Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Story Of Guitar Ted: A Backbone Overnighter

A Guitar Ted Productions series
Welcome to a brand new series on G-Ted Productions! This series will jump off from the time where the "Race Against Death Tour" ended and will take you up to the beginnings of Trans Iowa in late 2004. This is an eight year period where my life was transformed. You could say it was metamorphosed from the old to something quite new.

This won't have a lot of bicycle stuff in it at times, but it is all essential to the story of "Guitar Ted". This isn't about where the name came from. That's all here.  No, this is about the person.

As with previous historical series on the blog, images will be a rarity. Cell phones, social media, and digital images were not available to take advantage of in those last days of analog living.

This post will tell the story about the last fully loaded, self-supported bicycle tour I have done up to this point. A quick weekend get-away to a State Park called Backbone State Park. 
________________________________________________________________________

As the Summer of 1996 waned, it came to the time when I had thought at one point we'd be heading off to New Orleans to do another big tour. After two years of doing these big rides, I was still stoked about trying to do another ride, but life at the shop pretty much commanded my every ounce of energy that Summer, so I never really pushed the "go" button on the plans. However; Ryan, who had done the "Race Against Death Tour", had said we should do something. Tim, another co-worker, had said he'd like to come along, but it couldn't be anything long. A weekend was chosen in August, and we made plans to leave early on a Saturday to head approximately 80 miles to the East of Waterloo, Iowa to a State Park called Backbone State Park. It featured good camping and scenery. So, early on a Saturday, we took off.

This ride didn't have the feeling of urgency we had with the past two tours. Of course, Troy was not along, as he was running Bike Tech by this time and was "the enemy", so to speak. So, we never asked him to go. Not that he could. I say "enemy", but I really didn't feel that way about it. Anyway, without Troy's pushing the pace we didn't feel the urge to bury ourselves in trying to maintain any certain speed. So, the day was sunny, hot, and humid. Typical weather for Iowa in August. We were loose, laughing, and having a pretty good time riding over there. I don't recall anything remarkable about the ride out other than it was fun.

Once we had arrived, it was so blasted hot, it felt like we were suffocating, and there wasn't an ounce of air moving. I recall that we three were laying down on our backs in the grass underneath the towering trees on the West side of the park. Looking at the tree tops, not one leaf was stirring. It was as still and quiet as it ever gets in Iowa. Hot, stifling air was no relief, even in the shade we were miserable. So, we planned on going down to the stream that cuts through the park's middle and we waded in the cool water. Washing ourselves of the sweat and grit of the road felt wonderful. Then it was time to eat something, set up camp, and go to sleep in the big, six man tent we had used the year before.

I recall that we all were putting off getting into that dome tent until the last minute. It was still so hot and humid, even hours after the Sun set. Mosquitoes pretty much made up my mind for me, and I crawled into the tent first, with Tim not far behind. Ryan had mosquito repellent, so he bathed in that, and planned his repose to be on the top of the picnic table there where we had some gear piled at one end. Things got quiet for about an hour. I think I was sweating a river, getting drowsy, and maybe about to fall asleep when such a commotion arose outside the tent that it made Tim and I sit straight up. Apparently Ryan awoke to a raccoon licking his face! Of course, he ended up getting into the tent with us after that. He was so pissed off and excited about the encounter we didn't get settled again for about another hour. Then sweet sleep finally overtook us.

The next morning I awoke to Tim's motions as he made his way out of the tent to use the restroom down the hill a ways away from us. Maybe ten minutes later, Ryan felt the urge and was going to leave. However; when Tim left, he inadvertently zipped the storm flap of the zipper under the zipper head, effectively locking Ryan and I in the tent. Ryan was frustrated, then frantic. He was getting desperate and was nearly having a conniption when Tim finally ambled back up to the tent. Once Tim figured out what was Ryan's issue, he chuckled and unzipped the tent. At once, Ryan burst out like a jack-in-the-box, cursing up a blue streak. I had followed him out and observed a trailer maybe 50 yards away from us which had a Boy Scout troop number emblazoned on its side. As soon as Ryan finished his tirade I pointed out that the Boy Scouts probably were well entertained by his fit, at which point Ryan hung his head in shame and quickly disappeared in the direction of the toilets!

We planned on getting something to eat for breakfast at the convenience store up the road on our way back, so we packed up and rode on out Westward. It was cloudy, but stifling hot and humid when we left. The clouds parted ways eventually after we got going. It was another cooker of a day, and Ryan was riding no-handed as he searched for his Oakley sun glasses. Then he set off to cursing again. Those damn raccoons had licked his sunglasses and he couldn't see a thing. Tim and I burst out laughing so hard we almost crashed. The disgusted look on Ryan's face was priceless.

Well, it was the last fun thing that happened, as it turned out. We eventually found ourselves in a torrential down pour. Maybe ten miles out of town until we got back to Waterloo, it was just survival mode, and we were not having anymore fun. And that was pretty much our goodbyes. We each just headed our own way back once we got back to town as quickly as we could to get out of the weather.

That was the last of my efforts to tour self-supported. Not that I didn't want to do that, but I was working way too much to consider it then, and for years afterward.

Next: The Estate Wagon

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Minus Ten Review 2009-14

A look out the back at a road grader from within the "Dirty Blue Box"
Ten years ago on the blog I was recounting a late recon for parts of the Trans Iowa v5 course. This was the first course we were able to run outside of the Northern tier of Iowa counties as we were starting the event in Williamsburg, Iowa that Spring.

The proposed route had a checkpoint in LeGrand, Iowa with the route to leave Northward and a bit Eastward with a hopeful crossing of the Iowa River somewhere.

The year before, in the Fall, David Pals, then co-director of Trans Iowa, and I had no luck forging through this area. I ended up having to stare at maps all Winter trying to figure the puzzle out, and then it hit me. It was a bit convoluted, and it included about two miles of pavement, but it was a solution. I had to wait until the roads straightened out in March that year to get out and get the deed done.

My little 1990 Honda Civic Wagon was on its last legs. I had pretty much used that old thing up running gravel and Level B Maintenance Roads, which it was not made for, as you know. The poor shocks were done for, and whatever rubber bits that held the hatchback in place were beaten down to the point that the hatch rattled something fierce when I went down a gravel road. In fact, it was deafening. Oh, and dust infiltrated the cabin rather easily. Yeah.....I didn't call it the "Dirty Blue Box" for nuthin'!

Road "furniture", Trans Iowa style.
That old car served me well though. It had been around for T.I.v3 and v4, and after this one it finally croaked when the distributor crapped out and a brand new one cost more than the car was worth. Anyway......

So, running recon and then doing cues was stressful for sure. We barely got things done in time for the event, but we did. This was before I ever did final recon checks or anything like that. We flew by the seat of our pants back then and it showed! There were things "not quite right" with cues and mileage, but for the most part it was passable back then. I'll mention a story about this come late April or May in the "Minus Ten Review", so look for that. It's a famous story that maybe you've never heard before. Definitely one of my chief T.I. memories.

But for the most part, recon was good and T.I.v5 was set to go. It was another stressful time though. I gotta say I don't miss that part of my life. This Spring has been a welcomed change!

Friday, March 22, 2019

Friday News And Views

Bontrager's new "WaveCell" technology claims it is a dramatically safer helmet.
Over-Hyped Or Deserved Accolades?

A couple weeks ago Trek rolled out a mysterious social media campaign claiming that it was about to unleash a new technology that was going to be the best thing in 30 years in its category. Immediately the media pundits, keyboard jockeys, and forum crazies were yakking about what it might be. Things from wildly unreasonable fantasies to more down to earth ideas like a new carbon fiber frame technology, or more American manufacturing were thought up.

Then I saw about a week ago what it really was. Boy! Were most people waaaaay off! My reaction was a laugh, because I knew that when the word came out that many people were going to slag Trek for over-hyping a helmet, while others were just going to groan and turn their heads. I figured it would definitely be one of the most talked about marketing ploys in many a year. I wasn't wrong.

To their credit, Trek social media folks were on point the day of the launch and for the following days. They watched for every positive reaction and regurgitated it on their feeds so as to minimize the collective groans and comments of disappointment from the innergoogles. Talk about stamping out fires! They may have a bigger fire to stamp out now though.

We actually got one in at the shop where I work and I have to say that I wasn't all that impressed. First of all, (and referring to my comments about big-headed cyclists earlier this week), the size Large WaveCell roadie helmet hit my head like a medium sized helmet. No way could I use that! Others tried it on and said it was really a rounder shaped helmet and it seemed pretty wide. Hrrumph! Not that I'd get one anyway. I am not a believer in that design as far as keeping your head cool. It looks like a recipe for a sweaty, hot lid. Time will tell if that proves right. I guess in the meantime I'll just be 40 something percent more likely to have a concussion. Thanks Bontrager!

Teravail Rutland variants.
Teravail Introduces New Gravel Tire: 

The Quality Bicycles tire brand, Teravail, has announced a new tire, the Rutland, in three sizes. The Rutland will come in 700 X 38, 700 X 42, and 650B X 47mm. All are tubeless ready, and both "Light and Supple" and "Durable" casings will be offered. There are skinwall options as well.

Whoo! Another "gravel" tire. The marketplace is pretty crowded now. Amazing to think this when ten years ago there weren't any "gravel specific" tires except the Bruce Gordon "Rock & Road" (which is still available, by the way) I am grateful for all of the choices. That said, I feel that this one is highly derivative.

To my eyes, the Rutland looks a lot like a WTB Resolute with a touch of Riddler thrown in for good measure. Those are fine gravel tires to mimic if you are going to mimic a tire, I guess. It will be interesting to see if they ride as well as the WTB offerings do. I would guess that the Light and Supple variant will be the one that rides the best. By the way, that's the only casing offered in skin wall.

Interestingly, I've noted many tire brands are now recommending inner rim widths in either a range, or a specific dimension, for their tires. The Rutland is best on a 23mm inner width rim, apparently. That's a "wide" rim in terms of what was the norm only a few years ago. In fact, I am testing wheels which are narrower than that and the marketing copy reads as thought these narrower widths are "wider for gravel tires". To be sure, it wasn't all that long ago that a Salsa Delgado rim was considered a "wide" rim and that looks narrow by today's standards. Ten years ago most "road" rims were sub-20mm inner rim width. Things sure have changed.

The Women's Single Speed Champ jersey.
C.O.G.100 Jerseys Are In:

The championship jerseys for the inaugural C.O.G. 100 Iowa Single Speed Gravel Championships are in! They look fantastic too. The Bike Rags company knocked it outta the park with these jerseys and N.Y. Roll and I are stoked about the quality job that Bike Rags provided. The jerseys have a soft, in the hand feel, are full zip, and the colors pop really well. (My image here notwithstanding) The design was rendered just as I wanted it and I am happy that everyone I have shown these to has had nothing but positive reactions to them.

The Men's jersey is pink, the Women's is powder blue. The "C.O.G. 100" pre-order jerseys are lavender and will not say "Iowa SS Champ" on them, but will say "Iowa C.O.G. 100" instead. Those are not quite here yet, but they are promised by the event. If that doesn't happen I will ship jerseys to all the pre-order folks on the list, whether you chose that option during your payment or not. Hopefully they show up.....

In other C.O.G. 100 news, I have the number plates ready, and cues will be stuffed into baggies this weekend. I have to make a check in sheet and a roster sheet and then we are good to roll. Remember, N.Y. Roll and I will be hanging out at the Peace Tree Grinnell taproom from 6:00pm -10:00pm next Friday. If you are in the event, you can come down and get waivers signed, and pick up your schwag if you'd like. Cues will not be distributed until the morning of the event. Right now it looks like the weather will be cool, but clear and with no chances for rain.

That's it for this week. Have a great weekend and get some riding in!

Thursday, March 21, 2019

How I Clean My Bicycles- Answering Questions

Back in late January I posted this about how I clean my bicycles. If you missed that, please go back and read it (or re-read it if you need a refresher) before you ask further questions. I may have already answered them there. Drivetrain specific questions were answered the next day in this post. Again- go hit that link and read up before asking me anything else here. Anyway, I have a few new questions to answer since that post, so I thought I'd take the time to answer those now.

The first two are regarding chains. Here's one of them: "Do you strip the packing grease from new chains before using them?"

Answer: Yes. Longer Answer: (Because the follow-up question will be "How?") New chains are coated with......something. In the case of Shimano it seems to be some foul smelling light oil and with SRAM it seems to be a very tacky grease. Some folks will tell you to run the chain with whatever is on it from the package because, "It's the best lube the chain will ever have", or some such nonsense. Being a mechanic, I get to see the results of the "just leave it on" technique all the time. It doesn't work very well. Period.

So, strip the new chain with WD-40 bath, or parts washer fluid that is clean, or an ultra sonic cleaner if'n ya gots one. Then follow that up with a good scrubbing of water and Dawn dish soap with a brush. Make sure you scrub it so clean you'd put it in your mouth with no reservations. I mean clean! Shake the chain dry, blow dry it with a hair dryer, (if you don't have compressed air), and then immediately after drying lubricate the chain with whatever lube you choose according to label directions.

I drip one drop of DuMonde Tech on each chain roller, then I wet a rag with DuMonde Tech and wipe the chain, getting all the outer plates of the chain wet. Then I let it sit for 12 hours before installing it. Your lube choice will dictate what you do. Read the instructions.

Sound like too much work? Then pay someone to do it for you, or accept that your chain won't be the best it could be. Your choices there.

The next question was in reference to how I clean a chain when it is still on the bike. I did answer this to some degree in my first post (link above), but I will address this once again here.

Cleaning a chain is made far easier if you use a chain lube correctly. If you don't, you get a huge mess. If you don't clean your chain often enough, (you will have to use yer noggin' to determine frequency of maintenance for your bikes/riding style/conditions), you will have a mess. With that said......

First check your chain for wear. There is no reason to clean a worn out chain. Just replace it. (Check your cassette too while yer at it, and you very well may need to replace it also) Don't know how to check your chain for wear? Get a chain checker, or Google "how to measure for wear on a bicycle chain".

Now, refer to the image of the drive train here. See the run of chain that comes off the lower jockey wheel of the rear derailleur and which goes to the lower part of the crank? That's the "lower chain run". Now, shift your bike into a combination which leaves the chain as straight as possible. (Single speeders are already there) This will allow you to pedal the drive train backward without derailling the chain. Now, hold a crappy rag in one hand, cup it around the lower run of the chain, and spray on some degreaser, keeping the over-spray controlled with the rag so it doesn't get all over the place. (You maybe should put on some Nitrile gloves first before doing this. Sorry!) Spray downward through the chain allowing gravity to work for you. Backpedal the chain as you work through the cleaning procedure until you've shot the entire chain with degreaser. (Use whatever you are a believer in. I use WD-40 most often) Now set the degreaser down, clamp that rag around the lower section of chain with a light grip, but firmly, (if that makes sense), and carefully backpedal the chain through the rag. Be careful not to allow a loose end of the rag to get entangled in the chain/cassette!

Do the above a few times, then maybe work a brush through the chain links. An old toothbrush is brilliant for this job. Then I follow up with another blast of degreaser and wipe down with the rag. Wipe down the chain several times with a clean rag then lubricate with your favorite lube.

Dirtier than that? Need a cassette and crank cleaned? Stay tuned.............

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Let's Get This Ball Rolling Already! Part 2

The Noble GX5
So the weather is improving day by day. I've been readying the test fleet and items for review and have started using a few of these items already. To make matters worse, (better?), I got another piece of kit to review yesterday. Plus, I have something I purchased for personal use that I very well could review, but that will have to wait until I get this backlog of stuff ahead of it in line done and out of the way.

Anyway, I wanted to share this rig here, the Noble GX5 gravel bike. It is an evolution of the Tamland, which you long time readers here know I had some influence on when that bike was developed. However; for those who haven't heard the tale, I think it bears repeating here, so please indulge me the chance to briefly bring those who don't know about this up to speed......

In 2012, I was working at the bike shop, wrenching on repairs, when I got a call. It was the brand manager at that time for Raleigh Bikes, Brian Fornes. He had a room of people listening on speaker phone and he wanted to know what I would do if I spec'ed out a gravel bike under the Raleigh banner. Now keep in mind, I had no idea this call was coming and the information I gave Raleigh was right off the top of my head.

To be sure, I had been exploring here on the blog concerning the "ideal gravel bike for me", so the information was fresh. Still, that I was able to convey anything that made any sense to the product engineers sitting there thousands of miles away is pretty incredible. Apparently, it made sense because they used every single suggestion I made in the development of the Tamland, which debuted in 2014.

Fast forward: Mark Landsaat, one of those engineers in that room that day in 2012, started his own brand, Noble Bikes, and he took the "DNA", so to speak, of the Tamland and infused a bit of modernity and his own take on things to come up with the GX5. I know some folks will say that this bike is "just a Roker with a different name", but it isn't at all. It's VERY different from that bike.

I am pretty stoked to get out on the GX5 to see how it stacks up against the Tamland and other bikes I've tried. It is 1X........ahhh, yeah, about that.......This wouldn't be my gig of choice, but it is Force 1 and it does shift great straight out of the box. So, we'll see.........

Bell z20 Aero helmet.
The thing I bought was a helmet. A Bell helmet, to be exact. I'll let you in on a secret- no manufacturers helmets fit my head really well. Bell's come the closest. My hat size is 7 7/8ths, or if you are metric, that's about 63cm around the noggin. Not the biggest head in the world, but to compound matters, my head is long and narrow. Not round. Many helmets, if they even go on my head at all, hit me right in the front and the back with gaping gaps on the sides. Giro helmets do that. They actually hurt me to wear. Lazer, same thing, and on and on.

In fact, if I get a new Bell helmet in size Large, which almost fits me, but not quite, I have to remove all the padding and those pesky Velcro strips, and then and only then does it begin to work. I tried a Bontrager helmet, but it wasn't better than a Bell and it sat up on my head leaving the lower parts exposed and it looked weird. So, I went back to a Bell this time. An aero helmet too. We will see how it goes, but a friend who wears an older Bell aero helmet swears by them and so I figured I'd give one a try. I will say that it doesn't look as odd as the older, super spiky roadie helmets I used to get.

One more confession before I go. If it weren't for friends and my wife, I wouldn't wear a helmet. It feels so much better to not wear one, but I know. Save the "who will take care of you when you are brain injured and drooling in a cup" admonishments. I'm going to be wearing a helmet! I just wish that there were good choices in a helmet that actually fit my head, and not a compromised fit, which honestly, it may not be a whole lot better than not wearing one. Who knows...... (Don't get on me! I'm going to wear a helmet!)

More coming in the weeks ahead......Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Head East In October

Over a year ago I heard about a brand new event that was going to be getting put on in Pennsylvania dubbed "unPAved of the Susquehanna River Valley". It sounded ambitious, because the organizers were saying that they were aiming, eventually, to be the premier gravel event on the East side of the US. On the order of the Dirty Kanza, or Rebecca's Private Idaho, as examples of what they wanted to aim for.

I was skeptical at first, but after dealing with one of the organizers, Dave Pryor, it became immediately apparent that his heart was in the right place and that he respected the gravel community's feel and vibe to a high degree. Of course, coming from a background of bandit cyclo cross event promotion, it made sense, but at the time, I was none the wiser.

Anyway, fast forward to last year's Dirty Kanza. Dave was going to be there volunteering to get an inside look at how the DK200 was organized and produced. I met him as he shadowed Jim Cummings, who I have known for years. Come to find out as we spoke to one another, I had already met Dave once before. At a cyclo cross race in Las Vegas. He was the guy in the full-on bacon printed suit. I remember him being pretty cool and interesting at the time, but as it was pure mayhem at that point, I did not get a lot of time with him then. I just knew him as "Bacon Suit Guy". Now I had a name for the suit......er face! 

So, anyway, Dave twisted my arm pretty hard to come out to the inaugural unPAved, but I had already committed to too much at that point and I couldn't make it work. That seemed to change this time. I have N.Y. Roll to blame. He found out about this event separately from me and he told me this past Saturday he intended to register when registration opened Sunday. I told him that if he got in to let me know, because Dave was twisting my arm again already via an e-mail sent last week. Well, N.Y. Roll got in.

This will be me either being thankful or cursing. Come this Fall we'll find out which it is. Image courtesy unPAved
So, some strings were pulled and now I'm in the event too. So, come mid-October I will likely find myself in N.Y. Roll's Subie headed East to Pennsylvania. Never been there before, so this could be interesting. I do know that with a promised near 10,000 feet of climb over 120 miles that it should be a challenge to finish it out. But, I hope that having a bit more temperate conditions to ride in will be to my advantage. These hot, humid rides are not in my wheelhouse. That said, I'm not going to not do GTDRI and Gravel Worlds. I know.......stubborn old coot! 

Now is the time to start getting ready though. I hope to be piling on miles starting now. The weather has turned and only the roads need to catch up so I can start getting fitter and more importantly, get these test/review items that have back logged on me going forward again. That should make riding a priority, then after the glut gets cleared up I can get on with things like the C.O.G. 100 and the Renegade Gent's Race. After that my April is wide open.

First time for that since 2005!

Monday, March 18, 2019

Adventure Ride: Frozen Version

The streets of Waterloo were quiet Saturday morning.
N.Y. Roll had proposed a ride to recon a "dive bar" ride he was planning and asked if I was interested in coming along. Now it was forecast to be in the 20's Saturday morning when we were to leave, but there was supposed to be little wind. I agreed to go, hoping against hope we would be warm enough to make the jaunt enjoyable. That added with the snow melt, which was sure to be hardened ice Saturday, made bike choice critical.

I thought about throwing on the 45NRTH Gravdal studded tires, or maybe taking the Fargo with a wider mtb tire mounted, but then I remembered that I had to get to riding those WTB Venture 650B X 47mm tires I am reviewing. That would probably work, so I looked over the Black Mountain Cycles MCD- otherwise known here as The Bubblegum Princess- and went to sleep Friday with the alarm set to be ready to ride by 8:00am.

Of course, I was up and ready roll by 7:00am! I was fiddling around and thought I should text N.Y. Roll when I heard my phone ping. Wow! Telepathy is a thing, apparently! Anyway, I told him I was ready anytime he was, so he moved up the start time to 7:30am and when he arrived at the house here, we took off.

Early navigational issues. Apparently GPS units don't like the cold.
As we slow rolled through downtown Waterloo, I felt the bite of the crisp air on my ears and cheeks. Good thing I decided to swap out to Winter gloves! It was 27° and when we were moving, it was chilly! At least the downtown streets were clear of run-off ice, so we had no problems moving along.

N.Y. Roll's route connected several "dive bars" in the area. Basically these are run down buildings which house neighborhood bars that have been in existence for years. The first was near a famous restaurant in Waterloo called the DK Hickory House. It is a rib joint, but if you ever saw the exterior, you'd not believe it was a restaurant, first off, and you'd likely have a harder time believing it was once a famous place where many celebrities of the past would come to eat. Anyway, the "Park Road Inn" was right across the street from this joint and once we got un-turned around with directions, we found it and we were off to find the next "dive bar".

The next section of riding basically was taking us East through the Northern edge of Waterloo. Apparently the next bar was in Raymond and it would be several miles before we got there on paved roads. These residential streets N.Y. Roll chose to get us there were sometimes a bit sketchy with run-off ice, especially in the corners, so I was taking great care so as not to go down hard and screw myself up.

Looking back at Waterloo, we saw this flooded field with hundreds of Canadian geese. 
Anywhere near the Cedar River was flooded. Recent run-off has swollen many Mid-West creeks and rivers beyond capacity.
Once we broke free from the city proper we were greeted with the rising Sun in our faces and warming air. Well.......slight warming of air, really. It was still pretty chill and my sock choice was not on point. My tootsies were frozen by this time into the ride, but I pedaled onward despite that. The road was lined with frozen flood waters from the run-off of snow melt. These are typical areas to see flooding happen, so we weren't getting the disastrous floods like they are in Nebraska. Still, it was impressive to see just how much water was covering the flood plains.

N.Y. Roll enjoys the morning Sun as we ride the frozen shoulder coming into Raymond.
Eventually we were obliged to turn onto a fairly well used County road. Fortunately the pea graveled shoulder was smooth and frozen. It was as easy to ride as pavement. This took us into Raymond eventually and our next "dive bar" location was identified. Then it was straight on to the South to Gilbertville and the next bar location.

We stayed on the shoulder, only here it was on a strip about a foot, maybe slightly wider, of paved road on the right side of the "white line". Cars were giving us a full lane as they passed and we did not experience any close calls except for one where three cars met going opposite directions right as they passed by us. So we were all within close proximity of each other there, but no harm- no foul.

The Cedar River bridge at Gilbertville.
The first stretch of the Cedar Valley Nature Trail we tried wasn't too bad.
We made it through Gilbertville okay, but then N.Y. Roll wanted to go "off-route" and recon the CVNT (Cedar Valley Nature Trail). I figured it would be a complete waste of our time, but hey! This was an adventure ride, so...... The trail didn't look awful after we passed the depot, where it was mostly iced up due to pedestrians. We started out and N.Y. Roll promised me that if it got too bad we'd bail out at a gravel road intersection ahead.

Out on gravel! (Well......mostly dirt!) The frozen ruts were......interesting.
The trail conditions quickly deteriorated into a hard coat of frozen snow and glare ice from snowmobile traffic. I hen-pecked my way along while N.Y. Roll walked away from me with his wider, more voluminous mtb tire set up. We finally reached the promised gravel road turn off and made our way Northwestward, more or less, keeping to the CVNT as much as possible. After a few miles of gravel we were obliged to hop back on the CVNT and it was wild! The snow was much deeper here and frozen with soaked in rain which we had fall on the area earlier in the week.

If you look closely you can make out the herd of deer we saw.
Hike-a-bike for me, but N.Y. Roll cleaned most of this on his 2.25"ers.
The snow was rideable at times for me. I was amazed at how I could claw my way through at times. But there just wasn't enough "float" with 47mm of tire and N.Y. Roll walked away from me on his 29 X 2.25"s. At one point my front tire punched through a drift up to the hub! That was funny. I ended up walking a fair amount of this section.

A guy then rolled up on me riding an ancient Honda three wheeled ATV. He was amiable, and smiled at me as he started up a conversation with me. Apparently he had tried to keep this part of the trail clear with a truck and plow, but the blizzard a few weeks ago was just too much for him and his truck. He also stated that he had been busy fighting flood waters on his property and was out this morning to check on the angry Cedar River, to see if there were any ice jams.

Eventually we ended up on the bridge over the Cedar. All three of us peered at the turbulent waters rushing by. Finally the nice man bid us farewell and we turned our eyes toward Evansdale and the next "dive bar". We didn't have far to go, and once we found it, the next came fairly soon after. That was our cue to hit the recreational trail out of Evansdale toward Waterloo.
It may look peaceful, but it was anything but. The Cedar was forcast to crest later in the day Saturday.
Headed out of Evansdale on the recreational bike trail to Waterloo.
N.Y. Roll made a suggestion to stop at Rockets Bakery in downtown Waterloo for coffee. I was excited to do that, and when we got there we were greeted by a young lady behind the counter that thought it was funny that I was riding a pink bike while N.Y. Roll was wearing a pink helmet. I suppose that did look odd. Anyway, the coffee was excellent, and my stool, which had been sitting in the Sunshine, felt like a heated car seat after all that chilly riding. That made me think- are there any heated bicycle saddles? 

Coffee slurped, we remounted and headed back home. An excellent morning on the bike! I hit pavement, gravel, dirt, snow, and ice, all on the same ride. That's what I call "multi-terrain" riding, right there!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Story Of Guitar Ted: RAGBRAI 1996

A Guitar Ted Productions series.
Welcome to a brand new series on G-Ted Productions! This series will jump off from the time where the "Race Against Death Tour" ended and will take you up to the beginnings of Trans Iowa in late 2004. This is an eight year period where my life was transformed. You could say it was metamorphosed from the old to something quite new.

This won't have a lot of bicycle stuff in it at times, but it is all essential to the story of "Guitar Ted". This isn't about where the name came from. That's all here.  No, this is about the person. 

As with previous historical series on the blog, images will be a rarity. Cell phones, social media, and digital images were not available to take advantage of in those last days of analog living. 

This post will detail my experiences doing a complete RAGBRAI in 1996........ 
_____________________________________________________________________________

Every year my boss at Advantage Cyclery would do RAGBRAI. I had heard of the event, of course, being from Iowa and all. I mean, how could you not know about the mighty 'BRAI. Back in the 90's, it was a ride with quite the reputation for wild antics, partying, and debauchery of various types. This wasn't without damage. My boss found his wife cheating on him during the ride one year which led to a divorce. Still, he wouldn't miss the ride for anything.

Weird.......

Anyway, Tom insisted in 1996 that I was going with his crew on RAGBRAI. I was mildly interested in this since I'd never been on a RAGBRAI and also that it was scheduled to pass through my home town of Charles City, Iowa that year. It would mean that the New Orleans touring idea would have to be scrapped, but in some ways, that was pretty much a given. Without the energy that Troy had given to the efforts the two previous years, and Ryan and Tim's lack of any excitement for the idea, I was left to be the one to drive the idea, and frankly, I just didn't have it in me at that point in my life to be a bicycle tour organizer. I had done the maps and rough sketched a route, but after Spring kicked in, and the requisite 12 hour days at the shop, I had zero time for actually riding bicycles, or doing tour preparations.

So, I said yes to RAGBRAI and Tom's motley crew. They had a core group of guys that were very close, had their own "language" and symbolism that only they really understood, and they, to their credit, were very friendly to "outsiders". Despite their attempts to assimilate me into their culture, I still felt like an outsider. I felt a lot closer to some kids half my age who were customers of the shop. It was a couple of them that I ended up bonding with during RAGBRAI.

These guys ran with a few others but mostly would end up coming into the shop to drool over the latest mountain bike stuff we had. The new Judy fork from Rock Shox was one such thing which one of them purchased and I set up on their bike for them. But mostly, they were there to hang out.

They were "Straight Edge" and oddly enough, they took a shine to me. 16-17 year olds usually don't like people their Dad's age, so I was honored to have their affection toward me. They often would chastise me for drinking since, you may know, that isn't the Straight Edge way. But other than that, we got along famously. We went to mountain bike races together, and started hanging out a bit outside of work. One of their crew was a bit closer to my age, and his name was Clay. He ended up worked at a competing shop called Europa, where I would eventually end up later.

Anyway, two of these guys had decided on coming out for the rest of the week on Day 3 of the '96 RAGBRAI. We spent much of our time together heckling riders, being fools, and generally causing mayhem. It was a ton of fun, and without them, I'd have had a miserable RAGBRAI hanging out with Tom's crew. Not that they were bad guys, but I just didn't bond with their way of doing things. In fact, after Day 2, I didn't even hang out with them until it was time to come home.

With Ryan and Tim fading from my social scene that Summer, these younginz were pretty much my mates outside of the shop. That was solidified during RAGBRAI, and afterward as 1996 wore on.That isn't to say Ryan and Tim were on the outs with me. Oh no, not by a long shot. In fact, there was one last touring hurrah, and it was short, but it was memorable.

Next: A Backbone Overnighter


Saturday, March 16, 2019

Minus Ten Review 2009-13

Gravel bikes in titanium are hot now. ten years ago it was 29'ers in Ti.
Ten years ago on the blog I was talking about a few forward thinking designers of bicycles that were working with 29'ers. one of those, "Shedfire", (Brant Richards, of On One fame and now involved in making trousers great again) was designing a rig in titanium back then which never really saw the light of day as a titanium rig. But it was realized in aluminum under the Ragley Bikes name.

The other thing I was yakking about was how the economic collapse of 2008 hadn't really affected the bicycle business. Record sales were being recorded and the outlook for 2009 wasn't bleak, and so it was looking to be a great year.

Not so ten years down the road. The shop I work at has been struggling. Many other shops are as well. Some I know of have closed. Things look bleak, and to be honest, I wonder now whether or not I'll be wrenching on bicycles at all by the end of the year. I mean, it isn't like there are a lot of bike shops around!

Anyway, the only constant is change, and whether or not I am working in a shop in the next few weeks or the next few years is anyone's guess at this point. I know I have no idea at this point.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Friday News And Views

J.Guillem Ti Gravel bike from Lindarets Design
Season Of The Ti: 

Lately it seems that there has been a gaggle of titanium gravel bikes introduced. I suspect more custom, outta this world priced rigs will be shown at NAHBS this weekend as well. But even if that doesn't happen, what I have seen introduced already is kind of unusual. Its almost as if a trend of titanium bikes has been unleashed upon the gravel cycling world.

There is the Lindarets/J.Guillem bike, the Knolly bike, Moots new Routt YBB, and Mason Cycles has something new in titanium as well. Of course we have had Twin Six's titanium Rando bike and there has been titanium gravel bikes from Lynskey and Litespeed for years. Salsa used to do titanium.

What the heck, Salsa? You should never have stopped doing titanium gravel bikes. Anyway....

So what is going on here? Why titanium gravel bikes and why now? I think there are two good answers to that question, and those answers are tied to one another. First, if it isn't obvious by now, the all road/gravel category is one of the only bright spots in cycling. It seems people are still out there finding out about these gravel events and the bikes suited for them. So, if you were to get into making money on bicycles, gravel/all road is the lowest hanging fruit on the tree now. That's because the only other sectors doing anything in cycling are motor assisted bicycles and dual suspension devices. Both of those require a lot higher investment, they both require a high level of technical acumen to pull off correctly, and both have a really stiff competition in the marketplace.

The other thing is that there are a ton of aluminum and "milk jug" (carbon fiber) gravel bikes, but up until recently, there were few titanium ones. That void is about to be filled. Obviously. But that said, if you wanted to make a gravel/all-road rig, a titanium one makes you stand out from the crowd. So, I guess that makes sense as far as why titanium gravel bikes are coming out of the woodwork lately. Not that I mind. It's the material, besides steel, that makes the most sense, in my opinion, for gravel travel.

C.O.G. 100 Update:

Well, it is two weeks out from the inaugural C.O.G. 100 Iowa Single Speed Gravel Championships. Things are quickly coming together for this event.

I have the hats, posters are printed, and I just got the cue sheets printed and they are in hand as of this writing. I will need to collate and bag them, find 98 number plates, gather odds and ends, and other than that, we're ready.

N.Y. Roll and I will be at the Peace Tree Grinnell tap  room Friday from 6:00pm till 10:00pm. If you decide to show up, we can get your waivers signed and give you the swag early. Keep in mind that inspection and cue sheet hand out starts at 7:00am in Miller Park.

A few folks have wondered how the course will shape up. Of course, I cannot answer that with any surety, because who knows what will happen between now and then. That said, I feel we will be okay. Long range forecast look mostly dry, warm, and windy. All good things for making the gravel good to ride on. So, I don't expect the Level B mile section to be rideable, but.......you never know. 

My daughters ink painting/drawing hanging in Veridian Credit Union
 Allow Me To Brag A Second:

Many of you know I have two children. My daughter, Izabel, has taken to art, much like her father, and has pursued it to the point that she will be going to college next Fall and will be looking to get into graphic arts. Anyway, she was asked to submit a work for a special showing of 45 works of art from across all the high schools in the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area.

Her submission made the cut of 45 selections and will be hung now at the Waterloo Veridian Credit Union's main office on Ansborough Avenue for a year. We are pretty pumped about this, and I am one proud papa.

So, if you are coming to the C.O.G. 100, one of the things each rider will get is a poster of the art I came up with for the event, tweaked out by my daughter, and signed and numbered by both of us. I am excited to see everyone get one of these posters and I am especially excited about my daughter's future in the arts. I hope that those that get the poster will appreciate them.

So, that's a wrap for this week. I hope that you all get out for a ride.


Thursday, March 14, 2019

Epic "Slop Season" Begins

Saturated road from T.I.v2. I hear the roads look like this in the country now too.
The Winter is dead, but Spring is spilling Winter's "blood" with a hard swing to warmer temperatures and rain. All that water, in the form of snow, ice, and frost, is playing havoc with the gravel roads right now. In fact, I saw a pretty epic video on Facebook Tuesday evening of a road North of Cedar Falls. I hear it is very bad, as in even 4X4's are having issues getting around.

So, with thoughts of going exploring on gravel roads dashed, (because, what would be the point?), I decided that prudence was necessary and stayed within the bounds of the city. It is no picnic in town either, by the way. Pot holes are popping up everywhere and we aren't even into the meat of pot hole season yet. These are some of the worst, biggest, and the largest amount of pot holes that I can recall in many years.

Water was running off the snow banks alongside the roads like someone had left a garden hose on somewhere. A huge garden hose! I had to pick my way through my loop in the cemetery where there was some ice and on the unpaved parts, it was possible to ride, but barely. My tires were doing the "pizza cutter" thing, and resistance was very high. I decided my plan for laps in the cemetery was not a good one, so I headed over to the Byrnes Park area to climb some hills.

Running a single speed, with 180mm cranks, you can find that cadence and just crank, (slowly) away and grind right up the inclines. Now, I haven't been on a single speed since mid-January, so I knew I wasn't going to be quite "single speed fit" and a little resistance was going to go a long way. I figured I maybe had an hour in me to putz around the wet, sloppy neighborhoods and then I had better hang it up.

Lots of snow melted today, but there is a LOT of snow to melt!
I think I am going to be really happy with the BMC "Orange Crush" set up as a single speed. I was having fun cranking away and the bike is really suited to being a single speed rig. I do have a wish though, and that is for a bolt on, single speed specific rear wheel, so now that I am pretty sure this is the direction I want to go with this bike, I am going to start tracking down a set of rims and I probably will use hubs I have already.

Those would be the old Surly "Jim Brown" edition New Disc Hubs that I got over ten years ago now. I used to run them on the Karate Monkey, but I switched that over to rim brakes and the "chocolate chip" wheel set has brown, no-rim brake Velocity rims on it. So, those wheels aren't much good to me with those rims. I am going to look at getting some Blunt SS rims, (Editor's Note: Reader Exhausted_Auk reminded me that Blunt SS is a disc only rim.) Cliffhangars I think, and I'll lace up those hubs. Or.......

Since the disc part is no good for me here, I may look at getting brand new hubs. Silver, of course, would be the obvious choice, and rim brake only. I'll have to look into that..... Then I could keep the all silver thing going and not have to have a black, or brown, component on the bike.

But anyway...... Enough about that. Slop Season is here and man! It is treacherous and I have no idea when it might straighten out enough to make for decent riding. I think Saturday will be another day of poking around to see how things are going, and then maybe I'll have a better idea. Thankfully it looks as though windy, sunny, no rain days are forecast for much of the weekend and through next week.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Let's Get This Ball Rolling Already!

May the Force be with you.
Spring. You know......that season we all look forward to so we can actually go for rides outdoors? Green grass, blue skies, and who cares if it is windy. Let's just ditch this Winter blah and cold for some Sun and a long road. (Preferably a gravel one here)

This season is hanging on too long. I think Joe, my coworker at the shop, and I figured out why this Winter seems so depressing. It is because the maximum amount of snow we got is still, (mostly) with us as Spring starts kicking in. Typically, that is not the case. Usually we have had a couple reprieves from the deep freeze and snow melt has been happening by now.

Not this time. Nope. So when we get warmer temperatures we still have all this snow and then rain comes along with it. Trading ice for muck. Bah! I'll probably sink to my hubs, but riding is going to start in sooner than later regardless.

I've got a lot to get to also. Not forgetting getting ready for the Renegade Gent's Race April 6th, I have the C.O.G. 100 to run the weekend before that, and more stuff to test and review going into Spring than I can remember. I had some reviews in progress over the Winter before January finally started acting like January. The WTB Venture tire test being one of those things. Then it was just stuff showing up, and more stuff, and........ Now I have a lot to get to. Tires and wheels and bicycles. It should be keeping me outdoors and riding a lot this Spring, as long as it isn't a wet one.

One of the interesting things amongst many is a single speed gravel bike I am going to be reviewing from State Bicycle Company called the Warhawk. This bike is here and built up. I haven't ridden it yet, since it has been raining, but this one will see early duty since it is single speed and crappy conditions won't foul the drive train. Anyway, it is pretty cool and has a very handsome look about it. There is just something about a simple, classy design that appeals to me. In a world of electronics and motor assisted gizmos, this bike just speaks to me. Maybe I am an oddball in that, but I am maybe more excited to ride this bike than I have been any test bike I have had in a long time.

The State Bicycle Company's Warhawk gravel bike. Will the love be felt later on when I ride it? Stay tuned....
The other bike I have in for test and review is an interesting, but kind of rare rig. It is an evolution of the ideas which were put into the Raleigh Tamland, which as many of you know, were partly from my influences. One of those product engineers I spoke with back in 2012 on a conference call was Mark Landsaat, who left Raleigh and now is running a company called Noble Bikes.

The Noble Bikes brand has a few interesting rigs and one of those is the GX5 which sports geometry numbers identical to the Raleigh Tamland, almost to a "T". The difference being in the fork offset, which on the Noble is actually a bit longer, I think, than what the Raleigh had on it. Anyway, it is thoroughly modern, with the "long top tube/short stem" layout which is fast becoming ubiquitous in the gravel genre. Through axles, flat mount brakes, and internal routing are all featured, of course. And, as you'd expect, it is pretty light at sub-20lbs with pedals. So, I am stoked to get that one out and dirty too.

Now if the weather gets straightened out........


Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Diversions

A page from the RCA Tube Manual
Well, with this severe Winter going on and on, I have found myself doing less and less bicycle stuff. But that's okay, I am not a single focus person. I do have other interests. Really.

Of course, there is my family, and I have been trying to spend a lot of time with them of late. My daughter graduates from high school this Spring and my son is going to be 16 this Summer. They won't be around here much longer to enjoy as they branch out and spread their wings as adults soon.

Many of you know that I do play guitar as well. So, to that end I've been trying to work on my slide playing and I have earmarked a special composition to learn, (not slide guitar though) and I am trying to get the beginnings of that song nailed down. If I do finally get through it as I plan to, I may have to make a special recording of it. It can't be played softly though. It will be LOUD! That said, don't hold your breath. I have a looong ways to go before I get this nailed down.

Then I have been doing a ton of research into vacuum tube amplifier technology and repair. I have read a few books, (kindly sent to me by a reader of this blog), and now I know what equipment I need and I have a rudimentary knowledge of how to use it. You Tube has been an awesome resource in this pursuit of mine, that's for sure.

I have three test subjects lined up for servicing already, so I don't need any amplifiers! I have a 1984 Peavey Encore 65, which I purchased new, by the way. It quit working, so I will have a challenge of diagnosing and repairing that beast. I have the schematic for it and it is daunting, to say the least! Then I have a rather odd bird, and from what I can tell, it is a circa 1969/70 Univox 100 watt head. This thing has like 11 vacuum tubes in it! This one actually still works, but obviously, if you know anything about tube amps, it needs re-capping and probably a tube or two. Maybe. We'll see. I don't have a proper schematic for it either, which complicates things. Finally, my early '90's Tweed Blues Junior is in need of servicing. It has a buzz that isn't getting better, and while I have had it tubed and looked at, I am pretty sure it has the original capacitors in it, and those are due for a look-see.

So, when I have down time, and with no Trans Iowa to fret about now, I still have things to learn and to do. That said, I have the MAJOR itch to get riding, and the Gent's Race is less than a month from now!!

Monday, March 11, 2019

This Post Is Cranky- Again!

I'll stop riding a 46/36T crank set for gravel when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.
Would you like to start a debate about cycling? Try talking about "the best tires", or talk about types of bikes and why we do/don't need them, or......talk about gearing. 

I've written a LOT about gearing. You can see that HERE or HERE if you want a couple of good, recent examples. It's a subject that creates a lot of discussion because there is no perfect gearing. I'll say that again- There is no perfect gearing. Why? Because......humans, that's why. We vary. There is too much variety.

You cannot manufacture a bicycle component that will be "right" for everyone, much less a large percentage of the population. This is one of the main reasons why making any bicycle component, or style, or clothing item, or whatever....based upon, let's say road racing, is a bad idea. That's because only a fraction of a percentage of riders would ever fit into that small box of "road racing". But not to pick on road racing......it could be gravel riders just as easily. 

That's why it is dumb not to make components easily customizable. Especially ones related to drive trains. No.....we have to make it proprietary, so you have to use our "ecosystem". Gah! If I hear anything about "system integration" again it will be too soon. Proprietary, "system integration" is anti-human. It flies in the face of who we are as a species. It doesn't make any sense at all. yet, the bicycle industry is hell bent for leather on making things not customizable.

My SoCal friend, Grannygear, wrote a post for Riding Gravel about this subject. He is struggling with gearing and his specific riding terrain. However; both he and I remember a day when you could simply go to your local bike shop, procure a set of chain rings that worked for you, and be happily not thinking about gearing while pedaling your favorite trail or road. Of course, now days you have SRAM, Shimano, FSA, and a few others all hawking their own, component/standard specific chain ring styles with very limited options. 

Like I say, the current situation is inhuman. It sucks, and at best, you can only find "near misses" in terms of crank set/cassette options. What is out fits a few, but not most, and proprietary, "system integrated" approaches are not the best options for most riders. 

Sunday, March 10, 2019

The Story Of Guitar Ted: Post Tour

A Guitar Ted Productions series
Welcome to a brand new series on G-Ted Productions! This series will jump off from the time where the "Race Against Death Tour" ended and will take you up to the beginnings of Trans Iowa in late 2004. This is an eight year period where my life was transformed. You could say it was metamorphosed from the old to something quite new. 

This won't have a lot of bicycle stuff in it at times, but it is all essential to the story of "Guitar Ted". This isn't about where the name came from. That's all here.  No, this is about the person. 

First we have a post tour wrap up and a look into 1996-1997........
_____________________________________________________

The end of the tour in August, 1995 marked the last time I ever rode that many miles in a single stretch. I "officially" tallied 711.92 miles, which didn't include the "bonus" ten miles we got on a truck ride in Niobrara and the last bit from the campground to Hill City where we were picked up. So, we maybe did 715-720 maximum. Whatever it was, that was the most I've done in less than two weeks before or since then. Of course, that's peanuts to what a lot of other people have done, but for me, it was a huge accomplishment. In terms of "serious" cycling, I was a rookie. I had only been really doing anything other than recreational, short rides for about a year up to that point.

Big plans were laid by myself, Ryan, and we were hoping Tim, (mentioned early in the "Race Against Death Tour" story), to ride from Cedar Falls, Iowa to New Orleans, Louisiana for 1996. I even had started on mapping out routes and overnights by late 1995.

But in terms of riding, I fell off the wagon, so to speak, as I had to get back to work. Work meant 10-12 hour days for a bit, then eventually less and less as Fall and Winter came on. I worked at a bike shop. The bike shop was called Advantage Cyclery, and was located on Main Street of Cedar Falls, Iowa. The owner was Tom, who was mentioned at the end of the tour story last week. As far as my exploits on the tour went. They were quickly forgotten back then. Life forged ahead.....

Typically, Tom would keep one or two of us around all Winter, but would let everyone else go. Bike shops then (and now) really slow down in the Upper Mid-West during colder months of the year. Advantage Cyclery was no exception. Sometimes in November the only person through the door all day would be the postman. So, anyway, it was rather odd that Winter when Troy, who had been there the longest at that point, said he'd take the Winter off.

What we didn't know was that he had plans to open a bike shop, literally right next door to Tom's shop, with the help of his father's financial horsepower and Troy's family's prowess with constructing things. I had noted that during slow times, before Troy's departure, that Troy was spending an inordinate amount of time in Tom's office, which Tom wasn't usually in. Apparently Troy got all the industry contacts and hook ups during this time and had a really good selection of goods by the Spring of '96 when he opened "Bike Tech" for business.

Besides all the politics, bad feelings, and socially uncomfortable situations, the main importance of all of this to my story is that it made me the "head" mechanic and longest termed employee in the shop. Spring brought busier times, bike building jam sessions, and very, very long days. I was working 12 hour days, for the most part, from April all the way through late August with only one break. That break was RAGBRAI.

Next Week- RAGBRAI 1996


Saturday, March 09, 2019

Minus Ten Review 2009-12

Extreme close up of a chunk of river ice washed up along Black Hawk Creek in 2009.
Ten years ago this week on this blog I was gabbing about the transition from Winter to Spring. It was well under way, and as most of the snow was gone, we all were just waiting for the trails to straighten out after the frost came out of the ground.

Big contrast to this year where this weekend marks only the mere beginnings of turning the corner from Winter to Spring.

I also noted while researching this post that I was still not 100% locked in as far as a format for this blog yet. For instance, there was a "Wednesday News And Views" that week. I suppose it shouldn't come as a surprise since 2009 marked only the fourth year of this blog. I was settling in on a format and posting schedule for sure by this time, but I don't think you readers quite understand how things were working or how they are working today.

Back in 2009, I still didn't have the "scheduling a post" technique in my arsenal. This meant that I woke up every morning that I did post and wrote the blog post for that day. Yes.....on the spot, every morning! That changed within the last ten years so that now I write the next day's post the evening before, generally, and schedule it to post before I wake up.

But this had not happened yet in 2009, so this was a morning chore at that time which was not easy to pull off. I am glad I figured out I could schedule posts ahead of time!

Friday, March 08, 2019

Friday News And Views

Knolly Bikes Cache gravel bike
Knolly Bikes Cache Gravel Bike:

The gravel bike parade keeps on going and the latest bike to be announced is from a brand most noted for big country dual suspension mountain bikes. While one could be quick to dismiss this one as being just a "jumping on the bandwagon" entry, that would be a mistake this time. Looking into this titanium frame, I found several tasty details which make a lot of sense. Plus it can be configured with wheels and tires many in the gravel community like.

It will handle 700 X 45mm or 650B X 2.1" wheels and tires. Of course, being a mountain bike brand, Knolly made this compatible with a dropper post and they sell it equipped with either the Fox or MRP adventure suspension forks.

I also commend Knolly for working this design up in titanium, allowing them to be in control of details like drop out design, cable porting, and braze on accessory attachment points. Using a "catalog" carbon frame from the Far East doesn't always allow for these options and those also tend to have a rather generic look to them. So, I'm happy to see Knolly didn't go that route, and besides, titanium is my material of choice for an "ultimate" gravel grinder.

This snow is going to melt.....then what?
Spring To Start Next Week And This Snow Will Turn Into Water- And Then.......

February broke snow fall records across the upper Mid-West this year. This March has started out really cold, but you know that cannot last forever. Sooner than later we are going to rise up out of this frigid morass to a more temperate, wetter morass. Yes folks.....that snow is going to melt and cause flooding. 

Besides rivers going nuts, this is going to make recreational trails a mess and the gravel roads in many places will be wet, mucky, and messy for many weeks. If you are thinking, "Hurray! Winter is over and now we get to ride!", well.......not so fast there, Buddy! Travel South or be prepared to wait. It might be until April.......sometime......before much of what we long to ride on is rideable. Then, of course, that depends upon Spring rains, which could easily prolong this wait.

This has all the earmarks of 1993, a year which Winter was late, we had a lot of snow melt very quickly, and the Spring was cool and wet to boot. That year was the "500 year flood" around these parts, which we repeated in 2008, and again a few years ago, but you know......Once in 500 year floods. Whatever. The point is that during 1993 we basically lost that entire year here locally in terms of cycling on trails. It wasn't until Fall of that year before we even got out on single track and then it was so overgrown and mosquito infested that it wasn't worth doing.

Hopefully we are not headed down that same, or a similar path, but it bears watching. It easily could be a year when many of our local favorite cycling trails are unusable for much of the season.

"Weird grass tracks" and other oddness seems to amuse this roadie specific social media site.
What Do You Make Of This "Weirdness"?

While I am not to be mistaken as a fan of road racing at the semi-Pro or Pro levels, I still follow a few feeds that are specific to the genre. It has become increasingly clear that now gravel events and the gear used for it is becoming an influence on that old, traditional scene. That's kind of a big deal, since road traditionalists are not keen on anything that is "new" or out of the ordinary.

This was only made more clear to me when on Twitter I came across a bit of video from "FloBikes", a Twitter account that covers many traditional road and cyclo cross races, as they were discussing the Dwars Door Het Hageland event in Belgium. This is a gravel genre' inspired event which takes in many farm roads in Belgium. The two commentators were somewhat befuddled by the appearance of this event on the calendar saying, "I thought I was watching a cyclo cross race", and commenting on the course with its "weird grass tracks". 

I had to chuckle at that. Of course, gravel races have featured such things since......well, before I was involved in it! That's for sure. I just find it amusing that since the level of popularity of these events has started to draw off semi-Pro and Pro riders who enjoy the courses and the vibe of gravel events that now the talking heads are paying attention. Hey, we've been here a long time, FloBikes. Welcome to the fun times and challenge of gravel and adventure cycling.

That's all for this week. have a great weekend! 

Thursday, March 07, 2019

A Promise Of A Better Fit

Rim and tire standards are being looked at again. Do we really think everyone will comply?
This isn't probably going to be something you will read on forums, see in your next magazine, (if you still get those), or hear spoken about at your next group ride, but tire and rim fit is being scrutinized.  This is serious business, yet without a recent story in "Bicycle Retailer and Industry News", I wouldn't have known about this at all.

Even though the number one most debated, most interesting thing to cyclists, (based upon the statistics I see from our RidingGravel.com site), is tires, this story seems to be buried. The beginnings of this go back to 2008, and the debate isn't over yet, but things concerning rim and tire fit are probably going to change soon, and for the better, if what I am reading comes true.

There is a lot to sift through and think about here, but for the purposes of this post, I'll keep it simple. There are two major governing bodies that set standards which much of the world's industries follow. One is called "ETRTO" which stands for European Tire and Rim Technical Organization. This organization sets the standards for tire and rim interfaces for cars, trucks, airplanes, lawnmowers- basically anything that has a tire on a rim, the ETRTO sets standards for industries to live by and these industries and manufacturers are held liable based upon these standards. You may have seen ETRTO designations in terms of rims.

The other organization is "ISO" which stands for International Standards Organization. This organization sets standards worldwide for everything from cyber security, occupational health and safety, to yes.....bicycles. You may have seen "ISO" numbers imprinted on tires, for example. 

Okay....so captains of the cycling industry- both on the bicycle, tire, and rim sides, all sat down together with officials from ETRTO and ISO to talk about setting clear, repeatable, and safe standards for all bicycle tire and rim fitting. Apparently, tubeless tire technology, carbon rim technologies, and the move to wider rims had led to a sort of "wild west" situation where standards had been ignored, invented, or privatized to a degree that rim and tire combinations, in some instances, were proving to be dangerous. This had become a liability for many in the industry, so much so that this meeting was called.

Rim manufacturers will be held to a new standard which the tire manufacturers will then follow.
In a swift and somewhat surprising move, both ETRTO and ISO agreed that the standards needed to be updated and there was a quick move to set the rim manufacturers straight to the point that any tire manufacturer could then build a tire which not only would safely fit any rim, but be mountable and removable by hand. However; in the tubeless realm, there was a fly in the ointment, and that came from Stan's NoTubes.

I've stated for years that Stan's had a different, and incompatible standard for their rims which many other tubeless tire manufacturers did not adhere to. Basically, Stan's rim design was originally developed to accommodate conversion of non-tubeless tires to being set up tubeless. Now days, with the ubiquity of tubeless tires, especially on the mountain bike side, this feature of Stan's has been rendered unnecessary but for a few manufacturers who still build to a Stan's "fit". Now, I never knew exactly what that measurement was, only that it was slightly larger than typical ETRTO standards. Now I know.

The "Bicycle Retailer and Industry News" article linked a letter penned by Challenge Tire's Morgan Nichol, whom I have had the pleasure of meeting a time or two. In his letter, from which I have learned a lot, I found the following nugget.

 "It is clear tire companies cannot test and assure that tires based on a 622+-0.5mm bead seat and other agreed wall height and channel width and depth parameters, especially for high-pressure applications like Road and Track, can be mounted comfortably and still safely maintain proper tire fit with Stan’s 623 +-0.3mm BSD design parameters without high risk of failure." - from Morgan Nichols' letter to "Bicycle Retailer and Industry News"

Without getting into the nitty-gritty, the big deal here is that we now have a solid figure to see that describes why it is that some tires are darn near impossible, or are impossible, to fit to Stan's rims. Interestingly, the objections brought to the summit between the cycling industry and ETRTO/ISO by Stan's claimed that "5 to 10 other companies are using Stan's so-called "B Standard Fit"". So, in a very diplomatic way, in the quoted letter, it can be seen how Stan's representative kind of tried a bit of a trick by first vaguely putting forth the "B Standard". However; when pressed upon to show more details, the actual measurement came out at which point the feeling I get from Mr. Nichols' letter is that Stan's isn't going to see their standard be adopted as a "standard". What the "five to ten" other companies will do is anyone's guess.

So, barring the Stan's gambit to have two standards, it seems that very soon we might actually see tubeless tires and rims get standardized as far as fit goes. But the question remains, since not all manufacturers were there, and not all follow ETRTO/ISO, will this really happen? Time will tell.