Fargo has been modified for the umpteenth millionth time. This time it is the wheels and tires that got swapped out.

I had been running some Sun Ringle' Black Flag wheels which have rims that are based on the Stan's tubeless bead socket standard. That doesn't play well with many tubeless ready tires since Stan's bead socket thing is really meant to convert non-tubeless tires to tubeless. This means that the tighter tolerances of many tubeless tires are not an ideal fit to a Stan's rim.

Now, before y'all fire up your keyboards to tell me how your such-and-such tires have been awesome on Stan's rims for years with zero problems, you need to understand that I am not saying you cannot put tubeless ready tires on Stan's rims. You can. I have. It is just that many tires are not an ideal fit. As in, you may break tire levers getting them on or off. That isn't a good thing if the fit is that tight.

Ideally, you should be able to mount and dismount tires with no tools. If you have to sweat bullets and use a massive DH rated steel tire lever to mount your tires, or if you have to use some "slippery-slide" type concoction to mount your tubeless tires, something is not right. Why? Because you won't be field servicing that set up if the need arises, and you should be able to do that easily. 

So, the long way around to say that my Teravail Sparwood/Sun Ringle' set up was stupid tight and was a big problem waiting to happen. So, I ran that set up for as long as I felt I had gotten some good out of the money I spent on them and then I was going to ditch those things off. Actually, I had figured that this wouldn't have happened just yet. The thing is, the Sparwoods, while great in Kansas Flint Hills, really aren't very good in Iowa. In fact, they are what I would term as "not very good" riding tires. But that's another story for another day.

Terrene Tires' Honali 700 X 50mm
So, I have these new Terrene Honali tires in for testing at RidingGravel.com. They have tubeless ready casings and I wanted to use a tubeless ready designed rim. I happened to have a wheel set I built up for an old TNI test with WTB Frequency rims. 

These rims are tubeless designed and have a 23mm inner rim width which is perfect for a 50mm wide tire. They mounted up with the Honali tires with a simple.almost dead, 15 year old Blackburn floor pump. I mounted them by hand. I could remove them with the aid of one plastic tire lever if I needed to do the job quickly. In other words- This set up is completely field serviceable with your hands or simple bicycle tools with little effort. 

Now, it is completely possible that I won't like the Honali tires any better than I do the Teravails, but I can say that the Honali feels twice as supple already and that the profile of the Honali on the rim is already better than that of the previous tire set. So far.......so good. 

The wheels have American Classic hubs, which aren't the best in terms of engagement of the hub, but they have been reliable and for gravel travel the slack engagement shouldn't be an issue. Plus, these hubs are loads quieter than the Sun Ringle' ones were. Those things were really loud! That got on my nerves a few times on longer rides. 

So, at any rate, I am set with new wheels and tires. I'll give this a go and then report back soon......  

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Calm Before The Storm

Des Moines International Airport.......waiting.
I had a long weekend. Not by choice, and it was weird, and it was good in the end. Things happen for a reason, I guess, and several things came together in a way that they wouldn't have otherwise.

So, to kick things off I had to fetch my wife back from her trip to see her family and arrange and attend her father's funeral. She was flying in to Des Moines, the kids had the day off from school by chance, and so we were all there to greet her. That was great.

Then the Trans Iowa t-shirts were finished, so my friend Sam had them ferried by bicycle from the printer to his establishment, Tacopocalypse. It just so happened that Mrs. Guitar Ted came in at about 1:00pm, so we went to Tacopocalypse for a late lunch and to pick up the t-shirts. Bonus: Sam met us down there and we all got a chance to chat with him. Sam even helped load the boxes into our car. Thanks Sam!

None of the above was "planned", necessarily, but it all came together in a way that was better than we could have planned it. Draw your own conclusions........

Of course, there was a long trip home and then we settled in to have something to eat- leftovers, so Mrs Guitar Ted wouldn't have to cook, and we cashed it in for the night then.

I did manage to mount the Terrene Honali's on the Gen I Fargo before bed Friday night. 

Friday afternoon I got a text from Mike Johnson, who had the cues printed for T.I.v13, and he wanted to know if I wanted to meet at a local restaurant to eat and then have our "cue sheet stuffing party". I agreed to meet him and so at 7:00am I found myself sat at the table ordering up breakfast and staring at a job which entailed collating and bagging 280 sets of cue sheets. By hand...... In a busy restaurant. 

A crab apple tree in bloom. Image taken while on a ride with my son in Waterloo
We finished in a little over two hours, but the middle set of cues had one bag with a mixed up set of pages. We knew this because we were short one page for the last set and had a duplicate page left over. So, I left a hefty tip for tying up that table for so long and went home to sort through 96 bags to find the one with the messed up set of cues. Of course, I had to sort through most of them before I found the one, but I found it. With about 35 bags to go! I and my daughter went ahead and inspected all the bags anyway, so we know we are spot on now.

That was it for Trans Iowa work, and I spent the rest of the weekend with the family. Next weekend I will be gone the entire time except for late Sunday. So, I wanted to invest my time wisely by spending it with my family now. I cycled with my son a couple of times, barbecued, took a couple of walks, and generally just hung out with them. It was nice and fairly peaceful, never mind the drive-by shooting Sunday morning and the SUV that caught on fire down on the corner. All just part of living in the 'Loo.

So, now four days till "go time". It is all coming together for another go-round with this Trans Iowa deal. The weather is looking rather on the wet side. There will be wind of some sort. It should be a scene. I'll get to hang with my gravel family Friday night and then it'll be myself and MG squirreled away in a Suby for 30-ish hours. Stay tuned, it'll be something to share, as it always is.

The calm before the storm was good, but now I am ready. Let's get this over with........

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Trans Iowa v13: Cue Sheet Details

All cue sheet pages are numbered for T.I.v13
The cue sheets are an integral part of how Trans Iowa works. This year we decided to add a couple of features that we wanted you to be aware of if you are in the event. We think you will appreciate these new additions.

This year all the 4.5" long by 4" wide cue sheets will have numbered pages. The numbers will appear as  follows: First you will see a "P" followed by a numeral. The numeral will indicate which set of cues that page belongs to. So in my example here with the number circled in red, you see "P1". That means this cue sheet is from the first set. The next page would also have the "P1" designation. A cue sheet for anything after Checkpoint #1 will have a "P2" designation, since that sheet would be from the second set.

Following the "P" and the accompanying numeral you see a "-2" in my example above. This indicates that this cue sheet is page #2 from the first set. The following page would have a "-3", and the previous page would obviously have "-1".

So, if you drop your cues, or if they get messed up in your bag, or if you want to make sure you have them all, you can use this handy-dandy page numeration scheme to figure out what is what.

And no.........I am not telling you how many pages there are. That doesn't matter. Just ride the route and you'll know. All the bags have been checked and all bags have all the cues. There should not be any bag with doubled up or missing cues this year. That is the main reason we numbered them, by the way. You just get the side benefit.

You'd better plan on keeping track of this card!

Secondly there is a new information card that will be handed out to riders at the Pre-Race Meat-Up. We tried to do something similar a couple of years ago with a laminated strip that was printed pretty small and wasn't part of the cues. So, a lot of riders didn't remember to use it. This year we actually printed this as a cue sheet.

This sheet has information on it that you as a Trans Iowa rider will want to hang on to throughout the duration of your ride. First and foremost is the DNF number which you should call if you are dropping out. You can also call this number for questions about the cues, route, or to get directions to have someone get you off the course.

Next is the Trans Iowa Radio number. This is your opportunity to call in and have anyone you know following the event get an update on your progress and state of mind. Ben from RidingGravel.com is doing this service all weekend for the riders, so please give him your shout-out for doing this with his time.

Following that is a detailed description of the Trans Iowa reroute procedure which you may need to navigate by in case we have a bridge out, road closure, or some other concern.

At the bottom you have the cue sheet legend. We used to have this on about every card or every fourth card. We decided not to do that and use that space now for actual cues. So......this is the only cue legend you will have. Another reason not to lose it.

So, we are liking these changes and new features. Hopefully you riders will also.


Minus Ten Review- 16

I got this saddle from the Sea Otter in trip in '07 and now it is my son's saddle on his fat bike.
Ten years ago on the blog there were only two subjects talked about- Sea Otter and Trans Iowa. Some things never change.

A decade ago it was my first trip to the Sea Otter venue. It was a big deal for me, but after three of those trips I'd had enough. Sea Otter followed directly be Trans Iowa was just too much. By 2010 my friend Michael, who was helping me with Twenty Nine Inches, was willing to do the Sea Otter gig. He lived in California and it was only a five hour or something like that drive for him.

Trans Iowa, on the other hand, was my gig after 2007. Yes, I had David Pals as my helper starting in 2008, but as much as I wanted to try to make him a co-presence when people thought of the event, it just never worked out that way. Honestly, I don't think David was all that comfortable with being that anyway. So, it became "my deal" whether or not that was how I actually thought of it. Back then, I certainly did not think of it that way. In fact, I was going to stop the whole deal after V3, (which was before David joined me), since I thought that it was all Jeff Kerkove's deal and that it wasn't Trans Iowa without him.

Obviously, that never happened

Friday, April 21, 2017

Friday News And Views

Honali. The tire, not the land where Puff lived.
Yesterday I received two Terrene Honali tires for test and review on RidingGravel.com. These are not really tires for gravel, specifically, but since they are aimed at the touring crowd, gravel would be on the menu for these. Especially in a "world touring" sense.

These are  a claimed 700c X 50mm tire and tubeless ready. I found both claims to be very true. They pumped up with some sealant with a rotten old floor pump on my WTB Frequency i23 rims easily. The width at 40 psi was 50.22mm right after mounting.

I put these tires on my Gen I Fargo because it is most like a touring bike and it does gravel very well. Plus it has the clearance for the tire! That's kind of important. The Honali also has a reflective sidewall and a nice, capable looking tread pattern. It will be interesting to see how it does on gravel and dirt. Terrene says that they designed the tire with dual sport motorcycle tread in mind, and the tire does give me that vibe. So, it will be fun to see how "dual sport" the Honali really is.

By the way, the Honali I have is the "Tough" casing model but there is an even burlier version available for those who abhor the thought of getting a flat, or who just are wanting a bombproof tire for some expeditionary concerns. I'll be mentioning this tire from time to time here but the real review will be happening on RidingGravel.com.


Haulin' the goods for T.I.v13

Trans Iowa T-shirt News: 

 My friend Sam is really getting back to his roots by having gone all by bike of late. That's right, he has eschewed his vehicles for bicycles and is doing all his errands by bicycles now.

Here is a pic of Sam's rig picking up the Trans Iowa v13 t-shirts with his "Bill" trailer from Surly Bikes. I love that Sam is back to this routine again and it warms my heart to know that these t-shirts started their journey being pulled on a trailer by a bicycle.

I have a trailer, but I don't often use it. I find that I like doing things by Big Dummy better. To each their own, but there is something about hauling stuff on a Big Dummy that I find more satisfying than I do by piling it all on a trailer. I suppose there are certain things you have to use a trailer for, and that is cool. I just don't really even think about my bicycle trailer much.

At any rate, the t-shirts are on their way to me. I have to meet up with Sam today and pick them up from him. I will be in Des Moines anyway to pick up Mrs. Guitar Ted from the airport after her trip to be with her family. So, it should all work out for the good.

Trans Iowa Radio:

Just a reminder that next week at this time we will be cranking up Trans Iowa Radio again on RidingGravel.com . The deal is that not only will you be able to hear about the goings on with Trans Iowa v13 from me, but also from the riders themselves. This is a great way to keep track of anyone you care about that is doing the event. They just have to avail themselves of this resource we are providing.

The way it works is that the riders will have a number to call. There will be a short message and a bit of a pregnant pause, then the rider can leave up to a two minute long message on whatever they want to talk about. Most give a brief update about how far along they are, the conditions, and a bit about how they are feeling.

It will be a fun way to keep track of the event and with the goings on lasting 34 hours, you could probably find new updates when you go to the bathroom at 3:30am Sunday morning. If you want to, that is!

Okay,that's all for this week. Have a good one and ride your bicycles!! 



Thursday, April 20, 2017

Sea Otter '17 News

The Manitou Mastodon Fat Bike Fork
Manitou Mastodon:

Sea Otter is starting today and so you will be seeing a bunch of news that will be pretty cool for us cyclists out here. One of the new things that hasn't been so secret, but which I've known about in detail for a few months, is the Manitou Mastodon fat bike fork. This fork will be a game changer in the fat biking segment.

Announcement details will verify whether I am correct here, but this fork was developed with Trek for their Farley fat bikes for 2018. It is my understanding that will be the only avenue that the Mastodon will be available through for the 2018 model year.

Trek will spec one aluminum Farley, a carbon Farley, and the full suspension fat bike they make with this fork. Availability is slated for this Fall.  Trek fat bikes will also all be 27.5 based only, so you know this fork will clear their tires. I've also heard that this fork clears a massive Vee Tire Snowshoe 2XL with room to spare on a 110mm wide carbon rim. So, it can handle any fat bike tire made today.

The Mastodon will also be the fork that makes the Bluto obsolete. Not only frm a standpoint of clearance, but also from a standpoint of performance. The fork is said to be not only better in terms of damping, rebound, and ride feel, but also in terms of stiffness. Trek has a long history of working with suspension makers to provide riders with highly tuned, high performing shocks, and it sounds like they have pulled it off again with Manitou.

If, as I suspect, Trek is the only avenue for this fork for 2018, you may have to wait until mid-year next year to get one aftermarket. Stay tuned on that one though.......

Get ready for a ton of "mid-plus" 29"er tires to hit the news
Terrene Teases A New 29"er Tire:

Sea Otter should be rife with tire news and especially in a "new" category of tires which will fill in the gap between 2.5" and 3.0"tires. The complaint many "plus" bike riders have had is that the tires available now have side walls which are too flexy and that leads to a vagueness in corners which is not desirable for trail bike handling. Trouble is that to make 3.0 inch tires stiff enough to withstand cornering forces, the tires would have to gain weight, (more material = more weight), and that would not work out for trail riders either.

The answer is to down size the tire, beef up the sidewalls, and provide puncture protection and/or sidewall protection. This as yet unnamed Terrene teaser in a 29 X 2.8 is such a tire. Look for tires like these to be getting spec on the longer travel 29" trail bikes we are sure to be seeing out there as well at Sea Otter. I showed you all the new Rock Shox Lyric fork news last week and keeping in mind that the Lyric will be available in a 29'er form with up to 180mm travel, I would think this tire, or tires like it, were what was in mind for that fork.

Stay tuned for the conclusion of this puzzle..... The pieces are coming together.

That's the new WTB Byway on my Twin Six Standard Rando
WTB Announces Another Road Plus Tire- The Byway:

And finally- In news that I have been a part of in a small way for several weeks, WTB will announce another 650B X 47mm tire, the Byway, and it will be available immediately to purchase from dealers.

This is a real similar casing, if not exactly the same, as the previous Horizon Road Plus tire but the Byway has actual tread. That means it has far better grip on dirt and mud than the smooth Horizon does.

I have already been riding the Byway for several weeks and it does very well on dirt and it even powered me through some mud/sand pretty easily that I came across on Petrie Road here a while back. So, it is pretty impressive in that respect. The combination of the minimalist tread design and width give this tire a flotation characteristic instead of the "pizza cutter" effect many 700c based tires have in similar situations.

I am reviewing this tire for RidingGravel.com, but there is more- This is the tire which is one of the options for Trans Iowa finishers to choose from. WTB is giving away one free set of tires to any official finisher of T.I.v13. They will get to pick from the 700 X 37mm Riddler, 700 X 45mm Riddler, or the Byway.


Trans Iowa v13: T-Shirts & Traffic

This is the T.I.v13 t-shirt design. Some will get this, some will not.
I am happy to report that the T.I.v13 t-shirt design is completed and paid for. The t-shirts are being picked up in Des Moines and transferred to a meeting place by Sam of Tacopocalypse. I will be meeting him Friday to transport them back to Guitar Ted Productions headquarters and they will be sorted in to piles to be distributed to those who responded to me back in the Winter when I asked if you wanted one and what size you wanted. If you were one of the few that did not respond you won't be getting a t-shirt at the Pre-Race Meat-Up.

I will have a list at the Meat-Up of those who responded and the size requested. If there is a mix-up, I will have a few t-shirts that I may be able to use to get you sorted out, but if you asked for a small and now you decide that since you bulked up for T.I.v13 that you now need an XXL, well, you will likely be outta luck there buddy!

Volunteers should all be getting one of these as well. I did not get around to all of you ahead of time but I do have shirts enough to cover all volunteers. Sorry! I may not have your preferred size, but I will have shirts. See me at the Meat-Up or send me an e-mail now if you don't think you've asked for one. It would be best to contact me sooner than later to insure you get a size that works for you. Thanks to all the volunteers! You guys and gals are awesome!

I'm stoked about how this take on Gary Cale's original T.I.v4 post card came out and I hope that if you are getting one of these that you will wear it with pride. Also-by the looks of the forecast, this version of T.I. seems like it will live up to the moniker on the shirt. That would be rad if it all worked out that way. Time will tell......

A Word About The Finish Line: I had a question concerning the proposed finish line at Miller Park/Lake Nyanza. I thought it might be prudent to make sure that everyone understands that this is a public park and that alcoholic drinks are not allowed to be consumed there.  So, please plan accordingly. 

Traffic will likely be a bit heavier than in some T.I. versions due to a few of the towns we go through.
A Word (Again) On Traffic:

Trans Iowa has taught me a few things about traffic on rural roads. One of those things is that the wider the gravel road, the higher the traffic count is on that road. So, as a rider, if you notice that the road is pretty wide, you should be looking for traffic. Again- KEEP YOUR HEADS UP! Ride to the right side as much as humanly possible and ESPECIALLY UP HILLS!

Trans Iowa will, as always, go through several towns and villages so you have the opportunity to resupply and get water. It is incumbent upon each Trans Iowa participant to FOLLOW ALL TRAFFIC LAWS! You MUST STOP AT TRAFFIC LIGHTS AND STOP SIGNS!! If we get wind of a group that has violated traffic laws or has caused a ruckus in a town that entire group will get DQ'ed. I will have a few cars out and about gathering info and checking the course, so there will be plenty of opportunities for us to hear about any shenanigans. Just be aware of your surroundings at all times and Ride Right! I am in no mood to hear about issues with riders that are not obeying the law and are not being courteous. I wouldn't test me in this if I were you.

Finally, as always, please make sure you are making smart decisions. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOURSELF at Trans Iowa.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Hey There Blackbuck!

Old School 29"er design, but I like it that way.
The ol' Blackbuck had been sitting in the back of the Lab for quite a while. I set it all up last year to ride but the dang Vredestien tire on the rear wouldn't hold air for the world and I would skip over it to ride something else since I didn't want to "do battle" with another tubeless tire. I have enough to maintain already.

So, the ol' rig fell into a state of neglect. I kept seeing it and thinking how much I love to ride that bike, so finally I purposed to get the tires fixed and get it back going again. Even if I just commute on it now and again, I should be using this rig. Hopefully, it will be more than just that. It is an odd, low production number bike, so it is pretty cool and fairly rare to see one of these. Here's the background on it, as far as I can recall.

The OS Bikes brand (The "OS" stands for "Of Spirit") is/was the brainchild of WTB's Mark Slate, who was one of the founders of Wilderness Trails Bikes. Mark is a true mtb pioneer. He was there in the early days of the Marin founders and he also had a hand in guiding how and why we ride bikes the way we do. He is responsible for many of the tread patterns for tires we knew and loved. Even today, "SLATE" does the tire designs at WTB and guides the company forward into the 21st Century.

He decided to do a frame and fork, and why he chose the things he did is not 100% known to me, but he chose some very unique things to put into the Blackbuck. There really is nothing else quite like this bike. On one hand, it has a striking profile and looks sleek, but on the other, it is a design informed by the "26"er experience". In that sense, in my opinion, the Blackbuck is the pinnacle of early 29"er design, which strove to recreate the 26 inch hardtail experience with "wagon wheels". Most of the 29"er bikes of the 00's were striving for this goal, but most were flawed and some were outright disasters. The Blackbuck has it right and fires on all cylinders.

I think the modern interpretation of this bike would keep the brilliant rear triangle but would extend the front triangle out and slacken the head angle by several degrees, have a 44mm head tube, and accept a 120mm travel fork. Then you'd run a "stubby stem", wide bars, and be choppering all over the place. However; the Blackbuck hearkens back to 26"er design. It requires a longer stem, it rides best when your ass is up and your nose is down. It doesn't "pop", jump, or "flick" like modern "trail" (play) bikes, but it carves out a mean turn and flies up hills if you have the legs for it. Twisty single track? Bring it! The Blackbuck eats that stuff for breakfast. It's go fast up and down, if you have the nerve to pilot it.

Want to know how crazy this design is? The rigid fork option has a 51mm offset and brings the head angle to 73°!! (Work that trail figure out and you will get a "Rando Approved", low trail bike number) It has been told to me that Mark Slate rides this bike with a rigid fork with that steep, low trail geo down stuff that enduro guys have a hard time following him down. I've got that rigid fork, and when I've used it on the Blackbuck, it requires all your concentration to ride off road. Doable? Yes. Sketchy? Waaaaay! Props to Mr. Slate. I cannot imagine riding that bike with that fork down steep terrain!

Anyway, I could go on all day. Hopefully I'll have more opportunities this year to talk about that ol' Blackbuck!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Trans Iowa v13; Odds And Ends

Patches. Gnomes and people like patches, right?
Today I wanted to cover some random bits concerning Trans Iowa v13, which is 12 days away!

12 freakin' days!!! Ahhhhhhh!!!!

Well, besides the normal anxiety of putting on this event, some of you may have read yesterday that my father-in-law died Easter Sunday. So, I had to ferry Mrs. Guitar Ted to Des Moines International Airport yesterday, which burned up most of the day. I'll have to retrieve her, hopefully on Friday, so there is another day shot that I may have gotten some T.I.v13 business done on. Basically, I have until Thursday next week to have all my ducks in a row, so I am hoping these final bits come in to play easily and I don't have any big issues crop up between now and then. Emotionally, I am already wearing a bit thin........

Anyway, enough whining.....

WTB has contacted me and have offered some of these cool, brown patches to give to some fortunate T.I.v13 riders. They will also have some WTB icon buttons for all, and of course, they have the tire sets for all finishers of Trans Iowa v13 as promised also.

Then a story from left field, concerning some prizing, which has turned out rather cool. Check this out.... I got a question,via e-mail, about componentry for bicycles. I often get these, so that is not unusual in and of itself. What was cool was that in return for helping out, this gentleman who runs Knickerbakken sent me some of his "Flat Folio" tool pouches done up in a custom T.I.v13 livery. THERE WILL BE THREE GIVEN - ONE EACH TO THE WINNER OF EACH CATEGORY.

I have some others, but they are spoken for and are going to some special volunteers. I am keeping one for myself, so these will be pretty special.

These are spoken for, but there will be one given to each category winner courtesy of Knickerbakken.
If you like these, they can probably be had, minus the T.I.v13 patch, from Knickerbakken. Just contact him via his Facebook page which I have linked above. The pouches can carry several tools and a tube. A pretty fashionable accessory for any cyclist. He also makes some other handy pouches. Check him out.

Let's see....... Cue sheets are due to be completed and in hand later this week. I heard Thursday, so stay tuned for news on that. There will be some arranging and bagging later this week, then that will be done and I can move on to printing waivers and the paperwork necessary for checkpoints. Then I hope to start boxing things up to get ready for the event. I need to do a checklist based off last years and make my notes for the meeting.

There will be a couple more specific Trans Iowa v13 posts coming which will be super important for anyone in the event. Please be aware that YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOU. Trans Iowa is potentially dangerous and you could end up in a pickle right quick if you aren't alert, keeping your wits about you, and making wise decisions.

Thank you. More to come soon........

Monday, April 17, 2017

Life Is Too Short For.......

Yep. Same view as yesterday's pic, a few minutes earlier.
Now that we have been in the "Information Age" for a bit, we have the wonderful benefit of "memes". Those trite little images with sayings that sometimes seem so wise. We see them on social media, nod in confirmation or wonderment, hit "like", and move on. We seem wiser, somehow we are deeper people, and we feel more confident in our "knowing".

Now, I know this really doesn't seem like it is about bicycles. And you are right. It isn't about bicycles today. If you think about it, bicycles are pretty worthless without people to ride them. So, it would be quite obvious then that people are more important. So, please forgive me for taking out a post today that has to do with people.

Back to the memes.....

There is one I've laughed at which says "Life is too short to ride shit bicycles". (<===See! I worked bicycles in to this after all.) Anyway, there are variations on that bit of wisdom. "Life is too short to deal with people with bad attitudes", and the like. Life is too short.......

Sometimes we don't take the time to say how we really feel about someone special to us. A friend. Someone you admire. A co-worker. I have a challenge for you today. Say that "something" that you feel about them. Express your admiration. Tell them you love them.

I challenge you to do that once today. Life is too short not to. 

This post is dedicated to Francis Odbert, my wife's father, who died on Easter Day, April 16th, 2017.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter!

The view off the front porch Saturday evening
Happy Easter!

I hope that you all have a great day doing the things that you are free in this country to do.

I have been taking the weekend "off", so to speak, to spend time with my immediate family. I took my son fishing, I grilled out for the family meal, and we all watched a massive thunderstorm with spectacular lightning and loud thunder for about an hour and a half in the evening.

I decided to take a quick break from bicycles this weekend because I will have a lot going on in the next two weeks with Trans Iowa v13 coming up and with doing review work and more. This weekend was relatively free, so I grabbed the chance to take a break.

Sea Otter is this coming week/weekend and you will be getting a slew of news coming from all forms of the cycling universe soon. This event is pretty much the defacto introduction event on the cycling calendar in North America. Either just before or during Sea Otter the press release machines are busy with all manner of hot news. I saw where a well known editor opined about a month ago on Facebook about the fact that there were too many pressers to cover. That doesn't happen at Intebike anymore and hasn't for many years. It's all Sea Otter these days, so get ready.

Anyway, I'm going back to enjoying what is left of my weekend, y'all! See you tomorrow!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Minus Ten Review- 15

No pictures from 10 years ago this week, so you get this dusty picture of R Avenue in Tama County.
Ten years ago this week I was in California attending a Fisher Bikes/Trek Bikes mountain bike release and Sea Otter. It was a whirlwind trip which changed everything from many perspectives for me.

A short trip packed with big things. I met and ate with Keith Bontrager, Travis Brown, Gary Fisher, and several high level Trek, Fisher, and Raleigh employees. I had beers with Gary Fisher in Soquel Demo Forest. I ate at a fine Mexican diner in Watsonville California, and I hobnobbed with mountain bike elite in Monterey, California at a mountain bike film premier. I sat in a van next to the inimitable James Huang, now of Cyclintips.com. I used Keith Bontrager's bathroom. I even rode gary Fishers fully electronic shifted townie bike with automatic shifting. Way before Di2.

Game changing trip. Memories that will last a lifetime.

To think that I started the blog less than one year before this trip happened. No one knew who I was. In less than a year's time, all this had happened to me. Trans Iowa was about to happen for the third time as well. I had a life that was on a very fast pace.

Now, I could have easily let this all go to my head. The good thing was that I didn't think of myself as being that big of a deal. I had a sneaking suspicion that I had snuck in the back door to a party I wasn't invited to. So I knew it wouldn't last, and I was just going to be as cool as I could be and enjoy the ride for as long as it was going to last. Now, it lasted longer than I thought it would, but it did slowly come to an end.

And I'm alright with that.


Friday, April 14, 2017

Friday News And Views

Wait! 180mm of travel?!! In a 29"er fork?!!
From The "They Said It Couldn't Be Done" File:

29"ers were slagged off ten years ago as being only worth it if you were in to XC, single speeding, or short travel full suspension bikes, and let's face it, who wants anything to do with those things? If you were a dreamer back then, you wanted to see the day when a long travel big wheeler was made for big trail days. But, you know, they all said "No way!".

Well, then you had all that business with "enduro", which by the way, is that even a thing now? Anyway, there was that distraction for a few years. Then 29"ers sort of had a renaissance of sorts when the engineering finally caught up and big wheeled, longer travel rigs began to appear at enduro events and started winning them. Now it would appear that the unthinkable has been achieved- that being a super long travel 29"er fork.

Rock Shox just announced some big trail forks ahead of Sea Otter and one of those is a Lyric fork that has a maximum travel of 180mm in 29"er form. (According to a site I read the news on) That's crazy. If you would have suggested such a fork for 29"ers even five years ago, you'd have been laughed off the face of the earth.

So, if you've been listening and reading what I have said about product intros here, you know that things like a Rock Shox Lyric fork for 29"ers is not being made as just an aftermarket option. No, these are going to show up somewhere on someone's production bike with big hoops. So, apparently saying "it will never happen" means that, "hold on, sooner or later you'll see it" in "bike speak", because there it is. The thing they said couldn't be done.

Shape My Grips bar grips are.........interesting.
Shape My Grip Update:

Well, after a few hundred miles of Shape My Grip usage, I can say that I feel I know these as well as I am going to. I ran them at the Renegade Gent's Race and afterward on gravel and commutes.

Shape My Grips says that these are vibration damping add-ons. Hmm......... I don't know about that. Maybe they are, but I cannot say I can tell any differences. I can say that they do offer more control and that they do make for a unique gripping experience that might be right up some folks alleys.

I could totally see how they might be a great thing on wet, muddy rides and especially for cyclo cross where a bit of control added with a secure grip might  be a good thing. People with larger hands might really like something like this to fill up their big paws more than a puny, round tube might otherwise.

One thing that I noted which seemed counter-intuitive was that the part that fitted into the curved part of the drops, the grip oddly enough dubbed "CURVE", was all forward of the bar. In other words, any part of the grip that might enhance comfort was all concentrated in your finger side of the grip and not on the load bearing, vibration absorbing palm side. That seems like a missed feature opportunity.

So, these might be cool for some of you out there for more control, or maybe for a secure grip enhancement, but I have to question any benefit due to a vibration reduction that these are said to provide. I think you'd be better served by dropping your air pressures a bit in your tires to get a noticeable gain there.

Banjo Brothers bags- Top Tube Bag on Left, XL Saddle Trunk on Right
Bag It:

Banjo Brothers is an outfit based out of the Twin Cities that does value packed, bang for your buck bags that happen to work really well. I know, because I have used Banjo Brothers bags for years. They sponsored a couple of Trans Iowas, back in the day, and most recently, I used one of their seat packs on my Fat Bike Century. That trunk bag is very similar to the XL Saddle Trunk they sent over for test and review recently, and I have beaten that thing to death over the Winter, but you'd hardly know it. Well, that is, if I cleaned it up! It's rather dirty right now.

Anyway, this new XL sized behemoth bag is 800 cubic inches of seat bag packing possibilities, and I aim to find out how much stuff it can handle and how well it handles it. That will require me doing a sub 24hr overnighter or two, I suppose.

Oh darn!

The top tube bag is a much larger, more spacious, and easier to use top tube bag than their previous version which was barely big enough for my old point and shoot Fuji x-7 camera.This one should work out fine. I'll have more details on the bags and a review later. I will say that the bag comes equipped with enough strapping that you should have no issues strapping it to even the widest top tube/down tube junctions. I don't really have bikes like that, so I'll likely shorten mine up. You can always cut off what you don't need, but adding on is something else altogether.

Disclaimer: Shape My Grip sent over the SMG BAR TOP and CURVE grips at no charge for test and review. Banjo Brothers sent over the Top Tube Bag and XL Seat Trunk at no charge for test and review. I am not being paid nor bribed to write these reviews and I strive to give my honest thoughts and opinions throughout. 

Have a great Easter Weekend!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Country Views '17: The B Road Tour

Lots of field preparation is happening right now out in the rural areas.
A Wednesday off again, so I figured that I should break out the brand new RidingGravel.com kit and test it out. I got the vest, jersey, and bib shorts. I needed all of it and arm warmers with gloves to start out with since the temperature was in the 50's. I headed out down the bike trail to Aker Road since the wind was supposedly coming out of the South. It wasn't supposed to be very strong either. Something in the single digits as I recall when I looked on Tuesday evening. However; it was definitely stronger than that!

The plan was to go down to Petrie Road, turn right and do the Level B Road there, and then head down Holmes Road till I reached 110th in Tama County where I planned to go right and catch three straight miles of Level B Road a mile West of HWY 63. Then I was going to turn North at a "T" intersection and go back till I reached Griffith Road, take a right,and then follow the mostly diagonal and flat Eldora Road back to Hudson and then back on flat bike path.

Well, that was the plan. I did not execute the plan well though. You shall see about that later. First, however, I had to get South, and I was riding right into the wind, which was a beast, actually. It was making my right knee hurt, I was pushing so hard. Finally I got some respite by turning West on Petrie Road. The level B was sandy, rutted,and loose from farm traffic which was busy this day. I had to stop briefly to allow some big truck to go out of the Level B and there were tractors fertilizing with anhydrous ammonia in the field adjacent to the road on the South side. I could hear the tractor, but I could not see it since the road is cut down into a hill right there. I passed that by and then hit a really soft section which I managed to clear without dabbing.

A small creek and a bit of prairie burn here.
As I rode along I noted another set of tracks from a bicycle. The tracks were disturbed enough that I could not pick out a tread pattern, but I could tell they were recently laid. I thought about my friends, Tony and Jeremy, who often go down this way. Maybe it was one of them? I fancied that maybe I might run across someone at some point, but I never did.

The gravel was fresh, of course, and the wind was strong. I ended up stopping for a break after 12 miles. I tightened my Lezyne GPS mount which had vibrated loose, then I ate a packet of almond butter and hit the road South again.

The Black Hawk-Tama County Line. Tama County is to the right here.
We use maps and see borders all the time, but when you are out in the country you realize how arbitrary those "lines" are. I passed the county border between Black Hawk County and Tama County and stopped to take a quick image of what a county line border really looks like. If there weren't street signs there, you'd never know you had crossed a border line.

There were anhydrous ammonia tanks sitting all over. That's Buckingham Iowa off on the horizon there.
The dust was awful yesterday. When cars or trucks went by, the wind, which had switched from slightly Southeast to coming straight from the South, made the dust hang in the air so you could not see, or breath, well at all. I finally reached 110th and turned Eastward to cross HWY 63.

This giant ag vehicle looks tiny and insignificant when seen against the backdrop of the vast plains.
The Spring and Fall are really the only times in Iowa when you can get a good feel for how the land must have been like back before the white man settled it. The crops have not taken over and broken up the horizon line. Crop farming has eliminated fences in many areas, and farms have disappeared in droves to leave us with giant, unbroken vistas. Now once again you can get a hint of the vast Great Plains and how daunting the open spaces are. Only the grid work of the gravel roads breaks the horizon lines in many places now.

Looking back East on 110th in Tama County.
I was aiming to run three miles straight of Level B Road in Northern Tama County, only a mile and a half from the Black Hawk County border. These dirt roads were actually dry, and they possibly may have been graded once, because there were zero ruts or trenching from rain washing down hills. They were fast and only bumpy due to tractor tire lugs.

Level B Road find: A perfectly coiled up strand of nylon rope. Of course, I took it home!
I interpret this sign to say "Adventure Road!"
Generally Iowa is truly a beautiful place. Occasionally man has found ways to muck it up.
On the last mile of the three consecutive Level B sections.
Barns For Jason
As I turned North, with the wind, I had to stop after a few miles to shed some of my gear. Arm warmers, gloves, and skull cap all had to come off and get stowed for the remainder of the ride. Then it was down the hatch with my last almond butter packet. I should have brought more, but I was figuring on an easy, flatter terrain for my return leg. The trouble was that I ended up not turning at Griffith because I thought it looked wrong and I went further North. This forced me, if I was to stick to gravel, to go all the way up North to Shaulis Road. That way is fine, but it is much more hilly. So, I pretty much was starting to bonk by the time I got to just South of Cedar Falls. I was working way harder than I thought I would be.

I made it though, eventually, and clocked in 45 miles in the process. My legs were destroyed and all I wanted to do most of the rest of the day was sleep, but I eventually bounced back. I'm looking forward to exploring some more Tama County dirt roads this year. Stay tuned.....

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Randomonium- Vans, Single Speeds, & T.I. Radio

People on Facecrack were going ga-ga over this pig of a vehicle. Why?
Okay folks, if you haven't been around long enough here to know what a "Randomonium" post is, then here is the deal. I ramble, rant, and randomly moan about all things cycling in one, incohesive, bizarre post. "Randomonium", okay?

Yesterday I was amazed by a weird post on Facecrack about a van on Craigslist. People were going nutso over this pig of a Chevy van and thinking it would be the bees knees for adventuring around in. Frankly, I just do not understand why. I know, I know....... "Van life". But this Vandura? Really?

Maybe it is the recent "Dirt Rag" issue that came out extolling the purported virtues of "van life" and cycling. C'mon people. Living out of a van? Have y'all gone Matt Foley on me here? I cannot think of a worse way to spend a weekend, much less a month, going around to cycling destinations. I know, because I have done it.

And I know that the Vandura that the folks were falling all over themselves to "like" on Facecrack is a giant turd of a vehicle to drive, and to work on. I know this because I have done both with and on Vanduras and their variations. See, I used to work at a car repair shop for five and a half years. I am fully aware of what's under the "doghouse" in a Chevy van. It ain't pretty either.

Gah! Just the thought of those vans brings back all the smells and feels. Uggh!

Oh so wrong, antiquated, and stupid. Ah.....yeah. Whatever!
I read another amusing bit that, for all intents and purposes, is likely just clickbait to inflate the "BikeRadar.com" website's numbers. It was about why single speed mountain bikes are stupid. The following quote was my favorite:

"These things are all terrible in that they simply don’t need to be that way any more. Nowadays we have inflatable tyres, commercial jets and simple cash. We have the technology to change gears."

I liked it because it exposes the flaw in the logic of the piece. You see, if single speed mountain bikes are terrible and one of the reasons why is because we have "better technology", then by that measure all human powered vehicles are to be regarded as stupid. Because "technology", right? I mean, at that point, why pedal at all when you don't have to? Why do we not review all bicycles as being technologically backward? 

See, that whole line of thinking is what is really stupid. It is so obvious, and I know all the health, "green", and community enhancing benefits as well as you do. That is why that article is clickbait and why I am not going to link to it. You'll just have to go look for yourselves if you want to see it, but keep in mind, that's playing right in to their hands. Besides, if you want the real low down on why single speeding is a bad idea, just follow me on a gravel ride in hilly territory someday. I'm sure you'll come to understand quickly.

Home of Trans Iowa Radio
And now for something completely serious and maybe even.....useful? Yes. Useful. 

My RidingGravel.com partner, Ben Welnak, has decided to sacrifice a weekend of time he'll never get back and facilitate "Trans Iowa Radio". I did not ask or cajole him in to doing anything. He offered to do it again of his own volition, and honestly, had he not, I would have completely understood. Trans Iowa Radio is a huge time commitment and while I know Ben would say it is "no big deal", it is a big deal. Trust me. 

I know this because back in the early days of Trans Iowa I did "Trans Iowa Radio" as kind of a way to have fun and pass the time while driving around Iowa's backroads like some stray dog on an all night bender. I made up fake sponsors and did fake commercials. I had noisy toys and sounds that led into vague updates and quasi-serious rantings on course conditions and progress of the leaders of the event. I didn't think anyone was taking any of it seriously.

Boy! Was I ever wrong about that!

People would send me angry e-mails after the fact because I wasn't covering their second cousin who was in the event. They would tell me I was doing it all wrong and would tell me what they thought I should be covering and how often and when. It was completely annoying, unnecessary, and the whole intent and purpose for Trans Iowa Radio back then was completely misunderstood. I vowed not to do it again several times. Then I would do it and get another round of criticisms. 

The thing got set in stone once the mini-documentary, "300 Miles of Gravel" came out since my TI Radio updates were sprinkled throughout the piece. Ben came along shortly afterward to facilitate Trans Iowa Radio on his Mountain Bike Radio site. That's when it started to open up to having rider call-ins and it didn't have to be something that relied on myself stopping to call in occasionally. Ben helped put things to right with the "audience" and what it was they wanted- updates from people they wanted to hear about, straight from the "horses mouth". It has freed me up to do what I do and not have to be concerned with trying to please every listener. It has been a great arrangement.

That said, I know it is a huge investment for Ben in terms of time and energy. That is why I cannot ask him to do this. I know how taxing it is. So, if you have the chance, give him a shout and let him know that you appreciate the efforts. I know I sure do. 

 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Resaddled

Busted. (Click to embiggen- look for red arrow)
During the Renegade Gent's Race I was lifting my bike up during some stop or another and noticed that the typically solid feel I had when grabbing the saddle by the nose had been replaced by an alarmingly flexible feel. Oh oh! Something done busted! 

Once I determined that it wasn't catastrophic and that I could continue, I didn't worry about that old WTB Pure V saddle until I got back to the familiar confines of the Guitar Ted Laboratories. There I scrutinized the saddle and saw that the insert in the nose of the saddle placed there to give some relief to a rider's......ahem!....undercarriage, had broken free from its bonds. This allowed the surrounding plastic shell to be far more flexible than it should be. And who knows? That shell may be compromised as well. At any rate, it was time to replace that old Pure V.

So, typically I almost never get a saddle to wear out, break, or whatever. I have too many bikes to ride and too little time in each saddle to really cause any of them to fail in some way. Then too, there was the search for a good saddle for my gravel travels which took some time to figure out. Back in my mtb days when all I did was ride mountain bikes, the saddle of choice was the WTB SST. That saddle was a shade too narrow for me to sit on and grind out miles of gravel, but for mountain biking, it was the bees knees from where I sat.

Once I started riding gravel in earnest, I had to figure out what I liked for sitting long periods of time on during long periods of pedaling. The WTB Pure V came over from a mountain bike when I built up that Black Mountain Cycles frame and fork, so it has been there since. I lucked out by getting to ride that saddle and have it work out. Meanwhile I figured I would experiment with other saddles because maybe there was something better. Well, besides the Brooks saddles I use, no- there wasn't anything better. Sheer luck there.

That's how it is supposed to look underneath there.
Anyway, that's how I came to get this WTB Pure V to break. I just had it on there long enough and rode it enough every year to get it to finally give up the ghost. So, I didn't mess around with any thoughts of another saddle. I immediately placed an order for another WTB Pure saddle in the "Pro" version. Note- WTB dropped the "V" designation from the Pure. I guess maybe they got too much speculation about what the "V" meant? Hmm.....

Well, however that is, I have a new Pure saddle on there now and after a short test ride the feel is very good. Back to that "firm nose" again, which is to say, "not a loosey-goosey" broken nose feel. It was obvious to me that the old Pure V probably had been broken before the Gent's Race but I hadn't discovered it until that event.

Other than graphics, this Pure has a different cover than my old Pure V has. WTB calls it "Microfiber", whatever that means. I am pretty sure my old Pure V has a leather cover. At least it feels and acts like leather.  I also just got an older OE (Original Equipment) Pure V off of my friend's Fargo which I think has a stitched leather cover. So there are a few different versions floating around out there. The new Pure saddle's cover feels good right now. I'll withhold judgment until I get a hot weather ride in on it. But I think it will be just fine otherwise. Same shape, and essentially the same saddle as the Old Pure V. Why shouldn't it work?

Ready for miles of gravel traveling.
Now I'm all fixed up and the Black Mountain Cycles rig is back to being the functional, versatile rig that it always has been. Between this new saddle and ability to run big, puffy 700c rubber, I should be doing some long rides in relative comfort. The WTB Pure also makes a great mountain biking perch as well if you don't have to scoot off the back too much, or if you have a dropper post, which then renders the width a moot point.


Monday, April 10, 2017

Trans Iowa v13: Final Course Check Report

When I got to Grinnell to meet with the guys, I felt I was being watched....
The good news, for the time being, is that the final recon of the T.I.v13 course is complete and that the course is good to go. No major issues, nothing wrong right now. That could change, but hopefully it will not. I am going to cover the reroute procedure later just in case, but this post will be all about the route.

Wally and George weren't expecting me so early, but since I was too early for the Frontier Cafe, we ate at Club McDonald's instead. Not nearly as good, but hey! We had 330 plus miles of gravel to drive!

We got going by 7:00am and the Sun was up in the sky with a very nice day on tap for us. It was very windy from the South all day. We got going and it was cool, but we recorded temperatures into the upper 70"s in the afternoon. Clouds came in late, but it was a perfect day to do this recon. We were all done by 5:00pm. I stayed in Grinnell and hung out with Wally & George so I didn't get back home until 9:30pm,

It was (painfully, by the way), obvious that the roads have not been touched since Winter set in. Pot holes, washboard, and a few ruts made for jarring, rough conditions in the truck. I know, you think I am whining and blowing that up, but my lower back says that is a correct assessment as I write this. You can say what you want, but this was by far the roughest Trans Iowa recon I've ever been on.

What that means for the riders of T.I.v13 is that you can fully expect there to be lots of road maintenance and fresh gravel. In the next three weeks, those roads we were on will be vastly different. That much I can assure you of.

Some images.....

On the way to Checkpoint #1. Sunglasses necessary.
There will be one Level B Road on the way to CP"1, so be prepared!
Level B Roads were all pretty dry, despite all the rain we had earlier in the week. We had several wet spots, and one road was a straight up mile of slop. So, there will be some challenges if it is wet a few days before the event. If it stays real dry for a week or so before T.I.v13, these B Roads will still be treacherous. They are rutted and torn up by overzealous 4X4'ers and quads. We had to take all of them pretty slowly unless we wanted to bounce ourselves off the roof of George's Ford.

Some Images......

We made a mess of George's truck in one Level B.
An example of ruts in a dry Level B. Some were rutted all the way across, but this one was not.
Of course, there will be hills in Trans Iowa. That isn't a surprise, I am sure. However; I do want to underscore something here. We have fast, curving down hills that will test your abilities. I suggest that riders use extreme caution for many of the descents this year. STAY TO THE RIGHT!! There are blind corners on these fast down hills which will not show you a car coming until it is too late. YOU MUST STAY TO THE RIGHT and not be tempted into flying down these hills in the middle of the road. If these roads get gravelled up, which I fully expect, this will become a HUGE issue.

This advice hasn't been necessary since the days when we used to run out of Decorah where similar curvy downhills exist where you cannot see to the bottom of the hills. One rider, who shall remain nameless, did not heed my warnings and crashed 16 miles in, dislocating his shoulder and ending his T.I. attempt. DON"T BE STUPID! I am not joking around here, this Trans Iowa has SEVERAL of these descents in it.

Long, fast down hill runs exist across several parts of the T.I.v13 course. STAY RIGHT!!
Conversely, what goes down must go back up again. The adherence to the STAY TO THE RIGHT rule will be imperative. We were surprised by more than a few cars cresting hills on recon. Traffic was maybe higher than usually seen on some Trans Iowa's on this particular course, so please keep your heads up and be aware that you are on OPEN ROADS and that you must obey the rules of the road.

The roads were very dry, by the way. That doesn't mean anything to you, the riders, right now or even the night before the event. Things can and have changed within hours of a Trans Iowa start. (T.I.v11 anyone?) So, keep tabs on the weather and plan accordingly.

End of a long, enjoyable, prosperous day.
There are going to be more technical, "brain stretching", and navigational challenges to this Trans Iowa than ever before. Logistically, you MUST CARRY 100 MILES WORTH OF WATER AND FOOD. YOU MUST RESTOCK THAT SUPPLY AT EVERY CHANCE.

I'm not fooling. Convenience stores are hard to find that stay open 24 hours and that are not on super busy, 4 lane highways or on high traffic roads in bigger towns. These days, I have to insist on your being more self-sufficient than ever. If you decide that you are going to skip a stop you are dumb, and if you bonk out of Trans Iowa do not come crying to me. I am pretty sure many of you fast guys and gals will come at the "wrong time" through the last town out and end up making yourselves go 120 miles between the last stop and the end. You've been warned! Oh yeah, and Walmart counts as a resupply stop choice. Think about that.......

Trans Iowa v13 may be the toughest one yet, and that is without weather factored in. The technical aspects, logistical aspects, and the usual navigational and distance challenges will be right up there with anything I've come up with yet. Add in any inclement weather or winds, well...... We will see. I don't expect anything near the finishing rate we had last year, let's just put it that way.

Speaking of the finish, I will reiterate- THE FINISH IS AT MILLER PARK/LAKE NYANZA and not at the place we finished at last year. So please make that distinction in your plans. Miller Park is a bit easier to get back and forth to from the main motels you'll be using and has a bit less impact on residents of Grinnell early on a Sunday morning.

Okay, I'll have a couple more T.I.v13 specific posts in the coming weeks leading up to T.I.v13, so apologies to those not interested who read here and please pay attention if you are in T.I.v13. Thank you!!

Thanks! Thank you especially to Wally & George who have contributed so much to the accuracy and effectiveness of Trans Iowa cues since T.I.v9. I couldn't do it without your invaluable help.