Friday, September 20, 2019

Friday News And Views

Rain- Lots of it. (Radar image from Thursday morning)
Rain Seeks To Dampen Spirits:

We went a long time in July and most of August without any rain to speak of. The creeks were nearly depleted, and some small ones actually were dried up. The state climatologist was talking about drought conditions just two weeks ago. Now? Ha!

There is a flash flood warning and the rivers are closing in on flood stages again. Feast or famine, it would seem. But the main thing from my perspective is that this raining constantly nonsense is getting on my nerves. I don't like it when I have to drive to work. I don't like it when I have to modify my rides to keep myself from becoming a potential lightning rod.

Today and tomorrow are looking like "more of the same" in terms of thunderstorms, but the good news is that looking ahead it appears that some cooler, drier weather is on tap. Farmers, cyclists, and the general population here will, no doubt, be rejoicing. Well.....maybe the cyclo cross racers will be digging the rain. Hard to say. Otherwise, I am looking forward to some actual Fall weather riding conditions here. Some of my favorite times to ride are in the season of Fall and typically that doesn't last too long.

Cranking up the G-Ted Lube-Off challenge again. These are the contenders.
Guitar Ted "Lube-Off" Challenge Cranks Up Again:

It's been quite some time since I have had a "Lube-Off Challenge" on the blog, but this is going to happen again this Fall here.

"What is a "Lube-Off"", you say? Well, it is where I pit one bicycle chain lube against another and ride them on gravel (mostly) to determine whether they are worth using, actually do the job the lube claims, and ultimately, if I might recommend it. A couple new challengers are in the house currently to see if they measure up, and to see whether either can knock off long time champeen, DuMonde Tech.

To start out here, I have two versions of Muc-Off's C3 Ceramic Chain Lube. A "wet" version and a "dry" version. I'll be starting out with the "dry" version, although, judging from the first subject in today's FN&V, maybe it should be the "wet" lube! Ha! No.......I'll eventually get to the "wet" version when conditions are more favorable for that. Maybe when Winter hits? We'll see.....

The other contender here is Squirt Lube, the wax based chain lube in the water based carrier. I have several sample bottles I need to blow through anyway, so I am throwing this massively popular chain lube into the mix for the Lube-Off as well.

Stay tuned for periodic updates on how this Lube-Off is progressing.

NOTE: Muc-Off sent their lubes to for test and review, while Squirt was obtained as a schwag bag items at various versions of Gravel Worlds. I am not being paid, nor bribed to conduct the Lube-Off and any thoughts or opinions are my own. 

The C.O.G. Masters Are Watching You!
C.O.G. 100 Reactions:

Since the C.O.G. 100 announcements earlier this week, (OH! Did you miss THIS? ) , we've heard some folks are saying that they are excited about the second coming of single speed only style gravel grindin'. We're glad that you are excited about the event, although we sometimes worry about your life choices regarding the eschewing of dangly bits. But as long as you are willing to accept the consequences of creaky knees in your elder years, we cannot really say anything other than hurrah! We're happy to see that you are excited about our nutty ideas.

Now that we're all in, N.Y. Roll and I are talking about recon of the new course. Oh......yes! There will be a new course with new hills and challenges. There will be the "token Level B Road", and there will be good times. Maybe we will even cook up something special for this year's event. You never know what will come of our "think tank" sessions. Anyway, recon. Getting back to that now......

N.Y. Roll and I are talking about doing this on our bicycles. Why not? We love riding as much as anybody. Heck, I may even pull out one of my single speed devices to ride this new course on. It will make for good research and we will have a really good idea of what the route will have in store for the C.O.G. 100 posse when it is unleashed upon the gravel come March 28th, 2020. So, tentatively we are looking at doing this in October. Hopefully that works out, since N.Y. Roll is supposedly going out to ride unPaved of the Susquehanna River Valley. I was supposed to be going to that as well, but a situation has arisen which is going to keep me at home. Nothing alarming, but something I need to be around for. Anyway..... I apologize for being cagey on that point. All in due time. Anyway....

Thanks for all the support for our C.O.G. 100 event. N.Y. Roll and I are super stoked and will be coming out with details on the event soon.

That's all for this week! get out and ride those bicycles!

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Unlooked For Adventure

Wednesday I wanted to go for a single speed ride in the country, but I noted that a pretty solid line of thunderstorms was moving through the state. The air was ripe with humidity, and you could tell it was going to rain in the way that the air felt. It was too iffy for me to go out and dodge potential lightning strikes. So, I waffled around and finally pulled out the Fargo Gen I as it needed to have those MSO tires ridden in some more to get the tubeless set up right.

So, I pumped up the tires, got into some riding clothes, threw on those snazzy new RX-8 Shimano gravel shoes, and headed out the door from the house to......

Yeah, where was I going? I had nothing I really was excited about, but I figured I hadn't been to George Wyth State Park for a while, so I headed over in that general direction. Along the way I hit up some good alleys. Around these parts, alleyways are everywhere and probably 98% of them are gravel. I used a bunch of these pieced together to get over to the network of bike paths, over the Cedar River, and into George Wyth. This park has been a mountain biking area for close to 30 years now. I've been around for most of that. It's a very familiar area to me.

Sure, the trails have changed, new ones added, old ones are gone, but Geo Wyth is still that twisty, mostly flat, river bottom single track that it has always been. I see now they have actually posted the names on the trails. Novel idea, that. I dove into one and went for a fair piece until I ran into lots of dead fall. We had pretty harsh winds out here last week and the leavings from the trees are still laying on the trails there, in some places to much too ride through. I cleared a little bit off, then headed in the general direction of the paved path. The thought here wasn't that I wanted to do single track. So, a little reminder was all it took to tell me I had enough of that, and now it was time to find something else to capture the mind.

That turned out to be the Canfield Access road which used to be private, but now is part of the park. It was muddy, ridden with big stretches of water, and......more of an adventure than trying to dodge a million dead branches on single track. I took this out to the boat access and then the Park road to the bike path. Then I headed back home. Along the way I actually learned a thing or two I can write about concerning the Shimano gravel shoes. Bonus. Then it was more alley ways, and eventually back home.

Bike rides are good for the soul, even if you don't know where you are going. Oh, and less than an hour after I got back it started raining. Good timing!

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

C.O.G. 100 Update

Hey all you single speed nut jobs out there. Listen up, because N.Y. Roll and I have some news concerning the C.O.G. 100 Iowa Single Speed Gravel Road Championship.

They say "single speed is dead", "gravel has jumped the shark", and riding in the Mid-West is dumb, but ya know what? We don't care what they say. We're doing this again, and that's that. Y'all can come along for the good times or just sit there and be a typical keyboard warrior. What'evs. If you are in on this deal, read on. If not, move on......

Back in May, when we announced that this would, in fact, happen again, we posted this poasty-post. In that screed we asked y'all for ideas on what you thought about some prompts we floated out there. The ideas that got the most energy and the ones we liked are the following. First- There will be some sort of nod to the Military Veteran folk. One idea was that people could sponsor a Vet, have their name on the number plate, and that we'd do something with donation money that would support veterans in some way. (Big idea, may be too complicated, but it is interesting) The other thought was that we'd give those in the Military or Veterans of Military service some sort of discount. The first idea makes everyone pay the same and those who want to put in a little bit more would get their money donated and the name on the number plate, etc. The second idea is just cut and dry. Easy-peasy. Maybe we'll do both. Dunno right now.

The second idea was for a shorter distance for "fun". Y'know.....type 2 fun, single-speedy fun, early Spring in Iowa fun? Yeah........that kind of "fun". Anywho..... I'm thinking we offer one distance and that it be in the 25-30 mile range. Whatever I can cook up that makes sense for a course, but something in that range. We'd be expecting that to take folks somewhere around 4 hours maximum, so that "event", (ride?), could be over by 12:00. I think starting everyone at the same time, or close to it, would make for a cool experience, so we will consider all that as we detail things out. But at any rate, this will be a part of C.O.G the 2nd.

Okay, what we do know, and this all is set in stone, are the following bullet points for the next C.O.G. 100:

  • Single Speed bicycles only.
  • Self-supported
  • Self-navigated by cue sheet.
  • New Course out of Grinnell  
  • Event date of March 28th, 2020
We will be having a Friday evening get together/registration sign in at Peace Tree again, plus suggesting we all get there afterward on Saturday. Start time will likely be 8:00am again, and this course might be longer than 100 miles, but it will not be as long as last Spring's was. I'll try to get it down to close to a hundy, but things are not as cut and dry in terms of roads as some of you OCD folks would maybe like it to be. Bottom line: It will be what it is. There will be one opportunity for resupply only at a convenience store somewhere on the route. Do not request that it come at "such and such" mile. It will be where it is. You will need to carry what you need. Be Prepared. You Are Responsible For You! We will announce it all- fine details, course description and more- before registration.

Speaking of registration, we will also be working on the details of that and make a further announcement later into the Fall.

Finally- This will be a hard event. Many will not finish it. Maybe no one will. And we are alright with that. Don't plan on coming if that rubs ya the wrong way.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Servicing The Can-O-Gears

The Rohloff Hub Oil Service Kit
Most of you out there probably do not own now, or have ever owned in the past, a Rohloff 14 speed "Speed Hub". Since I have one and had to service it, I thought I'd share the process. This "can-o-gears" is pretty low maintenance, but what maintenance is required is super important.

If you can imagine all the gears, pawls, bearings, bushings, and other moving bits that having 14 internal gears requires, then it doesn't take long to realize that proper lubrication is paramount to the survival of the hub. And at around $1800,00 a pop, this is something you don't just put off. Maintenance is required and doing it makes the hub last a good long time. I don't want to find out what happens if you skip maintaining this hub.

I knew this maintenance was in my future, so I looked up what the servicing interval was, and what the suggestions for maintenance were, from the Rohloff site. Turns out that they recommend servicing the hub once a year, or at least at every 5,000Km intervals. Okay, I had no idea if this maintenance had ever been done, much less the last time it may have happened with my hub. So, I made the call to go ahead and do it now, before Winter comes, and just plan on taking this schedule Rohloff suggests into the future from this point on.

Since this was my first rodeo with servicing the Speedhub, I ordered the Speedhub Oil Change Kit. Then I watched the video on Rohloff's site which shows the procedure. It's fairly simple, but I will document it here. the Oil Change Kit comes with a cleaning oil, regular Rohloff Speedhub oil, a syringe, and a new drain plug. Instructions also come with the kit.

Removing the old drain plug with a 3mm Allen key.
First, you assemble the syringe and draw up the contents of the Cleaning oil. Then you remove the 3mm drain plug and set that aside.

The end of the hose for the syringe already has a thread-able end which connects to the Speedhub.
Then you thread in the end of the syringe hose to the Speedhub and push the plunger steadily and gently as possible, introducing all the Cleaning oil into the hub. Rohloff then recommends that you draw back the plunger to the 25ml mark to relieve the hub of any extra internal pressures. After this, you unscrew the hose, set that aside, and replace the old drain plug, being very careful not to thread it in too far. (See the instructions) Once you have that back in, you pedal the bike, switching back and forth between gears "3" and "5", while alternating in some backward pedaling. This is so that the Cleaning oil gets into all the gearing combinations and parts of the hub. Rohloff suggests doing this for three minutes in a stand, or riding the bike while shifting these combinations for 1K.

Draining the old oil and Cleaning oil from the hub.
Once the cleaning procedure has been done, Rohloff recommends setting the hub so that the drain plug is at a "six o'clock position" (pointing down ward) and letting the hub rest in this position for at least 15 minutes. This allows the oils to drain to the bottom of the hub internally. Then you unscrew that drain plug, screw in the syringe, and draw out the old oil and cleaning oil. You may not get much more than you put in depending upon when the last service was done, or due to "sweating" of the oil through the hub externally by way of seals, etc,  over time. (And yes, Rohloff hubs do this, I can attest to that)

Putting the new oil in.
Then you can turn the hub over 90° so that the drain hole faces up, and then drawing up the new oil into the syringe, screwing the hose end into the hub, and gently introducing the oil into the hub, you can then duplicate the 25ml back-draw of the plunger to relieve excess internal pressures. Put in the new drain plug, and that's it!

You don't have to use the new drain plug, but since it comes with fresh sealing dope, why not?
So, it really isn't too bad of a procedure to undertake, and now that I have the syringe, I can just purchase the oils in the future.

This should get me through the Winter easily and next year I will have to monitor the mileage, but I would imagine that getting slightly over 3,000 miles between now and next September on the Ti Muk 2 will be a big ask. I don't ride it that much! Although, I could if it were my only bicycle. The Ti Muk 2 is that comfortable to ride.

One thing I did note was that I did not see a lot more oil come out than the amount of Cleaning oil I put in. Yikes! Rohloff says that oil will "sweat" out of the hub, and I have noted that you see an oily film which collects dust and dirt on the shifter box at times. I suppose that to keep the hub from having excessive drag that the seals cannot be 100% leak proof. So,by my measure, I was at the minimum for oil in the hub! Good thing I chose to do the maintenance!

I also noted that the hub was much quieter and that it shifted very smoothly after the maintenance was accomplished. So, it's a good thing on many levels to maintain the Speedhub according to recommendations, as far as I can see.

Got any questions? I'm happy to answer them. Hit me up in the comments or send an e-mail to Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 16, 2019

Fall Views: Dramatic Skies

Rain was on the radar, but I bet on it missing me.
Saturday was going to be a hit or miss day on getting a ride in. I had errands to attend to, plus rain was in the forecast. Originally the prognosticators were saying it wouldn't hit until later in the afternoon, but when I checked the weather in the morning, the radar showed a big mass of precipitation headed right for my area.

But, you never know when it comes to weather here. Just as it has in several instances this past Summer and Spring, the big mass of rain fizzled out before it got here. We maybe got a few drops. So, I was good to go with regard to a ride in the afternoon after all.

I managed to get ready and get out the door after 3:00pm. The skies to the Southwest did not look inviting. Hmm.... I also decided to start from a different spot this time. I went to a little village, now a part of Waterloo, called Orange. There I parked in the fancy new school lot and switched to riding gear for my ride. As I went through a back street in Orange, I discovered a small park, Lichty Park, that would be a perfect launching spot for gravel rides South of town. Putting that into my memory banks, I moved on and hit the one mile stretch of chip seal to Ansborough Avenue and headed South on gravel.

Before I left I peeked at the radar on my phone and saw that the darkening skies were due to some thunderstorms moving in a Southeasterly direction near to Orange. I bet that these would not drift Eastward and drag me into their wet clutches. Onward I went....

The dramatic clouds, darkened skies and golden fields made for great contrasts. 
Despite the threatening skies, I never got wet.
The wind was stiff out of the Southwest this particular afternoon. A pretty stout, consistent breeze that made the really chunky gravel just South of town a real chore. Holy Cow! They used some heavier gauge stuff, or laid it on thick, or something because the rattling I got was the worst I have had in some time. Thankfully, once I got South of Petrie Road, it seemed to get a lot better. The gravel, that is, not the wind. 

Barns for Jason
These oddly colored turkeys ran down the road with me for a bit.
The wind made the entire Southward push a big workout, so I knew that coming back was going to feel like I was on cruise control. I chose to come North on Beck Road and there are some hills, but with the wind I felt like a super hero on the bike. That's the pay-off when you are suffering going into the wind, that is, if you plan your route correctly and don't get shifting winds.

Barns for Jason- part 2
I just had to stop and take this image. FYI- This barn has already appeared as a "Barns For Jason", so it can't be used again.
The beginning of the return loop was good with the tailwind, but suddenly the wind laid down and there wasn't a thing stirring. That was okay. It still was far better than a headwind! The clouds looked menacing in the not-to-far-off distance, but they never got close enough to worry me. Later on in the day it did end up raining though, so this "window" of opportunity was good to take.

The super-chunk gravel greeted me back to Waterloo and I ended my ride. It was a good ride, and the colors were fantastic against the darkened skies out there. Trees are juuuussst starting to get showy, so soon Fall colors will be on full display here in the Cedar Valley. More riding will be planned to take advantage of this as well. Stay tuned.....

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Trans Iowa Stories: The Transition Phase

 "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!

Thinking back on what Trans Iowa v3 was about for me has been a discovery process in many ways. To my way of thinking, the event was split into two distinct parts. The first part was where I was still in collaboration with Jeff. There was the friendly banter, the ideas being shared, and a sense of excitement and camaraderie which I found immensely satisfying. Then there was a second part to T.I.v3.

This was the part where I felt like I had been abandoned, left with the responsibilities of finishing an event which I had thought that I would be getting a lot of support from on Jeff's end. Jeff, of course, had a dream of escaping Iowa, going to the mountains, and becoming the mountain biker he had been wanting to be since his childhood. He was young, he had his immediate family here, and besides Trans Iowa, he had nothing holding him back.

So, he found out Ergon was looking to hire a few folks in the U.S. to set up their operations here and expand into the North American market. Jeff was highly recruited. He got flown to Ergon's headquarters in Germany in late '06. He met several of their top officials. More and more it was becoming obvious that Jeff would be the one heading up Ergon's offices in Colorado. So, of course Jeff had to leave everything behind if he was to pursue this dream. I know it was hard for him to just leave his friends, family, and Trans Iowa. But one thing kind of sealed the deal in 2006.

It was Summer, we were busy at the bike shop, and our boss/owner was "on the schedule" to be helping out. We had a ton of repairs to do. Someone walked into the shop, and there was not any sign from the office that our boss was going to budge. This was typical behavior, by the way, and it persists to this day. Anyway, Jeff finally walked around the corner of the shop, glanced at our boss just sitting there not doing anything, and said, "That's it!", in an angered voice and went out to help the customer.

And that was "it". It was the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back. Jeff told me later that was the very moment he cemented into his mind that he would be leaving Iowa. And to be honest, it was the best decision he ever made at the time. He's gone on to realize the life he always dreamed of back then, and the fruits of his labors have been many and great. I was, and still am, very happy for him.

So, I was never bitter about his leaving me all this stuff to see through to its conclusion. I wasn't necessarily happy about it, and I felt really overwhelmed by it all. Two years prior I was simply a mechanic, with zero experience in putting on an event. Now, besides all of Trans Iowa's duties, I was also being recruited into doing reviews online. Jeff actually strongly encouraged this. He was keen on seeing me "get out of there" as much as he was keen on leaving. So, again- I had nothing but respect and happiness for Jeff's situation at the time. He deserved everything he has gotten.

But this was really getting to be a stressful deal, this whole organizational gig, and I didn't like the "stretching" it was causing. Sleepless nights, worry, trying to put out fires while more kept popping up. I had firmly decided that Trans Iowa v3 should be the last one. I'd follow through with what Jeff had started, but I wasn't about to continue onward without him. I felt the spirit of his endurance racing ideals, the influences of his friends and acquaintances who helped us out, they were all due to his presence. The influence of Jeff was what Trans Iowa was and what it needed. Me? Who was I to keep the wheel turning?

Next: Stories of v3

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Minus Ten Review 2009-39

This was the fob for the room key I had in Deer Valley during the Fisher MTB Press Camp
Ten years ago this week I flew to the SLC and went to the Gary Fisher MTB Press camp.

Me......a bike mechanic from Iowa. 

I'd been blogging about 29"ers and other nonsense for just barely over 4 years. before that, no one knew who I was. By this time, yes, I was running Trans Iowa, and I was running the 29"er website called, "Twenty Nine Inches", but really...... I was hanging with other mtb journos, real journalists, and top flight athletes, and luminaries of the MTB world like Gary Fisher. Yeah......does the phrase "a duck out of water" mean anything to you? That's exactly how I felt.

Oh! I had fun alright. How could you not, being wined and dined, treated to your own personal test bikes with your name stickered on the top tube as if you were someone important. I had a mechanic at my disposal, and food and drink? Yeah..... I was well taken care of. My room was more like a flat you'd find in a big European city. Three freakin' rooms! The bathroom was bigger than my current bedroom where I live to this day. It was.....outlandish. 

The whole deal kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I just had such a hard time balancing this opulence and frivolous spending with what I saw going down in the local shop scene. No offense to those who were so gracious to me, but I just could not justify the experience. Am I worth that? Yeah, perhaps, but that isn't the point either. The whole thing seemed over the top and out of sync with the realities of the cycling world as I knew it. Anyway.....

It was the last press camp I ever attended. After that, I deferred to those who were helping me. Grannygear, or CG, or now MG, and I don't know that I'd ever go to another one of those deals. Maybe I would, if the situation was right.

The cycling industry seems a bit bent on sending journos all over the World to far flung places to test new stuff in situations that are beyond the means of most folks, or at least of most bicycle mechanics......or most anybody, really. Is that wrong? Is that okay?

I still have a hard time justifying this all today.