Thursday, April 22, 2021

Thoughts On Eccentric Bottom Brackets For Single Speed

My OS Bikes Blackbuck's split eccentric bottom bracket
Once again, a reader comment/question has spawned a blog post. This time the question was from "Tomcat" and here is his question:

".... how are you liking the eccentric bottom bracket? Has it been mostly "set it and forget it"? More and more I like the EBB for a couple reasons, including: 1. It looks sleek 2. I don't have to worry if the wheel is centered 100% in the sliding dropouts or possibly slipping. I'm constantly paranoid that my wheel is not 100% center in the horizontal dropouts. I don't personally own an EBB nor have I tried one, but I'm liking the prospect of using one more and more." NOTE: Comment edited slightly for clarity.

Tomcat was referring to my eccentric bottom bracket insert on my Twin Six Standard Rando v2, specifically, although I have had experiences with several eccentric bottom bracket types throughout the years. In fact, as I researched this topic on my blog archives, I found bicycles I had forgotten about that used eccentric bottom brackets that I once owned. Let's see.....there was an El Mariachi, an early Raleigh single speed 29"er called the "XXIX", a Soul Cycles Dillinger single speed. There were also a couple of test bikes for the former "Twenty Nine Inches" website which used eccentric bottom brackets. This in addition to a Singular Cycles Gryphon I once owned, my Blackbuck, and of course, the Raleigh tandem I own. 

So, yeah, I have experience with eccentric bottom bracket use in road, mountain, and gravel  applications. Specifically to the Twin Six, I am really liking this Wheels Manufacturing eccentric bottom bracket insert for PF-30 style bottom bracket shells. It has held its tension on the chain and has not creaked at all. 

That's probably the number one complaint about any eccentric bottom bracket. I have certainly seen a few creaking ones come through my repair stand. I do have a few thoughts on why I have not had any troubles, not a lick of creaking, and why maybe some people do have issues.  

First of all, it has to be said that some individuals ride bikes really brutally. They seem to have little smoothness, subtlety, and seem to lack finesse in their riding style. Besides many other detrimental issues this sort of riding style can impart on a bike, eccentric bottom brackets don't get along with people like that much. Keeping in mind that any two assembled parts on a bicycle that shouldn't move actually do, ( a minuscule amount) and brute force, ungainly riding styles, and wrestling with the bike exacerbate that movement. Movement causes noises. Period. So, if you seem to never have had a quiet eccentric bottom bracket, this could be a reason why that is. 

The Standard Rando v2 has a reinforced bottom bracket shell which is a good thing for single speed use.
Okay, so with that out of the way, we can see that an eccentric bottom bracket is not for everyone.  But there are some things one needs to consider after riding style. One is that the eccentric should be a quality piece. The more precise it is in terms of shape, the better. Same goes for your shell in the frame. A warped shell from a welding procedure will result in a poor eccentric fit, more chances for noise, and chances for slippage in worst case scenarios. I've seen over-sized shells as well, so be aware that it might be a bad frame to begin with which is causing the issues. The Twin Six is a good base to start from because it is made well. 

The eccentric I used is from Wheels Manufacturing, a brand that makes high quality parts for bottom brackets. So, I am not sure you could even find a better insert. Maybe you could, but the Wheels one is top notch quality. Grease that thing up and stick it in a high quality frame like a Twin Six Standard Rando and you should have a great experience single speeding. 

Unless you ride like a gorilla, then all bets are off.  (Only sort of kidding there.)

So, to answer the question- Yes. I like it a lot. It is pretty much set it and forget it. 

Got any other questions about this or anything else? Hit me up in the comments or e-mail me at

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

B.O.G. Series: How To Lubricate Your Chain

  Welcome to the Basics of Gravel Series (B.O.G.)! In this series I will attempt to bring a very foundational knowledge of gravel and back road riding to anyone reading that may be curious or a beginner in riding off-pavement, but not wanting to be mountain biking. There will be a new entry every Wednesday until the series is complete. To see the schedule, click this LINK. Thanks! 

In this installment of the B.O.G. Series I am going to show an effective and easy way to lubricate your chain. But first- Chain lubrication can be a religion for many "serious cyclists" and please note- This is for beginners! So if you feel the urge to tell the world about how you do things or about how 'such-and-such' chain lube is best, please don't fill the comments with it. I will warn y'all right now, I'm not going to publish those comments. Helpful hints? That's welcomed as long as you understand, this is for beginners. You'll note the statement in bold which will appear throughout this article. This will serve as a reminder.

One of my favorite chain lubes, and some tomatoes!

As I say, chain lubes are a religion for many, and we are not going there. So, what do you do in this bewildering jungle of products and opinions? Easy.....don't sweat the overwhelming amount of advice and products. We're going to keep this super-simple. 

First, gravel and dirt roads are dusty/dirty. 'Captain Obvious' there, but that guides us in lubrication choice. There are basically two types of bicycle chain lube- "Wet" and "Dry" types. We're going the "Dry" route here because wetter lubes tend to grab more dust/dirt and we are trying to avoid that. 

Secondly- Don't lubricate a dirty chain. What's the point? You aren't going to penetrate the goo already there, and you are just making things worse if the chain is dirty. So, we'll be looking at a super-simple, fairly effective way to get most of the dirt/grunge off

Thirdly- Don't lubricate immediately before a ride. The chain motion while riding will just sling off most of what you just put on, making a mess and making your efforts ineffective. Always do this the night before a ride, or after you are done riding, so the lubrication has a chance to soak in, the carrier of the lubricant has a chance to off-gas, and the lubricant can bond with the metal of the chain. 

Okay, with that all out of the way, here are the items you will need for this operation. 

  • Dry chain lube (Pick yer poison here, most are good. I like Muc-Off C3 Ceramic lube or DuMonde Tech)
  • A couple rags
  • Nitrile gloves or equivalent
  • Safety glasses
  • WD-40 (NOT a lube! You'll see in a minute....)
  • A Flat blade screw driver
  • A room to do 'dirty work' (ie: NOT your significant other's kitchen, bedroom, etc)
  • A place to lean your bike or in a perfect world, a bike stand.

Okay, after you've assembled your stuff here, get to the place you are going to do the deed. Lean your bike, drive side toward you, by placing one side of the handlebar and the rear tire against the wall in such a way that you can back pedal the bike freely. (Or put it in a bike stand, if you have one)


 NOTE: This process will get the majority of the dirt, gunk, and old lube off your chain, but not all of it. It's okay, because we're more concerned about making this process less about technicalities and having to buy and know how to use tools and more about quick, easy ways to help you get the most out of your bike.  


Holding a rag wrapped around the chain like this is one of the main techniques to learn here.

Next- With your gloves on and safety glasses on, grab a rag (I like a terry cloth rag, like an old bath towel)  and place it underneath the chain in such a way that the rag will catch any gunk and lube that happens to come off the chain and derailleur. Secondly, grab the flat bladed screw driver, and back pedal the bike with one hand slowly. Then holding the flat bladed screw driver in such a way that the blade scrapes the sides of the lower jockey wheel, you should be able to get any build up of gunk to scrape off that jockey wheel. Kind of like a lathe, if you know about that. You may have to apply a small mount of pressure here, but not much. Do the same with the upper jockey wheel, being careful not to jamb the wheel while you pedal backward. It can be tricky at first, but you should be able to manage it, and once you get the hang of this, it goes faster. 

NOTE: You can spend the time to do this with your front chain rings and cassette, but I find rear derailleur jockey wheels get far more stuff stuck on them than do the chain rings and cassette. 

The back pedaling of the drive train and a screw driver held like this will peel off gunk from jockey wheels.

 Next- Grab the WD-40, make sure that little red tube is in the spray nozzle to make sure that you can direct the spray where you want it, grab the other rag, and cup that rag under the lower run of the chain. Now spray the lower run of the chain with the WD-40. Follow the spray with your rag in the other hand to prevent your wheel and the rest of your bike from getting WD-40 on it. This helps to loosen grime and dirt from the chain. Back pedal to a new section of chain, repeat the process, and continue until you've gone all the way round the chain. (About 4 sections on most bikes, maybe a bit extra.) 

Next- Use that rag you have and clamp down on the chain in the middle of the lower run, being careful to avoid the crank set and jockey wheels. Back pedal the drive train. You'll note a black streak on the rag. Move to a cleaner section of the rag and repeat as necessary. 

Your rag will get pretty grimy. Repeat the process until you are satisfied, but remember, you won't get ALL the dirt out this way.  It's okay!


NOTE: This process will get the majority of the dirt, gunk, and old lube off your chain, but not all of it. It's okay, because we're more concerned about making this process less about technicalities and having to buy and know how to use tools and more about quick, easy ways to help you get the most out of your bike.  


Next: It's time to lubricate. Grab the lube you have, (I like drip bottles of lube versus spray. Less waste and less chances to foul wheels, braking, and paint jobs) Start at a quick link on a chain for reference, or if you don't happen to have a quick link on your chain, mark a link with permanent black marker for a reference point. Then apply one drop of lube on each roller on each link. Work your way around the chain until you come back to your reference point by back pedaling the drive train so that you are always applying lube to the lower part of the chain run. This is important because when you lubricate this way, gravity pulls the lube down into the inner workings of the chain, and as you back pedal to a new section, the chain ring teeth help push this lube into the chain as well. 

One drop on each roller is enough lube. This is the lower run of the chain, and I am applying the lube from above, letting gravity pull the lube into the chain links.

Once you've made it all the way around, you are done with the lubrication. Now grab the rag, using a clean portion, and hold it around the chain, as you did when cleaning the chain, and back pedal the chain through the stationary rag position to wipe off any excess lube. Then that's it! 

Let the bike sit for several hours, preferably overnight, for best results. Then ride. 

 Now- when do you do this again? I check my chain by rubbing my finger across a few links, if I do not get any wet residue on my finger tip, it is time to re-lubricate. Also, if you happen to ride in some wet weather, through snow, streams, puddles, mud, or the like, you will likely need to re-lubricate right away. 

Tip: If you have that WD-40 handy, spray it on a chain right after a wet ride. The "WD" in the name means "Water Displacement", so this product drives water out of your chain and helps prevent rust. I also like it for its grime-dissolving properties. Thus my suggestion for it as a cleaner for beginners. Besides, many people have this already, so it could be one less thing to buy. 

I geek out on lube often here on the blog (Example here) but for the B.O.G. Series, my intentions are to 'make things as easy as possible- not perfect!'. In the case of bicycle skills and maintenance, the minutiae often espoused by the bike geeks is a huge turn-off to those not so personally invested in whatever nuances are being discussed. So, as far as lubricating chains, is there a 'better way'? Sure there is! But 'Perfect is The Enemy of the Good' in this case where I am aiming to get beginners out and doing things instead of becoming overwhelmed by the 'ya gotta do it THIS way, with THIS lube!' mentality. And even this tutorial may be too much! 

So, keep that in mind. 

Next Week: An effective way to clean your bike without using water.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Thoughts On IWAR

So, the Iowa Wind And Rock ultra-distance gravel event happened over the weekend and I paid some attention to the goings on down there in South Central Iowa. I figured a few folks might be curious as to what I think about that event and how things went down this year, seeing as there are similarities to the event I used to put on called Trans Iowa. I figured I would put in my two cents here. 

First, a few things you should know. I purposefully stayed away from any contact with the event and stayed away from even paying any attention to it, for the most part, on their first run in 2019. Then last year was, well, last year. I was down there as a volunteer for the Spotted Horse, which was run on the same weekend as the postponed IWAR, but I did not show my face around the event headquarters nor made any attempt to associate myself with IWAR. (Iowa Wind And Rock) I'll let my "Trans Iowa Stories" tell you why all that is, so this post won't say anything about that story. Stay tuned......

Nothing 'bad blood' about that, or even negative, so you conspiracy theorists and speculators can stuff that. You'll just have to wait for my reasons for why I stayed away. But this year, I decided being a spectator from afar would be okay. So, off and on all weekend I checked in with the proceedings. Here are a few thoughts from my, admittedly very unique, perspective. 

IWAR does the event pretty much how I used to do things, but of course, it is a different event. It's their baby down there, so any differences are to be expected. I'm sure they put their own spin and flavor on things. But from what I can tell, the bones of the event are pretty similar. Okay, so from that standpoint, I was able to make some observations on the event as it unfolded. 

We knew there would be Level B Maintenance roads and from watching the weather, it was obvious that some amount of precipitation had fallen over the area of their course not long before, or perhaps during, the start. That meant some wet dirt and we all know what that can do. It can destroy stuff, and it did in this case. I guess it is a bit odd, in some ways, from an outsider's view, as to why anyone would fall victim to the eventuality of destruction when dealing with Level B muck, but you kind of have to have been there. Some folks can actually ride these roads and get away with it while sometimes you can be super careful and still get bitten. It's not as cut-and-dried as it might seem. Anyway, I was not at all surprised to see that many of the riders had a shortened day due to the conditions. 

Then races like this get very strung out and IWAR was no exception. A small lead group formed and was whittled down as the day-night-day progressed. I watched and saw times given by the IWAR organizers on social media, along with mileages. I've done the math so much in my head that I could see long before the end that finishers would likely be coming in between 8:00am and 9:00am, given the weather. Of course, I didn't know the course, but I know the pace of these types of events gets slower as the event wears on. 

You also get a few that miss checkpoint cut-offs and IWAR has two you have to make on time. I was impressed by a few mentions of drop outs at the CP#2 spot, as that was how things often went at Trans Iowa. People would get there and figure that was enough fun for one day. Interestingly, almost every time people left CP#2, more often than not they finished. Sure, I had exceptions to that rule, like if folks barely made the cut-off. But it seems like if riders get CP#2 under their belt, can ride past 4:00am, and see a hint of the Sun rising in the East, it's a done deal. It then just becomes a matter of will. I seem to get the feeling IWAR was similar in that way this year. (And that's a LOT easier said than done, by the way!)

So, I was happy for the Relentless Adventures team and for the riders. It seemed like a great event. It seemed to have been done very well, from where I sat, anyway. Not that it matters a whit what I think for their success. It doesn't, they have made their own reputation. But I was pleased to see it all went off well. I wish for nothing but the best for the riders and the organizers there. Congratulations to all who took part in the 2021 IWAR! Well done!

And that's my thoughts on that...............

Monday, April 19, 2021

Country Views: A Run To The County Line

Escape Route: Park Avenue North, Waterloo.
 Saturday's forecast looked the best that it had looked for days. High of 50-ish, light Northwesterly winds of 5-10mph, and no precipitation. So, I was hoping to pull off a big ride. I made all the plans, but Friday evening I was feeling really beat down. In fact, I took a nap after work, which I almost never do. Saturday morning I felt really beat yet, so instead of the big ride plans, I did a run to the county line and back, figuring that would be fine. Of course, the weather is the wild card, and it got played. 

I decided to roll with the Standard Rando with the 650B wheels and tires. After futzing around with bags and making sure I had the right tube for 650B, in case of a tire failure, I managed somehow to get out the door by 8:30am. That was winning right there, considering how I felt. 

So, I headed North on Park Avenue toward 4th Street and out to Moline Avenue to get on gravel. No real indications all through town that things would be anything other than what the weather people were saying it would be. But then, of course, I wasn't out in the open yet. Once I crested the first hill on Moline, I realized that this was not going to be the ride I thought it was going to be. 

Hello Wind!

Yeah, the flags I saw were pretty much standing straight out. 5-10mph winds? Ha! I got home and saw that the current conditions at the time were 18mph winds with 33 mph gusts. Uh huh.....sounds about right. And that made for some hard riding. At least the roads weren't covered in fresh gravel. 

Field work has been getting done now with the warmer weather. Most fields had at least been worked up.

A 'Cat' and a 'Johnny Popper' sitting idle in a worked up field North of Waterloo. 

Woo! Single speed and heavy winds make for a tough go of it. Plus, with how I had been feeling of late it wasn't making for a whole lot of good times. Well, I figured that feeling not so hot, bucking a heavy wind, and single speed was better than not feeling so hot, not bucking a heavy wind, and sitting around at home. So, with that mildly positive thought, I managed to grind out to The Big Rock. 

The Big Rock looking South down Sage Road.

Looking North up Schenk Road.

I rested up a bit and then headed East to Schenk Road and then back North again. The roads here were broken down, dusty, and you'd never know we had any rain lately at all. This blasting Northwest wind and super dry air we've had for a week has been doing its business. 

Schenk tends flatter than not so it was a nice respite from the rollers I had been crawling up previously. My right knee wasn't quite too happy, but what was really the worst was just a deep level of fatigue. I ground up Schenk for a bit and then on to Gresham Road where I decided to make a left to get out of the wind for a little relief. 

Another stop to rest a bit.

The frost heaves caused some pretty significant damage on Gresham Road.

I noticed frost heave damage up here, which surprised me a bit as I hadn't noted anything in Southern Black Hawk County, nor just North and East of Waterloo. However; I noted at least minor frost heave damage from this point all the way back around to Burton Avenue at least to Dunkerton Road. 

A controlled burn, (hopefully!) along the Southern edge of Marquise Road just West of Hwy 63.

Approaching East Janesville Church from the North on Burton Avenue.

I jogged North on Moline then to catch Marquise Road, named after James Marquise who built a cabin in the early 1850's which this road eventually ran by. Then across HWY 63 and up the big hill to Burton Avenue and a much looked forward to respite from the gales I had been working against.

Approaching St. Paul's Church from the North on Burton Avenue.

I chased that cloud of gravel dust in the middle of this image for about a half a mile.

Burton Avenue has its fair share of rollers, especially up by the two old churches, but with this massive wind at my back, the hills were no problem, even though I was riding single speed. Then I noted a bit of a cloud of dust being driven by the wind down the road about a eighth of a mile ahead of me. I never could catch it, but that tells you how hard the wind was blowing, and how dry it is in reality in the country. 

Frost damage repaired with this "yellow limestone" gravel, which is unusual in this part of Iowa.

A big fertilizer rig getting reloaded here.

As I got further South, I noted that some fresh gravel patches were laid down which were of the 'yellow gravel' type of crushed rock. This is an unusual color for gravel around here, but in Northeast Iowa, it is a common gravel type. We generally have the whitish/grey limestone around here. 

The difference is that the yellow gravel tends to be softer, holds more moisture, (in my opinion), and seems to hold up better when wet. Our typical gravel isn't quite like that, but it is what is mined locally and why we have this type of gravel. I'm not sure why we have the yellow gravel here, but there it is....

Not long after I got by the fertilizer rig above, I got a call from Mrs. Guitar Ted and she told me that our vehicle had been vandalized. Apparently someone took a pot shot at our rear passenger window with a bee-bee gun. The window was shattered. So, my ride ended on a bit of a sour note. 

But I was glad to have gotten out, despite all the tough wind, not-so-hot feelings, and the bad news at the end. A ride is good for the soul.....

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Trans Iowa Stories: A Moment Of Reflection

Downtown Grinnell on a morning we were doing recon of a T.I. course.
 "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 clicking on the "Trans Iowa Stories" link under the blog header. Thanks and enjoy! 

 As I get into the last three Trans Iowa events and their stories, I come upon a time, (as I write this in 2021) that wasn't so long ago. The memories are still pretty fresh, and I have more resources to fall back on to dig up stories about T.I.v12, v13, and the final version of Trans Iowa. Heck, I even noticed I have many of the text messages I received on my phone from v12-v14. Why? I don't know. I guess I never thought to delete them and they got pushed down the list so far I just forgot about them. 

But when I noted that I still had that resource, and after some research into T.I.v12, I realized that this was an era of Trans Iowa which happened not all that long ago. I think that maybe many of you still remember a lot of things about those last few Trans Iowa events also. There are tons of social media posts, lots more people were posting things Trans Iowa related back then, and so many have stories cemented in their minds concerning these last Trans Iowa events. What stories could I possibly have that have not already been splashed all over the internet? 

Well, there are a few things not many people ever knew happened. There are some things that I went through that I have not yet fully plumbed the depths of. There are a lot of things you all do not know about the final version of Trans Iowa. There are a few things you maybe never heard about which concerned Trans Iowa and how Iowa Wind and Rock are related. Those things are stories I wanted to get to. 

Another thing which I have already alluded to that really changed the dynamic of the event was the advancements in technology. Particularly the 'smart phone'. GPS data gathering cycling computers being another thing which really came to bear on the event. I may do an entire post about that facet of technology as it affected Trans Iowa, but for this post, I have just a few notes.

In the early days of Trans Iowa, things were different. Image by Jeff Kerkove
One being how we learned about weather. Back in the early days of the event we could only rely on traditional weather forecasts. We would look at the 'weather channel' on cable, see what the latest was right before we left, and maybe we had a vague idea of what might happen. Surely, anything like a Trans Iowa v11 situation would have been a complete surprise, and in fact, that pretty much was, excepting that I had a few hours of warning. Now? pshaw! You've got hour-by-hour weather data at your fingertips and you can pretty much know without much doubt what is going to happen. And what is more- every rider could avail themselves of that power. 

I think now back on how support people would pull up a GPS generated map with a blinking dot and say something like, "This is my rider. It looks like he is at 370th and I Avenue. How long do you think it will take him to get to Checkpoint #2?" That was several years ago that these things started happening and I was taken aback. Heck, back in the early years you had zero idea where anyone might be! Now? In 2021? That same support person could easily pull up terrain data, gather rider speed data, and extrapolate an estimated time of arrival with no need of a race director. That same person could tell their rider things about other competitors and the course. And in fact, I know that did happen to a degree.

Certainly technology affected the intentions and the feel of the event greatly compared to the earlier days, and there was nothing I could do about it. Trans Iowa was changed and changing at an alarming (to my way of thinking) rate. This also played into my dismay and discouragement in putting on the event towards the end. But I'll get around to telling more about that later. 

So, as we settle in for the last stretch here, things will get maybe a bit more personal. I won't get into the main stories everyone already knows all about concerning those last Trans Iowa events. I guess that was kind of the point all along, but for the past T.I. stories I did get into happenings with the event more than I will now going forward. That is because back in the earlier days of Trans Iowa, not many people were paying attention, and there wasn't much of a 'digital crumb trail' to follow later. Now you can go search "#transiowa" and find all sorts of posts dealing with the latter days of Trans Iowa. Not to mention the recordings on of riders calling in on "Trans Iowa Radio".

Anyway, I just wanted to take a moment to set the table for these last few Trans Iowa events and the posts that will go with them. There will be one more "It's About The People" post, a post or two dealing with the ending of the event, and definitely a post about the immediate aftermath of Trans Iowa events. That's all in addition to the several posts specifically focused on the last three Trans Iowa events- v12, v13, and v14. Then I'll likely do a final epilogue and that should end the series. I am guessing that may be sometime in early 2022. 

Next: Close To Home

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Crazy Lights

Raveman lights purchased for test/review on
 We have it easy these days, we do. Especially when it comes to lighting for our night time bicycling excursions. I never cease to be amazed by each new generation of LED lights and Lithium/Ion battery technology that seems to come around about every 3-4 months. Last year's lights? Ancient! Old technology! 

I think the term "planned obsolescence" has never been better defined than by the pace of LED light tech. It's stupid, really, and you get more for less all the time. 

This has me thinking about old technologies for lighting which we thought were fine. Perfectly usable stuff, that's what we thought, and we raged through the night with lights not much brighter than birthday candles. We were crazy, that's what we were. There is no way we'd do things like we did with that poor lighting now, especially since we 'know better'.  

This may sound completely bonkers now, but back in the mid to late 00's, we didn't have much for lights. Well, not self-contained lights. You could get rad battery pack lights, but we gravelists didn't want to have to deal with dangling wires and we didn't want to have to deal with battery packs, which typically weighed a ton.We could have gone the hub dynamo route, but that was very expensive. So we had to hack, make-do, and what I ended up using were some less than stellar lights. One I used and had three different iterations of was this home made bodge of a camping head lamp with an external battery pack. (Light, three triple "A" batteries) But I had 100 Lumens of light for thirty hours!  So there was that. 

I dredged through the archives and found some examples of what I used to use. So sit back, grab a cup of coffee, and be amused at what it was I used to use to bomb down hills at night on gravel at 30mph.....

The venerable Cat Eye EL 500

 This was a light we used to recommend for Trans Iowa. Yes- really! It was rated at 1000 candlepower and ran off 4 AAA batteries, easily found at convenience stores and you could pack extras. The unit was light, fairly durable for gravel riding, and threw an okay amount of light. It was also pretty inexpensive going for around $25.00 in its heyday. It had a magnetic switch, so theoretically it could never fail. The major downfall of this light was that the lens screwed off to reveal the batteries and that usually fouled up the housing at some point, which was made of pretty flimsy plastic. The lens also wasn't what I would call great either. 

Blackburn came out with a "better version" of an EL 500 in the late 00's and I used one for a while.

 After the Cat Eye EL 500 came out and was wildly popular many companies went to work to make a better version. I had a Blackburn light around the time we did Trans Iowa v5 in 2009 which was definitely an improvement. Gone were the separate AAA batteries and it was a true self-contained unit. The trouble with this one was that the handle bar/light mount was finicky, (a very common issue with lights), and the thing was heavy for the minuscule amount of power (compared to today's lights), so off it came. It also had pretty poor run times on its higher setting, as I recall, making it a bit of a problem when it came to riding at night for a long period of time.

My hacked camp head lamp with external battery pack. This was from 2012

 Longer run times meant you had to compromise on light power. Battery technology wasn't quite being applied at the time so one could have a light weight, portable, self-contained, long run time light. I ended up scouring department stores and hardware stores for options. I ended up finding these Eveready camp head lamps, you know, the type you wear around your head so you can set up your tent at night? 

I hacked three of these, but my best attempt was the last where I found this adjustable lens light with a metal casing and bezel which ran at 100 Lumens for thirty hours off a three AAA battery pack. With the lens bezel set to maximum flood, I had a light I could putter around out in the country with for as long as I liked. Trouble was that it was too floody, and there wasn't that 'punch', that strong beam you need to see when you are flying downhill at warp speed. So I supplemented this light with one of the forerunners of the new vanguard of self-contained LED lights, a Lezyne Super Drive, circa 2012. 

The Lezyne Super Drive came out at the end of 2011.

 The Super Drive was top of the line at the time for Lezyne and had a 450 Lumen output with a run time of 1.5hrs. A piddly amount compared to today's lights, but back then, it was something, being so small and powerful as it was compared to the competition. By the way, it would run at 100 Lumens for 5 hours. Six times less than my hacked camp light! 

It was at about this time when companies started dedicating R&D to lightweight, self-contained, versatile lighting with decently long run times. That's when the whole deal went bananas and takes us up to today. 

So, now we have LED rear lights with brake sensors and light sensors to warn cars coming up from behind that there is a cyclist on the road. We have 1600 Lumen lights, which is supposedly 600 Lumens brighter than a car headlamp on high-beam, which run for an hour plus at that level. All self-contained, and priced well below $200.00. It's crazy. You used to have to spend nearly a thousand bucks for that sort of power and run time. This 1600 Lumen light I am testing will run at 400 Lumens for 7 hours. Quite a bit better than that Lezyne Super Drive at about the same power. Plus I have several modes other than that, and a remote!

Stay tuned for updates on these Raveman lights. 

Note: These Raveman lights were purchased at a discounted price for test and review on I am not being paid, nor bribed, for this post and I always strive to give my honest thoughts and opinions throughout.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Friday News And Views

Gravel Events Leveraged For Social Change Issues:

If you hadn't noticed, there is a big issue regarding the proposed World Cup level event for cyclo cross in Arkansas this Fall and how that state has passed some anti-transgender legislation. Social issues are being leveraged against the organizer, USAC, to influence that organization to pull the event from the state of Arkansas. Many athletes who planned on attending the event have cancelled their plans in light of the new legislation and their support for LGBTQ+ issues. 

A "Bicycle Retailer and Industry News" article has more details and links for further reading here

There have also been calls to boycott Arkansas based cycling companies and I even saw a lob at the Unbound Gravel event, since Kansas is also considering similar anti-transgender legislation. So, this is where the big gravel events are getting drug into this conversation, and why when I got an e-mail from the Arkansas based event, Big Sugar NWA, that the image posted here was front and center in that e-mail. 

Comments: I expect that if Kansas does pass this sort of legislation, we can expect to see more leverage brought to bear upon the Unbound Gravel event, as well as any other 'big' gravel events with corporate backing. Let's face it, if you are after social change and want to make an impact you are not going after the little events. The aim that I see is that the events that stand a chance to be hurt economically, if they are tagged with the 'boycott', are the events that will be used to bring a light to what the people behind these issues want. 

I took a look at the Arkansas laws and I feel they are really dumb and based out of fear. There shouldn't be anything like them on the books. I also think 'boycotting'  events is not all that effective in making change in this area either. But this does shine a light, for sure. I mean look- I'm writing about it, as are many others, so it is effective in that, at least. So, corporate gravel events, and obviously cyclo cross events, can be credited with engendering at least that much activity in this socially charged issue. Plus there are the things listed in the image, which Big Sugar NWA is undertaking for their event. So, I guess there is that..... But the average citizens who vote in Arkansas? Hmm...... I dunno about that. 

Cracking Down On Speed:

It looks as though Iowa may be limiting any HPC rig to 20mph speed limits. The amendment to the law was recently passed by the Iowa Senate and is going back to the House of Representatives for approval. This hasn't taken effect yet, but there are no indications that it will not be passed into law.

So? Is this a big deal? Maybe...... Many so-called "Class 3 e-bikes" are pedal assisted up to 28mph. Other classes of HPC rigs are limited to 20mph already, excepting the "Class 4" category, which can go faster than 28mph and requires a license and registration. All is 'good in the hood', right? Just follow the laws and we'll all get along just fine. Except when people don't follow the laws, and they don't.......a lot! 

Example: Just the other day at Andy's Bike Shop, where I work, a customer was in telling of a friend's electrified Schwinn Sierra which could hit top speeds in excess of 30mph. Not pedal assisted, of course, because what would be the point in that? (And yes- there may have been a bit of a 'fish story' element to that, but still...)

Another example; We had a guy in last year who owns an old klunker 26"er with a gas engine conversion which he claims can go 55mph and he pretty much rides it wherever he wants, bike paths included. I've seen another one like it around as well. (Note- I do not distinguish between motor types- gas, electric, whatever. If they have pedals and a motor, they qualify. They all are HPC's which is Hybrid Powered Cycles if you are wondering) There are more examples which are not modified that are all over the internet for sale and can go in excess of the so-called 28 mph limits.

So, 20mph limit? Sounds fine to me, but no one is cracking down on what is already out there AND is illegal, so what makes anyone think that a speed limit law is enforceable? It is not enforceable. The manpower required to enforce such speed limits doesn't exist, and you know, we do such a great job cracking down on speeding cars too. Yeah..........

So this 'law' is malarkey. Doesn't mean anything, just like those "class" regulations of HPC's are meaningless. It's the Wild, Wild, West out there when it comes to these things, and I am afraid nothing is going to happen until people start getting hurt, suing, and/or dying. 

Studies are finding that moderate exercise helps with COVID survival

Exercise Helps- So Why Aren't We Pushing The Message?

I think many of us that are fans of cycling kind of 'get this' already, but more studies are being undertaken which are pointing to physical inactivity as being associated with a much higher risk of hospitalization and death due to COVID-19. 

At, we were honored to have a contribution from 80 year old gravel rider (!) John Ingham with a message and references given which also pointed to similar conclusions. (Read that here) So, seeing that consistency in data, I am thinking that if you are pedaling, or exercising on a regular basis, you are doing 'it' right, in terms of disease prevention and minimizing risks with respect to diseases and mental health issues. 

So, it baffles me, and it saddens me as to why our government and why our policy makers are not prioritizing some simple measures by enabling folks to - you know - exercise regularly in safe places where being mowed down by motorists piloting plastic, steel, and rubber cages at ridiculous speeds is not a fear and an issue. Not to mention making exercise a priority to help fight the ever growing healthcare issues this country faces. 

I dunno.......maybe I'm the crazy one here. But it seems to me that this is so easy to understand that it flies right over most people's heads. Am I wrong? With what I see going on around me, I have to wonder if I'm not from another planet. The disconnect I see surrounding the issues of health seem astounding to me. 

Iowa Wind And Rock Happens This Weekend:

The ultra-distance gravel event that took its cues from the event I used to put on, Trans Iowa, happens this weekend out of the Winterset, Iowa area. Iowa Wind And Rock is a 300+ mile, cue sheet navigated, time limited event that takes in some of the gnarliest roads in South Central Iowa. 

This would make the third edition of this event. Last year's COVID-modified and postponed event happened in October, and was run in conjunction with the Spotted Horse event, which I volunteered for. This date is the 'traditional' date for such an event in Iowa though. 

I just wanted to take a moment here and wish all the riders, volunteers, and organizers of Iowa Wind And Rock a safe, fun, and successful event. I hope all travel associated with the event is safe, and that nothing is left afterward but epic memories and stories that will be told. 

SRAM Finally Reveals AXS Rival:

Lots of people knew it was going to happen, but yesterday SRAM finally let everyone know- and see - the new Rival version of its wireless AXS shifting group. You've probably already have seen this blasted around the internet yesterday, so I won't bore you with all the fine details. 

Comments: My first impressions were that this is the BEST looking SRAM road group ever. The shift levers look almost Shimano-like. (Probably not a mistake there) The crank looks a lot less like a department store level bike crankset  than some of their other offerings. Okay, so aesthetically, good. Very good. 

I did get the press release yesterday which was on the day it was released for public consumption. So, I have only had a brief moment or two to browse the 34 page FAQ (!) besides the other marketing hoo-ha that came along with it. I found that the reason the levers look so good is because SRAM deleted the 'contact feature' (I assume pad contact adjustment) and the remote shifter capabilities. This FAQ also stated that no- Force and Red will not have these sleeker, nicer looking levers. There are no plans to do that with Red or Force levers at this time.You Red and Force users are stuck with those ugly, clunky levers for the near future, at least. 

There are also a few other surprises that I came across. Did you know that you have to use 12 speed compatible chain tools and chain checkers with SRAM flat top chains? (Yes- SRAM says don't try any other tools or else!) Also, Eagle and AXS flat top chains? Not cross compatible. 12 speed quick links? One time use only. And don't you ever spray your AXS equipped bike with water to clean it. Says so right in the FAQ. (But of course, people will do this)

It's a lot of reading, but I'll get through it soon. Oh, and if you want this group they say it'll be available this month. Complete set ups are around $1600.00. Good luck getting your hands on a group. My guess is that these will go like hotcakes and be on back order for a long while. Maybe I'm wrong about that, but maybe not......

More soon after I've digested all this techno-babble......

That's all for this edition of the FN&V. Have a fantastic weekend.