Monday, October 15, 2018

Flooded Out: Part 2

Black Hawk Creek flooded over Fletcher Avenue as seen on Saturday
Maybe you remember when I posted about our flooding here at the end of September. (see this post) Back then I was hopeful that we'd clear up the watery mess and have some late Fall riding. Yeah........

So much for that thought!

We have been flooded out pretty much ever since I posted that on September 25th. I had to get something other than gravel travel in, so I saddled up the Ti Mukluk and went to investigate the scene in the Green Belt. Another thing I had been hoping to do was to get the Fall Color ride in, and I always do that in the Green Belt. It is a tradition of mine, for better or worse.

Well, I knew the water would be over the Black Hawk Creek's banks, but you never know where you can ride unless you go check it out. I thought maybe I could scoot around that lake out there, since it wasn't part of the creek itself, so there could be a chance I could ride something there. Off I went and I saw the flooding over Fletcher Avenue. This is where the Green Belt crosses through town on its way to the Cedar River. There are flood gates which can be closed along dikes that run parallel to the creek on either side. The one on the North side was closed, but the Southern one was not, it was only blockaded with barriers. Easy to ride around on you bicycle. So, I took a closer look.

The weird thing about that image is that I am standing on the bridge over the creek, and looking North, so the road actually dips there and when the creek floods, it is the first portion to get flooded.

High and dry riding up on the dike. The flooding can be seen on the right here.
After that I got up on the Southern Dike and rode Southeastward toward the Sergeant Road bike trail. As I was up there on the dike I could see the flood waters lapping at the dike's feet. The Army Corp of Engineers started putting the dikes in this area after a bad flood on the Cedar River in 1961. This dike has weathered several really bad floods, including the record flood of 2008 when the water would have been just down from the top of this dike by only a few feet.

A splash of Fall color at the lake where a few Canadian Geese were taking in the scene.
I reached the lake and immediately saw a small splash of Fall color. It was nice here, but the lake was very high. I wasn't sure I'd get very far, but again......you never know until you try. So I tried.

More Fall color with these sumac bushes all aflame.
Well.......that's as far as I was going to get!
The single track started out running along the top of a small dike built to keep the water from the lake in, instead of pouring all into a lower lying area along Highway 63. If I am correct, I bet that area where the highway was put through was a huge marsh, and this lake was developed to help keep that area beyond it drier. It works, but there is still a few acres of land that are very marshy near the bicycle trail here on Sergeant Road.

The trail runs off that dike then and turns Westward and toward Black Hawk Creek. This is where I ran into a dead end as the flood waters had covered the trail and a dense network of low Cedars was on my right preventing any easy workaround. Further in to the right, just beyond the Cedars is a run which was very flooded, and then beyond that the big flood dike I rode over on. So, no bushwhacking! I was relegated to turning around and heading out the way that I came in.

This was the other way around. No good.
I tried going the other way but it was cut off right as soon as the single track started. I ended up cruising over toward Highway 20, then back on the bike path, and eventually back home again. Foiled but for a tiny bit of dirt and a tiny flash of Fall color. Maybe this will go away sooner than I think, but the latest on the flood is that it won't go below flood stage until this coming Wednesday. Then I would assume it would be a good two weeks before the pools dry up that get left behind, at least enough to make a ride out of things back there. So, yeah...... Fall is about shot.

And it snowed Sunday!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Touring Series: A Dead End

A Guitar Ted Productions series
 Thanks for joining me again on another adventure in "The Touring Series". This tour was dubbed the "Race Against Death Tour". This tour occurred in August of 1995. The three participants, Ryan, Troy, and your's truly, left from Cedar Falls, Iowa to try and get to Winter Park, Colorado in two weeks. Here I am reproducing the tale as it was posted on the blog 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 in use by we tourers in 1995. 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.
 

The "Touring Series" will appear every Sunday until it ends. Look for past entries by scrolling back to a previous Sunday's post, or type in "Touring Series" in the search box to find more.

As "The Race Against Death Tour" wakes up in Wynot, Nebraska after a 93 mile day, the riders look forward to knocking another state off the list....
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Day 4- Thursday, August 10th: After a fitful night of sleep that was interrupted by a local softball game and the requisite party afterwards, along with the rumbles of thunder all night long, I awoke and quietly got packed to head out. We quickly ate our morning oatmeal and headed out of Wynot for the main road and a turn westwards.

A rare image of myself (R) and Troy. Note my front panniers are still gone here.
The road was hilly, there was a fair amount of climbing in this region of Nebraska. It certainly wasn't flat! Along the first miles, we saw a road sign warning of road construction in a town called Niobrara up ahead. We saw the sign pointing cars up the road northwards to Yankton, South Dakota. We stopped there for a moment and debated about what to do, but in the end we opted for the planned route and a first stop in Crofton. It couldn't come soon enough for me, since the climbing had burned up the oatmeal and I was hungry.

Coming into Crofton, we found a gas station that had just opened up and they had some meager pickings, but that would suffice for me, because by now, I would have eaten the bark off a tree, I was so hungry. The fellows at the station seemed a bit put out by our presence. The sideways glances were not well concealed. They told us that on bicycles, we could "probably" make it through. Probably was good enough for us, so we hit the road westwards.

The day was getting hotter, and it was not very windy. What wind there was came from an easterly direction, so we did have a wee bit of an assist. We would get an even bigger one later. At one point during the late morning, we topped out on a high ridge that offered a view for miles. The resulting downhill was one I won't forget for a long time. It was just one of those times that everything gelled on the bike, not just for me, but all three of us. I don't recall how long that descent was, but I do know that it was a long, long way. Maybe three miles. And after that, we had the tailwind with the big ring engaged, laughing, soft pedaling......well, you get the idea. It was one of those moments that you wish you could repeat again. Maybe someday.....

At any rate, after several miles that seemed to drift off into a dreamy haze, we reached the approach to Niobrara. The river here had flooded the road into town earlier in the year, so the State was in the process of raising the roadbed three feet higher. It got kind of rough in spots, almost off-roadish. We dodged big end loaders, dump trucks, and other equipment at times. At one or two spots we were obliged to dismount and walk our rigs, but we did get into town on that ribbon of dry land bordered by water, weeds, and waterfowl.

Once we got into town, we spied a big convenience store. Food! It was about 11:30am, so the time was right for some grub. We parked the bikes and sauntered in to find some good stuff there. What wasn't good was the news we got from the lady at the register. She told us we had no way out on pavement westward, and that the construction was heavy out that way, so bikes wouldn't be allowed. (Yes, there was only one way in and out of Niobrara on pavement!) We took our purchases and with deflated countenances, we mused on what our next move could be. That was when the lady at the register started asking us more questions. She was curious about our trip, what our rigs were like, and where we were headed. We politely answered her, but we were really not here to engage in story telling. We had a big problem in front of us. We needed to figure out a plan.

Well, wouldn't ya know it, but the lady behind the counter mentioned that she just might have a plan. Maybe, if we could fit everything in, she could give us a ride. But she wasn't sure. Don't get our hopes up, and all of that. She was getting off in a half an hour, so if we could wait, she would see what she could do.

Well, that was really the only option that we could consider a possibility then, so we definitely took her up on it.
________________________________________________________________

 The rare image shared today is on the ridge where we had the eastward wind assist and were having the best time ever. I don't know if you have an experience cemented into your psyche where the riding experience was so sublime and enjoyable that you can close your eyes and see yourself there again, but this was one at the top of the list. Probably top five or better for me for sure.

We were picking flowers from the side of the road, tall ones, as we rode by, sticking them in our bikes and in our hats. Laughing, smiling, just experiencing pure, unmitigated joy. It's something that if you could bottle it, you would be a zillionaire from the sales of it. But that's what makes things like that so precious and special. The rarity, the surprising appearance of the experience, and the fact that, maybe, you'll spend the entire rest of your life and never feel that again.

The scene in Niobrara was chaotic. Road construction had upset the town's traffic patterns and we came off a huge "mountain top high" to be slapped in the face with the reality that we may have ridden ourselves into a corner. We could ill afford to have to backtrack out of Niobrara and find another route, especially since roads were scarce in this territory. The word that maybe, just maybe, this lady had a way around our conundrum was all we had to hang our hats on, and admittedly, it wasn't much. Putting our trust in a complete stranger who may or may not have the answer we were looking for, hinging the entire success of the tour on that, was a huge gamble. I felt the stress and so did Ryan and Troy.

Next Week: Waiting for a half an hour seemed like an eternity..........

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Minus Ten Review- 41

Sun dappled trees on the North Side of Camp Ingawanis in 2008.
Ten years ago here on the blog I was doing some Fall mtb riding which was spectacular. Of course, this was mostly being done on the north side of Camp Ingawanis back then. Those trails were so awesome, and yet, for as much as I talked about them a decade ago, hardly a soul would come up to ride them. Now days the mere mention of those trails is like speaking of a mystery to riders here. Most people I know riding now have never ridden that side.

I was also talking about some Enve, (Edge Composites back then) rims for 29"ers. This was a big, big deal in 2008. Carbon rims for mountain biking were barely a thing and here I had a set of 29"er hoops to test? Crazy! Enve claimed a set should last, easily they said, for a decade. Well, I am here to tell you that is indeed the case, as these wheels are still being ridden, as far as I know, since I sold them several years back now to a rider who lives in Duluth now. So yeah.... I guess they were right! 

I remember thinking then that a decade on the same wheels is unheard of. Who does that? I know......it happens, but it didn't too often. I had a set of Campy hoops that I ended up blowing up on my commuter bike back in the day that were a decade old, but I didn't know many folks that mountain biked the same set of wheels for very long. I suppose carbon hoops have changed that now.

The other interesting thing is that those old Edge rims are pretty much gravel riding rims now. In the last decade, inner rim width for mtb has ballooned to plus 25mm in most cases. These rims were 28mm outer width, as I recall, so yeah...... Basically what we'd use for gravel travel now.

White colored components- What were we thinking?!!
Do you remember that trend for white colored components? That was ten years ago now. Man! That was an odd deal. Everything got the white treatment. Forks, stems, rims, and even brake sets!

Companies kept sending white stuff to be tested up until about 2012 or so, then it seemed to fade away. I know the white forks were "okay", but those rims? Gah! Those were just butt ugly. I'm glad I got rid of all the wheels I had that were white.

And brakes shouldn't be white either. I figured that out pretty quickly. DOT brake fluid and painted components weren't a good thing to mix together. But, we don't have to worry about that anymore, and let's hope we never have to again!

I also tackled the misconceptions regarding the Fargo, which had just debuted at Interbike. Folks were put out because a frame and fork, initially the only way you could get a Fargo then, was going to be $650.00 MSRP. Surly Cross Checks were going for $400.00 ten years ago. I am not going to rehash the arguments for and against the Fargo. That ship has long since sailed and those arguments, obviously, are a moot point. But those prices are interesting.

You can still get a Cross Check reasonably cheap. Generally, for around $500.00, a Cross Check frame and fork can still be had ten years down the road. However; the Fargo would be closer to $900.00 in today's money. That seems weird, but consider this- A Cross Check is pretty much unchanged from its form that it had in 2008. A Fargo? It isn't anything like it was ten years ago! That's the big difference. Plus, a Fargo will have a carbon fiber fork now.

If Salsa had kept a 2009-ish style Fargo in the line, it may have only gone up about a hundred bucks also.  But, we will never know.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Friday News And Views

Early event = High possibility of messy face!
CIRREM Re-ups For '19:

The Iowa classic, CIRREM, has announced its 2019 event date and registration time. If you are curious, and you want in, you'd better be on the ball with registration as this event fills up quickly.

This is a tricky event. It can be nice, (for February), or it can be a total crap-fest. I did the event once when the course had three inches of fresh snow on it and it was something like 20-ish degrees. It was cooooold! I remember that much, at any rate!

I managed to finish and it was a great time. So, if you like your gravel events grassroots style with not much for frills, then this could be your event. Well, if you are an adventurous type and don't mind sloppy conditions, or freezing cold, or even ice! I think one or two years they have had some pretty slick roads. You just never know that time of year. If we start getting an early taste of Spring it could be gloriously awesome. If Winter hangs on it could be a slick, chilly affair, but either way folks love this event and I can highly recommend it.

I did CIRREM when their event website was a blogspot page. Now they are all fancy with a "dot-com". Here it is.

From the T.I.v5 course in 2009
Furniture On Course Trend:

Salsa Cycles started this. Even if they didn't, I am blaming them. They brought out a chaise lounge for 2018 and drug it around to several gravel events, asking riders to sit down and have their portrait taken. Okay......good fun and all. But enough is enough.

Now it seems that every gravel promoter is trying to come up with their own version. Picture frames, found trash on the road, statues, or whatever are employed as a kind of "selfie imaging spot"where cheesy images of riders are taken and posted to social media for "the fun of it". I'm not a big fan of promoting social media during event time because, well, there is already enough of that to go around already. It's getting out of hand, in my opinion. At some point, it may tip to being a detriment to events. For instance, I see drone footage of riders during events now. It makes me wonder, why should I go ride your event if you have live drone camera footage? I can be "virtually there" and never have to leave the couch. Speaking of couches.......

Come tell me a story though, and tell me your experiences about an event, and well.....I may just want to get off my couch and go see for myself. Maybe promoters are being led to give too much away with social media. That's my thoughts on the matter.

Look, I get it. I like fun, and in reality, I don't mind a bit of shtick when it comes to promoting events. So, yeah, I am just poking fun here. Don't take this too seriously, but I think that y'all can come up with something more original and better. In fact, I think making a socializing attempt for everyone pre or post event is a much better event enhancement. Let the course be the course and the experiences don't have to be manufactured. But pre or post event? Yes. Get the tribe together and yuck it up all ya want to.

Just my two cents......

Cane Creek eeSilk suspension post
Like A Thudbuster

Cane Creek has their own version of a suspension seat post now for gravel travel called "eeSilk". If it looks vaguely familiar, it should. Cane Creek sells the Thudbuster suspension seat posts, which the eeSilk is a variation of.

Like the Thuddys, the eeSilk has an elastomeric damping material sandwiched between two pivoting links which are connected at the seat post base and head/clamp. While Cane Creek claims a "vertical" path for travel, it clearly cannot move completely in a vertical plane due to its design. It only features 20mm of travel, so it isn't going to really do much other than absorb high frequency chatter. Of course, gravel is perfectly suited to that, so it makes sense that way.

I've used the Thudbuster ST, a 76mm travel post, and thought it worked fine. The only nit I have ever had with this sort of design is that eventually the pivots develop slop and you will start out by hearing a rattle when you are off the bike. If it is allowed to get worse you can feel it while riding. Cane Creek does offer rebuild kits to remedy this. Now I cannot say if the eeSilk post would be prone to doing that, but since the design is so similar, it wouldn't come as a surprise to me if that pivot wear would become an issue with this new design as well at some point.

Still, it is another choice which may make sense for many gravel riders. I expect that it will be of high quality, just like my Thudbusters were, and it should be a great solution for rough gravel roads where you only need to have the buzz taken out.

It's going to be a chilly....but dry....weekend. Get out and ride!

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Rain Stopped!

It wasn't a pretty day, but it wasn't raining!
Rain. It's been coming down off and on for the better part of two weeks here and it has raised havoc with my riding. Mine and a lot of other local cyclists. We've been commiserating, for sure, and some have even taken up riding in the downpours, just to get a ride in. It's been kind of a drag, to say the least.

Maybe if you are a cyclist, and you live the lifestyle, you'll understand, but missing rides is not a good thing for folks like us. Our spouses and friends can feel it when we aren't getting ride time in. It affects more than just the riders. Maybe we have a problem that needs dealing with, although I wouldn't know how you'd go about doing that short of actually riding. And I wouldn't want it any other way either. So, there's that.

Anyway, it finally quit raining here. It was forecast to stop and stay away Wednesday, and for the next several days here, at least. Sure it was going to be really windy. Really windy and dry. So, I was going out there no matter how windy it was going to be. I got my Tamland's spoke fixed and got geared up to head out South of town.

Rain caused flooding in various places. This is a section of road that was damaged by flooding.
I decided to not ride from the house, so I loaded up the truck and started from Prairie Grove Park where it is an easy half mile to gravel. I wasn't wearing a wind breaker and it was in the 50's, and I thought maybe that might be a mistake. However; I had a merino wool shirt under my RidingGravel.com jersey and that kept me just warm enough. Working against the heavy Southwesterly wind was enough to keep the fire burning, which in turn made me stay warm as well. Onward then....

I wasn't out to set any records, so I had to keep reminding myself to just spin and take it easy. I made steady progress Southward until I reached Reinbeck Road which was where I decided I had better turn back. Either that or you pretty much have to go well into Tama County to find an East or West running road, and going East would only add more painful Westward mles to get home. I made the slow march one mile West to Aker Road and then turned North. Man! The relief was instantaneous.

The maintainers were out, by the way, and fresh gravel was the norm all the way down South and West so far on this ride. The road crews are trying to get ahead of harvest time machinery, which is ginormous these days. Semi-tractor trailer rigs look small in comparison to modern day tractors, wagons, and especially combines. (Harvesters, as some call 'em) The soft, rain soaked roads are all getting a fresh application of gravel, and that spread out by graders, before the harvest gets up and running again. But that said, I think it might be quite a while before many fields are able to handle the huge, heavy equipment farmers employ these days.


In this image above you can see standing water on the right at the end of that field in the foreground. However; that bean field just beyond it was swimming in water, and the ditches are all full of water as well. Things are just super soaked!

It was like this all over except for in the higher ground which I passed. Those fields will clear up sooner. However; I'd say well over half of what I saw on my ride was soaking in standing water. I've never seen it like this so many hours after a rain. I'd say it had been been 24 hours since it rained in this area. Note also the fresh gravel on that road there. It was several inches deep, by the way, which made going against the wind even more fun. 

Every now and again I would see a maple in full flame.
 Fall hasn't been sleeping since the rains came. I'd say this week is peak color here. By this time next week the maples will have all dropped most of their leaves, and they are really flame orange this year. It's nice to see, but I am afraid my annual Fall Green Belt ride isn't going to happen this year due to this flooding. Bummer!

There is a lot of corn still left to be harvested in the fields yet.
 Anyway, back to going North. The wind was a quartering tailwind, but it didn't matter as it was pushing me along with little effort necessary on my part. The roads were not maintained here either. Crazy fast! I didn't take long to get back to my truck despite my soft pedaling much of the way.

It was awesome to get out and ride after so long. Hmm.... "Long" is relative, I guess, but if I am not riding out in the country, or in the woods, every other day, I get kind of cranky. That's not a good thing. So, I am sure glad the rains stopped!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

You May Not Know, But......

So, you may not know this about me, but I have been drawing stuff since....... Shoot, I can't remember when. All my life, most likely. I have drawn up some of the Trans Iowa headers, I have done some t-shirt designs for Trans Iowa, and I have done a lot of stuff throughout my life which was used commercially, or used for design work to be enjoyed personally by various folks. Anyway, this October was designated "Inktober" by an artist and my daughter, Izabel, challenged me to draw a sketch of something from a list of prompts everyday this month.

The ideas for each day were predetermined somehow and a list was generated for each day of the month with a one word prompt. Examples are "Poisonous", "Chicken", and "Exhausted". I have been having fun with this and thought I'd share a few of my favorites, so far, here with the blog readers. So, with no further fanfare, here are some of my favorite "Inktober" posts so far....

"Drooling"
"Chicken"
"Precious"  
"Exhausted" 
"Spell"

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

"Real" Road Bikes

Not a "road bike"? I beg to differ.
You know, I'd say since about 2011 or so I have been debating and thinking about what these fatter tire, slightly slacker road going bikes should be called. Many said "gravel bike", and at one time I offered this as a solution as well. However; even back seven years ago I understood that the term "gravel" was too limiting, and that another name needed to be used.

All sorts of things were offered up as a name for these bikes, which in my opinion, are more versatile and therefore more useful to the general cycling public than what was known as "road bikes". Road bikes, traditional road bikes", have skinny tires, limited usefulness, and foster an aggressive, "suffering" style of riding that isn't what most folks think of as "useful" or "fun". Type 2 fun notwithstanding, road bikes are generally a pain in the butt for most customers of the shop where I work. They want higher seated positions, they want a rack, they want a kickstand, fer cryin out loud. But they've been duped by marketing and have fallen under the spell of the siren call of carbon fiber.

There is a dichotomy here, a diverging trail- One leading to "the sale", where sexy marketing focusing on speed, lightweight, and technology get the customer hooked. Then there is "The Reality" when folks find out road bikes require a decent amount of physical fitness and don't have many features that they really want in a bike.

It has always been my belief that folks needed a bike that suited their needs, was reasonably lightweight, and wasn't beholden to staying on smooth pavement for the entirety of its lifespan. That bike, I have always reasoned, is what we call "gravel bikes". But that name is all wrong! The name these bikes should have is road bikes. That's right. The name for those skinnier tire, performance driven, singularly purposed bicycles should not be "road bikes". They should be called by their right name- racing bikes

Bred from competition. Made to look like a Pro's bike- Meet the "Racing Bike"
 I was struck by this totally obvious observation after having read this opinion piece on "Velo News". The entire search for a new name for these "gravel bikes" is not a wise thing to do. The "right name" for these bikes was right under our noses all the time, and it had been usurped by what the industry calls "road bikes", which really are not "road" bikes at all. "Certain roads bikes", yes. But not all roads are suited to racing bicycles. Not to mention all purposes......

When I was a kid, we knew these performance oriented bikes as "racers", or "road racers". Many of us called them "ten speed racing bikes", which became shortened to simply "ten speeds". It was understood that these bikes were "racing bikes", and not the kind of bike for everyday usage in terms of the average citizen. Somehow or another, in the late 90's, this got turned on its head when racing bikes became known as "road bikes". Probably due to the rise in popularity of "off-road", or "mountain bikes". The opposite of those would be "road bikes", but other than bicycles purposed for racing, what was there in the US market? Nothing, unless you went in for the hard-to-understand "hybrid" bike, which, if you didn't know, was an offshoot of fat tired "road bikes" which were purposed to go on any road. (Bruce Gordon's Rock and Road model, being the forebear of these.) Somewhere along the line those bikes got cross-bred with mountain bikes and ended up becoming 29"ers, but that's another story.

Marketers are a savvy bunch. Connecting the word "racing" to "road bikes" wasn't selling bikes. So.......drop the racing bit. Now they have become misunderstood as being "the road bike" and anything else isn't a "road bike". But that is just plain wrong. All the "sexy" attributes of these bikes- lightweight, speed, technology- were touted, but the fact that they were totally based on road bike racing geometry and rider positioning was swept under the rug. Not to mention the single purpose design philosophy which renders these bikes as not very versatile.

Road bike sales have suffered of late, and one of the reasons why is easy to see- road biking isn't safe. So, these "gravel bikes' have allowed folks to get off the dangerous paved highways. The aforementioned "Velo News" piece's author acknowledges this. The thing is, this isn't going to change anytime soon. That will take years to change. Maybe decades. Then the author offers that millennials  could be a solution because they don't do automobiles as much as their predecessors, (but......infrastructure!), and while they are bound by financial constraints, (but road racing bikes are expensive), they would rather look at their phones than drive a car, (Uh.....what?!), and on....

Obviously that is an odd defense of racing bikes. The author then goes on to say that gravel bikes are a "band-aid" solution and not the answer. I think that notion is dead wrong. The problem is, and always has been, that racing bikes aren't the answer to most people's road biking needs. "Real road bikes", the ones we pigeon hole as "gravel bikes", are the solution. The name needs to be what it should have been all along though. Not "gravel", not "all-road", just road bikes, because these bikes can do all the roads and more. Racing bikes.......not so much.


Monday, October 08, 2018

The Winner

Jeff Kerkove just after winning the 200 mile Spotted Horse Gravel Ultra- Image courtesy of the Spotted Horse
My old co-worker, Trans Iowa co-founder, and an old hat at running long, tough races, Jeff Kerkove, won a gravel race. That isn't anything new, by the way. He's won a lot of races.

I had him tabbed to win it all along, as soon as I heard he was on the roster for the Spotted Horse Gravel Ultra. He's not an unknown, at least not to me. I know not many have heard of Jeff on the gravel side of bicycle racing, but he's won lots of solo 24hr races, been a contender in really high altitude mtb ultras, and you know, he is from Iowa, after all. 

Jeff cut his teeth, in terms of cycling, on gravel. He trained for miles, hundreds- maybe thousands of miles, all over Iowa on gravel roads. He raced in the first Trans Iowa. Gravel racing, riding techniques, and most importantly, how to ride for a hell of a long time, are not things foreign to this guy. That's why when I read things like, "It was only his fifth gravel race!", I have to snort with laughter.

But I know about this guy. 

I haven't hung around Jeff for many years now, but in my short time that I was blessed to do so, I can tell you that I have never met anyone else with such a strong sense of discipline than he has. Jeff was determined, loyal to the plan he set for himself, and had that "it", that mental attribute, that you cannot teach. If everything went right, Jeff was going to contend for the win. I doubt he's changed much in the last decade, so when he won, I wasn't at all surprised.

Congratulations Jeff!

Sunday, October 07, 2018

The Touring Series: R.I.P. Jerry

A Guitar Ted Productions series
Thanks for joining me again on another adventure in "The Touring Series". This tour was dubbed the "Race Against Death Tour". This tour occurred in August of 1995. The three participants, Ryan, Troy, and your's truly, left from Cedar Falls, Iowa to try and get to Winter Park, Colorado in two weeks. Here I am reproducing the tale as it was posted on the blog 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 in use by we tourers in 1995. 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.
 

The "Touring Series" will appear every Sunday until it ends. Look for past entries by scrolling back to a previous Sunday's post, or type in "Touring Series" in the search box to find more. 

 

The "Race Against Death Tour" stops for the night in Wynot, Nebraska........
______________________________________________________________________

When we pulled into the small town of Wynot, we saw a little town square, if it could be called such. It was basically a poor excuse for a park with a central restroom facility, a couple of weathered old picnic tables, and a swing set swaying gently in the breeze. Along the western side of the main street there were a row of low buildings that served as business fronts for the post office and two small bars, along with some other non-descript buildings.
Wynot, Nebraska as it appears today from the Southwest

We spied the park as a place to set up tents and hit the hay. Troy went in to ask to see if this was okay at the bar. We followed in behind, but we were redirected down the street to another place to get "official" blessing. On the way down, an old man hailed us, and began to get into a conversation with Troy, but he quickly passed him off to Ryan and I.

Well, this old man was either half crazy, drunk, or both. (I vote for both), and he proceeded to try to talk to us in half sentences, ravings, and unintelligible bursts of sound. Ryan about busted a gut several times, but managed to keep it together. I never really did get the gist of what the old fella was saying, but Ryan seemed to tap into some of his verbiage, as he would oft repeat snippets of it afterwards, much to Troy's and my delight. This fellow helped us give rise to the concept of "V.I.P" that we instigated for folks of this sort the rest of the trip. We dubbed these folks "VIP's", but "very important person" wasn't really what we meant. We were to meet several more similar folks along our road.

Troy finally emerged from the building he went into. Now that we had the "official" blessing, we could set up camp in the town square. We made quick work of our setting up, having had enough practice now to be really good at it. We discovered that the rest room had a central drain, so we took a big pot that Ryan had brought and used it to fill with water from the faucet and pour over our heads to take make shift showers.

After getting cleaned up, we hit the bar we had walked into earlier. Calling it a "bar" is a bit unfair, I guess. It was basically a restaurant with a bar in the corner. Anyway, they had a board above the back counter with the menu on it. They had about every fried concoction available and known to mankind. Fried cauliflower baskets, fried mushroom baskets, fried cheese curd baskets, you name it, they had it. And........we ordered it! We filled our round table with fried food baskets and looked at it all with wide eyes. We were amazed at the volume of food. But you know what? We ate every last morsel!

After retiring to our patch of grass, we took to a lone picnic table and faced the lowering sun that was lighting up the clouds on the western horizon. It looked like some thunderheads were coming our way. But now everything was peaceful and relaxing. Troy said he wanted to go into the bar to ask to use the phone to make a collect call to his wife. (Amazing that we used to do this!) He was gone long enough that Ryan and I made note of it, thinking, and hoping nothing was seriously wrong. When Troy came out, it was apparent that the news from home was not good.

Thoughts ran across my mind of what it could be, but it wasn't "close to home" bad news. We found out from Troy that his wife had told him the news that Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead had died. Troy, being a huge fan, was devastated by this. We all sat on that picnic table for several minutes in silence, staring as the sun went down in a red and orange haze.

After some conversation we finally hit the hay and settled in for the night. I could hear the distant thunder and the flashes of lightning grew closer. I lay unable to sleep as a storm rolled up on Wynot, Nebraska that night, wondering what the following days might bring.
__________________________________________________________________________

This is a small town scene that is something not uncommon even today in the Mid-West. Run down, dilapidated buildings with  small bars for businesses and "colorful" characters which are the only real outstanding elements for most of these places. Wynot, Nebraska was going to just be another avearge stop on the route but for the crazy old man and what happened in the news that day.

Of course, we'd have never known about Jerry Garcia's death, maybe for days, had Troy not called his wife. No Twitter barrage with "Jerry Garcia" trending. No waves of social media outpourings on Facebook, Instagram, or Snap Chat. It was just another sleepy day in Wynot and that Sunset would not have been as memorable had we not gotten that news.

We did get rained on that night. The way we dealt with wet stuff will be told in a couple weeks, if you remember to catch that. It wasn't a bad storm, but laying in a tent in a strange town with thunder rolling all around you sure has a way of making a man feel lonely........

Next: A Dead End

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Minus Ten Review- 40

Ten years ago I rode in the pines on the North Side of Ingawanis.
Ten years ago on the blog I was a week back from Interbike and processing a bunch of info. That was back in the heyday of the 29"ers acceptance and growth. Things were humming right along then. Well......with the exception of the economy. The "Great Recession" was just hitting the news then and we were fearful in the cycling industry about just what that might mean for us going forward.

One of the things I was working through was trying to get a test bike for the then new Gates Carbon Drive, or just belts, if you will. I'd tried one the year before at Interbike when Gates was out in huge numbers touting the superiority of the system over traditional chains. Only........you couldn't use it with derailleurs, so...... Yeah. There's that. Oh! Internal geared hubs though! Right........ There's Rohloff and...... Expensive and anything else is not as reliable or doesn't have the range of gearing. Whatever.....

The point was that Gates was telling us this was the best thing since sliced bread, so I listened to their story, mounted up, and then got the belt to "ratchet". (Read: skipped a tooth) Funny thing happened then. Gates said they needed to go back to the drawing board. Yeah....... Marketing fail.

Then they came out with Center Track, which did a great job making single speed riding with a belt more reliable. But my set up will still ratchet in super high torque situations. And you still can't use a derailleur set up.

Then I also had just about wrapped up my fork experiment. The Blackbuck was the bike and I swapped a whole bunch of forks in and out of that bike to show that you could make anything work, if you liked the handling. Offset and axle to crown measurements were also discussed along with trail figure and what that all meant. It was fun, but I made my head hurt with all the tinkering with numbers.

And the first "Touring Tuesdays" posts were rolling out. That was a fun series which is being reposted every Sunday now for a while. Check it out......

Friday, October 05, 2018

Friday News And Views

Spotted Horse Gravel Ultra:

Well, this weekend is the annual Spotted Horse Gravel Ultra. First of all, good luck to all who are participating. Especially my old coworker and Trans Iowa co-founder, Jeff Kerkove, who is signed up to ride in this thing.

This event is star-crossed for me. I want to go, but every year something else coincides with this that keeps me from attending, either as a participant or as a spectator. This year my son has a football game, and for obvious reasons, family takes precedence over seeing old friends, but that doesn't make that any easier to bear. Last year I forget what it was that kept me from going, but I remember the year before it was the Fargo Reunion Ride which took precedence over Spotted Horse.

Anyway..... I will miss seeing everyone there and I wish you all the best. Maybe one of these days I'll make it to a Spotted Horse! But that said, hopefully this predicted rain won't affect the event too negatively, and also, I hope everyone stays safe!

Tell me they are good for gravel- Okay. Just don't say "gravel specific", please!
It's Getting Silly- This "Gravel Specific" Thing: 

Look........I get it. The bicycling marketplace is suffering. Sales are, at best, flat. The only categories showing growth, if you care to know, are e-bikes (mopeds-motorcycles.....whatever) and gravel bikes. I still think the adoption of "gravel" for these bicycles is short-sighted, but again........whatever.

The point is, this "gravel" deal is one of the bright spots in cycling. So, you know......everyone wants a piece of the action. In that vein, a new cyc;ing helmet was introduced Thursday, which shall remain nameless, which was touted as being "gravel specific". The media outlet which presented us with this farcical idea did its usual job of writing up a story and in the middle of its presentation it questioned what it was that made the helmet gravel specific, answering themselves by saying they didn't know, but maybe it was due to the useless visor attached to the helmet's browline.

See, this is marketing gone awry. I don't mind if a company says, "Hey! Look at this! It might work well for gravel riding!". Okay. That's good. That's fine with me. But when you tell me a saddle is "twenty-niner specific", as fizik did at one time, or that a stupid piece of plastic masquerading as a "visor" makes an otherwise roadie helmet "gravel specific", well you are on very thin ice there. Not buying it.

Titanium May Not Be Forever: 

But Silca says it can be guaranteed for 25 years in a bottle cage form. Yep! Introducing the "Sicuro" titanium bottle cage for $70.00.

Seventy bucks! It had better last for 25 years! That's a lot of dough, especially when you can get what is arguably the best cage in the business, made from titanium, in a King Cage for around $50.00 retail. But......you can move this one around in different mounting positions. Yep! Comparable to the Morse Cage by Wolf Tooth (made by King Cage) at the same price as this Sicuro cage. That said, Wolf Tooth doesn't have a 25 year guarantee.

The bottom line here is that you could outfit an entire bike with three plastic cages, or injection molded cages, for less, so it depends upon your viewpoint. Titanium is definitely durable. Like Silca says, ".....feel free to slam your bottles home with abandon and mount it under the downtube on your gravel rig in the knowledge that it will provide a "Sicuro" hold."

So clever there! Anyway, you'll have to decide whether or not titanium bottle cages are worth it, or if stainless steel is "good enough" (you can get that Wolf Tooth cage for $25.00 when it is in stock), or if none of this nonsense is making sense to you and you'd rather save a bunch of money and use injection molded cages. Twenty five years is a looooong time, so unless you plan on moving the Sicuro cage from bike to bike, you may not ever get the full benefit of the guarantee. Then again, you've got to wonder if Silca would even bother to warranty a 24 year old titanium bottle cage, or even if they would be around to honor that in 25 years. Hard to say......


Floyd's of Leadville to sponsor a Pro Continental Team?
In The "No- I'm Not Making This Up" File:

Pro road cycling still suffers from the stigma of doping, 20 years after the modern day breakout of the big doping crisis in the sport. Many have had their names drug through the mud, have been cast  from their lofty places in the sport, and have lost everything due to doping to gain an advantage on the field. One of these characters, Floyd Landis, announced that he was going to take what was left over from a lawsuit settlement which he was engaged in with the deposed cyclist, Lance Armstrong, and spend it on starting a continental Pro road race team. (Details here)

In an irony of ironies, a former doper is starting a team, in a sport hurting from doping allegations to this day, with money he got from a lawsuit against another doper, and will be sponsored by his own company which sells marijuana based hemp and CBD products. So dope! 

Man, the story just seems tailor made for a comedic routine. I'm sure the jokes are already flying! But, many in the media are trying to look beyond the obvious silliness here because any news of growth in the realm of road cycling is rare these days. That shows you how desperate these times are for cycling. 

Teravail offerings in skinwall.
 Teravail Debuts New Tire Offerings:

Lots of newsy stuff today and here is a bit more from QBP tire brand, Teravail. They have introduced some new variants in there tire model line up.

The two 650B offerings are interesting in that they cover two popular sizes and they are the tread that Teravail has designated as one of their gravel specific offerings. This is big because of all of the new bikes coming out with 650B compatibility. The smaller size should even slot in on bikes which have narrower clearances.  

The 29 X 2.8 Coronado is interesting for the 29+ freaks that want a great looking skinwall option. Of course, you can get blackwall versions, but why would you? Skinwalls till Winter! ha! Anyway, a great option for 29+ bikes. I doubt it will fit the back of many 29"ers. 

Then the Rampart is a tire I am not familiar with, but a 38mm offering is a good size which isn't covered by many companies. It also would be a better choice for some cyclo cross bikes where a 40+mm tire isn't allowing for any mud clearances or just plain won't fit. 

Teravail says these are available now, so see your local bike shop dealer and ask about 'em.


That's a wrap for this week. I hope you all get to ride this weekend.


Thursday, October 04, 2018

Washing Day

Laid out to dry
That blazing ball of gaseous fire appeared in the sky again Wednesday and it was accompanied by warmer, humid air, not unlike that of a mid-July day. It was also very windy. Plans were to get shorn at the local barber shop and then to go out for a ride.

The first part happened and, well......the second part kind of did. A broken rear spoke sent me packing back home just after getting started. I didn't have another bike ready and I would have needed about the same amount of work on any of them to get out again. Well, any of the gravel rigs, that is. I've got  lot of tubeless maintenance to get through, and then I should be golden, but I've been putting it off and now this. Bah! 

Anyway, I decided that this other thing I've been putting off- namely the washing of a couple of my wool jerseys- was now a thing to get done. I have certain practices I employ when I wash my woolens and they have proven to be effective in keeping the jerseys I have used this practice on in tip-top shape.

Essentially I just hand wash them in a big five gallon bucket I have. Then I lay them out in the Sun to dry, and the windier the better. Well, that described Wednesday to a "T", so I went to work on that. Now my "Summer" weight stuff is ready to be put away for Winter.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Iowa Gravel Expo/Bike Party 2019

The Iowa Gravel Expo/Bike Party 2019 sponsored by RidingGravel.com will happen on February 9th, 2019 at Doughy Joey's, upstairs in the party room, in Cedar Falls, Ia. This is the same venue we used last year.

Finer details will be determined later, but put this on your calendar now if you are interested.

The date happens to coincide with the Iowa Games Fat Bike Race which will be held earlier in the day in Cedar Falls at George Wyth State Park. Come race your fat bike, or watch the event, and then hit Doughy Joey's for some drinks and grub while we gab about all things gravel. The agenda will include, but may not be limited to, the following topics:
  • Iowa Based Gravel Events: If you have a gravel event based in Iowa and would like to promote it, or just say a few words about it, we will be allowing time for this at the Expo. 
  • Chain Lube Strategies: We will talk about drive train maintenance for Iowa conditions and we will be giving out free samples of chain lube at the event. Limited supply! 
  • Drive Train Choices and Usage: We will discuss the differences between 1X and 2X drive trains and how to best use either effectively in Iowa. 
There will be beer, soda pop,  and pizza available for purchase at the venue. A cash bar will be set up for attendees, (must be 21 or older), and we may have further surprises. Stay tuned.......

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Single Speed Spitballin': Part 3

Only weirdos would consider riding a single speed for 100 miles on gravel. Are you in?
The latest on the idea for a gravel race for a State Championship for single speeders only is here. If you missed the last update, which gives an overview of what we're considering doing, see this post.

Okay, things are progressing. First off, we're leaning towards the late March date as of now. That would be March 30th, 2019. Pencil that in if you are down with this idea. That date falls one week before the Gents Race and two weeks after Land Run in Oklahoma. I think it's a good date, but yes- it conflicts with something. Whatever. We are 90% sure we're going with that date as of now.

Next up is the venue. My feelings are that I have to make sure we have motels, places to eat, and I have to make sure it is easy to get to, centrally located if possible. There is room for compromise. We've talked about two venues: Decorah and Grinnell. We aren't done considering places, so chime in if you have strong feelings about this. Please.

This won't be a free to enter event, as we are going to have insurance and maybe more structure than what you might be familiar with from me. It is a "State Championship", after all, so there is some seriousness to this. That said, we're pretty stuck on self-support, and my feeling is that there will be one chance at re-supply, hopefully at around mile 50-ish, and that's that. It's more than likely going to be self-navigated as well. We're still looking at things in this area.

Oh yeah.........we came up with a name for it: C.O.G. 100. "Creatures Of Gravel".

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


Monday, October 01, 2018

Soggy Outing

Grey skies and wet gravel. Oh......did I mention it is rather cool as well?
Fall 2018 has been a rather wet one, as many have figured out by now. It also has turned the corner to cooler. Much cooler than it was two weeks ago. Then we were contending with 90's, humid air, and Summer was seemingly unstoppable. But wouldn't you know it? The day it turned to Fall the temperatures dropped like a rock. Now it is 40-50 degrees cooler than it was just two weeks ago. Dig out the woolens!

It is so hard to predict Fall and when Winter will begin, but if we have as much Fall as we had for Spring, it wont be long before it is Winter-like here again. Spring lasted like what..........two weeks? It wasn't long. So, maybe Fall will be a bust and Winter will come on strong sooner than later. Who knows?

All I know is that when you get caught out in the rain, with no rain gear, and it is in the lower 40's, you need to push hard on the pedals to stay warm! Fortunately, I only rode through enough rain to get me soaked, then it quit. The wind started drying me out right away, and by the time I made it back home, I was comfortable enough. I had to cut the ride short though, not knowing how long it was going to rain for.

Heading home I thought about how I've watched other riders in gravel events tough it out in the rain and how I wondered how they managed. Again, I guess you just gotta keep moving and keep the furnace stoked. But however they do it, all I know is that I didn't want to get caught in another shower, so when I made it home and it hadn't rained for most of the way back, I was relieved.

As I stepped under the roof of my porch, it cut loose again. I laughed. Perfect timing!