Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Fork Got Boosted!

The new "Firestarter 110 Carbon Deluxe Fork"
The news came out Friday, I believe, but the Ti Fargo was announced as a go again for 2019, which in reality means it will be another small batch that will be gone in a month or so. That is what happened last year. So......was the 2018 Fargo in Titanium really a 2018 model? Same can be said for this run..... Whatever! Marketing!

Leaving that behind the big deal now is that the Firestarter fork is now Boost 110. That means you won't have to be put in the awkward position of getting a non-boost front wheel and a Boost rear. (Or getting the reduction plates for the Alternator to make the rear standard 142mm through axle)

Basically- totally boosted now. But that's not all.....

Now there are four sets of Three Pack bosses, front-ish facing and rear-ish facing. I've always preferred the rearward facing cage position for bottles, myself, but now you have options. Added to this are fender mounts, low rider mounts, and internal routing for a dynamo hub. These are suspension corrected for 100mm travel and have 51mm of fork offset. I find that offset figure interesting since the standard steel fork and previous Firestarter Carbon forks are listed at 45mm offset.

Wheel sizes that work are standard 29"er, 29+, and 27.5+. So, Salsa is still claiming compatibility with all of those differing diameters.

Finally, this may or may not be a sign of things to come. My opinion was that if a Boost spaced Firestarter wasn't produced, it could be the end of the Fargo. But here we have that fork. The Fargo is ten years old as of the release of this so-called 2019 Titanium Fargo. Will their be an anniversary Fargo? Maybe...... I was asked about what I would do for one several years ago at the DK200 by a couple Salsa engineers close to the Fargo. Salsa has done anniversary models before. So, we will see in a month or two when Saddledrive happens, at which time Salsa generally releases news on the next model year.

Whatever happens my Gen I Fargo isn't getting replaced anytime soon.

Monday, June 18, 2018

A Hot But Chill Weekend

The sled for this weekend's Solstice 100 gravel race.
Man! Was it hot this past weekend. Just brutal humidity around here with temperatures in the 90's. I really wanted to push it and go long this weekend but I have to keep it chill for this coming weekend's Solstice 100 in Nebraska. Besides, it was Father's Day weekend and my family was wanting to spend time with me.

Friday I got a couple of wheel sets in and one of them I bought for the pink MCD project I have coming up. More on that in a minute, but there is another wheel set here for review on RidingGravel.com which is pretty cool. It is the Industry Nine Torch Road Ultralite CX 235 TRA wheels. I already own two sets of older I-9 single speed specific wheels and I have ridden on a couple of others. All have been spectacular in two ways- performance and looks. Well, this set that came in on Friday is no different- so far- in terms of those things. The looks are killer. Well, as long as you like anodized orange hubs and spokes! Of course, you could get other colors too.

I was really hoping that wheel set would get here in time for my attempt at the Solstice 100 this coming weekend in Nebraska. That wheel set went on the Jamis Renegade Elite, also on test at RidingGravel.com. What better way to test things out than at a 100 miler on unfamiliar gravel roads, eh?

Well, I got these set up tubeless with some tires I had and went on a brief test ride Saturday. Things should work out just fine here! The distinct I-9 "buzz" is there, and it is pretty loud. If you don't like a loud hub, than this ain't for you. But these wheels should help make the Nebraska hills a little less painful since they come in at a little over 1400 grams with tape and valve stems installed.

Irwin Cycles Aon GX 700c wheels
As mentioned, another wheel set came in and these are them. The Irwin Cycles Carbon Aon GX 700c wheels. I bought these for my pink BMC MCD which should be coming at the end of the month or the first part of July sometime.

These should be pretty tough wheels and I already know they set up really well tubeless. That would be because I tested the 650B version earlier and it worked great. My initial plan is to run these new wheels with the WTB Resolute tires.

The really interesting thing about the new MCD frame is that it is supposed to handle a 650B X 2.25 tire, and a 2.1 29"er Nano will barely fit, so lots of ways to go here. I should have a set of Compass Antelope Hill tires coming too, but I think those will be too much for the MCD. We will see.

Next up on the docket for parts acquisition is  a crankset. I spent some time on the phone with my old friend Ben Witt on Sunday talking about this. I really like the White Industries VBC crank set, but that is waaaay expensive. I just don't see anything else right now that competes with it on looks though. Especially on a pink steel frame. In my opinion, Ultegra is just too weird and "heavy" looking.

The rest of the weekend was pretty chill as far as activity went. I guess I did mow the lawn! Otherwise I was chillin' with the family on Sunday as it was Father's Day and they were wanting to spend some quality time with their Dad and of course, my wife wanted to spend some time with me as well.

So, that was my weekend. Hopefully it isn't this blazing hot this coming weekend in Nebraska.


Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Touring Series: Strangers In The Night!

A Guitar Ted Productions Series
Welcome to "The Touring Series". This series is a re-posting of a story I told here on this blog in 2008. The story is about what I named the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour". This was a fully loaded, self-supported bicycle tour from just Northeast of Waterloo, Iowa starting in a little village named Dewar and the goal was to get to Sault Ste. Marie, Canada in one week's time. The plan called for us to be picked up there and taken home by car.

  As mentioned, cameras, smart phones, and the like did not exist for us in 1994, so images will be few. There are some though, and I will sprinkle those in when they are relevant. I will also sprinkle in any modern images of places we visited when applicable and when I can find images that convey the same look as 1995. 



After a long day in the saddle the three intrepid riders found a convenience  store to refresh themselves. We now rejoin the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour" which has rolled into Gillett, Wisconsin for an overnight stay.........
_____________________________________________________________________________
Just before coming out from the convenience store, Steve and Troy had made an inquiry of the cashier about potential camping spots. We weren't in too much of a hurry to find a spot, since there was enough daylight for the time being. What we didn't know was that the cashier had called the police in regards to us looking for a place to stay. So when the squad car pulled up right in front of us, and the window went down, and when the officer addressed us, well.........we thought we were in big trouble.

It turned out that the officer was merely looking out for us. He suggested we stay in the county fair grounds, which had plentiful lawn space, but not too close to the road, so as not to draw attention to ourselves. The fair grounds were right in town too, no long trip to get there. Bonus!

Well once we peeled ourselves up off the pavement and got over to take a look, we saw something much more appealing than the grassy lawn. A cattle barn, where show cows and livestock were bedded down during fair time, was all cleaned up with a nice smooth cement floor. Why set up tents when we could simply sleep in the cow barn? Troy and I laid out our sleeping pads and sleeping bags right on the concrete floor. Steve had a hammock and strung it up between two stalls across the aisle. We parked our bikes beside us, ate our meal for the evening, and settled in for a good nights sleep, just as the sun went down.


Location of Gillett, WI
I suppose it was about 2:30-3:00am in the morning when I was suddenly aroused by Steve's sudden yelp in the dark. Troy and I sat up suddenly, gripped in fear. We were surrounded by dark figures in the night! Somebody turned on a flashlight, which blinded our eyes.

Just then a sheepish voice could be heard. It was a young boy, about 10-13 years of age. I slowly focused on him and saw that he had several friends standing with him. Apparently he had seen us at the convenience store, and knew about the plans to stay in the fairgrounds. His friends didn't believe his story, so he was simply setting the record straight by showing his friends the evidence, and scaring us half to death in the process. He was very apologetic, and his friends were obviously scared, so we chatted with them to calm them down, and sent them on their way.

In a way, it reminded me of the wandering about town I used to do as a kid with my friends in the middle of the night in my small hometown. We never meant any harm, and everything took on an air of adventure at about 2:00am in the morning. I am quite sure these kids never forgot this little adventure they had back in 1994!

We went back to sleep, although cautiously,and slept till dawn with no further incidents. Once awake, we set to packing up, and discussing our strangers in the night. Outside it was cool, and it looked like it might be foggy. The plan was to get on out of Wisconsin and in to the U.P. of Michigan. Just what lay ahead, we had no idea.
___________________________________________________________________________

This was a chief memory from this tour. Obviously getting attention from law enforcement isn't what a group of three mangy looking cyclists wants. Typically we saw our selves as being marginal folk who were flying under the radar of any local officials and heck, of even the locals themselves. The less attention we got, the better, in our eyes. So you can imagine the relief we felt when we learned the cop was looking out for us. 

So the rousing of us out of our peaceful slumber was even worse. Then it swung the other way when we realized it was just some curious local kids being, well......kids. As I said, I empathized with those kids, having been exactly like them in my youth. Now I wonder how many of that group that awoke us in Gillett Wisconsin remember that night like I do.......

Next: Approaching Kitchi-gami

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Minus Ten Review- 23 & 24

The Upper Iowa River at Decorah, June, 2008
Ten years ago, at the start of June, I had a bit of a discussion on crank sets concerning gearing and crank arm length for 29"ers. Oddly enough, going back to the earliest days of 29"ers in the late 90's, a bunch of Crested Butte residents on running the wagon wheelers decided that 170mm length crank arms was the schiznit for riding these new big wheels. I'm not sure why, or how they arrived at this, but it was out there in the early days. Run 170mm length arms. It's the way to do this dance. So, I did just that.

Now, I didn't do that right away. My very first 29"er had 177.5mm arms. That's right- 177.5mm arms. Anyone with a background in BMX or vintage mtb will know right off what I am referring to. That would be Cooks Brothers cranks. I still have them.........somewhere around here! Anyway......

I also was talking about the Big Wheeled Ballyhoo. That was a 29"er demo/get together/festival we had planned up in Decorah. Well.......I say "we", but the reality was that it was "me". My partner at the time in Twenty Nine Inches was, let's say, "flaky"? Yeah...... Nuff said..... The point is that I was left doing all the heavy lifting on that project and I had a ton of time and effort into it. Then the rains came.

I've already mentioned it in previous "Minus Ten Review" posts this year, but 2008 was a really rough year in terms of weather in Iowa. The "Flood of 2008" won't soon be forgotten around here. That was the highest the water has ever been in many Iowa rivers since that date or before it. You can still go to many bridges and dikes in Iowa and see the high water marks people immortalized from this 2008 flood.

I was sent the image on today's post two weeks before the Big Wheeled Ballyhoo was to take place. On the left of center is where the people were to camp and set up the demo booths. It was under 15 feet of water at this point.

While the trails were high and dry in the bluffs, I had to make a call within a few days time of receiving this image to advise vendors. Many of which had to send demo vans from the Southwestern US. They needed advance notice on whether to come or not. If the event was to be cancelled, giving them two weeks notice would allow them to salvage something out of their plans by setting up demos elsewhere. So, I made the call to cancel the Big Wheeled Ballyhoo.

While this had nothing at all to do with Trans Iowa, this decision would shape what I would do with that event for the next decade. Stay tuned for why that was........

Friday, June 15, 2018

Friday News And Views

NX Eagle- "Ease Of Entry" Component group, or just cheap?
Entry Level, Cheap, Budget Priced 1 X 12:

SRAM predictably dropped the quality of materials and manufacturing techniques enough that a full price range of Eagle components are now available. SRAM apparently is trying to spin the new NX Eagle as being an "ease of entry" group, but let's face it- it's a cheaper Eagle. Call it "budget", entry level, or whatever, but doing some new way of saying "this is the cheapest level" is kind of goofy. We get it- it costs less for a reason.

Now, don't get me wrong, I am not bagging on SRAM, or NX Eagle. I just don't think their "marketing-speak" is genuine. The parts should be awesome. I've been thrashing 11 speed NX for two straight Winters on my Ti Muk and I see no reason why NX Eagle wouldn't be pretty much the same experience. It is what it is, so do not expect the most crisp, fastest shifting, great looking parts, or the lightest weights. You won't get that at this little amount of money. (You can buy the entire NX Eagle group for less than a top end Eagle Power Dome cassette.) What you will get is a good, yeoman's performance for a decent price.

To my way of thinking, Eagle only makes sense if you haven't already gone 1X, and/or if you need the range this group can give you. It isn't as good as the GX Eagle or above, because NX doesn't have the 10T fast cog. It fits Shimano cassette bodies though, so it can retrofit to older non-SRAMed rear wheels. So, on one hand, that could be a benefit to this, or it could be a bummer if ya gotta have that 10T cog.

Purrrrrrple!

My favorite color is purple. This happened to come about for me when I was young. I lived on a highway and it was the zenith of the muscle car era. I saw them all- Chevelles, Novas, GTO's, Road Runners, 'Cudas, Challengers, and Mustangs. Even the rare Daytona would come zooming by once in awhile.

Well, the Chrysler Corporation ran these special colors on their muscle cars like "Slime Lime", "Hemi Orange", and who could forget "Plum Crazy". Those purple machines were my favorites, and that matched up with my early love of the Vikings football team. But they let me down big time in '68. That's another story........

Of course, the 90's were famous for anodized colors and purple was the king of that for a while. I had a 1996 Bontrager Race which was Plum colored, a darker hue, with a yellow panel with red lettering. I had Paul MotoLite purple brakes, and a purple American Classic seat post on that rig. Yep! I love me some purple ano!  I even had the purple ano Surly hubs, and I still rock a purple Chris King head set on my Ti Muk.

Now Paul Components is going to do another special anodized run of parts and this time they are running with purple. Hmm.......maybe I should get some Purple Klampers for the new BMC MCD rig. We'll see. The thing is that the delivery of these parts isn't until late July/early August. I'd hoped to be done with the build by then. But still. purple ano........ 

These are the 650B Carbon Aon GX wheels, but 700c ones will be here today.
 The Pink Puzzle Update:

Building up a bike from a frame and fork is like piecing together a jig-saw puzzle. You need a LOT of different parts and pieces to make it work, and what makes things worse is that certain things are predetermined and certain things are wide open to interpretation. 

One of the puzzle pieces will arrive today in the form of a wheel set. I have been testing wheels from Irwin Cycling recently on RidingGravel.com and I have been thoroughly impressed to the point that I am buying a 700c set for my Pink Puzzle Build. These wheels feature nice hubs with 3.75° engagement and a super smooth set of bearings. But I am most impressed with how these wheels are precisely molded and that transfers to getting a great seal on the tubeless tires.

I've been beating the snot out of both wheel sets Irwin sent to have reviewed and I haven't killed them, or even put a dint in their "armor", besides a few cosmetic scratches from being plowed through mud holes I normally wouldn't ride through on my own equipment. So, I am thoroughly satisfied that they will hold up and be great wheels for several years.

There will be more updates on the Pink Puzzle Build coming soon....

In the meantime, have a great weekend and Happy Father's Day to those fathers out there!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Grunge, Gunk, and Grease

"Rumble......rumble......rumble....."

I could feel it when I was pushing a big gear on the Orange Crush. "Hmmm....... Gonna hafta change that bottom bracket soon!", I would think. On multiple occasions.......and never doing anything about it afterward! Well, I knew it could not last forever, and one day it would disintegrate while I was miles from home, likely, on a remote gravel road, of course, where Mrs. Guitar Ted would have to come and get me, and end up giving me the "stink eye", most assuredly.

Yes......I had to get that done and soon! The alternative probabilities did not sound that great to me. So, I bought an inexpensive Shimano replacement bottom bracket. It is hard to believe that these things cost less than an Acera rear derailleur but work as well as they do. I mean, just the machine work on a bottom bracket cup is far more precise than an Acera rear derailleur's is. Yeah.......I could spring for something better, but would they last as long as a Shimano bottom bracket? Maybe..... But I could probably buy several Shimano bottom brackets for the price of one, Chris King, let's say, and I think the value is there in the Shimano one. Plus, did you know that you can recycle the cups with new cartridge bearings? Yep..... You can. If you are industrious that way.

It's a dirty, gunky, greasy business, but someone has got to do it!

Of course, you simply do not just remove and replace a bottom bracket. Oh no! You end up cleaning up the frame while the crank is off to get to those otherwise hard to reach nooks and crannies of your frame. Then you clean up the front derailleur while you are at it. Then it's time for that nasty crank arm and rings. The cleaning up of the things takes far longer than it does the removing and replacing of the bottom bracket. It is a big, time consuming job when you do all of that stuff. But......it ain't gettin' done on its own, and the thought of having to make that possible bail-out call to Mrs. Guitar Ted......... nuh-uh! Not gonna happen!

Now watch. Something will break on my next long ride! I've done myself in! Ha!

All done! Ready to rumble down the road again, with a rumble-free BB that is!
 Well, once it was done and I had done a couple of other maintenance jobs while I was at it on the BMC, I ran it up and down the neighborhood to check my work. Seems good to go now. I am considering removing the fenders for the Summer, but........I don't know. Maybe I'll just finally trim back those stays on those fenders and leave them on. I have some new bar tape coming for this and I probably will change the cassette and chain for now. This will end up becoming the single speed gravel travel rig later in the year though. Once I get the pink MCD here and put together.

Then the gears and derailleurs will go away and I also will likely change out the handle bars to the good ol' Luxy Bar. Those are awesome for single speed use. It'll be fun to try this out as a single speed again after so many years of geared use.



Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Different Ways Of Crankin'

Is "Super Compact" the future for adventure/gravel bikes?
I am in the midst of considering parts for my build of the forthcoming Black Mountain Cycles MCD frame and fork. So far I have wheels lined up, through axles, a head set in mind, and now I am considering crank sets and bottom brackets.

That link above takes you to the frame tech page for the MCD and there will see that the maximum chain ring configuration is 46T/36T, or a standard CX crank set ring combination. This is what Ive used most often and what I will likely do again. However; if you haven't noticed, there is a move afoot to bring radically different gearing to gravel and adventure bikes, spearheaded by FSA, who provides a LOT of OEM parts to builders.

Their idea is called "Super Compact" and it is wide range double chain ring set up. I know a lot of you think 1X is the solution, but a LOT of riders don't like it. Too big a jump between gears, for one thing, but there is more to it than that. However; I am not delving into that subject just yet.......

Super Compact gearing is kind of like what the old randonneuring gearing was like. Basically you have a "drive" gear, (outer chain ring) which you use more often. The inner ring, the "bail out gear" or "grannygear", was used on steep climbs or when there was a tough headwind or like circumstances where a low gear was desirable. The modern form of this gearing utilizes wide range rear cassettes to keep jumps between gears closer and more efficient.

I tried such a set up on the old Gen I Fargo, using a 48T outer and a 28T granny, if memory serves. Modern Super Compacts wouldn't have that much disparity between chain rings, but it is close. FSA is pushing 48T/32T or 46T/30 as options I could use. My experiences with this sort of gearing wasn't positive. Oh, it's just fine when you are in the big ring, but when you dump out to that smaller inner ring your cadence goes haywire and I, at least, lost a ton of momentum when I switched gears. As a "native single speeder", I loathe losing momentum. So, that was a big reason I bailed on that experiment with that gearing.

New Ultegra CX crank set
This is why I am seriously leaning toward going to traditional cyclo cross gearing, which is 46T/36T. I like to use an 11T-36T cassette with that gearing, and I have a few reasons why I really have gravitated toward this gearing. Of course, the minimal jump between chain rings helps preserve momentum, which you probably already guessed.

The other reason that is important to me is probably pretty weird. I admit to a bit of a "Princess and the Pea" syndrome here, so bear with me on this one. See, I have very often been riding and thought, "Dang! This gear feels awesome today!" I can feel more power and just a more efficient pedal stroke many times in certain gear combinations, and probably 99.9% of the time when I bother to check, I have a dead straight chain line.

You may think, "So what?", and I get that, but a straight chain line is the most efficient one to pedal in. This is maybe something I tuned in to from my single speed days, but cross chaining makes me feel like I am working harder, many times. Not always. But every time I feel awesome about a gear, it is a straight chain line. So, I don't like the thought of running a "drive gear" and a "bail out gear". When the chain starts climbing the cassette, I like to switch to an inner chain ring and not jack my cadence up way over 100/minute when doing so. Obviously, I also can keep the chain straighter.

Now, some of you may be thinking, "Aha! We should still be riding triple chain ring cranks!" I would partially agree with that. In fact, I set my Badger custom bike up with a triple. That said, these newer gravel bikes, by their nature, are trying to also give us the shortest chain stays, (not really that necessary) with the widest tire clearances with an eye toward 650B mtb width tires. (Again- not all that necessary) So, triple cranks are a non-starter there.

I know that I could maintain a straighter chain line with a triple, but to some degree, the narrower chain rings and cogs we run now in combination with the best materials technology cyclists have ever enjoyed make a triple crank not quite the "no-brainer" that it used to be.

I haven't gotten back to that 1X commentary yet, but I'll save it for another day. Suffice it to say that since both SRAM and Shimano have filed patents and are working on chain sets that adjust for chain line misalignment inherent in 1X set ups, you can bet that your 1X system has too many inefficiencies. Otherwise, why would they bother? 

Stay tuned.........................


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Changes At HQ

Mrs. Guitar Ted scored this palatial desk unit for the HQ.
The weekend here didn't turn out quite the way that I had planned. Friday we had some doozies for thunderstorms and we got torrential rain most of the night. That made me take pause for riding gravel right away in the morning, so the son needed his hair cut and we headed out to have breakfast together first. That was about the only thing I planned all day that went down according to plan.

So, after breakfast we headed to Butler & Son's Barber Shop, (HIGHLY recommended if you're ever in the area), and they were, not surprisingly, VERY busy. So I bailed on that plan and we went back home.

It was super humid and I, not using my brain, decided it was time to trim the sidewalk edges. I figured it would be great "heat training" for upcoming rides. In this time I also got the Ergon saddle I reviewed recently swapped over to Mrs. Guitar Ted's bike. Well, one of her two bikes. She has a Kona "Africa" single speed rig. That's where that saddle now resides. Well, she wanted to go check it out and took off for a ride. She'd been gone quite some time when I got a text message with a picture of a desk. She asked what I thought of it, the thinking being it would replace my crumbling computer desk I've been bashing out words on for over a decade. Probably since 2005.

Well, suffice it to say that it (obviously) came home. Talk about changing plans! No more yard work! On to the switcheroo. Now, it sounds simple enough. We were just going to switch desks out. But........yeah, right! You may as well have dropped a bomb in the house. First off, this new desk is HUGE! It is easily twice as big as my old thing here. That meant we had to do some measuring and some hard decisions were made. Two crummy book shelves filled with books and.......well, whatever landed on them for the last 15 years or so, had to be emptied, gone through, and cleared off. We were getting rid of them. The stuff on them had to be sorted through, and a lot of that was binned. Good riddance!

My 2010 DK200 receipt for the event's 200 miler.
Another thing that happens when you sift through a decade plus of detritus is that you may find little gems from the past. One thing I came across was my receipt for my race entry in the 2010 DK 200. Yep, you're seeing that right, fifty measly bucks got you in. Now granted, it was an entirely different experience back then than it is now. Completely different in almost every way, in fact. Back then it was still a small event. Only 160 started the 200 miler. So, yeah, fifty bones to ride seems like a good deal but the DK was a much smaller and easier to manage race back then.

And I sucked that year! Too hot and windy and I didn't have a clue what to do about it. Now I would have used an ice pack on my back and I likely would have gotten past CP#1, but after two years of getting kicked in the teeth down there I never went back but once more in 2015. That year I missed the second and last checkpoint by two measly minutes with less than 50 miles to go. It's ironic, but by then, a mere five years later, the DK200 was pretty much what you might know it to be now. Crazy how that event grew so fast! 

My unused 1997 NORBA license.
Then I came across another gem. An unused 1997 NORBA license. This was back when I was serious about cross country racing. There were big changes in my life in the time between 1995 and 1999. I won't get into all of that here now, but suffice it to say that just about everything I knew changed in those four years.

I had high hopes for 1997 and racing. I had been getting better at XC racing and had been doing some things in a more disciplined manner as far as training and what not. But when my first bike shop job dried up in February of '97 I had to find something else for employment and fast. I had a house payment to make every month and bills to pay. I was single at that time, and I didn't have anyone to turn to for help. I found a job as a car mechanic, which was a 60 hour a week job, and extremely physically draining. I think I tried going to one race that year, a non-Norba deal down in Illinois, and things just went pear shaped in a big hurry. I remember riding home in a teammate's car that time and deciding I was done. The whole idea of driving more hours than a race took, taking up an entire day, paying for it, and not having fun at all was, in my opinion, just plain stupidity. That was the end of mountain bike racing for me for ten years.

Anyway, I had no clue I'd even bought a license, and when I found it, I was floored. Weird stuff gets squirreled away in odd places, I guess. I've no idea why this license made it the last 20 plus years! But, it is evidence that I once was an XC mtb racer. So, there's that, I guess.

The process of switching over to the new desk is ongoing. I will likely be upgrading to a new computer as well, so by the time we finish this process I will have revolutionized my "nerve center" for the blog here. But you probably, hopefully, won't notice a thing. I still will be banging out text here with the same two fingers I've been using to do this with since 2005.

Monday, June 11, 2018

It's Gonna Be Very Pink

Could one of those be mine?
In 2011 I found out that Black Mountain Cycles owner, Mike Varley, was selling frames. Not just any ol' frames, but a drop bar frame that could handle pretty good sized tires. I was very interested. 

I had been bitten by the gravel road riding bug. I had been using mountain bike frames and forks, for the most part, for all my gravel travel. It was good, and that works fine, but I did not have a "real" drop bar bike that would take decent sized tires that wasn't built so heavy duty. My Gen I Fargo was, and still is, an awesome rig on gravel, but I was looking for something a bit sleeker. Not so over-built, and something that maybe had a bit better position for cutting through the wind. The first candidate was a Surly Cross Check.

Cross Checks were the gravel bike back in the day. You still see them out there, but nothing like the early days of gravel grinding. The thing about that bike was that it has a really Euro-short head tube. I was about getting lower, but I'd still have a stack-o-spacers if I got a Cross Check, and I wasn't digging that look. Vanity, I understand, but if I'm buying a bike, it has to suit my aesthetic tastes.

Then I checked out the Monster Cross bike from Black Mountain Cycles. It ticked a lot of the boxes. Not all, but without going custom in 2011, you weren't going to get all my boxes ticked. So, I pulled the trigger and I got one of the first Monster Cross frames in existence. Of course, long time blog readers here have seen that bike ad nauseum since 2011. It's still one of my favorites.

Now I have cleared the way in my stable by selling off one of my bikes for the imminent arrival of my second Black Mountain Cycles frame and fork. This time it will be the new Monster Cross Disc. A frame and fork Mike Varley, owner of BMC,  has promised would be coming for quite some time now. What's more, the frame and fork I am getting will be pink! 

All images today courtesy of Mike Varley/Black Mountain Cycles
 Of course, the new frames have disc brake only compatibility. However, they vary from my "Orange Crush" BMC in that the the top tube is sloped, and the fork is a segmented design. There are a few more minor variances, but essentially, I am expecting that these frames and forks will ride really well.

One of the big improvements since the 2011 frame and forks is that through axles are now standard. I think this will improve handling since through axles have the effect of "tying" the frame and fork together. The wheels should track better, and wheel ejection issues will be impossible due to the captured axles.

Another minor detail, but one I think is rad, is the down tube will have two water bottle mounts, the seat tube one, and underneath the down tube will be another. This is an old school, early mtb arrangement that I've always thought was cool. My Gen I Fargo has this arrangement, but it was kind of ignored by the industry, until now. I've noted at least three new gravel bikes coming out soon which will also feature this double bottle on the down tube style. That said, Mike's was the first I've noted since the Gen I Fargo.

If you don't want it painted, ya gotta stick something in there, or tape it off.
I've got almost everything I need to set this rig up. I've got to get a head set, and I think I'm going with a Wolf Tooth head set. I just got one a while back for test and review on RidingGravel.com , and I really like it so far. The big question is, what color do I get? Black? Conservative choice, looks fine. Blue? Good contrast, but......I don't know. Purple? Hmm...... Might be the one here.

Then I have a wheel set in mind, but the colors are predetermined there if I go with the one I have in mind. Carbon rims though. Pretty dang sweet. There is another way to go that would be super-bling and that option is on the table as well. I have to decide how outlandish I want this bike to be. I mean, it is already pink. What more do you have to do to make it stick out!

So, anyway, a forewarning that another Black Mountain Cycles rig will be grabbing the blog pages here in a short while. It should be fun and I'll be really curious to see how this one rides. Stay tuned.....

Sunday, June 10, 2018

The Touring Series: Foreigners In Another Nation

A Guitar Ted Productions series
Welcome to "The Touring Series". This series is a re-posting of a story I told here on this blog in 2008. The story is about what I named the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour". This was a fully loaded, self-supported bicycle tour from just Northeast of Waterloo, Iowa starting in a little village named Dewar and the goal was to get to Sault Ste. Marie, Canada in one week's time. The plan called for us to be picked up there and taken home by car.

  As mentioned, cameras, smart phones, and the like did not exist for us in 1994, so images will be few. There are some though, and I will sprinkle those in when they are relevant. I will also sprinkle in any modern images of places we visited when applicable and when I can find images that convey the same look as 1995. 


Troy and GT,  members of the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour", failed to break Steve after the debacle in Steven's Point. Now we join the trio as they stop in for a late lunch in the small Wisconsin town of Gresham......
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Now Steve finally ate something and looked to be coming around to his old self again. As we munched our food under the shade of some nice hardwood trees in front of the grocery store, a kid was seen circling us on his 20 incher. Pretty soon, the expected visit came, and the regular questions were asked. Once again, kids saw in us an adventure that was exciting, adults saw us as vagrants that were scary. Oh well!

After a nice, leisurely stop, we felt the urgency to move. We mounted up, heading north through the town on the blacktop road. There was a wee bit of confusion as to where we were going, but once we got a bead on the next turn eastwards, we were good to go. The road was the typical weathered blacktop, not bad, but not really smooth. The weather had turned fine and hot by now. We were all down to our shorts and t-shirts by this point. (Cycling jerseys on tour were considered "too serious" before we left.)

Suddenly we became aware that our eastward road had turned incredibly smooth and was lined on either side by towering white pines. The cool shade was refreshing. In fact, we decided to stop for a moment to enjoy the area. Troy was in an especially playful mood here, which was unusual for him. However; after a bit we all knew it was time to motor on down this arrow straight, flat, and brand new stretch of black top.

The conversation turned to the road, as a matter of fact. Why would there be such a fine blacktop in a seemingly out of the way place? This road didn't look to be going anywhere too important, at least by the look of the maps we had. Well, after several miles, we soon found out why it was so. The intersection we were dumped out on was directing us onto a road vastly different than the one we had been on. Busy with traffic, and every tenth car or so seemed to be a law enforcement vehicle. Strange. Where were all these folks going and coming from? It was as busy as any city of larger size we had been through, maybe even more so.

Example of a Menominee Nation license plate
I noticed a license plate: "Menominee Nation" was emblazoned across the bottom portion of it. In fact, every license plate I saw had that on it. Suddenly we were aware that we were in a Native American reservation. They run their territories as independent nations, (to a degree) and so the weirdness was accounted for, at least for the time being. We didn't have much time for discussion as we were busy keeping pace and watching out for ourselves on this stressful stretch of road. We went from totally peaceful relaxed riding to this frying pan in less than a block. It wasn't much fun, and we had several miles of it to endure.

Once we crossed the boundary of the Menominee Nation, we were back to a quieter, more peaceful rural Wisconsin experience. It was shocking, and almost as if we had just been in some weird time warp. However it was, it was getting late in the afternoon now, and we were putting our heads down, trying to gain as many miles as we could before packing it in for the afternoon. The next town up the road was Underhill, and I was hopeful it would be our stopping point for the day.

Well, Troy would have none of this stopping, not just yet. He had a mind to make it to the next city beyond Underhill, much to my disappointment. That city was called Gillett, and it might as well have been a hundred miles away, as far as I was concerned at the time. Those final miles into Gillett seemed like an eternity, and with Troy setting a furious pace, I was getting toasted. I don't know if Steve was going to pop or not, but I sure was about to!

Finally, we rolled off a hill in the late afternoon into Gillett and up to the nearest convenience store we could find. I was relieved and we all were pretty exhausted, by the looks of it. Right now though, all we could think about was getting some refreshments and sitting down to rest.
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This was another long, long day in the saddle. Things were tense to start out with until we got to Gresham where Troy was satisfied that Steve had suffered enough. The stop was very relaxed and we were all on good terms again for a while after this. The Menominee Nation was stressful territory. I was glad to get out of there, but that road leading into the busy part was once again one of the highlights of the tour. Like the earlier moment on the La Crosse River Trail where we laughed freely, this was one of those devil may care moments in life that I will cherish forever. Three wanderers amongst the tall pines without a care in the world.

Next week: Strangers in the night!

Saturday, June 09, 2018

The Dirty Kanza Report: Final Thoughts

Myself on the left, MG, and our host, Joe on the right.
The DK weekend is gone and the report on it comes to a close with my final thoughts on a few things. First, I need to thank my host in Emporia, Joe Reed for his outstanding hospitality and kindness in letting MG and I stay there.

My goals this year did not involve myself riding a bicycle. In fact, I didn't even take a bicycle or gear to ride one. I was focused on the "All Things Gravel" expo and crewing for MG, whatever that might mean. I took it to mean that I would be like a Trans Iowa support person- doing absolutely nothing unless called upon to rescue my rider. That is what I did, for the most part, and fortunately I didn't need to rescue him!

In terms of  the expo, I thought it was an impressive first effort, and I think it has potential for the future. If what I heard from Jim Cummings is any indication, I would bet that the expo will be even bigger next year and the dates will likely move to Thursday-Friday at least. Saturday was a tough go for the expo since all the hoopla moves to Commercial Street and the expo isn't there.

The expo was jokingly called "The Sea Otter Of Gravel", but think about that comparison for a minute. It is entirely plausible that this could be a Sea Otter-like event, with several days of expo showings and gravel races across several days as well. Who says the DK 200 and 100 have to be on the same days? The DKXL figures into it as well. Gravel demos could be held by shuttling folks outside of town to actually try bicycles on actual gravel roads. Rides that are non-competitive could happen. I really don't see why it couldn't happen. Well, except that Emporia is pretty much maxed out to capacity as far as housing outsiders that weekend goes.

MG before he took off on the DKXL. Image by Joe Reed
The DKXL was a success, I think, but who knows what will become of it. It is my personal opinion that it could be a totally different event, a different flavor, than the current DK events. I spoke with many people in Emporia including Jay Petervary, MG, and a few others about what they thought this event might become. It was clear that the format was well liked, but tweaks would need to be made.

Having been the director of a similar event, my take is this- The DKXL will likely not be an event with the same challenges as Trans Iowa in terms of decision making and navigation. There were no checkpoint cut off times since there were no checkpoints. Only a finish cut off was stipulated, (which wasn't really held to, by the way), and with a course choice limited by fewer roads, you cannot present a different course year to year. So, you have challenges in regard to cheating which don't exist in an event like Trans Iowa.

The biggest of these is support, of course. My take is that riders should not get to have their own support people. It would be too easy for someone to tryst with a rider in the night, only to give them mental and material encouragement to go ahead and finish. I would ban any of that and as an organizer, I would provide the support/rescue service via the Jeep club already volunteering for the event. Once a rider calls in for support, they are done. No going back, no encouraging words to motivate a rider. You get in the Jeep and you are done.

Secondly I would position observation people in key points and have them move randomly so as to discourage meet ups with outside support and to simply observe riders in the field. This could double as social media connections for outside consumption and for safety sake in cases where bad weather might become a concern.

Again- these are simply my opinions. Ultimately I think it would be best if the DKXL did not become, as Jay Petervary put it, "just a longer DK200".

In my opinion, you shouldn't get one of these if you finish outside the time limit
There was controversy after the main event which centered around the DK200 woman's overall first place finisher. Look- it's a big deal race. I'm not saying anything wrong was done, but would someone bend rules, or press into grey areas to win the DK200 if they could? Yes. Absolutely they would. DK200 winners often parlay their status as the "King and Queen of the Dirty Kanza" into money making opportunities. It is lucrative in terms of future sponsorships, product endorsements, and on and on. Of course controversial things will become part of winning these events, especially something billed as the "World's Premier Gravel Grinder".

Ultimately I think this issue with drafting and who does it is a responsibility of the promoters to look at intensely. The promoters need to decide what, if anything, could be changed in the future to clear up grey areas or if it even is a problem to be dealt with at all. And that is that.

Similarly an issue with the use of aerobars came up. It is my understanding that there was a crash caused due to aerobar use this year and it was a concern to many. Should they be allowed? I will say that aero bars have been a part of gravel road riding and racing since the beginning. I will also say that typically the gravel race family tends to be good at self-policing issues on the roads. Where you get a breakdown in this is when you bring in people unfamiliar with the genre, people looking to push boundaries at the expense of others, potentially becoming a danger, and where skills to ride with aerobars on rough grounds are minimal to non-existent. The DK200 is a very unique animal in the circles of gravel grinding now days. It doesn't really have any analogue in gravel racing with the possible exception of Barry-Roubaix, and even then, the terrain and consequences of a good result are entirely different.

My take is that if the riders cannot seem to handle using the equipment safely in the DK200, then take it away from them. If common sense use cannot be trusted to be the norm, then take the aerobars away. This only really is a big deal in the DK, in my opinion. Others may say, "Well, you shouldn't dictate what bike I get to use!". Well, the answer to that is, do you get to use a geared bike in the single speed category? No- the type of bicycle you use in certain categories is dictated to you. So, limiting how you ride and what you ride already happens. Get over it. Besides, if not using aerobars precludes you from riding well in the DK200, I think you have something else to worry about.

Even the coffee shop changed its name to "Gravel City"
The Dirty Kanza often gets panned by a lot of gravel riders as having "jumped the shark", "selling out", or with some other pithy comment. Look......if someone was willing to give you a handful of cash every year to ride in an event you put on in your own backyard, you'd tell them no, right? Of course you wouldn't. You'd take that cash and ask for more if the people were knocking down your doors to get to ride that event. Don't even think for a minute that you wouldn't.

There are the rare people who don't care about money for things like putting on a gravel road race, but most people think those folks are insane. (Ask me how I know) The rest are in it to get by, or heck, even make a buck or two. And folks gladly pay them. So, who is selling out? You tell me. I just don't buy into that line of thinking.

And look- Emporia, Kansas isn't the paragon of a shining city on a hill by any stretch, but it is a damn site better than it was in 2006 for what the DK200 has brought to it. Now I am not going to say that gravel racing saved a city, but it did raise the bar there, and it has made a big change in how people see their fair city in central Kansas. That's pretty heady stuff. To say that the DK is a bad thing for gravel grinding is.....well, it is just plain stupid. It's changed the way the industry looks at the genre, it's changed the way professional racing looks already, and if things keep going the way that they are, it may have a hand in changing the way a lot of folks view cycling due to the event's high profile. That's a lot of cool stuff, and a ton of responsibility on a few folks at DK Promotions.

I got a glimpse of the inner workings, and I'm sure I don't get the full magnitude of what it takes to run that event. However; you'd be blind and dead if you could not see and feel how much the DK Promotions team cares about the event, the city, gravel riding, and you. You get that they care about each and everyone that comes there if you pay attention, and that isn't hard to feel if you are alive. In that sense the Dirty Kanza is very grassroots. They care about the experiences people have. They care about what you get out of the event. If "grassroots" means you cannot make a profit on your labor and care than we're all in a lot of trouble in this country. When I go to the DK, I feel we are a little bit more okay than not. They should be rewarded just for that if for nothing else.

Thanks for reading these reports on the DK200 and DKXL. I'll have a double "Minus Ten Review" on tap for next Saturday.

Friday, June 08, 2018

Dirty Kanza Report: Starts And Finishes

A severe thunderstorm in the area had me taking cover in an alcove to an apartment on Commercial Street
3:00am, Saturday, June 2nd:

I start from a troubled sleep as I hear a pitter-patter on the window pane in my bedroom. "Ah.....it's raining. I wonder where Matt is!", I think to myself as I fall back asleep. I had set the phone near me and turned my volume for notifications down, so as not to disturb Joe. But I didn't want to miss a possible call from MG. Due to my worry, I didn't sleep all that well. About 4:30am, I heard Joe get up to prepare for his 6:30am send off in the DK100. I checked the radar, remembering the earlier rain, and I was suddenly concerned.

Severe weather was dropping in from the Northwest at 30mph. Lightning and strong winds with the possibility of hail were the main threats. I gathered myself up and switched over to the Trackleaders webpage where the SPOT tracker feed for the DKXL was being shared. By late Friday evening I had not heard where MG was riding. I was left to assume he was a mid-packer, but with no real way of knowing, I was simply guessing. The majority of riders looked to be out of harms way. The tracking page showed that they were too far South to be getting pipped by the path of the storm Good!

The storms pushed back the start times, checkpoint cut offs, and finishing of the event back one half hour, but not the DKXL's
The wind picked up and the tree's branches were being blown to and fro by the swirling winds. Joe was ready and departed saying that I could use an umbrella he had and then he was gone. It was just spitting rain at this point. I piloted MG's car to the start area and found a good place to park. By this time the wind was raging and it was raining. I deployed the umbrella only to have a contrary gust of wind destroy it after I was only a few blocks from the car. Dang it! I kind of nursed it along, doing the best I could, but there would be no saving this thing.

 Making my way toward the starting area, I found an alcove to an apartment entrance off Commercial Street, and I ended up waiting out the weather there. When things calmed down a bit I heard a PA announcer say the start times had been pushed back a half an hour to allow the storm to pass. Good decision as there was copious amounts of lightning associated with the storm. I ran across Celeste Mathias, who was there for her husband, John, who was in the DKXL. She told me that John was riding with MG and Corey "Cornbread"  Godfrey. That was great news! A solid group and I felt a lot better knowing MG was in great company.

Eventually things got going. The 200 riders were gone quite a while when Jim Cummings addressed the 100 riders and said that the three mile mud hike section from 2015 was bad again and was being rerouted around for everyone. The storms also caused a few of the DKXL leaders to have to deal with mud, rain, and lightning, not to mention swirling winds. MG would later say that at one moment the wind was hot, humid, and a tailwind then the next it was a head wind, cool, and then it would switch back again.

A veritable river of riders streams by on their way down Commercial Street at the start of the DK200
Well, after all the hoopla of the start was over I went out and had a breakfast, bought Joe a new umbrella, some beer for his fridge, then I came back down town to check out the expo again. Unfortunately the crowds were more focused on the goings on up and down Commercial Street so the expo area was a ghost town. In fact several expo booths were completely gone already. I suspect that in the future the expo dates will be Thursday and Friday.

Well, the whole scene was interesting from the standpoint of my race director background. The DK is a huge gig these days. I spoke with Dave Pryor, the RD for the new UnPAved event which will take place in Pennsylvania in October of this year. Dave was shadowing Jim Cummings and helping out, getting an apprenticeship in big event production in the process. Dave mentioned that the DK Promotions race handbook is the size of a big city's phone book. Well......if you are old enough to remember what those were like, you'll understand the comparison! Anyway, suffice it to say that the DK events are a BIG production. I got to see just a bit of that while I cruised around Saturday late morning.

This is what Commercial Street looks like in front of the finish line before you get there from riding the Flint Hills.
LeLan Dains, part of the DK Promotions team, holds the ladder while another volunteer prepares to hang the timing clock which you can see on the ground to the right of the ladder.
I had lunch at one of the vendor booths there and then I hung around for a bit more. All this time I had no word from MG about how he was doing, but information trickled in about other riders and MG's group from early DKXL drops. I spoke with Jim Phillips at one point in the afternoon who relayed to me that Friday's heat and humidity had decimated the field, leaving , in his estimation, ten riders DNF-ing by 100 miles in. We heard that Sarah Cooper had gone over her bars and crashed, resulting in a broken collarbone and a DNF. I saw and spoke briefly with Jason Gaikowski who had a crash and bruised his ribs, knocking him out of the event. Later on I would discover he had been riding with MG! I wish I had known that then!

Jim Cummings welcomes in a DK200 rider who was wearing a Mexican wrestling mask.
I finally got a text from MG at 11:07 confirming to me that he was with Jon Mathias and Cornbread. I started posting updates on social media. Then at about 3:22pm I got an ominous sounding text from MG: "Hey man, I'm leaving Council Grove now. May need to pull the plug at some point. Will keep ya posted."

Yikes! I did not like the sounds of that at all. Well, I sent out a social media update right then and there asking for everyone to start pulling for, sending positive vibes out to, and praying for MG to keep truckin'. We needed all of that positivity, whether or not you think it does any good. It couldn't hurt, so I asked. Then I decided that if the worst happened and MG needed me, I'd better be at Joe's house which was on the North end of Emporia and closer to the edge of town. I'd be right by the car at Joe's place and not distracted by anything.

I tried laying down, but my phone was giving notifications like crazy and I could not afford to silence it due to my needing to be "on call" for a possible rescue. Finally, about five hours later at 8:26pm, MG texted me again saying that they had reached the Northernmost reaches of the course and were going to try to make the cut off, which was at 3:00am Sunday. I told him I was there for him if he needed me and he replied, "Thanks Brother! See ya soon." I took that to mean he wasn't quitting now. So, I got up, straightened out myself a bit and went down to the finish line to await MG and Cornbread.

Sitting in Mulready's Pub later, drinking a "Rumor Has It...", I was constantly checking the SPOT tracker for Cornbread. It was moving painfully slow at some points only going 6 or 5 miles per hour at times. I was afraid they'd come in after the time limit, but it would be getting easier as they got closer to Emporia. The terrain flattened out and the wind would be at their backs. Since the SPOT tracker gave over-all mileage I could give countdown updates on social media for how far out Cornbread and MG were. By about 25 miles out I could figure their approximate arrival and I had 2:15 am figured as about the time we'd see the two. I missed it by one minute!

He's in! It was over!
At 2:14 am Sunday, MG and Cornbread came in 6th and 7th place in the inaugural DKXL event. How in the world MG pulled it off after his food poisoning will be a story we will talk about the rest of our days. Just an amazing rally and ride by both he and Cornbread!

I gathered up MG and we went out and got him something to eat. Then back at Joe's place we debriefed and sat in complete amazement at the past 34 plus hours of events. MG and I were ready to talk all day, but we needed to rest up for the long trip home, so at about 5:00am we both hit the sack for a few hours to get somewhat recuperated.

Congrats Brother! Words fail to convey the magnitude of your accomplishment that weekend. Thanks for letting me be a small part of it!

Next: Some final thoughts on the weekend and the Dirty Kanza 200........

Thursday, June 07, 2018

The Dirty Kanza Report: Surprises And Send-Offs

Our host, Joe, prepped his bike on Friday for another go at the DK100
Inside Joe's House, 2:30pm, Friday, June 1st:

Joe is prepping his bike for the following day's attempt at the DK100. MG has already left for the start of the 350 mile DKXL which is to depart from the All Things Gravel Expo area at 4:00pm.

It is interesting to me, as a non-rider, non-promoter at this event to simply observe from a different perspective. Joe is getting more nervous. He's completed the 100 version before, but Joe lives in this area and he knows. Nothing can be taken for granted when you ride in the Flint Hills. Flats, tire shredding flint, heat, wind, maybe even mud, all of which can happen on the same day and take you away from that coveted finish.

Meanwhile, a couple of Joe's teammates from Team Mulready's are to be picked up by Joe and I and we are all going down to the depart of the DKXL. Joe and his teammates are cheering on one of their own who was invited to be one of the 34 riders. That number was chosen to reflect the number of starters in the first DK200 in 2006. Hard to imagine that, but the Dirty Kanza was one of the first gravel grinders, one of the pioneers of the genre'.

Of course, we didn't know what to expect for this. The DKXL was in its inaugural year, this wasn't a heavily promoted part of the weekend since it was small and a test of the event for the DK Promotions team. I assumed there would be a gathering of folks, maybe a hundred if it was a good day. It was that, but it was hot, humid, and the wind was roaring out of the Southwest. Surely folks would be there, but I never thought we would see what we did.

The sea of humanity in the expo area was amazing. People spilled out into the streets along the route for three city blocks as well.
"Oh! Holy Shiiiii.......Wow!", were things exclaimed when we rounded the corner in Joe's truck. We were floored by the press of humanity which was at least a block long at this time before the start. We scrambled out of Joe's truck and at this point, all I was thinking about was getting close enough to perhaps be able to get a shot of MG at the start line. I left my companions behind and started into my "concert mode". Having gone to several rock concerts in the 80's, I knew how to weasel my way through a crowd of people. So it was that I got to the edge of the alleyway and spied a good spot to grab a photo when the riders would go by.

This happened to be at the same spot where a small PA system was and a DK Promotions lady was pumping up the crowd. A veritable wall of photographers and videographers were trying to film the riders who were hemmed in on all sides at this point, like a herd of cattle waiting to be loaded onto a truck. The heat in the alley was stifling, but this was likely due to the press of humans there more than anything else. It was astounding. Later estimates put the crowd that showed up anywhere from 600-800 people. Jim Cummings spied me in the crowd and walked over and said to me, "We never expected anything like this, Mark!"

Jim Cummings pulled me out of the crowd and said some very kind words in tribute to Trans Iowa and myself at the start of the DKXL. Image courtesy of Dori Jansma
As things drew closer to 4:00pm, Jim Cummings took the mic and started in on a dialogue about the influences on Joel Dyke, also a co-founder of the Dirty Kanza, and himself. I was suddenly aware that he was making reference to Trans Iowa. I was hoping to escape notice, but no......Jim went there, and he called me out in the crowd and had me come out next to him for another surprise.

Jim made some heartfelt comments about myself and the Trans Iowa which I will forever appreciate. He didn't have to take the time out to do any of that, but he did, and that means the world to me. What a surprise and what an honor. Then it was back to the business of getting the event started.

MG departs on his way to........we weren't sure!
The send off was electric. The crowd was roaring and the atmosphere was jubilant. I don't think I've seen anything quite like it in the gravel scene. Even the mighty Dirty Kanza 200 start is not as thunderous as this was. What a surprise! I was certainly thrilled to have been there, much less get the recognition there at the start.

Now it was over and the crowd thinned quickly. I was standing there for another hour talking with people. Finally I walked off. I said to myself, "The last man standing, as usual!", and I made my way  back to Joe's place along quiet city streets.

Walking home I had lots of time to contemplate the day
What a crazy turn of events! First there was defeat, concern, and that turned to amazement and joy when MG was able to get going. Then the surprise of the start and the unexpected honor from Jim. Now that this had all passed I was wondering- just how far would MG make it? I'm certain he had no clear idea of what to expect at this point either.

After getting back to the house I hooked up with Joe and we went out for a bite to eat. Joe and I saw a lot of DK cyclists out in their kit, riding about the city. Joe remarked that he thought it was odd that these folks would be spending all day Friday, in some cases, in cycling gear, wasting energy, when the next day they would be spending the better part of a day and night riding again. I offered that perhaps it was just the result of nervous energy. These folks were ready, but waiting was proving to be difficult. Joe nodded his head in agreement.

Back at Joe's place later that evening I found him in his basement, fettling his kit, and fretting over every detail. He looked up at me sheepishly and said, "You know that comment you made about nervous energy? Well, it's real."

The next morning, early, Joe would be joining two thousand plus other riders doing the Dirty Kanza 200, 100, and DKLite rides. It was getting time to turn into bed, and we hadn't heard a peep about MG. No news was good news!  Joe and I were left speechless at the turn of events for MG. But Joe now had to think about himself and we said good night. Before I went in for the evening, I decided to close up MG's sun roof. It didn't look like rain, but Joe said there was a 40% chance of overnight thunderstorms, so just in case........

Next: Starts And Finishes

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Dirty Kanza Report: Man About Town

The Friday morning tradition of the breakfast at Rick's house was awesome.
MG was sick Friday morning, but Joe and I had an invitation to attend a tradition which was started several years ago by the owner of Mulready's Pub, Rick. He lives not far from where Joe lives in Emporia, so we made our way down to his place and met up with several other DK200 and 100 riders.

Bobby Wintle of Land Run 100 fame was there and I got an awesome hug from him. David Mizelle, a rangy gravel grinder known for his ride at Land Run one year with a Viking helmet on, sat next to me and we chatted about life and gravel rides. It was a great meal and with awesome company.

Afterward Joe and I went back to check in on MG, which scene I recounted in yesterday's post. After seeing him I went down town briefly with Joe to catch up with a few folks. I saw Adam Blake of the bike shop, Gravel City, and we had a nice conversation. I saw Tim Mohn as well, he of the DK Promotions team. My old buddy Ears even was there from North Carolina supporting another rider who was riding for his wife. (You can check out more on their story here.) It was a lot of fun to see these folks and more.

Then we had a cuppa joe at Gravel City Roasters. I signed their wall there, so if you ever get in there you'll have to check that out. Finally, it was time to get back to the house again and I grabbed my messenger bag full of crap and walked down town from Joe's house. It was quite the haul!

More DK stoke as seen outside a florist shop several blocks away from downtown.
The walk from Joe's neighborhood of well kept, upper end properties to down town was revelatory. As I got closer and closer to the center of Emporia, the houses got older and more run down. It is obvious that despite the DK200 and its seemingly pervasive influence, the city of Emporia is like so many cities in the heart of the country. Run down homes in desperate need of repairs and updating, poor sidewalks and streets. It seems like an overwhelming issue, and it certainly is exemplary of how this country needs to address its crumbling cities and towns.

As I walked I wondered what the "common person" in Emporia thought about all this cycling madness. It seems that many of the residents see the hoopla that comes along with the DK week as a way to have a carnival and escape all the normal day to day drudgery and ever present decay. But I also wondered how many people see this as an intrusion, a nuisance. Probably a few do, but I haven't seen any evidence of such attitudes.

Finally I found myself down town and at the "All Things Gravel Expo", which was held in a pretty large parking lot which took up about a quarter of a city block. I ran into Jim Cummings who actually walked me over there. It was pretty impressive and I found some surprises. (See my Gravel Grinder News post on RidingGravel.com) I saw Mike Riemer of Salsa Cycles and chatted with him for quite a while. Then it was time to hike it back home to Joe's place to see how MG was coming along. It was well after 12:00pm and I was going to be later than I thought checking in on MG. In the end it all worked out since MG got a nap of about a couple of hours which seemed to be pretty recuperative for him.

That crazy full suspension gravel bike was there. I'm not real sure about that one.
When I got back to Joe's place MG was up and about! Joe and I were flabbergasted, but we were still pretty skeptical, as was MG himself, that he would make much of a ride out of this. At least he could start and that would be awesome. He could at least take part in the event in that way and not miss everything, as we thought he was going to earlier.

So MG kitted up, got his things in order, and tossed me the car keys so I could fetch him if need be, and we all thought I was going to have to do that at that point. I was now "on call", and this would inform my actions for much of the ensuing 35 hours.

Next: Surprises And Send-Offs