Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Iowa Wind And Rock Registration Opens

Hey there! Yes you, dear reader. Maybe you come here for the "Trans Iowa Stories". Maybe you wonder if that crazy old coot named Guitar Ted will ever do another Trans Iowa. (Answer: No. Not ever.) Maybe you got a hankerin' to see if'n ya kin do such a cray-zee dealio. Well, ya still kin, if'n ya wants ta.

Just pony on up and put yer name in that hat called "Iowa Wind And Rock Registration". Y'all have till the 18th ta git'er dun!

Seriously- this is the most "Trans Iowa-like" event out there. There isn't anything else you can do in the gravel grinding niche that will come close. The folks that put it on are all Trans Iowa veterans and loved that event so much they didn't want it to go away, so they did the next best thing. They started their own deal.

Just to be perfectly clear, I have nothing at all to do with Iowa Wind & Rock. I have "retired" from that sort of nonsense and I have no desire to get back in. Been there, done that. That said, I have a LOT of respect for these folks, and I am really HAPPY that they are pushing this sort of an event onward. There truly is not anything else out there like it.

Of course, they are free to do it the way they see fit, and going onward, things could change and maybe I won't be down with those changes. But that's me. They have to figure out things for themselves now, and I've moved on. Sure, I hope they keep things close to the heart of what Trans Iowa was, but there are never any guarantees. I saw some guy grousing about how he hated cue sheet navigation. See, that's a cry to make it easier. Cue sheets are a pain in the butt. They are harder to use. To my mind, that's part of the point of it all. But these things are always relative. Ask any pioneer from the 1800's if they would have liked to have had cue sheets/maps instead of relying on memory or tales pointing to landmarks for navigation. See what I mean? Challenges are not about using the latest technology, as far as I am concerned. Technology? That actually is a crutch to lean on. And it causes all sorts of complications.

Anywho...... Get on the registration if you want such a challenge.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Brown Season: Half And Half

The day started out beautifully and along the Cedar River, it looked great.
Brown Season means that you never know when it will be more like Winter or more like Fall. Saturday, it was the "more like Fall" so I got out on the Noble Bikes GX5 with the GRX group and did a nice loop that was about half paved and half gravel.

There were other gravel rides going on Saturday. N.Y. Roll had one, but it left at 6:30am and I wasn't feeling like getting out of bed at 5:00am to get there since I wasn't feeling 100% Friday. I had been sneezing a lot and I had a headache all day. I assumed I would do well to get a really long, good night of sleep. There was another ride set to leave and do the New Hartford Hills later in the morning, but I wanted to just set out from my house and see what I was in for. So, it was a solo slog for myself.

This particular day was to be- maybe- the last 50+ degree day in 2019. So, I wore a wool base layer, a wool long sleeved jersey, my Riding Gravel vest, and a pair of thermal bib tights. I wore some glove liners, and my buff on my head underneath the Bell aero helmet. On the feet were a pair of wool socks and the Northwave boots I have. I felt fine for the entire three hour ride until I got home and then my feet were freezing. Weird.

The temperatures were in the low 50's for the entire ride and the winds were out of the Southwest at probably close to 20mph, but not over that. I had about seven miles right into it, but it wasn't too bad, really.

I saw a couple Bald Eagles frolicking over the Cedar River. Here I highlighted one. 

Gravel- finally- going South on Foulk Road.
I'm pretty fortunate in that I only have to travel about six or seven blocks to get to a bike trail that leads along the Cedar River which then takes me to the Cedar Valley Nature Trail and out of town. Getting through Evansdale can be a bit tricky for the uninitiated, but the "Nature Trail", as the locals call it, gets you out into the rural areas fast. Once out of town I veered off onto Foulk Road which goes straight South and turns to gravel after Washburn Road.

Barns For Jason- Another tiny barn!
Farmer are starting to work the ground in preparation for next Spring. Note how black the soil is here.
Foulk Road is pretty flat, really, and so I figured that if I was feeling bad, I could just turn around at some point and ride all the flat stuff back to my home. But actually, I felt pretty good, and I had never been on portions of Foulk and Quarry Road which I had intended on using. So, I forged ahead.

A beautiful draft horse and it's smaller companion, a normal sized quarter horse, on Quarry Road.
Going West on Quarry Road was double trouble this time since the wind was out of the Southwest. That and the fact that you climb up going West made for a tougher slog, but i was surprised that I felt strong and it didn't really bother me. Now I never would have guessed I would have felt good about head wind and climbing, and especially after not feeling my best, but there ya go. Who knows what the deal is? I just took what I had to work with and had a decent push up and into that wind.

I saw a bunch of these "woolly-bears", caterpillars they are, crossing roads Saturday. 
Now we've had some Winter already with snows and sub-freezing temperatures. So when I saw some Wooly Bears crossing the roads, I had to marvel. How do these caterpillars make it through the snow and bone chilling cold? I have no idea.

So, the turn North put the wind kind of at my back, but the roads were super, super gravelly. Like I almost was out of control many times due to the depth of fresh gravel. The rest of the route was fine, actually, but Aker Road, for whatever reason, had tons of fresh gravel. What a way to end the gravel part of the ride.

Then it was back down toward home on the Sergeant Road trail and when I got home I had 33 miles under my tires. That was just good enough to tucker me out and amazingly, I felt fine. No headache anymore!

Guess a good ride can cure what ills ya.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Trans Iowa Stories: Setting The Scene For v4

One of my all-time favorite images from a Trans Iowa, but it is because of the story behind it.
 "Trans Iowa Stories" is an every Sunday post which helps tell the stories behind the event. You can check out other posts about this subject by going back to earlier Sunday posts on this blog. Thanks and enjoy!

With a new lease on life, Trans Iowa would happen again for the fourth time in 2008. The stories I will tell about this one won't go into as much detail as they did for v3. The third Trans Iowa was, as I said when telling the stories of that event, a prototype for what came afterward. That is partly why I went into such detail about it. The formatting, the protagonists, and the way things played out in a general sense were very much all foretelling of the next ten Trans Iowa events. The particulars of each event were different, and specific stories were as well. This is where I will be spending my time, for the most part, here on out. I won't be going over blow-by-blow recounting of the events, as that has been done to death already. That said, I wanted to take on T.I.v3 that way due to its being "the first" of its kind.

Jeff Kerkove, the co-founder of Trans Iowa was now fully out of the picture in regard to the event. But I had gained another good friend and helper in David Pals. His enthusiasm and in particular, his ideas, were very important for the next several years of the event. So, while I rued the exit of Jeff, I gained a great partner in David who was up to the task and helped innovate and evolve Trans Iowa further than I would have ever done by myself. He was an invaluable resource for me, mostly behind the scenes. David wasn't really interested in being up front, or the "face" of the event, so that part was all on me.

This left me with the unenviable task of dealing with "problem children". The folks who were interested in Trans Iowa, but had "ideas" and criticisms which they wanted addressed/implemented so the event would be "better". In reality, what they wanted would make the event "easier", or at best, more convenient to ride in, and were not at all in the spirit of the event.

"It takes a lot of organizational willpower to keep a design simple"
 - Paul Boag

This quote from a Twitter post really resonated with me because it reminded me of the struggle to keep Trans Iowa on point. In the beginning, this task was largely Jeff Kerkove's, but by v3 I was the guy steering the ship and dealing with the folks who were a thorn in my side. A lot of this back and forth happened on the Endurance Forum on MTBR.com. So, it was public and I had to rein in my comments somewhat. However; a lot of this dealing with the potential "dumbing down" of Trans Iowa was on emails. There I wasn't quite so "diplomatic". There was also all the questioning about why this, and why that. Long winded questions requiring long winded answers really were not only time consuming, but energy draining as well. There were plenty of times I wished I would have decided to stop at v3.

The year 2008 was also one where I had so many irons in the fire, and so many demands on my time, that  I was overwhelmed. It was just far, far too much to handle, looking back, but in the moment, I was thinking I was fine. Had I stopped Trans Iowa in 2007, it would have been a lot easier, but that was, maybe unbelievably so, one of the easier things I did in 2008! That should tell you what a cracker of a year it was. I definitely do not want to repeat that again in my lifetime.

Next: Meeting New Friends

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Minus Ten Review 2009-47

Doing the recon in the "new to me" rig at the time.
Ten years ago on the blog I kind of "soft-launched" the news that I had a different vehicle. The old "Dirty Blue Box", 1990 Honda Civic 4 door hatchback wagon died during the Summer of 2009. I finally replaced it with a 2003 Toyota Tundra. This became the "recon vehicle" for the remainder of the Trans Iowa events and to this day it is my vehicle.

I've been fortunate to have had this truck, and I have had some pretty crazy times in that truck, some of which will be covered in my "Trans Iowa Stories" series. Stay tuned for that in the future.

The other thing I was chatting about, and probably one of the most surprising things that ever happened to me, was when I got a surprise gift from George Wissel from Vermont. He ran a bike shop at the time and somehow he had gotten the last few purple anodized 1 1/8th head sets from Chris King. I remember saying something about that on the blog here. Well, good ol' George packed one up, put in some cool t-shirts and stickers, and sent the box off to me at unawares. Boy! Was that ever a cool gift.

That head set went straight on the Salsa Cycles El Mariachi I spoke of last week which was Gun Koted a kind of purple-egg plant type of color. Then I took it out in 2012 when I got the original Ti Muk and it has been in that bike since until I sold the head set and bike earlier this year.

Of course, since 2009 Chris King made purple ano stuff again. So, the head set wasn't all that odd by 2011. But the thought George had to send this present to me was not ever forgotten. Way too kind!

Friday, November 08, 2019

Friday News And Views

Once unobtanium- now reality
Niner Bikes Releases The MCR 9 Gravel FS Bike: 

Perhaps the most controversial and wildest "gravel bike" ever seen has now made it through production and is available from Niner Bikes.

Dubbed the "Magic Carpet Ride 9" (MCR 9), this bike features Niner's CVA rear suspension in a short 50mm version. It is mated here with a Fox AX fork with a travel rating of 40mm.

It retails in the "5 Star" build (SRAM AXS and high end bits) at an eye-watering 8G+. This then begs a LOT of questions.....

Cool bike and all, but: why not re-cycle an older, FS 29"er design and have a bit more travel, bigger tire clearances, and run a flat bar? Maybe a Jones bar set up? 

I can only think of one reason why and that would be a limitation to a MTB drive train. But.....if you were to go to, say a design from pre-2010? Say you had a Fisher Hi-Fi, which featured 80mm of travel, and geometry that is nothing like today's trail bikes. Well.....I just happen to know where one is, and there will be a project bike coming soon. Stay tuned.......

Gravel Expo/Bike Party 2020:

This deal N.Y. Roll and I have put on the last two years is going to happen again in 2020. The "Gravel Expo/Bike Party" was originally an idea to bring the gravel scene to the local riders in the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area. Out of this grew the "Monday No Drop Gravel Ride" which N.Y. Roll has hosted for two season now.

Year Two of the GE/BP brought our idea to feature Iowa gravel events. We brought in several folks and let them present their ideas for their gravel events. This proved to be very popular.

 The expo was not without issues, and logistically N.Y. Roll and I wrestled mightily with just how to manage demand, room space, and convenience for all concerned. This go-round we are going with a new idea. We are going to have multiple nights with visits from Race Directors and a little bit of information sharing. We have a new venue in the works for the expo, and we have a brand new sponsor for the events.

We're working on details now, but the general idea is that during the dead of Winter, (think mid-January to late January or early February). We are thinking either mid-week night or weekend, or a mix of both. Four sessions, as of now. Expect about 90 minutes for each.  Again, a lot of this is in flux. Stay tuned......

Signs of the "roadie invasion" from 2016 were easy to see if you paid attention
World Tour Pro Quits To Race Gravel:

Wednesday news broke on the web that World Tour Pro and American rider, Peter Stetina, had decided to quit the World Tour and focus on gravel events and endurance MTB events for 2020. 

Citing his excitement and a renewed passion for racing stemming from his racing in the Dirty Kanza 200 and Leadville 100 this year, Stetina is going to go it alone as a privateer racer for 2020.

Comments: This is a huge blow to the profile of road racing in the U.S. Add in that the Tour of California was cancelled for 2020, and one can make a strong argument that serious cracks are evident in the road racing scene in the US. In fact, the signs have been there for several years that something was amiss.

Younger riders have abandoned road racing here, and bicycling in general. So, the road scene was suffering from "aging out". Secondly, the gravel scene has cannibalized whatever was left. Several years ago now, (and I have mentioned this several times here on this blog), it was reported that USA Cycling (USAC) was losing revenue from licensing at an alarming pace. Many Continental and former road Pros took up gravel racing then. Riders like Ted King, who won the DK200 in 2016 (Image shown at left here)

USAC made some half-baked overtures to the gravel scene in the last few years, but now with the cancellation of the biggest road event on the continent, and with current Pro Tour riders looking hard at gravel, (you can bet Stetina isn't the only one), it would appear that the "red alert" has been issued by USAC as a rumor is floating around that they are asking many gravel event promoters and top athletes to meet in January. Furthermore; it has also been mentioned to me that the UCI, (Union Cycliste Internationale) is poking around and will aim to set up a series for Pro riders on gravel

Who are these people, if the rumors are true? My guess is that since Life Time wants to expand to six gravel events, and since they own the DK200, and since that single event is the most well known of the gravel events in North America, that Life Time and their gravel promotions folks are going to be at that table. Probably others as well, but certainly, you'd be nuts not to talk to Life Time if you are USAC/UCI.

This will certainly only be a North American phenomenon at first. The Euro folk are not at all interested in going this direction. It isn't hard to imagine that the "gravel road scene" could be a big deal for USAC, though.  It could have potential for possibly bringing their mission into a more relevant area of cycling than paved road riding.

Cheers folks! That's all for this week. Get out and ride those bicycles!


Thursday, November 07, 2019

Guitar Ted Lube-Off: Final Results And Commentary

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

Okay, the final results, as determined by me, Guitar Ted, have been rendered in this round of the "Lube-Off". First, for reference:

Note: For the Introduction to the contenders and procedures used in this test, please see THIS POST. Also please note that the possibility of a fourth contender never materialized, so this test is just between the three lubes mentioned in the introduction. 

 The first update on the Muc-Off lube can be read here. The Squirt Lube post can be read here.The "Final Update" concerning DuMonde Tech can be found HERE.

It was tough this time to determine a winner. Usually, that hasn't been the case in the past with DuMonde Tech simply blowing away the other challengers. I think all three lubes I tested this time are worthy choices, so let's get that out of the way first thing. I could live the rest of my days using any one of them and not have a lot of nits with any of the trio. That said, there is a "best, "better", and a "good" choice here. I'll start off by telling you right up front that DuMonde Tech is still the best of the lot, so if you want to skip the rest of this post, go ahead.

The rest of you- read on.......

 "Good"- Squirt Lube:

Squirt did well. It stayed slick until the six hour mark and then it was definitely done. To be fair, the label suggests reapplication after six hours of use. (Thus the six hour limit used for the Muc-Off and the six more hours on an already used DuMonde Tech set up)

The thing is, you have to re-up at least every six hours of riding, if not more often. This means cleaning up the chain first, drying, then reapplication of Squirt- that is if you want to do this "right". But however you see that going down or not, the fact is that you are going to go through a lot more lube than with the other two choices here. That means more overall expenses. (You'll need to replace the lube at a quicker rate, besides any cleaning or what have you.)

The other nit I had with Squirt lube was that it attracted a fine coating of dust on everything the Squirt lube touched. Dust means accelerated wear. It wouldn't be terrible, as Squirt didn't seem to "gunk-up" like other wax based lubricants have that have gone through the Lube-Off in the past. Squirt is BY FAR the best wax based lubricant with the LEAST amount of fuss to apply it. It is biodegradable. It uses water as a lubricant carrier. So, there is a lot here to like. But the other lubes did not coat the drive train bits in a fine dust, so while it isn't a major deal, it knocks this choice down a notch for me.

"Better" - Muc-Off C3 Ceramic Dry Lube:

Now here is where it got tough. The Muc-Off C3 Ceramic Dry Lube was fantastic and really gave DuMonde Tech a run for its money here.

After six hours the Muc-Off lube was still rockin' and it had a ton of life left in it. The "Touch Test" revealed a nice, slippery feel and the chain looked pretty good after a six hour stint that even included some wet mud and water spray. The lube actually hung on pretty well, despite that more severe test, and it shows me that a little abuse is okay with Muc-Off. That's a great trait. I was thinking Muc-Off might actually topple DuMonde Tech off the pinnacle of lube dominance here at Guitar Ted Productions. But for one minor nit- it would have. 

Muc-Off C3 Ceramic Dry Lube had just a hint of gunky build up. DuMonde Tech- if used properly and applied correctly- doesn't do this. Again. I could take Muc-Off C3 and live happily ever after. I recommend it as a good lube for gravel, but DuMonde Tech is jussssst a little bit better....... 

And The Winner: DuMonde Tech:

Yep. Use this stuff correctly and you will have a chain and cassette that simply sparkles throughout miles and miles of gravel travel with zero gunky build up and you should experience a long chain life. But you HAVE to apply it according to label instructions. If you do not- it sucks, plain and simple. The magic here is in the preparation. And actually- that is true with all lubes. Most folks do not take the time necessary to "do things right" and there is no "easy button" when it comes to exposed chain and gear derailleur drive trains. You simply must do due diligence or your results will suffer.  

That said, IF you do use DuMonde Tech correctly, it is one of the easiest lubes to "live with". As shown by this run of the "Lube-Off", chain maintenance is minimized with this lube, whereas lubes like Squirt are actually pretty high maintenance. Also, DuMonde Tech runs really clean, and is a bit cleaner than the Muc-Off C3, but not by much. Again- I'll continue to use the Muc-Off product going forward as well. I want to see a longer term use of the lube, like I have seen with this DuMonde Tech, and then compare results.

Thanks for checking out this edition of the "Guitar Ted Lube-Off". Please note that I was not paid, nor bribed for this review of these three lubricants. I always strive to give my honest thoughts and opinions throughout. My results may not reflect others experiences and any results I have shown are simply my own and may not necessarily mean anyone else will experience these products similarly.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Brown Season: Mud And Wind

Appearances Can Be Deceiving File #238: Looks nice- Reality = Miserable.
I probably should have taken the day to do some lighter effort and recovered from the big weekend I had. Or maybe it was just that the Northwest wind was actually stronger than reported. But then again- maybe it was that it rained most of Sunday afternoon and Sunday night, which soaked the gravel and made it soft.

Or maybe it was all of those things together which conspired to make going North on Monday a real chore. Whatever it was, all I know is that I was slogging out a slow, methodical cadence and realizing the blazing speed of 8+ mph. Simply eye-watering. The wind that is, not the speed I was going.......

I had a little extra time to put on the Black Mountain Cycles MCD for good measure to get the "Lube-Off" test completed. (Results and Commentary tomorrow) I was hoping that the wind would have dried up the gravel by the time I went out, but to no avail. It wasn't dry out there. In fact, there was standing water and much of the gravel was mud or saturated with water to the point where the tires made that distinct sound of rubber squeegeeing out the moisture as the wheels pressed into the roadway.

Some of the last cornfields to be harvested. Note the darkened gravel indicating a saturated road surface.
At least it looked somewhat cheery out, with faded "blue jean blue" skies and big white, puffy clouds hurrying overhead. The Sun cast shadows, now with a low-angled light indicative of late Fall/Early Winter. This time of year, everything just looks odd, and more dramatic, due to the light angle.

Machines stopped mid-harvest awaiting the fields to become dry again.
A big tractor sits alone in the midst of an enormous harvested soybean field. Again- Note the muddied gravel here.
I toughed it out going North as long as I could, but beating myself down after already being worn thin on the weekend wasn't probably ideal for my health. So, I eventually turned East and South, which obviously was much easier and faster going. 20+ mph? I'll take that. Yes!

Harvested fields expose this wood framed home as being quite isolated. 
The roads weren't quite so gravelly for the back 3/4's of my loop, and with the wind at my back- mostly- it was a far easier ride. But the roads are slowly finding their way to what I call "Winter Mode"- Less gravel, more dirt, and really smooth. Good days of weather mean fast, smooth sailing, but I never know when- or if- I will be able to take it all in on a gravel bike.

The forecast looks pretty bleak, with an Arctic blast aimed at us and high temperatures in the 20's. Any wind with that and you are talking near zero wind chill. Too cold for gravel travel. I may be fat biking most of next week. After that, who knows.........