Friday, August 17, 2018

Friday News And Views

Gravel Worlds '18:

Tomorrow is Gravel Worlds and I will be lined up again for my fifth time at this event. (Sixth if you count the Good Life Gravel Adventure, which is what the event was named prior to GW's)

This year's course promises to be completely different and we're (my friend, Tony, and I ) looking forward to some different roads this time around. I am taking the BgP MCD Black Mountain Cycles rig, the same I used for the 24hrs of Cumming, and I feel pretty confident that rig will do me right. Myself on the other hand......

So, stay tuned for my typical multi-post debrief starting this coming Monday.

Morse Cage- a collaboration between King Cages and Wolf Tooth
From The "Why Didin't They Do This Before?" Files:

Wolf Tooth Components announced this week that they have done a collaboration with King Cages to bring us riders a water bottle cage that has several choices for mounting positions.

This is achieved by utilizing an alternating pattern of holes and slots. Wolf Tooth noticed that this resembled the "dot slash dot" pattern of Morse code, so they dubbed the cage the "Morse Cage".

It is available in titanium (shown here) or stainless steel. It's one of those simple ideas that makes you think, "Why aren't all water bottle cages like this?" It just makes so much sense to me. Added to that is that these are manufactured by King Cages, which in my humble opinion are the best water bottle cages anywhere, and this seems to me to be a no-brainer.

I think about those bikes that you'd like to carry a 24oz water bottle on the seat tube but your Tangle Bag doesn't allow it to clear, or maybe it's the top tube that prevents you from doing that. If you could mount that cage a bit lower..... Or maybe if you could scoot that cage down underneath the down tube toward the bottom bracket a hair more, it wouldn't interfere with the front tire. You can probably think of other scenarios where a cage like this might be a problem solver.

It's The End Of The Season And You Know It:

With apologies to REM

So, in my mind, Gravel Worlds marks the end of Summer. Yeah......I know. No one will probably agree with me on this, but right after Gravel Worlds the day light time takes a huge hit, which is really noticeable. The weather begins to cool down, if only a tic, and trees start to show signs of turning. The weeds die down, and bugs seem to be less of an issue. The woods open up, and it usually stays pretty dry during this time. That means it is prime season for mountain biking here.

Fall has always been the best time for off road here in Iowa since I've been off-roading, which.......well it's been a while, okay? I'm no spring chicken here!  But the point is, despite climate changes and all, Fall remains the best time to get your off road on with big, knobby tires. It's a well kept secret too. Many serious off road folks are done with the mtb season here by the end of August, and then, of course, it becomes cyclo cross season, so the mtb trails are generally bereft of folk. Too bad. They are missing the best riding of the year, most years.

It may be different where you live, and I get that, but around these parts, Fall is looked forward to. We were just talking at the shop about how we are ready to grab our wool stuff and breathe in some crsip, Fall air while buzzing some single track. This change of seasons thing is pretty awesome, if you ask me.

Well, that's all for this week. Have some fun on two wheels wherever you are!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Paperback Writer

One of those Facebook  memories things came up on my social media the other day. It was from six years ago, and it reminded me of how blessed and fortunate I am. It was concerning the issue of "Dirt Rag" which had a bit about my take on the history of the 29"er mountain bike.

I've actually been in a couple of issues of that mag, and I also have had an article or two printed elsewhere. Yes......I got paid. That makes me a professional, I guess. By no means do I make a living off my writing, so don't get any ideas!

I just say that because in my wildest dreams in my youth, I never would have said I would become a published author. Nope. Not even on my radar, and furthermore, I have absolutely zero education to back up any meager literary talents I may possess. Yeah.....I think the last English class I had was my freshman year in High School. (Which was actually my last year at Middle School, but we were weird in Charles City!) Which brings up an interesting point.

I was supposed to have another full year of English classes to graduate, but an unfortunate health issue relegated my scheduled teacher for my sophomore year to taking a year's leave of absence. With two, really green substitute teachers, my class ran riot. We basically had the year off from English with the entire class getting passing grades. This is how kids "fall through the cracks", as they used to say, and graduate with very little to no education in certain areas. At least back then in the Mid-West. I had a similar experience with math where I didn't learn how to divide, do fractions, or know anything about algebra, despite having several years of math in middle and secondary school. I ended up having to take a remedial math class in my freshman year of college to learn that stuff!

Anyway.......I digress. English was not my specialty. So how did this happen? Well........ They say I am pretty good at telling a story, and I really like telling stories, so I guess I overcame my shortcomings to become good enough that Josh Patterson, then editor of "Dirt Rag", asked if I would be a contributor not once, but twice to the publication. I am blessed and fortunate to have had this opportunity, and others, granted to me. I don't take that lightly, despite that it happened six years ago.

And let's not forget about you. If you are reading this, I have you to thank as well. I truly appreciate all of you that stop by here to read my posts.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Gravel Grinder News: Changes To Almanzo, Gravel Worlds

Notice something missing from the Gravel Worlds livery this year?
Some interesting tidbits hit the innergoogles concerning a couple of big gravel grinder events within the last two days. First off is a tidbit- a minor detail to most folks- but something I actually was drug in to by association. This has to do with the Gravel Worlds and the rainbow stripes they used up until this year. You can read a bit about it in an article published on the World Wide Web here. I had been asked to hold off commenting on this by the Gravel Worlds folk and not to say anything, as they said,  "until we are ready".

Apparently they are ready now, since they let go with some comments about this. However; that ain't all there is to the story.

You see, on Friday, August 25th, 2017, I received an e-mail from the UCI asking that the rainbow stripe design be ceased from being used by Gravel Worlds by August 31st, or legal action would be taken. Now, that was quite an eye opener. First, it was readily apparent that the UCI thought RidingGravel.com had something to do with running Gravel Worlds. We (Ben, my partner, and I) had to set them straight on that. But what then? I certainly wasn't going to throw the Gravel Worlds crew under the bus. I sent those guys an e-mail forewarning them of the impending action from the UCI, so at least they wouldn't have a heart attack at unawares! Ben succinctly told the UCI that they should contact Gravel Worlds, which they did, and of course, you can read what they decided in the linked story above. But I have to say, my heart rate went up a notch or two that Friday!

And now you know the rest of the story.......

Will this stay true in 2019? My bet is- yes, it will.
The second thing, and a bit of a shocker, was the announcement that Almanzo events founder, Chris Skogen was "taking back the reigns of Almanzo."

There was about a four year span where the event was taken up by the Spring Valley Tourism board, and specifically that meant one person, Kathy Simpson. Apparently she wanted to "take a step back" and  that was going to leave a void which Chris Skogen decided to fill, saying in the press release, " I cannot see another person more capable of taking control of these events than myself".

So, there you have it. Almanzo and its events are back in the hands of its founder, Chris Skogen. What can we expect? That is the question which remains to be answered. I would speculate that you won't see a big change unless it is a change which benefits the towns involved in the Almanzo events even more greatly than it does now. It's hard to conceive of a way for that to happen better than it has up to now, but anything is possible.

RidingGravel.com funds in the local economy there just to supply our checkpoint. Things like that are not only sought after by these small rural communities, but are coveted once they get them. I doubt seriously that anyone wants to see these benefits go away which happen in regard to how the Almanzo events have been run in the last several years.
New Almanzo logo- Reminds me of an Army symbol for the 6th Army.
If we use history as a guide, Skogen has been against "barriers to participation" since the Almanzo 100 was founded in 2007. It would be hard to fathom that a limit to riders, an event fee, or that any other traditional race categorizations that limit participation would be employed now that Skogen is again at the helm. It also would seem improbable that the basic event format would change since the economic impact of the Almanzo is vital to the area. I know that the "tip jar", which was put out at our checkpoint in Cherry Grove, brought in a significant amount of money with which the Cherry Grove Community Center needed to maintain itself another year. That's just one thing. Heck, we spent a bunch of

But, you never know. My bet is that things stay pretty much the same as always. But again, we will have to wait to see how this plays out.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Last Big One Of 2018

When I set out my goals for this year, the last race I penciled in on my calendar was Gravel Worlds. I didn't plan on anything else after next weekend's festivities. Yeah......there are a lot of cool events in the Fall. True. However; I have my reasons for not wanting to do anything race oriented after Gravel Worlds.

Honestly, I wouldn't even do Gravel Worlds but for the people involved. Both the folks coming to ride and the organizers. Gravel Worlds is put on by some looong time gravel luminaries and they have a crew of excellent folks surrounding them who also have been immersed in the gravel scene long before it was "cool" or anything that folks in the cycling industry took seriously. In fact, some of these folk's involvement with gravel travel pre-dates my own entrance into the scene.

I respect that, but added on top of this is the fact that all of these folks have hearts of gold and are prime examples of why I love gravel riding. They took me in, they put me up in their humble abodes, and they were smiling and welcoming to others as well. How could I not go and see these folks? To ride in the event they create for us every year is a privilege and an honor that I do not expect will last forever.

Anyway, enough of that. This week is Gravel World's final prep week. I have a lot of stuff to pull together for this event and be ready to leave for Lincoln, Nebraska on Friday morning. That's an example of one of the reasons why I am not doing anything more after this weekend. I need a break to recharge after all this energy has been put into not only Gravel Worlds, but the GTDRI and the 24hrs of Cumming which came before that.

I know I need a break. All these events came in the space of a month, so for me, that's a LOT of thought, work, and not to mention physical beat down that the rides dish out, which drains me and I knew that coming into the year. I knew this stretch would have me needing to back off anything else for the remainder of 2018.

My plan is to enjoy some down time from cycling events, get some pre-Winter house chores done, and ride for fun. I may even make a couple of "pilgrimages" to certain places I want to ride. Stay tuned.......

Monday, August 13, 2018

New Tweaks And Sore Legs

Oh.....and in case you didn't know, my daughter named this "Captain America"
Well, I've been busy doing stuff since the 24hr of Cumming reports rolled out last week. For one thing, I put another saddle on the Raleigh Tamland Two. This has been sort of like a round table of saddles with regard to this bike. I never have had the same one on for very long.

I was pretty sure the Brooks Cambium was the saddle here, but then WTB sends over a couple perches for me to test and........well, I have to try those saddles on something! 

The good news is that I like WTB saddles a lot and generally speaking, if the saddle from WTB is wide enough, I will like it. That's been the issue though, many saddles they make are not wider. That's why I always used SST's until they quit making them and Pure V's and now "Pure" saddles, because they are the wider saddle model from WTB. Well, now there is a Silverado and a SL8 in wider widths so I am able to try and see if one of those will be my new go-to saddle.

My buddy MG has been a long time Silverado user and has had nothing but high praise for that model in the skinny-butt version. I hope that I find that to be the case with the wide load version. Oh yeah..... Keen eyes will also note that I swapped seat posts. This is the Salsa regulator titanium post. My third one in the fleet.

The Silca Tattico Bluetooth pump saved the day!
Saturday I got out for my first gravel ride in a week after my 24hrs of Cumming beat down. I had ridden back and forth to work all week, but my legs were protesting heavily and I was really fatigued. I tried getting longer nights of sleep, but I haven't been bouncing back as I'd like to.

So, Saturday was dubbed an "easy ride", just to get out and spin. I tried keeping it chill, and I did fine. That is up until Petrie Road's Level B section.

I got in there and saw that the rains we had gotten in the beginning of the week had made for some bad mud ruts and standing water. I got up on top, where that puddle is pretty much permanent, and I stopped to watch some young frogs leap across the road through the murky, discolored waters. It made me think later about AG chemicals and mutations, and..... yeah.... Poor frogs!

Anyway, I went to reach for my bike, and just as I am lifting it up, I hear a "psssssssshhhhhht!" Dang it! A puncture?!! Yes, a freaking puncture right then. So random! I futzed with it till it sealed up and then I had to pump it back up again. This rig I was riding had my Silca Tattico Bluetooth pump attached, so I got out my phone and opened up the app. I started pumping and the app showed I had lost air from 40psi down to 17.5! Whoa! That was close to not sealing up. Anyway, I pumped it up to 39psi and prayed it would hold out till I got back to my starting point.

Not a lick of wind. Dog days of Summer!
I took it extra chill on the way home but the tire seemed to be holding up. After a  bit I forgot all about it and was hammering home on Aker Road like any other day out here. Then I got to the pavement, crossed Shaulis, and hit the ramp up to the bike path. Bang! I bottomed out against the rim!

Well, that tire must have had a slow leak yet. No wonder, since the sealant blew out like crazy to start with and I probably haven't got much left there to get by on. The hole wasn't even super visible after I got back to the truck, but it acted like a big puncture. What the cause was is still a mystery. I will report on it if I ever figure it out.

The discouraging thing was that afterward my legs felt like they did after the GTDRI and the 24hrs of Cumming- roached! I am pretty concerned about Gravel Worlds and my ability to get 150 miles done there. It's going to be tough no matter what, but if I cannot recover fully by then I will be a hurtin' unit fer sure!

Meanwhile I have to turn around my BgP Black Mountain Cycles MCD rig before Thursday, as that is the rig I plan on suffering on for Gravel Worlds. That or my Gen I Fargo. So, stay tuned to see which bike makes the cut!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Touring Series: Announcing The Race Against Death Tour Series

A Guitar Ted Productions series
Last week I briefly covered the turmoil in my life between the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour" and the next big self-contained, self-supported bicycle tour I rode on in the Summer of 1995. 

This tour was dubbed the "Race Against Death Tour" and today I will start reproducing the tale as it was posted here in 2009. I also will add new remarks and memories where appropriate at the end of each post. 

Once again, there were no cell phones, internet, social media platforms, or digital cameras. I will post images where I can, but this tour wasn't well documented in images, so there probably will be very few sprinkled throughout. A modern image will be used only where it depicts things I want to clarify, like where we were in that part of the tour via a map image, or the like. 
 ____________________________________________________________________________

Beginnings and endings. It is what life seems to be all about. Changes can be good and almost always tough to deal with. That's what this story is all about. I called it "The Race Against Death Tour" back then for a few reasons. First- we were going to make it this time- do or die. That was pretty much Troy's take on this ride. We didn't make it to Canada the year before on the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour", and Troy wasn't about to have that happen this time. I thought "Race Against Death" was good from a humorous standpoint, but in reality, I was trying to out run my own demons that were hounding me from the recent past. It was a funny name on the outside, but on the inside of me, it was a "deadly" serious moniker.

Well, Troy thought we should have a third party. I thought so too. So I kept harassing Ryan to go with us. He didn't have a touring bike, and he couldn't afford to buy one either, being a poor "just-out-of-college-student". So, I told him that if I found him a bike, would he go? He said that he had some gear, but no tent. I said that I had a six man Eureka dome tent and we all could sleep in that. Well, it went back and forth like that until I basically brow beat him into coming with us. Oh, he was wanting it too, but I was pretty insistent that he go.

So, now I had to find him a bike. Great! Well, as fortune would have it, a fellow came in that needed to get a new bike. He was interested in a Bianchi we had. After talking to him a bit, he asked about trade in policies. I asked if he had his bike with him, and he did. Well, around the corner he wheels in a Schwinn Voyager. "Perfect!", I thought to myself. I went into big time salesman mode, made the deal, and had the Schwinn squirreled away before anybody else knew it was there. It was cheap enough that by that evening, Ryan had actually bought the thing.

So, parts swaps were made on all of our rigs while in the meantime we were thinking of a specific route. Troy had in mind two things: One was getting to his folks summer residence in Colorado which was on the other side of the Rocky Mountain National Park in Winter Park. The other was to see the Black Hills. Well, that made for some interesting route finding, but I was left to that on my own.

So I bought some road maps of Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Colorado. I spent many nights pouring over roads, campground sites, rest areas, towns and villages, and roads of course. It was coming together. Soon we would be making some final preparations, setting a time to go, and setting off to the West.
_________________________________________________________________________

If you haven't read the previous entry to this, this post may make more sense if you do go back and cover that information. You can click HERE

I mention Ryan in that post and he was to become a really good friend for a few years. This story will help make that point clearer. The bicycle I arranged for him to buy actually came back to me directly after this tour because, well, that was how Ryan was. All-in and then All-out. But this will be covered later as well.....

The mapping and planning of the route would be totally different than the previous tour, which was basically done by the seat of our pants. Navigation was determined on the fly, but for this tour we had predetermined routes and targeted overnights for us to shoot for. This was, in essence, where I got the bug to map out things like Trans Iowa in the future, so this was a seminal moment in my history. Also, at the time, it allowed me to dive headlong into an activity which took my mind off what I was going through at the time. (Again- read that hyperlinked post if you haven't already.)

Another thing that was different was that by this point I had become far more proficient in road riding techniques and was in better shape than the year before. Going into this tour I felt a lot more confident in my abilities. While the distance and going into the mountains was scary and challenging, I was up for it. Troy was simply beside himself with energy for this trip. It would become a trip I would never forget.

Next: The "Race Against Death Tour" preparations and personnel changes!

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Minus Ten Review -32

I miss both the bike and the trail in this image.
Ten years ago on the blog I was really busy testing forks, tires, and other stuff for my gigs online. I spent a LOT of time running back and forth to Cedar Bend Park and Camp Ingawanis every Wednesday and weekend. What is odd is that while the mountain biking was excellent, hardly anyone would drive up from Waterloo or Cedar Falls to partake. 

Most times I rode up there I never saw anyone. No other bikers and no walkers. Now a day doesn't go by when someone on social media asks about riding up there. I guess that's what it took to get the ball moving with trail use. Well, things are a lot different now then they once were. While the South Side trails, now called Ingawanis Woodlands, are awesome, the old North Side/Boy Scout Camp trails were far more fun, technical, and covered a wider area of land. If you did the "big loop" on the North Side, you weren't simply folding back in on the same hill over and over again. No.....you were riding somewhere. Covering ground. It was more like trails are in Wisconsin, Minnesota, or elsewhere. Not that what we have now is bad, but the Scout Camp wasn't like anything else anywhere near here. I could go on.....

The bike,the old, battered Superior Blue El Mariachi, was the last of its kind. Salsa tuned the compliance right out of the El Mar after 2008 and it never was the bike it had been before. It was a sweet, decent little mountain bike in the old school mode where you just rode for the experience of being in the woods. Not to shred or be some bike that was "playful". It handled quickly, didn't steer like a truck, and you could go up and down within reason. The only modern day bike like it is the current Krampus. Only the Krampus is a 29+ bike. But anyway, I ruined that bike when I had it repainted and re-purposed as a single speed. That was the dumbest thing I ever did with a bike within recent memory.

A very legendary visitor from Colorado was here to see me back then....
I was graced by the visitation of a somewhat legendary individual from Colorado named Mike Curiak back then. He had gotten a hold of me and asked about stopping by for a ride. What got into this man to come and cruise some humble, ordinary wooded single track in Iowa, I'll never know.

We rode in the afternoon and went to down town Cedar Falls for a cuppa then he split town and went back to Colorado, and onward to much more exciting things.

I was very grateful for his stop, and to this day, I owe Mr. Curiak a debt of thanks for helping Jeff Kerkove and I to formulate the foundations of Trans Iowa. Mike had a heavy influence on the initial rules, format, and ethos of Trans Iowa, and on some early tweaks I made to the event. It could be said that much of what became gravel racing and riding was influenced through Mike Curiak directly and by his friends who started the Great Divide Race and other Western ultra-mtb events.

If you ever read the following here: "If you don't like that, then maybe this event isn't for you.", that is a direct quote from Mike. There's more to this, but maybe I'll get around to that another time.

Trans Iowa v5 was announced ten years ago this week. It was a big deal since we moved the event out of Decorah due to the desires of a certain irritated cycling luminary from Decorah that asked me not to consider Decorah for any future cycling events I had planned. This stemming from the failed Big Wheeled Ballyhoo. Here's a snippet from ten years ago concerning this.....

"The next thing you noticed is probably the location change. We have felt all along that Trans Iowa should be about showing folks that Iowa is something more than "flat", corn fields, and pigs. There is a lot more to Iowa than that. We have endeavored to move the event around since last year when d.p, (David Pals) and I started talking about doing T.I.V4, so this move to Williamsburg fits in with our plans and our philosophy."

 So we were already thinking about getting out of Decorah, but we weren't going to do that until v6 at the earliest. The disgruntled shot fired at us in the Summer of '08 changed all that though. While leaving Decorah as our base for TI was a bummer, it wasn't without future benefits of which we had no idea about at the time.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Friday News And Views

Gear Review From The 24Hrs Of Cumming:

Well, not really much of a gear review  as it is a further word on the Black Mountain MCD, or as it has been dubbed, the "Bubblegum Princess", or BgP for short.

Essentially what I am finding is that it feels and rides a whole lot like a Gen I Fargo to me. Long time blog readers here will find that as high praise because they know how much I like that bike. I just fits me, and the ride is very comfortable.

It does handle a bit differently than the OG "Orange Crush" Black Mountain Cycles bike I have. It doesn't feel as short, and it feels as though I am a bit more "in" the bike and "behind" the bars which is what I prefer on a gravel rig. I don't like bicycles that make it feel as though the front wheel is pinned down either by geometry or weight distribution, or both. Those sorts of bikes don't handle looser, deeper stuff well at all. In other words, most gravel I travel.

When I set up this bike I had the benefit of having two other bikes I had spent a lot of gravel time on around here and, of course, the Fargo. Between the three I basically set the BgP up as something in between those bikes. Not as high and stretched as the Fargo, but not as low and compact as the Orange Crush or Tamland.

I said that I may tweak the set up, but honestly, I don't think that is going to happen after riding it this past weekend. The RedShift Sports ShockStop stem is amazing on here and I can highly recommend the Whiskey seat post that I have on here. VERY comfy! The Whiskey carbon bars are great as well. My bad shoulder never gave me any aches or pains from vibrations all weekend.

Sam Auen, host of the Cyclist- Not Biker Podcast
Cyclist- Not Biker Podcast:

This came out last Tuesday, but you should give it a listen. I didn't know how it would be as a podcast, but this conversation between myself and my "Team Pink" partner, Sam Auen came out really good, I thought. I figured that if it makes me laugh out loud, think, and generally feel good, then maybe you would like it too.

We rambled for sure since we had zero planning going into this. You can tell at the beginning and at another point where we really didn't know what to do, but for 95% of it we were pretty much on fire, and the dang thing is two hours long! 

We cover the death of Trans Iowa, some good TI stories, and then we get into the future of gravel, and what will keep it going strong from here. Like I have said elsewhere, there are swear words and you may not want to play this out loud in front of certain folks. Otherwise, enjoy! I had a blast doing it.


Sam has a post-event podcast in the can that we did, listen to that HERE. Again- it's sweary, so NSFW and certain tender ears. This episode is a bit more focused on the event.

 Trade Wars Update:

The tariff on bicycles and related parts, plus raw materials which I wrote about last week is in the news again. It is being reported by the trade publications that the 25% tarrif on e-bikes is going to be implemented.

This will have a detrimental effect on many e-bikes because most of them are manufactured in China at present. However; efforts are being made to move production by many companies. Not to the U.S.! Oh no...... But to cheap labor sources like other Southeast Asian nations, India, and Eastern Europe.

My view is that outside of the larger urban areas e-bikes are seen as being too expensive as is. This tariff will now affect those inner-urban centers where these sorts of bicycles are flourishing and pretty much kill e-bike sales in places like the areas I live in. I don't see e-bikes being real hot around the Mid-West anyway. What I do see are do-it-yourself conversions using gas motors and a few electric ones. Scooters with chainsaw motors and the like. Mad Max-like stuff. This tariff will only push that sort of thing further along in these parts.

Okay, Summer is winding down. What are you waiting for?! Get out and ride!

Thursday, August 09, 2018

The 24hrs of Cumming Report Part 4

My bike, right where I parked it Saturday night.
About 10:30pm Sam gave up his quest to ride the third leg. His gal Abby came and scooped him up while I was sleeping on the hardwood floor above the Cumming Bar. Sam said later that when he got back he tried waking me, but I was not moving, and he only checked to see if I was still breathing then he went down to celebrate his birthday.

Yes, at midnight it was Sam's birthday.

At 12:32 am Sunday my Fitbit watch rattled my wrist with a text notification. I cracked open my eyes and tried to read it, and it said, "Wake up we are drinking downstairs."

I was still in sleep mode, but I also knew that this was a special time to spend with Sam. I have never been around for one of his birthdays, so to pass up a chance to celebrate one with him would be rude. I got up, threw on my shoes, and slowly walked down the steep staircase to spend time with my friend.

It was about what you would imagine. Shots fired, beers drank, and some "Vegas" concoction that tasted like peaches. Then it was time to leave the bar and we went outside on the patio where the imbibing and conversations went on into the night. Sam, seemingly, had had enough and did the wise thing and went back upstairs to sleep.

Whatever the reason, I was wired. I don't know why, but I felt like I had drank a quart of coffee. My body was burning through calories and I guess I wan't feeling it like some of the other folks were around me. I fell into a long conversation with Stretch Wilson, the event volunteer I mentioned in an earlier chapter of this report. It was a great time getting to know him. I also chatted up Adam Blake of Gravel City Cyclery at about this time which was fun as well.

My Gent's Race teammate, Bob, at about Sunrise Sunday morning
I was standing around yakking when I felt someone was standing next to me and I turned and looked to see a Warren County Sheriff. Oh! Hello! Turns out he was just checking on the scene and he was very supportive of the event and what we were doing as long as we kept it "safe". Definitely! We were keeping it "safe".

Next thing I know someone said it was 4:30am and I figured I should try to go lay down, but the door to the stairwell had been locked. Hmm..... Okay, back to the patio!

There was no shortage of conversation. It seemed several folks were in this for the long haul, and I really wasn't tired. (Weird!) I spent a bit of time chatting up my Gent's Race teammate, Bob, who was running the music. He had been hooked on that old Chuck Mangione tune, the one we all knew with the flugle horn, and Bob  must have played that 50 times over the course of the weekend. So I asked him if his gadget had any other tunes on it. He said it did, so I started suggesting some different fare, which steered us out of Chuck Mangione ear worm territory, at least for a while!

Then someone woke up and fired up the grill to make some breakfast sandwiches, which were pretty tasty. I had one and then looked at Bob and noted that the sky was getting lighter. It was near dawn Sunday. Dang! I stayed up all night? Then we noted a big shelf cloud and then the wind came up. We battened down the hatches and then a little bit of rain fell. The first drops in a month.

I went upstairs after 6:00am sometime when the doors were unlocked again and slept an hour and a half or so until I heard Sam stirring. We broke camp and packed everything of ours into the Sprinter van, left Cumming behind, and said goodbye to the 24hrs of Cumming.

It wasn't the way I imagined it would go, but parts of it were really fun, and parts of it weren't. I learned that I wasn't recovered from the GTDRI, and earlier this week I was super sore and stiff. It will be an "easy week" this week getting rested up for Gravel Worlds next weekend.

Thanks: To Sam Auen and his gal Abby for putting up with me and having me as a guest in their home. To Steve Cannon for all the efforts in putting on the 24hrs of Cumming-thank you. To Stretch Wilson, the volunteer and anyone else responsible for the event-thank you. Thanks to Adam Blake/Gravel City for sponsoring the event and for the friendship- thanks! Thanks to Bob Moural for being the best teammate and for your hospitality. To the Cumming Tap for hosting- Thank you! To N.Y. Roll for loaning me the light and peanut butter sandwich- Thanks!

I'll post a BgP Black Mountain Cycles rig report later.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

The 24hrs of Cumming Report Part 3

Barns for Jason- 24hrs of Cumming edition
So my part of the event started at about 3:00pm or so. Maybe a little after 3:00pm. I didn't get a solid time on my departure. being anxious to go, I even forgot to start my Lezyne GPS until a few clicks down the road. Anyway, I was gone and riding. I felt great, and the weather, for August, wasn't totally brutal. In fact, it actually felt nice out.

Then at about 5 miles in my phone started blowing up with messages. I decided I had better check, since Mrs. Guitar Ted and the family were traveling and perhaps there was an emergency. Nothing of the sort was happening, thankfully, but these were messages from Sam when he was still out riding! Ah crap..... "He probably thinks I hate him now", I thought, but what could I do? I kept riding.

Then I started seeing other riders. Kristi Mohn passed me and said hello. I saw a few other folks I knew and some I didn't know. Then I noticed it was really dusty. I had a tip off from one of the stellar volunteers, Stretch Wilson, that it was super dusty and that I should consider wearing something like a bandana. I actually had one and tied it around my neck at the start. That came in real handy all throughout my ride. It was loose enough not to be too hot or restrictive, and it did a bang up job of filtering out most of the gravel dust kicked up by cars we met on course. I'm glad I had it on hand.

If you squint real hard, that dot 100 yards up the road is Kristi Mohn disappearing in a cloud of dust kicked up by a passing vehicle. 
Stretch told me later that the area hadn't seen rain in four weeks, and you could tell. The dust was as bad as I've seen it. Despite a Southern breeze the dust would hang in the air like a fog and inbetween tree lined areas, in valleys, and on the narrower roads lined with corn it would have a "hang time" that was remarkable. I would come up on clouds of dust with no sign of a vehicle's passing anytime near my arrival.

Signs of how brutal nature and our impacts upon nature are were everywhere if you looked for it.
After this point I didn't see anyone for a long time. Then at about Mile 20 I hit a cue that was confusing. The road I was on hit a paved road at a "T" intersection. The cue sheet said "DANGER HIGHWAY" and there was no direction given. The next cue said the same mileage and to turn "R onto 100th Ave", but there wasn't a 100th Ave sign there. Hmm...... I sent a text to Sam that said, "Lost. Mile 18.5. Cues don't make sense. Came to R-63 and no direction given." So, okay...... I have to say that I am a cue sheet snob. I honed my craft at cue sheets for 14 years with Trans Iowa, and I and my helpers had it down to such a fine degree that they were declared flawless year after year. I know that Gravel World's has stellar cues, and so does the DK200. I have some pretty stout expectations. Maybe many riders don't, but this frustrated me. I wasn't happy.

Then I figured it out, to the best of my abilities, and turned right, heading for what I hoped was the next cue on to G-24. Curiously, at the same mileage as the corner, there was a cue that said, "Continue onto 98th Ave", all three cues at 18.5 miles. Yeah. That sucked. I messaged Sam back, "May have figured it out. Looks like I am going the right way." Then it was two miles up a busy paved road to a turn on to another paved road. What?!! I signed up for a gravel race. Meh! Another mile of pavement and I was back on gravel again.

Around this State Park were more Gold Finches than I've ever seen before.
About this time a fellow on a mountain bike caught me and passed me by. I was behind him for several miles and then he finally got away when I had to stop to switch out cue sheets. That was at a turn on to more pavement, by the way. It was short lived, however, and the ensuing right hander led to some steep rollers. I came across a super busy four lane highway that I had to wait at for a chance to cross safely for quite a few minutes. Then I passed through a riparian area where I saw so many Gold Finches it was astounding.

After passing that area I came up upon a turn to the left on the cues which said, "Slight Left onto Summerset Trail". Some counties call their gravel roads "trails" in their naming scheme and some people call paved bike paths trails. This was a turn on to an unmarked bicycle trail with a turn on gravel just beyond it which wasn't the same name. Okay, bike path it is, I guess. Another slightly annoying cue faux pas.

Moving on I came up on the halfway mark and I was trying to keep my mind on the game. I had been drinking and eating well enough up to that point, or so I thought. Some of the cue sheet madness really was throwing my mind off the game, and then around Mile 40 my legs said "no mas!" and I was in survival mode for about ten more miles. I finally pulled over for my first real stop at almost Mile 50.

Cool bike path. Bad that it was pavement since there was already a bunch on the route.
I laid down flat on my back in some shade I found which was given by some scrub trees and brush. I stretched out my back and tried to get my heart rate down. I had been working really hard trying to maintain a pace which would allow Sam a lot of time to get his next segment done.

However; the Guitar Ted Death Ride the week before had taken its toll on my legs, apparently, because they felt weak. Oh well. I wasn't moving forward, so I got up and then decided to just spin it out at whatever speed I could. Slow was moving. Stopped wasn't moving. Moving = good. So, I reset my goals to just get the job done.

I was getting a bit of pain in my feet, which isn't usual for me. I was riding in some socks that were new to me, and I had tightened up my shoes a bit earlier in the ride. I was going to need to address the shoe issue, but since I had just stopped I wanted to put in some more miles before I had to stop to fix that. So I continued until I came across a Level B road. Now I was thinking this would be another good opportunity to stretch out the back a bit more again, so I laid down flat. Then I heard a car coming! On a Level B? I mean, yeah.......cars and trucks come down these roads, but it is super rare, usually. I sat up, and the kind folks asked if I was okay. Then they left and another car comes right on its heels. Bah! Time to get going again. Mood ruined! I fixed my shoes though.

Barns for Jason- 24hrs of Cumming version

Then I started feeling better. I actually got my legs back and passed Mile 50 feeling stronger. I maybe was going to get this done in a decent time after all. I was following the cues well, the miles slowly ticked away, and all seemed okay for a bit. I noted that I was running low on water, but at this pace I should finish shortly after swallowing the last bit, so I looked to have it in the bag that way. It was getting on toward Sunset though, and I was wondering if I could beat the Sun.

Yep! More pavement! I bet there was somewhere between 5 and ten miles of it and we never went through a town.
Bonus part was that it was flatter in through this bit of the course, so my average speed picked up a tick. I figured I would need to alert Sam that I would be coming in soon, so I waited till Mile 53 to stop and  text him, "At 53 miles. Coming to ya."

That was at 7:55pm and Sam quipped back, "Dang. Awesome". 

For cars? Yes. Not for peds and cyclists.
 This exchange was found to be another miscommunication. See, I was pretty dang sure in my mind this was going to be my only loop. My legs, despite the slight comeback, were fried. Too much mileage too soon. These hills weren't going away, and loop #4 was said to be the worst. But I was focused on getting home and I had ten miles to go. Sam read that and thought it was infused with enthusiasm, but he was toasted too. Not wanting to douse my perceived joy in riding, he decided to pull on his kit and get ready to go out again.

See, had we actually had a "real" conversation, we both would have been telling each other , not only no, but hell no! We had a good laugh about it afterward, but I'll tell about that later.

From that point on the course started back into the rollers found South of Cumming. Then I got hungry. Then my mind started to go. It got dark. I turned on the lights I had, and my body was in a LOT of pain. With everything screaming at me to stop, it was hard to focus. I made a wrong turn and went four miles out of my way. My legs were done, no power. I got back on course, then after a couple more miles I couldn't find the next corner. I parked my bike and sat down in the ditch.

I probably would have cried at this point, but I was too dehydrated to do it. Anyway, I haven't hurt that bad in a long time. I finally decided that if I went West far enough I'd come across the Great Western Trail and hang a right and go back to Cumming. This night madness wasn't for me.

The last happy memory of my leg.
Well, there was another stop on the Great Western Trail to relax my body, an opossum in the middle of the trail that scared the crap out of me, and finally the elation of seeing the light at the end of the trail which was emanating from that little village of Cumming.

I pulled in. The timing and scoring guy nodded at me as if he "got my number", and that was all I needed. I walked directly back to the stairwell and pushed my bike up the stairs, got cleaned up, and went immediately to sleep. If you were there and saw me, I apologize for ignoring you. I was beat, tired, and in a lot of agony. Oh, and by the way, Sam was so anxious to get going he left ahead of my getting there!

Next: Part 4

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

The 24hrs of Cumming Report: Part 2

Team Pink bikes, ready to engage!
Just before Sam headed out for his first leg of the 24hrs of Cumming, I realized I had forgotten my lights! This was bad! I certainly would be needing them. I desperately dug through all my stuff, and frustratingly found all the accessories for the light: the charging cord, the extra battery, but no light! 

I had my tail light, as I had that affixed to the bike before I left for the event. I also had a bike light I had intended to use as a flashlight in the upper room where we were staying. Hmm......

Mechanic problem solving mind engaged! I decided that I should try to see if I had a USB to charge up this light, and I did. Good! While the light was being fully charged, I thought about how I could affix the light to my bicycle. After I threw out a few ideas, I decided to try taping it to my helmet with gaffers tape I had brought along. I had a pretty solid solution in mind, but I wasn't going to tape it on until I needed it, since this light is kind of clunky, and I didn't want it bobbing my head around all day long. So I wrapped a good length of gaffers tape around my mini pump's barrel. Then, while foraging for other stuff in my bag I came across my original plan for the helmet light, and older Lezyne light which I had the helmet mount for. I decided to try it on my stem, which seemed like it might work. Okay! Good! I had a serviceable light set up.

Sam and the group of 400K entrants- some solo, some team- upon the start of the event.
I then took a break from that to see what was going on in the start area. I ran across N.Y.Roll who was pulling out due to a knee issue. I mentioned my light fiasco and he offered up his Lezyne light to use. Boom! Now I could put the helmet light I had on the helmet and be good to go. Thanks N.Y. Roll!!! He also downloaded his peanut butter sandwiches to me so I had a bit something different to eat during the event.

Now I was all set to go, but I had to wait. I spent quite a while in the upper room, just going over everything in my mind, trying to relax, and trying to stay hydrated and topped off on electrolytes. I had no clear idea when Sam might come in, but he had been riding a LOT more than I had been, so I was assuming he would be faster than I would be.

Suddenly there was a commotion outside and I heard that a team rider had come in. A little over three hours! Wow! Maybe Sam would be in sooner than I thought even! I decided I'd better be getting kitted up and set to go at any minute. I used my RidingGravel.com kit and since it was kind of overcast, I skipped the arm covers. Okay! Ready!

Steve Cannon, (sitting in the chair with black hat) the event director of the 24hrs of Cumming
I sat near the scoring and timing tent and waited. Suddenly, a group of about four to five riders approached. Event director, Steve Cannon, jumped up to help them get across the road safely, as traffic is pretty high right there on the paved county road we were located by. Steve turned to me and said, "Hey! I think you might know this guy!" It was Sam! He looked me straight in the eye with a smile, but didn't say anything as I tagged him and headed across the street. He looked really dusty! So dirty and dusty I almost did not recognize him! But we shared no words in that hurried exchange where I just took off. I guess I was pretty antsy to get going. Maybe had I spoken with Sam a few minutes we would have had a different experience, but oh well!

Next: Part 3


Monday, August 06, 2018

The 24hrs of Cumming Report Part 1

The front of Sam's place in the DSM.
This past weekend was the annual 24hrs of Cumming, a gravel event based upon what the old 24hr mtb races were like where a team, or a solo rider, does a prescribed distance (or as many laps as possible in many cases) over a 24 hour time period. The 24hrs of Cumming is set up such that there are 4 loops of approximately 60 miles each. Sam, my Gent's Race teammate, invited me to partner with him in the 2 Man/400K challenge.

The weekend started off with my heading down to Des Moines, Iowa to hook up with Sam Friday afternoon. When I arrived at his casa, he gave me the tour and we downloaded my stuff into his Sprinter van for the trip the next day to Cumming, Iowa, which is just Southwest of Des Moines.

But first, we had to get ourselves checked in at the race headquarters, which was located at the Cumming Tap. There are bike paths right from Sam's place all the way down to the tap and it is about a 12 mile ride one way. It was great to get down there and back with Sam. We had a lot of time to chat and catch up. After we got back it was time to get vittles at Sam's own Krunkwich Ramen House. I highly recommend it if you are ever in Des Moines.

I decided to "eat like Sam" for the weekend and be vegan. It wasn't hard to do, and it was very tasty! You do have to think past your usual conventions and habits, which can be a good thing to make yourself do, I think. Anyway......

Then we had an "endurance podcast" session. Sam has his own podcast called "Cyclist- Not Biker", and I was his first guest! (NOTICE- this podcast is a bit "sweary", so you may not want to play it out loud in front of certain folks.) Sam doesn't have the marathon podcast up yet, but when it goes live, I'll put a link up. We didn't know we were going to record for two hours, in fact, we didn't really have a clear idea of what we were going to say. But it came out well. I covered Trans Iowa, promoter woes, the gravel scene as it stands today, and what I think will be its future and why. It's all in the unvarnished, raw, opinionated format Sam is known for, I think some of you might find it interesting.

The DSM skyline as seen out on Sam's balcony.
Afterward we chatted a bit more and then we hit the hay. No big rush, since the event didn't start until 11:00am. We would have plenty of time in the morning to get down to Cumming, set up, and then wait for the start, which Sam was planning on taking. He was going to do Leg 1 and Leg 3, while I would tackle 2 and 4.

 Our place of abode for the weekend's activities was a huge open area above the building the Cumming Tap is in.  
Breakfast was had and we moseyed on down to Cumming and downloaded our stuff into the huge area above the Cumming Tap. Then Sam got kitted up and at precisely 11:00am he headed on out to tackle the first leg of the event for us.

Stay tuned for the Part 2 of this report tomorrow.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

The Touring Series: The Time Between Tours

A Guitar Ted Productions Series
The "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour" ended and I went back to being a bike shop mechanic and my first wife was working as a used light airplane sales person. Things swiftly changed in my life after that August. 

This section of the Touring Series won't have a lot do with bicycles, but the events of late '94 asnd early 1995 would inform what I did with bicycles for years to come, and that all culminated with the next tour we undertook in 1995 during a hot August.

So, for a couple of weeks or so I will unravel the tale between two tours. Today's entry appeared on the blog in 2009 and I will have additional comments afterward. 

_________________________________________________________________

 This post doesn't really have a thing to do with touring, but it has everything to do with it. From my perspective anyway, and this is my story after all. So here's the deal..........

Lots of life altering things occurred during the rest of 1994 and into 1995. I won't get into any gory details here, but I lost my first wife to methamphetamine. Now she didn't die. She got hooked, was dealing, and one day she disappeared. It was a traumatic thing to deal with. I had to go through a weird divorce, and for a time was fearing for my life since I had dumped almost a thousand dollars worth of meth down a toilet. (Drug dealers don't take too kindly to that sort of thing.) I even had to "steal" my own truck and hide it for nine months before I could drive it. Yeah, that was a weird time in my life and yes.....the details are even weirder!

So I was what you might say "depressed" and not really thinking about any adventures going into the summer of '95. My friends were concerned and were watching me closely, I know. Fortunately, I found a source of solace that got me through this tough time. But I didn't know God as well as I was going to in a few months time. There was something brewing that was going to really rattle my cage, but in a really good way.

During all of this turmoil the shop hired a bunch of assemblers to get us through the early season builds. One of the new guys was a rider that had been hanging out a lot. Ryan was his name. A sometimes quiet, but extremely funny guy that could ride a mountain bike better than anybody I knew then. Ryan had the particularly cool ability to track stand no handed and talk to you for as long as you wanted. All the while just gently rocking his bike back and forth to keep balance. Crazy ability!

Ryan and I got to be friendly and we hung out sometimes. Of course, the story about the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour" was recounted to him by Troy and I. Ryan would often say he thought it sounded like a fun thing to do. Another guy at the shop working as a mechanic, Tim, would be showing some interest as well.

I don't know who came up with the idea to go again, but it came up. In my mind, I just needed to get away from it all. The pain, the bad memories, and stuff that was still going down throughout the early summer. I was just glad some folks wanted to come along. So it was that Troy, Ryan, and myself were committed to make another touring attempt. This was going to be bigger, badder, and better right from the start.

We were going to the Rocky Mountains.
___________________________________________________________________

That's a heavy post, and a lot to digest there. Things went South in my life in a big way when my first wife started disappearing for days, then weeks, at a time. She lost her job, a well paying gig at the time, and then on the day before Christmas Eve 1994 a good friend of hers told me to meet her and she spilled the beans about the whole shady mess.

There were confrontations, counselings and missed appointments, and fear and anxiety. Around about January sometime in '95 she disappeared for good, and in February I started divorce proceedings. Not knowing where she was made getting some details of the divorce really difficult. During this time she absconded with my Dodge pick-up truck and I was left car-less. I ended up driving the shop van for a while and then I got an old Buick Estate wagon at some point during that Spring.

Things got real hairy when my friends got together and helped to "steal" my truck back and I had to hide it in a barn in Northern Tama County and another garage in Steve's back yard for around six months or so until well after the divorce was finalized on July 27th, 1995.

I only ever saw my first wife once more, in May in '95. I've never seen her since. Probably a good thing.....

So there ya go, the stage was set for a big, emotionally draining, oddball adventure. Stay tuned for how it all came together in next Sunday's post......

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Minus Ten Review- 31

Blackbuck single speed. Still one of my favorite bicycles.
Ten years ago on the blog I was spending a lot of time testing eight different forks on my Blackbuck single speed rig.  I was doing a series to show how different fork axle to crowns and offsets all could be used on the same bicycle and how that affected handling.

It was quite an eye opener for me. In essence, I found none of the varied combinations unrideable. Unlikable? That's a different story. Of course, there were a few choices I wouldn't make, but I tried them all.

I ended up liking the combination shown here today the best, and I have that fork on that bike right now. It just looks "right" as well, with the black and polished silver bits.

I also noted that I was riding the South Side more. It wasn't easy back then to figure out where you were. Of course there was far less trail then. No "Bottoms", (I still think this section needs to be named after Paul, who created it), and there were no trails near the lodge or what used to be the COPE area. There was simply an "inner loop" and an "outer loop". The two were separated by a service road, only a portion of which still exists out there. That road basically almost circumnavigated the South Side and trails used to cross that road in a few spots. Keen eyes can still pick out where that was today.

Things were a LOT different looking out there ten years ago!
Another thing to point out is how different things were ten years ago in now familiar spots to those riding Ingawanis Woodlands. This image to the left shows that rocky outcropping as you come out of the "Bottoms" or right there where that short bypass to go around the Bottoms turns back toward the East.

Don't recognize it? Can't blame ya. There is no mossy covered limestone or vegetation coming through in that spot anymore. The "line" to get through those rocks is well defined now, but it was non-existent back in the day. I cannot tell you how many times I biffed it there in the past. Many, I know that much.

When I finally mastered that area I was proud. It was a tough little techy feature that I am glad still exists. (At least I think it does!) Anyway, it was one of the few things one could ride around here that gave you any chances of "getting skills".  Then there was "Captain Bob's Berm" which no longer exists. That was fun when it was in its prime. Too bad someone decided to level that corner out several years ago. Fun haters.........

Anyway, now we have twice the trail on the South Side, (Ingawanis Woodlands now) and it is great to be able to have that resource. It wasn't bad back ten years ago, but it wasn't as long either, or anywhere as easy to follow. Although, to this day Ingawanis ranks as one of the worst marked trails I've ever been to in the Mid-West. (Check out the Twin Cities or Sugar Bottom for some of the best) That goes for our city trails here as well. Too bad that cannot get figured out, but so it goes.....

Friday, August 03, 2018

Friday News And Views

New perches from WTB are wider
WTB Introduces Wider Saddles In Silverado and SL8:

Okay, I have to say up front that I am a huge fan of WTB saddles going way back to the 1990's. My love affair with these saddles started with the old SST model and then I moved on to the Pure V.

WTB had this street/commuter high performance saddle for a while I liked, but it was too narrow. So too was the Silverado, and while I was attracted to the shape of that model, I knew that since it was offered in only a narrow width, I couldn't afford to try it.

Meanwhile, my brother-from-another-mother, MG, tried the Silverado and has loved it since. He has nothing but good things to say about it, but his posterior parts are not as "wide-load" as mine are, so he needs that narrower saddle. Well, now WTB has Silverado saddles in a 142mm width, just perfect for my undercarriage. They also are doing the SL8 (say: "S-L-8, not slate) in wider widths and not only 142mm, but 150mm as well. Unfortunately there is no 150mm offered in the Silverado for those wondering about that.

Well, the SL8 is not one I paid attention to, it being initially offered only in an ultra-narrow 127mm width. (Ouch! That hurts me just thinking about it!) Anyway, now they have it in the 142mm width as well, so I can actually sit on it and not fear being split in half. And sit on that saddle as well as the Silverado is what I intend to do. See, WTB sent out a press kit to RidingGravel.com so I could try these two saddles out and write about my experience. That'll get posted there later.

New direct-to-consumer brand Thesis launched this week.
Thesis Launches Direct-To-Consumer OB1 Model:

Direct to consumer brands are nothing new, but since retail is languishing in the brick and mortar category, many entrepreneurs are looking at this business model. A new brand dubbed Thesis is the latest that I have heard about to hit the scene.

Of course, their first model to market would be an "all-road", gravel type bike because, other than e-bikes, that is the hot category now. Promising what many direct to consumer brands do, (nearly half price of typical bike shop brands), and the latest technologies with several options available, the Thesis brand hopes to carve out a niche in the ever more crowded direct-to-consumer marketplace.

I have two reactions to their press release. One- The language in the release, and especially on their site, is heavily anti-traditional retail and discretely tries to lead you to believe that you are not very smart if you buy from a bike shop. Yet they suggest that you go there to be fit, because, well.....Thesis cannot support you that way, amongst other ways which aren't pointed out. Secondly, the release and the website state that the business model of bicycle brands is to fragment the market and lead you to believe that you "need all these bicycles". Which, on the surface of it, sounds plausible. However; if you consider that after everyone gets a Thesis they will no longer ever need another bicycle, (if what they say is true), then their business model has quite a finite lifespan, no?

I think marketing is marketing, and I smell a strong scent of it in Thesis' presser. They are definitely reaching out to the anti-business, anti-bike shop conspiracy theorists which are out there. Let's make no mistake, if that wasn't the case there would be no Bikes Direct. (Or Canyon, or others in the category)

Here We Go.....

This weekend I am going to do something I haven't done in over a decade. A 24hr event. I'm on a two man team with Sam Auen, he of Tacopocalypse and Krunkwich fame. Together we are "Team Pink", since we are both going to ride pink bicycles, for better or for worse!

The event is on gravel and is called the 24hrs of Cumming. Team Pink will be there and doing the 400K distance option. Each loop is about 60 miles in length and there are 4 loops which are all different, mostly in the area Southwest of Des Moines, Iowa. In other words, it is very hilly. 

I'll be riding my new Black Mountain Cycles MCD, of course, which, if you haven't heard, was dubbed the "Bubblegum Princess" by my daughter. Sam will be riding his pink Twin Six Standard Rando. This will be the BgP's (that's short for Bubblegum Princess) first big outing and I'm looking forward to seeing how it handles the high speed descents down there. It should be interesting at night! 

Also, it is Sam's birthday weekend. Yikes! I've heard stories about Sam's B'day celebrations and they are...... Well, let's hope I survive it! The bike riding will be a piece of cake if the legends I've heard are true about the birthday celebrations of Sam's! 

That's a warp on this week. Get out and ride those bicycles, folks! 

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Trade Wars

US boutique builders are already feeling the results of tariffs
In case you hadn't heard, a political, potential trade war is already affecting the prices for some boutique bicycle goods and stands to- if enacted- raise prices dramatically on bicycles and parts to maintain them.

Without getting into the nitty-gritty, what is important to know is that these measures can still be headed off as they are under consideration until later this month. If, however, they do get enacted, you will be affected even if you don't buy a new bicycle in the near future.

That's because of two things- Raw materials and supply and demand. First, the raw materials. Steel and aluminum prices are already being affected by this tariff, and those raw materials are part of almost everything on bicycles. Tires, cables, cable housings, and more items that you will need going forward are going up in price. The tariff is possibly going to be 25%, so expect significant rises in prices on these goods. 

Secondly, even if steel and aluminum is produced here, the prices will be higher. Why? Because manufacturers here will raise their prices to be just slightly less than the affected Chinese goods and they will still be competitive in the marketplace. Demand will go for the lesser priced materials and the US suppliers will make more money as a result.

Aluminum prices, already going up, have affected White Industries such that they put out a statement on social media recently saying their US supplier is raising prices in response to the tariffs. This has resulted in a 4% surcharge on all current White industries product orders. You can expect more of that in the future.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

GTDRI '18: Final Thoughts

A lone rider against the Sunrise during the 2018 GTDRI
The 13th running of this goofy event was probably the best one ever. There have been some damn good GTDRI's, so that's saying a lot. But you have to say that 20 plus satisfied riders is amazing. You'd have to admit that the weather was top notch, if not the best ever, close to it. You'd have to say that this course was remarked upon more than any other one I've done.

So, I feel pretty confident in saying this one was a rousing success. I'll admit, I'm not one to say that lightly either. So, with that I feel pretty good. Besides the good times, I got to meet a lot of new folks and saw some old friends. The day was marked by only two flat tires and my balky drive train, (No! I am not a fan of the 1X road stuff.) I didn't hear about, or see any crashes, so no serious biffs or scrapes. Heck, even the passage of I Avenue, with its weeds, didn't seem to trigger any reactions, not that I am aware of, anyway. That in itself is amazing.

I learned some valuable things about my nutrition and hydration. I recovered pretty well. I got in a century this year.......finally! Man! That took way longer this year than I wanted it to.

I used some new shorts, my wool jersey and sunblock arm coverings. The new Shimano shoes were excellent. Definitely keepers. The bike, well I wrote up my thoughts on that for RidingGravel.com here.

Riders on the GTDRI just before reaching Traer on a Tama County Level B
The Future:

Just as with Trans Iowa, (which, if you haven't heard, is dead), I am not going to keep organizing this ride every year forever. After 13 years, I am closer to being done than we are to the beginning of the GTDRI. I'll be reaching my sixth decade of rolling around this planet in a few years, and doing stupid long rides in the worst humidity and heat are not my future.

Sure, I could move the date. Might do that someday, but that won't happen yet. What I do plan on is going somewhere different next year and devising a new route. I have some initial ideas and I am excited to go explore the area by bicycle and start putting together another century loop. So, yeah..... There will be another GTDRI next year.

With that said, I heard some things this year which gave me pause. I know no one meant any harm in how they approached the ride, so don't take anything here personally if you were in this year's event. I just want to squash any future growth into the areas of having this become a training ride. Trust me, if I ever feel like that is what is going on here, as far as main purpose sort of goals for folks, I won't ever organize another one of these. That definitely is not where I want this ride to go. I've said it often, if you want a race or a hard training ride, the GTDRI is not for you. Period.

If that's why folks are coming, well I'd rather just do my own ride and enjoy the flowers, the scenery, and not be looking at any FTP numbers afterward. And someday that's what is going to happen. Because there won't be any rides organized by me again. I'll just ride for the sheer enjoyment of it and that's not probably going to be very fast or long at some point in my future.

Till then, I'll keep doing this silly little ride. See ya next year......