Friday, July 19, 2019

Friday News And Views

Tour Divide Issues Precipitate Dismissal Of Jay-P:

Well, if you haven't been paying attention to Tour Divide this year, (and for the record, I have already said I wasn't paying attention anymore), there were controversial actions by a few individuals that precipitated the letting go of Jay Petervary as a sponsored athlete of Salsa Cycles (and related QBP brands as well). There is a LOT of conjecture and opinion already floating around the internet about this, and I am not going to add to that.

As I have said- I have a pretty solid opinion on Tour Divide. Read that bit if you want to get the background on what I am about to share here today.

Tour Divide, as an organization, is barely that. In fact, if there ever were an event with almost no rules, no oversight, and no current updates, it would be Tour Divide. Their webpage was last updated in 2014, and the Facebook page is a ghost town. The RD does communicate via e-mail, as far as I can tell, but as far as any oversight, it seems, well..... Pretty lax, that would be my characterization of it.

And in my opinion, this is what leads to the alleged actions we are reading about now. I have run an ultra-endurance event, and I have somewhat of a feel for what could have happened had I not been vigilant, had rules, and made them as well known and explained as I have over the course of the years. In my opinion, expectations not set ahead of time regarding actions of participants, in a very direct, explicit way, leaves the barn door wide open for crazy stuff to be thought up and to have those thoughts be acted upon. I know. I've had some very weird requests and people who tried to interpret my rules in unforeseen ways, which I had to act on in a very decisive way.

There should be expectations set ahead of time. From the research I have done on the matters regarding this Tour Divide, I haven't yet been convinced anything of the like was done. That, to my way of thinking, should be the central point of focus regarding this controversy. And that's all I have to say about that.

The new Cervelo Aspero gravel racing bike.
Getting All Racy:

The Cervelo company has had a decidedly racing focus for as long as I have been aware of the brand. So, it shouldn't come as a surprise that their latest bicycle is a racing bike, but this time it is all about gravel racing.

I also was immediately reminded that Cervelo was co-founded by Gerard Vroomen, who happens to be co-founder of OPEN Cycles, who also have done a very similar bike to the new Cervelo which is called the OPEN WI.DE.

OPEN have been in the gravel scene for several years now. I remember seeing my first OPEN UP's at the 2015 Dirty Kanza 200. So, the Cervelo seems a bit derivative, and the fact that both companies have a connection in founder is maybe irrelevant, but still kind of odd. Anyway, both bikes are pretty much lean, mean racing steeds and while that is fine, this isn't the sort of rig that will be right for most folks.

For one thing, they both are chasing the "long front/center, short rear end" thing. Short chain stays are generally less apt to flex, and they place the rider right close to being over the top of the rear axle. Both things that do not make for smoother riding. That's something that is important for many folks, and just hold on to those "bigger tire" comments for a minute. While the OPEN can handle pretty big tires, the new Cervelo is limited to 40's, if you want any mud clearances, and that isn't going to be enough tire for many places.

The other thing these short chain stays do is that they make the rear center less stable. So, to sort of counteract this, both the OPEN WI.DE. and the Cervelo have deep bottom bracket drops. Okay- so what? Well, to get you the bigger tires for comfort, you need to move to 650B's. Guess what? That lowers the bottom bracket a bit more. Yep.......pedal strikes. I know. I've tried 650B with a bike that had 75mm and 72.5mm of BB drop. So, maybe all this getting racy isn't right for everyone. (And I haven't even mentioned the fragility of carbon when mud, sand, and rocks get ground against it in muddy conditions.)

Good thing there are a LOT of choices in gravel/all road bikes these days.

As seen in 2017.
Fargo Resurrection....Again!

I have been looking at my Fargo Gen I sitting in the Lab forlorn and unridden for far too long now. I am itching to get back on it again. But.....I am wanting to swap out tires, and this rig is still stuck in 9 speed mode, which isn't a bad thing, but in terms of wheel swaps and what not, it is way off the back when all my other stuff is 11 speed.

I have a line on some Vittorias but that keeps slipping away and time is running out. Plus, I want to ride this bike for the GTDRI in a week or so. I had better figure it out real quick-like or it isn't going to happen and another whole year will slip by wthout many, or maybe any, miles put on that old thing.

Big problem, I know, when I have great bikes at my disposal to ride around on. I could always just use my Black Mountain Cycles MCD, or my Tamland, and I'd be just fine. I still have the Noble Bikes GX5 around, which is very light, and I always could ride the Ti Muk 2. So, I shouldn't whine on and on, but in my opinion, if you have a bicycle, you should use it, or get rid of it. I sure do not want to get rid of that Fargo though! So, we'll see. Maybe a set of tires will get slipped on yet this weekend.

That's a wrap for now. Thanks for reading and please get out and ride those bicycles. ALL of them!

Thursday, July 18, 2019

GTDRI 2019: Update

Wednesday outside of Guitar Ted Production's headquarters
Recon was going to happen Wednesday, then the weather had a say in the matter. A wide ranging thunderstorm complex made running dirt roads a very bad idea, so that plan was scrapped. I'll try again this weekend. That said, I have some other news to share.

After the last update, I was contacted by two individuals willing to help with the water resupply situation. First was Jon Duke, who is a local to this course and said he could do some of the recon. Plus, he also is willing to park his truck at a predesignated spot with a cooler of water.

Second was GTDRI vet Rob E who has volunteered his friend who is coming to be with him on the trip as a person who could meet us along the route to help out with water resupply. I am going to try to utilize both of these folks in an effort to ease our concerns a bit about water on a day that promises, (as of the latest long range forecasts) to be hot and humid. And why wouldn't it be hot and humid. This is the "Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational", right? It's hot and humid almost every year I put this on. So, ideally I think I want to put Jon somewhere around Mile 25-ish and Rob's friend Michaela at about 50-ish miles on a hard surfaced part of the route. That would leave the town of Brooklyn at about 70-ish miles as a convenience store stop. This would place water at about every 25 miles, which should be ideal for everyone.

If that works out, we should have the water distribution figured out. I plan on bringing a cooler of water, and if anyone else wants to contribute to the cause, let me know, or we can figure it out the day of with donations of cash/water. But we will need to get an idea ahead of time to make the logistics work. Hit me up with your thoughts: @ g.ted.productions@gmail.com

What the sky looked like 10 minutes later. Rain set in for most of the afternoon.
Now I have a bit on attendance, I have had a few folks confirm they are coming. While it is not imperative that you let me know you are planning on joining me, I do appreciate the heads up on attendance so I can head off any potential issues, (like parking, water availability, etc), so if you think of it, and you know you are coming, just give me a buzz via e-mail or text. I can then do what I have to do on my end to make sure we get everyone water and don't have any issues with parking.

My hope is that we can knock this route out in a decent amount of time so that we might be able to enjoy a beer or something afterward at Peace Tree Grinnell. That is right on Main Street, downtown. Easy to find, and there are a a lot of places to eat within walking distance. (Peace Tree doesn't serve food, by the way) So, if we can do 90 miles and get in by 5-ish or so I think quaffing a few cold ones will be on my agenda. If you have a mind to join me, please do.

By the way, just in case you don't know- The Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational will happen on July 27th. The ride starts at 6;00am sharp from in front of Bikes To You on Broad Street, downtown Grinnell. (Parking around the city park a block or so away would be preferable if you don't want your car towed) The GTDRI is a no-drop group ride at a casual pace, it is not a race, and if you want to go fast, this isn't your ride. We will stop A LOT. There will be a LOT of Level B Roads, and BIG HILLS. Other than some water, you'll be all on your own for support. So, if you have to bail, if you break down, or if the ride is too much- YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOURSELF. There is NO SAG. NO SUPPORT is offered other than some water at predetermined spots....maybe. 

Once the window for recon is past, I will clean up the GPS route and we will fly with what we have, good or ill. Re-routing may happen. Expect the unexpected. I suspect that I will announce the final version of the GPS track this coming weekend sometime. Stay tuned......

I cannot think of anything else here, so that's a wrap. There will be one final update next week and then a week from this Saturday we ride. Thank you for your interest in this goofy undertaking.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Alternate Realities

A view of the internals on Specialized's new Turbo Creo SL HPC (Hybrid Powered Cycle)
Seventeen Thousand Bucks?!! 

Yeah-hum. That's what all the Tweets and stories blared out about this new offering from Specialized. But....let's be real. That screaming bit of info was pretty much click-bait, as that is the price for the special "Founder's Edition", of which only 250 bikes will be produced. The "entry level" Turbo Creo is $9K, is a bit heavier, and doesn't have the range of the top end one.

The mainstream cycling press was all agape at the pricing, but otherwise was singing the praises of this technological marvel of Specialized's design team, who designed the motor system themselves on this bike. Even on social media, all the names in the biz were saying, "It's expensive yes, but if it gets one more person out of a car, it's worth every penny.", or some like statement. But c'mon! Does anyone really believe that anyone that buys one of these race inspired rockets is going to drive less, or give up driving altogether? Pfft! This line of thinking is so lame as to be laughable. It's more likely to be an added toy alongside the six figure sports car and two gas guzzling SUV's in the garage.

It's really interesting that in the mainstream cycling press, it was really hard to find anything negative, or even seriously critical, of this bike. However; non-endemic press wasn't so kind. I stumbled up a site called "electrek", and here is an excerpt from their reporting on this bike:

"So why is the bike so expensive? Well, you’re paying for the California design team to create this custom carbon frame and the Swiss engineering team to develop an entirely new e-bike powertrain. And you’re paying for a wide range of sizes including XS, SM, MD, LG, XL, and XXL. Not to mention the slew of high-end bicycle components that invariably adorn a Specialized bike.

But at the end of the day, you’re largely paying for it to say “Specialized” on the side.
"


Ouch!

The author also called it "under-powered" and basically a "status symbol". Truth. Definitely a refreshing look at a bicycle that is more design exercise than anything else. And at the end of the day, I have to ask myself, "Where is the critical thinking in the mainstream cycling press?" It's non-existant. And as far as introductions go, most stories I read were deep dives into the marketing "ga-ga" and tech-speak non-sense that no one outside of cycling "nerdom" even gives a rip about. It's no wonder most folks that these companies want to pry out of their interstate roving tanks can't be bothered with cycling as it is presented in the mainstream press.

Give folks a practical bike, reasonably priced, and a two wheeler with attractive features that do not have marketing campaigns that include things having to do with carbon lay-up, watt/hrs, and gold plated jockey wheels. Maybe make it exciting to ride, like the Harley electric motorcycle featured in a video on the same page as the Specialized article at the link above. That's the kind of stuff that is going to reach the folks out of the traditional bounds of cycling today.

But apparently, the cycling media and pundits live in some alternate reality to most folks.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Review Of Parts Past: Salsa Cycles Shaft Seat Post

Note: Occasionally I will be struck as to the awesomeness of some part or piece that I use on my bicycles. This was the genesis for the idea of "Review Of Parts Past" where I do a review of a piece or part I use that, perhaps, is no longer in production or that I feel deserves more notice. 

Today I am going to feature my all-time favorite seat post, the Salsa Cycles Shaft Seat Post. There are other pretty good seat posts out there, some okay ones, and a whole lot of really frustrating, bad designs.  The Shaft post, which was designed by Ross Shafer, the founder of Salsa Cycles, was mainly sold through the company that bought the Salsa Cycles brand, Quality Bicycle Products. Most of those being sold as stock equipment on Salsa Cycles bikes. Although many were sold as aftermarket purchases. They were available in black anodized and silver anodized aluminum, for the most part, although the predominant color you will see is black. Other than this, the Shaft Post was available in most popular sizes of the 00's, when most of these posts were manufactured. Quality stopped production of the Shaft seat post around 2012, near as I can tell. There may have been store stock on some sizes for a few years afterward.

Salsa replaced the Shaft with their "Guide" post, which was a box stock, typical two bolt design. Nothing to write home about. They did come out with the Regulator Ti Post, which is completely different in design, has a quirky clamp design which isn't quite as nice as the Shaft, and is uber-spendy at $275.00 a pop. (I happen to have a few of those as well)

The Shaft Post wasn't flashy, particularly lightweight, or really all that compliant, but that clamp design! This is a 31.6mm sample.
What makes the Shaft so brilliant isn't what most people think about in regard to a seat post. Most folks want their post to be (1) lightweight and (2) looking good. Some may consider the post compliance in terms of ride feel, but beyond that, who cares, right? Well, yeah.......until you have to remove and replace a saddle. And how about adjustments? Those can be nightmarish with other posts, disregarding saddle mounting altogether.

This is where the design of the Shaft post comes in. It is, by far and away, the single most simple, easy to use seat post clamp design ever. I have worked with a ton of seat posts, and nothing comes close to the ease of saddle mounting and set up that the Shaft Seat Post design has. Nothing.

One, humongous 6 millimeter bolt handles the clamping duties.
The Shaft utilizes a three bolt adjustment design where each bolt does a different job. The first bolt used to mount the saddle is underneath the clamp. It is a 6mm behemoth of a bolt, and by loosening this, you can get the upper part of the clamp to swivel out of the way allowing you to easily place your perch of choice on the lower cradle/clamp part. Tighten this down and, being that it is a 6mm bolt, you can torque it down pretty good. (Recommended 60-70 inch/lbs) That saddle isn't sliding back, or loosening. Ever. That clamp is beefy and works well.

The upper bolt clamps the eccentric, and when loosened, allows adjustment, the bottom one loosens or tightens the axis of the tilt, allowing adjustment when it is loosened.
Saddle angle adjustment is done brilliantly by using a pivot point and a small eccentric controlled by a bolt, and adjusted with a 5mm hex key. When the bolt directly beneath the cradle is loosened, and the 6mm bolt that clamps the eccentric is loosened, you can adjust the tilt angle infinitely within the eccentric's range with a 5mm hex key from the non-driveside. Then when you are finished you tighten both 6mm bolts to a recommended 50-60 inch/lbs.

The tilt adjustment is made by using a 5mm hex key in the according hex pocket in the eccentric.
So, here is why I love this design. First, it should be apparent that you can remove and replace your saddle without disturbing the tilt adjustment, and you can adjust tilt adjustment without the saddle placement being disturbed. Adjustments are "infinitely" made, not pre-determined by a notched cradle, or the like. You can adjust fore and aft adjustment simply by loosening the 6mm clamp bolt under the cradle just enough to allow the saddle to slide in the cradle too. Plus, as I mentioned, saddle removal and replacement is dead simple.

This has made swapping saddles and swapping seatpost/saddle combinations from bike to bike super easy and in a way that is not at all frustrating. Maybe this is not a big deal to many with one or two bicycles, but with as many as I have, it is a boon to me and makes my life far easier.

Okay, the Shaft Seat Post wasn't very sexy looking, and it had setback, which not everyone can handle. It wasn't all that lightweight either, and with all that going on with the clamp, you sometimes will get creaking. A simple cleaning generally quiets these posts down though, so no big deal to me. But yeah..... I get it.

Still, I appreciate the design and I won't be getting rid of any of my Shaft seat posts any time soon. I have several, mostly in the 27.2mm size. It's too bad that they discontinued these, but rumor has it that Mr. Shafer got a penny or two for the design, and QBP wasn't about continuing that arrangement, so the Shaft post was never developed further or produced after 2012 or so. A shame if true. Such a great design there.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Country Views: B Road Riding

Last time I was here was ten years ago.
Editor's Note: Grab your favorite beverage. This is a LONG one!

I decided to go check something out that I've been wanting to check out for a long time. Probably 12 years ago or so, my friend David Pals took me on a ride out of Belle Plaine and we went down a road with the craziest Level B Sections I'd ever seen. They were so radical that David put them in the second ever Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational. I thought this was so cool that David and I placed this sector of roads into T.I.v5.

That went over really well with the riders of that particular Trans Iowa, so we thought we could shoe-horn that same section in for v6. During the earlier parts of 2009, I think we visited this section of road and that would have been the last time I ever was there.

T.I.v6 ended up being truncated due to poor weather conditions and due to that, this sector of Level B roads was never used in that version, or any version since then. So, I never have had the reason or opportunity to go back and ride them, or even lay eyes on this section of road. One other thing to note, I think it was in 2010 or 2011 that David Pals told me he thought this section was going to get decommissioned and would end up being private land. However; these roads showed up on the 2013 DOT revisions to the State maps, so, while that is no guarantee, there was hope that they were still rideable and open to the public.

Throughout the last several years, every time I went South on US HWY 63 I would see the sign for the Columbia Wildlife Area and the thought would enter my mind that I should go check this out again. But other things would come into my mind and push that thought out until the next time I went driving by the sign. Finally, while perusing the maps for this upcoming GTDRI, I saw that the route was not all that far away from the Columbia Wildlife Area, which was where this string of three Level B Roads started. Sunday, I decided to go check it out, and maybe get in a tiny bit of the next GTDRI route.

Of course, I didn't get going until after lunch so it promised to be the hottest part of the day. I also decided to take the Ti Muk 2, because, as I hope you will see, these Level B Roads are not your typical fare. At least, they weren't easy to ride a decade ago, and I figured that they had not gotten a lot better in the ensuing years. Good thing I decided to bring the fat bike, because what I found bore out my predictions and then some.

Things start out looking fairly inviting, but this camera angle belies the steepness of the hills here.
Big, deep, gnarly ruts were everywhere, so I had to pick my way through carefully both up and down.
The first sector starts out in deep woods and then breaks out into open area. The soil is mostly clay here, and in many ways, it reminds me somewhat of Odin's Revenge territory out in Nebraska. The ruts were treacherous. They ran at angles and were hidden in shadow and by weedy overgrowth. There was no good way to descend other than by braking heavily to keep speed in check and to be constantly scanning ahead for the best, rut-free line. Oh.....and did I mention the hills were steep? There are no flats out here. Only up or down.

Barns For Jason- The Level B Sections are split into three pieces with gravel in between.
The second Level B Section was barely a two-track, overgrown with weeds, and ran in deep slots in the hills in places.
The ground was still tacky, and the air was much cooler down in this deep slot on the second Level B Section.
Another look at how deeply cut in this road is in places.
At the Eastern end, the road runs out into the open, and the weeds were everywhere hiding some slimy mud.
The second Level B Section runs out on the Eastern end to an open area where the weeds were rampant and the ground was saturated with rain run-off yet. There was also a low water crossing at the end which was thankfully dry. However; I got caught out by the hidden mud, and I ended up dabbing my right foot, at which time the mud promptly sucked my shoe off. A little bouncing and flailing later and I had my shoe back on, despite it being quite slimed by the sticky, gooey clay.

Out in the open, I was getting cooked.
The third Level B was typical dirt and while very hilly, wasn't the technical slug fest the first two sections are. So, no images of that! Onward, I had decided to hit this spot on the map called Hamlet, and then on South and West back to the truck. There were a couple more unknown to me Level B Roads I could hit along the way too.

There was a constant breeze from the Southwest, but it did not alleviate the 90+ degree heat, and the humidity was high enough that I was sweating up a river as I rode along. Good "heat training", but this was no condition to be considering a longer trek.

This Level B came up off the Poweshiek/Tama County line and was very pleasant.
Barns For Jason- Windmills For Paul, and some cows thrown in for good measure. 
The two Level B's I added into the route were really pleasant, typical ones with no real technicalities to deal with. The views were spectacular, as the route took me over some of the higher elevations of Southern Tama County. I wasn't pushing too hard because of the heat. I was glad I had a LOTof water and a shorter planned route.

Your "garden variety" Level B Road.
Big hills, big climbs, and spectacular views. 
I ended up with about 15-16 miles, but it was grueling in the mid-Summer heat. I was ready to be done when I got back to the truck, and sweat was pouring off me at a rate I haven't experienced in years. I imagine the "real" temperature was well over 100° F for much of the ride. My weather app said it was 91°F when I arrived back home at 6:00pm, so I think triple digits was probably correct out there. Especially on the white rock.

How I am going to do the GTDRI, I have no ideas at this point. It's going to be a really tough year, and I am just going to focus on fun and try to take it as it comes. But who knows. Maybe it won't be so hot come the end of July. (Yeah.....right!)

Grandview Cemetery. 1867
So, the trip was a success, as I managed not to crash on the first two gnarly Level B Sections, and I survived getting cooked by the Sun. The fat bike was the perfect call, as it allowed me to get through the beginning of the ride without walking. The Rohloff drive train had low enough gears and to spare for the task. I never shifted lower than "4", and the highest gear I spun out was "13" of "14". I still have a little work to do to get accustomed to the 14 speed internal gear hub. But over all, I thought I had a pretty good handle on it. The one issue I did have was when I was sweating so heavily I could not get a purchase on the twist shifter!

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Trans Iowa Stories: The Dissenters

Ira Ryan, (foreground) was one of the CX bike proponents that argued against MTB's in Trans Iowa
A couple of "Trans Iowa Stories" installments ago, you might remember my telling how the event was originally known as "The Trans Iowa Mountain Bike Race". That didn't last very long because of a furor that broke out due to one of Jeff's original stipulations that all riders had to be on 2 inch or wider tires.

A few things factored into this decision. First and foremost, Jeff was a mountain biker and wanted this to be about those types of bicycles. Like I mentioned earlier in these tales and elsewhere, if we could have done it, Trans Iowa would have all been on single track. There would be no gravel grinders, and that would have been that. But obviously Iowa's topography and land usage situation dictated that we had to go to our next best option- the gravel roads.

Okay, so it was Jeff's considered opinion at that time that a wider tire was better than a skinnier one. To really grasp why he arrived at that decision one needs to put things into the context of 2004. We barely had any 29"ers, and those were super rare, being either a Fisher, a Surly Karate Monkey, or some custom one off. Tires? Ha! Again- not a very good choice unless you rode WTB Nanos. Then there were copious amounts of 2" wide, 26" type tires and bicycles. This was what Jeff was using on gravel. Finally, in 700c sizes, you had okay road tires which maybe were 32mm wide, or a cyclo-cross tire at 33mm, but between that and 2" wide 29"er tires, there were only really basic hybrid tires which were heavy and slow, or armored touring tires which were heavy and slow, and even then, choices were few and far between.

Most riders in the first Trans Iowa were on mountain bikes. It was then the default "gravel bike".
Essentially, the wheel situation was thus that your only two real choices for this new event were either a 26" wheeled mountain bike or a cyclo cross bike. Jeff felt that cyclo cross bikes, with their 33-34mm tires, were just too sketchy and uncomfortable, in terms of mitigating vibrations, and that we may as well just outlaw them for everyone's benefit. Jeff also felt that unless you had the skills of a seasoned mountain biker, a skinny tire bike may prove to be an accident waiting to happen. Especially after many hours in the saddle which would build up fatigue and poor mental choices. Unless you had a lot of experience in this sort of setting, a wider tire bike was going to be a better choice as it would be more forgiving. So, the "mountain bike" part of Trans Iowa was intentional on a few levels. However; this didn't sit well with many who were looking to do the event.

First off, we had to clarify that 29"ers were "mountain bikes" and after that, the cyclo-cross group, led by some well known rando/cyclo cross guys such as Ira Ryan, chimed in with their dissent. They thought we were being unfair to not allow these perfectly capable bicycles. A few from this camp also reasoned that for many years, road riders were doing "gravel grinders" on actual road bikes to train for the spring crit season right here in Iowa, and across the Mid-West. (Note- the term "gravel grinders" wasn't something Jeff or I made up. It was commonly in use by road cyclists far prior to our use of that term.)

Eventually the furor reached such a fevered pitch that Jeff decided that we should capitulate to the CX crowd and allow these bikes, despite Jeff's deep misgivings for allowing such bikes in the event. For reference, here is the re-written rule, as it appeared forever afterward on the Trans Iowa site.

"9: Bike choice is up to you! We are allowing mnt bikes, cyclocross bikes, 29"ers, and road bikes if you really want to be stupid. Just be aware that some research is going to have to go into your final bike choice. The gravel roads of Iowa can get pretty harsh in northern part of the state. I suggest at least a 1.95, but then again, it's up to you how much you want to hurt. We'll leave it at that."

So, with all the preamble above, you can see why the rule was worded as it was. Also of note, we put the rule in red letters so it would stand out, and I left it that way afterward. Of course, in 2010, or any year after this, that rule probably seemed weird at best and very strange and unnecessary at worst. I mean, why bother? Well, obviously, when you take it in context, it makes a lot of sense. Things were far different in late '04/early '05. 

Besides this, the uproar about having only one checkpoint where support could be had was the main focus of dissent. Many of the ultra-endurance riders understood this, but many others just jumping in did not. The thought that we would not have fully stocked aid stations, or even water, was unconscionable to many. Here Mike Curiak also influenced us when our answer to these sorts of complaints was borrowed from him- "Maybe this event isn't for you." And generally speaking, that was correct. It wasn't for everyone. 

In the end, this became what made Trans Iowa the event that it was. We did not capitulate to the idea that we were doing this event"for every man", as many assumed we were. We were not doing it for just anybody, and that was intentional. Was it exclusionary? Absolutely it was. Because Trans Iowa was dangerous, as I stated a couple weeks back, and anyone assuming the challenge of the event needed to have some sobriety in terms of that fact. Keep in mind that we had decided it would be okay if no one even finished the event. This thought pervaded everything about Trans Iowa. The event weeded out the pretenders and posers, for the most part. Eventually, even just getting into the event was not easy. As the years went on, this idea, fostered from the beginning, was a point of contention for many. 

Next: As the story evolved, so did the event. Next we will learn what motivated some changes to the early Trans Iowa events.


Saturday, July 13, 2019

Minus Ten Review 2009-30

Production prototype code name- "D-62", otherwise known as the Luxy Bar
Ten years ago on the blog I was finally able to reveal a drop bar designed for off road that I had been asked to make suggestions for. Brant Richards, then formerly of On One and running his own design firm dubbed "Shedfire", had sent me an email asking me "what would you do if you could design a dirt drop bar?", but he probably asked me in a more English way than that. I cannot remember now! The image I have today is courtesy of Brant and he sent along several others which I shared in a post here ten years ago.

What I saw was not what I was expecting, not at all! My idea was more closely related to what the Cowchipper ended up being. This bar, which ended up becoming called the "Luxy Bar", after some pub/bar Brant was familiar with somewhere, ended up being sold through the Ragley brand, which was connected to Chain Reaction Cycles UK.

It was heavily influenced by Sam Alison from Singular Cycles, who had the most input, as I understand it, as to the final form of the bar. What was finally decided upon remains the most radical, useful, and unique dirt drop bar ever released. Oh.......there have been weirder ones, but they were imminently unusable designs for one reason or another. No.....this one nailed so many things missing in dirt drops. The radical sweep is probably the number one thing here that separates the Luxy from all other flared drop bars. I liken this bar to how Jeff Jones might have designed a drop bar to be. Fair assessment or not, the swept extensions of the Luxy are very reminiscent of the Jones Bar.

The Luxy immediately made me think of all the failings of the Woodchipper. This was what the Woodchipper should have been. Usable extensions that kept your levers up and the brake levers reachable from the drops. No weird ramps and the bend of the drop was perfect. In fact, the Luxy had really minimal drop, which is another awesome feature of it. The final icing on the cake was the straight 31.8mm top section which, up until that time, I'd never seen before.

The total package was brilliant. I was very sad when the bar, after a run, maybe two, was no longer in production. If you missed the initial selling of the bar, you missed it. And despite some solid promises over the years, Brant hasn't been able to, or won't, bring it back again. Too bad. The Luxy is truly one of the classic flared drop bar designs. Nothing else comes close.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Friday News And Views

Much needed mental de-stress session.
Tough Summer:

July. This is always a tough time of the year at bicycle shops in Iowa. RAGBRAI is up on deck and everyone that claims the title of "cyclist" for the one or two months of the year so they can participate in this rolling carnival thinks that they are the most important cyclist ever. Or one would think so by the way they express exasperation with having to wait behind the other 25 folks who also think they have the most important bike to fix in the work flow.

That by itself is no big deal, but this year is different. I have a few things I am aware of and living through that have weighed heavily upon me. A friend going through some very difficult times. That's been one. And my stability at the workplace has been in flux for various reasons. It's been hard to navigate these days.

So, I wanted to first say thank you to CVAST. Their clearing of the trails has allowed me to find an escape from reality and a way to cleanse my mind of the crap going on. I gotta tell you all- going on bicycle rides is so good for your mental stability. I highly encourage even just cruising around the block. It helps. It makes things easier to work through. I know that it does for me.

Anyway, I don't want to sound the alarm or make anyone feel I am about to lose my mind. I should be okay, but when I go though tough times it makes me feel like there are a lot of you out there that are going though even tougher times than I. While I cannot offer you much, I can prescribe a bicycle ride. It wouldn't hurt, and it just might do for you what it does for me.

Dirt home from work is a huge blessing to me. I needed to get that little bit of single track in and just de-stress a bit. The Ti Muk 2 is a wonderful thing, and again- I want to say "thanks" to everyone that made this a reality for me. Every time I ride it I am reminded of your goodness and generosity.

Just A few Tidbits About The GTDRI:

Recon didn't happen Wednesday as a few "life" things needed taking care of and so I had to postpone looking at the route until Sunday at the earliest.  Conditions in Iowa have been top notch for dirt road cruising of late, so I am expecting to find most of the Level B Roads I have on the route to be passable by truck.

That said, I would like to ride some of it. I am having a difficult time figuring out how to make that work, since the route doesn't really lend itself to short-cutting unless it is the first 20% or so. But I'll figure out something.

My friend Tony came in and suggested that I change the route to accommodate water supply before 70-ish miles. However; there is really no where to go since Eastern Poweshiek County is pretty remote. I mean, there are villages, but barely anything that has any access to water, and I'd have to seriously modify the route. So I had a different idea.

I may stock a cooler and stash it on one of the Level B Roads with iced down water jugs. Of course, I have no idea how many folks will show up. Last year was a record attendance and we had 25 or so riders. I am already hearing rumblings from several places which makes me feel like we will see a LOT of folks coming over to Grinnell to ride.

So, if you are coming, and if you have someone coming who is not riding, maybe we could have that person ferry over water and have that tailored to the amount that shows up. We all could pitch in for the costs, or whatever seems best. I can make the route a little bit different to make that happen at around 50-55 miles into the route at a point which will be on a blacktop road. Basically pretty easy to find. Anyway, either that or I will cache some water and hopefully it will be enough.

Stay tuned for further updates.....

The first ever t-shirt for any Trans Iowa was for v5.

Trans Iowa Stories Feedback;

Regular readers here know about my Sunday posts dealing with the untold stories about Trans Iowa. I haven't heard much feedback on these posts until recently.

What I have heard has been very positive and encouraging. I thank you all that have made your views known. I am motivated to continue based upon the few comments I have gotten.

So, I've been striving to tell the untold bits of background to the event, and now that I've felt that I have covered that, it's getting to be time to start in on the events themselves. As I have stated before, I think it is all about the people and what interactions I have had with those folks along the way.

I'll be completely honest and say that a lot of this early stuff is challenging to recall. I mean, it's been 15 years ago, and some details have been lost to the mists of time. I'll do my best to bring back some detail, but maybe the first posts on from here will be a bit vague. Especially v1 and v2 which seem like dreams to me now. My strongest memories start with v3. Maybe you all think I overstate this, but that one..... Uggh! So much going on with just that version alone. I could write a book there. In fact, someone almost did write a whole book about it. Zach Dundas wrote a big chapter in his "Renegade Sportsman" book about that particular Trans Iowa. If you can spare four bucks, the chapter on Trans Iowa is well worth it. Zach pretty much nails it from the standpoint of what the event was like and what it meant circa 2007. My review of the book can be found HERE.

Anyway, I have some solid memories about that event and from there on, it should be a good read.

That's a wrap for this week. I hope that you all have a peaceful, relaxing weekend with a side of cycling. Keep the rubber side down!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

A Thorn In Their Side

Lance Armstrong was once so revered by the Industry and Press that even his shades were worth $4.5K!
So, the "Tour" is going on now. A bike race so famous that every cyclist and many non-cyclists know it by that name only. The "most famous cycling race in the World", and that's not hyperbole. No other racing event on human powered, two wheeled vehicles is as well known. This is a point which needs to be made up front here. The Tour has "pull". Non-endemic media knows this. They want to capitalize upon this fact.

Now I've seen the outrage on social media from several in the endemic cycling media in regard to Lance Armstrong having been invited on NBC's broadcast covering the Tour this year. They point and say, "Bad Guy should not be anywhere near this event he has disgraced!" They have a valid point. But they are in the vast minority. One of the points I try to remind myself of when speaking about cycling is that I am a weirdo when it comes to this sport I enjoy. I am a "one in a million" socially. Most folks think I should die because I take up "their space on the road", and those not so inclined to violence just think I am an oddball. Guess what? That's what most people think about most avid cyclists too. The "populace at large" really don't care what we think about Lance.

All they know is that the Tour de France race was won by him and some arcane rule about drugs, (which everybody knows they all were on) forced him to fall from Grace. Time has marched on, but Lance, the anti-Hero, is still remembered by the Average Guy & Gal as that Texan that spanked the World in its Biggest Event. So he got disqualified, yada,yada,yada.... He still knows a thing or three about how to ride in this event.

And you can go see the comments on most any story or video posted about his commentary on this year's Tour. There are a LOT of supporters. In my opinion, Lance is a ho-hum media presence. His persona, on camera at least, leaves me flat, but .......he does have some insight. NBC knows this. They know Lance has a lot of fans amongst the non-cycling public, and they really don't care if the small, vocal minority of cycling freaks are screaming for Lance to "get off their lawn." Apparently neither does "Outside Online", since they are also featuring Lance's commentary.

Back in the 00's, there was this thing in the cycling industry called "The Lance Effect". Armstrong was credited with bumping up the cycling industry's sales of road racing bikes, and no doubt he generated tons of dollars for the cycling media. Both entities have since washed their hands of the man, declaring him a pariah on the sport, and specifically upon the event he so "tarnished". Now the the "Lance Effect" represents clicks and viewership for the non-endemic media, and it isn't going over well with those who formerly benefited from the man.

Lance remains a thorn in their side. Maybe its time to just let it go.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

State Of Tubelessness: 2019

Although most tires I test now are tubeless rated, a rare few are not, such as this Tioga Binary.
Note: For the last "State Of Tublessness" address, see the two part report HERE and HERE

It is 2019, and almost every new tire design is tubeless rated now, with rare exceptions to the rule. Road tires being the main category where tubes still rule. However; that seems poised to be changing soon as well.

Perhaps no where else in cycling, besides triathlon, does "race on Sunday, sell on Monday" rule what consumers do. Road racers in the Pro ranks have every item down to the last bit of bar tape and GPS data crunching software scrutinized by the cycling media. The writers of this material, produced from races such as the Tour de France and others, drive sales of gear and ideas to a large degree yet in 2019. While this may not be as strong a dynamic as it once was, it still is a major influencer on consumer's buying habits.

With that said, I noted that several media observers at the Tour were commenting on the uptick in tubeless racing tires and wheel usage at this year's Tour. It may take a few years, but if the product produces wins and is seen as a performance enhancing product, my bet is that road cyclists will be flocking to tubeless set ups within a short period of time. These same roadies probably already own gravel and/or MTB bikes that are tubeless, so the technology is not alien to most seasoned cyclists.

So, anymore, if a company produces a new model of tire that is not tubeless rated, it is an oddity, but that happened recently with Tioga's Binary model which I recently reviewed. While this seems weird, there was/is a really good reason that this didn't show up as a tubeless rated casing. I cannot tell you why that is due to an agreement, just that someday soon, a tubeless Binary will emerge, and no one will remember this first salvo into the gravel tire market by Tioga, as the tubeless rated version will, no doubt, be the one everyone will buy. But suffice it to say that tubed tires will, most likely, always be around. They just won't be the high end, performance models once tubelessness gets figured out.

My new-to-me Ti Muk 2 is tubeless. Fat bike tubelessness is a piece of "cake" now.
So, speaking of "figuring it out".....

One of my biggest pet peeves about fat bikes for the first several years that these beasts were available on a wide scale was that the tire and wheel technology was from the dark ages of cycling. Rims were horrible, tires were department store quality, and getting anything to set up tubeless was.....yeah, RIGHT! That was a whole garage-science fair time in fat bike history right there. The Rube Goldberg machine-like manners in which one had to engage in to set a fat bike tire up tubeless was, in a word, ludicrous. Happily now we can leave all that behind since "real tubeless tires" and wheels exist which make all that nonsense unnecessary.

This was never made more clear to me than when I set up my Terrene Tires Cake Eaters on the Whiskey carbon fat bike rims recently. The set up was super easy to do. They have performed above my expectations so far, retaining air better than my tubed fat bike wheels and tires, while rolling far easier than those old dinosaurs. There probably is no better candidate for tubeless tires in the bicycle world than fat bikes. The amount of tube scrubbing tire is just one reason why. I have some past experience with this as well.

I had set up some fat bike tires as tubeless back in the day using some, ahem!, rather sketchy techniques that including double sided mounting tape, Gorilla tape, and several hours of labor to achieve tubeless Nirvana. And it was "worth it" as far as results. The conversion saved a tiny bit of weight, but in terms of rolling resistance, the effect was greatly noticeable and made riding a fat bike far easier than with tubes. However; once the sealant dried up and the tape started to fail, well...... It was too much hassle to keep it maintained, so I went back to tubes until, one day, I could use proper tires and rims. And let me tell ya, it is still really worth it. But now, the maintenance part is super easy. Tubeless tires and rims for fat bikes are the way to go, hands down.

While the effects of rolling resistance lessen as the tube/tire size decreases, it is still there. I have a friend who just went tubeless on his gravel bike and was amazed by the way it rode better. So, while there are several benefits to this way of doing things, we can not ignore a few of the downsides. There are some major bummers, and therefore tubeless tires for bicycles still is not going to be for everyone. Futzing with sealant, maintaining the sealant levels, dealing with a different way of tire to rim interface, and having a few "no go" fits and difficulties with that sort of thing can really put people off. For some, especially those who are familiar with the "Ways Of The Toob", straying from the familiar path is just not tenable. Better to have your peace and sanity than a few less watts of rolling resistance and ride comfort.

Look for further musings on tubelessness in the future.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

GTDRI 2019: Update

Proposed Route or hippo-nosed flying dragon- You decide.
Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational 2019: Route News:

Well, since I hear that more than a few folks are thinking about doing this crazy ride, I thought I'd better get to gettin' 'er dun. I'd drafted a route earlier but I scrapped that and started over. Also, I had originally felt like only doing about 60-70-ish miles, but this route turned out to be longer...... Oh well. It may have to get a tad bit longer yet. More on that in a bit.

But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves here. I need to recon some of this route, so things may change. Here's what I can share of what I already do know about where we will be going.
  • Dirt Roads: Since the last two years of GTDRI's, where I inserted about a 1/4 of the total distance in dirt roads, was so popular, that theme is being used again. Only this time in Poweshiek County. The ride definitely will have a ton of dirt roads, but as of now, I have no idea what the mileage will be. A final tally will be given after I recon the route. Suffice it to say that a quarter to a third of the overall mileage will be on Level B dirt roads. 
  • Some Familiar Roads: Obviously, with the route running out and back into Grinnell, a lot of former Trans Iowa roads will feature into this route. Even some of the Level B's will have been on previous Trans Iowa routes, and also- I am using some of the old GTDRI that was run out of Grinnell back in 2012, I think it was. 
  • Three Counties: I had intended on keeping this an all Poweshiek County ride, but I sneaked in a tempting twisty section of gravel up in Tama County, and an interesting bit that I was unaware of means we will be fully in Iowa County for a stretch. The GPS map I looked at shows the County border between Poweshiek and Iowa Counties but it runs significantly to the West of Poweshiek/Iowa Road, which I always assumed was right on the county border. Apparently, that hasn't been the case. So, if this is correct, we will be in Iowa County for a few miles. 
  • Two Towns: There are two towns we will go through, one with a convenience store. Brooklyn has been on several Trans Iowa routes and even a Geezer Ride passed through there once. Malcom is the other town, which was also on a Geezer Ride. The only thing is, these towns don't come until well into the route, so figure on carrying enough stuff to get you 75 miles down the road on this GTDRI. 
  • Hilly! The GPS track I used showed nearly 5,000ft of elevation gain, and those are always too conservative. Figuring in for what reality may be, I'd say it'll be closer to 8,000ft. So, yeah......it won't be flat! Bring your climbing legs. 
  • Distance: As stated above, I ended up making this quite a bit longer than my first draft. Right now it stands at 92+ miles. Given that recon could force me to change the route, this is not a hard and fast number. Should I just go ahead and make it a hundy? Probably should, but..... We'll see. 
  • Recon: I will be starting recon Wednesday (tomorrow) weather permitting. Stay tuned..... 
That's about all for now other than to say that the date is July 27th, 2019 starting and ending in Grinnell, Iowa at Bikes To You. Parking can be had at their main park downtown, a couple blocks away. Start time will be 6:00am and the ride may take all day. In case of inclement weather or wet dirt roads the event may get truncated, re-routed, or cancelled altogether. There will be a GPS downloadable route made available later after the route is confirmed and possibly an alternative "Dry Route" will also be offered. Stay tuned here and keep in touch on the Official Page for the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational.

More soon......

Monday, July 08, 2019

Loose Ends

I was reminded once again why off-roading in Northeast Iowa in the Summer is often a bad idea.
This is Monday......right? Not sure. It's been a weird six or seven days what with my schedule, a holiday, and a weekend all running together to make it so I wasn't sure what day it was several times throughout the period.

Anyway, back to the regular grind, right? I will find my feet in a hurry, I am sure. So, a few things to clean up on that have happened of late that didn't make the blog in the last several days. I guess it could almost have been a "Randomonium" post, but there actually is a common thread, so, no....... Just some loose ends here this time to cover.

First off, it is not only the height of "green" here in the Mid-West, but it is also the traditional time of year that I abandon mountain biking in the local area. It's been that way for years, and thanks to Ingawanis Woodlands, or otherwise I'd never have gotten much done in Summertime back in the old "Twenty Nine Inches" days. Well, there and Cedar Bend Park. Those were mainstays back in the day. That said, I almost never went anywhere in the local area due to the height of "jungle season". The time of year here when our river bottom oriented trails are water-logged, overgrown with vegetation, and rife with mosquitoes. In other words, absolutely no fun at all.

We have a local group here that for the last ten years, well.....around that long....have been busting their butts trying to fight with the regular seasons. They've had some successes for sure, but this year is quintessential "jungle season" conditions, and, well...... The results have been predictable. No one is having much fun with the soft trails locally and everyone that can goes to Ingawanis Woodlands.

Yep. Same song, second verse.

Testing the Spank Vibrocore handle bar has been challenging.
So, gravel travel has been the ticket around these parts. It's interesting hearing the tales of roadies this year. More close calls. More crashes in group rides leading to broken bikes and bones. Bah! Like Jeff Kerkove used to say, "The Road is the devil!", when he spoke of road riding. Now, admittedly, I am not a roadie. I ride gravel, and I like mountain biking a lot. Take that for what it's worth. But you can have road riding. I don't have any interest in it at all right now.

At any rate, I have enough to get done with "Riding Gravel" to keep me gravel riding for the rest of the year. One of the latest review items is the Spank Vibrocore drop bar I am reviewing for the site. It's not an easy product to talk about, by the way.

First of all, even Spank says this bar "changes the vibrations" from harmful ones to a rider to less harmful ones. Note- they do not claim that vibrations will be absent. This makes talking about this bar difficult, because what are harmful vibrations for you, and what are they for me? See where I am coming from? It's an odd world of marketing claims and products out there, and we all have to navigate it when considering products. That said, I like the bar fine. It's got a great flare and drop shape, and that 31.8mm top section is brilliant. I just have to do some more riding to suss out the rest.

Not that I mind. Riding the gravel roads is fun and, obviously, I enjoy it. But with July running on, and August staring at me from a few weeks away, I already feel like time is running short, and it seems like Summer just got rolling here. Plus I have the GTDRI and Gravel Worlds to get ready for. Sheesh! It's daunting. Lots to do- little time to get it done.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

Trans Iowa Stories; The People of Hawarden

In this post we will learn a bit about the pivotal role the community of Hawarden, Iowa played in getting Trans Iowa off the ground. 

In the early stages of planning the idea of Trans Iowa out, Jeff and I were discussing what the route should look like. Of course, one of the most important parts of this puzzle was the starting point. That choice was narrowed down significantly by two factors: the start had to be on the Western border of Iowa. The second was that the route had to pass through Jeff's home town of Algona, Iowa.

Algona was in the Northern tier of the state. This pretty much eliminated any Western border town in the Southwestern part of Iowa, or really, in the middle of the Western side, since this would increase the mileage so much to get through Algona that the idea would have been impossible to stage in one weekend. So, we were limited to the Northwest corner of the state, and the only town that made any sense to Jeff and I was Hawarden.

Hawarden is a town of about 2,500 residents and had hosted the start of a few RAGBRAI rides in the past. We reasoned that this might make the residents more amenable to cyclists. Jeff took it from that point. My only concern with the town after we had chosen the site as the start of the first Trans Iowa was routing from that point on Eastward. Jeff, however, had a plan to execute that involved a lot of players.
Jeff even managed to secure the West Sioux High School parking lot as a parking lot/start area for T.I.v1 (Image credit- Dave Kerkove)


One of the things that motivated Jeff was the elimination, as much as possible, of costs to participate in this adventure. At that time it was not unheard of for solo 24 hour racing entry fees to eclipse the $300.00 mark. Jeff thought this was an unfair burden on the solo entrants since team fees were similar but could be spread across four or more entrants. Jeff wasn't alone in his feelings about this, so he strove to find unique ways to entice his fellow endurance MTB racing buds to come to Iowa. One of the ways he managed this was to find several 'host homes'.

Jeff probably secured at least a half a dozen, or more, residential homes for incoming riders. Families that were willing to put up a rider or two were contacted through a call put out by the Chamber of Commerce, if I recall correctly. Jeff, myself, and two other Trans Iowa racers were put up by one family alone. It was an extraordinary show of trust in an event no one had heard of, not to mention the crazies that were coming to do it. My mind still has a hard time wrapping around that idea, but the people of Hawarden were willing to welcome complete strangers doing a super weird cycling event with wide open arms.

Jeff was the middle man in regard to dealing with the City and the riders. He facilitated the hooking up of riders with homes by sending out periodic e-mail "newsletters", as he called them, which kept everyone up to date as to the status of their "housing requests". It was an extraordinary feat which he pulled off two years in a row. Furthermore, he also negotiated a free side room in the local Pizza Ranch for the pre-race meeting where the restaurant also provided a spaghetti meal for the riders at a nominal fee. This "hobnobbing time" amongst racers was the precursor to the "Pre-Race Meat-Up" we used to have years later because I saw how the event was enhanced by this simple little deal Jeff set up for the first two Trans Iowas with the people of Hawarden.

In closing, I can only say from personal experience that our host home, the same for two years, was made up of a couple that were extremely gracious and giving. I recall both years getting a free, hearty breakfast, coffee, and juice which was cooked up by the man of the house. What a great experience! But ours was just one of many like stories in the town. In my opinion, the way we/Trans Iowa were accepted and encouraged by this town is one of the unsung stories that remains integral to the way the event was received by riders who came to join in the madness that became the Trans Iowa story.

Next: The Dissenters. Not everyone was enamored of the ways Jeff and I were going about this crazy event. Find out who they were and why they were upset next week.

Saturday, July 06, 2019

Minus Ten Review 2009-29

Scene from the 2009 Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational course. The lilies were on fore ten years ago.
Ten years ago on the blog this week I was yapping about the course for the upcoming GTDRI. I just noted that this was the year the lilies were crazy in many spots along the course. I also remember how that wasn't the case for the following three tries at this course. Interestingly, ten years removed from this event, the lilies are going nuts again.

It's also worth noting that this recon trip was the first that I had done with the "Truck With No Name". That vehicle replaced the "Dirty Blue Box", the 1990- (or was it a '91?)- Honda Civic Hatchback wagon. So, it's been ten years now that I've had that truck. Pretty sure it is the longest I've kept a vehicle around.

Also of note- I took an informal survey of readers of this blog on whether or not I should move the date of Trans Iowa. The results were mixed, but I got the sense overall that riders just wanted David Pals, (co-director at that time) and myself to be happy, (and keep putting on the event, no doubt). So, as it turned out I moved the date back to the last weekend of April and that is where it stayed till the end. One of the reasons for that was that I had met Grannygear and he lived in SoCal. He was willing to go to Sea Otter every year, and so I did not have to go for coverage for "Twenty Nine Inches". That freed me up to fully concentrate on Trans Iowa in April. Which......it was good and it was bad.

Having every April afterward for nine years be consumed with thoughts and actions for a Trans Iowa got to be pretty wearing. Basically, after the Renegade Gents Race, which happened at the beginning of April,  I was busy with TI stuff everyday until a week or so into May. Getting my April back was a nice thing this year, but I digress.........

Finally, I made note of a magazine article that was trying to poo-poo the idea that 29"ers were going to take over the MTB scene. (Of course, they have now.) To my mind in 2009, it wasn't an if, it was when. 27.5" bikes sort of delayed the ultimate take over of MTB by 29"ers, but for all intents and purposes, 29"ers rule now. And 26"ers?

Like I said ten years ago, they were toast.

Friday, July 05, 2019

Country Views: 4th of July Ride

Fireworks in the ditch. The lilies haven't been this nice in years.
Note: Since it is a holiday week, and news was scarce, I am giving y'all a "Country Views" post instead. 

I went out for my traditional 4th of July ride yesterday and it was a traditionally hot a humid day, just like most 4th of July days of yore. There was a spot of rain early, but the skies cleared up and it turned out to be a glorious ride in the country Southwest of Waterloo.

I was going through some stuff earlier this week when I found a scrap of paper with some hastily written cues on it. I studied them for a bit and realized that it was part of last year's proposed Geezer Ride that never happened. I figured I'd give that a go and see where it took me. The cues didn't pick up until well South of town, so that is where I headed to start out with.

The day was, as I stated, hot, but still 10 degrees cooler than it was last weekend. The winds were light and out of the South, so I would get the tailwind push back home. That was also good. The roads were better than they have been, but I ran into weird soft spots, deep gravel all over, and parts of roads still torn up from recent wet weather. It was tough sledding out there and little to no easy parts at all.

There is a large glacial erratic in the field there. Pretty common feature in Iowa. Some of these get painted up as "Freedom Rocks" now days.
While this section of road may look innocuous to the naked eye, it was terrible to ride on. Lots of deep, loose soil and rock.
I looked and the cues picked up at the corner of 110th and T Avenue in Tama County. So I rode down there and encountered a lot of deep, fresh gravel. I ran into a spot or two where the road was actually wet, probably from the rains in the morning or the evening before. Most stuff was dry, but there wasn't hardly any dust to speak of. These road conditions and rolling against a wind meant I had to take it easy and spin a lot so I wouldn't wear myself out too soon on the hills.

The recent hot, humid weather kicked corn growth into high gear. While it didn't look like it would get knee high a week ago, it blew right past that mark in the last few days.
Barns For Jason
The cues picked up for me and I was to go toward and through Buckingham. This little spot in the road has a grain bin or two, but otherwise it is nearly not a town at all. A few houses are gathered here, and that's about it. The route took me down some pavement to get by Buckingham, and when I rode on that, it felt like cheating after all the rough, deep gravel.

A couple miles from Buckingham on 110th here.
A gravel road runs away over undulating contours of the land filled with green.
Everywhere you look now it is green land with blue sky above. The landscape is dotted with clumps of trees and the shining roofs of farm outbuildings and barns which are typically shiny tin or steel now days. White puffy clouds floated above and provided an occasional shaded part of road to cool off on. Soon the corn will tassel and this sea of green will get broken up. An occasional oat field will turn golden brown, and the weeds in the ditches will start maturing and turning browner. But as for now, this is high Summer and the greenest things get here.

110th West of Highway 63 is Level B Maintenance for three straight miles. I rode a mile of it.
Barns for Jason. Matchy-match with the Morton outbuilding here. Nice!
Well, for whatever reason the cues quit making sense right after I passed Buckingham, so I just went off memory. I've ridden down this way several times so I know the roads. I ended coming back to 110th in Tama County and decided I would ride a mile of Level B Maintenance road to see how wet/muddy it might be. I only ran across a couple marginal places, but otherwise it looked fine.

Barns for Jason. And a bonus cool silo!
This flag flies constantly on a place a mile East of Hudson.
I kept heading North, and about this time I was starting to not have fun. My lower back hurt, the shoes I had on weren't agreeing with me 100%, and I was tired. I took a break not long after taking the flag image above, and I searched my top tube bag for anything to eat. Lucky for me I had a gel in there, so I sucked that down and most of the rest of my water with it. Then I made the last few miles back to the truck pretty easily.

I have a lot of work left to do to be able to even ride my own GTDRI coming at the end of the month. Hopefully I can make these rides more consistently.