Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Kind Of Like It- But Not

This cuts a similar profile to something I've seen before. Hmmm.....
The whole "Adventure by Bike" deal really got kicked off about ten years ago when Salsa Cycles coined the term and used it as their catch phrase since then. Obviously, back in those days the term "gravel bike" was something only a few Mid-Westerners were even using, let alone aware of.

A lot has changed since those days, obviously. It boggles my mind, to be truthful about it. I never imagined a day when we would have "gravel specific" tires, let alone tubeless ready ones. I could go on........

But one thing always made me scratch my noggin in wonderment since 2008. That being that there are not a lot of Faro-ish bikes out there. It took several years, but finally a Fargo imitator arose in the Bombtrack Beyond. You don't see many of those around, but it's about as close to a modern take on a Gen 1 Fargo as there is. In fact, I'd like to think it is what the Gen 1 could be today, if Salsa had not "mtb-ified" the concept.

Now that gravel bikes keep pushing the limits on tire sizes, I am starting to see other bikes that are getting "Fargo-ish". 650B and wider tires, knobby patterns, and more "braze-on zits" than you can shake a stick at. One bike that is a bit different than that is from a series that Breezer Bikes has dubbed "RADAR". An acronym standing for Road And Dirt Adventure Rig, this bike reminds me a lot of something that might result if you were to cross a Tamland and a Fargo together. You get the extra braze ons, tire clearance, and mtb drive train from the Fargo matched up with the skinnier steel tubes, geometry, and overall profile of a Tamland. The result here looks pretty cool to me.

While the RADAR Expert I have around for a while to test and review for RidingGravel.com isn't a Fargo, it is kind of like one. More so than anything that has come around since the Bombtrack Beyond. That's a good thing, if you ask me.

Monday, November 19, 2018

C.O.G. 100 Recon Report

This C.O.G. 100 Iowa Single Speed Gravel Championship idea requires that I follow through with some work. Gotta do my due diligence and come up with a course and then go and look at it. Stuff like actually thinking through logistics, how the roads link up, making it interesting, and of course, it's gotta have hills.

As most of you know, I have a background in doing all of the above. So, you probably won't be too shocked to hear that I scrapped my entire first draft for the course and did an entirely different route the night before recon. The night was short, as I awoke at 5:00am to get ready to be picked up by N.Y. Roll and his dog, Ella, so we could go do the course recon.

The weather was great last week, right up until late Friday night, when it snowed. Of course it snowed! We couldn't go out and recon in perfect conditions, that just wouldn't be right! Well, at least I thought we might be doing recon. I wasn't 100% sure after we passed Traer. They had a bit more snow through there and things were in bad shape as we drove Southward.

We had a bit of a respite on Highway 30, but then as we tried to go South on Highway 146, we found it was closed at LeGrand for the installation of a railway overpass. We ended up following a pick-up truck for several miles on gravel as a workaround. Then eventually, after almost two hours of driving, we made it to Grinnell and the Frontier Cafe.

Breakfast at the Frontier cafe is a must when visiting Grinnell.
After grub time was complete, we headed out to Miller Park and started recon. It was not very good out in the country. Snow was all over the roadway, but we were in a Subaru Crosstrek, so we had that going for us. As we rolled along the flat light of the washed out sky against the all white roadway made for tough conditions as there was little contrast. N.Y. Roll did a great job keeping inbetween the ditches though.

First tracks as we get going on recon.
Later on the air temperature and whatever rays of the Sun that were getting through cleared up the road a bit, but then it got muddier and softer. Just before all of that, we came up on a Level B Road I wasn't prepared for. N.Y. Roll managed to negotiate it just fine, and we considered the options. Well, seeing as how it would be the only mile of Level B in the entire 100+ miles, we are strongly considering leaving it in. We are probably going to have a contingency plan if things look way wet in the Spring where we can avoid it though.

Another thing long time readers of the blog know is that I almost always have an instance to share where I end up saying something like, "This is why we do recon......". Well, just such an instance came up again. This time it was a bridge that is out. A very recent take out which isn't indicated on any map or GPS mapping program. In fact, N.Y. Roll went to bring up an online map at the point we saw the signs and there was no cell service. If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times- You gotta put your eyes on your course to make sure it actually exists. There are no short cuts to this.

So, we will have to re-route around that, but the workaround we used Saturday, I think, will actually do just fine. It kind of throws a wrench into a plan but something else I saw may make up for it. Vague. I know, but details will come out. I'll get back to this later......

N.Y. Roll's Crosstrek got pretty trashed!
So, with the re-route and all I think we are around 110 miles at this point. My inclination is that it may actually be slightly less since the best estimate of distance we have at the moment is N.Y. Roll's odometer. Of course, we backtracked a mile or so, and that's why I feel we will see that 110 figure go down a touch more. I have to dig into the route map again here and get it nailed down.

So......I'm not inclined to make it be exactly 100 miles. It's going to be slightly over that. Now you know.

Convenience store: I had mentioned that I was going to provide an optional course for resupply choice which would make you add even more miles and take away time. Well, my original intention was taken out by the missing bridge, so I was a bit disappointed. That said, the route goes within about 5 blocks or less of a convenience store riders will see from the route while going through a small town at around the 80 mile mark. My inclination is to advise riders to carry ennough food and water to last 80 miles. I think that was always around what I had advised, on average, for Trans Iowa riders, so I think I'm probably going to stick to that.

So, from this point we are going to do another draft of the cues. These will be checked against reality later, probably next year closer to the event. Cues will get printed after final verification. We are looking into getting two "Championship" jerseys readied for the potential winners. Designs are being drawn up for that. The registration details will be finalized very soon. We are pretty sure we are going to have a $25.00 entry fee which will cover insurance. Finally, details that will be on the radar will be finalizing the roster, doing number plates, and getting some venue details finalized. Stay tuned.....

A major hurdle crossed today though. The course will be hilly! Also, we hope that we don't see as much traffic as we saw. We most likely will not, since the reason there was so much traffic was the hunting that was going on.

More soon! 

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Touring Series: Prairie Town Horror- Part 1

A Guitar Ted Productions series
 Thanks for joining me again on another adventure in "The Touring Series". This tour was dubbed the "Race Against Death Tour". This tour occurred in August of 1995. The three participants, Ryan, Troy, and your's truly, left from Cedar Falls, Iowa to try and get to Winter Park, Colorado in two weeks. Here I am reproducing the tale, mostly as it was posted on the blog in 2009. There are some new edits and additions. I also will add new remarks and memories where appropriate at the end of each post. 

 Once again, there were no cell phones, internet, social media platforms, or digital cameras in use by we tourers in 1995. I will post images where I can, but this tour wasn't well documented in images, so there probably will be very few sprinkled throughout. A modern image will be used only where it depicts things I want to clarify, like where we were in that part of the tour via a map image, or the like.

The "Touring Series" will appear every Sunday until it ends. Look for past entries by scrolling back to a previous Sunday's post, or type in "Touring Series" in the search box to find more. 

 The "Race Against Death Tour" moves on from Wood, South Dakota on an extremely brutal, hot day....

Leaving Wood, we encountered some big rolling hills. The combination of the days heat and miles was taking it's toll on me. Well, that and the fact that there wasn't any water in Wood. I ran out of water somewhere on this last stretch of the day's road. I thought I was really done for. This is where one of the enduring phrases describing myself arose from. Right from this moment on this very day.

I was "Barney-ing".

A rare image from the tour of me catching back up with the guys. Image by Troy
I am pretty sure it was Ryan that coined the term. He saw my face as I toiled up a climb he and Troy were waiting for me at the top of. Ryan exclaimed, "He looks like Barney Fife when he had that long face, ya know? He's "Barney-ing"!" Troy saw the resemblance, I guess, and laughed. The term was forever cemented in my mind as what I looked like when I was bonking. Barney Fife. I suppose I could look worse.

Troy said something about the fact that we were all about out of water, but that White River was just up the road, and that we probably should cut the day short, wash clothes, re-supply, and hit it hard the next day. We all agreed to that, then just like that, Troy and Ryan were gone, leaving me to toil up the big rollers in the incessant heat.

I reached the turn off to White River and I could see Troy and Ryan up the road. I was angry, and I suppose the adrenaline helped get me the rest of the way into town. I was going to be really glad to get into a town of a reasonable size, the first since we left Winner, and get something to eat and drink. What I didn't know was that I would never forget White River for other reasons, but at this point, I just wanted this day to come to a merciful end.

As we reached the outskirts of the town we pulled off the highway to the business section of town and found that there wasn't a street. Well.......they had a street, it was just torn up. It was as if they had been doing construction, but the cars were just driving through the dirt. There were no "Road Construction" signs, just some orange netting and some sawhorses with blinking lights here and there. It was a bizarre scene, but that would be just the tip of the iceberg of the strange things that we would find in White River.

White River was an odd town not only for the dirt street in the main business area, but for its retail environment as well. We had some things we needed to do, and laundry was at the top of the list. So we asked about a laundromat, got pointed in the right direction, and headed over to an old wooden business front. At first, we thought there must have been some misunderstanding. This was a joke....right?

What we found was a building with broken out windows, lined along three sides and down the middle with washing machines and dryers, and all were filthy beyond imagination. The dirt and litter was actually drifted up in the corners and against the machines, in some places a foot deep! The watch of the bikes fell to Ryan. Troy and I set about finding a clean enough machine to use for washing. We found two that didn't take much to clean out after looking at about twenty absolutely filth ridden machines. We got change at the hair dressers next door and away we went. About this time, Ryan leans his head in through the open window and says, "I need one of you guys to come out here. NOW!" He had an odd tone to his voice. I asked what the deal was, why did I need to come out? Ryan just motioned his head sideways as if to indicate he couldn't speak in the presence of someone and whispered loudly, "NOW!"

The water situation we had in Wood, and for the rest of the day, really, was only the beginning. It also probably was the cause of the bonk, obviously, but also something else. My getting dropped by Troy and Ryan made me feel abandoned. Keep in mind I had just come out of a divorce due to my former wife getting addicted to meth and leaving me. I didn't put two and two together then, but this would foreshadow a big turning point in my life on this tour in the days to come.

The town of White River, a small town, run down, and at that time in obvious disrepair, was another example of what became a very big impression upon me. We need not go to foreign countries to help with "third world" issues. We have them right here. The disgusting laundromat was just the beginning of our experiences regarding this.......

An editorial note- This post has been combined from two separate posts and the remainder will appear next week with some further, new material. 

 Next Week: The "Race Against Death Tour", stopped at the end of Day Five at White River, South Dakota after a tough 92.14 miles of heat and climbs, continues its weird journey.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Minus Ten Review - 46

The best tasting "post card entry" I ever got for Trans Iowa
Ten years ago on this blog here I was reporting on the registration for Trans Iowa v5. It was one of the first Trans Iowas which featured "tiered" registration. We were letting "Veterans" of Trans Iowa past take first crack at the roster spots and then whatever was left over was fair game to rookies. In this case well over half the roster was opened up to Rookie Class riders. I think the limit was 75 riders back then.

Registration back then was a "controlled chaos' of an affair. I used to have fun with it bacck then. There were flowers, gifts of booze, and even a pizza. Those were the fun times of registration. From about this time till we got to v9 or so. Then it got waaaaay out of hand. But that's another story.

I was also talking about a bike I was testing. It was a Milwaukee Bicycles 29"er. The white frame on that rig was sooooooo smooth! I really loved the way that bike rode. I remember that it was one of those bikes you just wanted to ride all the time. Since I pretty much had to so I could write a good review on the bike, it made that a good problem to have.

The bike had to be shipped back, but I was offered a killer deal on it at that time to keep it. I just didn't think I could afford it, since it was Winter, I was working far less, and money was tight. But if there was one bike I regretted not keeping in all my Twenty Nine Inch reviewing days, that Milwaukee rig would be maybe number one. I can think of one other I would have loved to have kept, but it was a dual sus bike, and nothing like this bike.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Friday News And Views

Artwork for the special poster for the C.O.G.100
C.O.G. 100 Single Speed Championship Gravel Event Poster:

Okay, between my daughter and I we have done some final tweaking to the C.O.G. 100 poster artwork. This limited edition poster is a joint effort between my daughter, Izabel, and I, and will be printed up in a run of 75 prints. These will be signed and numbered by myself and by my daughter. They will be given away to each attending rider at the inaugural C.O.G. 100.

I posted a version of this on Twitter and someone suggested it would be a great tattoo for the winners. Ah..........yeah........While that may be true, I am not forcing anyone to do that. But, if anyone who wins wants to go get the ink done, who am I to stop them? Tattoos are kind of.......personal. Not something one just has done to them because they crossed some arbitrary finish line first. But hey......that's just me. And I happen to be running this shindig, so...... No.

Anyway.... Course recon will be happening tomorrow. Then I'll draft cues and later on we will do the whole recon thing one more time before the event to verify everything. Doing 100 miles versus over three times that much will be......easy. In relative terms, that is. So, I'm getting off easy now. Plus, I already know most of the route. It isn't like I haven't been on the gravel roads around Grinnell before,ya know?

Just to recap, the C.O.G. 100 will hold registration on January 2nd, 2019. Time TBA, fee TBA. Think around $20.00 though. Shouldn't be far from that figure. Field limit will be 75 folks. Start will be at Miller Park, Grinnell Iowa. Pre-event Meeting will take place promptly at 7:00am and the event proper will start promptly at 8:00am. Cues will be handed out just prior to the event at the pre-event meeting. NO GPS FILES FOR THE COURSE WILL BE GENERATED BEFOREHAND. Self-supported, NO PASS THROUGH TOWNS*.

*Note- I am running the course near a town with a convenience store. An "alternative route" will lead you through this town to get supplied. IT WILL ADD EXTRA MILES. So, if ya gotta resupply, you will suffer a mileage and time penalty by default. If not, well...... Then you decide to take that chance.

Ooooo! Purrrrrrrple!
New Twin Six Standard Rando Color:

While the frame and fork remain the same as they have been for a few years now, the color is new. Actually, Twin Six does fantastic colors on the Standard Rando every so often. About the only clunker in the bunch, in my humble opinion, was the white with green stripes. Otherwise...... Winning.

And the winningest color so far is the newest. Purple, of course, because.....Minneapolis. What other color could it have been?

Sometimes I wonder what may have happened if Prince had liked, yellow. Keep everything else the same, just yellow. Well........maybe not. "Yellow Rain" would not have had the same feel as it did being "Purple Rain", now would it? No. Ah......okay. 'Nuff of that nonsense.

Twin Six needs to upgrade this design though. It needs to be through axles and it needs more tire clearance. They claim 700 X 43, but trust me, this is a 700 X 38mm tire bike, maximum. 650B wheels and tires actually work really well, but here again, you should stick to 650B X 47. Lots of folks are thinking 700 X 45 and 650B X 2" now, so I think it is high time for T-6 to redesign this model. Color changes only go so far. That said, it is a fantastic riding bike. I really liked mine. 

Anyway, you should get a purple bike. Salsa Cycles is doing a super cool purple Vaya as well. so, get yer purple on and look at these rigs.

68 years ago this was new.
Radio Radio.....

And now for something completely different!

My boss at the shop collects a few oddball things. Clocks, old camera equipment, and of late he has been the recipient of some old tube radios. (For you U.K. readers, that would be valve powered radios) Anyway, he got one the other day and showed it to me yesterday. I thought it was pretty rad. So, he decided to let me have it.

It is a 1950 Crosley. It has 5 Crosley branded vacuum tubes in it, (Here is a blog post from a radio repair site about the guts of this if you want to geek out. Click here) . It is AM only, of course, and it does work. Anyway, I think it is pretty cool.

The knob on the left turns the unit on and you have to wait to let the tubes warm up before anything happens. Then the knob on the right is the tuning dial and that is connected to the pointer in the center by a rubber "O" ring type belt which rotates pointer to indicate which station frequency you are picking up. 

Of course, there are not many AM radio stations operating anymore. But this reminds me of when I was younger. You had to have patience and sit and try to "tune in" whatever you could find out there. Now days everything is more direct. If your selected web site doesn't load instantaneously, you get frustrated. Heck, with this old gizmo you might take five minutes, or more, just to fine tune in a station to get the best reception. Thunderstorms in the area? Fahgeddaboudit! You were listening to every lightning strike!

Anyway, I hope y'all enjoyed seeing this old relic of days gone by.

Have a great weekend and as always- Thanks for reading G-Ted Productions!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Like Cake, Only Grittier

Gravel roads have been "Winterized" for the most part around here.
Wednesday I waited until it warmed up about as much as it was going to for the day before heading out for a quick jaunt South of town. I used the Bubblegum Princess with the Enve wheels attached and those fancy new Northwave boots with the long name. The Sun was out and it was looking pretty outside.

It's that time of year again and the light from the Sun is......weird. I've mentioned this in years past, but I never cease to be fascinated by this phenomenon. I suppose it has something to do with the lower angle of the Sun relative to Earth where I am at. Plus, the Sun was already Westering and it was probably more like riding in twilight than what I am used to for mid-afternoon Sun.

One thing the images here won't convey and that is that the wind was up and constantly blowing right at me as I went South at 20mph. Steady. It made for a rough go because the roads going South were all freshly graveled for Winter. Big, dusty, chunky goodness. All the way across the road.

I was headed down Ansbourough and I had decided I should climb that long climb up Petrie, then maybe go down Beck Road South a bit more. But after I reached the intersection with Petrie Road, I decided I had done enough pushing into the wind for one day. I headed straight West toward the Level B section of Petrie Road. I didn't think it would be dried up all the way yet, but I figured what moisture there was had frozen by now. Of course, it was above freezing as I rode, but it hadn't been for several days. I figured I'd be okay.

Surprise! It was wall to wall mud and water almost right out of the gate.
Well, I couldn't have been more wrong. Petrie Road was not only wet, but tore all up from harvesting machinery. I had to dismount just to get around some standing water, and the tread marks, ruts, and sand were treacherous until I passed the field opening where it seemed that the heavy machinery veered off into the adjacent corn field. That field was now empty. Just like every other field around now. Bonus- now there is absolutely nothing to hold up the wind! 

I moseyed on up the hill and as I went along the roadway here was sandy and underneath that the dirt was cake-like. My tires were doing the "pizza cutter" thing and resistance was high. I ended up having to dismount for a bit and walk along in the now dead weeds to avoid a short section that was not cake-like, but outright muddy. Once around that, it was difficult to get going again due to the spongy ground, but I managed to ride up to the top of the hill where that puddle of water almost always is.

The good news was that, while the mud was bad, it wasn't overwhelming. I could bounce the bike and knock a lot off that way. My boots still engaged the pedals. Mud wasn't fouling the wheels. So, not a disaster, like I thought it might have been. Just......an adventure! Once at the top I dismounted and got out my camera to shoot a few images for the reviews and then I just looked around a bit. It's a great place to see Northward since you can see Hudson, Waterloo, and everything in between from this ridge. I spied cattle grazing in a field not far off and decided to grab that image on this trip.

Cattle grazing with the outliers of Hudson in the distance. 
Water up top and more dead ahead in the distance to deal with. 
Cue the angelic voices......
Onward now and the descent off the ridge was hairy. LOTS of ruts, softer, muddier places, and I was feathering the brakes. Being very careful not to slip up and end up dumping myself into the mud . I also didn't want to cake up the wheels any worse than I had already.

I hopped off a couple of times briefly to negotiate water and mud, and then at the bottom there was a long stretch of hike-a-bike. Oddly enough, even though I was bushwhacking a lot through tall, dead weeds, I didn't get any stickers all over my wool socks. I had expected to look like a weedy, seedy mess, but I actually came out looking just fine.

The turn North was....whoa! Fast! That wind was kicking me straight up the road and I was carrying 18-20mph with little effort. Downhill speeds were higher. The road was chunky, of course, and the handling was a bit sketchy at times due to that. So, I wasn't able to just sit there for the ride. I had to pay attention or I may have eaten dust instead.

But all was well and I made it back okay. It was a perfect ride from the standpoint of length and effort. I'm very glad I decided not to go further into the wind. My body was dead tired afterward. Time to clean up the bike and get ready for the next nice day I have a chance to ride........

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Frozen Tundra

Winter has made an early appearance here in Iowa. We've had a skiff of snow, that melted, and now it is just plain cold. Really cold. My commute yesterday was at 9°F with a wind chill well below zero. And I forgot to take my neck scarf to put up over my face as I rode directly into the Northwest wind. Bah! The little things we have to relearn every Winter. Well, that and Winter pounced upon us all at once. No easing into it this year.

It rained and flooded not long ago and the water soaked ground is now rock hard. Frozen tundra. Riding on grass or dirt is like bounding over broken up pavement. There is no forgiveness at all. It's funny that you don't realize how much Earth has give to it until it doesn't.

The Bubblegum Princess rolling on the Enve wheels was getting a work out over the frozen dirt. Patches of ice gave me pause. I ran through a couple of those puddles with thin sheets of ice layered like thin window panes. The loud crunching of ice breaking as my WTB Resolutes cut through was alarming, but somehow satisfying all the same.

I kept telling myself it was okay. The Sun was shining. It could be worse. I was warm-ish. Work harder to get warmer, and on and on. It's funny how that self-talk can take your mind off the negative and you end up being okay. I made it to work and my face didn't even freeze off.

November in a bike shop in Iowa. Nuff said. That was tough. I think working during this time of year is actually harder than it is when we can't get ahead on jobs. Too much time on my hands makes for a long day. Of course, we'd all rather be busier now, but this cold intrusion has pretty much chased all but the most hardcore cyclist off the trails and roads. Even some of them are doing their "smart trainer" work indoors now.

Flood waters that had yet to evaporate or get absorbed by the ground are now beginning to freeze.
The ride home promised to be warmer, but for whatever reason, I felt just as cold as I did in the morning. Weird! I took the long way home from work, doing the out and back on Shirey Way and then cruising Riverside Trail over toward Waterloo and my neck of the woods. The Northwave boots I talked about yesterday are looking to be pretty good. I wasn't cold in the feet on the way to work and an hour ride after work proved to leave my toes just "chilly", but considering I had sweat in my shoes at work...... Well, more testing needs to be done there.

The weather is supposed to moderate to highs in the upper 30's, maybe low 40's? That will feel like a heatwave after this cold shot. I will be enjoying it the best I can. You know it won't last, because we are nearly halfway to December and Winter will be in full force, or it should be, by that time.