Friday, May 31, 2019

The Trans Iowa Stories:The Template

A Guitar Ted Productions series
NOTE-  This is the basic template for the series, "Trans Iowa Stories". Please let me know if you have any suggestions or comments!

 The layout on this series may be in flux for a bit depending upon how I feel the thing develops. I won't be stuck to what I am laying out here today, so if anyone feels strongly enough about something, please leave a comment. I will seriously consider any suggestion that is reasonable.

With that said, yesterday I posted that this would be about the people, and I still feel that is the most interesting facet of Trans Iowa. I think I am going to kind of break down the story into "eras" of Trans Iowa. There were some people that figure heavily into the T.I. story but maybe weren't along for the entire fourteen years of it. In fact, hardly anyone crosses that time span. There were folks that did have some good runs and were integral parts of the T.I. story. Some were parts of the earliest ones, some in the middle years, and some at the end.

Then there were people that were a big part of this story that never were part of the event proper, or maybe only were in one Trans Iowa. Influencers, helpers, and supporters which without them, Trans Iowa wouldn't have existed or wouldn't have been what it was.

So, here is a bit of an outline with some names of people that I am thinking about. If any readers out there have any names they think I am missing, once again- please suggest those names in the comments. I'm splitting up the "eras" as well in this and anyone that disagrees can let me know what they think there also. Keep in mind that some of the people span eras, and I am not repeating names here. It keeps things simpler for me that way. So, you will notice less names at the end than in the middle.

The Beginnings: 2004-2006
  • Mike Curiak, Jeff Kerkove, Richard "Deke" Gosen, Russ Clarke, Dave and Linda Kerkove, The Lalonde Brothers, Ira Ryan, Ward Budweg, The People of Hawarden, Patrick Humenny, Joel Dyke, Jim Cummins
The Growing Up Years: 2007-2009
  • Steve Fuller, The Slender Fungus, David Pals, Jason Boucher, Corey, Cornbread" Godfrey, Zach Dundas, Joe Meiser, John Gorilla, Team Polska, Gary Cale, The Lincoln Crew, Trans Iowa Radio's Beginnings, Technology Intrusions, Dave Nice, Ben Shockey, Charlie Farrow, Tim Ek, David Story, Ken Yokanovich, Charles Parsons, Brian Dukek, The Braun Brothers, Jeremy Fry, Volunteers
Forged In Tears: 2010-2012
  • Matt Gersib, Eric Brunt, Sean Mailen, Mike Johnson, Jana Vavra, Jay & Tracey Petervary, Dennis Grelk, Jay Barre, Mark Johnson, Sheryl Parmely, Craig Cooper, The Grinnell Steakhouse, Rob Versteegh, Jeff Frings, George Keslin, Wally Kilburg, Andrea Cohen, Sam Auen, 
Fine Tuning The Beast: 2013-2015
  • Greg Gleason, Ben Welnak, Riding Gravel, Monica Sattler, Tony McGrane, Will Ritchie/WTB,  Josh Lederman/Lederman Bail Bonds, Sarah Cooper, International riders
The End Of An Era: 2016-2018
  • Dan Hughes, Walter Zitz, Bob Moural/Cumming Tap, Jon Duke
So, that is by no means a definitive list, but it is obviously a huge list of people and the stories connected with them will take an enormous amount of time to tell. Along with the people will come the stories about the weather, the efforts, the relationships, the sponsors, the logistics, and everything the people brought to the table to make Trans Iowa a success story. Some folks will fall under a certain heading, like Volunteers. I think I could write a book just about them.

I'll try my hand at a start this Sunday, and then next Sunday. I'll take up the story involving the beginnings of Trans Iowa and why certain people were important to the story. I will likely reference any of the "Trans Iowa Tales" posts already written as companion reads to my entries as I don't want to cover the same ground twice unless I have new things to say. Keep in mind- there were 46 of those posts alone!

See ya this Sunday!

Friday News And Views

Nope- I didn't go after all.
Bonus Post Because I Didn't Go:

So, you may have missed this, but I did not make the trip down to see the "All Things Gravel Expo" this week at the Dirty Kanza 200 event. I had intended to, and plans were laid, but at the last minute, MG and I talked, and well.......I realized how crazy this idea was. Nothing to do with the event, by the way. This was all circumstances on our end. I'll let MG speak for himself, if he ever wants to do that, because he had great reasons for not going, but as for me, it wasn't a prudent idea.

See, I had my daughter's commencement on Tuesday evening to attend. Then, my daughter and Mrs. Guitar Ted were to fly out to El Paso, Texas the next morning to see relatives that couldn't make the trip up to see us. Well, and here is the thing- their flight left at 6:00am from Des Moines International Airport, a full 100 plus miles away from us. Maybe you can see how that might work, but if not, here are the details. Commencement ended at about 8:00pm, (we had to be there at 4:30pm!), and it took a full half of an hour just to get out of the parking lot. Then we had to eat. This and preparations to get into bed left us with a nice three hour window to sleep until 1:00am. That was when we had to get up, dress, check over baggage, and load the car. We left the house at 2:15am, stopped for coffee and gas, and left town at 2:22am to get the gals to the airport by 5:00am, so they would have time to check bags, get screened by TSA, and board the plane which was leaving AT 6:00am. We made it with a little less than a half an hour bonus time. So, that was good.

I got maybe two hours of decent sleep, (not nearly enough), and then I would have been driving a further 180+ miles to hook up with MG. It was hard enough driving the 100-ish miles back home. Then Saturday, I have to be back in Des Moines for the arrival of the gals back home, so yeah..... The time spent would not have been well spent in Kansas, and more to the point- the windshield time, which would have been a LOT. Heck I was so out of it Wednesday as it was, I wouldn't have enjoyed the trip, nor would I have been effective. Add in that I would have missed out on two pay days and it really made less sense, and right now, that is important. Then throw in what MG had going on. I wasn't willing to do the trip alone.

So, there is my end of the story. I figure some of you may be wondering why I wasn't down there. Now you know.

SLX 12 speed. Shimano hits back with new XT and SLX MTB parts.
New Shimano XT, SLX Parts:

Shimano has dropped a couple of new MTB parts groups on the market as you may have heard yesterday. Besides the expected XT update to 12 speeds, they also did the SLX group in 12 speed. I like what I see Shimano offering here and there are a few things that I found interesting about the new group sets.

MicroSpline hubs are featured in both groups and this wasn't made prominent in the press release I saw. It was there, but this is a sea change, folks. This is a big, big deal. The line was drawn, I felt, when the new XTR was introduced last year and if you thought it was just nonsense, well this underscores the point that the old, Hypeglide type free hub body is going to end up becoming the pedestrian choice and will maybe live on in entry level groups in the coming years. But your wheels you are riding now aren't going to be compatible with anything new in about five years time. MicroSpline is going to become ubiquitous across the board with high end wheel choices very soon. I know that ticks off a lot of people, but I really don't see any difference with what SRAM did with XD Driver free hub bodies.

HyperGlide + chain link plates. (The blue highlights the "extended inner plate" feature)
Another notable thing is what Shimano has done with chains and chain rings. Obviously, 12 speeds crammed into the same-ish spaces we have had for decades means things have to get slimmer to a degree. Shimano has developed a new Hyperglide + chain which uses a clever shaping of the inner chain plates which mates to the chain rings, effectively causing the two parts to have more contact area than traditionally made chains. This should decrease chain and chain ring wear, since it distributes forces over more material instead of less. Of course, the chains are developed with the chain rings to shift flawlessly, and I expect that they will do just this. No one is better at how chains shift over chain rings and cogs than Shimano. This new chain technology should be implemented over future 12 speed groups, and I bet the GRX group will benefit someday from this.

I also noted that Shimano has front derailleurs for 2 X 12 set ups. Again- not everyone wants a front derailleur, and not every design can use one, but I like that Shimano hasn't given over to the thinking that everything has to be 1X.

It's also noteworthy that Deore XT 12 will be available June 14th, not at some unspecified time six months from now, which was the way Shimano used to do things. That's a big improvement as well.

Finally! A WTB Road Plus tire in 700c sizes.
WTB Introduces 700c Sizes Of The Venture Tire: 

Early this year I had the opportunity to test out the WTB Venture Road Plus tires for the RidingGravel.com site. one of the rides I got in on them was a sketch-fest with N.Y. Roll one Saturday when the snow was still melting off stuff here in March.

During that ride it struck me how the Venture could do far above and beyond what it looked capable of in severe conditions like slick ice, snow, and even a bit in sloppy mud. This, I wagered, would make the Venture an ideal tire for a Fargo, but it would need to be in a 700c size and at least 50mm wide. And guess what? A lot of other folks were thinking similarly. So much so that WTB is now going to offer the Venture in a 700c X 40mm and 700c X 50mm size for those who want to give this versatile trad a go. Also, if you hate skin walls you are in luck, because each will be offered in a black wall version as well.

As luck would have it RidingGravel.com is getting both sizes of 700C Venture tires in for review any day now. So, stay tuned and I should have some feedback on them for you all on that channel. Until then, you can click the link up there and read about the 650B version.

That's a wrap for this week. GOOD LUCK DK200 RIDERS!

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Trans Iowa Stories- Prelude

A Guitar Ted Productions series.
 This is the preliminary post on the future series, "Trans Iowa Stories". Please feel free to comment or make suggestions about this idea!

 Trans Iowa was obviously a major influence in the gravel scene and also was/still is a major influence upon my life. After retiring the event, it was suggested that maybe writing down some of the interesting stories of the event was in order. So, essentially, this is what this series is about. The suggestions I got pointed toward a book, but as I have already covered Trans Iowa (some would suggest "to death") here on the blog in several ways, I am at a loss for where to start at the moment. I could simply gather all the posts, whittle that down, add some images, and BAM! There would be a book. That would be easier, but I know that some of you are looking for the untold stories, the tales, the lore that I never let on to throughout the years of the event.

My main issue with just pulling all the posts out I've done up to this point is that a story based upon those things leaves out a big part of Trans Iowa. I would argue the most important part. That being, "The People". It is what kept me going for 14 years of craziness. The people made the event. They made it worthwhile. They made it, ultimately, what it was. Without the characters that make up the event, there is no story.

I'm thinking that's what you, the readers, are most interested in as well. Stories about people, why they mattered. Which people were important to Trans Iowa. Why? Which people were pains in the ass? Also why? I think those are the stories most people would be interested in. Not how I did cue cards, or why I did checkpoint cut-offs the way that I did. (Although that may come up in the telling of a story about a person)

I can already think of several stories about the personalities behind Trans Iowa, the riders, the volunteers, the people who supported the event, and the people who were critics of the event. I think this is the direction I want to take for now and see where it leads.

Will there ever be a book? Maybe. I will have to look back on these posts when they are finished, determine the validity of a book, and gauge the response. It could happen, but I will not promise anything. I will say that the upcoming posts will be a "draft" of sorts, so I will look at this series in that light going forward.

In closing, I want to say thank you to a special person who kicked off this whole idea- Rob Evans of Lincoln, Nebraska. Without his suggestions, I may never have considered doing this. So, this is dedicated to you, Rob. Thank you!

Next, I will start out with a general overview of what this series will look like specifically, and I will mention a few names that I intend to start out with in the telling of this tale. See ya tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Preparing Before I (Was Supposed To) Go

The Bubblegum Princess as it should look for the Prairie Burn 100
So, as I have stated in earlier posts, I was bound for Emporia, Kansas this week and was to be gone through Saturday. That all changed yesterday when MG and I discussed plans. It seems we are both betwixt rocks and hard places with regard to our domestic/family/home maintenance issues. Some of it exacerbated by the recent heavy rains, some by circumstances. So, the bottom line is I'm not going to Kansas afterall.

But I didn't know that until yesterday. That meant that I had to get the Bubblegum Princess ready for the Prairie Burn 100 this past weekend for June 8th. I didn't need to do much. But one major thing I wanted to do was to get some tubeless tires set up on it.

I had been running the Tioga Binary tires which I reviewed for RidingGravel.com recently. Since that review was over, I was free to swap to this set of WTB Resolutes which are my favorite gravel tires these days. They ride super smoothly and have really decent traction when things get iffy on Level B Roads and the like. I have been super impressed with how fast they roll, compared to a WTB Riddler 45, for example, or many other gravel tires. So, a fresh injection of home brew sealant and these went on well. This makes the Bubblegum Princess about as smooth a rig as I could ask for to tackle the big hills of gravel around Grinnell.

 Since I had expected to be gone the rest of the week I had scheduled some preliminary "Trans Iowa Stories" to run Thursday and Friday. I'll still let that stand, I think. Plus, I wasn't going to do a "Friday News And Views", but since I will be around after all, I am back on that.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Saying Goodbye To May

This pretty much sums up May- Wet, cool, windy, and rough roads.
You know, I cannot say that I can remember a May that was so consistently wet, cool, windy, and that produced the rough roads we've had this Spring before. . (Really, the roads are just a carry-over from April.)

Anyway, this has been a tough month in that so many chances I had to get some ride time in were wash outs due to rain, or really heavy winds, which made for a pretty depressed Guitar Ted at times. I try not to let it get me down, but I have a responsibility to my readers (reviewing stuff) and I feel like I am letting myself down by not being as "ready" as I could be to do things like June 8ths Prairie Burn 100. At least Memorial Day Weekend didn't turn into the wash-out it was forecast to be. That allowed at least a couple of rides.

Saturday I got out and decided to just head South as the West wind was stiff and I was definitely NOT feeling it Saturday. In fact, it was a struggle to ride for most of the loop I got in, and I cannot really pinpoint why. I felt......blah. Not until almost the very end did I feel anything positive about the ride, other than it was just good to be out riding. And maybe that all has to do with being pretty stressed out lately. I won't go into details here, but wrenching at work, this upcoming DK200 "All Things Gravel" expo trip, My daughter graduating from high school tonight, coupled with my wife and daughter going to El Paso to visit at the same time as my trip, while my son stays home with a family friend, is all a bit much right now. I'll be glad when this week is over. Then maybe I can breathe a bit easier and have a good time at Prairie Burn.

Barns For Jason
At least I was able to decompress a little bit on Saturday's ride. It was certainly nice enough out. The Sun was riding high and the puffy, white cumulus clouds were hurrying on the back of the wind. The clouds were leaving shadows upon the landscape which were moving and changing the contrast continually as I rode along. I think it was in the 80's, and the air wasn't too humid, actually. It felt nice out.

Barns For Jason
Some roads were still wet and pock-marked. Some were still showing signs of having been mud at one point, but were solid as rock. Those roads had ruts which were pretty tough to navigate at times. Some roads were perfectly fine, with fresher, deep gravel. There weren't too many spots anymore that were that deep, sandyish gravel which is basically a fluffing up from frost. That seems to be past us now. I am glad for that.

Very few fields have been left alone. Most are planted around here. (Oh! And another Barns For Jason!)
Either Mario Cipollini is a gravel grinder, or someone loves a Disney movie.
I've been giving that unusual Tioga saddle a ride lately. Hmm.......not sure that is going to cut the mustard with me. I have bouts of thinking it is fine, and then I have times when I am sure it is hurting me. It's "oh-so-close" to being spot on, and I think this is why I am having issues. I remember thinking similar thoughts about the fizik brand Aliante saddle. That saddle was a bit too rounded for me, and I think that is exactly the same thing going on with the Tioga. I like a bit flatter saddle but keep the "depression in the middle", or "the bucket", as I call it, of WTB saddles like the Pure and SST. The Silverado has this to a lesser extent, but I like that one better, I think, than the Tioga.

The Undercover Saddle by Tioga. Not completely in love here, but I'm trying!
I'm going to "nose up" this Tioga saddle before I give up on it. That is how I have to have my WTB saddles, or I don't like them. So, I'll give that a shot before dismissing this saddle. Trouble is I did that with the Aliante and it helped....a tiny bit....but I took it off my Tamland eventually anyway. Still, ya gotta give it a solid try, so I will.

Tioga says the padding has a vibration absorbing character. The good news is I think they have that right on. There is something to that claim. The trouble becomes that this is a saddle and they are so personal as for fit, that regardless of the vibration damping claim, it has to actually interface with yer undercarriage, if you catch my meaning there.

Bin it!
I did get out and ride again on Memorial Day in the afternoon for a short ride. I didn't get out into the country as it was wicked windy........again! In fact, tornadoes were spotted about 60 miles North of here. It was a very wet Monday morning as well, so the gravel may not have been all that great. Hard for me to say.

But, I settled on a set up for the Prairie Burn that is complete with the exception of the saddle. (The Tioga may have to go) I set up my WTB Resolutes on these Spinergy wheels and tested that out. I think that combo will be a winning one, as far as it working, that is. The Prairie Burn isn't a race, so there won't be any winners.

It was a fine, relaxing weekend. I need it. Today the madness starts!

Monday, May 27, 2019

Memorial Day 2019


Freedom isn’t free. Thank you to those who laid down their lives so I could do this freely. #memorialday #blackmountaincycles #ridinggravel #travelbygravel

Sunday, May 26, 2019

The Story Of Guitar Ted: Back To Shop Rat Status

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

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

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

In this post we get up to speed to what I was up to just before Trans Iowa started.

Back To Shop Rat Status: Once I walked in to Europa Cycle & Ski in mid-September, 2002, I was walking back into a world that hadn't slowed down for me. There were a LOT of new developments and technologies which didn't exist six years before then when I walked out of Advantage Cyclery the last time. Disc brakes were coming on, pipe spindle bottom brackets, and the beginnings of tubeless tires for mountain biking. There was also this curiosity called a 29"er. Now that I was up to speed on, and that was because of a relatively new thing called a "PC" and the Internet.

Now, you don't have to tell me that PC's and the internet actually go way back. I knew that too. But what had become different was that consumers were buying home PC's by the droves due to the easy access to the internet via phone lines. "Dial up" internet access opened the doors wide for regular folks to begin to cruise the internet and all the free information which was flowing then.

I had first begun to "surf the net" when I met Mrs. Guitar Ted in 1998. The whole internet thing forced me to choose a "screen name". I had been using "Ted Head" as a moniker off and on since high school, but that name was always unavailable. There was a short time I used another alternative screen name here and there, but that faded away.  So, I landed on "Guitar Ted" for everything. With that out of the way, I went on exploring the small world of 29"ers.

By the year 2000 I had heard about and read more concerning 29 inch wheeled mountain bikes. The publication, "Dirt Rag", ran a really early and informational piece on 29"ers in 2000. Keep in mind, there were no 29"ers until 1999, so this all happened rather quickly for me. I ran across a site called "MTBR.com" and they had a 29"er forum. That was that. By the time I had become a "shop rat" again, I knew my next bike was going to be a 29"er.

And that happened rather quickly as well. I started out riding to work on my pimped out Bontrager Race, but by February 2003 I had sold it and ordered a 2003 Campstove Green Karate Monkey frame and fork. The parts were accumulated over the next several weeks, and by April that year I was riding around on the first 29"er anyone had seen around here. So, it didn't take me long to get back into "bicycle acquisition mode"!

It also didn't take me very long to make friends with the other mechanic at the shop. His name was Jeff Kerkove, a fairly successful solo 24hr racer. He was finishing up his studies at the University of Northern Iowa and working at the shop when he wasn't piling on an insane amount of gravel miles on a beat up old 1999 Surly 1 X 1. (Yes, the very same one I have now) What I didn't know then was that Jeff had been known as a pretty quiet guy at the shop. He didn't chat much with his previous co-workers. He spent most of his time keeping to himself. But something happened when I came to work there. I did not realize Jeff was anything other than a funny, "regular guy" that liked heavy metal and rode a ton. One day, our boss came out and confronted me when Jeff was gone.

"Hey", he asked, "What did you do to Jeff?" I was not following. My boss explained further. "Well, usually Jeff is pretty quiet until you came in. Now I hear him laughing. I have never heard him laugh before. What did you do?"

Well, I didn't know I had "done" anything but be myself. So my only explanation was that we had hit it off. There was just something there. That "something" turned into a friendship and then a brief partnership. By the Fall of 2004, we were good buddies, and then something happened that changed my life- again. It has resulted in one of the biggest changes I've experienced in life. That was becoming co-founder of this goofy idea called Trans Iowa.

This draws to a close the series "The Story Of Guitar Ted". I hope that you all enjoyed my journey from touring guy/shop rat guy to auto mechanic, getting married again, having children, and then getting back to being a shop rat again.

My intentions are to now start crafting the "Trans Iowa Stories" drafts here online. There will be a post about this idea later this week. Stay tuned.....

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Minus Ten Review 2009-23

One of my favorite bikes I ever had.
Ten years ago here on the blog I was talking "Gravel Grinder News" stuff. Mostly covering the races that I knew about at that time. There weren't many either. Think about that for a minute. Just ten years ago, there were maybe 20 races. Now there are close to 600. That is some amazing growth.

Part of that was the running of the third Dirty Kanza 200 which was going to happen in a couple of weeks back then. Those early years of that race were crazy.

Then I was also yakking about Memorial Day weekend, which, ironically, was a bit earlier than it is this year. I also was talking about riding on the North Side of Camp Ingawanis. This was back when there was "two sided camp" riding going on. The best trails were on the North side, by far. They were tougher, had more elevation changes, and the system was one that covered more ground than that of even today's South side trail system. Another big difference, in my view, was the experience you got riding the North vs. the South side. The South side trails fold in on themselves to maximize trail distance in a smaller space while the North side had about the same mileage as today's South side, but you had the distinct feeling that you had gone over a LOT more ground. You weren't just folding in around the same hillside. You were going somewhere. It's just different. I happened to enjoy the North side trails before several things happened.

First there was the logging. That happened at about this time ten years ago. They eventually went and logged the South side a year or so after this. Both time periods were ones of massive upheaval. The trails were disrupted, and while the South side recovered, the North side trails never were quite the same again. Then came the horses. The horse owners had a LOT more money, so they had a LOT more influence over what went down out there. Basically, the Camp stewards would look the other way when complaints about horse caused damage was lodged with them. They were getting big bucks for group rides, and other equestrian oriented activities which took place out there. The Boy Scouts were severely cash strapped, and poor mountain bikers lost their voice with the stewards of the land, despite mountain bikers being the ones that did all the trail maintenance. Over the next several years, mountain biking activities were severely curtailed and it was decided that in order to settle disputes between mountain bikers and equestrian interests that the North side would be for horses and the South would be for human powered activities. Anyway, the point being that 2009 was the end of the salad days of mountain biking on the North side trails.

I sure am glad I got to experience those days.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Friday News And Views

Swollen Head Tube syndrome: (Image Courtesy Of Bike Europe)
Making The Most Elegant, Simple Machine More Complex- Part 179:

Bicycles are wonderfully efficient, simple machines. That is, until you unleash some budding engineers and people who think they can make perfect better on the subject. Take belt drive for instance. I've covered that to death here.

Now with these hybrid powered cycles (HPC's or also known as "e-bikes"), which are supposedly making bicycles "better", we are finding out, almost daily, that the lowly simple machine just isn't good enough. It hasn't got "easy" ingrained into its DNA to the point we humans think we need, so all kinds of goofy things are being developed to take care of issues being raised by the addition of a high torque motor to a bicycle.

The latest in the long line of "upgrades" which are being proposed is this new steering assist design developed by Technical University in Delft, the Netherlands and the bike brand Gazelle. The idea stems from what has been noted in the Netherlands in regard to an uptick of crashes, typically involving e-bikes. Here is a quote from the story.

"These accidents causing serious injuries often occur as cyclists lose control of the bicycle. In many cases it involves elderly on e-bikes."

The system is still under development, so no timeline is given for its possible future implementation. But again- HPC vehicles are just taking us down a lane where, eventually, they will become vehicles that require no human input. Electric motorcycles may happen, but I think the goal is something even more detrimental to the human species. Time will tell. 

The Hirobel Clamp, here shown in my workstand at work
 Tool Geekery:

I like my tools and using good tools is fun for me. So when I heard about a new kind of clamp that would work with tri-bikes and weird aero seat tubes in my work stand, I checked into it. The Hirobel Clamp, which at the time was a product of an independent, small company, was not available and was expensive. I slotted that into the back of my mind for the future. 

See, there is nothing worse than working on a bike that is flopping around because you cannot safely clamp it into a work stand. Frustration? You bet! That Hirobel clamp though- yeah......that would reduce my stress a lot! 

So, a chance came up to review one for Riding Gravel and I jumped on it. The clamp is awesome, works as advertised, and makes me way more efficient as a mechanic. No more fighting with a bike that doesn't conform to a stand designed for bikes 50 years ago. I look forward to working on those dreaded tri-bikes now because the Hirobel Clamp has them covered. 

 Headed To Kansas......Again:

You know I've been down to Kansas the last what....four years now? Anyway, I've raced, ridden my own gig, and just hung out as a support person. This year I am just going for the "All Things Gravel Expo". That takes place Thursday and Friday. I'll be leaving town either late Friday or very early Saturday morning, so no racing/riding down there this time. 

This trip will be all about Riding Gravel stuff and that's actually going to be a somewhat busy deal, by the sounds of it. This big swing toward gravel/all-road stuff by the cycling industry has this expo looking like a mini-Sea Otter of drop bar, dust infested madness. Of course, it wasn't always this way. 

Back when I first started this string of Emporia, Kansas appearances in 2015, there was an expo of sorts. It was about two blocks in size and featured about......mmmmm......maybe 20 vendors? That's being generous. Now this deal is bringing debuts of cycling gear and bicycles, Pro racer appearances, and demos of equipment and bikes. Like I say- sort of like a Sea Otter in that respect. 

I am expecting some big news and many interesting things. So, come Wednesday I'll be down there with batteries charged and my pen and paper at the ready. I'm not sure what I will be able to accomplish for content on the blog here, so just a forewarning. You may not get a whole lot while I am there. The travelling computer will be with my wife and all I'll have is a smart phone. 

That's it for this week. have a great Memorial Day Weekend!

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Another Milestone

Jacob and Izabel at the start of the 2018-19 school year.
Today I'm not going to say much of anything about cycling, so pardon me. See, today is a special day to me. My oldest child is finishing her public school career today.

I'm a sentimental old coot, I guess, but this is probably a bigger deal to me than it is to her. In fact, she is a lot like me in many ways, so I bet she's shrugging it off as "just another day", as I did back 40 years ago.

But I tried to get her to see it my way. I told her to take a bunch of pictures of the inside of the school because she will almost assuredly never go back in many of the rooms and places she sees as being mundane and familiar now.

Anyway, graduation is next week, she and Mrs. Guitar Ted go off to Texas to see Grandma and the Aunt and Uncle right afterward. Then a party upon their return, and that will be the end of marking her accomplishment as a public school student. Then it's off to college next fall. (She will be staying here, it is a local college.)

So, a public "Congratulations" from me here on "Guitar Ted Productions" to my daughter, Izabel. You accomplished you goals and more. I love you!

I'll be back again tomorrow with a regular "Friday News And Views" post. Thanks!

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

C.O.G. 100 Announcements

Never mind that date, by the way.
Today I guess we are announcing that we are intending on doing the C.O.G. 100 again. Yep! So, I was bantering about with N.Y. Roll the other day and he asked me to go fishing for ideas from you, dear readers. N.Y. Roll wants me to float some ideas for the next C.O.G. 100, so, by definition, that means we are doing it again, and by definition that means this is an announcement. 

So, there is that at least.

Anyway, for now there are a few things that will not be negotiable concerning the next C.O.G. 100. They are the following:
  • Single Speed bicycles only.
  • Self-supported 
  • Self-navigated by cue sheet. 
  • Same time of year.
  • New Course out of Grinnell
We are playing with a couple ideas that are negotiable, or could be eliminated from consideration altogether if there is enough outcry. I will list these after giving the reasons we are considering the idea. So, the following are ideas under consideration! They are not necessarily going to be implemented!

First, N.Y. Roll is a veteran of the Military. So, he is thinking about allowing any veteran of the armed services free entry into the event.
  • Veterans may get to enter the C.O.G. 100 for no fee. 
It would be cool if the past Champions of the event would come back to defend their titles.
  • Past Champions (Male & Female) from the previous year's C.O.G. 100 get free entry
We enjoyed having the pre-event sign-in and post event festivities at the Peace Tree Tap Room.
  • Have pre and post event gatherings at Peace Tree Tap Room again. 
Having a distance of 100-ish miles is good for determining a State Single Speed Champion, but maybe others would attend if there were a different distance, shorter, and NOT FOR RACING.  You'd still have to be single speed, but this would just be for fun.
  • Have a 30-50 mile course for single speeders that just want to have a fun ride. There would be a fee to enter and you would have to have a single speed bike. It is a single speed event, after all. 
Okay, there are some things to chew on. If we don't get any comments or suggestions, we're going to just do whatever we want and you'll either come and enjoy that or be left to your own devices the day we run this event.

NOTE: This event isn't for everyone, and that's okay. We aren't out to make everyone happy, and even those that choose to come may not end up being happy. That's the way things go in Life. So, if you are thinking of ideas that veer off the path we are setting, or are contradictory to the spirit of this event, then you may as well move on. This event is not for you. If you, on the other hand, kind of dig where this is headed, and have some good tweaks or other ideas you think would fit the mold we have cast, rave on. We want to hear from you.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Ti Muk II Ride Report

A little "Dirt Home From Work" action to test out the Ti Muk II ride.
Well, with yesterday's announcement out of the way, I figured y'all might want to know what I think about this new rig's ride. I didn't waste any time gettin' to it.

Saturday when we got back with the new-to-me Ti Muk, I couldn't ride as it was pouring rain and lightning outside. So, I waited until Sunday to get a bit better acquainted with this bike, its shifting, and its generator light. That went okay, but getting used to how the Rohloff shifter is indexed will take a little getting used to. It is kind of vague, especially going into a faster/higher gear. I shift one position and I cannot always feel the indexing. But going the other way- to a lower gear- is easier to feel. Plus, it won't shift at all if you have any kind of pressure on the pedals in that direction anyway.

The generator hub is turned on by a big button on the back of the light. I didn't realize this until after I looked up the information on the light on the excellent Peter White Cycles site. I accidentally got it on Sunday and then I noted that the light strobes and didn't have a solid beam. I figured I would have to look the model information up, and when I did, I found out that the light has a sensor and automatically switches to a solid beam when it is dark. Hmm..... technology. Okay, cool. I haven't double checked this yet, but I will get around to that soon. I did find out that the tail light has a standby function. I figured it would. Most high end generator lighting systems have this now. So, what it does, when you are moving, is that the hub charges up a capacitor which is part of the generator system. When you stop, the generator stops, but the capacitor, which stores voltage, starts to slowly drain and this voltage keeps the head light and tail light on when you are stopped for a period of time. And that "period of time" seems to be several minutes. Longer than any stop light sequence for sure.

I was stoked to learn that my purple Bike Bag Dude bags fit the new Ti Muk.
I went home Sunday and planned on riding the bike to work on Monday. I decided then to dub it the "Ti Muk II", since it is my second Titanium Mukluk and Salsa Cycles' second, and final, version of this model. So, this will hereafter be known as "Ti Muk II" on this blog. FYI- The history of the Ti Muk model is 2012-13 was the Lynskey made version with bead blasted graphics. The 2014 Mukluk was the first year of Taiwanese made titanium models and had a green painted front section. The last year, 2015, was this bike with the white painted front end. USA made Ti Muks have straight 1 1/8th steer tubes and the Taiwanese Muks have 44mm head tubes compatible with tapered steer tubes. The geometry was changed slightly on the later Taiwanese models also to accommodate front suspension. Thus, the front triangle is slightly different than the earlier Ti Muks.
Tour de Fungus- Check out the blaze orange mushrooms.

This slight difference had me worried that my newest Bike Bag Dude purple frame bag wouldn't fit, but it does, so that was a relief! I should note that Sam gave me a Surly branded Revelate made frame bag for this which fits it perfectly, but I will likely use the BBD bag most of the time. (Although it clashes with the crank set! Hmm.....) Sam also passed on to me a set of Jones H-Bar compatible Revelate pogies. Supposedly the very last set ever made by Revelate. They are nice, ginormous, and will be put to use in colder weather. Not anytime soon! (Thanks Sam!)

The rest of the BBD bags look and fit perfectly on here as well. It should make adventuring a bit easier. The Ti Muk II also has a rack mount, and I am contemplating getting a rack for this. The Alternator model this bike is supposed to have should work well. But I haven't decided whether or not to pull the trigger on that idea. I guess I have plenty of time to figure that out.

Monday I rode to work the regular route and then did the "Dirt Home From Work" route I have done a lot before. I was getting the hang of shifting by the time I was into the middle of my ride home. There is a bit of a trick to it, and sometime soon that will become second nature. The gearing is biased to the low side, as I would expect for a bike like this. That said, I can cruise along at what seems like 12-14mph all day long and that seems to be about 10th gear or so. The jumps between gears are bigger with a Rohloff, so I have tended to fall back on being more like a single speed guy, sticking with a gear a bit too long. The nice thing is that if I found myself stuck in a too-high gear, I simply could stop, shift it way down to a low gear, and start again, all while in the saddle. Or, if momentum could carry me, stop pedaling and swipe down to a much lower gear and then gas it back up, shifting to higher gears as necessary. It's definitely a different experience.

Interestingly, although the geometry is slightly different on the Ti Muk II, it still is really stable. Sam had a lot of spacers set up under the stem and the Carbon H-Bar is "up there", and I wondered if I might not like that. This would be pretty close to how Jeff Jones would probably recommend setting it up though, based upon what Jeff has told me personally. So, I figured I'd give it a solid try.

As it turns out, I think it is pretty close to, if not spot on. I'm at the very least going to run this set up longer term until I can figure it out in a more permanent way. The saddle, however, I think is going to be a different story.

I may like this saddle with a chamois, but I ride a bike like this so much in "civilian clothes", that it has to have a saddle that agrees with me in all situations. I feel like this saddle is a tiny bit too narrow though. Maybe. We will see after some more riding, but Monday's ride was pointing to the "too narrow" verdict by the time I got home. I may only have to tilt it back a bit too. This is set up dead flat and I never run my WTB saddles that way. Always a bit nose up for me. So, that will be the next thing to try. Oddly enough, the saddle height is dead on. Apparently Sam and I have very similar saddle height requirements. (As do Ben Witt and I. Weird!)

I did also notice something I was a bit surprised by. Both on Sunday's and Monday's rides it was quite noticeable that this bike has a pretty springy rear end, but only when seated. It isn't as stiff feeling when pedaling in the saddle as the old Ti Muk was, and that was far better than an aluminum Mukluk. That with a larger diameter seat post than a US made Ti Muk like my older one. So, that is pretty remarkable. The combination of the smooth riding rear and the Carbon H-Bar and Advocate fork make for a pretty nice riding bike, really.

More on this bike in the future. I have to get some details on the wiring harness tucked away and tidied up, then this will be fully operational.

Monday, May 20, 2019

A Big, Fat, Titanium Thank You

GT (L) and Sam Auen with the Ti Mukluk
Okay..... I'm not sure where to start with this, so I'll just go to the beginning of this story and hopefully it will all make sense. I'm still processing through what happened and I may never fully get my head around this, but here goes......

Several years ago, when I had my original Ti Muk, Ben Witt and I were gabbing about how "the perfect fat bike set up" would be a titanium frame and a Rohloff based drive train. Well, I already had my bike and a Rohloff is, while awesome, very expensive. That didn't stop Ben from trying though. He got a 2015 Titanium Mukluk frame and had built a rear wheel using a Whiskey carbon rim with a then new 170mm rear spaced Rohloff 14 speed internal geared hub. I remember seeing this in his basement when I stayed with him during the 2016 Fargo Reunion Ride.

Okay, fast forwrad a bit to when Sam Auen bought the partial rolling chassis from Ben and obtained another Whiskey carbon rim, (via from myself - long story), and built the bike up into rideable shape. Sam then added the bike to his fleet and did a few rides here and there on it. Then came the time when my good friend Sam realized he needed to "thin the herd". The Ti Muk was on the short list of candidates for him to shed off the fleet to someone who would use it more than he was.

Sam then posted the idea of selling the bike on social media where I jumped in and commented something to the effect that this was the "perfect fat bike set up" and that someone should own this dream bike. My intentions were to help bring some notice to Sam's trying to sell the bike because I wanted to help a friend. Then I forgot about it because it was a temptation I could ill afford anyway, even though I would have purchased it on the spot had I had the money. I figured some other lucky person would get it, and that would be that.

14 internal hub gears of doom.
Then this is where MG got involved. He texted me that very day asking about some things. One of the things mentioned was what I thought about Sam selling that bike. Did I really think that was a "dream build" for a fat bike? I responded to MG that I felt it was "the perfect fat bike set up" for me. That was that. We moved on to other things, and I went about my life, unsuspecting. MG, on the other hand, had a plan.

He contacted a list of people and got them, somehow or another, to contribute to an effort to make the bike mine. Their motivation for doing so was not, and is not, totally understood by me. MG wrote me and explained it this way

" It's funny how your influence stretches much farther than you might think. All of the people who donated have been touched by you and/or your work in one way or another....."

I still find this hard to believe.......

Anyway, it happened. I have the bike and a big list of people I need to thank, so this post is a public thank you to those folks. MG has said that these folks are okay with my publishing their names on the blog, (If you do have issue with that, let me know and I'll strike your name from the list, but I felt you all deserved recognition for this uncommon gesture). So this, in no particular order, are the folks who made it possible for me to get this awesome Ti Mukluk Saturday.

  • Bobby & Crystal Wintle
  • The Gibson family – Christy, Russ and Sofia
  • Joe Billsbach
  • Jason Boucher
  • Bruce Currin
  • Steve Fuller
  • Corey Godfrey
  • Ben Shockey
  • John Wilmeth 
  • Venny Alub
  • Rob Evans
  • Ed and Janelle Gerlach
  • Gary Little
  • Kristi and Tim Mohn
  • Errin Vasquez
  • Walter Zitz
  • Timothy Stephen
  • Todd Masters
  • Jim Phillips
  • Joe Reed
  • Joe Pahr
  • Warren Weibe
  • Ben Welnak
  • Matt Gersib
  • Sam Auen

And here it is. Thanks doesn't say enough, but THANK YOU!
 So, this past weekend my family and I visited my good brother Sam, collected the bike, and brought it home finally. This arrangement by my other good brother, MG is mind blowing. Wow...... Anyway, still wrapping my brain around what happened.

So, I cannot express my feelings. I just don't have the words to show my gratitude here. So, I'll talk about the bike, since it is unusual and I''m sure some of you are curious.

The fork is from an Advocate Watchman fat bike. It was the only 150mm spaced fork Sam could get his hands on at the time he built the bike up. He wanted that spacing for the SON dynamo hub he had someone lace the Whiskey carbon rim to.The handle bar is a Jones Carbon H-Bar with the ESI made Jones grips and the requisite Rohloff shifter. The seat post is another Salsa Regulator, which I love. The saddle is a Salsa branded WTB Silverado, (I think it is a Silverado), and that may go if it is too narrow. (Looks like it) The rims are the aforementioned Whiskey carbon ones in a 70mm width. The tires are the 45NRTH Dunder/Flowbeist models. I'll probably just run those till they are done. Brakes are simple Avid BB-5's with Avid levers.

Can-o-gears
The crank is a Race Face Turbine with a Race Face ring. Obviously, pretty basic outboard drive train stuff because the business end is all inside the 14 speed Rohloff hub.

The Rohloff is the 170mm OD model which came out a few years ago. Basically the internal gear hub is pretty bomb proof. As long as I keep changing the oil when it needs it and keep up on the maintenance of the external cog/chain/chain ring, the drive train shouldn't ever let me down either. That was why I was dreaming one day of owning a Rohloff. That and there are no "dangly bits"to get whacked off during explorations and in nasty conditions. 

I have ridden the bike for a bit. I haven't owned a Rohloff equipped bike before, but I have worked on a lot of internal geared hub bikes and they all have one thing in common- They do not like being shifted under power. Unlike a derailleur drive train, you cannot just shift while mashing the pedals. There is a bit of a special "hiccup" you have to learn to shift a IGH. (Internally Geared Hub) This is especially true with a down shift to get up a hill. I will need a lot of practice before I get this down smoothly with the Rohloff.

I also need to tidy up the wiring on the awesome Busch and Mueller IQ-X lighting system. It works fine, but there is a lot of extra wire and it needs to be routed a bit more permanently. This is also my first dynamo hub experience and so far, I totally see the appeal. I have worked on dynamo hubs before and I have a basic understanding of them, but owning/living with one is going to be a new learning experience.

Basically the entire set up will require some familiarization on my part. Just getting wheels on and off will be a bit more involved than your typical bike due to the complexities with wires, cables, and whatnot. But that said, this bike........wow! Sam insisted several times when I got it from him Saturday that I have "adventures" on it, and get some good use out of it. That is the plan for sure. So stay tuned for a lot of that to happen in the coming weeks and months.

Once again...... Thank You! I am overwhelmed by this act of kindness.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Story Of Guitar Ted: The Road Mechanic


A Guitar Ted Productions series.

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

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

As with previous historical series on the blog, images will be a rarity. Cell phones, social media, and digital images were not available to take advantage of in those last days of analog living.  
In this episode of my story we get to see how I ended up getting back into being a bicycle mechanic and the reasons why.......
A typical LLV used by the USPS which I used to work on.


The Road Mechanic: Things were going along pretty well for me. I was married, I had a new daughter in my life, and my job had benefits and paid well. By the time I had gotten married I had become an integral part of Schuerman’s Auto Repair. I knew enough things that I could be unsupervised most every day, and my specialty, I guess, was tires, brakes, and oil changes. Oh, and alternators, radiators, and those USPS LLV’s. Uggh! LLV’s are a nightmare to work on, by the way. Every time I see one, I shudder with the memories.

I guess it would have been around 1999, 2000, I cannot remember now, but a former local cyclist named John suddenly appeared in the shop. He had a pained look on his face, and he told me that my old boss at Advantage Cyclery had died under some rather mysterious circumstances. I had heard a rumor earlier, and it was sad. I recall John saying it was “a waste”. I don’t want to share any details, but I was very sad about the whole deal. Tom had taught me everything I knew about bicycle mechanics. He taught me how to build a wheel. He showed me how to use the cutting tools, how to adjust a cantilever brake, and more. He walked me through Barnett’s Manual, and made me master all the lessons. It was a waste to have him gone as a resource, but hopefully I can pass some of that along……

So, I survived the 2000 expansion of Schuerman’s to a four-bay shop. I survived all the deep Winter weather and blazing hot days of Summer working on cars. 9-11 came and it was a dreadful day I’ll never forget. I was doing an oil change when our receptionist broke the news…. Anyway, it seemed like I would end up working there forever. Then I heard a rumor that Europa Cycles was looking for a mechanic to go on the road to help them with RAGBRAI. Vance, the old head mechanic there, advised the owner to ask me to come onboard for that week. I arranged a vacation and cleared it with Mrs. Guitar Ted. I was going on RAGBRAI as a mechanic! It sounded exciting.

I needed to go through my tools and get them ready, but I had nothing to put them in proper, so I went out and bought a roll-away tool chest branded by Craftsman from the local Sears store. I jammed a weeks’ worth of shorts and t-shirts in a storage tub, a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, and out the door I went on the last week of July 2002 to go do something I hadn’t done in five years- work on bicycles.

It was awkward as I was an "outsider". No one knew who I was because by this time I had been out of the bike business for so long. Since mechanics come and go in a typical bike shop setting, the guys at the shop had never heard of me, and didn't know if I was a good or a bad mechanic. I was certainly older than any of them. Most of these folks were still in college. Anyway, we got out to Western Iowa for the start, and I met Jeff Kerkove for the first time. There was another mechanic named Chris who also was onboard with the "road crew". Those two did on the route repairs, I was the "overnight stop" mechanic. This allowed me to bring a bike and I rode most of the 2002 route.

The week was a success for me and I impressed the owner of Europa enough so that I was invited to come back and do the same routine the next year. Afterward, the stress of working so much at the car repair shop, the long hours, and all the energy it took, gave me pause. I didn't want to be a Dad that worked all the time and had no energy for his children. Since the owner of Europa had expressed some interest in hiring me on full time, and after discussing it with Mrs. Guitar Ted, I went in late in August of 2002 and spoke with the owner. He and I made a handshake agreement that I would work no nights, no weekends, and that I had autonomy to take care of my children first. It was a BIG hit financially, but it was the right investment to make into my new family.

On Labor Day weekend, I broke the news to "Sherm", who was devastated and told me I would be a hard man to replace as he shook my hand. Two weeks later I was in civilian clothes and walking in to Europa Cycle & Ski. I was back in the bicycle game once again.

Between 2002 and RABGRAI 2003, Mrs. Guitar Ted and I found out we were going to have a baby boy in August. This precipitated my having to capitulate to the times and get a cell phone. That way if something happened while I was on the road for RAGBRAI she could get a hold of me. On Thursday, July 24th, 2003, while I was asleep in a motorhome in Oskaloosa, Iowa, I got a phone call that "it was time". That was the last time I ever was on RAGBRAI as a mechanic. My son was born later that evening. Now I was really glad I made the switch to being a bicycle mechanic again, despite the fact I wasn't making much money at all.

Next: Back To Shop Rat Status