Sunday, January 31, 2010


Well they just announced the RAGBRAI route for 2010. RAGBRAI, you might ask? Why yes, that lil' ol' week long, all the way across Iowa ride on bicycles utilizing Iowa's vast network of blacktop roads. It happens every year on the last full week of July. Has every year since 1973. Pretty amazing, eh?

I won't sugar coat it either. I think RAGBRAI is good for a laugh. Once. It gets pretty dang old after that. As far as riding a bicycle goes, it has gotten beyond lame, and stale. No thanks. You might think RAGBRAI is soooo totally awesome that you think I am off my rocker, but that is okay. I've done the whole she-bang once and parts of several other ones. They are all the same. To me at least. A total cycling snooze-fest.

Ya see that road up there? that is a road! No cars, no hordes of party people pretending to be cyclists, and no over regulated, high priced canned entertainment and food vendors. No pretensions. You either ride it and make it, or not, and it is beautiful, peaceful, and much, much more challenging as a cyclist than RAGBRAI.

I came up with an idea about three years ago. I called it GRBRAI. (Gravel Road Bike Ride Across Iowa) I said someone should hop on that and do it. Well, no one did. No surprise there. It takes a lot of logistical work to make a gravel route, much less one all the way across the state. Of course, I've had plenty of experience with that.

Now the RAGBRAI committee has handed me over night towns that make doing a route an almost no-brainer. Check this out: Sioux City to Storm Lake. I've been through here on black tops and going off on gravels would be new, but I know the lay of the land out there, so I know it can be done. Next is Storm Lake to Algona. Okay, now we're talkin. I probably already have one half to three quarters of that day mapped out already from T.I.V1-2 and the aborted plans for the cross state T.I.V3. Algona was our half way town. Nice! Next is Algona to Clear Lake. Again- that's entirely in the can with the exception of the last 5-7 miles into Clear Lake. Next up is Clear Lake to Charles City. Oddly enough, I have a route mapped out. It was from the aborted T.I.V3 course. (We decided to abandon point to points before I finished the course planning that year) Next we have Charles City to Waterloo. I've ridden all of this route with the exception of about 12 miles from Chuck Town to Nashua. Again- easy. Next we have Waterloo to Manchester. Using training route knowledge and Trans Iowa recon knowledge I could piece together this route in five minutes. Manchester to Dubuque is the final leg. This one would prove more difficult since Dubuque County has dang near paved the entire road system within its boundaries. (They must feel that they are part of Wisconsin or something) I'm sure I could eek out about half that days mileage in gravel. Maybe more.

So, I am going to draw it up on Map My Ride and when it is done, ya'all can print it off and do it. I may do a couple of days of it, but since the ride is coming through W'loo, I may be tied down to the shop here doing repairs. We'll see. Last time the ride came through and stayed in Cedar Falls it wasn't that big of a deal.

So, if you are like me, and you want a challenge, you want to get away from people wearing beads and stupid flamingo costumes, and you want to see parts of Iowa that no one else will, hang on. I'll announce when it is ready for public consumption with about 12 disclaimers and what not! ha ha! (Here are a few now!) Remember_ Iowa's gravel roads are public roads and carry lots of different types of traffic, have wild animals running around on them, and may break your bicycle and your body. This isn't a canned, supported, lame-o ride I am talking about. This would be really tough. You would be on your own. It might even really suck.'ve been warned! I will never and do not now take any responsibility for whatever may happen if this route is drawn up and you ride it. The roads may not even be there in places. Too bad! Figure out yer own re-route.

Okay, I'll do the line drawing later. Now go for a ride ya'all!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Trans Iowa V6: Thoughts Part XI

Welcome to your weekly dose of Trans Iowa V6 related thoughts and comments sprinkled with some actual useful information.

The Waiting List: This is the final weekend for The Waiting List. Once Sunday passes the roster will be frozen and if I recieve drop out notices, the roster will be allowed to contract. Thank you to all who jumped in and let me know you were not going to make it in. I appreciate it, and so do all the folks who took your spots.I never had to wait very long to hear back from folks contacted on the list, so I know these spots were coveted. We had well over 40 folks- something like 46 or 47- on The Waiting List this year, which was a record.

First off, just because the Waiting List is done doesn't mean you should just be a no-show on April 23rd if you know you can not make it. Please let me know ASAP if you can not come to T.I.V6. It will save on spending money for resources for your spot- cue sheets, race packets, and schwag. Plus a lot of time put in as far as preparation. Plus we need a solid number of attendees to the "Pre-Race Meat-Up" so the Grinnell Steakhouse can be best prepared for our gathering. Please! It is super important for me to know if you plan on not making it.

As far as the roster is concerned, my feeling is that we will start the biggest field we ever have had at a T.I. event. That would have to be more than 64. (T.I.V3) We'll see....

Finally, in relation to The Waiting List and in turn, Registration, there will be a slightly different plan set up for next year. (If there is a T.I.V7) It is obvious that gravel road events are very popular. (Almanzo looks to have over 300 participants for its May event, DK 200 sold out in a day, for examples) I may consider a slight expansion to the roster, but only if I see bigger numbers at the start line this year. If we start the number of riders that we normally do, (somewhere in the 50-60 rider range), then I see no reason to expand the roster.

Regardless if the roster expands or not, there will be some sort of change to the registration process. New riders will be given more of a chance to get in. I am not sure how that looks just yet, but I have a long time to mull that over. just know that the registration process will be tweaked "if" another T.I. is run.

Pre-Race Meat-Up Details: Here are some more fine details on the Pre-Race Meat-Up. Remember- this is a required attendance event! This is where you will check in officially for the event, recieve the all important first set of cues, your race numbers, and a packet with some schwag. You will also be invited to eat at The Grinnell Steakhouse where the meeting is taking place in their banquet room.

I am going to give some tentative times here. This may change before April a bit:
  • 5:00pm: Gather at The Grinnel Steakhouse. Check in and have your name marked on the roster. Sign the waiver. Sit down for some fine vittles which will include a choice of grill your own chicken, beef, or pork. Vegetable Kabobs and a salad bar will be available for you non-meat eaters. A fully stocked bar is also on the premises.
  • 6:30pm: Pre-Race meeting will begin with remarks by Guitar Ted and d.p. Some raffle schwag will be given out. A short Q&A will then be held which will then lead us up to...
  • 7:00pm-ish: The Call Up- Each racer will be called up individually, given the race packet, and then you are free to leave.
  • 8:00pm: The place should be cleared out and everyone gone to bed!
Note: If you don't get checked in at the door before 6:30pm, you will not be racing T.I.V6!!

I will only call names of folks that were checked in at the door and that have signed the waiver. If you are late- too bad. You've been warned now, and I will continue to let this be known as many ways as I can until April. If you tell me you didn't know about this, I will not believe you. Sorry!

Prices And "Dining Dollars": Here is the breakdown for the main entre's that you have to choose from:
  • Grill Your Own" Beef - $15.99 
  • Grill Your Own Chicken or Pork - $13.99. 
  • Veggie Kabobs - $10.99
To help defray the cost of the meal, and as a welcome to Grinnell, the Grinnell Chamber of Commerce has what is known as "Dining Dollars" available to you, the participants of T.I.V6. Basically, you will be getting two ten dollar gift certificates each. One certificate will be good towards your Pre-Race Meat-Up meal, so you will be spending less of your own money. This is an awesome deal! The other certificate is for a meal on Saturday, which could go to a support person, or I am sure could be spent on Sunday as well. These must be used at Grinnel Chamber of Commerce memeber businesses. (A list will be provided, see below) These certificates can be spent like cash for food. The Dining Dollars will be in a Welcome Packet you can pick up at The Comfort Inn and Suites upon your arrival in Grinnell. The packet will include the following:

-Visitor Guide

-History Book

 -Restaurant Information with map (Here you will find where you can spend the Dining Dollars)

 -The Hub – The Grinnell Area Chamber of Commerce Newsletter

 -Grinnell Brochure

 -Tour the Barn Quilts of Poweshiek County Brochure

-Merchants National Bank Brochure

-Business Card on the Model Railroad Display

That should set you up for what to expect. There may be more details and tweaks to come, so stay tuned! Thanks go out to Sheryl Parmley and the Grinnell Chamber of Commerce for the awesome work and for the "Dining Dollars".

Friday, January 29, 2010

Just Riding Along

<===Just itchin' for some long gravely rides.

I was doing a write up on some cycling gizmo earlier and I just had to stop for a minute and remind my self that it isn't about data. It isn't about graphs, GPS tracks, heart rate, or whatever.

It's about the ride.

It isn't about carbon fiber, hydro-formed aluminum, tubeless tires, or even 29"ers.

I guess this long, cold, snowy winter has got me to thinking about how good it is just to ride a bicycle. Any ol' bicycle, but preferrably the one that you just really enjoy being on. (Whatever that "one" is) I know that for me, I sure miss riding that Fargo right about now. I have written a ton of words about this bike, and how it is a game changer and all, but the one thing about it is this: It just feels right when I ride it.

In fact, it doesn't really matter that it is this waaay cool mountainbike adventure touring rig. I just smile every time I get to ride it on some lonesome gravel road, and I miss that right now. A lot.

So while "Just Riding Along", or as we shop rats know it- "JRA"- is a negative experience most of the time as it relates to customers, I wish I was "JRA" right now on a dusty path. I guess that time will come soon enough.

Hopefully it will warm up a bit so we can all ride out the end of this winter. If you can't, well- hold on! It won't be much longer! Have a great weekend and ride em if ya can!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Snow Biking, Tire Death, And The T.I.V6 Waiting List

<===The Maxxis Ardent 2.25 died a long, painful death.

Well, on January 27th, at approximately 9:00am, a Maxxis Ardent 2.25"er bit the dust, (as a tubeless tire) in my kitchen. Cause of death was a weak sidewall that couldn't stop hemorrahging sealant through spontaneaously created perforations.

It will be survived by an Ardent 2.4 inch tire.

The Ardent 2.25, while lauded by many across the land for its attributes, never behaved itself in like manner at my home. In fact, it was a miscreant as a tubeless tire and never more than average as a tubed tire. Society has been relieved of bearing this under producing example that I have as I will be retiring this to the dust bin. Too bad too. It seemed to have so much potential.

Snow Biking: So instead of ripping up some snow packed streets with the Dillinger/Velocity/Ardent package I instead called into duty the Salsa Cycles El Mariachi named "Grimace" outfitted with the porcine WTB Kodiak tires mounted to the wide Gordo hoops. This proved to be a stellar choice. I ended up finding some well travelled snowmobile tracks and the big WTB's floated me right quick down the trail. Now I can finally understand just a bit what it would be like to have a Pugsley or some other fine snow bike.

I only lasted about an hour, but I need to work into things gradually, since I haven't had many outdoor opportunities of late. The single speed and weight of the wheels made for a constant effort that was taxing, but enjoyable. Good riding at any rate. I feel snow riding, at least the style I do, sharpens my handling skills and balance. I was putting out a pretty consistent effort too, so I thought it was a better way to spend an hour than I would have otherwise.

Speaking Of Training: How is the T.I.V6 training going? Are you going to be on that start line in front of Bikes To You in Grinnell on April 24th? No? Then please let me know so I can move some folks off The Waiting List to the roster before Sunday at midnight! That's when The Waiting List turns back into a pumpkin until next time.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wednesday News And Views

Updates To Gravel Grinder News: In the news on Gravel Grinder News are the race results and a short report from the weekend's running of the first Red River Riot in St. Jo, Texas. Also look for registration news for Vermont's Gravel Grinder Springtime classic and a new addition to the gravel road events in the Twin Cities area called the Westside Dirty Benjamin. Links and info are over there on GGN, so take a look.

Also of note: You can now participate in the conversations if you'd like by commenting on GGN. In the future you can expect some gear reviews, editorils, and more. Stay tuned!

 Salsa Cycles Vaya: Ever since I saw the Vaya prototype last summer I have sort of been ho-hum on the concept, but regardless, it is a cool bike. (Check out the details here) Salsa has made what I would refer to as a "Fargo-lite", a bike that takes up to 43mm tires, but in many ways strikes me as a more "road-centric" version of the awesome Fargo. There isn't a thing wrong with that at all. Really, it has more to do with my off road bias. I will confess that I have trouble dealing with the idea of riding a tire under 42mm wide. I really have a hang up with that. But I digress.......

The Vaya will definitely speak to those who have found traditional geometry in touring bikes lacking for comfort. A tall head tube with the sloping top tube is going to automatically turn off a lot of road going touring afficianados. Too bad. The Vaya will offer riders a far more comfortable rider positioning in terms of multi-hour rides than any traditional touring rig. I am sure that Vaya also has other cool features, (disc brakes for one), but to my eyes, the Vaya nails the nice upright, relaxed rider position perfectly and will really be valuable on rougher roads and gravel. In fact, I would agree with what Dirty Kanza promoter, Jim Cummings has written when he opined that it was the best gravel road rig he's laid eyes on. Yeah, at least from a production bike standpoint, I think that is correct.

So What's Wrong With Skinny Tires?: Nothing. Really.......not a thing. I have ridden many many miles on 23mm tires, but from my standpoint it wasn't very inspiring to be limited to paved roads. Never has been. When I was younger, I loved riding bikes, and I resisted giving up my 20" bike, even though I was way too big for it, because of its 2 inch wide tires. Then I got a 26 X 1/38ths shoed single speed coaster braked Huffy. It looked like an English lightweight, and I immediately removed the fenders, much to my father's chagrin, and began to go off road. Someone stole the thing from me, and I never could bring myself to fall in love with the "adult" bikes of the time which were all based on road racers. In fact, I hated them. They didn't like off road tracks, and I did. Bye-bye bicycles.

Well, I heard about this mountain biking thing around 1984 and my ears pricked up, but due to the hobbies of chasing girls, music, and booze, I never pursued the bicycle idea again until 1988. In 1989 I finally got my fat tired rig (again) and never looked back. Skinny tires just do not inspire me all that much. If it is good for you, well then have a great ride. Me? Not so much. Although I have had some good times on road bikes, I just don't even think about riding paved roads anymore and avoid the whole paved thing whenever possible.

Now you know.

But I would do a self supported paved tour for a month in a heartbeat. I would just chose a fatter tire than most folks, so maybe a Vaya would be that bike. Maybe........

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Bike Shop Tales: More On The Trails Part III

Last week I detailed out a story regarding The Bridge Trail. But that wasn't the only trail out there in Geo Wyth State Park........

Sometime during the winter of '93/'94, I heard about another "secret trail" that existed out in the State Park. The details were sketchy. Nobody really wanted to tell me about it, but with me hanging around the bike shop on a daily basis, I was able to ferret out enough bits and pieces in regards to this trail that I pieced it together and found the trail.

It was a bit snowy out there when I found it, and supposedly this trail had just been cut in, thus the secrecy. Nobody wanted the Park Ranger to know about it until it had gotten "burned in" sometime during the coming spring. Once a trail got "burned in" by a fair amount of riders, it really was hard to get rid of it, or prove it hadn't been there for a while. If the Ranger thought a trail had been around a while, it was usually let go, but "new" trails were frowned upon.

This particular trail was cut in by an ex-Advantage Cyclery employee we all knew as "Tater". He was a quiet fellow with huge thighs and usually let his bike riding do the talking. I never got to know him all that well, but he seemed to be a good guy. He would be seen around the shop at times, or out in the woods riding around on his mountain bike, because he was not only an Advantage Cyclery "alum", but he also had raced for the team based out of the shop at one time too.

Anyway, this trail wasn't all that long, located on the south side of the paved path and north of the river, but it had the greatest "flow" and was a blast to ride on really fast. It came off the fitness trail that ran alongside the river and cut towards the paved path in a serpentine fashion. Going in and out of little ravines and across small ridges in a beautiful way that no other bit of trail ever quite matched out there, with the possible exception of the Bridge Trail. Amazingly fun, and not ever used all that much. Even all the way up to this present time. And I must admit, after last year's wind storms which flattened a lot of trees out there, Tater's Trail is no more. Too bad too.

Another trail sprang up in the east end of the Park late in '94 and into '95. This one was never really a secret, but it was well known that the mountain bike riders of that time were eyeing the land to the east of the paved path and there were a lot of empty woods in that direction. So it was that a collaboration of riders met on a regular basis to carve out a long, serpentine bit of single track.

The main instigators were Brian, his friend Dave (Another possible Dead Bikeman), and a mechanic from the other shop, Vance, who was in the Advantage Cycles mechanics class with me back in the day. The trail they and others made back in there came to be known as the "BVD" trail, taking the first letters of the three main designers into its name. The BVD was a long, fun, challenging trail that flowed right off the east end of the fitness trail that came just before the point where the paved path truncated. Then it wound its way mostly north along the western edge of a service road. Then back and forth until it dumped you out around a tussock of weeds that hid the exit just before you got dumped back onto the paved path near the picnic area. Fun stuff and it made for a long,(for Geo Wyth) challenging ride.

Well, that fun lasted about three years before the State and a landowner to the East got embroiled in a legal battle over the State wanting to annex this property that- (yep! You guessed it!)- a lot of the BVD was built on. We came out there one day to find stakes driven in a straight line that cut right across the serpentine trail in several places. It wasn't long afterward that we found No Trespassing signs were staked in right in the middle of the trail. Efforts were made to re-route the BVD, but that basically killed it. By the early 2000's, even though the land eventually went back to the State, the trail was mostly lost.

Most of the George Wyth trails that were really cool back then are gone today with the exception of the Bridge Trail which is still pretty fun, and amazingly, it is in decent shape. However that is, the State Park was the central stomping grounds for most metro mountain bikers in the time I was at Advantage Cyclery. It was where we went to blow off steam, and have fun. Great times that probably will never be re-created again.

Next Week: Getting back to work........

Monday, January 25, 2010

I Got Nuttin'

Well, this weekend was a wash from a cycling outside point of view. Just too many things going on to get it fit inbetween the cracks of the different activities Saturday and Sunday. So, here is a random post of jumbled thoughts to start your week off with......

To Go Tubeless Or Not To Go Tubeless? That Is The Question! Well, long time G-Ted Productions readers will remember that I have had my issues with the tubeless conversions and setting up tubeless systems. I have largely been able to overcome all the technical difficulties. Some by trial and error, some by the knowledge passed along by friends, and some by the purchase of an air compressor. (Really! The air compressor is a must have!)

There is just one thing: That is that the "old" style of tires for 29"ers are pretty sketchy converted to tubeless. I have seen sidewall issues that are a bit nerve wracking. Holes that just pop up out of nowhere. I believe because of the extra stress that is put on the sidewalls due to the missing tube. At any rate, I have been able to avoid catastrophic failure, but that doesn't build my confidence up when I see a pin hole just develope in front of my eyes. (That did happen once!)

Now I will say that almost every new tire that has come out in the last two years- whether marketed as tubeless ready or not- sure looks tubeless ready to my eyes. Thicker sidewalls and definitely different bead constructions. Nothing like the tires of 2007 and before. Is it a conspiracy to avoid possible litigation that tire makers are making tubeless ready tires and saying they are not? Well, I wouldn't go that far. But I think that they certainly are aware that these tires are going to be used tubeless and are making design changes based upon that knowledge of the market. It's obvious something is being done, anyway.

Trans Iowa V6 Pre-Race Meat-Up: Okay, I got a few more details on the "Meat-Up". (Yes G.Wissell, I stole the name again!) Anyway.......... There will be a "grill yer own" thing happening there which I think will give the guys and gals in attendance a chance to mill around, chat, and get to know one another just a bit that we have not had before. A steak or veggie kabob thing will be there, plus a well stocked salad bar for you non-meat eating folks. I have been promised that the bar will be open as well. We have to announce times yet, but I have been assured that I can have the room for quite a stretch of time that night. We'll have everybody out by 7-7:30pm I hope. Keep in mind: This is a mandatory meeting, but also- it will be probably the only chance you racers will have to casually chat with anyone on the roster. It should be a good time.

Next up on the "to do list" for T.I.V6 is the finish line party, which we are calling "The Oakley O-down At The Barn". This is going to be special! Stay tuned for details on this. We also will be announcing some of the prizing structure for the event. Then there is the gravel grinder that will happen for the support folks and volunteers that are around on Saturday the 24th of April. A self guided group ride will occur that will have options for 30-60-100 miles and will end up at The Barn later for hanging out. This ride will loop in and out of Grinnell, so you won't be too far from your home base. More details will follow on this too. Plus we'll have special coupons for the out of towners to tourist attractions and eating establishments to occupy the time you have while some nutcracker you know is riding around Iowa like a loon.

Are Gravel Grinders Out Growin' Their Britches?: I look around me this year, and especially since starting Gravel Grinder News, and I see unprecedented numbers of events, but more importantly, an unprecedented number of folks wanting to do this stuff. Just check out the Almanzo 100 roster. There has to be well over 200 folks on this list. I know the other gravel grinders are seeing some healthy numbers as well.

Will this sort of pressure on the events and more importantly- on the public road systems they are held on- raise some eyebrows that we gravel grinders are not really wanting to arouse? Maybe. At any rate, it bears close scrutiny and the outcome of some of these unrestricted, underground events may end up causing  not so free events in the future.

Well, that's it. I'm tapped! Have a great week folks!

p.s: Thanks......a HUGE all who sent there good will on my birthday. I really appreciated that!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

"" Is Here!

Hey everyone! This is just a heads up that due to the success of Gravel Grinder News I have decided it would be worthwhile to register the domain

The old address will still show up for a bit, and your browsers will be redirected to the new address automatically, but you may want to make the change in your book marks if you want to.

This means that you can expect some changes as this site grows in the future. Nothing spectacular for the short term. I was starting this as a trial balloon of sorts to see if the idea had any traction and it seems that you folks out there think it is a worthy endeavor, which has encouraged me to step it up a notch.That said, the site is powered by you.

I rely on your suggestions, and also your tips to keep the info you find there fresh and useful to gravel aficionados all across the nation. Please keep the info and suggestions flowing by e-mailing me anything pertaining to gravel and back road events, races, and results.

Thanks and I hope you all have great adventures out on the gravel in 2010!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Trans Iowa V6: Thoughts & 49 Trips Around The Sun

<===Old guy in the snow...

Today marks the end of my 49th trip around the sun. It's been a pretty cool ride so far. Sure.....there has been a few pitfalls, but all in all I am blessed, healthy, and pretty dang happy. It doesn't get much better than that on this Earth, ya know?

So, with that out of the way, let's get on to the latest in Trans Iowa V6 goings on, (and some past business!) I had two things come up Friday that were pretty momentous in regards to Trans Iowa over all. First- the T.I.V6 news!

The Trans Iowa V6 Pre-Race Meat-Up: The venue for T.I.V6's pre-race meeting has been determined. I'd like to welcome The Grinnell Steakhouse as the host of our "Pre-Race Meat-Up" for the 2010 edition of T.I.

We'll be using their banquet room and it is plenty big enough to cover our group. There will be finer details on menu choice, costs, and other things coming, but here are a couple of points that you, the T.I.V6 participant, need to keep in mind.

The "Pre-Race Meat-Up" is a mandatory attendance portion of Trans Iowa. First, upon arrival at the Grinnell Steakhouse, you will be required to check in with me and let me know you are in attendance. I will mark your name off on the roster, and at the call up, you will only hear the names of those that checked in. If you don't check in, there will not be any cue sheets for you. Period. Be there! In fact- come early! Times will be released later.

You will get your pre-event pack with the all important first cue sheet set at this meeting on the call up. Any last minute changes will also be detailed at this event. You will then get the standard "be carefuls", and "do and don't" instructions from me. Then there will be a question and answer time allowed for. Of course, we would really like for you to support the business we have retained as our host and eat there. Cost will be determined, but two menu choices- one with meat, one vegetarian, is the goal for me to have provided for you. There will also be drinks available of the alcoholic variety. Again, details will be coming later. Stay tuned!

I'll be taking a head count just before the event that should include racers and support folks so the Grinnell Steakhouse can be ready for us. Finally, I need to point out the efforts on our behalf by Sheryl Parmley of the Grinnell Chamber of Commerce in securing The Grinnell Steakhouse as our host for the "Meat-Up". Thank you!

The Renegade Sportsman: Back before T.I.V3 started, I was contacted by Zach Dundas who wanted some information about this crazy cycling event he had heard about while in Portland, Oregon. Portland is home to T.I.V1 and the eventual T.I.V3 winner, Ira Ryan, so word had spread around the cycling community there about his exploits, which somehow reached Zach's ear. Well, e-mails were exchanged and before I knew it, Zach had a plane ticket and a rental car and was coming along to shadow T.I.V3 as part of the research he was doing for a book. The book, a tome that was to be about the underground, DIY type sporting events around the nation, was not going to be published right away, and T.I.V3 might not even make the cut. So it was that after the event I patiently awaited word that the book was out. Well, I just got word.....

Zach e-mailed me to let me know that the "Renegade Sportsman" is due out in June in paperback and can be pre-ordered now. (Click the link) Zach also assured me that T.I. was in the book by writing me the following:

"The TransIowa provides one of the true centerpieces of the book. (Can there be more than one centerpiece?) The chapter about the TI is epic in length and, I hope, interest, and contains such memorable characters as Ira Ryan, Tim Ek, Team Polska and yourself. The whole book is about the glory of DIY, independent sport, and I believe I make it clear that the TransIowa is one of the greatest such events on the planet."

Wow! Pretty humbling and very cool.

So, get your copy pre-ordered. It's pretty cool that something like a gravel road event gets this kind of exposure. At least your grand kids will have some extant proof beyond your fazed memories that something like Trans Iowa actually happened and that you were part of it!

Lastly, I recall talking to Zach near the end of T.I.V3 and he was telling me that the book wouldn't probably be out until 2009 or so. I remember my immediate thought was that Trans Iowa may very well not even exist by that time. I think I even uttered something to this effect to Zach, who, as I recall, sort of brushed that off and said that he was sure T.I. would be plugging along just fine. He thought rather that it would be his efforts in regards to the book that would be forgotten by then. Well, I hope neither is the case now. (And in fact, it won't be)

I hope you all find this as exciting as I do.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Frost And Flash

<===Mrs. Guitar Ted said that "They sure won't miss you on that one!"
So here ya go, the Velocity wheels, Ardent tires, big long fork, 20mm through axle, one speed, and a cool aluminum frame. No goofy names. Just a killer ride. I can't wait to find some dirt on this one.
Yup, that's about it really. No crazy story. No wild tales of how everything came together. I guess I am just boring that way. Oh well!
The tires are tubeless using my buddy MG's cool system which went together in a snap and I am betting will hold up really well. The Ardent 2.4 is up front here with an Ardent 2.25 in the back cause that's how we roll in the Mid-West. Good news is that the Ardent has stretched up to 59 plus silly-meters so far. Still not a 2.4 incher, but it's gettin' close.
<===Click on the pic to make it bigger and find the smiley face Jack Frost left behind!
So we were treated to about three or four days of crazy hoar frost this week. Frost like I can't ever remember seeing. I was stuck inside with family duties for three days and figured I'd miss getting out in it, but when Tuesday came I was treated to an incredible ride to work. The hoar frost had accumulated to such a degree that many of the smaller branches were completely obscured in a brilliant, feathery white. It was as if the trees had sprouted leaves of pure white color. It was an amazing morning!

I was running late, but I just had to stop and pull out my Panasonic LX-3 and take a few hurried shots to remember this by.
Just another of the odd things that have occurred this winter. Now we're supposed to get rained on Saturday which should make everything glum and nasty looking. Makes me even more happy that I stopped a second or two to take these shots. Winter can be beautiful too. I know some folks can't understand how we put up with the cold, but it isn't all that bad once you've lived here awhile.
That said, I am getting that itch for spring to come. I want to hit the dirt with that Dillinger set up with the Rock Shox. I want to ride miles of gravel. I sure would like to see some flowers again too.
It'll be coming!
Ride yer bike if you can and have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Wow! What a strange winter it has been so far. Now in the latest snafu of wintry wackiness we have been bathed in ice pellets and freezing rain. A direct hit was avoided here, but still there are a lot of folks without power and the roads were pretty treacherous there for a bit.

So it was that I received a brief "internet vacation" thanks to our service provider that was off line most of last evening and right up to the time of this posting.

This nasty weather, which promises to get even messier for Saturday with rain of all things, is going to make cycling out of doors very challenging, if not impossible. And since I have a distinct aversion to indoor training, that means I may be relegated to walking around when I can between rain, freezing drizzle, or whatever crap weather falls my way over the weekend.

Okay, so enough about that. In the world of cycling I have some projects coming together. I am short two post mount brake studs from having the next beast arise out of the Lab. What is it? Well, let's just say that this guy isn't the only one to have recently built a hard tail 29"er with a long, squishy fork on it. Only mine is more colorful, and therefore better.

You'll just have to wait and see for yourself. (Coming soon to a computer monitor near you!)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Spinning Out Of Control

Unless you've been pulling a "Rip Van Winkle" lately you've probably noticed all the goofy, cold, ice, and snow this winter, the strange weather in other parts of the world, earth quakes, political battling, and the rumor of 10 speed mountain bike gruppos from Shimano and SRAM.

I tell ya, it is a sign of the Apocalypse.

Well, really...........we all knew it was coming. We just wanted not to believe it. I mean afterall, SRAM came out with XX and did we really think that would be it? No, we didn't, and you know it. But we were all in denial, that's for sure. Even when Shimano brought out that 12-36T cassette at a Deore level, we were all thinking that someday there would be an XT level 9 speed version, and that all this goofy SRAM XX nonsense would just blow away.

Ha! In reality, Shimano was tipping its hand in that by offering that cassette at that level, they were really telling us everything above that would be 10 speed.

And guess what? It is! XTR, XT, and SLX will all be offered in 10 speed versions for 2011. Much of this will be 2X10 gearing too, just like SRAM's XX offering. Looks like that pesky granny gear will be a thing of the past!

(Speaking of which, here is my buddy Grannygear's take on this. )

<==pics from Hagoromo blog.

But this new Shimano stuff will also be available in a 3X10, making it the first 30 speed mtb group. Crazy! I guess that's good news for those wanting that low gear. (Reportedly 24 X 36T)
The 10 speed thing I was never really a big fan of, and to be honest, I wanted it to fail, but SRAM's XX stuff really works well. If Shimano's stuff works anywhere near as well, I think most folks will be fine with it. At least from a performance standpoint.
Costs to buy in and to maintain this stuff is yet to be determined, but I think the more important question is how often will it need to be replaced? Logically the components will by necessity be thinner, (chain rings, chains) and the force applied to those smaller surface areas will not be decreasing. Road 10 speed is not as durable as its 9 speed predecessors, so I can not see that this will be any different with 10 speed mountain bike componentry. Time will tell, but I have a feeling it won't be a positive outcome. Well.......unless you are a component manufacturer, that is.
Then there is the proprietary/new chain ring BCD's which will be another wrench in the works. No one wants this that I know. We are not asking for it, and it isn't "better". It is another way to "lock you in" and take away choices. Really, what was so bad about five arm 94/58 BCD cranks, or for that matter, why can't we have the old 110/74 BCD back? They use it like crazy on road stuff now. You'd think the component folks would catch on to the idea of making things more compatible/efficient not just for us, but for their bottom line.
Oh well. What can you do? Not much, it seems. They keep on rolling out the new "bling" and riders keep opening their checkbooks and using their credit cards. I suppose it will work "okay", but it could be so much better than "okay" and cheaper too.

Finally, I know a lot of riders are not using a big ring anymore anyway, and 2X10 may be seen as a huge step forward to them. If the gearing choices get low enough for those folks, and the stuff lasts a decent amount of time, with great performance, it will be a hit.
And 9speed will become the realm of Altus hybrid bikes!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bike Shop Tales: More On The Trails- Part II

The trails in and around Advantage Cycles were a big part of my early bicycle shop experiences. More on that here.........

As I have written, the trail building in George Wyth State Park was in high gear in 1994. The flood of '93 was done, and a new lake with new lands were added to the Park. Alice Wyth Lake was a basic man made overgrown pond with no real access at the time the State put the body of water in. It wasn't long before this that I recall riding down the paved bike path that bordered the lake, before it was a lake, and watching a farmer plow the field that was once there. Times change!

At any rate, new road construction during the late 80's early 90's also was a part of the new trail developments. An elevated expressway was put in on the park's western boundary. This spawned a trail on the western end of George Wyth that we all came to refer to as The Bridge Trail, since it started near to the bridge built for the expressway. The Bridge Trail was the handiwork of Brian, who I suspect was one of the original Dead Bikeman group. At any rate, this fellow was/is a master at building a flowy, fun trail out of what once was a mere ditch. Amazing talent there.

Like many of the early trails, the entrance was concealed and the exit was........well, originally there wasn't really an exit. The trail truncated at the border of an old barbed wire fence and a deer trail that went out to the paved bike path. You were obliged to hit up the deer trail to make your exit. This kept the trail from being discovered by those in authority, and indeed, it worked. The Bridge Trail was safe from the Park rangers, but not from popularity.

The word got out, and if you hadn't ridden The Bridge Trail, you were missing it, man! That was the primo single track at that time in this area. The '93 flood didn't do much to it, thankfully, but by '94, the folks that had discovered it were grousing for more, and sure enough, a few intrepid younginz started making an extension to The Bridge Trail into the area opened up by the Alice Wyth Lake addition. Ryan, a friend of his, and maybe a couple other riders were in on this.

I was riding my '92 Klein Attitude to work one day, motoring up the paved bike path in the Park, when I ran into Ryan. He asked if I had seen the "new trail" yet. Well, as I have mentioned before, "new trail" was like offering crack cocaine to an addict, so I said "No! Where is it?" Ryan asked me to follow him, and of course, I forgot all about work! We flew off the trail, up the now well worn in deer path exit/entrance to the Bridge Trail, and then took a right over a piece of plywood over the old, broken down barbed wire fence. This was new territory for me!

Ryan was lithe, young, and very fast then. I had a hard time holding his wheel as he motored on ahead of me at a blazing pace. New trail that was unfamiliar meant I was really sketchy in the corners, but the Klein and I held on. I saw Ryan flip something over his head, and before I could react, or really know what it was, a vine was across my neck!

The vine wasn't attached to anything at one end, thank God, or who knows what might have happened that day, but the rough bark was sliding across my neck at a very fast speed as I tried to stop myself. Once stopped, and with my head still attached, Ryan came rolling back towards me. He had heard my cry as I was in pain, holding my neck with one hand. Ryan said I was bleeding, and sure enough, I was. Not bad enough to bail out on checking out the rest of that trail though!

The trail wasn't finished yet. Ryan told me the plans they had to turn back eastwards at the spot where it was dead ended at and go along Alice Wyth Lake back towards the Park. Very cool, I thought. But I remembered I had to get to work, so I motored off as Ryan stayed to mess with some of the trail work.

When I got to work, Tom laughed so hard he turned red. Apparently, the appearance of my scraped up neck and the story were rather humorous. I had to suffer about three weeks worth of Clint Eastwood/"Hang 'em High" jokes, but in the end, I was all right.

Next week: Even more "secret trail" and stories........

Monday, January 18, 2010

Day Three Of Mr. Mom

<===Huge? Not so much!

Well, this is going to be Day Three of playing Mr. Mom at home with the kids. Mrs. Guitar Ted is an R.N. and has to be "on call" once in awhile, which in terms of reality means she spends nearly every waking moment at the hospital where she works. That means I got to take care of the two children we have all weekend and of course today is a holiday. No school. We lost our daycare for the time being, three it is!
So not much has been happening with me in terms of anything that isn't family related, including bicycles. I did get the Maxxis Ardent 2.4"ers mounted though, and you know what? I almost don't even want to say what I have found.

The Maxxis 29"er tire line has been pretty good so far. First we had the Ignitor, which was and still is a great all around tread design. Then the excellent CrossMark came out which made a lot of XC/Trail riders smile. (Curiously, I have never ridden a CrossMark. Hmmm......) Then the Ardent 2.25 came out and trail riders were practically falling over themselves with accolades for this tread design.

I wasn't one of them.

I thought the Ardent 2.25 was merely "okay". It is pretty close to a Bontrager XR in my mind as far as design and not nearly as good a performer. The Ardent was horrible in mud, and it washed out in the dust over hard pack we get here in summer. I felt it was all right if trail conditions were dry, and near perfect, but a lot of other tires will do that and more. Ardent 2.25? Meh!

Then the word came through that Maxxis was going to do a wider version of the Ardent. Okay, maybe the knobs would be deeper and larger too. And guess what? They are. Cool! A new Maxxis tire that might be a great tread for 29"ers. I was interested. So a pair came in for testing at Twenty Nine Inches. I was excited.

I decided to put them on the Velocity P-35 rimmed wheel I have and a 28mm wide WTB rim as a comparison. So whatta ya know? They came out to be undersized. Not just a little either, but by a fair margin. Like in a "Continental" sort of way. Not very impressive.
I know tires stretch, but at just shy of 2.3 inches after 24 hours, these will have to do an amazing job at stretching to get to what they should be on a 35mm wide rim. You can forget about these getting to 2.4 inches on a 28mm wide rim with tubes. It isn't going to happen. Actually, on a 35mm wide rim, I would expect these to be over 2.4 inches wide. I don't think that is going to happen either. I could be wrong though.
So, I know that the Ardent fans, (pun intended) will not be liking what I have to say to start out with in regards to this 2.4 inch version of this Maxxis tire. Just like they thought I was off my rocker about the things I said about the 2.25 version. But, the calipers don't lie, what am I supposed to say? I just hope the performance is there. I won't be finding that out for a wee bit yet though! We've got this issue with winter to deal with first.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Trans Iowa V6: Thoughts Part X

Melt That Snow!! So, I have a lot of recon work to get going on here before March comes. I have one enemy now. Snow. Well........snow and ice! Okay, two enemies. Anyway, I need to get some work done and get it tucked away for this event.

Because of this, I have declined an invite to CIRREM at the end of February. If the weather turns out to be good enough to ride bikes, it'll be good enough to do recon, so that's the plan. Gotta sacrifice some fun to get the job done! Too bad too, 'cause a lot of good folks are committing to this event and I would love to go, but I just can't fritter away a single opportunity now to get recon done. When I get that out of the way, then I can rest a little easier. However; you should go if you can. It's going to be a great opener to the 2010 gravel scene.

Sponsor's Corner: I will be highlighting a few sponsors now as the lead up to Trans Iowa V6 comes along. First up is the shop where I work,

Europa Cycle and Ski.

Europa will be graciously supporting Trans Iowa with our logistical needs. Not very glamorous stuff, but very, very necessary to get the event off the ground. Thanks for the support! Visit Europa Cycle and Ski if you are ever in the Cedar Falls/Waterloo area and say "hi".

Next up is Banjo Brothers. This is the company that makes some really great bags and accessories for your bicycle including a killer commuter back pack, one of which will be a prize at Trans Iowa along with two messenger bags.

One other thing Banjo Brothers makes that is a really useful tool for you T.I.V6 riders is this top tube bag which comes highly recommended by me. I use one quite a bit, and mine is an earlier version. These are even better now with a couple of tweaks since I got mine. Fourteen smackers is MSRP and you'll get a ton of usefulness for that coinage. I can get a cell phone, small point and shoot, and a couple of gels in mine easily. Check it out!

Waiting List: The Waiting List expires in 16 days. If you are in T.I.V6 now, but won't make it, do me a favor and let me know NOW! I have a big list of waiters and I can get that place filled. I have already transferred in a few folks already. If you are on the list, and you don't hear from me by January 31st, then I am sorry, but the transfers will be cut off at that time. You'll have to wait until your chance at getting into T.I.V7 comes up for next year.

Need A Room? We have a special lodging rate secured for a block of 20 rooms in Grinnell. Click the link to see where or for more details on how to access the special rate, see the Latest News section on the T.I.V6 site.

Pre-Race Meet Up: This is mandatory for you to attend to get your cue sheets for the first leg of the event and to get the low down on any last minute information. Details on when and where are being discussed, but an announcement will be forthcoming very soon. The time will be approximately 5:00pm on the 23rd of April in Grinnell. I will be adding this reminder to every post about T.I.V6 until the event, so there should be no excuses for not showing up. Here's why it is of utmost importance:

When we secure the room/restaurant for the Pre-Race Meet up, you will be informed where to go to check in with me: Guitar Ted. Each person expecting to race on Saturday morning will need to meet me and make sure I check your name off on the roster. Here you will also sign off on a waiver. Once you have been checked off and have signed the waiver, you are invited to eat. If you choose not to eat, stick around anyway, because at about 6:30pm we will start the pre-race packet pick up. Because you have checked in with me at the door, I will not have to waste time calling out names of folks that didn't show up. Note: I will only call up names that were checked at the door before the pre-race packet pick up! If you are late, lost, or just hoping to score an unused spot on the roster, too bad. It won't be happening. So, to repeat- if you fail to get checked in before the call up, you will not be racing! I will return to this every post from here on out, here and on the T.I.V6 site. More fine details to come, so stay tuned! (Oh, and don't think you can check in early either.)

I hope to have more on this very soon.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thursday News And Views

<===Head badge for the Blackbuck.

I was stoked to find out that Mark Slate of OS Bikes is going to bring out a couple more sizes of the Blackbuck. Not only that, but they will have the head badges shown here. These are sweet bikes for the money. No word on exactly when these will show up, but hopefully in time for folks to ride in 2010.

Rumor has it there may be a "multi-terrain" model in the works too.

<===Now this is more like it!

I just got ahold of the bigger, beefier, gnarlier Ardent from Maxxis. This tire is just going to be much better than the 2.25 was. I can tell already by the deeper, bigger tread blocks, beefier sidewalls, and the very tubeless ready looking bead. (Maxxis doesn't officially make a tubeless ready 29"er tire)

These will be going on the Velocity P-35 rims I recently got in, and that is going to make for one burly wheel set. Of course, I am going to do tubeless right outta the box with these. Once I get a couple of rotors, and reduce the travel on my Rock Shox Reba, this will all come together on a bike for revealing later. It's going to be a fun ride!

<===Dreaming of going places in 2010.

MG and the guys out in Nebraska hooked me up with this shirt recently. It reminds me of those surreal trails in Nebraska that I dearly would love to go check out again, only for more than just half a day!

This place is just super cool. Potter's Pasture is something I have never seen the likes of anywhere, nor heard of anything like it. If there is some way I can sneak in a weekend to go here, I am going to sure try and do it, but this year is filling in fast! June, July, and August already have "must do" rides scheduled. Man! Can we get something done about making summer three more months longer? That might just do it!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A "Klunker" Of A Side Project

Well.........I went and did it! This may surprise a few people, but if you knew me, it wouldn't be a surprise at all. I'll explain.......

I've always been a closet history buff. I don't spend a lot of time on it, but I am "that guy" that will make the family stop sometimes and read the plaque on the side of the road. Okay, so I like to know where we came from because I find it very intriguing. So, to that end, when I got into mountain bikes I dug into the history of it all. It wasn't easy back in the early 90's! No internet, no "older riders" to ask, and no books had been written yet, since well.........some folks thought it might still be a passing fad back then!

Well, that didn't stop me. I always had an eye out for references to the earlier days and read whatever I could. I pieced some of it together that way back then, but oh! When I got on-line in '99 it was on! I was looking up everything I could find on the history of cycling off road.

Then last year I met someone that really got me to thinking about the Marin gang and the bikes they rode. That kind of set off a seed to growing and well, it brings me to this present time. I went "over center" and bought myself a project frame to make a "klunker" out of. Parts acquisition will take awhile, I am sure, but that's okay. It's something I am going to take my time on.

So, what is the frame? Well, it isn't one of those "primo" pre-war Schwinns, but it is a Schwinn. It is a 1952 Schwinn DX, and it needs a lot of love. I got a ratty old frame and fork to start me out with that needs a braze job on the seat stays. I can tackle that though. The parts to hang on it may be the toughest thing of all to get!

I have access to some gold anodized Ukai 1.75" rims that are currently laced up to a Schwinn high flange front hub and a Sturmey Archer 3 speed rear hub, but the rims are what I really am interested in here. I'll probably opt for a "hybrid" build, (gears, canti or drum brakes), but I could go single speed if I find the right hub. We'll see.

Anyway, it will be something of a diversion, and if all goes well, it will be fun to re-create a tiny part of mountain bike history to ride around on for kicks.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Bike Shop Tales: More On The Trails

Last week I wrote about the legendary beginnings of the trail network in our local State Park. More on that now.........

So whatever the real story was on the beginnings of the trail making in the late 80's/early 90's, the fact was that by 1993 trail making was happening almost year round in the State Park. Of course, in 1993 the area was hit by the biggest flooding since 1961. That made for approximately a year of zero activity in the park since it was mostly underwater at that point. After the flotsam and jetsam of that natural disaster had subsided, a curious and legendary feature of the trails in George Wyth was discovered. The "Pit Of Death".

The story goes that two Advantage Cyclery wrenches were the ones to discover the pit. It was Troy and Duane, who were intensely competitive individuals. Neither was about to give the other any quarter in even the most meaningless of rides. So it was that these two were speeding through the fitness trail leading to the Campgrounds from the West. Nose to tail, heads buried in an anaerobic drunken state, no doubt. Always trying to prove who was fastest, to hell with everything else. Damn the torpedoes and all.

So, as they were blazing along at Mach I, Troy in the lead, they suddenly found that the trail had disappeared beneath their wheels. Seconds that must have seemed like an hour passed before the next thing you know, the two riders and their bikes were lying in a heap at the bottom of a 15 foot deep pit. A pit eroded by flood waters during the Flood of '93 that no one knew was there. Well, we heard all about it afterward!

Duane and Troy never did settle who's fault it was that they crashed that day, but they told the story oft and loudly for months afterwards, and it never ceased to make me laugh. Those two together were a constant comedy team, although they were being deadly serious about it all. Too good!

Anyway, the "Pit Of Death" was as I said, a 15 foot deep and 10 yards wide gaping hole in the trail that was carved out by swirling flood water. At first, it wasn't really ride able, however, enough people were "dropping in" on it that the edges became less severe and we found that if you could dare not touch the brakes, you could clean the obstacle. Down in and pop back up the facing bank. It was a heady move for most of us since the bulk of the terrain was really tame in the park. Not many could clean it in the beginning.

By 1994, "The Pit Of Death" was claiming about two rigid forks a week, sometimes frames along with them, and sending numerous people to the hospital. Budget constraints and red tape prevented the Park from doing anything about the hole, amazingly enough, and we had the feature all through the '94 riding season. By '95 it was being eroded down to a point that it was beginning to be more novelty than anything, but yet it was still claiming a fork, frame, and the occasional tooth until the State had it filled with sand late in the year.

The Pit sent Advantage Cyclery a lot of repair work, and I learned how to cut new fork threads, remove and replace crown races, and install lots of headsets due to that hole in the ground. It was a good learning experience on that front as well.

One final story about "The Pit Of Death", and my favorite: When we were doing the weekly night rides, we would occasionally talk new folks into coming out and trying the scene. Once we were able to talk a very lithe, pleasant looking red headed gal into trying out the night lights. It had rained earlier in the day, but we assured her the trails wouldn't be too bad that evening.

Well, she showed up on her Bianchi Nyala in a white t-shirt, cut offs, and a helmet tipped back on her head, graduation cap style. Once we had her helmet on straight, and her lights set, we took off. Of course, the first real "check" in the ride was "The Pit". We all dropped in as she waited looking rather nervous about the whole ordeal.

She was going to bail around the cutoff trail that had developed to avoid "The Pit", but I think we all shamed her into trying it. After about five minutes of coaching, (more like badgering) by the "honch riders" in the group, she dropped in.

Well, as you have probably guessed, she bit it. Right over the bars she went, landing face down, arms sprawled out to her sides in the muddy bottom. Then the kicker: Her bike landed front tire first right in the middle of her gleaming white t-shirt, leaving a perfect tread print on it. As the bike bounced away, we all gasped and stood in horror waiting for signs of life.

I recall that a hint of a giggle wafted up out of "The Pit". Then there was no mistaking it. She was laughing! We all busted a gut simultaneously at the evidence of her embarrassment. We helped her get out of the pit then and put her back on her bike, none the worse for wear.

And you know- she finished that ride!

Next week: More On The Wyth Trail Development

Monday, January 11, 2010

Winter Beauty

Winter is hitting a lot of us really hard this year. Harder than it has for a long, long time. I know I've cussed it out my fair share! But there is a certain tranquility in winter that I find intoxicating. I really enjoy the snow, ice, and cold if everything is just right.
Saturday everything pretty much fell into place in that regard. the winds were calm, the clouds were absent, and the sun was shining with a force that hinted at spring to come. In times like these I relish a cross country ski in the Green Belt. The Green Belt is rarely used for XC skiing, and to me, that makes it even better. Today I was rewarded with fresh snow unmarked by humans for well over a week.
The smooth snow was punctuated by the comings and goings of many deer, but other than that, I was busting new trail again. Fun! Besides the primo ski conditions, I was out to find some good photo opportunities, and I found plenty of those Saturday.

The stark contrasts of blindingly white snow, dark trees and shadows just screams black and white photography to my mind. So I almost always try to get some B&W work in at this time of year.
Now mind you- I don't even know what I am doing with my camera, and I am no photographer. That said, I find these shots satisfying to me. I guess that all that matters, but I figured I would show them off anyway. See what you all think! In the end, it just makes for a peaceful, stress free time and helps to make winter a whole lot more palatable. And hey! I can call it training too! Even better.
By the way, you can click on the pics to make them ginormous!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

You Snooze, You Lose

Well, after a blazing start to the Dirty Kanza 200 registration, the event filled up in 12 hours! Event Co-directors Jim Cummins and Joel Dyke must have secretly added 10 more entry spots at some point, but no matter. The event is filled and registration is closed.

If you went to their registration page late you were greeted by the following:

Online Registration is closed.Sucker. Try again next year.

You snooze, you lose! (Kinda harsh, but it got the point across, I guess)

At any rate, your's truly got in and so did some locals flying under the Velo Syndikat banner. Hmm...............wonder what's up there? (Actually, I know- I am just not sure it is a publicly traded commodity yet!)

Look for DK 200 training and gear bits in the future.

Better buckle down and start training! Giddy up!

Saturday, January 09, 2010

So, Are You Going?

<===You gotta click this for the larger view. Lots of details in there! (From 2009 DK 200 course, photo by Guitar Ted)

Tonight at midnight the Dirty Kanza 200 opens up registration for one of the top gravel events in the World. Are you going? I am.

Maybe I am crazy, but I like this place. Check out the report I did from last year, and especially the short videos I did.

If you do, you will notice the massive wind noise, the lack of clouds, and bright sunshine that resulted in the decimation of the approximately 85 rider strong feild last may. Yep! It was brutal.

So why? Why go back for such a beatdown?

If I could properly explain it, I would. Call it a sickness, I guess. There are a lot of us that have it too. All I know is that I want to complete the course and because of my ill-preparedness in the first attempt and sickness the second time I feel like I have not given this my best shot. I can do better.

So late tonight I'll be sitting here waiting to register for another crazy trip to Kansas. Are you in?

Friday, January 08, 2010

Gravel Grinder News: Thoughts

<===Ben Shockey's new event is the latest news at GGN.

As many of you know, I started a little blogsite to chronicle all the crazy gravel based events i could find out about and have links to their respective sites so everyone could use it as a resource that was into such rides. Well, I threw it up on the site originally intended for the Trans Iowa History that I wanted to document. That ended up on a different host and this blog was just sitting there. So I threw the idea of Gravel Grinder News on the template to see if it would stick. Boy! Did it ever! I have received much encouragement and comment about the little endeavor.

So much encouragement that I think that this idea will be taking the next step, as it were, and going to a "dot-com" address. What happens after that, I am not sure. This is where I want to ask you readers out there for your ideas. What do you want out of a gravel/back roads event site? Simple dates, times, places, and links? Do you want tips/ideas on how to tackle these events? Do you want to see it go so far as to become a reveiw/test site for bikes and related gear?

Maybe you'd just like the ability to comment! Ha ha!

Whatever your thoughts, I invite you to type them out in the comments section here and let me know. I am all ears on this one.

In fact, I wasn't very excited about jumping in on this for a long time. I originally felt that the idea would end up being picked up on by someone else, but one did. When I kept seeing requests for a "listing" of all the gravel events, and seeing that the lists that were out there were (a) poor and never updated, or (b) tied to another event's site, I decided to take this on now.

The risk is that it will become something too unweildy for me and/or become left in the corner to rot due to my being too busy. Well, there is always a risk, I guess, but so far it hasn't been any burden at all to keep up. I just want it to be something folks want and will use. Let me know what you think, please, and comment. Thanks!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Highs And Lows

<==The Karate Monkey does another tour of winter duty.
I got in a lot of things I needed to do on Wednesday. Errands, and web work were some of those things. A battery for "the truck with no name" was one of those things. I got it swapped out and running again. That felt good.
I did a hour and a half ride with errands mixed in. Temperature was about 7 degrees Fahrenheit. Pretty chilly, but it was great to be riding. Oh yeah.......the Woodchippers? They are great. I think I'm going to really come to appreciate this design. I'll probably double wrap them later. That's the only tweak though. The rest is spot on.
Well, I got back home and cooled down only to realize that I didn't know where the keys for the other rig were. Yeah, and these keys are the "smart" keys, with the alarm, door locks, yadda-yadda. I scramble around the house for an hour searching ever more frantically. Then it hits me. I may have lost them on my travels by bike today. And it had started snowing. Fat chance of finding them now. If I did lose them out there. I don't know. Did I mention it was the only set of keys we ever had for this rig? Yeah, because getting a duplicate set was really expensive!
And with that four figure mistake slowly setting in, I was depressed and really angry with myself. Great way to end the day, huh?
Oh well, there's always tomorrow...............
And you know, sometimes tomorrow comes today. Later on I thought on it and figured out a possible scenario. I was right. I found the keys.
And all was back to normal again.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Picture Gets A Little Clearer

<===Hoping to get a bit of snow biking in before it snows again!
2010 planning is going on here at Guitar Ted Productions. Talking over things with the family and setting some dates with some firmness now that another piece of the 2010 puzzle has been revealed.
What's that you say? Why the "second" Fargo Adventure Ride which is set for June 17th-18th with an optional Cable area mountain bike excursion following directly. I went on last years version of this and it comes highly recommended! Now as for Gnat calling this the "second" annual Fargo Adventure, well he must be using some "new math" or the first Fargo Adventure Ride was the prologue to these other ones.
All I can say is that it is too bad this years Fargo Adventure ride won't be taking in a ride on "Mr. Raftypants".
So with that event scrabbled onto my calendar for 2010, I have set in motion the wheels of figuring out how to fit all the puzzle pieces together.
I will be going to Frostbike next month, March will see me going to Texas to visit the family I have there and ride the excellent Franklin Mountain State Park trails in El Paso. Then I come back and will be putting on Trans Iowa in April. May is a "sandwich month" with nothing going on as yet. June will bring the Dirty Kanza 200 and the Fargo Adventure Ride #2, then July will be GTDRI. August might bring the Good Life Gravel Adventure, but that date has yet to be announced. September is Interbike, and then I'll get to watch the leaves fall off the trees again in October after several months of riding and having fun. (hopefully!)
I don't doubt that some things will change on this list while other unforeseen things will pop up. Stay tuned. It's gonna be a wild ride in 2010!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Bike Shop Tales: Rogue Trails And Rebel Riders

Back in the earliest days of Advantage Cyclery, before I worked there, a bunch of stuff happened that set the stage for what went on while I was there in regards to trail riding........

A bit of local history regarding the off road scene in my area is necessary here, I think, to give you out there some backdrop to understand what was happening in the mid 90's at Advantage Cyclery and with me. So, from the foggiest of memory and from almost legendary, word of mouth tales, here is how I understood the earliest days of off roading in and around Advantage Cyclery's locale.

Of course, being in the Mid-West, the whole off roading thing took awhile to catch on. Certainly there were people riding dirt single track going waaaay back. I was even single speeding on dirt single track way back in the early 70's. The thing was, nobody knew we were doing anything "special". It was just riding bikes. And maybe it should have stayed that way, but I digress......

In the late 80's, or there abouts, a small, secretive band of off roaders were loosely knit under the moniker, The Dead Bikeman. As far as I could gather, these fellows were responsible for many of the earliest off road trails cut into the woods in George Wyth State Park. Now there was a "fitness trail" in the park and several "walkways" that consisted of mown, ten to twelve foot wide swaths cut through the woods. These made for tempting places to ride off road, but the Park officials frowned on the bicycles off road, and especially so since the Park had a paved path that ran right through it specifically built for bicyclists to use.

In fact, stories of the Park Rangers stopping cyclists on these mown pathways and ticketing them were rampant in the time around '89-90. This no doubt fueled the reasons for the "rogue trails" that started to emerge about that time. Hidden in the thickets and away from where Rangers eyes were pointed, the riders could use these trails at their discretion and go undetected. Plus, they were a heck of a lot more fun than what the fitness trails were. Stories of these trails leaked out over time to other avid off roaders, but it seems that the Dead Bikeman, or whomever were responsible, were reluctant to have just anybody know about the treasure that lay in the canopy of the State Park. So if you got wind of a trail, it was time to explore, and if you found it, it was like a really big deal, akin to kissing your first girl. Well.....maybe not that good! But pretty dang close!

In time others got into the act of cutting trail in the Park. By about 1994 it seemed that the Park had relaxed the rules regulating cycling off road. I seem to remember there being some "official blessing" given for riding the "fitness trails", but whether the Park officials even knew about the rogue trails was anybodies guess, and really, we didn't give it a second thought. Anyway, this signalled what I would say was the pinnacle of off roading in this area. New trails, new people getting in on the action, and all resulting in a ton of activity at Advantage Cyclery.

You could say that I got in on the action at just the right time.

Next week: More On The Trails

Monday, January 04, 2010

Backlog Of Stuff!

<==Christmas Eve Treat!

It has been awhile since I could write about the current goings on here what with the Rearview Of '09 going on. Well, plenty of stuff was happening, let me assure you!

A-Lo, my former co-worker and now resident Velocity U.S.A. wonk, was in town and passed off this pimpy set of Velocity wheels for testing on Twenty Nine Inches. They feature Velocity's new hubs and the new P-35 rims. The rims were designed in conjunction with Kirk Pacenti and are a whopping 35mm wide! Velocity is recommending a Stan's rim strip for now, but will have their own system to set these up tubeless in the future, I am told.

<===Check out that wide rim profile!

The hubs are Velocity's newest hubs and I have a 20mm through axle front hub here with a single speed specific rear hub that interfaces with a thread on freewheel. The bearings are really smoooooth!! Disc specific too, by the way.

These will be fitted with some Ardent 2.4 inch rubber tubeless and slammed on the following bike sometime soon................

<===But first, could you please pass the Gray Poupon?

Yeah....those yellowy-green beasts are weird looking, but underneath that Kevlar exterior lies the carbon fiber goodness that is a Ragley Bikes Carnegie's Bar. Oh yeah! It has indicated to me that it has some lovely "give" but still retaining that great feel of control. Directly swapped out without a stem change, the Carnegie's is a really great "alt-bar" for mtb-ing. Look for more words on this cool little bit of componentry coming soon. Oh, by the way, the look of this will be changing, so don't get to hung up on the "phlegm yellow" look, although I know Johnny Rotten would have been proud of it. Ragley's head honch, Brant Richards was kind enough to let me have this pre-production proto-type to play with. Thus the looks.

<===Snow on the Soul.
Bicycling has been on the down low of late. So much snow, ice , and cold make it a lot harder to get out and play, but I have a few rides on this new Soul Cycles Dillinger Gen III frame which is a pretty nice riding frame. The fork is a cro-mo steel unit that is optimized for a 100mm travel suspension correction. It's all been tweaked recently by Chad at Soul Cycles with a total commitment to disc only brakes and a re-routing of the cable guides. All wrapped up in a gorgeous midnight blue color. Soul Cycles really nails it in the looks category, that's for sure. Watch Twenty Nine Inches for the upcoming review to see if the performance can match the high standards set by the good looks.
Notice the white cages on that Dillinger? Well, they are Velocity's new water bottle cages. The long running aluminum anodized ones were discontinued due to the ancient machine that made them and it's propensity for breaking down. Velocity decided to ditch that old design, and now with this new design they have something that is pretty close to a Cat Eye cage in looks and even in bottle retention. Yes- this cage does not like to let go of bottles. It almost works too good. I want to relent on passing judgement until warmer weather, but right now the grip on bottles here is insane.

And the Velocity wheels? Well, after I reduce the travel on my white Rock Shox through axle fork to 100mm, I will be popping it on the Dillinger with these wild, white wheels. Stay tuned!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Trans Iowa V6: Thoughts Part IX

<====Situation Room- T.I.V2- Time running out....
Rules: Most competitive events have rules. Boundaries, if you will, that dictate how an event will unfold to some degree, but really, they are there so the people inside an event know what to expect. If these parameters are effectively communicated, the participants know what to expect if they find themselves outside said boundaries.
Usually these types of rules, or boundaries, are best if they are simple, and unwavering. Look at it this way: It is like a line drawn in the sand, Cross it and face the consequences. I think we all "get that". Easy to understand. Easy to see that a consequence will occur if your actions cause you to "cross that line". You don't have to agree with it, and in the case of these ultra-endurance events, you don't have to show up if you don't like the way the event is run, or more specifically, the rules.
My intentions in writing this post are to draw attention to time cut offs. We use them in Trans Iowa. The reason we use them is to help us keep track of you, the event participants, and also to add another element to the event. An urgency to keep moving, to continue to test yourself. To add a mental/logistical component to the event.
I think my time limits for the event have been very fair in light of my intentions. It is simple. Cover 10 miles every hour and you'll be a finisher. Not "10mph" mind you- no, I said you must cover at least 10 miles every hour to complete a Trans Iowa. This means that in reality, you've got to go slightly faster than 10mph because you'll have to stop for things. Mechanicals, flat tires, nutrition, rest, and maybe even figuring in waiting for traffic to safely cross roads. Going 10mph means you'd never get to stop for the entire 320-ish miles. Not likely is it?
Added to this, I have relaxed the mileage per hour needed to cover the miles of Trans Iowa in recent years. Last year it averaged in the 9 plus miles covered per hour to complete the course. Still, some folks were not on pace. It is tough. It is meant to be.
Checkpoints are closed in relation to the slowest average time needed to reach them. So, if you are late getting to one, even by a minute, you are done. Disqualified. Your efforts resulted in a falling short of the measure by which everyone in a T.I. is being measured. Even if you are late by one minute.
I have been on the recieving end of some heated discussion of how the time cut off wasn't fair. But if I don't stick to my guns. If I do not enforce the rules, then why even have them? How does that reflect on folks that do live by the expectations of the time cut offs? Doesn't that cheapen their accomplisments. I think it does.
Recently I have gotten wind of other event directors that don't enforce checkpoint cut off times. Well, they are free to run their events as they see fit. But I ask, "Why even bother having time cut offs if you don't enforce them?" Just let anybody roll in when they can. I mean, either you do it, or you don't. Playing the "gray area" is just goofy. My opinion.
Whatever- Trans Iowa will not be run that way. You can expect that as long as I am at the helm, and as much as I am able to, the cut off times will be enforced in a black and white manner. You either make it, or you don't.
And now you know where you stand as a event participant. No wondering if there is someone getting a ten minute grace on a checkpoint. You either get there on time, or not. Folks can read a watch. It shouldn't be hard to figure this out.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Year!!

It's the start of a new decade. WooHoo! Well, with that I want to write down some goals and thoughts coming into this new year............

Riding: It is what it is all about. Riding. I want to get into better shape for the coming season because when I got into good shape last year it just made the riding a lot more fun. Still, there was a lot of room for improvement and I hope to hone in on some finer fitness this year to make my riding more fun.

Added to this is the fact that I want to do a few competitive, long distance things in 2010 and the goal is to finish those events.

Places: It is always fun to go different places to ride. Last year I did seven different states and this year I would like to increase that number. Specifically I am looking forward to getting to El Paso, Texas, Rock Lake Loop, Cable, Wisconsin, Nebraska including the Lincoln/Omaha area and Potter's Pasture. Minnesota and the Murphy-Hanrahan system and also Lebanon Hills. These and more are on the radar for 2010.

People: Of course, riding with other folks is the key component to making any ride way, way better. I hope to continue to ride with those of you that I rode with in 2009. I want to re-connect with some of you I missed last year, and of course, there are a lot of new people to meet on rides that I don't even know yet, and I really look forward to that.

Writing: The sites Twenty Nine Inches and The Cyclist are my big jobs and getting the hang of "running those ships" is still a work in progress. This blog is what it is and I hope to continue my series, my ranting, and local focus along with some newsy bits and behind the scenes stuff that won't get on the other sites. Gravel Grinder News will continue and I hope will be a resource that folks find helpful.

Events: Of course, the "Big One", T.I.V6- is the main focus here. Then I will be doing the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational in July. Beyond that, I won't be doing squat for putting on events. Nothing. Nada. I will aim to attend others events though. That much is for sure. 2010 won't see a Big Wheeled Ballyhoo from me, nor will I be dreaming up anything else new. (Although I'll admit having an itch to do a "gravel-BRAI" alongside the pavement version the last week of July- but I will resist such temptations!) No, I'd rather do Fargo Adventure Rides, Dirty Kanza, Good Life Gravel Adventure, and stuff like that in 2010.

Well, that's a good overview of 2010 expectations for myself. Whatever happens, I hope 2010 brings you all much joy, retained good health, joy in relationships, miles of smiles, and epic rides.

See ya down the trail in 2010!