Monday, January 21, 2019

It's Not All About Racing

From a recent Tweet from "The Path Less Pedaled"
This past Friday I was part of a thread on Twitter where someone had opined that the "media" was going to ruin gravel riding by focusing almost exclusively on racing gravel. A few responses came and then this quote from "The Path Less Pedaled", "So burnt out on the default mode as racing".

Okay, a bit of housekeeping on this quote: What "..the default mode.." refers to is how the bicycle industry, and the major media that covers it, almost always uses racing bicycles as its touchstone for any cycling related subject. This has been something I have criticized for years. When a small percentage of bicyclists actually race during any given year versus the overall amount of cyclists, it doesn't make any sense for cycling media and the industry to almost exclusively speak in terms of racing. This is especially bad when it comes to pavement style cycling. But when the industry desperately needs to bring in new cyclists, it really makes no sense at all to focus on something most people that ride bicycles would never do.

Of course, there are publications dedicated to racing. I get that in those instances, but many publications are not, and the default mode from them in reference to cycling is almost always about racing.

No numbers, smiles, and a casual pace. From the '18 GTDRI.
Then there is the basis for many designs of bicycles to be directly or indirectly influenced by racing. That has been a really bad route that the American market has gone down for decades. Look at any European city and most bicycles are definitely not racing bicycles because most people are not racing that ride.

Of course, this has as much to do with culture as it does a misplaced focus on racing, but the cycling industry could have been helping itself by focusing on more practical and fun modes of cycling, but it never got around to it. Not in any serious, long term way.

Yes, there is People For Bikes and some "feel good' donating and lip service being shared by the bigger brands. However; what dominates their social feeds is racing. Their marquee offerings are racing bicycles. There has been somewhat of a shift with the gravel scene poking its dirty little head into the goings on, but even that is getting the "racing treatment" by the brands and marketing wonks. The "default mode" still reigns supreme.

So, this all ties back into what I was talking about late last week with the media stories talking about the "Pro roadie" issue with gravel racing. So, there you go. The reason for the quoted reaction above by the PLP folks. It is such an old, hackneyed way to look at cycling that it becomes tiring when those of us that see the potential of cycling see and here these views again, and again. 

There are good things happening out there though, and I think I speak for some of us when I say that it would be nice if those things got some run in the press, if they influenced new gear, and if the narrative was redirected toward fun and freedom from competition. I know that we in the shops have been touting the "let's have fun" line to sell cycling and not the racing side. yet the industry seems entrenched in the racing side of things. The big brands sponsor race teams, the media focuses on them, and the narrative we all get from both is "race-centric".

Let's not eliminate racing, but let's put it in its place. It isn't what most cyclists do, so why should most companies and media make it the basis of any stories told to all cyclists about cycling. I like some of what I see going on out there. But I also get tired of "the default mode".

Sunday, January 20, 2019

The Touring Series: Beggars Again

 
A Guitar Ted Productions series
Thanks for joining me again on another adventure in "The Touring Series". This tour was dubbed the "Race Against Death Tour". This tour occurred in August of 1995. The three participants, Ryan, Troy, and your's truly, left from Cedar Falls, Iowa to try and get to Winter Park, Colorado in two weeks. Here I am reproducing the tale, mostly as it was posted on the blog in 2009. There are some new edits and additions. I also will add new remarks and memories where appropriate at the end of each post. 

 Once again, there were no cell phones, internet, social media platforms, or digital cameras in use by we tourers in 1995. I will post images where I can, but this tour wasn't well documented in images, so there probably will be very few sprinkled throughout. A modern image will be used only where it depicts things I want to clarify, like where we were in that part of the tour via a map image, or the like.
 

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



The "Race Against Death Tour" is looking for water...again!
___________________________________________________________________________

Now with about 20 miles to go to Rapid City, we had to find some water. Troy had motioned that we should stop at the next likely farm house. It wasn't very much further up the road when we came across a farm, hard against the side of a steep hill, at a point where the road turned straight west to Rapid City. The wind had let up somewhat, but was still a formidable force, and after our hard efforts, we were not at our strongest at this point. The wind also had contributed to a much higher than expected water uptake by all of us, so we were again in a desperate state of mind as we knocked on the screen door.

We rode 73 plus miles that day from Interior to Rapid City.
A shadowy figure of a woman answered, but did not come out. She seemed apprehensive and afraid of us. I suppose we did look strange, being cyclists, and there were a lot of those crazy motorcyclists about too. Strangers. Not welcomed....

She spoke to us from the relative safety she had behind the door. After explaining our situation, she was willing to help, but we couldn't come in, and we had to hand up our bottles through the door. It didn't really matter to us, because we were focused on the water only. However; we did manage to ask about the wind. She had a name for it......(I wish I would have remembered it). The woman said it came at odd times, sometimes lasting only a few hours, sometimes for a whole day. Well, we got a closer to a full days helping, and we were not thinking it was good luck either!

As we bade the woman farewell, we took the last run into Rapid City, which seemed as though it was going to take forever. I remember I kept looking at the map and thinking every mile was an eternity. Well, I suppose we were going pretty slowly, even though the wind became less and less until just before town, it was fairly calm. No matter, the damage had been done already, and we limped into a road side convenience/tourist trap late in the afternoon about ten miles from Rapid City.

Here we saw a couple of motorcyclists playing pool on the pool table as we rummaged about for good stuff to eat and for anything suitable to re-hydrate with. We wandered about the place, seeing things and just vegging out on anything mildly interesting. Not really wanting to move on, we mounted up and made the last stretch into Rapid City, where it was agreed upon that we would get a hotel room for the night. We were beat, and setting up camp was quite out of the question.

Modern day Google Earth image shows the race track at Rapid City (Green dot)
It wasn't long before signs of civilization were everywhere. This buoyed our spirits after a long, tough day. Rapid City not only brought a slight uptick in our spirits, but also in our tempo. Of course, there was a LOT more traffic which added to our excitement.  But we weren't put out at all. A "real" city, and something we hadn't seen since Sioux City, was a welcomed thing. I saw the race track on the edge of town and thought back to the "V.I.P" I spoke with back at Witten. "200 miles to the race track at Rapid City", I could clearly hear the words being spoken in my head by the man. I smiled as I remembered and the race track disappeared behind me. We forged into the heart of downtown and found a place called the Lazy U Motor Lodge. Looked good to us, so we checked in and got cleaned up.
______________________________________________________________________



Whew! What a day! The whole experience was so overwhelming, I think we were in a daze by the time we got to that little roadside store near Rapid City. Then it was a feeling of relief, the wind was dying, the city was nearing, the day was almost over. Excitement rose in each one of us. The strangeness of the day, my experience alone, (which I never spoke of to Troy or Ryan), the awfulness of it all...... We just wanted it to be gone. And for the time being, it was. Now it was time to cut loose.  

Next week: The Rapid City Scene!

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Minus Ten Review 2009- 3

Early marketing handout from WTB about the "new" 29"er tire, the Nano
Ten years ago on the blog I was talking about how history was made by "The Tire". Since I've been on a bit of a history bent lately, this seems fitting to discuss for today's look back.

If you haven't heard about "The Tire", you could be forgiven. It was the component necessary to kick into motion the entire movement toward how we experience and know mountain biking today. WTB introduced "The Tire" in 1999, and while it didn't catch on right away, eventually it did, and a bunch of other folks followed in "The Tire's" tracks.

Of course, I am referring to the WTB 29" X 2.1" Nanoraptor tire. This is the tire which spurred Wes Williams of Willits to coin the term "29"er", and it was the tire that Gary Fisher did a lot of testing around and motivated him to want to add 29"ers to the Gary Fisher Mountainbike line up in 2001.

Anyway, ten years ago I came across a scan of a document which was handed out by WTB to dealers and OE manufacturers describing this new thing. It is kind of cool to have these sorts of historical touch points to reflect upon. If you'd like to read more about 29"er's beginnings, I wrote a series on that called "The Beginnings of the Modern 29"er: A History" where you can read all about it, as they say.

Back ten years ago the entire 29'er thing was still being argued about and being put down by many mountain bikers. Of course, things have changed and even those who said ten years ago that 26" DH bikes would never die now are probably riding 650B wheeled DH sleds or even 29"er DH bikes.

My how times have changed!

The Green Belt ten years ago this week. There would be a LOT more fat bike tracks now!
Also ten years ago this week there was a LOT of snow and very cold temperatures. Of course, it would be another two years before anyone around here had fat bikes. But let's be honest here......hardly anyone did anything outside back then. 

I mean, just look at the image. XC ski tracks, and..........nothing else! Think about all the folks walking, snow shoeing, and fat biking. This would be an unheard of scene now in the Green Belt if we have snow. But ten years ago I pretty much had the Green Belt to myself for XC skiing. I cannot recall seeing maybe more than a handful of people doing skiing, or anything else, out there in the winter when I XC skied.

Maybe I should call that time "BF"- before fatbikes! Ha!

But there was something about what happened in 2012-2013 when everyone and their brother discovered fat bikes and started getting outside and off trainers and what not. Suddenly the woods were tracked to death by every mode of Winter-specific travel types. Not to mention all the post-holed bumps given to us by walkers. Yes, suddenly everyone was on the trails.

Weird how that works.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Friday News And Views

The scene as recorded by Australia's "9News" cameras.
"E-Bike" Fire Causes Concerns:

Recently a Pinarello road bike, retrofitted with an electric motor, had its battery catch fire and cause a minor brush fire in Australia. You can read Carlton Reid's story here.

Pinarello was quick to point out that this bicycle was retrofitted with an aftermarket electric motor kit not approved by Pinarello. But this isn't an odd case. There are a lot of retrofit kits out there, and the potential for something along these lines to happen again, with possible devastating effects, is rather high.

The story from Australia brings up a couple of interesting points to ponder. I've noted several modded bicycles and scooters in the Mid-Western city I live in. I would assume that nationwide, that it is true that there are other examples of such vehicles running streets and trails. We have no idea if the installations were dodgy, if the products are safe, or if we might see more battery explosions causing fires. The fellow in Australia escaped with minor burns, but the next person may not be as lucky.

The brush fire also brings up another interesting point to ponder. That of what might happen, say if this scene were to play itself out in a western state, with major consequences. Wildfires start easily and have had devastating effects which are well known to us all. Even if an electric motor on a two wheeled vehicle is installed properly, it only takes a spark.

Former Pro roadie, Ted King gets a hug after winning the Dirty Kanza 200
More On Why Grassroots Gravel Isn't Dying: 

Okay, tacking on to what I posted yesterday, and which I mentioned there I would be talking about here, is the following. A bit of redundancy, I know, but I do not think everyone is getting the point here. ......

Another article speaking about the Pro roadie invasion of "gravel" events, (which is really just another story about the Dirty Kanza 200), hit the web this week written by Joe Lindsey for "Outside Magazine".

It's an interesting take, but again- it really is only referring to one event. There is a reason for this.

The Dirty Kanza 200, for all intents and purposes, is "the" gravel event. Outside of folks who know and love gravel, this event is really the only event anyone knows much about. Even the media focuses on this singular event as being the example of "gravel" as it refers to cycling. That's a bit skewed. No.........it is a LOT skewed. But it is what it is. The DK200 has positioned itself over the years to be "THE" gravel event in the eyes of the cycling world, and it has largely achieved this goal. It's no wonder then that publishers like "Outside" almost always reference the event in their coverage of the gravel scene. Sure, there are token references to other gravel events, but they are not the focus here.

Really, if you think about it, the story headline should be "No, Pros Won't Ruin The Dirty Kanza". There ya go, "Outside", fixed that for ya..... The point being is that the gravel scene is far more than just that event. Obvious, yes- but it is not portrayed this way in coverage to average cyclists and casual onlookers. This is really why grassroots racing won't be affected by the Pros. Because there are more gravel events than just the Dirty Kanza. A LOT more!

Canyon Strive with 29" wheels
 It's Remarkable Where 29"ers Have Gone:

When I started blogging in 2005 (GASP! It's been that long ago!) I was really passionate about the then new 29 inch wheeled mountain bikes. I still am, but, ya know.......they are pretty much just mountain bikes now, right? I mean, you have some 27.5" stuff, but most mountain bikes are 29"ers anymore. Nuthin' new there!

But back then we never thought long travel or DH bikes would ever be 29 inch wheeled bikes. Why would they be? That was ludicrous. No way.....

But it has all happened. Long travel, big wheels, full suspension, all in one bike? Crazy. The latest news came from Canyon Bikes who debuted the enduro-centric Strive 29"er yesterday. The team issue one has a 170mm travel front fork and 150mm travel rear suspension. What the what?!!! That's crazy talk right there.

But I am pleased to see that it seems just like "the normal thing to do" now. No one is really all that surprised by this. It is the trend now. Long travel 29"ers, a dream ten years ago, are reality everywhere in 2019. Crow is being eaten. Hope it tastes good.......

Head sells bicycles and related gear, but is best known for tennis and ski gear.
Head Sport Buys Up Bankrupt Bike Company:

Recently the bicycle industry was rocked by the news that ASE, parent company to brands Fuji Bikes, Breezer Bikes, Kestrel, and more such as retailers Performance Bike and Nashbar, was going bankrupt. Now news is spreading via "Bicycle Retailer and Industry News" that Head Sport has offered to buy the ailing companies.

You may remember Head if you were of age in the 70's. They were part of AMF, remember that? The same AMF company that owned Harley-Davidson back then. Anyway, Head makes tennis rackets and ski gear, which has been their bread and butter since the 50's when the company was founded by Howard Head.

Head sells bicycles under the "Head" brand name in Europe, for the most part, and carry a full line of bicycles and HPB (Hybrid Powered Bicycles) units as well. In terms of the particular brands we know that were part of ASE, it is a good thing and it seems likely these marques will live on to see another day. What becomes of the retail side of the business seems to be up in the air at this point. My feeling is that if Head decides to keep a few outlets open, they won't be anything like the old Performance/Nashbar. But we will see.

That's all for this week! We have snow coming in, so I hope to get a fat bike ride in. Get out and ride!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Setting The Record Straight

Certain details- Important ones- are lost on "The Media". I won't let them forget.
Long time readers here know all about this gravel scene. You've been with me every step of the way if you've been reading here for ten plus years. You know the drill.

However; since gravel grinding has become "THE" thing these days, a lot more twisting of stories, false claims, and downright ignorant "knowledge filling" comments are being noted by myself and my long time friends. Sometimes I consider the source and let it go. I cannot enlighten everybody to what really went down. That said, every so often I notice how the chains get yanked by marketers, podcasters, and especially media wonks. I see total fabrications, lack of depth of research, and "spinning" on stories and when enough pile up, I have to let off some steam. Today is one of those days.

First, the "twisting" of story lines. I will address this again on "Friday News And Views", so I won't get too far on this today. However; when you read in many online and print media publications about "the gravel scene", and then read several lines about how "Pro/roadie" things are possibly going to "ruin gravel", what they really are talking about is the Dirty Kanza 200. How do I know this? Because it is pretty much one of a half a dozen gravel races annually that attract legit Pro riders and is the most well known of any of those races by a country mile. 

So, when you see "doom and gloom" stories about how "grassroots gravel" is possibly on life support, just remember that there are over 500 other events across the USA that are not the Dirty Kanza 200 and don't have any Pro/roadie issues. So, if you want to say that these types of twisting the story line articles are click bait, yeah........I'd go along with that. At best, it isn't truthful journalism. Not when it comes to gravel events. Basically, stories like these aren't even stories worth printing.

I'm not the only one who thinks this...... (From Twitter)
I've also noted that a few pundits out there are making statements that "such-and-such event" was a "gravel event" back in the day. They almost always are "pre-Trans Iowa" dated. Then there is no other explanation, context, or history given to educate the listener/reader. That is misleading people and isn't right. The implication being that somehow the referenced event had something to do with what is happening today within the gravel scene.

First off, I'd point these foolish individuals to the following historical reference- "The State of the Gravel Scene" Secondly, anytime you read or hear folks refer to any one event, or even three, or four, as being "gravel events" back in the day that, by implication, were the precursors to today's scene, your "B.S. Meter" should be pegged. They weren't influential to today's scene. They just were events. Plain and simple. They did not spur the modern (within the last 15 years) grassroots movement everyone recognizes today as "gravel grinding".

Finally, you will hear and read about the mythical "Godfather of Gravel". I've heard at least four or five different people being referred to in this manner recently. Okay, this is simple. The "Godfather of Gravel" is about as real as Santa Claus. Period.

I get it. Everyone wants a source. A beginning. Some way to codify and box up things and tie that all up with a neat little bow. The fact of the matter is that there are a lot of individuals who were responsible for what you and I know today as "gravel". The DK200, Barry-Roubaix, the Almanzo, Gravel Worlds, the former Trans Iowa, and many others all have individuals and groups of people, male and female, that forged what you know as "gravel" today. There were people involved in the scene before there was a "scene" to be in. I try to be careful to give credit where credit is due. There is no "singular" individual responsible for this scene. There just isn't and any attempt at saying that there was is just people being goofy.

 As with most things in life, any subject is generally more complex than many make it out to be, and always requires thought and research to understand it correctly. Ultimately you can choose to consume the "fast food" stories parading as knowledge or you can dig deeper and find out what is truth and what is fiction. I am not in charge of that. That is true. But I'm not going away either.........

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

C.O.G. 100 Update

Jersey pre-order has closed.
Okay, it's time to talk about the C.O.G. 100 some more. The latest update is that we have 9 spots left to go before the event field limit is reached. Registration is open until March 22nd and we still have a few spots left that we are designating for women entrants. So, if you are considering an event for late March, here ya go.

It is single speed only though, just so ya know. It isn't for everybody, and that is perfectly alright. No event I've ever done was "for everybody". Really, no single event on gravel is. Anyway......

On the jerseys, we got 14 commitments to purchase these. So, that pre-order window closed Monday, and the order will be put in after about a week or so to allow for everyone to get their funds in. No funds-no jersey, so if you dilly-dally no one will get these. An e-mail was sent out yesterday regarding this to those interested parties. If you are one of those folks and didn't receive the e-mail, let me know.

Next on the agenda is getting the cues drafted. Then when that is done those will be checked next month in the field on another course recon. If everything checks out we will go to print. Along with that I will begin doing the race numbers and finalize those in March.

Finally, we have a couple of other things that are not 100%, or even 50% nailed down just yet. I cannot say a lot about those two things other than one has to do with an idea for awards to places 1-4 and the other has to do with a joint to hang out at post-event.

Stay tuned on those and more coming soon. The event will be just around the corner, so I hope that y'all are sharpening up your single speed devices and getting into shape for this deal. It's going to be a fun time and I cannot wait to see everyone down in Grinnell on the weekend of March 29-30.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Winter Views: The Season Finally Caught Us

Looks like a January now.
There was a big snow storm over the weekend across the mid-section of the country. We almost missed it entirely. We were on the Northern edge of things, so it was a tranquil, soft snow that fell most of the day on Saturday. The flakes were so tiny that despite the precipitation lasting all day, we maybe got three inches. Maybe.

The snow fell so gently, and with little wind, that it coated trees and structures like white paint. Everything looked clean and glistened in the lights at night. We got just enough snow that it covered the brown stuff we've been looking at most of the time since late October of last year. So, at least it was pretty if not very deep!

I headed out to the Green Belt for a spin on the Titanium Mukluk. I didn't expect that the trails would be very difficult. Especially since there had been a sizeable amount of fat bikes out there the day before me. And as expected, I found a nice, wide swath of beaten in snow. In some places the traffic had iced over the trail. Not real bad, just noticeable in spots.

It was a grey day, and the Sunny days we have been having for weeks seem to be gone for a while now. This is much more Winter-like, and the temperatures are certainly reflecting it as well. Although it was in the upper 20's while I was out, the air felt chilly due to all the moisture in it. That's okay though as it could easily be well below zero at this point of the year. In fact, I believe the second week of January is traditionally the coldest week of the year here. that probably will not be the case this year.

Black Hawk Creek remains unfrozen and has plenty of flood related flotsam and jetsam sitting in it.
My old trail, Marky-Mark, is in pretty good shape. The reroute seems to have worked, (not shown here), so I was pleased with that.
I decided to run over to my old trail that I put in back circa 1997/98, and see how things were, especially after my re-route. I did that the last time I was out there to get around a big knot of downed limbs and tangled vines. Yes. Vines. We get these, I don't know what variety they are, but they are big, woody, long, sinuous vines that grow up around trees here. They can be 30-50ft long and 3-4" in diameter. They are tough as nails too. You cannot break them. So, when they come down with branches that break off, or when trees snag one and pull it down as they get blown over, it is best to just route around them, under them, or bring a sharp saw and a LOT of patience. I chose the "go around" option and it seems to have been understood and accepted by riders, judging by the tracks I saw.

Frost on the trees across the lake.
 You know, I was just thinking about this, but that trail has been in for 20 years now. That's pretty crazy to think about. I remember working on it nights after I would work all day at the car repair place I worked at then. As if working 10 hours a day on cars wasn't enough! Ha!

I ended up taking a bit of a shortcut home which led across a frozen bit of backwater. That is one of the bonus features of Winter woods riding. You can cross small streams and run-offs without worry. Places that you cannot cross any other time of the year are accessable in Winter. It is pretty fun when that works out.

At any rate, it was a good day out and I got two hours of riding in that I wouldn't have otherwise. The gravel roads are maybe too icy to ride, I don't know. I have to go check that out, but I have a feeling this will be the case. So, fat bikes in the woods it is for now.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Another 650B Tire

The Bubblegum Princess with the new Venture tires from WTB.
The subject of tires for any bicycle generally engenders a fair amount of discussion amongst cyclists. To be honest, a lot of the banter is pretty ridiculous. There are a lot of old, not very sensible beliefs about how tires work, what sizes are "best", what tread patterns work, and which tire pressures are best. (Max pressure!)

The thing is, many of these entrenched opinions were never tested by their adherents. They were just adopted out of necessity, convenience, or trust in a "knowledgeable friend". Sometimes all three at once. That isn't a good thing, and you should strive to think for yourself. That requires effort, time, and patience. Things in short supply in the "Age Of Information". People are just too darn busy to deal with that, so they just hear something and roll with it. When they are presented with opposing facts, they fall back on the source of their knowledge, or they just get angry because now you've shown them something and they might have to think about it. Oh! The horror! 

All that to say that I have an opinion on the whole 650B gravel wheel/tire thing and that I have ridden this format enough now with enough tires that I feel pretty confident in what I think about it for my purposes. Typically, if I wasn't running tires for testing, I wouldn't be on 650B very often. There are times I feel, again for myself, that it gives an advantage. That would be for softer, wetter conditions.

Then it gives me more float and stability. It doesn't do the "pizza cutter" thing and it makes riding in poor conditions easier. That's when I see an advantage over my "normal" 700c X 43-ish millimeter tires. But when it comes to drier conditions, it isn't an advantage. It isn't bad, but it isn't an advantage to run them.

More tire testing here. 700c Donnelly EMP in this case.
 One of the things a lot of folks don't think about when they swap out to 650B wheels is how the smaller diameter changes a few things. Maybe you already realize that the bottom bracket gets closer to the ground, which can cause pedal strikes at times. But that isn't all smaller wheels do.

They also change the handling of your bike. due to the idiosyncrasies of front end geometry, smaller diameter wheels make your bike less stable. Probably not something you may have thought about. Then too, smaller wheels also affect your gear ratios. Your big ring gets "less big ring" with smaller wheels. Your granny gear gets "more granny" too. If you have  a 1X rig, this is even more important to consider.

So, why bother with 650B wheels at all? That's a really, really good question. 

Part of the hoopla is industry driven. Someone creates a new platform, or, in truth, puts a new coat of paint on an old idea, and the marketing guys go to town on it. The hope being that "it" motivates you to part with your dollars. That's how the ball keeps rolling. It's what we do, so I understand that as well. Sometimes those ideas are goofy. Sometimes they are not.

In this case it was kind of a patch to get wider tires in a road-ish frame. It's not a new idea, (see above paragraph), but in these days of "plus all the tires" it was a way to slam in some 48mm tires with a road crank/cx style format. Then some bike packing folks got a hold of the idea and started tweaking out clearances, using 1X drive trains, and squeezing in 2.1'-2.2" 650B mtb tires. Some are even doing mtb drive trains and slamming in 3" 27.5+ tires and wheels.

This then begs the question- "Why not just do a 29"er drop bar mtb?" Another great question there. Of course, many of you are already saying "Fargo" as you read this. It would seem that the industry and times have come right back around after 10 years to where the Fargo has always been. A great example of which is the Mason Cycles "In Search Of". The Breezer Bikes RADAR Expert I recently had in for review is another good example.

My Fargo, December 2008. A bike way ahead of its time.
So going back to these new 650B tires coming out in the 47mm-50mm sizes. Well, I like to think of them as a stepping stone toward what I feel is already coming around again. More "Fargo-ish" bikes that can handle big 29"er tires and wheels but could also run a 45mm tire with ease.

The benefits of swapping wheel sizes works if you are limited with sticking to a road drive train, because frame clearances are limited to be able to run those cranksets. Yes, 1X gains you a bit of breathing room, but I believe this is also a stop-gap until something that should have happened a long, long time ago finally does happen. That being when road based drive train dimensions change.

Call it "Road Boost", or just "Neu-Road", or some other fancy marketing term, but road over lock dimensions for hubs and bottom bracket widths are going to get wider. When that happens, then the 29"er with a road based crank set and capabilities to run 2.4" tires easily will be all over the place. 650B will fall to the wayside as the "fat tire" option for gravel/back road/bike packing. Big wheels just roll over stuff better and that's a fact. Give those hoops some flotation capabilities over the current 43-ish millimeter widths we are stuck with now, marry that to a wide ratio road double, and then you'll have the bike of the future for the gravel/back road/bike packing riders wanting a wider tire than 45mm. 

But, as always, don't take my word for it. Think it over for yourself. I'm probably completely bonkers.



Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Touring Series: I Give Up!

A Guitar Ted Productions series
Thanks for joining me again on another adventure in "The Touring Series". This tour was dubbed the "Race Against Death Tour". This tour occurred in August of 1995. The three participants, Ryan, Troy, and your's truly, left from Cedar Falls, Iowa to try and get to Winter Park, Colorado in two weeks. Here I am reproducing the tale, mostly as it was posted on the blog in 2009. There are some new edits and additions. I also will add new remarks and memories where appropriate at the end of each post. 

 Once again, there were no cell phones, internet, social media platforms, or digital cameras in use by we tourers in 1995. I will post images where I can, but this tour wasn't well documented in images, so there probably will be very few sprinkled throughout. A modern image will be used only where it depicts things I want to clarify, like where we were in that part of the tour via a map image, or the like.
 

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

We rejoin the Race Against Death Tour now as the three riders leave Scenic, South Dakota after seeing an inebriated Native American rise out of the tall prairie grass behind the convenience store.
________________________________________________________________________

The shock of the man "rising from the dead" out of the grass back in Scenic was soon forgotten. Our attention was now focused on the road ahead. Troy, naturally, was making the pace and his emotions drove us down the road at such a speed we couldn't converse for a while. 
 
It wasn't long before we ran into several grasshoppers along the road. Big green ones. They were jumping around and getting on our legs and on our bags. Hitch hiking insects! But that wasn't the worst of it. The throng of hoppers thickened, to the point that the entire roadway was covered from ditch to ditch. This slowed us down and we remarked at the weirdness of it all. As if we hadn't already seen enough weird things!

Image credit- USDA- APHIS

But it got weirder. Hoppers were going through our spokes and under our wheels at such a rate that our tire treads were green with bug guts. The spokes were singing a "plinkity-plink" tune as the insects hopped through the whirling mass of wires to their inevitable death. Every so often, a giant orangish-red hopper would be seen. Dwarfing the already enormous green brethren, these would make a serious "clunk!"if they got caught up in the whirling machinery.

As the surreal plague of insects played itself out, we were mesmerized by the spectacle and the sound. Suddenly, I became aware of some movement ahead. As I looked up, I saw a wall of insects peeling away from the surface of the road as if someone, or something, was turning the page of a very large book. The wave swept over us with a deafening roar, and our bicycles almost came to a halt.

Wind!

Not just any old wind, but a wind that wasn't there, and suddenly was. The power of the gust was immense. Maybe a blast of 40-50mph at the snap of a finger. That's what blew the insects off the road, and us to a near stop. It wasn't just a gust either, it was not giving up. It just kept blowing at this incredible rate. Once we figured out it wasn't going to stop, we got into a line and started taking turns pulling at the front. It was slow going. We all ended up in our lowest gears. Unable to move much faster than ten miles an hour, usually less, we were obliged to stop after about two miles of butting heads with this wind. Completely exhausted, surprised, and baffled. We didn't know quite what to make of it.

 Stopped alongside the road, with the roaring wind in our ears, we tried to come up with ideas for what to do to carry on. Running nose to tail wasn't giving any relief. The wind was so strong, there was no draft. It was so loud, we had to yell at each other to be heard. Besides, we were afraid we would take each other out working so hard so close together. The wind couldn't last like this, or could it? There was some debate upon this point, but Troy was of a mind that any dilly-dallying would cause unnecessary delay. Finally, we decided to roll out, facing the wind mano-a-mano with what energy we could muster.

It was simply brutal. We could only manage approximately two miles at a crack before we would pull over exhausted. After resting for five to ten minutes, we would get back to it. Heads down, roaring wind all around, weaving due to the low speeds and in our lowest gears. It was borderline impossible to move forward and mentally draining.

At one point the road turned 90 degrees to cross a small river. The landscape was such that it funneled the wind down the steeply cut banks and around the steep, grassy hills rising above on either side. The wind actually intensified here. We were getting the blast from our right sides in this half mile stretch. I wobbled, got the bike steadied, wobbled, steadied.......finally I found a balancing point. The ground looked strange. I looked up and ahead for the first time after entering the crosswind. I laughed out loud at what I was seeing.

Ryan was up ahead about 50 yards. He was riding along steadily, at a 45 degree angle to the road leaning into the wind! My bags were close to grazing the pavement on the right side, and it seemed as if we were "surfing" or "flying" our bicycles rather than riding them. I felt that if the wind were to gust slightly higher, it would topple us over to the left and right into oncoming traffic. I figured we wouldn't hit the road, but the opposite ditch, if we didn't get struck by an oncoming car or truck. Throughout all of this, Troy dangled off the back, but at the time, I was too busy to mark the oddness of that.

Finally we turned back into the wind, and getting out of the river valley lessened the winds intensity. This was far better than the crosswind! We stopped, amazed at what we had just experienced, sheltering in some boulders next to the roadway. Troy took the opportunity to relax and stretched out on his back on the ground. Not long afterward, a motorcyclist pulled up and stopped. He wanted to know if we were okay, and then before we could answer him he cut himself short and said, "Oh, you guys are on bicycles! I thought a motorcycle went down." He bade us farewell and motored off.

So, since we weren't "motorcyclists" we were okay to have trouble and injury? We were a bit miffed about that, but also amused. I mean, how else could you react on a day like this? After a laugh and a decision to try to lengthen out each riding section to four miles, we were off.

I am not sure exactly where it was, but somewhere in the next stretch I had that moment. A pivotal moment in ones life. It just happened to be while riding a bicycle. I think riding a bicycle helped me get to this point, no doubt, but the moment was far bigger and more meaningful than a bicycle ride. I found out a lot about Life, me, and my future in about ten minutes time.

Ryan and Troy had found a rhythm, the wind had lessened a bit, and hills had kicked in that left me dangling way off the back. I finally couldn't even see them up ahead. As I became desperate, I cursed, and I yelled, and yes, I cried. I was having a fit in the middle of no where. I gave up. Then I finally had what a friend of mine used to call "a come to Jesus meeting". Well, I had that meeting right there on my bike.

 I suppose the epic, insane, over the top experiences I was having during this day helped. I suppose the situation my life was in was a contributing factor. I don't know if it makes any sense to anyone else out there, but for me, I finally figured out that I wasn't in charge of my life, God was. Well, all I knew at the time was that a big part of my frustration with life in general was gone that very moment. I was at peace with things by the time I noticed that up ahead, Troy and Ryan had stopped to wait for me.

After a bit of a rest, we soldiered on, but the efforts of the afternoon had started to take a toll. First thing was that we were dangerously low on water, and we had a long way to go to get to a resupply. We decided to stop at the first farm house we could find.
__________________________________________________________________________

A day of truly biblical proportions. A day that, even now, I find incredible. I know that no one will probably believe it. But it did happen and it was the day that started me on a big change in my life.

The wind was nuts. I maybe have ridden twice since then in wind close to that. Once was at a Renegade Gents Race where our five man team was running in echelon to beat the quartering headwind that day. I was thinking a lot about that day on the tour again while riding the gravel South of Ames. But of course, the tour experience was different. I had been broken- drained over the previous week, mentally, physically, and spiritually, and I was in a much different place. The Gent's Race had me in a familiar place, surrounded by friends and people. This tour found me in a wasteland of grassy hills all alone. Completely broken.

Next Week: Beggars Again

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Minus Ten Review 2009-2

The only image all week ten years ago.
Ten years ago this week in 2009 I was thinking a lot about the economic crisis we all were going through. Gas was sub 2 dollars a gallon, and I figured that couldn't last long. I thought eventually gas would go back up and we'd all be not attending races or traveling to ride as much as we used to.

I was wrong.....

Speaking of events, in an early "Gravel Grinder News" post, (it was a part of this blog before I broke it off on its own), I was talking about how the DK200 had opened up registration. For the single, 200 mile distance. That was all they did then. And........they had increased the field limit to 100 riders!

This would be pretty much the last time the DK200 had what would be called a "small field" of entrants. It was the end of an era for that event. I also reported on a brand new event in Michigan. It would later become the largest gravel event, in terms of attendance, in the USA. Maybe the world. Barry-Roubaix started out as a humble little gravel event no one knew about in 2009. My......how times have changed! 

Finally, I had a unique sponsor come onboard for the then upcoming Trans Iowa v5, which would be the first that had nothing to do with Decorah, Iowa. It was to be held in Williamsburg, Iowa. The sponsor was Ritchey Design, and they wanted to send us rim strips and tubes. I had to poll the riders to get tire sizes and diameters down so Ritchey could send the correct sizes and amounts. This proved to end up being an early poll on what tire size was "best" for gravel riding as determined by a random sampling of Trans Iowa riders.

This turned up the 700c X 35mm-40mm size as being the largest segment of the tire market in the small, new gravel scene. Keep in mind that there were no "gravel tires" then, no tubeless tires for gravel, and wheel size was yet to be squared away in a lot of people's minds. I think this was when the whole thing got settled though.

The idea of 700c x 38mm tires as being the baseline for gravel tires drove early design for the first gravel bikes. The Salsa offerings being notable here. Of course, that evolved to bigger sizes now, but that wasn't what was considered as being "good" in 2009. It's an interesting tidbit of gravel history.

The State Of The Gravel Scene 2019 Reference Post.

This is a post to compile all three links to the "State Of The Gravel Scene" posts from 2019. 

State Of The Gravel Scene Part 1 

State Of The Gravel Scene Part 2 

State Of The Gravel Scene Part 3

This will serve as an easy reference going forward when people search for these articles.


Friday, January 11, 2019

Friday News And Views

Guitar Ted To Speak At The Iowa Bicycle Summit:

Recently I received a request to speak and give a presentation on gravel routes, how gravel events benefit communities, and more at the upcoming Iowa Bicycle Summit in Des Moines, Iowa January 25th.

It is an honor to have been asked to do this and I am excited to share what I know about the gravel scene with city planners, county officials, and city and county engineers.

This summit is on a Friday and precedes the Iowa Bicycle Expo the next day. I may stay overnight.....maybe not. It depends on how Friday late afternoon/evening goes. I speak between 1:45pm and 2;45pm, so I think I will plan on seeing some folks while I am down there. Weather could factor into things as well, so who knows at this point. I may not even get down there if we have some crazy storm.

Stay tuned.......

Just another example of another new event for 2019.
And The Hits Just Keep On Coming:

My "State Of The Gravel Scene" posts were talking about several things, but the last one, about events, is getting the most run. Lots and lots of views on that post.

It's no wonder too. I think that 2019 is going to be a banner year for first time events. Cracking the record, perhaps, from last year. It's crazy. I still find it hard to believe that so many new events are still being planned, produced, and happening. But as I said, the smaller communities are really grabbing a hold of the gravel cycling scene and they are not letting go.

Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa seem to be the main instigators of late. No wonder- That's where most of these small towns and villages are that could use a boost and they have tons of gravel roads surrounding them. But certainly, there are more places doing gravel than just the Mid-West. Oddly enough, Florida is another hot spot for gravel. I think I've mentioned Mississippi, and their Gravel Cup Series, and that is a burgeoning scene. I expect to see more coming out of the Deep South in the years to come.

Texas is another hot spot for gravel. The Spinistry, a local to Dallas/Fort Worth club, is the big promoter down there. Those guys keep doing new stuff from time to time also. You may have heard about the SBT GRVL event, a first time event in Colorado which has been a big state for gravel events in the past as well. I'm sure I am missing many events, but the point is, there is still a LOT of expansion of events in the gravel scene, and there seems to be no plateau to it yet.

Wolf Tooth's new through axle offering.
 Wolf Tooth Debuts New Rear Through Axles:

Those guys and gals in Minneapolis are up to something again. This time it is through axles. Wolf Tooth is now offering 9 different lengths of rear through axles, all 12mm, in various thread pitches. What's more, because of their design, they have a cap, so they thought, "Hey! Why not anodize those?" So they have. Pretty rad.

The really cool thing is that they also are doing "Trainer Caps" which pop into each end of the through-bolt and allow you to stick your through axle bike on a trainer, or smart trainer. (Why? I don't know. Just ride outside! But yeah.....I get it. )

Anyway, these are available now, which is good, because a lot of you use trainers about right now. Now these are actually through-bolts. That means you need a tool to insert and remove them in a bicycle. In this case, a 6mm hex key does that job. Another cool feature is the stainless steel washer which will help you get the axle properly tightened and help to not mar your frame.

No front axles as of now, but you can guess why. First, rolling out front axles requires far more parts to be made since there are 12mm and 15mm through bolts with many different thread pitches, in 100mm, 110mm, and 150mm. Plus, you don't need a special doohickey on a front axle to use a trainer, and this is trainer season. So, makes sense to me why the rear axles are out with no front offerings. I bet fronts come later. But that's just me guessing. I don't know.

Harley-Davidson concept "e-bike". Image courtesy of Gear Junkie
 The Evolution Continues:

The Consumer Electronics Show, or "CES" for short, is going on now and quite a stir was caused when this "e-bike", so-called, was shown by Harley Davidson as a concept to attract future young customers. The concept appeared on-line on the "Gear Junkie" site here.

The article is also saying: "Harley designed these new electric bike concepts to attract a younger, more urban audience to the brand. The brand also designed them to be super easy to ride, with no clutch, no shifting, and no license required."

Now, a couple of points. First, on-line criticism from many in the bike community focused on the wording used, especially the use of the term "e-bike', saying that since "it doesn't have pedals, it cannot be an e-bike". I think the criticism is misplaced. The reason being is that what should be focused on, and changed by all of us in the cycling community, is how the vehicle is powered. Saying "e-bike" doesn't work anymore, and this is a perfect example.

When automobile manufacturers started combining different types of power in four wheeled vehicles the term used was "hybrid". This is the exact term we should adopt as cycling becomes "hybrid powered- or "human/electric" vehicles, if you will. What Harley is showing is, in fact, an "e-bike'. It is an electric powered ("e") motorbike (bike). They aren't wrong in the description. That's why the focus has to be on the power plant, be that a dual source, or "hybrid", or single source, as in the case with the Harley shown. Non-bike people don't know "e-bike" and it's "classes". That's geek talk and it flies right over most folks heads. Say "hybrid powered bicycle" though, and then we're getting some where with better understanding.

Harley also showed this electric scooter concept. Image courtesy of Gear Junkie.
Now the other point I wanted to bring up is that I have said all along that the so-called "e-bike" was a stepping stone toward an all electric powered motorcycle concept. Add scooters now to this idea I have. It is happening. Here is the proof.

I also have said that bigger companies- non-cycling companies, would get a hold of this idea and walk right past what cycling companies are doing with better performing, better looking products. Harley Davidson have done this. It's here. It is happening. Cycling companies spent far to long trying to keep "e-bikes" looking like bicycles, and now these more cutting edge designs are going to take over. Volkswagon, Ford, and GM, amongst others, are already making new designs to fit this demographic and category. I predict the "heyday" of bicycle companies in "e-bike" categories is coming to an end.

But, time will tell. Maybe I have a dim view of humanity, but in my experience, humans always take the easier way out, and not pedaling, versus pedaling, is the easier way. Pedals, as they did on gas powered, "hybrid" bicycles of the early 20th Century, will become like useless appendages and eventually disappear altogether. It's simply evolution.

That's all for this week. Have a great weekend and thanks for reading the blog!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Randomonium

NOTE: Okay folks, if you haven't been around long enough here to know what a "Randomonium" post is, then here is the deal. I ramble, rant, and randomly moan about all things cycling in one, incohesive, bizarre post. "Randomonium", okay?

One of the reasons SRAM pushes 1X for gravel is this component.
 The New, 12 Speed Road World:

Pro road cycling is getting wound up and running already for 2019. With the early racing comes new, as yet unseen componentry. Part of this is the move to 12 speed road groups.

"Bike Radar" recently ran stories on SRAM 12spd E-Tap and on Campagnolo's new 12spd EPS electronic group. Obviously, Shimano is again seemingly one upped, but Rotor has them all beaten with a hydraulic 13 speed group.

One thing I noticed is that SRAM doesn't seem to be changing the overall architecture of its front derailleur for E-Tap. Now, the company who declared "front derailleurs are dead" might be expected to take a "meh!" approach to front derailleurs. I think that it is a mistake. Here's why.....

That front derailleur design pretty much precludes it from being used on many gravel rigs due to rear tire clearance issues. The battery is the big offender, with its rearward placement and thickness, it sits right where you don't need it in terms of using fatter tires in the 35mm-45mm range, and don't forget mud clearances. Most other electronic front derailleurs stack the motorized bit on top of the derailleur in a vertical fashion, keeping clearances good. However, SRAM chose to put a battery on each derailleur, making this vertical placement difficult for them to do with the motorized bit and a battery combination.

So, of course, SRAM is pushing a 1X solution for gravel. I don't agree that it is best, since the road style riding which is part and parcel to gravel riding really works best with close ratio gearing. Same for paved road riding, by the way. You are not going to get that with an E-Tap 1 X 12 set up, should SRAM decide to go this way. Not a 1X that has a decent range of gears for both speedy flats riding and winching up long grades and steep pitches. But SRAM have married themselves to a front derailleur design in E-Tap that renders this a non-functional design for gravel riding. Shimano is where it is at for electronic shifting for gravel bikes and looks to remain the top group for this niche for some time.

Could these roads be killing you?
 Slag Controversy Hits Muscatine County :

In a bizarre twist, a limestone substitute could possibly be harmful to the health of those who live, work near, and ride on some Muscatine County roads. A story circulating on Facebook reached me yesterday which causes concern for the health of riders, residents, and anyone spending time near or on roads treated with carbon steel slag, a byproduct of steel manufacturing.

The story can be seen here. Recently a County Board of Supervisors meeting was held in Muscatine County where several residents showed up expressing concerns over the use of the carbon steel slag. Residents are complaining that pieces of bolts and steel scrap in the slag are puncturing tires. However; what is even more alarming is that this substance may be harmful to the environment, due to run-off, and the dust produced from riding/driving over it may be inhaled with as yet unknown health concerns.

A scientist testified at the meeting recently that, "....the company did not perform a total metals test for mercury, cadmium or arsenic — toxic metals — and recommended the county have the test done." This according to the linked article. Furthermore, the article also states that the company that sells the slag sent out a "safety data sheet" with an advisement that, "Precautions including wearing gloves when handling slag and to avoid breathing slag dust..." were listed in the document.   

The carbon steel slag does save the County plenty of money in road maintenance since it runs a lot cheaper than limestone to buy. However; the environmental and health costs in the long term may not be worth the short term savings to the County. 
 


Design for a proposed C.O.G. 100 jersey.
 C.O.G. 100 Jersey:

The C.O.G. 100 is our event we are putting on that is single speed only, 100+ miles, gravel, and will be held March 30th, 2019. If you haven't heard about it, click this link.

We have gotten a bit of feedback from a few folks saying they might buy a jersey if we offered one. Of course, the "official" champ jersey is off the table. (You can see those in yesterday's post) However; I thought if we changed up the logo a bit, used a different color overall, and shot the idea out to you, we might be able to make this happen. Here are some ground rules that would have to be met to allow for us to get these out there.
  • Sizing: Check Bike Rags site, click to "Custom Jerseys" in the header there, and download the PDF catalog to see their sizing chart. Don't ask me about sizing!
  • Price: Thinking $60.00 We would handle this via PayPal. Details would be shared later if this becomes a go.
  • Ordering & Delivery: The jerseys would have to be ordered from Bike Rags before January 31st. All orders would be processed then and delivery of these would be either (a) at the C.O.G. 100 or (b), shipped to you via USPS. Orders needing shipped would be charged an extra $5.00 to cover handling and postage. Orders would be shipped around the end of March/early April. 
  • Minimum Requirements; We would need 10 committed folks to this, or more. If we do not see any response that warrants going forward, we won't do it. THIS IS THE DESIGN AND COLOR. No other options are going to be put forth. If you "would do it, but not this color", then don't bother. If we get a minimum of ten folks to actually commit to THIS design and THIS color, then this goes forward. 
  • Are You In? If so, send me an e-mail @g.ted.productions@gmail.com I will reply with a confirmation of the process, if it is a go, and will provide further details via e-mail. YOU HAVE UNTIL MONDAY, JANUARY 14th TO DECIDE!! After that, the offer is off the table. This gives me and whomever commits a couple of weeks time to get everything in order and get the jerseys ordered before January 31st. 
Questions? Hit that e-mail and ask.

Thanks for reading, as always.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

C.O.G. 100 Update

Fom Bike Rags- The Men's SS Champ jersey design for the C.O.G. 100
The C.O.G. 100 registration opened January 2nd and within three days it sold out! Both N.Y. Roll and I were blown away by the response. Thank you to all who registered.

However; we were a bit disappointed that we didn't get more women to sign up. Where are the women single speeders? I know they exist, because in the last Trans Iowa, we had several who were rocking the single gear.

So, N.Y. Roll and I decided, based upon feedback we got, to offer 25 more spots. (NOTE: Some have already been spoken for, so don't dilly-dally!) We also set aside five spots solely for Women. Now one of the other 20 could be taken by any women as well, but we wanted to reserve at least five specifically for females.

By the way, here is the LINK TO REGISTER.

Next we have the jersey design for the champions only. It was a design idea that N.Y. Roll and I came up with and that Bike Rags is going to reproduce for us on a quality jersey to be given to the winner of the Male and Female classes.

The inspiration was from two main sources. The stripes colors represent Iowa's agricultural heritage, specifically from John Deere. The central "shield" icon is a derivative of the State Highway Patrol's symbol seen on their patrol cars over the decades. The body colors are something tongue in cheek we decided to do. We will let you come up with that idea source on your own. Again- there are no plans to offer these to the public. We would consider a different body color with the shield reading "C.O.G. 100" instead of "Iowa SS Champ", if we get enough people that say they would buy them. Price would be determined by the numbers of committed buyers.

The Women's jersey design.
The back of each design is just a simple continuation of the stripes, by the way. We wanted to keep it very simple, easy to read, and classy. I think we accomplished that with the excellent help from Tony of Bike Rags, who by the way, is a pleasure to be dealing with.

So, the hats are also ordered, which you can see an example of by visiting the C.O.G. 100 site and looking down the page at the "Latest News" section.

We have also been working on an exclusive, limited edition print of the C.O.G. 100 art for each rider. These will be signed and numbered by the artists- myself and my daughter, so I'm pretty psyched about this. Hopefully I can find a good way for everyone to get them home without destroying them!

N.Y. Roll and I are also scheming up a plan for second through fourth place awards. We have a good idea of what it is we want to do, and a prototype will be made soon. I won't give away more than this, so stay tuned for further updates on that facet of this inaugural event.

Finally I have to get cracking on number plates for the riders. That will happen later once registration either fills up or ends. We already have the plates, and expect them to be just like the old Trans Iowa plates- Tyvek, plain and simple. We plan on providing pipe cleaners and zip ties at the start line so you can get those on your bikes.

We are also contemplating a "check in" the evening before, so stay tuned on that. I don't know how many folks would be coming in early, so we will play that by ear. I also have to contact a local establishment to see if this would be an okay deal to do. Stay tuned....

Also, an "after-event" gathering is in the works, which will allow riders to get together to swap war stories and have a bite to eat and something to drink. Again- stay tuned on details.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Winter Views: Unexpected Mush

January thaw? Well.......maybe.
This Winter has been one for the record books. We've had flooding in late December, temperatures more akin to early to late March, and very, very little snow to speak of.

So, you'd think we'd be jumping for joy. Well, the single track has been more miss than hit, and we've had enough ice to make gravel travel fairly treacherous, off and on anyway. It's been in between so much that we cannot make out which way the weather is going around here.

The only thing I knew for sure was that the weekend was supposed to be warm. Not just "warm for January", but more like "warm for March". Like 50's! Weird......

So the cyclists in the area were all buzzing about getting some miles in January outside, which for most of us around here is very odd. I mean, a few of us do keep the pedals turning out of doors all year, but we're considered super-odd balls. So, there is that. But when it gets to be this warm, more "hardcore cyclists" will be out scheming to do miles in January. Most folks that did were on gravel, so the prevailing wisdom was to get up early, get the miles in, and avoid the melting messes. Apparently, mushy gravel is to be avoided at all costs.

Now I took a different viewpoint. One- at my age, falling is not a very good option. Especially on icy roads. Secondly, mushy gravel only makes you stronger. So, I followed my take on things, awaited the rising of the temperatures, and headed out around a bit before noon. I'd say I hit it juuuuust about right. Just about right for no ice and much mushiness!

There were a lot of snow packed sections where I rode. Fortunately the ice had turned to mush.
I could feel that there was a frozen base to the roads yet, but another day of this? Yeah, that will boil out that moisture too. Then it will be very mushy, with a LOT of rutting possible. I did find a couple of spots like that, and the wheels were sucked in so hard I about came to a stop. Glad I caught things in the in between state. The snow in the shadows of roadside trees was pretty packed and solid yet, so there were sections of snow I rode also. Quite the diversity of surfaces.

Cows in the stubble. I saw several fields like this where cows were grazing.
There was a slight breeze from the West. It wasn't bad, but it was there. The temperature was amazing. The Sun felt......almost hot, like it does in Summer when its rays hit your skin. That was odd for January. The Sun was also making short work of the snow and ice, despite the lower angle of its rays. Water was streaming down hills in ruts made by traffic. Puddles were everywhere. My fenders were a prized possession on this ride. They certainly paid for themselves. Unfortunately my chain did not benefit from the fenders though. It was sounding crunchy about half way through my planned route. Crunchy is NOT a good sound coming from a chain. Guitar amplifiers, cereal, and potato chips, yeah.....then it is a good thing. 

Which way do I go?
 
Money shot.
So, I got a good two hours in, I think. It was slow, tough, and just what I needed to get stronger. I am not taking any "big bites" just yet, and really, this is all bonus mileage anyway. There was no way you were going to plan for this in your training. It was a gift, and it looks that it will be "gifting weather" for a while yet, just not as warm as it was Saturday.

The temperatures will back down a bit, but we're still looking at bonus riding time outdoors. Hopefully all the ice will be gone now and things will firm up a bit. If they do, I'll be getting more gravel rides in than I ever dreamt I would in January here.