Saturday, March 28, 2020

An Interesting, Low Key Summer In Store?

Not Memorial Day weekend? Not this year!
Let's see..... No Summer Olympics, The Tour looks like it may be run with no spectators, if they run it at all, and the Indy 500 postponed their traditional Memorial Day event to August.

Y'all know why, I won't drag you through that again....

Add in many gravel events and other cycling events to that list. The Prairie Burn 100, which is run the first weekend of June- cancelled for 2020, The Heywood Ride, postponed, and others are either postponed, or leaning that way.

Even the venerable Dirty Kanza said they will make it official one way or the other on May 1st. You have to wonder, with this thing still ramping up and it is almost April, it is hard to imagine we'll be getting any "all-clear" signals by the end of May, but who knows?

Whatever happens, it is going to be a very interesting, (or boring, depending upon your point of view), Summer in the gravel world. I saw a discussion on Facebook, on one gravel oriented page, with many voicing the opinion that this catastrophe is going to knock the corporate element out of the gravel scene. There was talk about how there would be a return to individual rides and non-competitive adventuring.

Well, not to be a wet rag, but as the kids say, "no duh!" See, many events are cancelled and/or postponed for the Spring and maybe most of the Summer. Getting into groups is frowned upon, and possibly deadly. So, yeah....of course that line of thinking is correct, for now. 

But when this whole thing is over, and it will be, we don't know exactly what will happen. I'm betting people will be itching to do something like the Dirty Kanza, or Prairie Burn, or The Heywood. They will be buying stuff again, fixing stuff again, and going out in droves in groups again because they will be allowed to. That will bring the situation right back to where we are today. Too many people remember how it was and will want it back that way again.

Or maybe something more radical will occur. Again- I don't know. But anyone who is thinking that this pandemic is going to "fix the gravel scene" is not thinking straight. Disrupting it? Sure. Absolutely. But once this passes, then what? I'm not so sure that things won't be very similar to how they were. At least in terms of the gravel riding community. In the meantime, it looks like we are in for a very strange, interesting Summer.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Friday News And Views

The contenders for the latest round in the Lube-Off.
Guitar Ted Lube-Off Update: 

So far I have ridden on all three of the bikes which are sporting the newest contenders in the latest round of the Lube-Off. It's still early in the going, (all lubes have just over an hour or so of time on them), but I see some early trends developing here.

As I have already reported, the aMTBer Smoothe Lube is not a lube for wet gravel travel. But the other two claim wet weather capabilities. So I didn't hold back and used my somewhat muddy, wet commute route as a test track. So far the results are what I expect from a lube that is made for 'wet conditions' use. That being they are 'messy', and they don't leave your chain dry-ish and 'clean' like the aMTBer lube does. But again- different horses for different courses here.

My new boss, Andy, actually had a great suggestion. Try the C3 ceramic Wet Lube from Muc-Off. So, after I get through with one of these others (six hours of ride time) I will strip off that lube and get the C3 Wet Lube into this test as well. hopefully we don't get all dried out and go to Summer-like conditions in the meantime. But in any case, look for another contender here and I will drop all the details on the C3 Ceramic Wet Lube as soon as I put that lube into the rotation.

C.O.G.100 Solo Ride Challenge:

Sheesh! As if things couldn't get any worse..... Many states have instituted "Stay At Home" orders and all non-essential travel is discouraged in those places. So, this weekend we were hoping to have folks go out for solo C.O.G. rides. But now that may seem to be a bad idea for some folks. For some of you- it may be okay. 

I cannot enforce decisions made by individuals out there, but in light of our current situations, I am going to propose we put this off as well. If you end up doing the challenge, so be it. Again- I cannot stop you. But 'unofficially-officially' I am postponing this until all-clear orders are given and restrictions are lifted everywhere.

Once that happens I'll post a date and we can do this thing right.

On another C.O.G.100 related note: N.Y.Roll has started mailing out t-shirts. You should start seeing these in your mailboxes and on doorsteps soon. I know they have all been sent so they should be in your hands within the next several days, and if not, let us know. Thanks for all your patience in this matter! 

 "Power Assisted Running": Wait- This Sounds Familiar!

Like many of you, I have a lot of extra time on my hands now days. I was cruising the innergoogles and found an interesting tech article explaining "power assisted running" The concept is in its development stages, and not of a lot of detail about how this works is being given, but the benefit claims are, well........very familiar sounding. 

The system is said to "reduce the energy costs of running" and they claim it will allow runners to run further with less effort than traditional runners. (Question: Do we call traditional running "acoustic running" now?) Benefits such as 'last mile commuting' and allowing less fit runners to run with their more fit friends are also listed here.  

I'm sure these developers have pulled a few pages from the HPC/motorized bicycle playbook. That would explain a lot of the claims here. Whether or not we see exoskeleton equipped people zipping up sidewalks in the future or not remains to be seen. One thing I think of that we do not see discussed much is how the prices of these sorts of motorized contraptions are marking a distinct line between economic classes. And to think of it another way, what if everybody were using these sorts of devices? Wouldn't we pretty much end up where we are at now, only with a lot more complications, danger, and a shift from one set of economic issues to another? Kind of like when society went from horses to automobiles? I don't know, but something about this motorized stuff strikes me as "less a benefit", and not so much as a positive to humankind.

But then again, like I say, maybe I'm thinking too much......

Stay safe out there folks! Stay home if you are advised to, and hopefully we all will stay healthy too.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

A Review Of An Old Friend

The ol' Fargo Gen I keeps pluggin along......
The Lube-Off is well underway now here and in the test is a lube I'm using on the old Gen I Fargo. This bike seems to have been done up in many configurations, so I decided I'd search the archives here and see if that was true, or if I was just thinking it had been so.

Well, as it turns out, the Fargo Gen I has been mostly in this current configuration since about 2014. Whoa! I would not have guessed that! I suppose I should have paid more attention to the signs.

One of those was when my Velocity Bottle Trap on the fork broke at Gravel Worlds last year. I mean, after almost six years, should I have been surprised? Then I started thinking here as I researched this post, "I wonder how long some of these other components have been on the Fargo?" As it turns out, they have been on there quite a long time! No wonder my red anodized Retroshift, (now Gevenalle) perches have faded to a nice, soft pink color!

The crank set had a "wobbly" middle ring last year and I thought I had "bent it back in" to being mostly straight, but the other day I looked and it was worse than ever. So, hmm.......maybe it isn't bent? It was loose chain ring bolts! I tightened them up and now that ring is as straight as an arrow. Again- no surprise after six years. Wow! Six years of abuses. I mean real bad stuff, because this bike has been through the wringer. I've had countless muddy encounters, days full of dust, and miles and miles of riding. Funny the drive train still functions.

Then there is that Luxy Bar. It has been pounded for six years going..... Probably high time I removed it and retired it to the wall of old parts in the Lab. We used to be strictly warned back in the '90's to switch out aluminum MTB bars every two years or sooner. I know some folks run old road aluminum bars forever, but these bars are getting on in age. And there are great choices I can use now to replace them with that I actually have sitting around here. In fact, some older Cowchippers I have that are newer and less abused may be going on to replace the old Luxy.

I just replaced the stem with a Redshift Sports Shockstop stem I've had around. So that's a good thing since that old Origin 8 stem was also getting on in years. I've got a newer Salsa Ti Regulator, so the seat post is fine for now. Wheels? They've been changed out several times. That said, the set I am running now is getting pretty old and I had better start thinking about new ones. Tires are fine, but I'll probably be switching those out soon too.

The last thing I've been holding out on is the upgrade on the drive train. This bike is still stuck in the 9 speed world. Could be worse. I may not change that. But look for a refresh on this old rig to be happening soon. Once I'm done, it'll be off for more adventures!

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Who Said You Have To Look Like "That"?

Typical cyclists look for Spring
Working downtown now I get a great view up a street where a lot of local cyclists access the bike path. One thing that struck me is that while most of these folks are only out for a spin, they almost all look like they are geared up to do Trans Iowa or something.

Frankly, I have to say that I find it rather odd. But then again- I am a weirdo. 

First of all, I wear shorts when I commute anytime it gets near 40°F or above. Not cycling shorts either. Pffft! Why would I do that? I'm just riding a few miles to work, ya know? It isn't like it is a race, or some epic ride. So my shorts are Dickies. Oh! And when it gets colder? Dickies 874 cotton twill pants. Dickies 874's are the best, under-the-radar commuter pants ever. And Dickies makes a similar model in a short, but I typically go for the longer cut leg models for my shorts.

Up top I'll wear a t-shirt, and if it is colder, a long sleeved wool jersey and a windbreaker over all of that. Now that it is warmer I wear a synthetic blend hoodie that seems to keep the wind out pretty well. It is emblazoned with a local dairy's logo. I'm fine with that. The less I look like a cyclist the better, when commuting or cycling for recreation.

Plus, wearing this sort of garb is just easier. It's what I am wearing anyway. No need to switch into "cycling kit". What a hassle! Just give me my helmet and a pair of gloves, (maybe), and I am off. Now I have some new kicks in the house that make me look even less like a cyclist and they are clipless compatible. They are from the DZR Shoes company.

DZR S240 shoes and Dickies 874 cotton twill pants.
 They look like work boots crossed with a skate shoe. DZR call them the S240, which is code for "Sub 24 Overnighter". I just say they look like 'regular shoes' and I can mount a clip to them and ride any bike I have. flat pedals, clipless, and walk afterward with no issues. No one would ever guess they are "cycling shoes". (Note: These were review shoes for Riding DZR sent them for teat and review at no charge)

The net effect of all this 'undercover' cycling garb is that I don't seem to get the angst and trouble from car and truck drivers that I do when I am "kitted up". Ya know? There is some strange psychology going on there with that. Anyway. It works.

And who ever said we all need to get all in a costume to ride in the first place? I never dressed special to ride a bike when I was a kid right up until I started mountain biking in my late 20's. I guess I bought in to the "ya gotta wear this and this" to ride a bicycle. Now, hey! I get it. Sometimes 'real bike clothes' are what you should be riding in. But wearing this costume for every ride thing? Not so much. News flash; You can ride in blue jeans and t-shirts. 

 I know, amazing isn't it?

But back to the get ups I'm seeing people ride in now. I suppose many are just getting out after a long winter off the bike and, well.......just trying to escape the madness for a bit. But face masks and full tights with booties when it is well above freezing? Maybe I'm acclimated from being out all Winter on a bike, or......maybe my brain is frozen. 

Like I said, I'm a weirdo. Don't mind me........

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Solo C.O.G 100 Riding Challenge

My single speed set up on the BMC "Orange Crush" #49
Well, this coming weekend was supposed to have been the C.O.G.100 race weekend. Obviously that won't be happening! So instead, when we postponed the event till next year, we came up with an idea. We shared that already, but this is just a reminder for those that still can be allowed out and about on bicycles.

We are suggesting that you go do a long, preferably single speed, gravel bike ride in lieu of doing the C.O.G. 100. If you can, and we realize that some restrictions on movements exist in certain parts of the world and at home here. But for those of you that still are allowed outside on bicycles, here are the ground rules:

  • Social Distancing must be practiced! No group riding!
  • Ride as little or as far as you want. No distance requirements. 
  • Get a shot of at least your bike on a gravel road. If you can take a safe selfie, or put your camera in auto timer mode, get in the picture!
  • Ride date: Saturday March 28th. Anytime Saturday you want is fine.
  • Tag your picture and post to social media with the hashtag #cog100. 
  • OR- Send you images to
That's it! On Wednesday next week I will strive to post a page of whatever images we can get on the C.O.G.100 site and here. Hopefully we get some, but if it ends up being just me, so be it. This is not a contest, there are no "winners", and nothing will be given away. The hope is that by sharing our images we can maybe bring a little bit of community and fun to our situation here.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Country Views: Hints Of Spring

Hints of green are out there if you look for them.
Saturday I had waited for the temperatures to get into the upper 30's, then I donned my biking gear, and then I left for Prairie Grove Park. It was a mostly overcast day, a cool Southeast breeze was in the air, and I needed to clear my head. Too much stress with all this other stuff going on regarding the virus, social distancing, and with everything shut down.

I took the Noble GX5 which I had set up again with the latest Lube-Off contender. That and I had a Specialized C-GR post installed for research regarding my seat post shoot-out which will be forthcoming. Otherwise the point was just to get out and get away.

I noted several people out and about either walking (most of them) or running, (more than a few). At least people are getting exercise during this weird time in history. Everybody looked to be doing their part, doing their activities solo. Once I got to the parking lot of the park I took off for my usual loop of about an hour and a half length. Normally it takes that long. I wasn't sure how I would roll, and there was that wind I mentioned, which I would be headed straight into right away. Fortunately the roads were about as good as they ever get.

The frost is all out now, and the roads weathered the Winter very well. I saw one mud hole, and most of the roads were two-tracked in with super fast, smooth dirt with the gravel pushed off to the side. I did come across a couple of places where the gravel was all the way across, but it is easy to see that the County hasn't been out with the dump trucks and graders yet. I imagine that will happen soon unless this weirdness we are all experiencing affects gravel in some way.

Fast roads out there. Get 'em while ya can. The maintainers will be out soon, I think. 
Time for a snack and to just let this all soak in.
I managed to slog it out South till I got to Quarry Road and heading West was a nice respite. I then went with the wind, sort of, until I reached Aker Road and there I decided to take a few moments, eat some jerky I had, and just "be". Nothing like some head-clearing time for these days. The little creek I was sat over on the bridge was gurgling and there was a grove full of little song birds not far off that were chirping away in the background. It was nice just to forget about everything for a few minutes......

But then I decided I was getting a bit chilled and that I should move on. So, back at it and back North again. It didn't take long with the increasing wind, which I felt was switching around to the South, to get back to my truck and the ride was all over.

Like I said...... These roads don't get any better than this.
Rye grass, used as a cover crop, gives a lift of color to the mostly brown landscape here.
I'm guessing I'll be getting in several of these types of rides in for the foreseeable future. Solo swings with all the gear I need to survive out there. Not much new to me, as I almost always travel that way, but if you find yourself getting out on "social distancing rides", please consider all the self-support stuff you'll need so you don't have to burden anyone else because you were without means to extract yourself from the area you are riding in.

Here we cyclists are still welcome, but as anxiety and fear grip many parts of the rural areas of this nation, we are going to find pockets where we are not welcome. Ignorance of facts, and fear of the unknown will make people hostile toward "outsiders", and this is already happening in several areas. Most notably out West in Colorado and Utah. I happen to know of some touring cyclists who have noted the turn in attitude toward wandering adventurers.

Stay vigilant my friends.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Trans Iowa Stories: Help Unlooked For

A section of Level B reconned by David in 2009 for T.I.v6 which led to CP#3
 "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!

The end of Trans Iowa v6 was one of those deals where things were so stressful, crazy, then relieving and almost fun, that I cannot do it justice with words. It was singularly unique, and those few that were involved in it experienced something really special. The experience for me was so twisted and such a roller coaster of emotions that I was kind of on cruise mode by the end of it all. It was just that overwhelming for me on a personal level.

Things obviously got started off with my high expectations and then were slammed into a valley of darkness with the early morning severe weather worries. Then dealing with a pushy, surly spectator/support person added to my stress levels going into an afternoon of tense driving on roads that, frankly, were barely passable in David's Honda Element 4X4. Follow that with the stress of the fight to reroute the course so as to take out Level B Roads which would make getting to Checkpoint #3 on time impossible, and it was a recipe for emotional shutdown.

First of all, I do not mean to make light of anyone else's experiences out there. Obviously, stress levels were high for many T.I.v6 participants. Take Matt Wills, for instance, who commented on my blog afterward on one of the T.I.v6 recap posts: "soaking wet in a ditch, hiding from the lightning about 15miles from CP2." These are the kinds of things that keep event directors up at night, in case you ever wondered what putting on an event was like. I remember reading that and it was like a punch to the gut. I responded," @mw: Sorry you got caught out. We didn't see that lightning, but we were north of you at that point." To which Matt responded,"oh it's nothing to be sorry for or anything i regret. i wonder if i would have been with someone that i could have motivated myself thru the part of the course i was stuck in the lightning on.

TI is a monster and i'm ok that it's not always possible to complete for me or anyone."

That last line! Pulled me right back, but I have to say that Trans Iowa attracted some of the best, most stand up characters I've had the privilege of knowing. People like that and more are why the gravel scene grew to what it is now. The scene is standing on the backs of all these great folks. Because I'm telling you, if more of the riders were like the surly spectator I had to deal with, I would have quit doing the T.I. thing long before I did.  

I visited the never-used CP#3 location for T.I.v6 last Summer
Back to the story at hand- The post checkpoint #2 part of the event was marked by David and I being stressed out and in a huge hurry to find re-routes that worked, and then mark them with flags, before any riders showed up. This was, in the end, a fools errand, but at the time we were busting our butts trying to work as hard as we could.

That's an important point, because we had a LOT of rerouting ahead of us plus the fact that we knew that checkpoint #3 was impossible to reach due to three sections of some of the gnarliest Level B Roads in Tama County. They are hard to pass when conditions are perfect, as I found out last Summer, but given the unholy nature of the gravel roads we were driving on, we knew there was absolutely no passage on those steep rollers of pure clay morass.

To be honest, I'm not even sure we had contemplated fully what getting to CP#3 would entail, but in the end, it didn't matter. I recall when we were headed North and crossed I-80 on a gravel overpass, that shortly after that it started raining so hard that we could no longer see to drive! Now about this time it was getting pretty dark as well, as the Sun was low in the horizon and shrouded from view by the thick cloud cover. It basically was night time. I knew David was stressing hard, the vibe was so thick with it, and I turned and asked him if he really wanted to continue to drive through this madness. His answer came without hesitation. No. He was done.

So, I called the event with David's blessings right then and there. Checkpoint #2 had already closed, so there was no "catching" anyone there. We decided to backtrack the course once the squall we had been stopped by moved on. We headed back the way we came slowly and methodically. Suddenly I got a text from Joe Meiser asking what the status of the event was. He and John Gorilla were holed up at an ice cream shop/cafe' called the "EV Malt Shoppe" in North English, the next town out from CP#2. This would have been approximately 25 miles down from CP#2 on the T.I.v6 course. I found out that it took 2.5 hours for Gorilla and Meiser to cover that distance.

By the way, I didn't even get a chance to answer his text before he called me to repeat the same question. Meiser knew by the math that T.I.v6 was officially over. No one was going to make CP#3 on time. He wanted to know where the impromptu finish line might be, and his call was to get that info ASAP so he and Gorilla could guarantee a 1-2 finish, if I was going to do what I did in T.I.v4. Gorilla would have known this, since he won that truncated event.

The phone conversation was comical. We were both being extremely cagey with each other so as not to show our hand. In the end, I asked that he and Gorilla look out for the remaining six riders we knew about coming through there. We were ending the event right at that place they were holed up in. Meanwhile, the rain was pounding and David and I were carefully driving back to North English, now on pavement wherever possible since we knew that we weren't going to see any riders now.

What happened then at the EV Malt Shoppe is something I'll never forget. The goodness of people. Empathy. Caring. Love for fellow humans. These are the deals that give one hope, a reason to carry on. It's when we are at our very best. No politics, no grandstanding, just goodness. Pure goodness.

Matt Braun, (L) and David Pals with an unidentified rider cleaning up in the background at the EV Malt Shoppe in North English, Iowa. 
When we arrived, David and I, at the EV Malt Shoppe, Meiser and Gorilla got up and motioned that we probably had better set up operations at the convenience store down the street because the Malt Shoppe was closing at 8:00pm, which was minutes away. The owner of the shop, who had overheard this conversation, then came up and interrupted. He was having none of that. He and his employees were willing to stay as long as it took to get the six riders in and accounted for. Not only that, but his waitress and cook stayed on and opened the kitchen back up. Hot chocolates and french fries soon hit the tables and wet, cold riders we were pulling in off the course were warming their hands on the hot cups and gratefully gulping down the grub.

Not only that, but my CP#3 volunteers, and some T.I. support folks all swept in to the Malt Shoppe and we ended up with more than enough folks and vehicles to get all home safely. The owner of the shop even allowed the muddy riders to hose themselves and their bikes off with a garden hose out the side door of the place.

Clockwise from the left: Jay Petervary, Traci Petervary, Matt Braun, Charles Parsons, Joe Meiser (seated).
By 9:45 pm all was wrapped up. It was over. We dodged another bullet, but now we had to get back to Grinnell and to the Barn to see who would show up at our now, unneeded finish line. Ironically, it would take until Trans Iowa v9 before anyone would actually finish at The Barn, and then we only got to do that for T.I. v9 and v10 before weather and other life changes caused The Barn to fall off the radar of T.I. history.

I'll never forget seeing that barn from the hill on the west side overlooking the valley where it sat. I walked in a driving, cold, sideways rain with David to join the few hardy folks that actually showed up at The Barn to hear the tales of the day. It seemed like a big failure to me at that time, Trans Iowa v6. All this grand planning and sponsorship, and all the hoopla surrounding our first time in Grinnell. All washed away by a wicked storm. I felt really low walking up to that barn, like I didn't belong in this game.

Then we came out of the weather, the lights were bright, people hailed us, we were congratulated. Riders were cleaned up and in high spirits. We asked if we could make anything better, and all we got were compliments on how we were already doing things. One suggestion, by John Gorilla, was to make accommodation for folks who had actually finished the thing to get in again. Otherwise we heard no complaining at all.

I've said it before, but the reason I kept doing Trans Iowa was because of the people involved, and that night sealed the deal for another running of Trans Iowa again. But sometimes people let you down, it is true, and sometimes I let others down, which is very true as well. Sometimes you dodge a bullet, sometimes you get hit and wounded. All of this would come into play for the next Trans Iowa, which in my view is the most pivotal Trans Iowa event of all fourteen.

Next: It's The People