Showing posts with label Trans Iowa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Trans Iowa. Show all posts

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Trans Iowa V11: A Look At The Rules Part 5

You're on yer own out there!

Last year I did a historical overview of each Trans Iowa up to T.I.V9. This year I am going to revisit something that I feel many folks have overlooked for a long time; The "Race Rules".
 Last week I covered Rule #3, this week I move on to.....

 4: Prearranged outside support is not allowed. This includes, but is not limited to assistance with navigation, delivery of supplies, lighting, or lodging.

 Like I stated in last week's discussion, this rule was likely lifted from the Great Divide Race rule's, or was from a similar event. I'm pretty sure the lodging mention is a tip off that this is straight out of the GDR's rules, because we never would have needed a rule for this in hindsight! This rule was in there to help squelch anyone's idea that they would cache supplies along the route or were thinking about having someone meet them along the way to resupply them.

Of course, we had a plan in place to allow for folks to get what they needed to survive a 300+ mile trek across Iowa on gravel roads. We'll get to that next week!

Now Trans Iowa is even stricter in the sense that we do not allow anyone else outside of riders to help other riders. Convenience stores are all you get out there, and these days, it seems they are harder and harder to find open during the overnight hours.

But that's what makes finishing a Trans Iowa that much more special.

Next Week: A rule with humor.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Trans Iowa V11: A Look At The Rules- Part 2: The Golden Rule

Last year I did a historical overview of each Trans Iowa up to T.I.V9. This year I am going to revisit something that I feel many folks have overlooked for a long time; The "Race Rules".

#1: The Golden Rule is the subject of today's look at the rules of Trans Iowa. Let's see it here and then I'll give my comments on it.

The Golden Rule. The sponsors, organizers, and anyone having anything to do with this race are NOT responsible for your safety. Think of this race as a 300+ mile hard training ride with prizes. We can't say this enough.....YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOU!
Okay, this is the "golden rule" because it is the lynchpin that everything depends upon for self-supported events like Trans Iowa to work. It is also the most copied rule Jeff Kerkove came up with for the event. It's pretty obvious why we have this rule, but interestingly enough, the first two Trans Iowas did have insurance, and the entry fee was set to just cover that fee we were being charged for the coverage.

The self-support factor and the "You Are Responsible For You" statement has been beaten to death over the years, so I will not plough through that old ground again. What I wanted to bring out is in this sentence: "Think of this race as a 300+ mile hard training ride with prizes."

Interestingly, the rules for Trans Iowa were written well before we had a course settled. Neither of us knew how long the event was actually going to be. So instead of nailing down a specific distance, which was our initial intention, Jeff wrote that rule with a vague reference to the distance. I had told him it would be over 300 miles by some amount, so he went with "300+ mile".    

Then there is a reference to a "training ride". Jeff had spoken of this event from the perspective he had at the time. He was a 24 hour solo racer. That's how he thought about this event, so in his mind, it was going to be something that might attract other 24 hour "nut bags" to come out and use the event as a training opportunity. Thus the "training ride" reference.

Essentially, this sentence was there to dial down expectations, which again, were coming from the world of 24 hour events. The big ones. Events where there was darn near a circus going on alongside the race and prizes and payouts were pretty substantial. In that context, the inaugural Trans Iowa was going to be a much humbler affair. Sure, we had some killer prizing for a first time event. Riders received Ergon grips and Tifosi eyewear in each race packet, amongst other things. However; we weren't going to pay out any money, there were no trophies, gizmos, or handmade awards at the finish, and certainly, there wasn't a bunch of start line or finish line hoopla. It was as basic as it gets from that standpoint.

Not that there were no extra trimmings, mind you. We were sponsored by Red Bull, (the endurance racers friend, you know!), and they set up a 40 foot high teepee at Algona where the Checkpoint was. A little known fact regarding the Red Bull sponsorship was that they had sent out two rather "hipster" looking fellows to hand up Red Bull all along the route. Yes....all 310 miles of it. These guys were pretty much out there on their own, since we were putting this on with a shoestring budget and almost zero volunteers. In fact, I never saw them again after Algona, but later I heard a funny story about them.

It seems that once they realized there wasn't a "peloton" and that the event was in Iowa's most rural environs, they sort of tried to guess where the riders might be stopping for resupply. Obviously, communication as to the whereabouts of any of the riders was almost nil. So they were left to wander about aimlessly, looking for any opportunity to turn on some unsuspecting Iowan to the virtues of their elixir. As it turned out, I heard they were seen in Cresco Iowa, off the route in the town passing out Red Bull samples to suspicious small town folk, who had mostly never seen a hipster or knew what one was back then. I heard they got some pretty odd looks!

Well, that's a wrap on the Golden Rule and and an extra story! Next week: We say it again.... Rule #2

Monday, March 10, 2014

Rendezvous Ride

MG on the Rooster. So close to home I couldn't miss this!
My good friend, MG, lives a long haul away from me down in Nebraska. We keep in touch via different channels, but we don't get to see each other very often and usually when we do, we're in an event, (or I am running one), so even then the time we get to share is limited. (MG is a LOT faster than I am!)

So while we were chatting on the phone one day a while back, MG says he is going to visit relatives with his wife near the City of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Hey! That's just a short drive away from me. So, plans were laid to have a rendezvous near the city of Cedar Rapids on a Saturday.

Much closer to the date, MG said he would be bringing along the Rooster, the Singular prototype 29+ model he is testing out. I thought I may as well bring the Singular Buzzard I am checking out to make it an all Singular Cycles affair. So it was that I loaded up the "Truck With No Name" Saturday to make the short trek Southward and meet up with MG and ride.

I had just started riding again after being pretty sick earlier in the week. Wednesday I had my first ride after being ill, and while Thursday was okay, Friday I awoke to symptoms akin to what I had when I was sick, only not as bad. I was going to ride Friday, but I cancelled so I could ride Saturday- hopefully- if I wasn't getting sick again!

The gravel was clear down there.
Fortunately I awoke to feeling just fine. The rest on Thursday and Friday must have worked. I was on my way to Fairfax, (a small city just Southwest of Cedar Rapids proper), to see my good friend and ride bikes. The weather was even cooperating with temperatures forecast to be in the 30's, which for me was almost balmy considering the single digit to low teen high temperatures we'd been having just previous to this trip.

Of course, I didn't know how well I would ride. I hadn't been in any sort of "good fitness" since the middle of January when I did Triple D. Since that time I had been mostly hiding from double digit below zero temperatures or stuck inside due to being ill. Contrasting this was the fact that MG had been enjoying warmer temperatures, almost no snow, and miles and miles of gravel riding under his belt. I wasn't sure he would even know how to go as slow as I was likely going to be going!

MG's Rooster prototype
Well, I found the residence of his relatives and we all sat down for a proper cup of coffee first and chatted. Then MG got kitted up and we headed out to the garage where I traded out some gear to ride in and MG checked out my Buzzard. After a bit of fooling around there, we were off. It was a nice, overcast sky at the beginning with little wind to be concerned about.

The ride started out, fittingly enough, on Cemetery Road. (Trans Iowa veterans will get the joke there.) We had in mind to go check out some local single track to see if perhaps the fat biking throngs had been in there to pack it down. So we cruised over on a combination of chip seal and wettish gravel until we were back in a neighborhood of Southwestern Cedar Rapids and there it was that we discovered a trail head.

Initially, the riding looked promising, but we were on the windward side of a hill where a snowmobile had tracked down a rideable path for us to take. The going was slow, but it was going at least! One thing about the Buzzard with the short chain stays it has is that it really digs in and gets traction with your weight right on that back tire. The On One Smorgasbord tires really dig in and get you propelled forward in loose conditions and seem to be a trick for snow riding as well. MG noted how I was climbing and digging through stuff that his 29 X 3" Knards were not doing well in.

The slack front end and long 140mm travel Rock Shox seemed to be a bad choice for this on paper, but the Buzzard in combination with that fork were really stable. I used a 70mm stem and wide aluminum PRO Tharsis bars which gave me a lot of leverage and made light of the steering challenges in the soft, unconsolidated snow.

MG scouting out a way to get through the deep snow.

On the leeward side of the hill the snow had drifted up deeper and the path was too mushy for us to really do any effective riding. MG thought it might be better in the woods so I followed him down the hillside and we checked it out. While the path was clear to see, as far as where it went, it turned out to be no better, and we were reduced to post holing and pushing our way through. MG decided we should cut over to a residential area where we popped out of the woods and into someone's back yard and then down between two houses with barking dogs till we reached the street.

Then it was some "urban assault" riding until we got stuck into a section with many truncated roads and were forced to do some cross country bush whacking until we reached a four lane road. We then decided to cut over a steep embankment up to what looked like a city park which abutted the back end of a trailer park.

Following MG as we pushed for a bit.
Then we hit on a blacktop road headed North and it seemed to be taking us out of the urban area. We continued to follow along this as we continued to chat while we rode along. This was turning out to be a great ride with a good friend.

My concerns about fitness were not forgotten. Early into the ride we hit a steeper pitch on a paved section and I had to let MG walk away from me a bit. I thought maybe I was toast, but I figured I would go along as far as I could go. My breathing was pretty taxed out, and I just kept plugging along, sometimes unable to respond to MG, sometimes with only a few words, but the main thing was, the pedals kept turning around!

Later on though I started to come around a bit. I was able to chat and ride at a decent pace, so maybe it was just another case of my slow warm up, or maybe I blew out some cobwebs! Not sure which, but as we reached the rural parts, I was feeling better and we saw a left hand turn onto gravel so we took it. I'm not sure where we were exactly either, but neither did MG. We were riding by "braille". Whatever felt like the right thing to do, we did it and then settled back into conversation. Direction to our starting point was a vague concern at this point in our riding.

I thought this battered sign was funny. Is it a verb or a noun or both!
We had peeled off a bunch of clothing and vented everything we could earlier in the ride as the clouds had parted and the air had gotten warmer. Now the Sun was in full stride as we headed Westward and came to a hill leading up to a "T" intersection where I asked MG to stop so I could have a "nature break" and rest a bit. We had been pounding pedals for quite awhile, and while I was feeling okay, my endurance still isn't what it could be just yet.

The rest was good and we also had a chance to consider which direction we should head in after we got going again. I thought the street sign showed a familiar number- 80 St NW- and we decided to go South. This road turned into pavement and we were entertained by some huge Red Tailed Hawks as we chatted along the way.

Eventually we got back to the house where it all started and I was really hungry. We switched out clothing and headed out in search of grub. We found a "strip mall Mexican place", which MG said had a "better than 50-50 chance of being good", and we sat down for what turned out to be some of the best grub I've had in this style in a long time.

We also had one of those deep, meaningful conversations that only great friends can have, which was awesome. Plans were made for the next visit MG would make to the area to get together again and ride some more. Hopefully I will be in better shape and the shape of the weather will improve to allow for more options.

Afterward we went back to the house where I got a brief tryout on the Rooster. It feels very different from a Krampus! I've ridden an ECR a bit, and in my view, the Rooster cuts a distinctive line between the two Surly 29+ bikes. You don't have the very "slack-ish, trail bike" feeling a Krampus has, but you also don't have the sedate, touring feel of the ECR either. The Rooster, (as MG has it set up, and in prototype form, obviously), has a very sure footed, planted feel, but stab the pedal and the front end leaps up, rather surprisingly easy. The chain stays are shorter than a Krampus' are and this maybe why I felt that. It's a super stable bike as well. I could track stand it and cut super sharp corners on it at slow speed with no trouble at all.

Maybe I'll get a right proper ride on it someday, but I like what the Rooster is showing so far. At any rate, the day was a huge success for me riding-wise, and very satisfying to me from a personal standpoint. It isn't often I get to spend time alone with a close friend like MG, and that was a day to cherish for sure. Thanks MG for making the time!

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Some Thoughts On Governing Bodies, Racing, & The Gravel Scene

Note: Going through some old blog posts looking for something the other day turned up the following posting circa February 2006.  Interestingly enough, it has to do with a "sanctioning body" for 24hr events, but as you will see, Trans Iowa, gravel rides, and "World Championships" come up in this interview. 

The whole nature of gravel events has gone the way we saw it back then, but I think this is still a relevant conversation in 2014 concerning gravel events and the future. Here is the interview in it's entirety as it appeared then. Note that I was a co-worker with Jeff Kerkove at the time and this interview was taken as we worked alongside each other back then....... 

Gratuitous image to make this post look good!

The Future Of Endurance Racing: Kerkove Interview

"I'll kick your a#* if you turn that thing on!"

"Hmmm..................not a very promising start to my interviewing career. Ahh...........what the heck!" click! I did it anyway, and here is the result! A ragged, yet candid look at two guys discussing the state of affairs in the endurance world and it's future. It didn't take much for me to score this interview since I work with Jeff. So, don't applaud me for tracking this down!

A quick intro.......... Jeff Kerkove is a member of the Cat Eye Enduro Team. He has been racing endurance events now since 2002. In that time he has participated in some of the endurance worlds premier solo 24 hour events, including the 24 Hours of Moab and the Solo World Championships. He is currently preparing for his 2006 campaign and working at Europa Cycle and Ski . I interviewed Jeff at work, where I met him as his co-worker in 2002.

G-Ted: So, when did you start mountain biking?

Jeff: I have no idea what you're talking about! ......I don't know. I never did.

G-Ted: You never did?

Jeff: I've never ridden a bike in my life. ...........I started squirrel hunting back in ''s code for mountain biking, okay?! I got my first squirrel when I was...... oh, in '96. It had a rigid tail.

G-Ted: So, what do you think about endurance racing having a governing body? Think that'll ever happen?

Jeff: Hmmm........ I don't know.......

G-Ted: Would that be good?

Jeff: If you want to have a true National Championship, or.....or a governing body. I think it's good that they do it the way they do it with the Norba Nationals, but that's the only Norba sanctioned 24 hour race.

G-Ted: But that's the thing....they only do that one....

Jeff: Right.

G-Ted: ....and that's the only one. So, would it make more sense for them to have a series? Because it's kind of weird just having one race, isn't it? Because it's like, well....whoever happened to be good on that day won it, you know?

Jeff: Yeah, if you're going to have a jersey, you'd better at least have a race in every location in the country, not entirely East coast, like they do now with National Championships.....or West Coast, or whatever.

G-Ted: Now Norba just has their 24 hour thing- there's no Worlds......

Jeff: Officially not. There's one off clones, wannabees, local series.........

G-Ted: So what stops us from calling Trans Iowa the "World Gravel Championships"?

Jeff: Nothing! You are on to something there!

G-Ted: You are the World Champion Gravel Racer!.....Gravel Grinder!

Jeff: Here's your flannel jersey!

G-Ted: There you go!

G-Ted: Personally, I don't think it's ( World Championships) a very good idea.

Jeff: I mean, I think how it is now is perfect, it's fine. Because it lets people.....there's no set rules. Every event is unique in it's own way because there's no standards, you know? Anybody can do what they want.

G-Ted: And once you get into standards, then it starts to get weird.

Jeff: I think you should do an event where some guy puts on a 24 hour race. You have to race solo and you cannot have a support crew. It's you and whatever you bring. That would tell who's the best solo racer, I think.

G-Ted: The way they got it now, where you can run by your trailer....and grab another bike....

Jeff: Well, the fact that somebody's already there pre-mixing stuff, you know, cleaning stuff. It would be just like Nationals, just sans pit crew. You still have your pit. You still have your stuff there. You have to do everything your self.

G-Ted: But that kinda goes counter to what they've changed Norba into now, because they allow......

Jeff: Yeah!

G-Ted: at cross country races!

Jeff: Exactly! Which I think is dumb.

G-Ted: Yeah!

Jeff: If you can't change your own freakin' flat tire, then you shouldn't be on a bike!

That's your look inside the mind of endurance racer Jeff Kerkove, and what he's thinking about the current state of the endurance racing scene. I hope that was insightfull, and I thank Jeff for that conversation! More thoughts on the interview in my next post!

Jeff: Sweeeeet!

 And now there is a "gravel worlds"! Tongue in cheek courtesy of the PCL
So to my mind, this conversation brings up a lot of things to think about in terms of gravel racing's future. 

I think it also speaks strongly to what Trans Iowa has become, and maybe folks that have been in that event can see where I am coming from with that statement. I also can say that this is pretty much a typical example of a day worked with Jeff Kerkove back then . Crazy days!  

Friday, February 14, 2014

Trans Iowa Wins Award

I am proud to announce that Trans Iowa has been awarded the Grinnell "Outstanding Tourism Experience Award" for 2014.

Grinnell Iowa is the city that David Pals and I decided to move Trans Iowa to back in 2010, when after a dismal experience with the city of Williamsburg Iowa had us looking elsewhere for a home base for Trans Iowa. When we found Grinnell, we found a home for the event, and I have not found any good reason to leave Grinnell since.

Grinnell made a big impression in many ways upon me, but none more impactful than that of Sheryl Parmely, formerly of the Grinnell Chamber of Commerce   She was so prompt and attentive to the needs of Trans Iowa and her accommodating attitude was outstanding throughout. Sheryl even gave me a tour of the city! Sheryl has since moved on from the Chamber, but her replacement, Rachael Kinnick, has continued to show me the same high level of attention and service to Trans Iowa.

If I may be so bold, I want to say that I am very proud to receive this award on behalf of my former co-director, David Pals, and all my past Trans Iowa volunteers, without whom I would not ever have had the honor of receiving this award. I am especially proud that in our efforts to put on Trans Iowa, we have always been focused on what would best benefit the city that hosted the event, and to have this award bestowed upon Trans Iowa shows me that we have attained to some degree of success in doing that.

Thanks to Grinnell, the Grinnell Chamber of Commerce, Sheryl Parmely, Rachael Kinnick, and the Chamber businesses that have felt Trans Iowa was impactful enough to have been recognized for this honor.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Trans Iowa: Ten Years Of Tales #2

In mid-November, the idea of Trans Iowa was hatched. The year was 2004. In the ten years since then there have been many stories and memories. These posts will tell of the most prominent ones to my mind. Maybe I'll even spill the beans on some things you never knew....

I'd never heard of a "B Road" until we did recon for V1
Of course, with the announcement of Trans Iowa, (later known as "V1"), we had to get a lot of work done. I didn't really know just what that would mean, but I was enthusiastic and ready to dive in and do whatever Jeff wanted me to do. At first, that was to come up with a route.

Since we weren't using paved roads, an Iowa road map, (like the kind you used to have in the glove box before you had GPS- remember those?), wasn't going to cut it. I needed a map with all the roads on it. A quick search led me to DeLorme's Atlas for Iowa. It looked really good and had a lot of detail. I laid out the entire route using this resource and Jeff and I set out one cold,overcast weekend to see what we were going to be dealing with.  

First off, getting up to Northwest Iowa is a pain in the butt! There isn't a good, direct, or fast way to get to Hawarden, which was our preferred starting point. It was something like a 5-6 hour drive to get out there, and then we turned around to research our route. So yeah......we got a late start! Fortunately we had Jeff's parents waiting for us about 127 miles away in Algona, where we planned on eating and sleeping for the night before reconning the Eastern half and going home.

Things were going great. Jeff drove while I handled writing down the mileages he called out at turns that I called out from the route plan. Then after about an hour, we ran into a truncated road. What? The Delorme's Atlas showed crap! We sat and figured and did maths and scratched our heads. Remember- we were basing the mileage off a Mazda 3's odometer! 

But that wasn't all. We ran into these "minimum maintenance roads". Weird! I'd never seen, nor heard about one. Was this really a road, or were we trespassing on some dirt pathway etched into a cornfield? I couldn't tell. I felt like an outlaw though!  

Of course, we drove it, and the two others we came across. It was obvious that the usefulness of the DeLorme's Atlas was limited for our intents and purposes. In the future, I used and relied on other sources, but to find out that a "current" map wasn't accurate in 2005? That was quite surprising to me. But that wouldn't be my last surprise, or thing I learned from Trans Iowa!

To close out today's memories, I wanted to share this early post that was done on Jeff's blog before the first Trans Iowa. It concerns the infamous gnomes I set out on the T.I.V1 course, and the first hints about the Dirty Kanza 200. (Which was called the Flint Hills 200 early on)  At the time, I was guest posting on Jeff's blog. I hadn't started this one yet!

  A quick post to let all you loyal blog readers know that I have located some PERFECT GNOMES to be used as course "re-assurance" markers for Trans Iowa! I can't let on any details just yet, but you'll find out! Also- news is rumbling about the "copy-cat" event to Trans Iowa. Looks like it's going to happen. A representative of that double-triple secret event is going to attend Trans Iowa as an "observer". We better do a good job then! That way you nut-jobs can suffer crossing a yet-to-be-named state besides Iowa! Stay tuned for more updates as they become available!!!!- Guitar Ted

Note that I wrote" crossing a yet-to-be-named state...". That's right- the Dirty Kanza was first envisioned as a cross Kansas event. However; they settled on the loop format, and the rest is history. 

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Trans Iowa: Ten Years Of Tales #1

In mid-November, the idea of Trans Iowa was hatched. The year was 2004. In the ten years since then there have been many stories and memories. These posts will tell of the most prominent ones to my mind. Maybe I'll even spill the beans on some things you never knew....

It was all my idea! (Jeff circa 2005)
 Ten years ago times were a lot different. I had only been working at the shop a couple of years and had built a friendship up with a fellow co-worker by the name of Jeff Kerkove. Jeff was, (and still is), a very disciplined, hard working, ambitious young man who had just gotten out of college and was an accomplished 24 hour solo racer. He had several solo wins under his belt and was catching the attention of the mountain bike endurance racing community. Jeff was also an early adopter of what we call "social media" now, but back then, it was just blogging". Not many athletes understood blogging, and even less did it well. Jeff understood it and was good at it. Really good.

So when the idea was hatched for Trans Iowa in November of 2004, he hit his blog with the idea, and also the endurance forum of Mountain Bike Review. Jeff's ideas were accepted and were influenced by members of that community with great enthusiasm that went both ways. It was pretty incredible, actually. Soon Jeff had concocted most of the basis of Trans Iowa. The fundamentals of the event were based off his ideas, his experiences, and by those who were his peers. Chief among those being Mike Curiak.

It's kind of funny to me now, and I have to shake my head at how Trans Iowa has become the event associated with "Guitar Ted". Sure....I have had a big hand in what it has become now ten years down the road. However; my memories of 2004-2007 are those of someone who knew absolutely nothing about putting on such an event, and being the sidekick to the guy who is really the one most deserving of much of the attention this event gets. Eventually I ended up being "the guy", but it was a steep learning curve for me, and many of the basic things about Trans Iowa really were Jeff's ideas and stem from decisions that he made based upon input from others.

Jeff ended up leaving the shop where we worked together in early 2007. He has since been with Ergon, and he still races as well. Not 24 hour events, but crazier, longer, far flung adventures these days are what is on his menu. Although; I've never been able to convince him to come back and do Trans Iowa!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

About That Long Ride In France

Image by W. Kilburg from T.I.V8
There's this big ride happening in France soon. Guys that make some pretty good money riding bicycles full time will be arranged in teams and all will duke it out over three weeks running around France and some nearby nations trying to put one guy in a yellow jersey.

It's kind of a complicated scene, really. There's this "race within the race" for "points", and "best climber", and "best young rider", and who knows what all. In fact, it is so intricate, with time bonuses and team points that you usually find a "Legend' on many sites that will guide you to be able to understand it all.

What happened to a race where the fastest guy wins? How easy is that? Guess it had to be made "more interesting", for whatever reasons. And in that vein, if you actually go to see this event, there is even more layers to this thing. There is a huge "race caravan" of sponsors. Call it a speeding parade. Brands and manufacturers that give support to this deal roll by the throngs of spectators hawking their products and tossing out promotional materials for the people to wear and use during the event. When the riders go by, hopefully the T.V. cameras catch some of those icons for a bit of free advertising. Maybe some people will take these sundry items home and have a reminder of the race, (and in turn a brand). Marketing is a big deal at this event for sure.

It wasn't always like this. It used to be that merely knowing about the event and the riders and how difficult it was to accomplish the route was "interest" enough. Man against the terrain and the clock. self-supported over country roads. Miles and miles of them. Gravelly passes through uncertain mountains. Weather. Mud. The human spirit put to test against seemingly insurmountable odds. That was really riveting stuff back in the day for this event, but then it all changed.

Now there are support vehicles, team cars, race radios, and all in the name of speed and safety. The race has become something totally different than it had been. You may like it. You may even love it. However; there are a lot of folks that have grown tired of the hoopla, and the rules, and the breaking of the rules. Count me as one of them.

Here's a bit of an out take from Zach Dundas' book entitled "The Renegade Sportsman". This is a book about under-the-radar sports and the folks who have rejected the "sports-entertainment industrial complex". Zach felt Trans Iowa fit this mold and this is where Zach is quoting my take on Trans Iowa and how it relates to the big July race :

"All the big European cycling events have their roots in things like this, (gravel road racing), The difference is, they've been totally transformed by money and T.V. They've been sanitized for mass consumption to the point where they're no longer recognizable as what they were. I'm not saying the Tour isn't a great athletic event and a spectacle, because it obviously is. But c'mon- it's kind of become a sick joke, hasn't it? Even if you ride, you can barely relate to it because it's become so detached from reality."

From "The Renegade Sportsman" pg 68-69

 Maybe you don't agree, but if you do, there are things happening, right now, that hearken back to the original spirit of the event that we know now as "The Tour". Just check out what is going on with Tour Divide. I'm following a friend that has done over 1500 miles in eleven days already, all on his own recognizance. Man against the terrain and the clock. self-supported over country roads. Miles and miles of them. Gravelly passes through uncertain mountains. Weather. Mud. The human spirit put to test against seemingly insurmountable odds. You know.......some really riveting stuff! (For me, at any rate.)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

"Noobie Bike Questions" & Attempts At Answering Them

 From time to time I get an e-mail, Facebook, or private message on some forum asking me a question or two. Well, I got more than a few from a reader here. So, let's dive in, shall we?

But first...the Disclaimer: NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

Okay- with that out of the way..... The questions! First up, we have the requirements.

Polo seats are in- really!
 Stated Goal: "I am looking for another bike. I want to do gravel riding, little bit of cross racing (Just for fun), and RAGBRAI this year." (Price Range: $1700.00)

GT Says: That's a tall order. Basically, we're talking an "all arounder" that features versatility over any one specific attribute. Okay....

 Question #1: "I have never had a steel bike. But have heard the ride is great. How would an aluminum bike with a carbon fork compare to how (a) steel bike rides?"

GT Says: Typically one can ride any material, and one isn't necessarily better than another, especially in the competitive price range we're focusing on. "Fine ride quality" isn't mutually exclusive from "Inexpensive" bicycles, but it gets harder to find the lower the price goes. Steel can sometimes ride poorly, aluminum can sometimes ride great. Carbon forks are not always a panacea for a smoother ride. Of course, those ideas have been pushed forward by folks in the industry to serve as marketing touch points and to help close sales, but in reality, they are not maxims to live by.  So, what to do?

Fit trumps all, and then function, followed by weight, and color, (yes- really), for a cyclist at this price point, or someone looking to find their way to bigger and more adventurous cycling times.

Question:" I probably shouldn't worry about the weight, but is (a) steel (frame) much heavier than an aluminum one?

Un-bearded opinion
 GT Says: Not necessarily. Some aluminum frames can be pretty porky. For complete bicycles, it depends on component spec, to a large degree. Think of it this way- A product spec manager at any given bike company has to "paint inside the lines" when he/she specs a bike. The "lines" in this case are usually defined by what the MSRP of the final bicycle will be, along with some other design/marketing parameters. If the folks at company "X" decide to market you a carbon frame at $1700.00, the component spec will likely suffer. If, on the other hand, the idea is to give the consumer better components, you may see a (heavy-ish) aluminum frame hung with some outstanding components at a similar price. Chrome-Molybdenum alloy steel is, now days, generally a higher priced frame material, so generally speaking, aluminum frames yield better component spec value, then steel, then carbon. But that isn't always a rule. Just a guideline! Anyway, frame material, frame weight, and frame ride quality can vary widely depending on the spec at the prices we are talking about.

Finally, weight isn't everything. Yes- it is important, but for the stated purposes of the rider in question here, weight shouldn't be a top priority. I'll point back to what I said about fit, etc, above. Weight is really only on the top of the list for bike geeks and better yet- for racing. At the price range that is being discussed, I think function and fit are better focus points.

Kona Rove Prototype

 Question:  "Would a steel bike like the Kona Rove be good for all that, (RAGBRAI, gravel rides, and cyclo-cross), or is there a better bike in that price range? ($1700). I also am looking at a Trek IonCX, I read you could put a 40cm tire that bike. I have Trek Xcal 29er that I could use for the gravel rides, would steel ride better than that?"

 GT Says:I lumped all of this together, because really, the question is "which bike is right for me?". The answer could be any of the above and a few other great bikes to boot. (The Salsa Vaya comes to mind.) The bottom line? While I have my preferences the other bikes mentioned here are all good bikes that will get these tasks done well. Really- as I've said many times- there are not many "stinkers" in the bike world these days, and for someone looking for a all around bike that will do various rides and tasks, the Rove, Trek Ion, or the Vaya would all be able to fit. Even the X-Cal could be pressed into all these duties. Now, that said....

I'm going to summarily throw out the Trek bikes in this discussion. The 29"er for its off road bent, and the Ion because of the race/aggressive stance. That leaves the Kona Rove and the Vaya 3. Either bike is better suited to the all around tasks stated above. Both will be stable, yet capable bikes on all surfaces and are great touring capable rigs too.

Gravel Freak
Question: "What are the frame types that most of the guys in Trans Iowa use?"

GT Says: I saved this for last because it is really the odd question out of the bunch. Yes- one of the stated goals is gravel riding, but Trans Iowa riders bring such a diverse range of bikes to the event, it is hard to tell someone "this is the one". And then- which group of guys/gals are we talking about? The "pointy end" of the event- the fast guys and gals- these are almost exclusively on what is becoming gravel specific rigs. Either that or highly personalized/modified cross bikes. Then there are the guys in it to finish it. These will cover your Vayas, Kona Roves, Surly Cross Checks, Fargos, and 29"ers. Single speeders are another sub-set with a wide range of rigs.

Relevant to this discussion, I will say that I do not see a whole lot of aluminum frames on any given Trans Iowa. Not that guys do not ride them with success, because it has been done, but overall, the vast majority of rigs are steel, titanium, or carbon fiber. Maybe guys and gals have bought into the "aluminum rides harsh" mythology, but for whatever reason, steel bikes are commonplace at Trans Iowa and other gravel events.

Okay-  that's a wrap! I hope that helps a few folks out there and of course, comments are welcome.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Trans Iowa V9: Thoughts On Time Cut Offs

Checkpoint for the first Trans Iowa
I got a comment on the blog yesterday from a reader that wanted to know about the reasoning behind the time cut-offs at checkpoints and over-all for the entire event. The questioner was concerned that they could not finish the event without extensions to the time cut offs. Also, the concern about driving from far away was pointed out and they wanted to not do that and fail to make the first checkpoint.

Okay- There is a lot there to cover, so let's break it down piecemeal. First- why are there cut-offs in the first place?

There are a few reasons for time cut-offs. First, many folks may not know this but one of the co-founders of the event, Jeff Kerkove, came from a 24 hour racing background. Having an overall time cut off was normal practice for an event that he would have done, so it was that when Trans Iowa was conceived, there was a time cut-off for the entire event. Besides, we had to be back to work on Monday after the event! Seriously though, we wanted there to be a challenge factor involving time.

At the eleventh hour we sprang a time cut-off to the Checkpoint in Algona the first year. This was done because we realized at the last moments that we needed to keep me moving along the route to check out things, and that we couldn't expect Jeff's parents to be sitting there in Algona waiting on riders for however long they took. Also- and more importantly- we knew that if a rider didn't get to Algona by "X" time, they wouldn't finish by our overall cut-off anyway. (For a recap of the first Trans Iowa, see this.)

Leaders in at Checkpoint #1- T.I.V6
How were these cut-offs arrived at?

 Subsequently, after T.I.V1, we announced what the checkpoint cut-offs were ahead of time. Checkpoint cut-offs and over all event cut-off times were determined based upon a "ten miles covered on course every hour" formula. This was arrived at by thinking about the over-all time stamp for Trans Iowa.

Obviously there would be a start time, but we determined that in order to allow for riders and support folk to get back home for a possible work assignment, school attendance, or what have you, we had to cut off the event sometime in the early afternoon of Sunday. (Given our weekend time slot for Trans Iowa) We then pushed back the start of Trans Iowa by suggestion of Mike Curiak to force riders to use their lights out of the gate. This starting time was determined to be 4am, to allow us to cut off the event at 2pm Sunday, and still give our riders the 10 miles covered every hour on course minimum.

Okay, so the over-all mileage of any given Trans Iowa fluctuates a bit, so this meant that 34 hours over all would be the parameters in which to fit the event into. Then comes the checkpoints. These are figured- by design- on a slightly different level than I used to in the early days.

Soft roads: T.I.V6
So, why not make the cut-offs easier to attain?

 Okay- Trans Iowa is a challenge. It is supposed to be difficult to do, because if you all could finish it, what would that mean to anyone? Just like not everyone will win a race, not everyone will be able to finish any given Trans Iowa. Sometimes no one finishes Trans Iowa. (But that's another story.)

So, with that in mind, I usually set a slightly quicker time cut-off for the first checkpoint into the event. It usually entails riding 50-55 miles in 4 plus hours or so. Sometimes the mileage is less than 50, and sometimes the time is more than 4 hours. It all depends upon my design for the course. This year you'll have to ride about 53 miles and you'll have 5.5 hours to do it in. If you don't make it in that amount of time, you are done. But I also believe that you wouldn't finish in 34 hours overall either. Plus- I don't want my volunteers sitting there all day waiting on stragglers. Finally, there are some intangible things, such as the challenge factor, that figure into my decision each year.

But what if I travel from a long ways away and don't even get to ride past the first 50 miles or so?

Now, perhaps this all seems arbitrary, unfair, and unnecessary to you. Maybe you are thinking the cut-offs should be relaxed to make it more attractive for those coming from afar. I have one answer to that, "Trans Iowa isn't for you." That's right. Trans Iowa isn't for everybody, and if you don't think it makes sense in one way or another, do not sign up, and do not ask me to change anything about it. I have it tweaked out to where I like it, it is easier to put on the event, and most folks that have ridden in it like it as well.

That isn't to say that I don't want or that I do not get advice on how to run Trans Iowa. I do, and I ask for that from those that have ridden it. You might be interested to know that almost to a person, no one has had an issue with time cut-offs since the first Trans Iowa. I can count on one hand with three fingers gone how many complaints I've gotten about that. So, you see, it seems to be working for most folks that accept this challenge. 

MG goofing off @ the Secret Checkpoint: T.I.V8
Okay- so that should about cover the issue, but as always, if there are any more questions, feel free to ask them in the comments section.

Announcement Concerning "300 Miles Of Gravel":

As many of you know, the documentary film about the running of Trans Iowa V7, "300 Miles Of Gravel", has not been available publicly......until now!

Go to the Trans Iowa V9 website, and there under the "Latest News" section, you'll see how you can get a copy for now. (Look for the entry dated "12/5/12) At some point, the project will also become available on Finally, there is some chance that the film will be shown in Iowa on Public Television, (IPTV), on or around about the time that T.I.V9 happens.

Okay- there you have it. I'll be back again with more Trans Iowa V9 stuff in the future. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Going Round In Circles

Formerly known as Mr. 24, aka Banned From World's, aka Jeff Kerkove
It was 2006, and I had not been blogging very long, when I last pontificated on 24 hour racing's "World's", as they were known. Back in those days I worked with a fella by the name of Jeff Kerkove, who went by the Moniker "Mr. 24", because he lived and breathed the 24 hour racing scene.  Through Jeff I got interested in the 24hr, endurance junkie racing thing, and of course, hooked on the train that would become Trans Iowa. Jeff was profoundly influential on my views of endurance racing, not only from a training point of view, but really from an organizational and philosophical viewpoint as well. I know I am not alone in that respect.

24 hour racing was a "big deal" back then. Gravel road racing was about as well known as Jimmy Hoffa's grave site, and "ultra-endurance" stuff like the Great Divide Race was almost unfathomable by most folks. XC mountain bike racing was still around, but not what it used to be. That was the scene back then.

Well, something happened to Jeff back in 2005, a year before I last spoke of the "World's" here on this blog. That event, I think in retrospect, was a watershed moment for the both of us. It wouldn't be long before neither one of us had much to do with 24hr races, and the subject went off my radar, (and off a lot of folks radar screens), until just yesterday when I saw the a link to this posting on Facebook.

So, what do I think of that? Karma? Justice served? No......nothing like that at all. I was shocked, and actually, a bit sad for those who were busting their butts to do this event. I know what it meant to Jeff back in the day, and I saw first hand how hard he worked to get there and have a good result, if possible. I saw him handle the situation with grace and aplomb when the carpet got jerked out from underneath him. He moved on to better things.......

No, I think it might serve as a signpost that the 24hr racing genre, which is not dead by any stretch , has maybe waned like XC racing did. Maybe the grassroots racing scene, like the gravel racing events, has taken a bite out of the base of participants for 24hr racing. I don't know for sure, but it seems that way to me.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Announcing Trans Iowa V9

Getting ready for another one....
Okay, first things first: Trans Iowa V9 will happen April 27th-28th, 2013 from Grinnell, Iowa again.

Let that sink in for a minute.....

Plans are already well under way for the course. I will likely have similar amenities as last year: Pre-Race Meat-Up, 4am start, yada-yada. You guys and gals that have been in this before all know the drill.

There are a few things I am mulling over. One has to do with the field size. I have never had more than 76 of you nut jobs show up for this at any one time, so I am not inclined to go beyond the 100 roster limit I have had for the last several years.

I'm going to have two checkpoints, one remote one, and hopefully no need for a third, secret checkpoint. This time the route will swing near to a 24hr convenience store Saturday night. Hmm.......can't think of anything else big to announce just yet. Registration will be similar to last year. It won't happen till fall, so do not send me any requests for registration now.

Okay- that about does it except to say this: I am a heck of a lot closer to not ever doing another Trans Iowa ever again than I ever have been. Make of that what you will..........

Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday News And Views

The post about gravel grinder events the other day elicited a few responses that I think are worthy of comment out in the open here, basically to give credit where credit is due.

It has been a few years since a certain individual has been associated with Trans Iowa but it doesn't reduce or lighten the tremendous influence this person has had on gravel grinding. Many times, I seem to be the one that gets the "credit" for Trans Iowa, in particular, and for gravel grinders, such as they are, in general. While it is true I may have had something to do with what has happened out there, this person deserves way more credit than I do. His name?

Jeff Kerkove.

Need to know why? Go here and read up on it. Nuff said.....

3GR: A reminder that I won't be there tonight, but Saturday morning. A request for coffee will be granted and we'll start at 8:30am, weather permitting, at Gateway Park.

Uh...I thought Dracula did?
It's Summertime! How can you tell? Because another doping allegation has sprung up and just in time for Le Tour. This never happens in December, January, or February. Odd that. Almost as if it were timed for maximum impact and publicity, don't you think?

Well, they are after "you know who" again, and I have zero interest in this story anymore, other than to watch in amusement as folks get their hackles up and froth away about this nonsense. I'm apparently not alone.

Much of the reaction I've witnessed from casual observers is along the lines of "who cares?", or "can we move on from this finally?". In other words, people I've talked to about this just don't care anymore. But what about those who do?

Here's my solution: If he did not enhance his performance by "doping", fine. But if he did? Put an asterisk by his name in the record books and annotate it as, "tour title won by using illegal substances". Done and done. I mean, it isn't like you can rewind the clock and take the moment away from him, and he's retired now. Oh maybe a fine, whatever. But "stripping away the title"? Really? You can't erase the memories and the moments folks. They are his forever. He won the Tour seven times whether you say he didn't now or in the future. It's like saying the American Revolution never happened because you don't agree it was done correctly. Shots were fired, people died, and things changed because of it, know, it is what it is.

So short of fining him into oblivion, or imprisoning him, this other "stripping of title" stuff is just weird. It doesn't work, and oh by the way.....who gets the titles? The other dopers that placed beneath him? That's rich. I say forget about it, and let's move on from here.

Update On The Clement X'Plor MSO: 

There were a few things about this tire I wasn't sure about when I got them, and communication between myself and the Clement guys was not as good as I would have liked. However; now I have learned that the tire- the X'Plor MSO- is a 60TPI tire with puncture protection. The USH has puncture protection as well. But now for the good news:

The MSO now is available in a 120TPI folding bead tire with bead to bead Kevlar puncture protection at a sub 500 gram weight. That's awesome news! I'm not always very hot on narrower tires, but the MSO is really, really good on gravel roads. Now with the nicer casing, I can only imagine how smooth it would roll, but I aim to get a pair to compare with. I'll update on the longevity of the original pair I got as well, but as of now, they are going strong.

That's it for today. Get out and ride!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Gravel Events: More And Bigger

Inspiration 100- a new event
I keep saying this, and I probably sound like a broken record, (by the way, do younger folks even know what that phrase means? I wonder....), but anyway....I know I am repeating myself, but these gravel events keep coming outta the woodwork. I am flabbergasted.

The latest to hit the dusty scene is a west-central Minnesota event called "Inspiration 100". This is a free event, entry by postcard, self supported, and has some interesting rural points to check out along the way.

In many ways, this new event falls in line with most of what is going on in the "world of gravel riding", if I can even say that. (Some folks think this gravel stuff is small potatoes, nothing noteworthy.) However you see it, the point is that many, if not most, gravel events are low-key, free affairs that eschew any of the trappings of what normally goes for racing these days on two wheeled, human powered contraptions.

But not all gravel events are this way. Some are getting bigger, and bigger, and really starting to become something beyond a gravel road event. One such event is the Dirty Kanza 200. It has been slowly getting bigger every year for the last four or five years to the point where they had 400 riders on the start line this year. But that is going to look like small potatoes if the event directors goals for 2013 come to reality.

Next year the event is going to strive to deliver 1000 starters on the streets of Emporia, Kansas. Not only that, but the whole scene surrounding the race is planned to become even bigger than it has been.

Listening to a few recent podcasts with Jim Cummings, one of the promoters, and racer Tim Ek, it is apparent that the DK is going to become "a really big deal" if it continues to grow at the rate the directors want. Is that a bad thing? Who knows. All I can say is it is amazing to see.

Another facet brought up in these podcasts was how the "feel" of these gravel events is changing. Racers are getting faster, competition more fierce, and the "laid back" feel is fading. Maybe it is. But as they say, everything changes, so maybe we shouldn't be all that surprised. Maybe it is good, or maybe not. My view is that there are so many events now that if you don't like the intensity of one event, there are probably five others that are more about an adventure and a good time to choose from out there. Pick yer poison.

Gravel road racing and riding is becoming a big deal, more popular, and has gone way beyond anything I would have guessed in 2004 when Trans Iowa was cooked up, that's for sure!

Thursday, March 08, 2012

March Winds

Rest before turning with the wind
March winds- They have quite a reputation in these parts, and boy, did March ever live up to that reputation yesterday!

I headed out knowing that the wind was supposed to be about 15-20mph. Forecast to be from the South, I also knew I wanted a tail wind for the return trip, so I headed south first. It always takes more time to reach gravel going South rather than North, but I am glad I chose going South first yesterday.

Getting to the edge of town I could feel the intensity of the wind in the more open country. This sure didn't feel like 15-20 mph to me! More like 25-30mph with higher gusts. Oh well, I was out here and I put my head down and ground out the miles South.

It was pretty readily apparent when small furry animals were flying by my head that the wind was stronger than the weatherman had predicted. Well, I am being a bit over-dramatic, there weren't any small furry animals flying by my head. That was because they probably were either hiding or in Southern Minnesota by the time I had got out of town.

Now I have been in some pretty intense winds on my bicycle and during the putting on of Trans Iowa a few times. This was starting to become reminiscent of those experiences. If these were 20mph winds, I am a monkey's uncle.

Drafting corn stalk bales.
I thought at first it would be nice to go all the way to Tama County, but after two miles and a sharp pain in my right knee was beating up my brain, I thought the better of it. I was maybe crawling at the high velocity of 4mph, spinning as much as I could, but the knee wasn't liking the sustained high load.

I couldn't coast, because the minute I stopped pedaling on a down hill I would come to a halt. The wind was so strong, I was either pedaling as hard as I could, on down hills, or pedaling harder than that.

Okay, so a right turn should alleviate the pain and suffering, no? Ha! If anything, it was even worse than before, because now I had to wrestle the bike from being thrown into the ditch. This was ridiculous. I found a respite suddenly where there was little resistance. What? I looked around, and there was a house about 500 yards off the road with some trees about it. The wind was going so fast and so straight that I was catching a draft off the house. Crazy! Once I cleared the house, and got from behind the shadow of its draft, it was like someone slammed my brakes on again.

Eventually I came up along some piled up corn stalk bales and stopped to rest. It was eerily calm behind them all the way across the road, but you could hear the wind ripping about all around me.

Barns For Jason
Well, two miles or so of this battling cross winds was enough, so I turned with the wind after another short respite for my legs, and it was obviously very fast. I clicked it up into the big ring and hammered it all the way back home.

It was fun to go at a high rate of speed on the gravel roads. The ol' Orange Crush rig handles pretty well, actually, and with the IRC 42mm tires I have on there, I am pretty happy. They are not as fast as the bigger Bontrager XR-1's, but I can have fenders for now, which is greatly appreciated while it is still messy.

So I finally pulled back into the homestead and finished up the ride. It was good to get out there, but I sure could do without all that wind. I figured I worked pretty hard, so a longer ride would have only done damage to the knee, which calmed down after I got back with the wind on my bike. Going against it, or even getting a sideways blast, wasn't doing it any good.

And another thing, I couldn't help but think about Trans Iowa V4 while I was out riding. That was a windy son of a gun that year, and I recalled riders telling me they had gotten blown right off their bikes into the ditch that year, or knocked over by the unrelenting winds. The gusts of over 40mph weren't quite there today, but the consistent wind was very similar. Let's hope T.I.V8 doesn't have anything of the like!

Friday, March 02, 2012

Friday News And Views

Mud boggin'
The "Tweener Season" continues. Today we are slated for a "wintery" event, yesterday was spring-like, and the day before? Wintry.

The battle between Winter and Spring has been engaged but it is going the way of Spring soon. The thing is that now the frost is starting to draw out of the ground and it is making everything really wet and boggy.

I have found a few places on the way to work that I can ride my fat bikes through and have a bit of fun in the mud. I guess I never really grew out of that desire to play in the mud.

That reminds me of the time, I think I was just starting out in school, where I ran away from home, (or more correctly- never came home from school), and played under a house that was on jacks being prepared to be moved.

The underside was a total mud playing heaven and I think about ten of us were under this house throwing mudballs at each other. When my Mom found me, it didn't go too well for me! I suppose it was pretty dangerous for us younginz to be in that precarious situation.

Anywho.....The pedals in the image are some of those new Fyxation Mesa items I put on the Snow Dog. Lighter by 200 grams than the Atom Labs they replaced, and fair grippy enough, it seems. If it does snow today, maybe I can verify that snow won't pack up in these like they do metal pedals. But, either way, they will be getting wet and dirty, and stressed. We'll see how they hold up. I also have some black Mesa MP's, (MP = metal pin),  on By-Tor which are getting similar treatment.

T.I.V7 image by Steve Fuller
More media coverage for Trans Iowa has appeared in the form of a feature story in "Iowa Momentum Magazine" here. T.I.V8 "in race reporter", Dave Mable, himself a previous T.I. vet, wrote up the piece based upon his previous experience and that of past winners John Gorilla and Joe Meiser with a bit of a nice quote from three time finisher Tim Ek to end it all with. in the article, Joe Meiser mentions the "sub-24 hour" subject. It seems that is a "golden carrot" for some of the faster guys. One thing about that subject that needs to be 'splained  a bit. Seems a bit of a controversy about the subject has arisen.

Back in Trans Iowa V1, we were working on a shoestring not only budget-wise, but in terms of manpower. Other than Jeff Kerkove's folks in Algona, I was the only other guy on the course running the event. This means that several things weren't done as well as we'd have liked, including the finish line.

The finish was going to be facilitated by the Decorah Time Trial folks, and no one from Trans Iowa, (namely me), was there. I was in Cresco, Iowa, 30 plus miles out as the course ran, waiting to catch the leaders going by to alert the Decorah folks in case of ultra-early arrivals. Looking at the scribbled records, such as they are, I noted the first rider I saw, (which wasn't the first two, but that's another tale for another time), went through Cresco at 5:00am. We know that the next rider after that definitely wasn't in under 24 hours, and he came through a half an hour past the first rider I saw.

No times were recorded by the Decorah folks that I have ever been made aware of, so we had no times for finishers. We could only guesstimate the times. Is it possible that the top three riders at T.I.V1 finished in under 24 hours? Sure it is. Do we know for certain? No. We did promote that riders did break the 24 hour barrier though,  since it seemed to be good for all concerned. The only hard times I had for riders was the passage of Cresco, and that being incomplete due to the aforementioned "story" concerning the first and second place guys. (That I ain't tellin, so don't ask.)

The "golden carrot" that is a "sub-24 hour Trans Iowa" is still in effect, as far as I am concerned. T.I.V1 was not only understaffed and under-recorded, but it was only about 305 miles long too. No T.I. since has been planned to be so short. And again, the whole idea of the sub-24 thing is goofy anyway, since we don't run the same course every year. Just ask Ira Ryan. I'm sure he'd agree that his second victory was a bit tougher than the first. (Who, by the way, doesn't claim a sub-24hr T.I. Kind of interesting to note that.)

Pedacab art in Nepal. (Image by Jeff Kerkove)
 Speaking of "Mr. 24", as he used to be known as, Jeff Kerkove is with his Topeak-Ergon team mate, Sonya Looney in Nepal, of all places, about to take on the "Yak Attack" event.

Yak Attack? Yep. If you want to find out more about this crazy, awesome event, see Jeff's very informative post about it all here.

I feel really happy for Jeff and Sonya. I used to work with Jeff back at the shop when I first started there. I've met Sonya a few times as well, and she is an awesome person. This opportunity they have is beyond cool. I wish them all the best.

I always tell people that Jeff is the most disciplined person I've ever met, so when I read his post about being really intense about this event, I know it is "off the charts" intensity that most of us will never understand. So far, it looks as though everything is going their way, and as long as the body holds up for those two, I expect them to do quite well at this event. I'll be following along as much as I am able.

Finally, one more bit of exotic stoke: If you don't know Mike Curiak, you should get to know him a bit through his blog. Mike is a big time adventurer, and lately he has been detailing his adventure from last summer on fat bikes and pack rafts in Alaska with four other guys. Incredible photography and story telling like only Mike can do. See it here. Note that he's posted seven entries so far as of this posting. Make sure you scroll down to read through them all. Simply mind blowing stuff there.

Okay, if you are not into reading, get out and start riding! have a great weekend and keep the rubber side down, ya'all!

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Gravel Riding Makes The News

Last week, while I was doing my requisite end-o-the-year recap, a little surprise came in the mail down at the shop where I work. Well, it wasn't a total surprise to me, since I knew it was going to happen at some point. It did catch me by surprise at how fast the story did get published though.

Front page news!
I am talking about a story published in the January 1st issue of the trade paper, "Bicycle Retailer and Industry News", affectionately known in the bicycle trade by its acronym- "BRAIN".

Here's the "back story" on the story, for those who care about such things....

The whole thing got started when I was following BRAIN's Tapei Bicycle Exposition coverage back in early December. That show is a time for product managers to meet with factory representatives and brand managers from component companies in Taiwan, where a big chunk of the recreational bicycle trade works. The deal here is getting ideas to spec on future bicycles that will show up on dealers show room floors for 2013 and beyond. Part of that is your garden variety component news, and sometimes you might find out about something brand new.

Well, a story about Clement brand tires caught my eye. Clement is offering to the trade some new, fat road tires. We're talking 40mm and up to 50mm road tires with high performance features. The author of the story, BRAIN's Matt Wiebe, mused that bikes don't exist for such tires, and who would be using them? Well, I decided to e-mail him and let him know about this little gravel grinding deal going on out here in the hinterlands. One thing lead to another and.......

We got yer fat gravel road action right here.
......Mr Wiebe wrote this story. I basically tried to get an overview of gravel grinding stuffed into two short phone calls, and I didn't know what would make the story, and what wouldn't. You know, the whole thing was supposedly about those big Clement tires, and Campagnolo's newest triple cranks coming out for folks like gravel grinders.

I mentioned a few of the events I felt captured the best all around feel of gravel grinding's roots today. (Sorry if I left your favorite event out, this was off the top of my head, after all!) I mentioned some brands that I thought were catering to gravel grinding, I mentioned the grass roots nature of the events, and how I felt that appealed to the riders taking part in these events. Oh, and I stressed that this has a lot of interest amongst you folks out there. (I don't think that is stretching the truth.) Of course, (Matt Wiebe himself being a prime example), not everyone has even heard of gravel grinding,  or can imagine why anyone would want to do that when they do consider it, so isn't for everyone! 

Still, you gotta say that gravel grinding has been catching on. Look at the registration numbers for Almanzo, Dirty Kanza, Barry-Roubaix, or even for the smaller events like CIRREM. Ten years ago, barely anyone was out riding gravel, and hardly anyone was having competitions. Now the race calendar on Gravel Grinder News  is chock full of competitions and rides from coast to coast and even overseas.

So, the story in BRAIN comes out and Mr. Wiebe actually packs about everything I mentioned in there. Of course, the brevity of the article prevents in-depth coverage, but at least the story has been delivered to bicycle shops all over the country and maybe, just maybe, some new folks will hit the back roads to see what the heck the deal is concerning "gravel grinding".

Thanks Mr. Wiebe for being curious and for getting this story out. Yes, I know some would rather not have the secret get out, but there are so many back roads around here, the more the merrier, I say. Then again, not everyone can even grasp the "why" of gravel road riding in the first place. That's okay too. I'll be out there grinning from ear to ear no matter.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Renegade Sportsman Book Review

I recently received my copy of the Renegade Sportsman by Zach Dundas for a Father's Day gift from Mrs. Guitar Ted who purchased it on-line. I had mentioned earlier that I would be reviewing the book here on the blog. So, that is what this is all about. First though, there needs to be a bit of explanation..........

Why Review A Book? Great question! This blog is mostly bicycle related, so reviewing books of any sort is weird, and especially so since it doesn't appear on the surface that this book is cycling related at all.
Actually, there is plenty of cycling related material between its covers.

Ground Rules: Secondly, I will admit up front that I am not even a casual book reader. I barely register on "bookworm radar". Heck, I think I've only read three books in my time as an adult, including college! So I do not purport to be any sort of expert on authors, styles, or what is good, bad, or ugly in the book world. I am reviewing this book for two simple reasons: One- Trans Iowa "figures heavily", (Zach's own description, not mime), into the book. Secondly, there are other notable cycling references here including the messenger alley cats, bike polo, and the Single Speed Cyclo-Cross World Championships.

The Review: The Renegade Sportsman starts out by giving me a very tactile feel of paper. In an age of digitized press and i-Pads, this was almost shocking to me. It's kind of a rough looking package, which given the title is appropriate, I guess. Also, in a sort of renegade move, there is no table of contents either. I looked several times to no avail. This sort of assailed my retro-book tendencies. I guess "back in the day" tables of contents were a given. Maybe this is the "new math" for publishers these days concerning books, I don't know! The cover, (as shown above), is a garish yellow and red affair, so it's easily spotted amongst the usual fare consisting of the Dirt Rag, Guitar Player, and Entertainment Weekly magazines that litter the reading stand in the bathroom. A nice touch, I thought, by whomever was in charge of the marketing department.

Inside the book you will find what author Zach Dundas refers to as "renegade sports". These are what we would think of as the seamy underbelly of populist sports culture. Mr. Dundas weaves his tales of his observation and participation in these "sports" while pitting them against the massive mega-sports complex and the machinations thereof. His basic contention is that these oddities of American participatory "sports', these "renegade" ideas, are where the "real deal" is. Sports as we know it, the leagues and the divisions, and the colleges, and the gobbledy-gook that surrounds it, has careened off into a realm the likes of which is so unimaginable and unwieldy that the average citizen is left to forming "fantasy" leagues to somehow feel a part of it. Video unreality is packaged as a way to become "part of the action" and to feel any sort of connection with what is going on with "The Big Leagues" these days. Mr. Dundas seeks to find redemption in the actions of the protagonists in his book which range from drunken running clubs to crazed single speed cyclo-crossers, female roller bladers, and yes.....even Trans Iowa.

Is Mr. Dundas' mission accomplished? He does make a strong case, that is for sure. The book is entertaining, vulgar, spectacular, droll, and certainly funny enough. As a theory, it might fall a bit short, but in the end, who cares? The stuff between the bright yellow covers of "The Renegade Sportsman" is a good read. I am somewhat doubtful that things like the Hash House Harriers, or Trans Iowa is going to score any sort of coup against the modern day titans of sport, but maybe the stories of the "Renegade Sportsman" will inspire more folks to become their own movers and shakers instead of bland observers being force fed marketing driven, made for television muck that passes for sports in the 21st Century.

A Word About The Trans Iowa Chapter: I think I would be remiss if I didn't comment directly on the Trans Iowa chapter of the book, since, well.......I am a main character in it! Yes, it is rather unsettling to read something somebody else wrote about you. Rather surreal, actually. I will say that after three plus years it brings back some details of the event for me into sharp focus, while others are glossed over or omitted entirely that I thought would make for good copy. It's like that when you deal with impressions folks have. Something my Mom reminds me of from time to time. Things she thought would be of paramount significance in my life are often things I don't even remember. So a little of that is to be expected with something I am so close to.

Beyond this, Mr. Dundas' rendering of Trans Iowa is both entertaining, (waay more fun to read about than it was to go through!), and accurate. Well, with the exception of one glaring detail, not really having to do with the event at all. I am reported to be a bicycle mechanic, (true), in an Iowa City shop, (not true). My apologies if that offends the sensibilities of any of the bicycle shop employees and owners in Cedar Falls and Iowa City! Other than this minor gaff, the entire chapter is more than I could have ever hoped for. Since the book is wide ranging in it's scope concerning what types of sports are covered, it would have been easy for Trans Iowa to be just a minor aside. In my opinion, it seems to be what Zach Dundas claimed to me it would be, a chapter that figures heavily in the overall book. Even "Outside" contributor/author, Jon Billman tracked me down at the Dirty Kanza 200 and told me that I needed to read the June issue of "Outside" for his review of "The Renegade Sportsman". He told me his favorite chapter in the book was about T.I. and that he says so in the piece he wrote. It is humbling for sure, but I won't hide the fact that I am proud of it too.

Conclusions: I would give the book a thumbs up for a lighthearted, thought provoking look at alternative sports in America. There are really good chapters with direct cycling connections and even some cycling advocacy can be found here. I would give caution for the explicit language, sexual innuendo, and for the off beat ideas the book may spark in fertile minds. (Not sure I would like a Hash House Harrier kennel tramping through my back yard, for instance!) That said, I had fun reading it, and of course, I liked the Trans Iowa chapter best!

So, there ya go. That's my review of the book. If you would like to check it out for yourself, you can get it on Amazon here.