Showing posts with label gravel grinder. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gravel grinder. Show all posts

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Lost Images

From a recent night ride
The replacement camera had a problem. My computer wouldn't recognize it when I plugged it into the USB port. It was as if I hadn't plugged anything in at all, which is weird since the computer recognizes everything else that I have that I plug into the USB ports on the CPU.

Well, having spent a sizable sum, (for me), on this new camera, to say that I was alarmed was a gross understatement. I tried everything, from contacting Olympus support to reaching out to friends via social media. Nothing I could research or find was helping at all.

I had a revelation on one point though the other day. My old, ancient card reader was recognized by the computer, but I couldn't communicate with it to download anything. Then I realized- new card technology + old card reader = kaput. New card reader time!

Well, after I got that here, plugged in the SD card, and plugged into the computer? BAM! Instantly worked as if nothing was wrong. Downloaded images, and all is good. Now.....what the heck is going on with the camera when I plug it in? I think it has a bad cable or a bad USB port. Since I cannot get another cable for it without dinking around on the net to find one, I think I will just live with using the card reader for the time being.

Humid August gravel riding.
Petrie Road's B Maintenance Level section.
So, it would appear that I have at least a workable solution to the camera downloading situation for the short term, at least. Now I will have to spend some time getting to know this beast and working up some more good imagery. Stay tuned......

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Less About The Rock And More About The Roll

Note: The following originally was posted to Gravel Grinder News on 8/17/14. I thought that since not everyone reads GGN, it might be good to share this post here as well. 

2015 Raleigh Willard Two
Less About The Rock And More About The Roll- by Guitar Ted

With the big trade show season about to unfold for the bicycle industry, we start to look forward to what might be getting unveiled for the gravel road riding cyclists amongst us. The bicycle industry has shown some interest in catering to this genre, but not without some backlash, and subsequently the mid-summer releases were less specifically about “gravel” and more about……well, we’ll get to that in a bit here. The point is, it is becoming easier to find off the shelf solutions for gravel and back road riding. Anything from tires, rims, and components all the way up to specific designs in complete bicycles aimed at gravel and back road riders.
2015 GT Grade
 Crushed rock roads are a mainstay across many of the states in the midst of the United States, but that isn’t the only form of back road/mixed terrain riding available, and certainly it doesn’t represent what is possible all over the country. In fact, many riders don’t even know what a gravel road is and why you’d want to “grind” one. Who could blame them? While many get stuck on the name, it isn’t the point, and it is definitely not the goal of many in the industry to promote “gravel riding” exclusively. That would be selling the whole thing short of its potential, in my opinion.
 The gravel scene is real, and it isn’t going to go away anytime soon, but it is only a facet of what I believe could be a revolution in cycling. It is really great to have the industry come to grips with gravel riding’s specific demands, but what works on gravel roads really works everywhere from just short of road racing right up to and including some single track riding. The bicycle industry is catching on to this too. Specialized and GT Bikes, to name two, have shown short videos featuring their new “all road” bikes doing pavement and dirt, with bunny hopping and spirited sprints part of the action.

Even some of these company’s marketing spiels are saying things like, ” this isn’t about racing, but just riding bicycles“, which is a breath of fresh air in an industry that has focused too long on European Pro road racing. While that sort of cycling is exciting, it isn’t what the masses are going to do, or should do, with their bicycles. Bike shops have been filled with fast, light, hard core, unapologetic road racing machines for too long, and the mountain bike market keeps pushing longer travel full suspension bikes that really aren’t necessary for a vast majority of cyclists.
However; as stated above, the industry still hasn’t come to grips with just how to market these bicycles. The term “gravel grinder” was latched on to early on, but that term has been registered as a trade mark, (not by us!), and besides, it is not well understood by most cyclists anyway. What to call it then?
This is the sort of “mountain biking” most folks could be doing.
Yes….this probably sounds like it is coming straight from a certain retro-grouches “blug”, but if you stop to think about it, an “all -road” type, country bike capable of mixed terrain riding is a lot smarter, safer, and more fun for the kind of “just riding a bicycle” that brought us into cycling in the first place. Getting out there, using a “general purpose” bike just to have an adventure, be with friends, or to get away from it all, is the basis for most riding we do.

This same sort of bike can be your commuter, your light touring rig, an errand runner, and yes… ridden on gravel roads. But let’s not get stuck on what a “gravel grinder” is, or why bikes should be designed “specifically for gravel road riding”. No, let’s make it less about the rock, and more about the roll. The riding, and having fun along the way, with a light, reasonably designed bicycle that is capable on a wide variety of terrain types and roads.

We’re not going to be changing our name anytime soon here, since the rides this site promotes and the bicycles and gear we talk about are going to be measured by how they help us “grind out the miles on gravel“. (“Gravel grinder”, now do you understand?) We literally have hundreds of thousands of miles of crushed rock roads surrounding our little headquarters here, so it makes sense for many of us. However; we aren’t so short sighted that we think everything has to be about gravel riding, and we think the bicycle industry should keep moving in that general direction as well.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

What It Is And What It Is Not

This is a gravel road. We have over 69.000 miles of it in Iowa alone.
NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

I have noticed of late that many bicycling companies have been bandying about the term "gravel grinder" again, and many media write ups of late have also been poking the badgers out in web-land with this term as well. I wanted to address this, (once again), and also point out what is and what isn't a bike good for gravel riding. 

I don't mean to come off as some smarty-pants know-it-all, but when you are born and raised in Iowa, you damn well sure know what a gravel road is, and what isn't a gravel road. If you were like me, you didn't even bat an eyelash at riding a bicycle on gravel, but that isn't the point. Yes, you can ride any bike on a gravel road, Captain Obvious, but you also could ride any bicycle on the Porcupine Rim Trail in Moab too, but you use a mountain bike, because it works better. And guess what? We know something other than a road bike, or even a cyclo cross bike, could be a better bicycle on gravel. That is the point.

It is great that the industry is listening, but you don't have to.
The industry is jumping on a trend, no doubt about it, and since when has that ever been a surprise? Well, you'd think that some folks had never recognized this fact by their reactions to "gravel grinders" as a term, and that they had never heard of "free ride", "NORBA geometry", "aero road", or "enduro" before. (I could go on.) You know, you could simply ignore and ride whatever ya want to. That is an option, ya know.

I am stoked to see gravel bicycle design and components, for sure. However; it doesn't matter if it never happened at all. It just makes riding gravel better, and like I said, we all knew it could be better than using a cyclo cross bike, or a 29"er hard tail. In the end, it is just about riding though. That said, here we are, and companies are saying things about bicycles that are not really hitting the mark. They are using the term "gravel road", "gravel grinder", "dirt road", and other terms to describe bikes I wouldn't ever consider for any of the above here in Iowa.

Their tires cannot handle gravel here with aplomb because they are too skinny, or their geometry is so close to cyclo cross that it isn't "road-like" at all. Look, it is called a gravel road. We are not going to hop barriers, ride in ruts, or need to pedal through corners at high lean angles. But don't listen to me. I'm just some old, grouchy bicycle mechanic at a small shop in Iowa. What the heck do I know about bicycle design? You know those racer guys, they have a much better handle on geometry and what works and what doesn't, so let's see what one of the most famous racers in the world right now has done to influence bicycle design that is one small detail away from being the perfect gravel grinder bicycle.

Design input by Fabian Cancellara- Trek Domane
I guess maybe ol' Fabian Cancellara knows what a rough road is and what kind of bike you'd use to tackle it. The Domane by Trek is an "oh-so-close-to-perfect" gravel road machine that I cannot believe Trek themselves haven't jumped at the chance to modify it slightly to fit what gravel road, rough road, and pavement riders around the world need in a bike for everything but true mountain biking. In fact, other companies than Trek have similar rigs that are super close to what I would design as a gravel road bike. Why give us lukewarm cyclo cross bikes?

The Domane features a truly low bottom bracket. When you read about these other bikes pretending to be "all road", or gravel grinders, look at their numbers. If they are not below 70mm of BB drop, they are not really a gravel specific design. They are warmed over cyclo cross designs. The Domane has a BB drop of 80mm-75mm across the size range. Now that is a low bottom bracket! I totally agree with Fabian and Trek on that facet of rough road geo. It helps with stability, a major plus for a speedy, good handling gravel rig.

The head tube angle is another place a lot of these so-called gravel road/dirt road bikes say they are "slacker" at. Really? The Domane has a 71.1° to 72.1° head angle across the range. Many of these other pretenders have 72.5° head angles and steeper. I think the Domane is borderline too steep, by the way, especially on the large end of the range. That said, Fabian probably knows a thing or three about what he wants in a front end geo for rougher roads.

Then there is the brilliant de-coupler seat tube design which is an obvious advantage for the "paint shaker" gravel roads we have here. Even the chain stays aren't ridiculously short at 420-425mm across the range. (I'd go a bit longer, again for stability, but that's me.) That said, there is one area that the Domane, and many of these other so-called gravel bikes, fail at. That would be tire clearances. If the Domane could handle a 40mm tire, it would be dead on perfect for gravel. Of course, add in the disc brake option that future Domanes will have and we're really looking at a winner at the rough road game here.

So, there ya go folks. Measure these so-called gravel rigs from GT, Specialized, and others against the Domane, (keeping in mind we'd want bigger tires), and see how they measure up to Fabian's vision for a rough road rig. And oh, by the way- it's a race winning design as well.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

J.D. Drifter 150, Iowa Games Gravel & More

Good ridin' folks are puttin' this one on.
The Slender Fungus Cycling Association is going to be putting on this humdinger of a ride on the 29th- yes, that's this Sunday- in Jo Davies County Illinois, (J.D.- get it? ) starting from the Apple River Canyon State Park in the Northwest corner of Illinois near Wisconsin.

It's starting at 5am because this ride is 150 miles, so not for the faint of heart. I suppose you could make an "escape route" if you cannot go that far in very hilly terrain, but this is a fully self-supported ride on gravel. These folks are pretty serious about doing the whole 150 in one large bite, and they are very encouraging of any that should be of like mind to join in the fun.

The ride plan is to all go together as a group and not to leave anyone behind. (Caravan style) It's free, it's an adventure, and if you live in the tri-state area, you should check this out. Here's the linky for your viewing pleasure.

Competitive gravel racing at the Iowa Games.
Maybe 150 miles of self-supported gravel riding isn't your cup-o-tea? Well, then you're in luck, because Sunday also sees the 2nd running of the Iowa Games Gravel Grinder.

It's a metric plus- about 65 miles- and you have age groups and medals, and t-shirts, just like a "real race" would. So if your competitive juices need stirring, and you like gravel roads, check this one out. Again, good folks are backing this one and there will be a few Iowans I know riding in this that are good people. You'd have a good time if you decide to go, I'm pretty positive about that.

 This one costs about $20.00 if you sign up real quick like. (They have on-line registration till tomorrow) It'll cost ya an extra fiver if you wait too long, and my buddy Jared said you shouldn't wait that long, so, ya know........don't wait that long! Right?

Raid Lamoille is coming up July 12th in Stowe VT
Maybe you don't live in the Mid-West and think that you don't have any gravel roads to play on? Well, if you are anywhere near Vermont, you need to check out Raid Lamoille on July 12th.

Again, a metric or so of back country roads, 80%+ gravel, and scenic as all get out. Oh yeah......6000+ feet of climbing. Which ain't too bad, when you think about it. I mean, we can give you that in Northeast Iowa, so it isn't like that is undoable or anything, right?

Plus, this event has a marked and cue sheeted route with a freakin' covered bridge! And an after party? Really, you folks in New England have nothing to complain about when it comes to gravelly goodness, not as far as I can tell.

So while I am "contemplating my madness" while pedaling my bicycle in Nebraska on Saturday, you folks out there could be doing something likewise. It's Summer, and the gravel happenings are going on all over the place. "Ya best be gettin' while the gettin' is good", as we like to say around these parts.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Raging River

The Cedar River at Downtown Waterloo, 6-22-14
It was maybe a month ago that I was still thinking we didn't have enough moisture around these parts. Heck, even last Sunday I was thinking the trails were really dry, and I had just ridden the "Bottoms" at Ingawanis for the first time.

I won't be doing that again for awhile!

How things change in a week's time! Now it is flooding and the Cedar River is getting close to a level I haven't seen it at since 2008 when we had an all-time record level flood here. This all means a couple of things for me and cycling around here.

First of all, obviously I won't be using many of the dirt single track trails in this area. I'll have to travel at least an hour away to get to anything dry enough to ride anytime soon. Even if we weren't supposed to be getting more rain, and the trails were clear of water, the mud and debris from flooding puts off road riding into late July, most likely, at the earliest. Parts of Ingwanis may bounce back sooner than that, but it has to quit raining all the time first.

Secondly, It means there are going to be a bumper crop of mosquitoes later this Summer. Standing water pools are almost a guaranteed fact now for the rest of this Summer. Perfectly suited for mosquitoes to hatch new younginz. It will be Fall before it gets any better in that regard, most likely. Then again, maybe I'll be wrong about that, but post the '93 and '08 floods, I recall the mosquitoes being particularly bad.

A riverside bike path sign and guard rail nearly under water.
Finally, all those things just means that gravel roads will be perfect for riding and forgetting about all the messes on the soft trails until the water recedes and the areas dry up that are affected. Plus, it will force me to travel to some places I've wanted to go to for a long time anyway, as long as they haven't been flooded as well! (I'm thinking about Minneapolis in particular.)

Happy Birthday to my Mom today, by the way!

That's probably a good thing since I need to buckle down and ride parts of the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational course to straighten out which choices I need to make to tie in Backbone State Park into the route so folks that want to can camp. I did a preliminary route idea but it comes a few miles short of a hundred and I am going to do a modification to see if I can't bump up the mileage to over a century.

Of course, the first order of business is to get through Odin's Revenge on Saturday, then I can concentrate on the GTDRI. Looking at the forecast, we've got a great chance at a dry spell, so maybe we'll luck out and dry up by next week and some of the trails will become rideable. I just don't think that will be much of a possibility though, even with seven days of straight up dry weather, since they are saying flooding will persist on through Thursday now. But.......ya never know!

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Why Lists Are Stupid

The media just doesn't get it....
Recently a media story listing a "Top Ten" about gravel races has been getting a lot of attention. That's pretty interesting for a couple of reasons.

First of all, you have to understand the way media sites make money. They make money by telling potential advertisers about their Google Analytic numbers and other web metrics. More is better. Meaning more hits on a site, or a particular story is good for gathering and maintaining a certain stable of paying advertisers so the web monkeys can make a living. Sites get more hits by posting certain stories that get you to click on the link. They know what prompts this and that is all they need- for you to click on the link! 

One of the best ways to get folks to click on a link is to list things as a "Top Ten", or "Five Ways To Get Fit", etc. People love lists and click the bejesus outta them links! This is good for business and so as far as the particular content behind these links goes, anything is game. They usually have a LOT of B.S. in them. Take for instance the aforementioned "Top Ten" of gravel races in the U.S. (See it here if you must, but really- DON'T CLICK THE LINK!!)

This list has ten gravel road races listed on it as being the "ten best" in America. Of the ten, one has been cancelled for 2014, one hasn't even happened ever before, and another is so underground that you have to almost know someone to even get in the event. What's worse is that the list doesn't include one of the most seminal grassroots gravel races ever- The Almanzo 100. That is unconscionable.

So, once again, a list created to boost site hit numbers has erroneous and misleading info. Don't believe anything you see there folks. If these yahoos can't figure out that one of the best ever gravel events should be on the list, ya can't believe anything they say.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Friday News And Views

Out here, we ride on gravel
Often times I find it sad, ironic, and downright stupid how folks get things either twisted, or just don't understand what it is they are talking about when it comes to cycling. Also, I know some of the pundits out there are just trying to attract attention for their writings so (a) their employers get more "hits" and/or sell more issues, and that (b) many folks are just being negative to troll up reactions. Most of the time I let stuff like the following go, but I figured that in this case it was either blatantly a troll, or maybe the author really thinks this stuff. Either way, here's my reaction to this "Bicycle Times" issue #29 article under the heading of "Ask Beardo The Weirdo". 

Under the thin veil of answering a reader's question, "Beardo" says this about gravel grinding: "Also, let's also,kill the gravel grinder nonsense term". and then follows that up with some movie related gibberish which leads to this,"People have been riding road bikes on unpaved roads for as long as the bike has been around." 

Ha! It's always the same ol' ruse whenever someone wants to criticize "gravel grinding" and related hardware to do that with.  The "Just ride any bike" crowd, and that ilk seems to be a group that smacks of self righteousness and is so short sighted as to think that bicycle specialization is somehow evil, bad, or undesirable. I mean, if this is the case, go ride a Madone at the next cyclo cross race in Portland. Right? Because "people have been riding road bikes on unpaved roads for as long as the bike has been around." Yeah....that'll work!

"Beardo" then makes a salient point. That being that any bike can be ridden on a gravel road, but he adds that "even that skinny-tired roadie bike will be fine with reduced speed and enough air in the tires to prevent pinch flats." Right. Obviously Beardo hasn't ridden much of the over 69,000 miles of gravel roads in Iowa. Not saying it cannot be done, but I am saying there is a much better tool for the job. Just like riding a road bike in a cross race isn't impossible, but it isn't going to be all that fun either. See what I mean?

There is a better way for gravel, so why is that such a bad thing?
Then he goes on to finish by stating that "...a bike built specifically for that use, (gravel road riding), would probably make you happy." Thank you Captain Obvious.

So anyway, back to the whole thing about "gravel grinding", which I think a lot of folks think is a marketing term made up by the bike companies to bilk you out of money in your wallet for a bike that is unnecessary. (Although even Beardo feels one would "probably make you happy".)

Nothing could be further from the truth. It wasn't made up by companies, or marketing wonks, it was coined by roadies. Road cyclists that trained on gravel roads during the early season to get better fitness, test themselves against the winds, and to "grind out the miles". This type of riding came to be known by these road cyclists as "gravel grinders". They rode the old steel bikes with tubular tires and friction shifters. Generally they rode in the Spring before the roads were maintained, so pinch flatting wasn't as bad an issue. Anyway, that's where the roots are from of gravel grinding and where the term came from.

When we started these grassroots events in the Mid-West, we called them "gravel grinders" due to that history. The idea spread, and magazine writers that don't understand the term spout off about it. But you don't have to be misinformed in kind.

Finally, I'd like to wish all the Dirty Kanza 200 riders a great time and a fantastic ride. It's a beautiful course where you probably won't see any road bikes, due to the flinty rocks, but you will see plenty of gravel grinders!

Keep the rubber side down and have a great weekend on whatever kind of bike it is you ride.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Perfect Weekend?

Lookin' good, feelin' good!
Wow! Was that a great weekend or what Midwesterners? I cannot remember a weekend like this in terms of weather in recent memory. Decent temperatures, low humidity, and while it was a tad breezy, it was one of those "red letter" weekends in terms of what usually happens for weather around here.

Saturday was a four hour outing on the bike. I did all of the 3GR route, but I stopped a few times for different reasons. Once to adjust the saddle, once to relieve myself, and another two times for images. Between those stops I hammered maybe a little too hard for the shape I'm in, because I literally destroyed myself out there. I actually came home and after eating, I laid down for about three hours! I was soooo tired. I couldn't stay awake, and my legs were just weak beyond belief after that ride.

I got a late start, and I began the ride in a windbreaker since it was cool-ish to begin with and it was breezy out in the open. However; after getting warmed up I decided to pack up the wind breaker and go in my jersey alone, and that ended up being the right choice. Jersey pockets are a wonderful thing, by the way!

The gravel was quite varied this time. I saw and rode on everything from fast, smooth hard packed gravel to "normal" conditions, to gravel spread across the entire roadway, and even a bit of "freshie" gravel that was 4 inches deep on a fast down hill section right by Denver. That was sketchy at speed!

Go fast-Turn Left.
Speaking of speed, I went and took my son for a bit of a Father-Son time to Iowa Speedway on Sunday. I've been something of a racing fan all my life as I was brought up into the racing scene by my parents who used to drag me around to all the dirt short tracks in Iowa when I was but a wee lad. In fact, my father was a driver for a short time and then worked as a mechanic and pit crew member for another driver for awhile.

Anyway, I escaped being a racer somehow and ended up being a cyclist, but I do enjoy watching racers push the limits of speed, so I've been watching racing for many years. Of course, my son ended up wanting to see one of these deals and my Mom, who knew all this, bought me season tickets. Well.......what are ya gonna do? You go to the races!

I hadn't attended a race since my late teens or early twenties, I cannot remember, but the sounds were very reminiscent of my youth, and the sights were as well, minus the flying dirt clods and sideways cars. It was fun, and of course the modern race day attendee has a lot more to do and see at the track than we did back in the day, which is great for the times the cars aren't on the track. Anyway, I had a great time, so thank you, Mom!

That capped off a great weekend. Hopefully it was awesome where you were at as well!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Note: "randomonium" isn't a word, officially- not that I know of. It is a word I use when I don't have a cohesive body of words to throw together for a blog post. You know- like a "miscellaneous" post, or a bunch of tidbits of thoughts, or.....well whatever! Here is today's post!

A fat bike fork with less calories.
Snow Dog Updates: 

As I hinted back late last Winter, I have plans to upgrade the fat bikes here. The first project is to upgrade the Snow Dog. That's the blue, 2011 Mukluk that was purchased by a consortium of friends for my 50th birthday present. (Yes.....I am a Geezer! 24-7!! ) Anyway, the first bit for that project has been sourced and is coming from the U.K. The Carbon Fatty Fork features a straight 1 1/8th steer tube in carbon and a rear brake standard brake mount, so it will slot right in on my Muluk which has a standard steer tube and the rear brake standard for the front brake. The offset is 55mm and the axle to crown is 470mm. Pretty much spot on to where the Enabler fork is in all regards, except that the Fatty Fork is ridiculously light and is covered in orange bird doo-doo decals with a cartoonish cupcake. Who wouldn't want that?

This fits into the fat bike master plan as such: The Snow Dog will become the "all-terrain" fat bike in the stable. It will be the bike I ride in summertime when I ride a fat bike, or whenever 3.8-4.2" tires are appropriate in Winter. The Snow Dog will also be upgraded to a ten speed drive train soon as well. I have other bits and pieces in mind for this rig, so stay tuned for more there.

The Ti Muk, or "By-Tor", will be my "expedition" fat bike. I aim to put 90-100mm rims on this rig, probably some funky drive train to clear big ol' tires, and keep it simple. This is going to be the rig I pull out when the snow is deep and I need maximum flotation and traction. I have hubs lined up for it already, and there may be a fork swap on this bike as well. I may be getting my rims later this Summer or early in the Fall, so this upgrade won't happen until the Snow Dog is done first.

Optimizing my combination
Gravel Gearing:

My Tamland Two is an awesome rig, but as stock it came with a 52T/36T "mid-compact" front gearing set up. That's a problem for where I live and ride.

See, here in the Mid-West we have plenty of climbing, but it consists of the short, steep, punchy type of climbing, not the extended up or downhill kind of riding featured in more mountainous areas of the World at large. I find that a close ratio front chain ring set with lower than "he-man racing gears" works great. Just like the 46/36 combo on "Orange Crush". On gravel around here, often times just popping down to that 36 from a 46 is all you need to clean the top of the hill, then you jam back into the 46 and motor on. One shift down, one up, done.

So anyway, that 46T ring is a special little deal on the new Ultegra 11 speed, since it has to matchy-match the flowing lies of the crank, not to mention the special four bolt pattern of the crank spider. The special 3-D shape of that ring certainly does contribute to the exceptional stiffness of the ring, and thus allows for smoother, faster shifting, but this also means there is no other alternative than getting one of these rings from Shimano. Thankfully Shimano saw that cyclo crossers might want the 46T outer and I have one coming from Shimano which should arrive any day now. If Shimnao had not seen the wisdom of doing a 46T, well.......I'd have had to do an entirely different crankset. So while I like the technology and what it does, the availability of options suffers, which stinks. Oh........and by the way, so does the black, plasticky look. Blecch!

Lost & Found:

Looking for a tough, fun day on the bike? California has a cool backroad event cooked up that may tickle your adventure fancy. Here's a short description of the course:

The route is 100 miles with 7,000' of elevation gain and is 80% dirt. Also available are two shorter course options; 30 miles and 60 miles. The BIG route starts at Lake Davis, located 15 minutes north of Portola, and takes racers on a rolling tour around the lake, up into the surrounding mountains and then sends them through some of the most beautiful and empty alpine valleys California has to offer.
The event costs $100.00, but it benefits the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship, which supports not only cycling interests, but multi-use facets of trail use as well. In other words, lots of folks could benefit from the entry fee monies.  The event features a free food feed, and other things, but for all the pertinent details, go to their website here. The ride happens on May 31st, and there is plenty of spaces left to grab for this inaugural event featuring some of California's most scenic byways of unpaved awesomness. (<====that's a technical description) 

Geezer Ride Update: Thanks for the many votes of attendance and kind words about the Geezer Ride idea. I appreciate that and look for updates coming later in the Summer. 

And......that's enough randomonium for one post. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Geezer Ride

Geezer Vision
Okay, I get blamed for making up these super tough routes all the time. Folks seem to like them, but I was reminded recently that not everyone wants or needs a beat-down of a ride. So, I've come up an idea for something a bit more chill if you might be interested in doing a shorter, no-drop ride.

Here's the loose details: Approximately 40-ish miles of remote, beautiful, wooded territory in Iowa and Johnson Counties. Casual pace, food and drink afterward, (or maybe during the ride?),  lots of stopping for photo ops. The date will likely be mid-October. That's hopefully when the leaves will be in high color. This route will feature some climbing and some dead flat roads with a sprinkling of pavement.

The route will feature parts of Trans Iowa courses and the B Maintenance road shown at the left here will also be part of that loop. There may be another dirt road section or two as well. I've ridden much of what I want to use for this ride and the final route choice will be determined by weather conditions.

My vision for this is to have the ride happen on a Saturday morning. At a casual pace, it should be no problem getting done by noon/early afternoon. Then I was thinking there should be a lunch and beverages stop for those that want to hang out, and then everyone could bug out late Saturday afternoon.

So, who would want to come and do this ride? I need to hear some suggestions and everything will be considered. Yes- there will be conflicts with other rides, but most of those are the types of rides this one would not be like. (Basically, if you want to race- this isn't for you!) I'll do this if one other person decides to come or 50. Let me know........

Monday, April 07, 2014

Renegade Gent's Race Version 4 Report

Hunting Unicorns (Image by S. Auen)
The fourth annual Renegade Gent's Race happened Saturday. It was a great day for a ride, and this is the story of that ride. It started for me in the cold dark of night.

The Gents Race is always looked forward to by myself and probably others. For me it is really not so much of a race as it is a great bike ride with loads of like-minded folks and four great guys I have come to know as teammates for this event. Our team is pretty unique, and in our four years together, we have forged some traditions which we all adhere to and have fun with.

But before all that can happen I have to get down to Kyles Bikes in Ankeny and meet up with those four guys. That meant getting up at 4:30am and packing up the "Truck With No Name" to get me and my bike there. The day was looking like it would be good, but at 27°F it was chilly! The drive down was uneventful, and I arrived at 7:30am to get kitted up and see who was out and about. Our team was not scheduled to go off until 9:08am. Sign in was a half an hour earlier than that, so I was plenty early.

It was a perfect day to ride bicycles!
I was a bit concerned at first because the cold air was a bit beyond the scope of my gear at that moment, but I held on to the hope that temperatures would climb quickly once the Sun mounted up and that I would be fine. My teammates arrived one by one and after pleasantries we motored over to the start, which was about a five minute ride from the bicycle shop.

We got the traditional "Team Photo" on my camera, and then we started out. The course runs a couple miles on pavement until we reached the outskirts of suburbia and escaped to the sandy gravel that is characteristic of this part of Iowa. On the way there, something rather ironic happened concerning my camera. You know the one I just wrote a post about last week? Yeah.......that camera!

I was grabbing it out of my left pocket, (not my usual way of toting it, by the way), and I lost the handle on it. I watched as it tumbled down and smacked the pavement. Of course, I am doing about 20mph at this point, so the camera is out of my view for a few seconds while I slow down and swing back to pick it up. I grabbed it and hurriedly caught back on to my team. After I calmed down a bit, I tried it, but.......nothing. So, I figured I finally killed it. Oh well. Sam offered to stow it in his frame bag and we continued on our adventure.

Unicorn Avenue rest stop. (Image by S. Auen)
The Gent's Race course hasn't changed a whole lot in the last three years. (The first course was totally different) It is flat, sandy, usually unconsolidated, and reminds me a lot of Nebraska gravel around Lincoln. If the road crews have been out, there can be a lot of chunk, but they hadn't been out yet this year, and the rains we had last week help pack down the gravel to a much more solid consistency. In other words, conditions of the roads could not have been better.

The flatness of the course is perfect for the format, as it tends to keep the groups of five together, and your only real issue is going to be wind and weather in this event. On both counts, things could not have been much better. Sure, there was a mild Southwesterly breeze, but considering the time of year, it could just as easily have been a gale. Again, things were about as good as it gets. The Sun was out, and spirits were high. Those that wanted to get after it did, and those that had other agendas, (like my team), did what came natural to them and had a lot of fun.

F.U.N. Incorporated
Our team has certain things we have done every year, and we stick to those "traditions". Like stopping at Unicorn Avenue for images. Or having Four Lokos at the halfway checkpoint along with Budweisers. is about fun and camaraderie for us on our team. We also don't get our panties in a bunch about anything, and try to tailor our pace to the slowest guy in the group that particular year.

In the end, we got in 67 miles of great riding and fun times. I cleaned up a bit afterward and headed over to the local bar/eatery that was hosting the after-ride party. There were a ton of cyclists there, and I found my good friend MG along with Trans Iowa finisher Tim Ek, Dirty Kanza directors Jim Cummins and LeLan Dains, and many others there. I sat and had a couple IPA's and then MG and I went out and swapped over my wheel set on my Tamland so he could take the American Classic wheels out and test them.

 What makes this event so special is how it can attract well over 200 people of all social strata together in harmony and with as much "inclusion" as I think there could be. No race numbers, no fee to enter. Just line up your bike with four others and go. As an example of this, as MG and I were wrenching on the Tamland and chatting, a lovely woman came up and started talking about her experience in the event and wanted to know what we thought. We were all on the same page- it was an awesome fun time. She was so stoked to have been on a great ride having a great time with four other women that she invited us for a group hug and then she sauntered off. That to me is a testament to the attractiveness of these sorts of events for the average cyclists out there.

Oh, and my camera- Sam handed it back to me afterward, and he said that I had lost the battery. What?! was gone. It must have popped out of the battery door and then the door somehow closed up again in the tumbling on the pavement. Maybe it will live on!

Afterward I made the trek home to go see my family with sore legs and a smile on my face. Thanks to the Renegade Gent's Race crew- Rob Versteegh, Kyle Sedore, and Kyle's Bikes along with all the volunteers. Thanks to my "Careless Whispers" teammates- Bob Moural, David Cornelison, Sam Auen, and Steve Fuller.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Reason For What I Do

The start of the return on investments
Yesterday I had a surprise visitor at the Guitar Ted Productions Headquarters. I won't get into who it was, and what the reason was for the visit, because it isn't anyone elses business. (But as long as I am mentioning this- thank you! ) However; something came out of the discussion we were having that rang true, and it reminded me of the conversation I had only a week ago with MG. I felt compelled to share something about those two conversations that maybe is obvious to some folks, but then again, maybe it isn't.

This whole gravel road cycling thing has been going on for a while now and there are a lot of events happening. Several of these are of the "free" type: Almanzo 100, (and attendant events), The Gravel Worlds, Westside Dirty Benjamin, and I could go on and on. The events that have turned gravel racing into the defacto "grassroots cycling" movement of the U.S.A. Why is that? Is it just that these events are free to enter? Partly. Yes, that is one reason, but I think there is a whole lot more depth to it than just a lack of monetary barriers.

Barriers to inclusion can be all sorts of things and a few of us out there that have been sweating the details and doing this for awhile are committed to breaking down as many of those as possible. Some of those things are obvious, like the money deal, or no license requirements. Some of these things are not very obvious- at first glance- but if you care to look deeper, you'll see what I mean.

This isn't your ordinary racing- (Image by W. Kilburg)
When I used to race XC mountain bike stuff in the 90's, it was pretty much accepted that racing off road was "friendlier" than doing road bike events, but let me tell you- those events weren't very friendly. Before I even knew what gravel racing was all about, and way before the culture of the gravel events developed, or the whole "adventure" thing connected with gravel events happened, I was pretty turned off by the "every man for himself" attitudes and the cold, self absorbed nature that many of the participants conveyed to me.

Now- that's my experience. But in comparison to what I have witnessed, been a part of, and told by others, the gravel road racing scene isn't like that, (for the most part), at all. Not even close.

Maybe it is the "all inclusive" nature of gravel events. You could show up on a real klunker of a bike, or something totally not right, and folks would be okay with talking with you and not taking you to task for being a "newb". They wouldn't look down their nose at you, but more than likely, they'd be willing to help you out, if you wanted that, and at the very least, they would be very encouraging toward you. That's what I've seen. That's what I've heard.

These are the same folks that would, after they won the event, come and pick up a DNF'er out on the course because the event director was tied up elsewhere. (Ask me how I know that!) These are the folks that after a top ten in the event offer you a cold one, and sit down and share the day's events with you, and want to hear about you and your experiences, even if you didn't finish. These are the folks that aren't bitching about what the race director didn't do for them, but are standing in line to shake his/her hand, offering encouragement, and doing unasked for things in support of said events. In other words, these are the folks you want to get to know, to ride with, and cannot wait to do that again with them.

If it weren't for gravel stuff.........
Anyway, you get the picture. I am not saying this doesn't happen at road races, mountain bike races, or whatever. I am saying that in my experience, and in that of almost anyone else I can think of that does gravel events, this has been the experience, and I've only scratched the surface.

The big point brought up by my conversations with these two folks recently was that without gravel road events, and them being the way they are, there would be so many fewer friendships, opportunities, and special memories that are associated with those events. I don't think that you can say any one thing led to this- not the "free" racing thing, not that these events are on gravel, nor that they are easy to attend. I think it runs deeper than that. It is about the people, the spirit of the events, and lasting relationships that come out of them that make the gravel racing scene so attractive and so.......powerful. 

Yes, I just said that. 

I think it is true, and if the deep, heartfelt conversations I have had in the past week are any indication, I am dead right. I know a lot of popular media types, bloggers, and talking heads will poo-poo all this, but that's okay.  I say, come on down and get dusty, look around you, and see if you don't see it as well. Then we'll talk.....

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Dodging Mud And Mire

At first, things didn't look bad at all!
Yesterday I had some big plans to travel southward a bit and ride some gravel, but an arrangement to pick up my son from school fell through and I had to make other plans.

Sometimes having to make "other plans" works out to your benefit. That is just what happened yesterday. The situation was such that what I had thought I'd like to do would have ended up becoming a big waste of time.

The day was the odd colder day for this week. I was also a bit bummed out by this. I've been riding in cold weather for too long and to miss out a longer ride in warmer weather by a day stuck in my craw a bit. However; I went out despite the double disappointments of changed plans and poor weather, and I got in a good ride that was perfect for me right now where I am at. Meaning that I am not in all that good of shape and a shorter ride closer to home was a lot better idea than I had originally!

I headed out straight North into the teeth of a stiff, 18mph Northwest wind at 27°F air temperature. I buckled down and tried to maintain a steady pace as I left town and the wind was unhindered by urban structures. At first I noticed that a Winter of fat biking and riding a wider bottom bracket was making me pedal the Black Mountain Cycles rig with an odd leg position. It felt weird and my thigh was hurting just above the knee on my left leg. I made some conscious adjustments to my pedaling which brought things back into balance and the pain subsided.

Parked for a break from the wind.
The grind Northward on Burton Avenue is all uphill with little relief even without any wind. With a constant blast of wind, it gets really tough. It wasn't long after I left the city that it had become apparent to me that I wasn't in good enough shape yet to have tackled my original plan. I tried to settle into a steady cadence, but I could tell I wasn't going to last long going straight into this wind.

I decided to turn out at Mt Vernon Road and head East. I rolled down the hill and felt instant relief from that constant wind which was now a quartering tail wind. I pulled over at a huge drift to take a few images and to settle down a bit. Then it was off to the East.

The road going North was fine, but not long after turning East I found that the roads were messed up and that if it were warmer, it would have been really pretty miserable. I could see the frozen "peanut butter" and on the sides of the main tire paths where the cars had been running I could discern ruts and soft mud. The Sun was already working on the snow, and despite that fact that it was below freezing, the snow was melting, running down the road, and making certain areas really soft and tough to ride on. Every now and again, where a runoff ditch or small creek was, there was much flooding and running water in the ditches since the water cannot soak  into the fields due to the dirt being frozen yet.

Does "BR" stand for "Big Rock"?
I headed across Mt. Vernon Road for three miles and then turned back South again. It was another level up on the easy scale with the wind more at my back now. My legs, which were fairly fried already, were rejoicing. I could keep motoring along just fine now!

I decided to stop at the big rock at the corner of Big Rock Road and Sage Road. The kids have been busy since last Summer with spray paint, I see. What is it about a large glacial erratic and kids with a can of spray paint anyway? I never quite figured out the siren call of that act. Oh well! Just about anywhere in Iowa there is a big rock all by itself like this, you'll find graffiti.

Onward back to Waterloo now. There were a lot more rivulets of running water, melting snow off of big drifts or from farm driveways, and the like. It made for a bit of lane swapping at times. Like I said, if it had been warmer, the roads surely would have been a big mess, and the going a lot tougher and slower. I was glad it was colder now! So things actually worked out for the best. I didn't get stuck killing myself on a long ride I wasn't ready for and the colder temperatures kept the muck at bay.

I made it home after two hours and was pretty toasted. Obviously when I got sick I lost a lot of fitness, but with some consistent work, I think it will be back again. It's just going to take some patience and miles in the saddle. That's for sure! My next big ride is scheduled for Saturday, but we'll see how the roads hold up. It might get real interesting!

Monday, March 03, 2014

So- Just How Big Is This Gravel Thing?

Gravel Country
I seem to be a person who is considered to be someone who knows something. Either that, or I am the only person fool enough to open my mouth when asked these questions I get asked. I cannot say which it is really, but apparently some folks want to know, so I tell 'em. So, here's the thing I get asked a lot lately: "Just how big is this gravel thing, really?"

I can't say I am the authority on gravel events, but I happen to compile a calendar of these sorts of events over on Gravel Grinder News. I have a counter on my site, and it tells me that for this year I have about 160 events, maybe more, (I have to weed out some dead wood from last year), and I've been adding new events every week to the tune of about 2-3 events a week for the last three months. Consider that I had 112 events listed in early 2013 and it becomes obvious things are expanding.

There is the possibility that 30 more events will re-up, but you never know. I have to say that many folks don't do the utmost in terms of informing the public in a timely or thorough manner. I wade through a lot of dead web sites, Google searches, and Facebook sites that have been left idle instead of updated. But that's my issues with the scene, and a bit off topic.......

That's the event side. But there's more to it. There is interest shown in terms of numbers. Participation numbers, that is. Some events are easily topping 1000 participants now. Barry-Roubaix, Dirty Kanza 200, and the Almanzo events all are way over 1000 folks for each of those. Other events easily reach their caps, and still other events and group rides, not showing up on my calendar, happen all the time. Their are a lot of the latter, as I come across news of them in my web searches. Participation numbers are waaaay up!

WTB's new Nano 40
Then there is the hardware side. The companies talking "gravel" have increased exponentially since three years ago. Five years ago virtually no company even acknowledged the category. Call it "cashing in on a trend", or call it "smart business", it doesn't matter. The fact is that this is happening. Now.

So, yeah........about that question. Maybe I am not the best guy to ask. Maybe I don't know squat, but when I look at the evidence, I see that something is happening, I see it getting bigger, and I see business happening on the hardware and event side because of it. You can judge it for yourself. I think it is pretty hard not to say that it is bigger than maybe many people think, and it shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

I will say that as far as my events go, enthusiasm, numbers, and attention that the events attract has done nothing but increase. I fully expect to see a record turnout for Trans Iowa. I think last year's GTDRI was the biggest by twice the previous number, and this year's event has already got folks marking their calendars, which for me is flattering and not something I was ever thinking would happen.

So, if you pressed me for an answer, I'd say, "It is pretty dang big, and only getting bigger."

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Frostbike 2014: The Show

So I got a good night's sleep, awoke at dark-thirty, and joined Ben Witt for the short trip to "Q" Headquarters for Frostbike. I hit the floor at 8:30 am sharp, did not stop, did not pass "Go", eat lunch, drink anything, or use the facilities until well after 5:00pm. Here is what eight and a half hours of yakking and taking images was all about, for the most part.....

The "Spray Tan" Karate Monkey
I stopped first at the Surly booth, because I knew they had that monster fat bike, the Ice Cream Truck, and I figured I'd get that out of the way first. I ran into Tyler Stilwell, the master of marketing disaster at Surly, and he showed me the ropes.

The coolest rig in the booth was the Karate Monkey refresh. No more funky track ends. No more antiquated 1 1/8th straight steerer. And check out that tinted clear over raw finish. Nice.

And while it is a cool upgrade to an old classic, one has to wonder if it is enough to do that only. There are so many great hard tails now that the Karate Monkey seems a bit lost these days in the white noise of everything else around it. Even Surly's own line up boasts more interesting bikes like the Krampus, ECR,  and Instigator. Throw the "everything but the kitchen sink" Ogre into that mix and one has to wonder why this bike, or the long in the tooth 1X1 still hang on in the Surly catalog. I could see this bike being a bit fresher with a geometry tweak, but Surly didn't see fit to do that here.

Finally, the Ice Cream Truck. Hmm.......this should have happened when they did the Moonlander. Other than this, I don't see this as ground breaking, besides the fact that it signals a break with past Surly traditions.

An Instigator with a fat front fork and 26 X 3" Knards. 

Moving on from there, it was all about tires. Tires, tires, and more tires. Of course, I checked into the Dillinger 5 fat bike tire. Yes, it is huge.......

From L-R: Dillinger 5, Dillinger 4, and Husker Du
The funny thing is that yesterday I really could have used a studded fat bike tire. We have sheets of glazed ice everywhere in town lately. Bah!

But here's the deal: $250.00 bucks a pop? (Dillinger 5) Ouch! I'll take my chances for $500.00, Alex. That's too rich for my blood. And you get a tire rated for......tubed usage. Lame.

You know, the Dillinger 5 will sell out, and probably will be a sought after tire, but I can shod my entire fat bike with Vee Rubber tires for the price of one Dillinger 5 studded tire and the Vee Rubber tires are tubeless compatible. Surly has nothing much better either.

I was hoping to see the Q brands up their game in the fat bike tire market, but I was slightly disappointed. It should be interesting to see how Bontrager fat bike tires and anything else Specialized comes up with compares to Surly/45NRTH. This could get interesting this Fall.......

Tubular gravel road tires?
Then I moved on and talked about gravel road tires with a few folks. I found out that not one, but two companies are seriously working on tubulars for gravel road use. Big tubulars.

Now, I get why the tubular seems to be a great solution for mountain biking and gravel road riding. Basically eliminate pinch flats, supple, smooth, comfortable ride, high degree of traction with low rolling resistance, can be ridden flat, etc. However; I noted two things about this idea that still need work. Rims and tire failure in the field. Oddly enough, the solution for both issues may lie in a single specialized product. Special rim tape that is pressure sensitive.

That said, and I know this may make me sound like a "Negative Nancy", but I don't really see how tubulars become a better solution than tubeless tires. Especially if tubeless tires for gravel road riding are a system of rim and tire that are designed to work together. (Stan's Iron Cross/Crest suggestions need not apply here) I'm not talking conversion of a standard tire to tubeless. That's cutting corners. I'm talking a dedicated, real tubeless solution for gravel road riders. Doesn't exist, you say? Well.......

WTB announced the Nano 40 tire just ahead of Frostbike. The Nanoraptor is an awesome tire for 29"ers and is fast, light, and comfortable. (When made in the right factory, but that's another story.....) The Nano 40 will come out late Spring, most likely, but I found out a TCS, (WTB's tubeless ready, UST based system) version will be coming later. WTB already has a disc and rim brake 700c TCS compatible rim brake models available today. There's the beginnings of your gravel road based, tubeless ready, proven system. Oh, and......Hey Surly/45NRTH! Take notes here........ Fat bikers deserve to get the same for the high dollars you ask for your products, don't cha think? I sure do.


Moving on, I saw some promising ideas for gravel road clinchers and tubeless ready tires and rims were talked about as well. So the other companies will be doing some cool things coming in the near future.

This is Anna Schwinn's Light, Strong, and......Pretty drop out.
I love Anna Schwinn. Really. She's a very interesting person to chat with, and she's designed a drop out that solves an issue I have cussed about several times. The track ends with disc brake deal. Drives me nuts. I hates it, I do. We hates it forever! 

But here comes Anna's cool All City drop out to the rescue with an ingenious design that moves the IS brake adapter along with the rear axle when you turn the adjuster screw.  Beautiful, strong, and light, (so says Anna, and I chose to believe her), this makes living with an All City Nature Boy disc model that much easier. Other companies take notes, please! 

Tim Allen's new bike. He's a National Champeen, ya know.
 Foundry Bikes. Oh the brand with the ironic name! All plasticky bikes with a name that screams "metal". (Not as in "Motorhead", but as in the ferrous, 4130 meaning.) I never quite figured out where the heck they were going with that schtick, but could never tell a Foundry from a Chinese direct frame. The "low key branding" thing just didn't work with the all blackness thing going on in carbon fiber. Well, now these rigs are painted.

At least you can easily pick out the ironic name of the bike now! They should change the name of this brand to "Chemical Stew", or "Autoclave". At least it would fit better. Besides that, the bikes are straight up cyclo cross screamers. Don't think about putting anything bigger than a legal sized CX tire in the back, because you won't have any mud clearances. It's tight back there!

A word about Mr. Allen. He won the CX single speed national championship, I guess. You'd never know it by talking with him. A great, down to Earth, humble fellow. He was truly stoked to be getting the bike pictured here and to fly the Foundry flag. It was genuine. The thing about meeting him was that I didn't realize "who he was" until afterward when someone pointed it out to me, so I had no preconceived notions there.

SRAM's 1X road/CX set up appeared at Frostbike
Another good moment or two was had when I was able to present Jeff Kerkove with an "official Trans Iowa v10" shirt. I thought it appropriate that he get the very first one out in the "wild" to wear or use as an oil rag, if he so chooses!

I don't think that he will, of course, and he seemed truly stoked to get it. I think he was genuinely struck  by the fact that this upcoming T.I. is number ten. I know we were pretty amazed that folks wanted to do Trans Iowa a second time after we put on the first one, much less having it last ten editions.

So there were several other conversations with several other folks I don't get to see all too often. Some Trans Iowa veterans and finishers, some others that have been reading this blog or one of my other sites, (thanks, by the way), and then I looked at my watch. Dang it! I missed lunch again this year! Oh well........Onwards through the fog!

A special Trans Iowa tribute in the Salsa booth: Images by Scott Haraldson
I ran across Jason Boucher. He and I got to know each other back when he was the Salsa Cycles brand manager. Now he's moved on up the "Q" ladder. We stood and chatted for a good long while. I really enjoyed that. Then he asked if I'd seen the Trans Iowa tribute in the Salsa booth. I hadn't.

So I walked over to check it out finally after the show was clearing out for the day. I have to say that I thought it was really impressive, well done,  and definitely humbling. You know, I never planned on having all this attention on Trans Iowa, and even now I am still kind of shocked when I see people making a special effort to express something in print, on film, or in the digital realm that concerns the event. I means something to a lot of folks, I get that part. Heck, it hasn't gone unnoticed in my life that it means some things as well to me personally. However; to see it at a trade show expo........ I never woulda thunk it.

Then there were beers, some vittles, some Korean food at Hoban, then nighty-night. The next day I made a brief appearance back at the show, then I had to skee-daddle back to the home base. It was a good Frostbike, but a different one. No Mike's Bikes, less shenanigans, bad weather, epic travel, and lots of great friends and acquaintances.

I'll have a bit more to say about Frostbike elsewhere, but for here that's a wrap. Thanks to the Witt Family, QBP, all the friends and acquaintances, and everyone that made Frostbike possible.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Friday News And Views

A gravel bike?
Breadwinner Cycles is a frame building concern from Portland, Oregon and was started by two-time Trans Iowa winner and frame builder Ira Ryan and his partner, frame builder Tony Pereira. They debuted their Breadwinner Cycles brand at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show, (NAHBS), and they will be back this year again showing a couple of new models. One is dubbed "B-Road".

It'll be interesting to see just how the name is used here. On one hand, this could be a "650B road bike", and on the other hand, it could be a reference to the minimum maintenance roads in Iowa called "B Maintenance Roads", making one think it may be a gravel road bike design. My guess? Both!

Their will be several "new" things popping up on the radar screens of gravel road enthusiasts soon, and perhaps this Breadwinner model is one of those things. I already have been tipped off to another thing that will be announced Saturday and will have a connection to Trans Iowa. (You'll have to wait till Monday to find out here.) UPDATE: See announcement here.

The growth in gravel road related product seems to be continuing unabated, and I suspect it will rankle some feathers, give fodder for the punter's blog postings, and fuel the keyboard jockey's angst out there. The thing is, the growth in the participation in gravel road riding, as I see it from my seat, is still rising. Events are posting bigger attendance figures, and I have been getting new submissions for the Gravel Grinder News calendar on a regular basis for months. On the order of about 3-5 events per week over the past three months, as a matter of fact.

So, people will have some backlash to this stuff, but it doesn't negate the reality of it. Gravel road riding is popular, the events are growing and increasing in number, and the bicycle industry is going to see if they can capitalize on that. Would you expect anything less than that? I wouldn't.

Image by A Andonopoulous.

I have started to fire up the Trans Iowa v10 machine again. There is a little over two months to go, and there is much to get organized yet.

I have the Grinnell Steakhouse lined up again. They provide Trans Iowa with a free venue to hold the Pre-Race Meat-Up and in return I deliver warm bodies that will eat and drink at their establishment. It's been a very beneficial relationship for both parties for the last four years.

My job now will be to contact each racer and get a head count on meals, what the menu choice will be, and to communicate the meeting details via e-mails which should start going out next week. This has also worked to serve the secondary purpose of finding out if folks on the roster are actually going to show up. That helps save costs on my end in both time and money.

I also will be doing Trans Iowa recon with my two cue sheet checkers, Wally & George, in late March. This will make sure of the clarity of the cue sheets and whether or not they are correct, or need to be changed due to road closures. The side benefit here is I get to see how the roads are coming along.

This Weekend: I have the final four posts in the "Trans Iowa Tales" series going up and then the weekend posts will be reserved for the current Trans Iowa coming up. The Frostbike report will go up Monday, and maybe there will be a couple of posts, depending upon the events going down.

UPDATE: 45NRTH announces a fatter Dillinger

Stay tuned, otherwise have a great weekend and ride your bicycles!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Have It Your Way

From the town with the cheeky name...
There was an advertising campaign for one of the chain store burger joints that went something like "Have It Your Way", if I recall correctly. I always thought that was an inviting advert. You know, it made me think I could get my burger exactly the way I wanted it. Funny thing was I never actually acted on that, so maybe that ad campaign was not so hot, eh?

Well, yesterday I saw a bit of a discussion concerning a new gravel road event based on the premise  of a 24 hour mountain bike event, only on gravel, and the "pits" would be in the small town of Cumming, Iowa. There is to be a band, aid station in the town, and what not. Cost is about $95.00 to enter as a solo rider.

The question that was posed was about the fees, and where was the money going, and what would the "other grinders think?"

While it probably is a good idea to be transparent about where fees like that are going, and what they are for, I think on a larger scale this question is indicative of the duality that exists in the gravel riding scene these days. On one hand you have the "under the radar", free, grassroots, no license type events, and on the other hand you have the licensed, pay-to-play, highly promoted, aid stationed, events with other amenities attached. It seems that in some rider's eyes one type is "not cool" while the other type is sometimes referred to as "real racing".

Riding free for free
The "what others think" thing is what caught my attention. It seems that we as humans think too much about that, and it gets in the way of what matters by replacing what matters with thoughts about stuff that doesn't matter at all.

In other words, it's all a pile of horse crap.

Ya know, I have my thoughts about what I like in a gravel event, but if that doesn't match up with some other folks ideas of what is good, hey- who am I to say that what they want in an event is wrong?  Here's a thought: If you don't like a certain event's way of doing things, feel free to put on yer own deal. That's pretty much where I came into this whole gravel event thing. Otherwise, if you don't see yourself as a doer in the promotional/event directing sense, find any one of dozens of events that do it your way. Or barring all of that, you can always just ride your bicycle on those gravel roads. They are all there waiting for you and your bicycle for no charge.

Or you can ride free for a fee.

Either way, there are plenty of events that do things in vastly different ways. I don't see any issues with this. In fact, it should be a diverse menu for the gravel riding enthusiast to choose from. Plenty of promoters have put their stamp, their "ethos" for gravel riding events, right out there for you to peruse. The choice is yours. "Have It Your Way".  But if something about an event rubs you the wrong way, ya know what? You do not have to choose it. You don't even have to acknowledge it. You can just look away, and go find something else that does trip yer trigger. Like I say- there's plenty of events to choose from. It isn't like there are few gravel road events out there in 2014!

But who am I kidding? It seems to be the "American Way" to have to type up a rant about something or another that doesn't make a hill of beans difference to anyone, other than to be annoying. Which at this point I probably should heed that thought and move along here................