Tuesday, February 21, 2017


Who comes up with these names? Really? Image courtesy of Quarc
Randomonium- The Gizmo Edition:

There have been a few introductions lately that are mildly interesting. First up is this electronic device that monitors your suspension 1000 times per minute and then connects to a phone app to tell you how you should set up your suspension devices.

The device is from Quarc who do power meter stuff. So, it is likely based on technology they already were working with, accelerometers and whatnot. Anyway, it is another analyzing gizmo that you can drive yourself nuts with. I suppose for those who need to have every last advantage, it is a tool that makes sense.

Single speed your XD cassette driver. Image courtesy of QBP

Problem Solvers released this gizmo for single speeders that can turn your XD cassette body into a single speed ready set up. It is based on the IS standard brake mount (six bolt standard) which some fixed gear cogs have been released in. I have a "Tomi Cog" that uses this hole standard. Problem Solvers are also going to make a selection of cogs now using this bolt pattern.

The main body can be spaced with provided spacers to align the chain line so that your cog lines up with the chain ring. They are calling this gizmo the "Zinger".

Ya know, if you've already ditched off your front derailleur, because, ya know, who needs that device?!! Well......you may as well go all the way! Get rid of that dangly bit on the rear as well. Who needs 12 cogs out back? Eagle-schmeagle! Go with just one speed and mash!

I half jokingly made reference to getting a system for converting an XD driver to single speed use a while back, and now here it is. Crazy.

32T capacity now for WiFli eTap. Image courtesy of SRAM

eTap now has a mid-cage rear derailleur and capability to be set up for a low 32T rear cassette gear. That means we may see this stuff start showing up in the gravel races. Maybe.

That is if we see less failures. There is a lot of chatter out there saying eTap is locking up and leaving riders in the lurch. I'm seeing this on mechanic's boards on-line and seeing riders complaints about the issue.

I know many gravel riders are chattering about Di2 and that seems to be working well out on the gravel roads. I don't hear much about eTap. I am still waiting to see even one eTap group out in the wild yet. Meanwhile, FSA is set to bring out another electronic group, and Rotor is doing a hydraulically actuated one. Seems that the simple Bowden cable is under siege and may suffer somewhat from all of this gizmo action. But you can bet that cables and housings will be around for a long time yet.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Country Views '17: First Gravel

No snow, or anything green to be found just North of town.
This weekend I took advantage of the current situation to get out on the gravel again. It has been a while and it felt good to get back out there. Having been sick for almost a month to kick off the year didn't help any, but given that conditions pretty much were the worst for cycling that I could imagine, I wasn't too put out by having missed the month of January and part of February in terms of riding.

Now I am in rebuilding mode. I had to be careful not to be the "dog off the leash" and cook myself back into relapsing or injure myself with some stupid big, high mileage ride out of the gate. Although it was hard not to keep going, I reigned it in. It is especially hard when younger folks are out crushing big miles right now in this weather, but I have to be smart, not satisfying my desires and ego. The big rides will happen. I just have to make good decisions and be patient.

Okay, well- enough of that! I figured that it has been a while since I had done a "Country Views" post, and since I found something interesting to share this past weekend, I figured now would be a good time for these posts to kick in for 2017.

I didn't see any snow at all till I was nearly in Bremer County. 
I started out the ride with the temperatures in the upper 40's. It was supposed to get into the 60's, but I didn't know if my morning start would see me getting a chance to feel that out there. When I got up near Bremer County, I was cooking with my Bontrager wind jacket on, so I stopped to shed that layer and stow the jacket. Turns out that a wool long sleeved jersey and bib tights were enough. In fact, by the end of the ride I could have been riding in bib shorts.

What a beautiful day! This was far better than spending 8 hrs in a car driving to Minneapolis and back.
Traditionally, as we all know here in the Mid-West, it isn't like this in mid-February. Typically we are getting Alberta Clippers, snow, and we see an occasional dip below the zero degree mark during the month. In fact, traditionally I have shoveled more snow, living in this part of Iowa, than I do at any other time of Winter. So, when the shovels have set idle all month long and the temperatures soar into late March territory, you take advantage of that. There was no way I wasn't going to ride on Saturday.

The thing is, traditionally Frostbike happens right at this time as well. It used to be a "can't miss" event for me. However; as with anything else in life, things change, and now Frostbike is just a mildly interesting facet of the bike industry calendar. Anything that is "new" these days doesn't get introduced at a show. It gets "press released" whenever it is ready. So, almost anything noteworthy has already been revealed long before, (or as in the case of the Salsa Deadwood and Surly's Ogre, right before) the show. Going to see what is new is not a reason to go anymore.

I used to also go up to spend time with friends that have moved on to new things and are busy with the show proper. None of them would really have had the time these days to spend with me, so going for that reason is less of a reason to go now. Added to that is the fact that I would have to drive 8 hours minimum to be at a show for maybe 5 hours. That's a total of 13 hours shot when I could be riding in 60 plus degree weather and then grilling out and eating food with my family. So, that decision was a no-brainer.

A rare February "Barns for Jason" shot.
First cemetery gate shot of 2017- The gate reads "Pioneer 1864"
Now when I take off and ride North of Waterloo, I generally have to get up into Bremer County North of Highway 3 before I get into roads I am not all that familiar with. I don't expect to find much of anything that I don't know about already if I am South of Bremer County, as I was on Saturday. However; I surprised myself by discovering a mile section of road I have apparently not been on before. I noticed a cemetery gate on Gresham Road and stopped to see what it could be.

Ironically enough, it has a relatable story from today's headlines. That would be the poor treatment of immigrants. Check out the following closeup of the sign posted on the fence......

This was a new one on me. I know that there are many cemeteries in the rural areas of Iowa, but I figured I knew where most all of the prominent ones were in Black Hawk County. Guess that I didn't! So, good history to know and the first cemetery gate found during riding in 2017 that I haven't seen before.

Someone planted this little American Flag on the big rock of Big Rock Road. 
I turned and came home on Sage Road and back eventually to Waterloo. It was a good chunk of miles done at a good pace. My shoulder was fine until I hit pavement, then it ached. Weird. Well, at least I am getting the fitness headed in the right direction. That's a good thing! Stay tuned for more "Country Views 17" posts later on in Spring.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

When The Hammer Comes Down

No snow, 65+ degrees, and people are golfing. On February 18th!
So I was out riding gravel and thinking that I was just slightly overdressed.  I had a long sleeved wool jersey on and a base layer up top with a pair of bib tights on. Now this is mid February and I was originally thinking that this was so awesome. I mean, generally it is very snowy at this time of year, cold, and often we get these "Alberta Clippers". Those systems which dip us below zero for a night or two before we warm back up to the upper 20's/lower 30's in the daytime.

But this hasn't been the case at all during February 2017. It has been more like mid-March instead of February at all. The snow trails for fat biking have turned to ice and mush. Off road riding is off limits for the time being. It just got warm enough for the roadies to break out their rigs. Gravel roads are perfect right now. This is weird. Then it hit me.

Nature seeks balance.

So, I am thinking things are going to swing hard the other way in March. Talk about coming in like a lion. It's going to be cold, nasty, and windy. Mark my words. I am no weatherman, but I have noticed how things go often times.

Hopefully I am wrong, but I don't think I will be.........

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Minus Ten Review- 7

Karate Monkey in '07 "perfection mode".
On the blog ten years ago I had plenty of images! Hooray! I think the deal was that I was not well versed yet in how to get files uploaded on Blogger, so until I figured that out and was comfortable with that, I went a few times without images. From this point on though, things like that seem to be rare, if not non-existent.

Anyway, here is a shot of my Karate Monkey from February of '07 right after Planet Bike sent me some Cascadia fenders for 29"ers. I mounted those up on my Monkey, which as I posted earlier this week, was dialed to perfection at that point for gravel travel. You can see the Cooks Brothers crank set and the disc brake set up which I no longer am using on this bike.

I was deep into getting bikes ridden and components tested at this time. I was fiddling with the XXIX+G, which I had the good sense to have sent to me in a size Large. The medium XXIX single speed was a medium, and it didn't fit as well, so that bike already was languishing in the basement unridden and would eventually get sold off later in '07, I believe it was. The Haro Mary was also a medium, but seemed to fit a little better. So that was still in play yet and I had wheels and tires being tested on that bike. Plus I had other pet project bikes I was dealing with which included a vintage 650B Raleigh mountain bike.

Another interesting development was that I had tried some DuMonde Tech lube at this point based off of an experience I had with Mike Curiak, who was using that lube at Trans Iowa v1. Later on when I told the DuMonde Tech rep about that, he contacted Mr. Curiak who then, (according to the DuMonde Tech guy) denied that he had ever used the stuff, or at least he couldn't remember ever having used it. Whatever. I saw what I saw, and it influenced me to try it. By the way, it was as good then as it is now. You should try it out too.

Now those are some REAL wagon wheels! Image courtesy of Ben Witt
Then also on the blog ten years ago- I was forwarded an image of what I thought was, (and very well could be), the first 36 inch wheeled mountain bike. It was a collaboration between Mike Pofahl and Ben Witt. Ben owned and operated Milltown Cycles then and Mike Pofahl is a custom frame builder from Northfield Minnesota.

In this image there is also a Salsa Cycles El Mariachi 29"er. You can see how those 36" wheels really dwarf the 29"ers!

This is the same 36"er which Ben had painted a maroon color later on. (Note- It is in a raw, unpainted state in this image and remained that way for several years) This is the very same bike I had here for several months on loan from Ben to use. I mostly did commuter rides on it. Oddly enough, it never did draw any attention as I rode it. People hardly noticed that it had gargantuan hoops.

Weird that.

Anyway, this bike caused quite a stir, and Ben and Mike later on collaborated on another version of this bike with some big improvements in the design. I reckon this first one is the stone that kicked off the entire 36"er bikes for off road niche as it stands today. I don't think Ben and Mike get any credit at all for doing this and being innovators. They should be recognized as such, in my opinion.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Friday News And Views

What looks like a Fox prototype shock could be a gravel specific design. (Image courtesy of Bike Radar)
Fox Shox Prototype Gravel Fork? 
 Riding gravel roads is akin, many times, to being on  a two wheeled version of a paint shaker. The jack hammering action of the handle bar is really bad with the current crop of ultra stiff, cyclo cross/road racing carbon fork designs being foisted as "gravel forks". So things like ISO speed decouplers and Lauf "forks", (I hesitate to call that visual assault to the eyes a fork), are things deemed necessary to ward off the incessant banging hands take on chunky gravel roads and rougher pavement. Let's not forget that Cannondale went on its own path, (again) with the Oliver Lefty fork for similar reasons.

Now I see that yesterday "Bike Radar" broke a story about a possible gravel fork from Fox Racing Shox. (See their story here) I won't get into the technicalities of such a device. Telescopic front suspension forks aren't anything new. What is most important about such a possibility is the ramifications of the shock's mere existence. If this is for real, you can expect a major sea change in the volume and intensity of the marketing behind the gravel/all road/adventure bike segment. I say this based upon what we can learn from the past.

Before Fox Shox made a fork for 29"ers, the entire segment of wagon wheelers was doomed to be nothing more than a small niche market. This despite the fact that Rock Shox made a token Reba 29"er fork to give the segment some legitimacy. Once the Fox Vanilla 29"er fork came about, the 29"er segment found its legs and the rest is history. The second conclusion we can draw here is that some big brand, or brands, are behind this.

We can assume this with some certainty since Fox doesn't make anything unless they get orders for a fork or rear shock. The fact that we are possibly seeing a prototype gives rise to the question of who (which brand or brands) might be pulling the trigger on a line of gravel/adventure bikes featuring front suspension.

It will be interesting to see if and when things come to light regarding this.

Near record breaking temperatures are forecast for this weekend.
Spring Break In February:

Winter is drunk. Winter is AWOL. In its wake we are forecast to have Spring-like temperatures for this weekend and into the beginning of next week.

Because of the odd-ball break in Winter's normal program, I am scheduling some gravel travel. I am back to 100% health-wise and I need to get a couple review items out and tested. Plus, who wouldn't want to ride in February in 60 plus degree weather? So, it is a no brainer. I am going riding tomorrow. Maybe Sunday too. Probably......

This weather obviously will not last, but considering that March is right around the corner, any return of Winter's snowy and cold blasts are sure to be short lived. I think we are due to "swing back" the other way too. Nature has a way of balancing things out, so I expect that March will come in like a lion, and we will have some nastiness to deal with the first half of the month. All the more reason to hit the gravel roads Saturday and Sunday.

Long. Black. Pimped.
Big Dummy Gets Stares:

The XR-1 Bontrager 2.4" whitewall tires have really brought a new level of inquisitiveness from the natives here. I think the use of the aluminized tape for a rim strip on the Northpaw rims doesn't hurt either. A little "chrome" bling to go with the blinding white sidewalls.

I actually have to really pay attention to people when I ride this bike, or I would miss a lot of the reactions. Like the guy who rolled down his window and leaned out to get a better look at me and the Big Dummy the other day. Or the people that rubberneck as they see me roll by. People that are definitely non-cyclists are even walking over to admire the weirdness that is my Big Dummy.

Anyway, those big puffy tires are really a boon to the ride of this bicycle. I get a much smoother ride and better stability. Traction, despite the small knobs, is far better, especially since I have the 47mm wide rims and lower air pressure capabilities as a result. The bike has been such a huge benefit to me in such a short amount of time that I can say without hesitation that it will be getting a lot more use this coming year once the weather straightens out.

And I suppose it will draw a lot of eyeballs and comments too.

That's all for this week. Have a great weekend and enjoy riding in this weather we have if you are in the Mid-West!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

RidingGravel.com Gear Pre-Order Opens

Okay, so here's the deal. I am a partner in RidingGravel.com and we sell some gear. There.....I said it.

Okay, so if you are down we have jerseys, bib shorts, vests, and leg and arm warmers. They come in two different versions, so pay attention when you click to the pre-order site HERE.

And......you have to decide soon. The pre-order lasts till February 24th, then we're sending in the order. You should see your gear Mid-March or so, is what I have been told.

So get in now, because we may not have this offer up again. There could be a limited amount of stuff later on, but do not count on that.

Thanks for checking the gear out!

The Green Monkey Era Begins

There she is! The Green Monkey.
I mentioned last week that I was going to "green up" my Karate Monkey and then I also mentioned that on Monday. The final piece to the puzzle arrived Tuesday and yesterday I got it all put together. The era of the Green Monkey begins now.

This has been a process that has been a long time in coming to this point. I feel pretty confident in saying now that "it is finished".


Let's hope this time I do not dismantle it and ruin what I had, like I did last time I had the Karate Monkey dialed to perfection. That said, this variation is actually a better one. There are a couple of reasons for that. One thing I should have done a long time ago and the other bit wasn't really a possibility until last year. Both things were critcal in making this version work and work better than before.

When I first got this Campstove Green Karate Monkey in 2003, I set it up with disc brakes, which at that time was a new technology for mountain biking. There was no way I was going to use cantilever brakes, even though they were a known quantity and the '03 Monkeys could accept them. Nope! Even though the cantilevers would be lighter, I wasn't going to do it. That led to frustrations.

I believe Homebrew Components is defunct now, but that is where I got these green anodized bits.
 Anytime I had to, or wanted to remove the rear wheel it was a half an hour ordeal. Loosen the caliper, move the chain tensioner, unbolt the axle, deal with the chain, then reverse the entire procedure when you wanted to reinstall the wheel. Good luck getting that brake caliper in the right spot! Especially out in the field. This time around, I went with rim brakes, and that takes away one step of the procedure. It has been a lot easier dealing with the rear wheel this way. I should have just bit the bullet and gone with some super cool linear pull brakes back then.

The other bit that made all the difference is the Velo Orange Cigne Stem. That has the On One Midge Bars right in the sweet spot. Before this stem, I could get close. I just had to put up with a bit of discomfort at times, but no more. This stem is exactly what I needed to run drop bars on the Karate Monkey.

Other than that, the last thing I needed to get to recreate the old "perfect" version of this bike was a longer crank. I used a 177.5mm Cook Brothers crankset on my original build. That accepts a 110 BCD type sprocket, and when I tried to remove the hidden fifth bolt and nut, it siezed up and I basically haven't gotten that separated ever since. So, I ended up selling a bike recently that had a 180mm White Industries crank set on it, which I kept. I just swapped that over with its green Homebrew Components 38T ring and also matched that with a 17 tooth cog from the same company. (I believe that company is no more, by the way.)

Yes- this is not the saddle I spoke of last Friday.
Finally, sharp eyed readers will notice that the Apple Green Brooks B-17 was not mentioned before, but I did say I had a green Brooks B-17 Special which had turned nearly black. Well, after last Friday's post went live, a regular reader here named Steven contacted me about the Apple Green Brooks he had and wanted to sell. He thought maybe I might like a truly green saddle better.

He was correct. So, a deal was struck and earlier this week the saddle arrived. I mounted it to my Ritchey post and took the Green Monkey for a spin. Everything felt perfect. It is one of those rare, happy bicycling moments when everything just falls to hand and you get that satisfying feeling. Well, I had that feeling and the Karate Monkey has not felt this good while riding since 2007. I am beyond happy with how it all turned out.

While there may be some adjustments, maybe a tire swap, or maybe newer wheels at some point, I don't see anything being changed out from this point forward. I am excited to get this out on gravel, and I know I can ride hours and hours on this thing now. It's gonna be good.

A short explanation about why this was torn apart back in the day now- Well, I have to credit this bike with getting me excited about 29"ers, and also about gravel road riding. I was riding this bike exclusively on gravel in the years 2006-2007. Then when I got entrenched in "Twenty Nine Inches.com", I had to pretty much forsake any gravel riding time for testing and reviewing mountain bike parts. Cue up the hours and hours spent at Camp Ingawanis, Ingawanis Woodlands, and Cedar Bend Park. Gravel was a rarity for me after '07.

So, the Monkey got pressed into commuter duties, but when after four years of Winter's muck and mire made the old UN series bottom bracket go "clunk", I found that the bottom bracket was seized up in the frame. This would have been around 2010. Then I didn't have the time nor gumption to get after that because I wouldn't be able to ride that bike much anyway.

But now things are different. No more mountain biking review duties, and all my focus is back again on gravel riding. Getting the Karate Monkey up and running again made sense now. So, there is your back story.

Now for some good times on the Green Monkey!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Maybe We Need Wingnuts

There are probably some "wingnuts" out there that could find creative ways to screw these up too.
The ubiquitous quick release is probably one of the most misused components in cycling. Well.....maybe saddle bags are a close second. But those are accessories, not really a component. Yeah.....so quick releases it is. At least this is my observation from my repair stand.

There are a lot of lawyers that have made a lot of money from issues arising from failure to use quick release mechanisms properly. For instance, did you know that those dratted "lawyer tabs" found on everyone's front forks since the late 1980's were a result of a quick release issue? There are probably instances of the misuse of this clever invention by Tulio Campagnolo going back to Tulio's days. I think how the the "QR" works is definitely one of the hardest concepts for people to grasp today. I see all sorts of glazed eyes when I try to gently explain how these are to be used.

I thought that the through axle, as devised by Fox Shox and Shimano, would eventually be the device that would finally put the long in the tooth QR out to pasture. It was so simple to use, it was insane. Maybe DT Swiss' Ratcheting Skewer is actually better. Either one would have been okay with me. But noooooo! You have to license those designs and, of course, no one is going to want to do that. So now we have about ten different through axle styles and many of them really suck. They are so fiddly to use that all they end up doing is pissing you off.

So, getting a through axle standard for all bikes was not going to happen. What then? Hmm...... Maybe we need to just go back to the point when Tulio invented the infernal quick release thing and do what they were doing back then. We could use wingnuts.

Nah! They would probably find ways to screw that up too.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Deadwood Sus Introduced By Salsa Cycles

Deadwood Sus XT-. Image courtesy of Salsa Cycles
Yesterday Salsa Cycles introduced the Deadwood Sus, which isn't a Deadwood with a suspension fork. That is what I immediately thought when I saw the name. Nope. This is like a "Ponyrustler Plus". It is a full suspension 29 plus wheeled bike. Not a drop bar 29+ bike with a suspension fork.


Now with that out of the way, you can begin to calm down. This bike introduction was fairly obvious. Spearfish and Horsethief platforms giving way to their next logical conclusions, the aforementioned Ponyrustler and now this- the Deadwood Sus. I guess the name pool is running dry at Salsa Cycles or something. Talk about slightly odd..........

Anywho.... Yeah, big wagon wheeler suspension devices are rare. This one is more than likely well sorted out. Most of the Split Pivot stuff has been really nice to ride. I see Salsa is saying a few things here which I find to be smart, and if well executed, could well make this bike a really great ride for mountain biking all day, for fast paced, ground covering racing, and for just a great exploration tool. The things they are saying relate to how they are supposedly tuning the suspension to work with the big, puffy tires. The tires have some inherent suspension qualities. Let them do that work, and make the frame's suspension do the rest- rebound control, taking over damping on bigger impacts, and not getting in the way of the rider's propelling the bike. If Salsa truly dialed this in, I think they are on to something here.

Deadwood Sus GX-1- Image courtesy of Salsa Cycles
No doubt that burly carbon front triangle is going to be a stiff foundation for this idea. I read it is the very same front triangle as the Ponyrustler. Many will roll their eyes at the Press Fit style bottom bracket. I guess I would have rather have seen a threaded bottom bracket myself. They are easy to keep creak-free. That said, my Press Fit style bottom bracket in my Blackborow has been absolutely creak free. That's going on three years now come this Fall. I haven't exactly treated that bike with kid gloves either. So, maybe I would not say this Deadwood's Press Fit bottom bracket is a deal breaker for me. I'd give it a shot.

Internal routing? It's the "thing to do" these days. I'm not a fan. I don't care how good you make those frame grommet entry points, that still is a place for crap to get into your frame. Conversely, I like internal routing for the dropper posts on any bike. I know......not a very consistent philosophy there! Maybe when those new fangled wireless dropper posts come out, I can hate on internal dropper post routing as well. That'll be a good day! Anyway, the Deadwood has mostly external routing. That's a good thing.

Okay.....back to the bike! Suspension travel is limited to a whopping 91mm out back. That's a hair over 3.5" for you metrically challenged folks out there. You'll notice that this ain't much squish compared to other trail bikes with monkey motion these days. Salsa, (and all the media wonks that they invited to take a whack at this thing before it was publicly announced), say it "feels like more", or that the bottoming out of the suspension "wasn't noticeable". Draw your own conclusions there. I say this- there is no substitute for suspension travel. This is no knock on the Deadwood, (I'm leaving off the silly "Sus" part of the moniker), because I am sure that it does the job it was intended for. I just get kind of tired of all the word forging that is masking that this is a short travel, XC-ish bike. You know what? There isn't anything at all wrong with that.

Deadwood XO- Image courtesy of Salsa Cycles.
Salsa Cycles compares this new bike to their Spearfish short travel full suspension bike, and that bike is really a replacement for the old Dos Niner soft tail bike. Salsa has a history of short travel full suspension bikes going back over a decade. Why try to hide that? (To be completely fair, they aren't) I know some folks won't get it- why not have five inches of rear wheel travel here? Ummm.....because this is supposed to be an XC-ish adventure machine. That's why. (Note- This is my take, not necessarily Salsa Cycle's or anyone else's.)

Oddly enough, there is an introductory video for this bike which shows two riders doing nothing but ripping these new Deadwoods down hill. There are no shots of climbing with this, or much to indicate that you should use this for cross country type of fun. To be completely fair, some of the invited media did write that part up. Apparently, it actually climbs well, if not a bit more ponderous and slower than other bikes. The point is that some media wonks seem bent on positioning this bike as some sort of magical unicorn of a suspension device that makes 91mm feel like.......something more. 

What it is more of is "expensive". The "entry level", as of now, is at $3800.00. I say "as of now" because if you dig into the website on the Deadwood you'll find the following statement: "This frame offers a 340 grams weight savings over the aluminum version." Wait...... What? There is an aluminum version? 

Maybe there "will be." Or maybe it is a mistake. I've discovered mistakes like that before on Salsa's website, so that wouldn't be a surprise. Time will tell which it is, a description of an as yet unheralded bike, or a mistake.

An aluminum version would be slightly less spendy, but make no mistake, starting at $3800.00 and topping out at $6G is not making this bike attractive to a wide range of riders. I suppose it is the price you pay to play these days. Still, if it were within my reach, I would take something like this in a heartbeat to El Paso's Franklin Mountains trails or anywhere that demanded a tool like this.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Things Are Getting Greener

Sneak preview of the Greener Monkey
This past weekend was a busy one around here. I had two guitar playing gigs at church and an evening over at another couple's home for a dinner. I also had the honor of conducting the Mechanics Class at the shop where I had some enthusiastic students. Friday afternoon/evening, Saturday, and most of Sunday were just too busy to do anything with bikes, for the most part.

I did get in a cardboard recycling run on the Big Dummy. I think the last time I rode that bike was New Year's Day. Things were pretty clear, as far as snow and ice back then and now we find ourselves right back in that same boat again. This time I feel like it just may signal the end of Winter. Anyway, it was fun to get that bike out and use it. I met some younginz at the recycling bins and one of them stopped to compliment me on my bicycle. That was nice of the young whippersnapper!

Sunday afternoon it was really windy, so I decided not to venture out in the country. Instead, I decided to start the greening of the Monkey. I had a little trouble finding the green anodized cog I had, but I did end up finding it. It is a 17 tooth and the drive ring I am using is a 38T. That's the gearing I find most appropriate for a 29"er single speed on gravel.

I have one more green component on the way, and when that arrives, I'll be finished with the "greening of the Monkey".  Stay tuned...........

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Minus Ten Review- 6

Ten years ago on the blog I went another whole week without a picture. So here is some fried chicken!
Ten years ago here on the blog there was a lot of news and scuttlebutt going down, but no images! 

I know. Hard to imagine that even happening anymore here. It is a wonder anyone came and read the blog back then at all. No pictures? Bah! 

Anyway, like I said, there was a lot to talk about back then. One of the things that was happening then is still affecting the bicycle business today- that being the missing of the boat concerning the 29 inch wheeled mountain bike.

In 2007, that wheel size really began to sell well. Anyone that had a 29"er in their line was making a lot of sales, but 26"ers were not selling anywhere near as well. Many companies at that time, like Specialized and Giant in particular, were really feeling the pinch of lost sales to other companies that did have 29 inch wheeled mountain bikes. Subsequently, any perceived trend after this was jumped on. No one wanted to miss out on a possible run on another type of bicycle, no matter how oddball it might seem to be.

You can point right back at 2007 and see why we have gravel, plus sized, fat, and other weird bikes roaming the earth now days. 29"ers made companies sit up and take notice of trends being set by internet shared information. Something that up until that time had not happened before.

Another trend that got its start in 2007 was the whole notion of 584ISO bead diameter tires and wheels for mountain biking. Of course, I am talking about 650B. Also, it is worth noting that this was about the third time 650B had gotten a nod for off road, if you do not count the French camping bikes of the 40's and 50's.

I'll have more on the whole 650B deal coming up in other Minus Ten Review posts later on throughout the year.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Friday News And Views

If it weren't for the mud, I wouldn't have needed a fat bike this year, really.
2016/17 Winter Gets An "F":

Wow...... The three or four weeks going back to December when we went below zero degrees was about the most "winter" we had this year. Otherwise it has rained, been muddy, and it even flooded once. We essentially have zero snow right now and when we get further into this day, it will be more like mid-March than mid-February. The thermometer here will read about 50°F by late afternoon, and everything not paved will be sopping wet with water.

This Winter has failed us. 

Last Winter it snowed regularly and we had probably the best fat biking in this area that we've had since the Winter of 2010/11. Well, '11/'12 wasn't bad either, but really, this surpasses everything on the bad side that I can recall in recent years. I may as well not even have had a fat bike, except for the mud. Usually that only lasts about two weeks in Spring when the frost comes out, but we're going to have at least a solid month of mud to come besides what we already have had. Off pavement riding will really suffer for a long time, I am afraid.

Good thing we have copious amounts of gravel!

Making modifications sooner than later.
Pushing The Schedule Up:

Since it looks that, for all intents and purposes, that Winter is on the way out here, I am pushing up a few projects I was going to take my time on and waiting on another. I figured I would have about another month to fiddle around in the basement Lab, but that isn't going to be the case, by the looks of things. Temperatures in the upper 40's to lower 50's will bring clear roads and then we're off to the races.

In some cases, literally "off to the races"!

I am going to swap out the drive train on the Karate Monkey to a more "gravel friendly" 38 X 18 gear by using a White Industries crank and a Homebrew Components cog I have that feature anodized green. I will also be switching out the saddle to my green Brooks B-17 Special. It isn't really very green anymore. It is more of an olive color, as in ripe olive color. Dark, dark green, almost black. Then I may give those white wall tires the boot as well. Except that I'd like to use them up. We'll see......

The project that is getting put on hold is the conversion of the Black Mountain Cycles rig to 11 speed. I figure I may as well burn up the current 9 speed stuff in the early season muck and mire, then put on shiny new bits. Makes more sense to me to do it that way, at any rate.

Shirts for volunteers at T.I.v13. Thanks NY Roll!
Trans Iowa v13 T-Shirts For Volunteers

Volunteers make many of the cycling events we go to "work". Without them, the show does not go on! I always make an effort to thank volunteers at any event I attend, since I have a pretty good idea why they are such valuable people.

Since I value volunteers, I try to also be especially good to those that come to Trans Iowa. I have had some people come alongside me in that effort, and they have managed to really make the experience a bit more special for Trans Iowa volunteers in recent years. We've had special t-shirts, hats, and other stuff in the past for just the volunteers.

This time, I am proud to say that the tech t-shirt you see here is going to be exclusively the official wear of Trans Iowa v13 volunteers. Last year NY Roll made up some shirts with my face on them, and this year these are what he came up with all on his own. So, I am putting that out there because he's the one that should get the kudos.

I also am working on another t-shirt idea for the racers. That is still very much "in the works" and the final design hasn't even been decided on just yet. Technical details may take us in a completely different direction than originally planned. Stay tuned on that front.

Okay, that's a warp on things here for the week. Get outside and play this weekend! It looks like it will be gorgeous outside. Me? I'll be teaching mechanics class all morning. Maybe after that I'll squeeze in a few gravel miles.


Thursday, February 09, 2017

Being A Teacher

I've never been one to shy away from public speaking. (Image by someone at T.I.v4- Thanks!)
So, about every year this time I end up teaching a mechanics class for the shop where I work. It is a small thing, only two sessions, and maybe eight to ten folks get in to it total. It isn't that big of a deal. Not too intimidating, well.....for me, anyway. I can't speak for anyone else.

Ironically, back in my youth, I was strongly considering becoming a teacher. I likely would have ended up becoming an art teacher, although back then I wanted to do Industrial Arts. Then I got into college without any clear plan, found out about beer and bands, and that I could skate through school without much effort. I didn't think anybody cared, so I left the whole teaching thing behind.

I probably wouldn't have made a very good teacher anyway. Not one a "school system" would have liked, at any rate! But that's all old news and water under the dam now. One thing I always did have going for me was a willingness to "step up to the mic". I remember when I kind of realized this about myself.

It was on a group ride very early in the Spring one year when the snow wasn't melted yet. A TV crew was talking to people about the break in the weather, and they asked some of our party to talk. They all came running back to where I was, asking the rest of us if anyone of us would talk to the TV people. No one really felt like doing it and were in "cowering mode". I thought they were all just being silly, and I said, "I'll go do it! They are just people, ya know!"

Anyway, so that was when I realized I didn't mind speaking in front of a camera, mic, or to a big crowd of people. Whether or not I am "informative" and give folks value for their money spent to take a mechanics class is anyone's guess!

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Some Thoughts On Tires

What gravel looks like, for reference.
Many of you that have been reading the blog here know that I have been writing reviews on things for a long time for different sites. My very first review for a site was done in 2005 for the long defunct "The Biking Hub" on a set of tires from WTB. Exiwolfs, I believe they were. Since then, I've ridden so many different tires I could not possibly remember them all.

That is to say, I've ridden my fair share of tires, and there are a few things that make a tire "good" in general. You can guess the first thing- weight. No one wants to spin up a big, heavy tire, especially up a long grade. The other thing that is apparent to many riders is the way the tire's casing "works". In other words, is the tire supple, or does it ride like a solid rubber chunk of crap? (This affects more than just ride feel, by the way.) Then there are the finer things, like traction, cornering, and braking performance. Basic stuff that if it is good, makes or breaks a tire's reputation.

That seems simple enough, right? Get those three basic areas "right" and you can't lose. However; it isn't all that simple. Obviously. That's why we have a gazillion tire choices. If "one" thing worked for road, and another for "gravel", and another "one" thing for mountain biking, well, there would only be three tread patterns. That's laughable to think about, in light of reality, because we have a confusing array of tires for every different situation. Too many choices. Somewhere between "three" choices and a "gazillion" is where the truth lays.

There are a few things people get wrong when it comes to bicycle tires, and the most egregious thing, in my opinion, is when people try to tie the attributes of motorized vehicle tires to bicycle tires. While there are a few obvious parallels, the comparisons are like comparing a deep sea fishing rod to a Tenkara rod. Similar in some ways, yes, but the design intentions and performance parameters are so different that the only remaining similarities are in basic form and name.

They say you don't need tread on a gravel road going tire? Hmm.....
So, I'm not one to say that some form of tire usage outside of the cycling world is a parallel to what works on bicycles. It isn't a good analogy and what does actually work is more specific and specialized to cycling than what you'd find outside of this sport. To that end, I've discovered some traits of tires that seem to lend a helping hand to riders on dirt and gravel over the years. Some things are obvious, some not so much.

In the gravel going arena, I find that a tire totally devoid of tread isn't the very best idea, and neither is one that has all sorts of tread on the casing. Just like with the tread design choices, there is a middle ground somewhere that actually works well. However; it is something else that also needs to be there, which if not included, will make or break a tire's performance on gravel roads. That is the casing's shape, or the way the casing and the tread form a shape which hits the road.

In all of my gravel miles, the tires that perform best seem to all have a shape which isn't really "round" in cross section. Something "less C shaped" and more squared off or flattish seems to really tame loose stuff. You can get there several ways. Sometimes air pressure and rim width can do this. Sometimes tire design gets you this trait, and many times a clever use of smooth and treaded design in the right spots gets you there. Many times bits of all of the above come together to get a tire which rides wonderfully on gravel.

The thing is, a "standard", roundish shape tends to plow, like the bow of a boat, through looser gravel. This is most evident when tire pressures are too high. The resulting ride is not unlike a skinny tire on gravel. There is a lot of vibration, lateral movement, and the rider has to correct the front end much more than one should. I call it "herding" the bike instead of riding it. A tire with a flatter profile, maybe with lateral tread blocks on the sides, gives the tire an ability to float over gravel, and the flatter profile also cuts way down on the "bow effect". There is a lot less "herding" the bike and far more riding it.

So, maybe you have a different idea? Fine. That's why they make a gazillion different tire choices.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

New Season- New Look

Ditched the green bar tape for black.
This past weekend was interrupted by some volunteer work, so I didn't get a big ride in, nor would I have anyhow. I've been nursing along a low-level could and I am sure I could manage to make it worse with a nice long ride in the country. So, instead, I did some maintenance on the fleet. Mostly involving tubeless tire things. Inflating, doing short rides on each bike, inspecting the valves, and just making sure everything was in tip-top shape.

I shifted, braked, and checked for rattles. I double checked the Black Mountain Cycles bike, as that one got the new Cowbell and Dimension stem. I also ditched the green tape I've used almost since the bike was new and went with black. A new era? Call it "The Black Tape Era" of the Orange Crush.

The Dimension stem is really quite nice. I am impressed with the way it is made made and I hope it holds up as well as the Ritchey one that came off of the bike. I will say that the finish on the Dimension stem is actually better than the Ritchey's ever was. That is a surprise. The black bar tape is fizik. It is about the only thing they make I can endorse fully. It is really nice bar tape. It is like that wrap we used to put on our steering wheels in the 70's to mimic leather driving tape. It has contour and give, but not too much, so the grip is good, but your hands don't get fatigued holding on to it. Plus, it dampens vibrations on gravel better than most tape does, and you can clean it.

Well, the bottom line is whether or not the BMC feels at least as good as before and hopefully better. I can say from my short test ride that it seems at least as good. That's a success so far then. Now for the season to turn. that won't be long now........

Monday, February 06, 2017

Cogs: How Many Do You Really Need?

Cogs: Some say "All You Need Is One".
Friday in my "Friday News And Views" post, I was talking about upgrading my Black Mountain Cycles rig from 9 speed to an 11 speed drive train. There was a comment left asking if there had been any studies done on the differences, (if any), in efficiencies between the older 7/8 speed stuff and the 11 speed drive trains of today. There was also an expression of the oft heard/read feelings of many cyclists that "we don't need no stinkin' 11 speeds!", or 10 speed, or 9 speed........

In fact, that sentiment goes all the way back to when 6 speed drive trains were introduced in the 1980's. ......well.....Probably when the first multi-speed hub gear was developed and came out against the single speed, fixed gear bike is when that happend.


So, here is my reaction to all of that. First, it must be pointed out that whenever the cycling world sees a change, there is a lot of resistance to that change. The hackles get raised, the fur stands on end, and you can find many comments of rejection, sarcasm, and downright nastiness aimed at anyone who might suggest that some new thing is "good". I could name six component changes right off the top off my head that caused the sale of pitch forks and torches to increase for a time. But who would now say that threaded steer tubes and head sets are "better"? (Besides Grant and his Disciples of Antiquity), Or who would say that suspension forks have no business in mountain biking?

Generally speaking? No one would argue those points today. But go back to when those things were introduced, and others I have not mentioned...... Whoo Boy! Talk about negativity!

So, if you merely mention the fact that 11 speed drive trains are "the new kid on the block" in terms of most bicycle drive trains, you can be sure the rebels will be out in force against it. Funny........you don't here much quibbling about 8 and 9 speed stuff anymore. But back when that came out?

Yeah........ Major uproar! 

 So, anybody that says "we don't need (fill in the blank) speed drive trains", well, that falls on deaf ears here. That kind of talk is fully expected to occur.

The once hated, "we don't need it" 9 speed cassette. Now loved by millions.
Now, with that said, I would say two other things about adding "more gears" to a bicycle.

First- Closer ratios mean more efficient motors. Look at the automobile industry as your example. In the 1960's, automatic transmissions were 2 speed or 3 speeds at most. Now in 2017 they are often 6,7, or more speeds, or "constantly variable" in order to increase efficiency of the motor. Closer ratios, so the motor does not fluctuate in revolutions per minute (RPM), and can be kept in its most efficient powerband. This is exactly why we have more ratios today than we did ten years ago. Closer ratios keep the rider in a cadence and power output range that is most efficient for the rider in question. That's harder to do if you have major jumps between ratios in a similar range of ratios overall. Like a 2 speed Powerglide equipped car would "wind out the RPM's" at about 70mph, then shift, and the engine would suddenly be loping along at several thousand RPM's lower, so too will the cyclist have major adjustments with greater leaps between the gears. 11 speed, theoretically, should provide the rider with a way to maintain momentum, accelerate easier, and do all of that without drastic changes in power output and cadence. (Assuming for a 2X set up, not 1 X 11, or 1 X 12 which compromises on this and is actually worse than 2X 10 in this regard.)

Second- The way things are being jammed into the same spaces as we have had for decades is the "real issue" here. Look, the first thing you should try to wrap your mind around is just where the "meat is being cut from". Thinking about chains and cogs, there are two major parameters that have not changed in decades. Those being the pitch of the chain (one half inch) and the width of the chain roller pins between the inner chain plates. Everything else has changed. The metal has been removed from the over all width of the chain and the cogs to make more fit in the same space we've been using since the 1980's. So, chains are thinner, overall, and cogs are thinner to make fitting eleven in an axle spacing that hasn't budged in years possible. Less "beef" means accelerated wear, right? 

Well, to a degree, that is certainly true, but not to the degree that one might think. Material technologies have been brought to bear that were not in use ten years ago. Certainly, they weren't even possible twenty years ago. Bevels, chamfers, and shaping have made chains able to move from cog to cog so much more efficiently it isn't even an argument. This causes less wear, so getting thinner cogs and chain plates are not the deal breaker they would have been without these advancements.

So, the benefits are many, the detriments are fewer. That is why we have 11 speed cassettes today. Could all the newer technology be brought to bear on a premium level 8 speed cassette and chain? Sure they could. Totally possible. It would last longer, shift better, and have a marginal effect upon many cyclists who wouldn't care about big jumps between ratios. But you are not going to see that from SRAM or Shimano because that is not a market that is profitable for them.

And I still say all you really need is one gear!

Sunday, February 05, 2017

The Six String Side (Minus One!) 1999 Fender Jazz V

Fender Jazz V bass
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 #7

So, yeah.......I also play bass guitar. This isn't the first bass I've owned either. I used to have a Fender Squire Precision Bass once upon a time, but I traded it, or sold it, I cannot recall at this point just what happened exactly with that one. At any rate, it was also black, but it had a white scratch plate and only four strings. I went without a bass for several years then. What happened next to bring me into "bass ownership" again is the story behind this particular bass.

Back in 1997 or so, I became the sound man at the church I attend. They needed someone with a a good ear for tuneage and a basic understanding of sound mixing, which I had both of. So, I became the "sound guy" and I had to attend all the practices so I would understand the coming weekend's set and also to facilitate the practice.

There came a time when the church was in transition from one building to another when the band met for practices in the music director's basement. One day, the bassist didn't show up for practice, so I asked the music director if I could "sit in". He agreed and then they kicked into the next tune. About mid-way through, the music director stopped playing.

"Hey! You can play that thing!"

So, I became the bass player shortly afterward. Trouble was, I didn't own a bass! The church did have its own rig. A red Fender Precision and a beat to hell Yamaha bass amp. I was allowed to take the red bass home to practice on weeks I was to be the bass player and I plugged into my solid state Marshall practice amp. It wasn't ideal, but hey! You do what ya gotta do.

Then, I got married to the now Mrs. Guitar Ted.

That figures into the story here because it was our marriage that provided us with the gifts that were in monetary form which in turn was partially used to purchase the Fender Jazz V Bass seen here. I used up about half the money and Mrs. Guitar Ted the other on a violin case and some other bits for music.

When I stepped into the music store to purchase a bass, they told me I may as well get a five string, because if I didn't, I would wish that I would have. So, I took a liking to this black one here, and then I told them I'd take it, along with the included gig bag. Well, when they went to fetch the gig bag, they found out that they were all gone. The sales person hemmed and hawed a bit, then decided to just give me a USA hard case for a Jazz V instead. Bonus!

So, that's my story on my bass. I get to play guitar at church most times now, but the bass gets pulled out about six or seven times a year, at least, for substitution gigs where no other bass player is available. This bass also got me into a band for a while in the early 2000's. We actually played out a couple of times! Finally, I was tutored a bit by a local musician who had a really great resume and was a well known bassist/keyboardist/vocalist in the region. He asked me up front, "Hey, ya aren't gonna use a pick with that thing, are ya?" When I replied, "no", he was okay with sharing his tricks with me. I doubt he would have had I said I was going to use a pick!

So, while the bass isn't my "first instrument", it has provided me with amazing opportunities, relationships, and musical growth I wouldn't have otherwise obtained. For that, I am very thankful to occasionally hold down the bottom end.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Minus Ten Review- 5

Perhaps the ugliest handle bars ever devised by man.
Ten years ago on the blog here I referenced a "New York Times" article which bemoaned the state of customer relations between bicycle shop mechanics and the customers. I took umbrage at their "too simplistic" viewpoint and offered up some counterpoints to their views.

Of course, I also agreed that in many cases, they were right to say what they did say. Here is a sampling of that post for review:

"On the other hand: I will say that certain of the bicycle mechanic and sales help are woefully under informed, self righteous, and downright unfriendly. I have been in several bike shops that have suffered this mentality. It's as if, "Well, if you don't know the code words and the secret handshake, then buzz off pal!" So, I can see where stuff like (that) can also be legitimate.

So, it's alot more complex than one might think. A good shop will have a knowledgeable mechanic that is most likely under payed, and expected to cover customer service, sales, teaching, managing, purchasing, researching, and student skills all in the same day. A lot of us are stressed, sure. I'm not saying, "Oh! Pity the poor, poor shop mechanic!" However; it ain't easy street either!

And to those "holier than thou" shop rats out there. Straighten up before the "Pedal Wrench of Karma" smacks you 'tween the eyes!

 Unfortunately, ten years down the road, I can honestly say that nothing has changed. There are rumors of changes, in the form of a "professional, certified bicycle mechanic's association", but in reality? Yeah..... There would need to be a major shift in the economy of this culture before bicycle mechanics are paid anywhere near the salaries of, say, car mechanics, and they don't often get what they are worth either. I know. I was one for five and a half years.

Oh, and as for that Jones H-Bar knock off by Titec?  Yeah.....  One ugly bar! Led me to get the Carbon H-Bar I have now, but man! What were they thinking when they used that cross bar?

Friday, February 03, 2017

Friday News And Views

Lance Armstrong- Image courtesy of J Maus.
So, It Wasn't Such A Big Deal Afterall:

Back on January 20th, in a "Friday News And Views", I mentioned that Lance Armstrong and some former USPS cronies of his were going to participate in a mountain biking event. But what do you know? Lance actually has already raced his bicycle in January.

Yep. He did that which throngs wished he never would do again, if you believed "what they said" back then. Of course, Lance is "banned" from any "sanctioned" (by USAC or UCI) events, but that doesn't mean he will, or would, never race or ride again. Of course it didn't. But you'd have never known that from all the calls for his demise back six or seven years ago. I think it is rather telling that the most popular post ever on "Red Kite Prayer" is a post written about the damage Lance did to cycling which was put up four years ago. Four years ago and nothing has engendered a bigger response than that? Mostly negative too.

So, anyway, Lance came in second overall at the Red River Riot Texas Chain Ring Massacre (Thanks to the commenters who corrected me on this) gravel race in Texas a week ago. 

Funny, the netherworld did not suffer a catastrophic plunge in temperature. The World spins on......

That's me climbing a MMR at Odin's Revenge: Image by Scott Redd
 Looking To Fill A Hole:

As has been lamented here before, Odin's Revenge is no more. So, my June/early July riding calender now has a big hole in it. I have nothing organized to challenge myself with during that time period.

Of course, I can come up with something on my own, but it isn't like I don't already have enough things going on to organize as it is. No, I need to let someone else do "the cooking", as it were, and I'll just show up to eat it.

So, I've been looking here at some events and I am seeing a few interesting things. There is this, and then this, and finally this. Or maybe none of those and I go somewhere to visit/ride. I don't know, but after supporting riding at two big events I'll be wanting to actually ride in one by then. We will see what shakes out.

There was some scuttlebutt around which made it sound as though some folks wanted to just head out that way to Nebraska and ride the roads of Odin's. That would be fun, but maybe a better time would be in the Fall when the dang Sun wasn't so in to cooking riders into human jerky.

Fenders remain, bar tape does not.

Bringing It Up To (11) Speed:

Part of my challenge with regard to my bicycles is bringing the fleet up to date in terms of drive train parts. No......not Di2 "up to date", but at least 11 speed stuff.

I've got two of my three main gravel going rigs running 11 speed stuff now and the third is still 9 speed! The Black Mountain Cycles rig needs an upgrade. So, I happen to have the shifters already. They were purchased last year when I was surfing the net for pricing on some other bits and I came across the 11 speed bar end shifters from Shimano.

The good news is that these shifters should mount directly to my current Gevenalle mounts on my BMC. The unknown is whether or not I will need to get new derailleurs or if I can fudge it with the current stuff I have. I think I already know what the answer will be, but as a bicycle mechanic, I must try it anyway. You see, there are things bicycle mechanics can do that not everyone else can do. Let me give you an example.....

I used to run old road bike aero levers with Avid BB-2 mountain bike disc brakes. You know that this is an incompatible pairing, if you are into techy stuff and bicycle parts. Well, there is a way you can make it work anyway, and I did. It was my go-to set up on my Karate Monkey with drop bars for years. Never could not stop. Always worked. But, you know, you are not supposed to do that. 

I have pulled off other, "you aren't supposed to do that" things in the past as well. Things you'd never do to other folk's bicycles, not in a million years. But you try it as a bicycle mechanic on your own stuff, just to see if you can make it work. Sometimes, like with the Karate Monkey, it works, and sometimes it doesn't. But that is how you learn.

That's all for this week. Stay warm and get outside!

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Trans Iowa v13: Recon Again

There were brief bits of Sun and blue sky.
After last Fall's initial recon of the T.I.v13 route showed that there was a bridge out in the first segment, we knew that there would have to be a reroute, at the least. I didn't figure on scrapping the entire segment, but that's what it took to make it all work out. In fact, this was the third draft for the beginning of the event.

It was a bit more difficult due to the fact that the rest of the route had been determined, with an additional few miles added due to another reroute. That kind of ties your hands since the reroute for the opening segment has a pre-determined start and ending point with a limitation on mileage, which I don't usually have. Typically I make the second segment fit the first, the third fit the rest, and that is that.

Well, I am sure no one cares about all that detail, so here is a bit of a reaction to what I found out there yesterday. I managed to squeeze it all into the morning hours so I didn't roach my entire day doing recon. That was nice!

So, obviously we are starting out of Grinnell, and I know it may seem impossible but we are leaving town on an entirely new route. So, there is that. Then things go kind of flat in the opening miles. Well.....not totally flat! Gentle rollers? Okay, yeah, we will call them that. Essentially, the opening miles will probably be fast and furious due to the lack of anything holding you back, unless, of course, the weather is craptastic. Then all bets are off. Especially since the area around Grinnell is predisposed to becoming peanut buttery in consistency, with regard to their gravel.

The roads yesterday were rutted badly since we've had a lot of wet weather and now it has frozen. The truck wanted to jump around and jerk the wheel out of my hands at times. Once I figured out how to navigate all that it wasn't at all bad for the last 2/3rds of the route. The route..... Yes, there are several roads we've used for Trans Iowa before. Most of these haven't been used in years. The back 1/3rd is all new. So, it was fun to get into an area I haven't been in yet. As far as how these roads are now, well, we cannot take much from that. You know, if you've been in Trans Iowa before, that roads will be changing right up to the moment that we use them. To speculate upon how they will be based upon how they were yesterday is not an indication of what your reality as a rider will be.


The hills eventually do kick in and there are the usual doozys and  leg busters to be sure. However; this first leg will be shorter than it has been in many years. Most of the time we are looking at around 50-ish miles, but this year it has been pulled back to a hair over 46 miles. That means the cutoff time will be shorter as well. There is one Level B Road, and it is only 3/4's of a mile long. I didn't get to see it yesterday, as I couldn't take the time to walk it. It was too wet/muddy to drive on. I think that the only thing that could really slow riders down is the weather, which I have no control over, so... Initially I am thinking 8:15am for a cut off to CP #1. Traditionally that segment has always been timed a little more stringently, and for a few years I got a bit lenient and everybody was getting through. That tells me it isn't a big enough challenge.

Stay tuned for more soon.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Geezer Ride- Spring Edition '17

Last Fall's Geezer Ride.
During late 2014 I had an idea, (yes, one of those things that gets me in trouble!), and I proposed a "geezer ride", to invite all new-to-gravel people to come out and try a slow, no-drop ride on gravel. It was, by all accounts, a success to the point that I was encouraged to continue putting them on.

So, in 2015 and 2016 there were two Geezer Rides each, and the first Geezer Ride was back in the Fall of 2014. That makes five so far. Today I am announcing Geezer Ride 6.0- Spring Edition '17.

Last Fall I did a solo ride which took in four counties in the local area- Black Hawk, Grundy, Butler, and Bremer Counties. I dubbed it the "Four County Tour". This will be the Geezer Ride for this coming Spring. I will give an overview of the ride and some basic details here today, but if you are interested, stay tuned to the Geezer Ride page for updates.

From last Fall's Four County Tour
The ride will start and end in Hudson, Iowa. I will pick a starting point later, but it will likely be downtown. We will eventually end up back in Hudson afterward and hopefully be having a few adult beverages. Anyway, it is the in between part that will be where the real fun happens!

I will have to do a recon ride or two to sus out the exact route, but my initial feelings are that we will go West into Grundy County first, take in Dike, Iowa, then head North. This will bring us to Butler County. The terrain is mostly gently rolling hills interspersed with long flat runs. Then there will be a bridge we will cross, (Image above), which we will eventually come back to cross again. It is the only bridge on gravel across this river for many miles.

Now here's the part I am not 100% sure on yet. I could take the route into and out of Shell Rock, Iowa easily enough, but how many miles do I want this Geezer Ride to end up being? In the past I've tried to limit this to around 40-ish miles, but subsequent rides have crept up in mileage with no one really complaining. Add to this that most of the route isn't all that hilly, and I am toying with doing a metric century. (63-ish miles) I don't know just yet, but I will decide after I do the route on my bicycle this Spring.

This could make the route. If so, expect a big climb!
At any rate,we will end up in Butler and then Bremer Counties, looping back around, possibly going in to, and backtracking out of, Janesville, or maybe by-passing Janesville to the West and then coming back pretty much straight South, with a detour to cross the aforementioned bridge again.

Then we'd go back to Hudson, obviously, and have a social time. So, that will be a fun route with rural churches, cemeteries, small towns, and we could cross several bigger streams. Then the question is when? 

Picking a date to do something like this- likely an all day activity- is going to disappoint someone, because Spring is a crazy time of Mother's Day, graduations, weddings, not to mention several big gravel road events all over the place. So, if I pick a date that makes you unhappy, don't be surprised. I realize someone is going to be upset, but that's the way things go. Know this- I am picking the date based upon what works for me. Ya know.......because I am organizing the ride, so I should probably be there, don't cha know.

With that said, and a look at May, I am thinking Saturday May 13th, which is Mother's Day weekend. If I hear enough yammering, I might be convinced to switch it to the weekend before, but that is one week after Trans Iowa, so I am not real motivated to do that weekend. Just so you know. The next weekend, the 20th, is Almanzo, and I will be there supporting that event as part of RidingGravel.com.

Okay, stay tuned for details coming soon........