Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

May old bones or beasts of the night trouble you not!

Check out the last recon post for Trans Iowa V7, (Whose course this rotting carcass of a buck was spotted on), tomorrow.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Trans Iowa V7: Recon Mission

Trans Iowa V7 is an unprecedented event in our minds already. Why? Because we have already done so much work on the course. Normally I have some images saved on recon on my hard drive, and then another recon photo set from another month weeks or months later. This month alone I have three sets. That should tell you something....

Yeah, we've been on the ball, but we've also had some stellar weather that has helped us out. Without that, maybe we are not as far along with things. But- we are.

In fact, it is a distinct possibility that recon could be completed before Registration is. For us, that is radical. For folks getting in on this event, it will be a game changer in terms of strategy, and training. You'll know months ahead of time just how far the checkpoints are, and what the time limits are. I would assume that by December, recon and timing could all be completely done and get this...............cue sheets could be printed!!

Not that having cue sheets done will help you along, because at Trans Iowa you have to earn the cues, and that entails riding the course. But for us, that would be huge. In fact, it might be too early to do cue sheets, and we may wait, due to the unknown of what this winter and early spring may do to our planned course.

At any rate, we're out there on some crazy gravel road and working on this event for you that will ride it. Look for a report Monday.......

Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday News And Views

Chilly Willy: The past few days have been rather cold, and I am not acclimated yet. Funny thing about us Mid-westerners- We freeze at the slightest hint of the 40's in Fall and are scrambling to find our winter cycling gear. In Spring, when the 40's hit, we are breaking out the bibs and jerseys, with maybe a pair of arm warmers till the sun comes out.'s like that!

Then there is the wind, which was just plain brutal all across the nation this week. I'd say we've had enough of that for a long, long time.

So I've Been Told.... If you've been following along closely here, you know that I am getting a Salsa Cycles Mukluk. I've been told that I am going to really like it. You know what? I probably will. But I've also been told that I'll like it when it is Spring, Summer, and Fall. Well, maybe I will. I have also been told other things. Things like, "you're crazy", and the like. Uh-huh. Yeah, tell me something we all don't already know, right?

This is the bike that is going to get the wheels I blogged about here. I've been told I'll really like these wheels too. Right again, most likely. I figure the whole kit and kaboodle could be used as a seasonal acclimatization machine. I can get used to the cold and snow, and in the warmer spring months I can ride it on mushy trail and slop, whilst I get used to the warming rays of the sun again. I even figured it might come in handy as a B Road Inspection machine for Trans Iowa.

That and I could run over small furry animals and compact cars!

My Recon Mission- If I Choose To Accept It: And I will, make no mistake! Tomorrow at "dark-thirty", I will arise and travel to an undisclosed location in rural Iowa to scout some more Trans Iowa V7 roads with my co-director, d.p. This will start to close up the loop and afterward we will only have a few short stretches of road that we will need to look at to verify that they are 100% Trans Iowa grade "A" gravel. Only the best grade "A" gravel is used in "Old No. 7 Trans Iowa" Brand, and you can be sure that our unique blend of gravel, dirt, and a hint of pavement will be an intoxicating brew of the finest degree.

Look for a recon report Monday.

Have a great weekend and get outside and ride!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Belt Drive Odyssey : Part II

The Odyssey Continues.... So, I've had a few shakedown rides on the Raleigh XXIX equipped with "The Belt" so far and the confidence in the system was beginning to grow to the point where I was beginning to ride it as I would a bike equipped with "The Chain" until it happened.


I don't know what it was for sure.  I just know it was loud, and I am back to ground zero as to my confidence level. The noise occurred in such a manner that it only served to add to my uncertainty about riding with "The Belt".  Here's the deal so far.....

I had been pretty gingerly using the bike to start out with. I don't know, but something about a single speed drive train letting go all of a sudden while I am standing and pedaling isn't appealing to me. Smak Pakage might be a cool name for a hardcore band, but it isn't a cool thing to have happen to the male anatomy, if ya catch my drift. However; I was gaining confidence in the whole set up as I climbed a dike, an embankment, and a long grinder of a hill, all with zero issues.

Along the way, I was tweaking the set up, just as I would on any new-to-me bike, and getting set for that big first dip into the woods. On that fateful day, I left work, and on the way to the trail head, I had to stop for traffic. With my "non-chocolate foot" in the primed and ready position, (see Hans "No Way" Rey for an explanation of what yer "chocolate foot" is), I pedal kicked down when the traffic parted ways to scoot across the street.

That's when it happened: Skronk!

Great! Just as I was about to put full confidence in "The Belt" in a true trail situation, I get knocked back to ground zero, and I couldn't figure out why it decided to make a noise then. Well, I kind of bailed on the idea of a full run, and did another shake down cruise with no further incident. Bah! Not very fun.

The Score: "The Belt": 0 "The Chain": 2

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Trans Iowa V7 Update #3

Here's the next in a series of "Updates" I am posting in regards to the upcoming Trans Iowa V7. Stay tuned here for big announcements and thoughts leading up to the next T.I. 

Field Research: I get to ride in some pretty challenging, sometimes laid back, and fun events throughout the year. Sometimes these events I do are more than just fun rides, or challenges for me. It seems  I always am thinking about Trans Iowa in the back of my mind while I am grinding away on some long, lonely gravel road event in "Rural Somewhere, USA". These times give me pause to consider what I am experiencing, the "flavor" of the event I am in, and how Trans Iowa could benefit from being similar, or different than what ever it is I am doing at that time. This post has something to do with those thoughts I have had, along with d.p. and his thoughts, which stem from doing similar things throughout the year.

This is also a jumping off point from my last update where I alluded to the "DNA" make up of Trans Iowa and how we are steering things back in that direction this go round. I have noticed a few things going on with the events I have partaken in, which I wanted to touch on in regards to the "DNA" we want to steer away from.

First of all, this isn't personal, and I don't want to take anything away from what the promoters and supporters of these other events have done, are doing, and will continue to do into the future. No, they are certainly free to carve out their own identity, as they see fit. I just offer these thoughts up as what I feel is the antithesis of one particular event: Trans Iowa. Okay? I hope ya'all get that part before we go on.....

Support: Basically, it boils down to one word: "support", and whether or not you, as a rider, are going to get any, and how you get it. This is interpreted in many different ways at many different events. Sometimes it seems very appropriate: say when conditions are extreme, and it is easy to get in over your head very quickly due to those conditions. Event promoters have been known to scour the course, looking for trouble spots, or setting up volunteer "aid stations" at various points along courses. Sometimes it is intentional, as when the aid stations, or drop bag sites are set up well in advance and understood to be an integral part of the event, which riders then strategize around. Sometimes it happens by default, when event promoters are not clear as to what is and isn't acceptable, and generally then the riders will choose for you what support is!

In all of the above scenarios, generally it is a "support" that is either granted by, or provided by, or both, by the promoters/organizers of these events. Heck, it's the "hospitable thing" to do, right? I think just about every event promoter, or grass roots gravel road event organizer has had this cross their mind while conjuring up a course and rules of competition at some point. That's where we, as organizers of this ride, differ. It's where we don't agree with, (in as far as "how" we do things), most every other gravel road event out there. We tell you to get yer own stuff! And we mean it.

I have been in events that require some level of this sort of "DIY" aspect of re-supply for making it around the course. I understand it from a riding perspective, and it is difficult. It makes events like this harder to plan for and harder to ride in. Yes- I've been there folks. I've made a lot of the same mistakes and fallen into a lot of the same pitfalls as a lot of Trans Iowa riders. I may sound heartless when I harp on the "You are on your own, we are not responsible for your well being" line. But trust me. It isn't like I haven't done it that way myself. It isn't like d.p. and I don't know what it is like. We do.

So, You are responsible for yourself. We will not support you. You are on this ride of your own volition, and are responsible for yourself and your actions.  If you can not get your head wrapped around that, then do not even try to get into Trans Iowa V7. Thanks!

Speaking of getting into Trans Iowa V7.... This Sunday marks the last day Finishers of any Trans Iowa can claim their spot on the roster. Look for when and how you can get in if you are a Rookie, or a past participant, "aka Veteran", of a Trans Iowa, later next week.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bike Shop Tales: Late October, 1996

Tis the time of year that I remember a certain, sad period in my old bike shop daze...

The sneaking feeling had been with me for a few weeks now. The phone calls. The worried look on Tom's face he couldn't hide anymore. The whisperings of "the bettys". All could not hide the fact that something was seriously amiss. Still, I was getting paid and "officially", I hadn't heard anything.....yet!

Then came the morning in early October, 1996, when Tom made it all clear to me. Advantage Cycles was going to shut its doors.  When exactly, it wasn't made clear, and there was some small hope that it wouldn't happen, but things weren't good. I didn't dig for answers, since I was kind of stunned by the news, although I wasn't totally surprised by it. I soldiered on at any rate, although "the weirdness" increased as the days wore on.

First off, "the bettys" disappeared. They were two female employees of the shop, and roomates of Tom's by this time. They "played for the other team", as Tom used to say. They were a couple, and that was that, as far as he was going to reveal. There was much speculation going on about that situation, but for the purposes of this story, their disappearance from the goings on of the shop was another ominous sign to me that all was not well. Then Tom all but disappeared as well.

I would come in, open up shop, work all day, (we had shortened, Fall/Winter hours), and then close up shop and go home, all without seeing Tom at all. For days on end. He would obviously come in after hours, clear out the till, and issue checks to me on a continually irregular basis. But I was always caught up, always paid in full. Tom never failed me once in that.

The other thing about this time of year was that it got really slow. This October seemed to be a particularly slow one. I built up a couple sets of wheels, just because. Then I struck upon an idea. I bought a pumpkin, and in a kind of pitiful way, I celebrated Halloween at the shop by carving a face of an old man into it. It took a few days to perfect it, but finally I finished it, and displayed it proudly on my shop bench for all who would come in to see. That wasn't very many folks.

It was a small thing, maybe. But to me, it was my way of dealing with the heavy situation going down around me. I was heading into one of the worst winters of my life with prospects of my job withering away, no vehicle that worked to call my own, and nobody in my life to share any of it with that meant a hoot to me near to hand. That pumpkin was kind of an act of defiance, I suppose, against all the depressing stuff happening then.

I took a bad Polaroid of it. I still have it hanging up on my bench at work to this day. If you ever see it, now you'll know the story.

Bike Shop tales will return again next week...........

Monday, October 25, 2010

Night Nonesense Gravel Grinder Report

I attended and rode in the first Night Nonsense gravel grinder Saturday night/Sunday morning and here are my thoughts on the night.

It is raining cats and dogs while I am riding solo down some waterlogged gravel road in Iowa at night. You could say a lot of things about that statement. You could say I was crazy, you could say I was insane, or you could say it was all just nonsense. You'd be right on all counts. I mean, that is the point here.

That's right, it was the first "Night Nonesense 100", a gravel road race held completely under the cover of darkness. I hadn't heard of anything like it, and gravel road race aficionado, Adam Blake, was putting it on as a free event. I wanted to support that, and along with all of my recent night gravel grinding, I figured it would be fun.

Well, as I alluded to in my previous post, the weather was going to be changing, and boy! Did it ever! We'd had days and days of sunny, dry, beautiful weather, and the forecast for the evening was for a 75% chance of rain. They got that right, or you could say, they got it 3/4's of the way right!

On the way down, I tag teamed with Mike Johnson and Ron Saul to get down there. Robert Fry and Jeremy Fry went with us in another vehicle. The trip down was fairly pleasant, but as we approached Iowa City, we could see storm clouds gathering. Still, the overall impression of the group was that we wouldn't see any rain. We were wrong. Oh so wrong!

After some Subway sandwiches, we got kitted up for the event. While we were doing this, it started to lightning, thunder, and sprinkle. We gathered under the two pop up tents at Adam's place waiting to start and the sky opened up with a steady, fine rain. This set the tone for the evening. Lightning and thunder were all around us. Still, we mistakenly assumed that due to a radar report we had seen, it would blow over. The race got underway about 8pm after some short instructions from Adam. We 25 intrepid riders took off in the soaking rain to get out of Iowa City and hit the gravel.

At this point, it was a struggle getting comfortable with becoming wet. I wore an Endura Stealth soft shell rain jacket and their Humvee knickers, and underneath I wore my new Craft PXC Thermal top and my Twin Six Team bib shorts. My shoes were the Bontrager Race models and I wore my War Axe socks. On my head I wore my trusty Bell Helmet and underneath that my fine Walz cycling cap. No gloves, not on this trip. Of course, the bike was my trusty first generation Salsa Cycles Fargo.

My bottom was wet, but warm as the temperatures held in the 60's for the entire evening. So, once I got as wet as I was going to get, I was comfortable. We took off down some bicycle path, and were being led by one of Adam's volunteers until we got to the point where they let us go. It was pouring rain, and pretty miserable, but this looked like an adventure, and like one fellow said to me as we rolled out, "It's better than sitting at home watching something stupid on T.V."

Well, at least I thought so!

The race took off, and I was holding on to the back of the pack until a climb where several of the stronger riders forced the issue to make a selection. Then I thought I saw them in the distance, and I took a right turn at a "Y" corner. It wasn't long before I figured out it was the wrong turn. Hrrrrumph! I should have studied the cues for the opening round better. So, I turn around to find about five cyclists on the corner where I made my mistake. It was, (please excuse me for the lack of a better term here), a group of cyclists I noticed at the start who were speaking a foreign language. I will refer to them as "The Foreigners" for the purposes of this story.

Well, they asked if I had made a wrong turn, and I replied in the affirmative. They immediately turned to their own conversations in their tongue, so I just rolled off down the blacktop in the other direction. I rolled, and I rolled, not seeing any turn offs to gravel. It was raining heavily, and this road was busy with traffic. Not a very comfortable feeling. I checked the cue sheet, "Turn Left At Quincy Ave", and I looked intently at the mileage, trying to calculate my now slightly off total, and make sense of where to turn. By this time, The Foreigners had caught me. They went right on by without a word, and we all hit a "T" intersection where The Foreigners immediately wheeled around and went on back up the road. I followed suit, but I was now at the tail of the line.

I had noticed a gravel road turn about a quarter mile back, which should have been our turn, but was un-marked. Adam told us at the start that he had marked every corner with fluorescent painted sticks, and there weren't any on that corner, nor was there a street sign. Well, the pole was there. The sign had been taken. About the same time I noticed that The Foreigners had a support car following them. Hmmm.......not cool! The car had pulled off at the very spot I had decided to turn. Someone in the car on a cell phone jutted their head out the window as I rolled up and asked if that was the road. I motioned that I was going to continue up that road, and without looking back, I sped away, now trying to distance myself from the five going the wrong way and their support car.

Not long up that road, I saw a sign that indicated I was on Quincy. Good! Next turn, Jordan Creek Road. What I didn't know was that there were two Jordan Creek Roads with left turns within a hundred yards of each other. Well, I took the first one, like everyone else did, and before long, I saw the main pack roaring back towards me. As they passed, I heard Mike and Ron yell at me, "Turn around, it's the wrong road!" I was a bit confused, I looked at my cue sheet, and I was off on mileage, of course, but it was within reason that this was the road. I finally decided to wheel around about the time that Adam rolled up in a car and confirmed our mistake. Back the way I came! Now I had about 4.5 extra miles, and I was waaay off on mileage.

Once back on track, I was alone, and the rain intensified. It really was coming down with lots of lightning all around. The wind also picked up. It was raining so hard at one point that I nearly stopped because I couldn't see anything in my lights but streaking rain. Now the gravel had rivulets of water snaking down the hills and spewing rain was flying off my tires seven foot into the air in front and behind me. Quite the spectacle, I'm sure, for cars that were passing me by. After a short while, the rain relented, now back to a fine, drenching downpour, and I was snaking my way north and westward toward where, I did not know.

I was rolling up some more blacktop, (which there was a ton of in the first third of the event), and I thought I caught a glimpse of a flickering tail light. A cyclist? I was coming up on a small town, and I figured I might catch up to the small red blinker there. As I rolled into the town, I noticed several unsigned streets. Hmm.....might be trouble, as I was to be making a turn soon. Not knowing anything about where I was, it was hard to say what the turn might be trying to accomplish. I knew from putting on these events that normally you try to stay off really busy roads, but this event had us on several already, so I wasn't sure of what to expect.

I ran up on The Foreigners at a busy crossroads. Obviously they passed me while I made my Jordan Creek Road mistake. They didn't know what to do and they were seriously confused. Pointing at the signs and stating the obvious, as though the sign should magically change to match their cue sheets. I blew on by them, not wanting to soak in that vibe, and scouted up the road. All streets were signed up this way, but nothing matched. Back to the intersection, and I noticed The Foreigners were asking directions at a local drive up window for some business. I rolled down to the north on HWY 1, figuring out that my next cue had to cross the highway at some point, which would eliminate the need to find the road missed by me and The Foreigners. I found it, the cues made sense again! I took off into the dark countryside. Rain was spitting, but tolerable now. Lightning could still be seen flashing in the distance. I didn't see The Foreigners again.

Now I was rolling along and feeling okay. There still was a lot of pavement going on here and there. However; the traffic count was low, so I was okay with that. About 25 miles in I noticed my computer was off, as in completely dead. No surprise there with the amount of rain I had seen already. I stopped and fiddled with it a bit, which raised my anxiety level. I then decided I could either freak out about that, or just decide to live without it, since in reality, there wasn't anything I could do about it anyway. So, now I really had to be careful with regards to navigating, which slowed me down a bit.

I was rolling southwards, near Cedar Rapids, when I finally came off some blacktop and back into gravel. I was getting passed suddenly by a car here and there that was flying down the road. I was a bit annoyed by it, and then I found out what was going on. Not too much further up the road, I ran into the first aid station, where they told me some young hooligans had gotten wrecked of their own accord, and tried to take off. Observing that the hooligans were bloodied and battered, the folks there at the checkpoint called in the accident, and the cops were flying around trying to head off the younginz at wherever it was they thought they were going. Meanwhile, a bit further past the aid station, where I had an apple and a PBR, a car was burning. The acrid smell of wires and rubber burnt in the air was nasty. I motored on as fast as I could away from there. Shueyville, Swisher, and a long, busy stretch of blacktop came after the car nonsense and the aid station. Finally, I was back out in the darkness on some lonely stretches of gravel road.

Out here it was hilly, a bit mushy, and windy. It was still raining softly the entire time as well. I was hoping to find the Mile 60-ish stop where some pizza was promised, and it couldn't come too soon. Riders of these long events will tell you that you fight your demons when it's dark, and you are tired and alone. I was no different. It was tough. I had a bout where I couldn't stay awake, (probably the beer!), and a bout with a terrible headache, (probably due to poor nutrition), but I pedaled through that. Then the one thing that really gets to me started to crop up. My lower back started to seize up due to all the heavy pushing on the pedals against wind and hills.  By this time an intermittent south wind had sprung up that would be at gale force, then subside, then come back again. I was headed mostly southwards here, so I was working very hard. I was tired, hungry, and my body wasn't digging it.

East Amana, then Amana came under my wheels. It was abandoned, asleep, and weird with so many lights on. It seemed a waste of energy. Speaking of which, I was running on short supply of it. I stopped at a corner in Amana, dismounted, and my back gave out and I just about fell over, saving myself from falling by propping myself up on my bike with my arms. It hurt so bad I yelped in pain, and tears came to my eyes. Not good.

And that pizza stop at mile 60-ish? Never materialized. The main group went through and they must have moved on. I didn't see anything. I was resigned to keep moving along. It was three o'clock in the morning, and I figured that maybe some folks had finished by now. I checked my cell phone, which I had turned off to conserve my battery, but I had no messages, so I turned it back off, re-mounted painfully on my Fargo, and rolled out of Amana southwards on HWY 151.

Just south of Amana I turned off the road onto a two mile stretch of clay mire. It was a B Maintenance road, and I walked the entire thing. It was hilly, slick as snot, and it was raining. I felt pretty miserable about this time. As I came out, by a farmstead, I was greeted by snarling dogs and the hollow echoed with the noise. It was as if I pulled an alarm. Crazy! I wouldn't have been surprised if the owner had shot at me with a gun as I rolled away, and by this time, I wouldn't have cared. He would have put me out of my misery!

About this time, after I had remounted and was gingerly pedaling down the road, I noticed a van stop, and turn around, then pull over to the side of the road. Some people got out. "Hey! There you are! We were just about to turn around and head back." Obviously, I was the last guy out, and they were a bit concerned about me! I stopped and grabbed a slice of pizza and another PBR. I looked at the time, 4am, and decided that after hearing the crew I came with was done and waiting on me, that I should pack it in. At the rate I was limping along, I wouldn't have been in until about 6-7am.

So, that was my ride. Approximately 80 miles and 8 hours of ride time. I met up with Mike and Ron and we went home. Robert won, and everyone else did well too. I was worked. I hadn't ridden, or worked so hard on a bike, in such terrible conditions, ever before. Today as I type this report, I am wasted. My body aches! Time for some recovery!

My Salsa Cycles Fargo performed flawlessly. No troubles shifting, with the exception of one instance of chainsuck on the B road, not to be wondered at! My gear was good. My lights were marginal. I need to work on my system. My nutrition was.......abysmal! I was stupid there, and maybe had I been on the ball with regard to that, I would have done better. I was too worried about what I was going to wear, and not so much about eating, I guess.

Thank You's: Adam Blake, and his volunteers, for putting on this first time event, and doing pretty well at it. Mike Johnson, for the drive and great company as always. Ron Saul: Likewise, and it's been too long since we chatted! Robert Fry, Jeremy Fry: Good to be with you guys again. All the Night Nonsense riders: It isn't an event without the people. Thanks to: Twin Six, Craft, Salsa Cycles, Walz caps, Edge/Enve Composites, Revelate Designs, WTB, Bontrager, Endura, and Banjo Brothers for making arse kicking cycling products!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

It's All Just Nonsense!

Friday was another great day in the woods. I got off work early, and took full advantage by going on all the choicest single track in Geo Wyth on the Blackbuck.

It was totally awesome!

I have come to like the whitewall Origin 8 tires, at least the look. It has that "American Graffiti" Model A hot rod look, I think. (Maybe it's just me, I don't know!) I just know the tight twisties in Geo Wyth are primo right now. Maybe too dry, and well, I hear that may be getting fixed soon! I'm pretty sure it will too, because I'm about to take part in some "nonsense" tomorrow evening that about guarantees it will rain. That would be The Night Nonesense 100 mile gravel road event. Yes- all at night!

It starts at 8pm and well, however long it takes me to ride the entire course is how long the event will probably be! I don't figure on being all that fast. Anyway, there is supposed to be some crazy stuff happening out there, so we'll see if that slows my progress down any. Report to come on all the shenanigans Monday.

Speaking of "shenanigans", I think I may have gotten myself into something over my head here. You see, my friend Ben Witt, who runs Milltown Cycles, well, he tempted me with hubs. Yes- I said hubs.... Well, look at this image and you tell me if you wouldn't be tempted too....

<===Custom Phil Wood hubs for Mukluk snow bikes. (image by Ben Witt)

Yup! Those are pure awesomeness right there. Since I am getting a Mukluk anyway, I figured, what the heck.

That's some chunk-o-alloy there! Ben tells me the hub flanges are so large that spokes will be very short. That means a stronger wheel, hopefully, and of course, they are going to be dishless as well. That's good stuff for a rear wheel, and especially so since I am opting for a Rolling Daryl rim set with these wheels.

And to top it all off, I just looked at a winter forecast that said we'll be getting above average snow fall for the 2010/2011 winter. Snow biking will be awesome, if the parts all come in and the bike makes it on time. And if it doesn't, well......I'll go sledding!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday News And Views

Geax's Latest 29"er Tread: Here is a tire I chose as one I thought would be a great hit here in the Mid-West that was introduced at Eurobike last September. The Geax AKA.

Well, I happen to have a pair now and have just started to ride them. This tire is from the "Smallblock 8" mold: Very rounded, voluminous casing, with a ton of smallish knobs arranged in rows across the face of the casing. Like  a Velcro kind of approach, tires like these are best on buff, smooth, and less technical trails where the multitudinous knobs can continually rip into the trail surface. However; throw down some acorns, or gravel, or similar features, and goodbye lateral traction. Best not to be caught in a corner when that happens!

I suspect these will be somewhat like the recently tried Bontrager XR-1's, but I can tell you already that these tires are 150 grams heavier, and don't roll as well as XR-1's, just from my first two rides on them. The Geax type tire, be it TNT or folding, is curiously heavy, stiff, and way durable. These look to be that way as well. I'll chime back in with more later.....

Cole Wheels: Locals might remember when Jeff Kerkove was sponsored by a little known wheel maker named Cole Wheels. They featured a funky looking hub with weird looking barrels that the spokes threaded into and then went straight to the rim and were connected there by the traditional nipple in the rim.

Well, these cats are making a 29"er wheel set these days, and I have been sent a pair to test on Twenty Nine Inches. First of all, contrary to popular belief, those gold colored "barrels" are not brass. They are anodized aluminum, and although they look heavy, they are on par with about any mid-level wheel set out there. (These MSRP for about $700.00) Modern features like tubeless compatibility with a tape from Caffe Latex, convertible front hub to 15QR, and crazy smooth Japanese manufactured bearings are all here. Did I mention these wheels spin for days? Smooooth!

More on these later, but so far, they seem quite well made and capable.

Trans Iowa V7 Sponsor News: Well, we've got more T.I.V7 sponsors on board now. Gu Energy is one, and they will be providing some nutrition for the event in rider's pre-race packets and at checkpoints. Man! Gu Energy has been around a long time now and they still make some great product for endurance athletes. I remember when I used their Banana flavored gel on a tour I was on back in the 90's. Good stuff.

We Also want to announce that we have signed on Clif Bar as another nutritional sponsor for Trans Iowa V7. They will also be sponsoring us with nutritional items that will be found in racer packets and at the checkpoints in limited quantities.

Keep in mind that while we are being sponsored by these fine companies that you shouldn't rely on their products to keep you going through to the finish. I am not demeaning them, or their stuff, but even they would tell you that a triple century plus is going to suck out more energy than you could ever hope to metabolize while you are in the event. This stuff is best seen as supplemental to your main sources of calories for Trans Iowa. Grab some "just in case". Use it as a bail out measure, but don't think you'll be able to live off this stuff, or that there will actually be anything there when you get to a checkpoint, if you get to a checkpoint. (And don't kid yerself Rookies. That's a pretty big "if"!)

Oh yeah, speaking of Rookies and Veterans. I am never surprised at the number of ways you guys and gals will use to get into T.I. For instance, a recent phone call from an old friend that I hadn't heard from in 10 years was made to me mainly on the basis that this old friend would have enough pull to get the person influencing this action into Trans Iowa "guaranteed". Suffice it to say that I told the person, via the old friend, that they could do it like everyone else was.

Message to would be T.I.V7 entrants: There is no "easy, guaranteed way in". Just give up on the schemes already! Send your post card on the correct date with the correct info, and hope you are in the front end of the line. Everybody has to do it the same way. An announcement will appear in about 10 days or so.

Have a great weekend and ride yer bikes ya'all!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Stringing Together Pearls

I know, I gets cliche', it's said all the time, but this weather, ya'all! I was out riding on Wednesday and couldn't help but wonder if this was the best Fall of my life, in terms of weather, bicycle riding, and just plain enjoying life.

So, anyway, the other side of all this is "When is it going to end?" I suppose it may seem like time is slowing to a crawl and that Fall will last all winter long, but don't bet on that! The days have been fantastic for so long, strung together like pearls on a strand, that it just stands to reason that pretty soon, we will reach the end of it. "Craptastic" weather is coming, and sooner than later! (In fact I'm hearing that could be Saturday night. More on this later!)

I actually rode twice on Wednesday. Once to give the Raleigh XXIX on test at Twenty Nine Inches a shakedown cruise to make sure that "The Belt" would behave itself. It did.

Now the next step will be to take it where there is some serious climbing. Then we'll go from there. So far, so good.

The other ride was on the Origin 8 Scout 29 in Geo Wyth. I found a trail I hadn't been on over by Alice Wyth that was a hoot! Swoopy, flowy, and fast. It really played to the strengths of the snappy Scout. I had some big grin action going on, that's for sure! But that wasn't all. The middle of the day, in between these two rides, there was a lot going on.

I had some sponsorship action going down for Trans Iowa V7 to deal with. Clif Bar is on board, and I have one other nutritional sponsor in the wings, but I can not say anything at this time. It will be good, and the pre-race sacks will be good this year, even without anything else.

Plus, I had other Trans Iowa related news. I learned that I was being asked to do a feature length write up for a well know print mag on the event, the history of the event, and more. I can't talk anymore about that, but next summer, if all goes as planned, it will hit the news stands and we can talk then. Anyway, I'm excited about the opportunity.

Speaking of T.I.V7, I'll have another update next week. This weekend I am doing a "nonsense" event near Iowa City. Saturday night, when it is supposed to rain. Epic. So, the T.I.V7 update will have to wait.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Belt Drive Odyssey Begins Now.....

Yes, "The Belt" is making a limited engagement run here and you know, first impressions are everything. They say that you need to grab their attention with something spectacular and then keep the suspense going until the ultimate climax, hopefully near the end.

So, how is "The Belt" doing so far? a word........


Yeah, I know. I am a skeptic and all, but this is hard to deny as a real, down to earth, honest to goodness "thud" of an impression. Here's the deal.....

"The Belt" has a zero tolerance policy towards lateral mis-alignment. Chains are definitely waaaay more forgiving in that respect. So, we found out that a minor mis-alignment condition existed with the bicycle we received sporting "The Belt" and that a "quick fix" was made that we should adopt. It was certainly easy to do the "fix", which fixed the out of alignment issue, but caused me to be out of alignment! You see, the fix involved moving the eccentric to the non-drive side as far as possible so that the crank is offset to the non-drive side by a huge margin. My body does not be diggin' it!

So, I am going to have to bust out the tool-age and put the "Fixinator" on this bad boy. Otherwise "The Belt" will be turning into a "The Chain" real fast like.

The Score: "The Belt": 0  "The Chain": 1

Stay tuned for further updates as they become available...........

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bike Shop Tales: Sensations

Bike Shop Tales returns with a list of the sights, sounds, and smells of the old shop....

Many times when you hear folks talk about bike shops you hear about the sensations they experience when they are within the confines of those two wheeled temples of goodness. Things that stick in their minds years afterward. You know, like the stuff you think of when you go to an auto shop: Buzzing ratchets, clanging metallic sounds, and fumes of death. Like that- only better

My two kids reminded me of that when I brought home a new pair of tires in my messenger bag the other day. "Whoa Dad! That smells funny!" I suppose it did to them. I told them that a lot of people actually like that smell. It reminds them of bicycles. Bicycles remind them of childhood. And well......we could go a long way with that thought!

I'll stay on task here though. Here are some random sensations I think of when I think "bicycle shop". Maybe you can think of others....

Chain lube: Ahh! I will always remember my first whiff of Tri-Flow. Bananas! fruity. Whatever that smell is, it is certainly a very recognizable smell. It reminds me of bicycles. 

Tune ups: I guess one of the earliest sounds that caught my attention was the click and whir of a tune up going on. Snick, snick, snick, snick, snick, snick, snick, whirrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! At least that's what it sounded like in the early 90's! (Now you would have to add three more "snicks"!)

Park Repair Stands: Who, in their right mind, would not be fascinated by their first sight of a Park repair stand? I know I still am fascinated by how it works. (You'd think I'd be waaaay over that by now!) I was reminded of how captivating one of these clamp mechanisms are when my son started noticing them in my basement shop. Yep! I agreed. They are pretty awesome. 

Spokes: Yeah, spokes! I am constantly amazed by the simplicity and performance of a "j" bend spoke. The way you can lace up several of these between a rim and a hub, and have them work under huge amounts of stress and wild changes in forces exerted upon them. Heck! It's just a wire, but it is soooo much more when it is made into part of a wheel. Amazing, I say.

And there are more things, but I leave it up to you to use your own imagery. Your own remembrances.

Next week, more Bike Shop Tales..........

Monday, October 18, 2010

Trans Iowa V7 Update #2

Today's update is all about recent recon and what it means for those who are looking at Trans Iowa V7, or are already in this gig. d.p. and I have decided to take Trans Iowa a bit more towards the "self-supported endurance event" side of things with a couple of tweaks to the route and how we are going to do checkpoints.

This go round was done in the daylight. so we were up at "dark-thirty" to hit the roads of rural Iowa along the route about 150 miles into our "big assed loop". That means we have some images for you, some from within the Element, some after we ditched the 4 wheel transpo for the 2 wheel mode.

Another beautiful fall day greeted us, although it was pretty windy. Conditions are super dusty out there. Doubtful that it will be so for T.I.V7, so don't take this to heart for what you might experience!

We were looking for a good spot to set up Checkpoint #2, and we think we found it. Here's where a bit of a shift comes in our thinking. d.p. and I are aware that Trans Iowa is unique in the gravel grinder world. most events are 100 miles or less and end up being road races on gravel. Some events are choosing to become a "bigger deal", some events are allowing lots of outside support just to boost finishing rates, and so on and so forth. well, Trans Iowa isn't any of that, and it isn't like other gravel events in that it isn't a road race. (Right: I  bask in the glow of Checkpoint #2 -image by d.p.)

Trans Iowa got its "DNA" originally from the great ultra-endurance events out west, like the Great Divide Race.  Much like that event, we wanted to carve out a challenge for riders in Iowa that maybe isn't so remote and fraught with danger, but has the feel of that challenge in a smaller dose. Lately we felt like Trans Iowa was being pulled away from that a bit.

While we may not have bears and mountain lions roaming the area, (well.......we might actually have mountain lions!), we can make the challenge more about self reliance and finishing with a great sense of accomplishment, if you actually finish it, which is intended to be hard to do. To that end we will be having just two checkpoints in Trans Iowa V7. Traditionally we have had only one, and in the last couple or so, we've added a couple checkpoints. This has made the event more about getting from one checkpoint to another, breaking T.I. into manageable chunks from the get go. No more!

We will still have a brief run in to an initial checkpoint in a small Iowa town, probably at 50 or so miles in, that will keep folks honest as far as the pre-planning of the first half of Trans Iowa the night before. It will also dissuade folks from camping out on the route's first half to "cheer on" people in the event, which we highly discourage. The next checkpoint, which will come at about 170 miles in, will not be at a place where there will be services. It will be at a random crossroads which we have specifically chosen. This is done to take away the "convenience" that we formerly were providing of having a checkpoint right near a convenience store, if not at one. This does several things for us, but importantly to you, the prospective Trans Iowa competitor,  it forces you into a decision more quickly and decisively to carry on, or not. Trust me, this crossroads won't be a place you'll want to hang out at! There will be no haven, no comfort there. Just the next set of cue sheets, gravel, and probably wind. We're pretty sure there will be wind.......

What about re-supply stops? Well, there will be several chances for you to do so, but these will become less as the event goes on, and in fact, we are recommending that you be able to carry enough food and water to last you at least 100 miles for the final run in. Now, this doesn't mean that there are convenience stores right on the route, (there will be some), and when there are none, we'll indicate on the cues when you are passing a nearby opportunity. We haven't done all our research yet, but this is pretty much a given- if you are out beyond 10pm Saturday night, you'd better have what you need to have by then to finish. If you decide to travel light, it might end up biting you in the end. In fact, I am betting it will.

There are a couple of good reasons for this. #1: Convenience stores that stay open 24hours are becoming a rarity in Iowa. #2: It makes Trans Iowa more challenging, and we like that.

<===For whatever reasons, we seem to be finding all kinds of rural cemeterys.

So that's it. We're taking away one checkpoint and making the re-supplies more of a intentional choice by the riders instead of an obvious choice. We're trying to make this more about overcoming a big challenge, and less about a road race on gravel. We're trying to make this low key, about riding bicycles a long way, with like minded people, and not about spectators, hoopla, or spectacle.

Stay tuned for more updates to come...

UPDATE: I am still getting e-mails from Rookies wanting in T.I.V7. Please Read The Trans Iowa V7 Site's Latest News dated 9/28/10!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Bike Shop Horrors! It's Deer Season!

It's deer season out on the bike trails. If I saw a buck like this one, I'd take it down, cut off its head(tube), and mount that thing above my mantle piece.

Really now........I think the only answer here is recumbent!

Have a great Sunday!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Hoopty Ride

Black with a chrome front "bumper"!

I was pretty suspicious of being able to accept these white wall tires as being something I would remotely like, but I have to say, they do kind of grow on me.

They kind of have a "classic car", "rat-rod" sort of appeal. With the Goat Horns on the Blackbuck, it all works pretty well, I think.  It also is reminiscent of the old mtb look. Too bad Duro.....I mean Origin 8 didn't spec a skinwall look, because I would have stuck on some Sun Tour Power Shifters and an old XC Mountain derailluer for that "period" look! I still think someone should do a 29"er tire in a skin wall. Why not? I kind of miss that look myself. It really set off the black anodized rims, which at that time were fairly new to the scene.

Oh well, these white walls will have to do for now. (Now where did I store that Airlift kit? Hmm.........)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday News And Views

<==White Walls!

I was as surprised by the fact that Origin 8 branded 29"er tires were available as anybody, and I ordered some straight away. Due to the rather confusing and sometimes cryptic descriptions in J&B's catalog, I wasn't really sure what the things would look like when I got them. In fact, I thought these would have grey sidewalls. Hmm.........I'm thinking that's a white side wall. Yup! I'm pretty sure that is white. 
So, look for a 29"er "pimp-mo-bile" to be hittin' the trails soon! And if you are wondering what bike these will go on, well, everyone knows white walls and black go together!

 Introducing the latest Trans Iowa V7 sponsor, Hiawatha Cyclery, from the Twin Cities area. The shop specializes in some cool rigs that fit right in with the gravel road scene. Not only that, but one of the proprietors, Jim Thill, has thrown his name into the hat for T.I.V7 by way of his having been a volunteer for T.I.V6. (Anyone wanting to Volunteer gets a free pass for the next T.I.) I would like to thank Hiawatha Cyclery and Jim Thill for the support of Trans Iowa V7.

Speaking of Trans Iowa, there will be some gravel ground this weekend in an effort to tack on some more mileage to the route. We've got a rough guess as to where the ends will meet and then maybe we can get the whole deal done before the snow flies. That would be unheard of!

The next piece of the T.I.V7 pie will be the announcement of registration details for the Veterans and Rookies. Keeping in mind that we're taking the volunteers out of the equation in regards to the 100 roster spots, we have had 15 spots claimed by finishers. If you take out that number from 100 you get 85 spots left over and split that into two parts and you have 42/43 for Rookies/Veterans to get in. We've got two more weeks to go for the Finishers to take their place on the roster. Final numbers will be figured November 1st, but I think we'll have a healthy amount of spots left over, and we should be good to go as far as a chance to get in for those who want in.

Keep in mind that details have not been released and registration will not happen until mid-November! Don't send me anything.....yet!

Have a great weekend and ride those bicycles!!!

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Is this the best Fall riding weather or what? The string of great days for riding are stretching into the unbelievable realm with Wednesday being another picture-perfect fall day to ride on. I was feeling well enough that I went on up to the Camp to see the fall colors there and whatever else I could.

Here are a few images of the day that I captured. It was still early enough in the morning that the lighting was pretty cool.

The trees reflected in the calm waters of the Cedar River.

A little further down the river, I stopped to see the eagle's nest. (It is the dark, inverted triangular shape in the tree in the upper center here). No residents could be seen today. they must have been out fishing!

Here's a closer view. It is so big, a man could easily get inside this thing. I understand that these nests are continually enlarged, but I don't know how much more this tree can take! Another interesting thing is that this nest withstands the wintry blasts and summertime storms we get. Pretty amazing stuff when you consider it.

Unfortunately some boneheaded individual decided to string a wire across the trail and it got entangled in my rear hub/wheel. I took about 15 minutes to dislodge this. That was okay with me, since I was riding a single speed, and I didn't get thrown off my bike. Had I been on a geared rig, and going fast, I would have destroyed a rear derailleur and possibly injured myself. Not cool!

Of course, it was impossible to tell just whether or not this was intentional, but I have my suspicions.....

You can see how the wire was twisted together to form a longer length. To stretch it across the trail?

Maybe. Hard to say, but I was fortunate not to do any damage to my bicycle or myself.

If you go to ride at The Camp, just be careful! I'm not sure what is going on, but after this, I lost my appetite for riding there, and I went back home. It isn't likely I'll be back again until after things get cleared out next spring either. I can't afford damaged or broken components, or possible injury due to the careless, (or possibly malicious), actions of someone with a wire fetish.

It's too bad too. The Camp is a great place to mountain bike. One of the best in the area too. But this sort of thing is ridiculous, and until I know it has been cleared up, I ain't goin back.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Interbike 2011: We're Goin' To Vegas, Baby!!

<===Looks like this will be my view again in 2011....

Back in September I wrote this missive about Interbike's planned move to Anaheim, California from Las Vegas, Nevada. Woo hoo! We're goin' to Disneyland! (Or so I thought) Of course, I thought that from an industry perspective, it was an odd, if not a downright suspicious move that would produce poor results. I ended up saying the following:

"In the end, at least for now, we'll show up in Anaheim next year and find out what, if anything, really changes."

Nope! Ain't a gonna happen now!

In a stunning, but not completely surprising, move, Interbike sent out a press release stating that "they had heard the voice of the industry" and had reversed their decision to go to Anaheim in 2011.

What does this mean?

Well, it is certainly a reaction to "the industry" and I'm betting certain facets of "the industry" helped this decision along. What those "certain facets" are probably will never be publicly revealed, but there are a few things we do know for sure that certainly played a smaller part in moving the show back to Vegas.

For one thing it was it was very unpopular with many distributors, manufacturers, and most importantly, the independent bike shop folks. Yes- the very same people who wanted out of Vegas didn't like the move to Anaheim. Why? It doesn't make sense at first, but when dealers have to leave their stores in the selling season, and go all the way across the U.S.A. to a more expensive venue, well, it didn't play well in Peoria, let's just say that!

I'll get back to the independent shop folks in a moment, but it was also obvious that manufacturers and distributors were a part of the negativity as well. Knowing that the independent shop owners were probably not going to show up, they had no real reason to support Anaheim either. Besides the fact that an entirely new infrastructure for the Anaheim show would have to be developed and learned, which would have been a burden to them.

So, we're going back to Vegas. The place that everybody seemingly was grumbling about, wanted no part of, and wanted to leave behind. So, what is the deal here?

The "Why Vegas again?" question is really just not the right question. Remember when this whole story broke? There were actually two cities under consideration for Interbike. Anaheim, which eventually got chosen, then spurned, and Salt Lake City, Utah. There were a lot of folks digging on the Salt Lake City option, but it never really was in the running, from what I can tell. And besides, both Anaheim and the SLC were the wrong answers to the question of where Interbike should go. There is a better answer, and everyone knows what it is, but it seems to be the "pink elephant" in the room that everyone is trying to ignore, but is so painfully obvious it hurts.

Denver, Colorado.

But you will never here that "answer" now. Not for several years anyway, is my guess. Nope! We're headed back to slimy ol' Las Vegas, and that's probably where we'll stay for several more years to come. Even though the independent bike shops would probably come out in droves for this Denver venue. It is centrally located, has a major airport which is a hub for several airlines, and has hotels and motels along with a nice venue for the show. Still, that all doesn't seem to matter.

Too bad. I hear the Front Range has some stellar cycling in September. Oh well.......

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Bike Shop Tales: She's Got Legs!

I went through the Bike Shop Tales annals and couldn't believe I hadn't told this story from Interbike long ago....Maybe I have, but if so, here it is again!

I suppose there has always been, (since the days of modern mountain biking), a female or two, or three......that has captured the imagination, hearts, and eyes of the male mountain biker on a national and even international level. Jacquie Phelan, Cindy Whitehead, Julie Furtado, Susan DeMattei, and on and on.

Well, back in the mid-90's a woman from Italy did just that for me. Her name is Paola Pezzo. Oh yes. The blond with the sleepy eyes and the half open skin suits on a team fade Gary Fisher bike. Wow!

And she was good too. She won the first Olympic Gold Medal in mountain biking on the female side besides loads of other races. This was no fluke. A gal with beauty and power on the bike. What "bike nerd" could resist that combination? Not I. I was a fan, for sure.

When I heard that Paola was to make an appearance at Interbike after winning the Olympic Gold, I was intrigued. I was there at the show, and thought, "Ahhh.......What the heck! I'll stand in line for an autographed poster." I told Tom what my intentions were, and he winked and smiled at me as he scurried away to grab more schwag. I took my place in the long line of shop rats and aspiring racers. All males, of course!

Well, as I stood in line, I noticed a few things. Most guys were talking about her good looks, of course. There was a card table or two set up with the posters and Paola with an interpreter sitting side by side. No other security or folks were watching over the goings on. Hmmm........I concocted a plan as I waited.

But first, I had to get my poster signed. I walked up to Paola, she lifted her eyes to me and asked for my name. I told her and she repeated it back to me in the way that only an Italian woman can say it. (Oh my! I think my knees went weak!) Anyway, I rolled up my poster, and instead of moving on to the right and away, I stepped around to the left, got behind Paola, down on my hands and knees, and took a peek at her legs. She didn't notice, and neither did the interpreter, both too busy with admiring fans. I gave the "thumbs up" sign to the guys waiting in line to a raucous round of hoots and applause, which was my signal to quickly disappear.

I got away before Paola or the interpreter knew what had happened and went away quietly. My little stunt had succeeded, and I got an up close and personal look at Olympic caliber mountain biking legs. Oh yeah! When I told Tom later he was upset that he had missed it. But, he also thought that was pretty cool, and I am sure my stock with him took a leap upwards because of that. He was always fond of that sort of hijinx!

Next Week, Bike Shop Tales continues...............

Monday, October 11, 2010

Perfect Outside- Not So Perfect Inside

<==So, like.....I got this shot of a really cool sticker on my Gryphon!

Wow! What a great weekend here in the Mid-West. Perfect fall weather drenched the area and with the leaves at the height of color, folks were doing everything they could outside to get in some of the last "shirt sleeve" weather of the year.

But not me.

Nope! I came down with a nasty cold and fever. Started on Friday. I rode into work and back home again that day, but I could tell on my ride home that I was drained physically. I was struggling just to turn over the pedals to get back home. I even used the "Truck Without A Name' to pick up the kids from school, which is only a 8 block round trip. Yeah.....I was feeling really drained!

Saturday? Well, I tried to function, but it took me most of the morning to even get going, and one obligation I had to my son, which was to spend time with him, even got cut short. I did manage to give him a ride on the back of the Xtracycle, which turned out to be the only riding I got in all weekend. That undid me!

The rest of the day was worthless for me. I basically sat and did an impersonation of a zombie. Somewhat timely for the season, I might add, but not what I had in mind. Not at all. Sunday wasn't much better. I felt progressively better throughout the day, but my body, especially my legs, felt like toast. Burnt toast. More rest at the risk of turning into a sedentary mass.

That's the thing. It is so hard to just put the transmission in "park" and idle while you know the riding outside is fantastic, just so you can heal up. It's the worst. I don't have to explain that to most of you readers, I have a feeling!

The plan is to commute by bike today and see how it goes. Hopefully I'm coming back around to normal sooner than later.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Trans Iowa V7: Update #1

<===Secret Recon Missions Continue.

Here's an update on Trans Iowa V7 happenings. Today we'll be focusing on the course recon so far and more on Registration.

Course Recon: So far we have nearly one half of next year's course reconned and most of that by bicycle. I feel pretty confident in saying that this one will not only be challenging, but different in several ways. We will be doing a few tweaks to how the course is broken up in reference to Checkpoints and the Checkpoints themselves will be unusual.

d.p. and I have decided upon a few details that will affect the logistics of the event, but until we have some hard numbers to share, we'll hold off on releasing that info for now. Suffice it to say that things will resemble the older versions a bit more than the more recent ones. The course itself is a great mix of killer, one-after-another hills interspersed with some unique experiences we have in store, and the "mind-numblingly flat" sections as well.

Registration: So far we have about 14 finishers on board for next years event and 21 days until Phase 1 of registration closes up. I suspect we'll have a few more sign on towards the end, but again, I'll be surprised if anything close to the 48 total finishers signs on. Remember- We'll be dividing the remainder of the spots for the Veterans and Rookies.

So, just what is a "Veteran" and a "Rookie"? Well, the people that have actually toed the line at a Trans Iowa, but have not recorded a finish are the Veterans. The folks that have never been to a Trans Iowa are the Rookies. These two groups will have to send in a post card with some specific information no sooner than November 15th to a specific address which will be announced later. The roster spots are filled in a "first come-first filled" fashion. If you rely on the U.S. Postal service, and send in a post card, the mailman will have those stacked in a pile when he drops them off to me. I will then peel off the top card, and that will be the first on the roster, the second in the pile-second, and so on. Totally random and fair as I can make it. Now, you don't have to use the U.S.P.S., and using Fed-Ex, or other overnight services is fair game. It is also fair game to hand deliver a post card, or have it dropped off by a courier, or other means. (I have gotten cards with a pizza delivery in the past, as an example.) Creativity will get you no-where, but timely delivery is everything! Why? Because I suspect that Registration will be over within two to three days max, and maybe in one day, if last year was any indication.

Volunteers: Sharp eyes will note that some Volunteers have spots on the roster. They will not be counted against the total of 100. These folks are being afforded the opportunity of using a guaranteed entry to T.I.V7 for volunteering last spring. Note that any volunteers for T.I.V7 can get in on the same deal for a possible, future edition of Trans Iowa.

Calling All Women Endurance Freaks! Want to make a special note for yourself in ultra-endurance racing? Note that no woman has ever finished a Trans Iowa.  You could be the first! We'd really like to see a larger number of Open Woman's contestants in T.I.V7, so jump on this opportunity to make a bit of history.

Look for more Trans Iowa V7 Updates periodically throughout the winter.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Night Recon Mission: Trans Iowa V7

A little secret night time gravel action was on tap for Thursday evening. Trans Iowa bit by bit. d.p. and I are doing a bang up job riding the course on bicycles this go round.

And that makes me smile!

The night time gig has been really enjoyable. Ever since we started doing this last spring, I have looked forward to the night grinding of the gravel with d.p. It is an adventure every time. Too bad we had that summer lull in there when we didn't get together, but its back on now, and we're making great progress on the course for T.I.V7. To say we are excited is an understatement.

The night was actually a perfect one to ride on. It was a new moon, so it was about as dark as it gets, and the skies were perfectly clear. Wow! When we turned off our lights to have a wee nip of a cordial I was packing, we saw the most amazing starry sky. The Milky Way was visible above our heads, stretching across the sky from one horizon to another. The Big Dipper was skirting the Northern fringes of the sky, and we stood in awe of the starry vault.

Like d.p. said, more folks aught to be doing just as we were. Really awe inspiring stuff.

Get out this weekend and make yer own memories and adventures! 

Thursday, October 07, 2010

In Search Of: A "B Maintenance Road"

Do you remember that old show called "In Search Of" starring Leonard Nimoy? Yeah, I used to watch that back in the day. Well, yesterday's adventure was something that reminded me of that show, only my adventure wasn't about the paranormal, odd cults, or witches. It was about finding a "B Maintenance" road I had heard about last week.
So, before I get started, I have to post this disclaimer:

This post presents information based in part on theory and conjecture. The blogger's purpose is to suggest some possible explanations, but not necessarily the only ones, to the mysteries we will examine.

Okay, so here's the deal. Last Thursday, "Doug-E-Fresh" comes in and tells me that he'd been on a B Maintenance road just south of Waterloo and east of HWY 63. Huh? Really? I have been all over those roads and had never seen it. He said the same. He'd never seen it before either, and had come up on it purely by accident. Doug-E had some trouble recalling the details, but I got enough out of him to know where to look. By Doug-E's description, the road was an epic B Road, and not just some dirt smoothie stretch of gravel. I had to find out if it was true.

Was Doug-E-Fresh really on this B Road, or was it a bad case of gravel dust inhalation? Maybe he knocked his head on a rock and had a vision? This needed to be either proven or dis-proven. Does the mysterious B Road actually exist?

I had a day off and it was beautiful. After running a few errands, I had a bit of free time to go explore this mystery. I figured it couldn't take more than a couple hours to ride out and see if this B Road was really there. I have been riding this area a lot for years, and I hadn't seen any signs of a B Road anywhere in the area. I would have thought that I would have come across it by now, but maybe not. Doug-E's description of its whereabouts was right on roads I had ridden on several times before.

So I set off through town and the trees were beautiful in the sun. The wind was gently blowing the leaves out and across my path. It was like a cycling version of a ticker tape parade. The sun was out and riding high up in the sky. It was a fine day to be out exploring.

I then got out into the countryside south of town on familiar roads. These weren't near as pretty as what I had just experienced on the Rawland Fall Tour, so it was sort of a bleak, tough ride into the wind, which had picked up somewhat out there. The ride last weekend was picture-postcard perfect, and this seemed to be the opposite, but hey! I was exploring and I was having fun regardless. I was on my Singular Gryphon single speed and was cruising along a a pretty decent clip despite the wind. I went south as far as I thought Doug-E's directions were supposed to lead me and then I was on the lookout for Petrie Road.

Petrie Road west and into more wind and hills. Okay, the directions were to go as far as Aker Road and then I was supposed to find "it". The elusive B Maintenance Road that was an extension of Petrie Road. Doug-E claimed that the road went across Aker, by a house, and then went to heck in a hand basket, according to him.

He had said that on his excursion, the road was so wet and boggy he could barely traverse it. Supposedly it was not marked by the traditional "Enter At Your Own Risk" sign, but had a warning about being "impassable during high water", or something to that effect. Well, what did you know, but I saw the beginnings of the dirt sector as I crested a hill on Petrie. There off in the distance it was, just beyond what looked like to be a fair stand of pines on the south side of the road. Likely a farmstead. Maybe Doug-E had it right after all.

Okay, passed the farm house and this is what I saw. Dirt road all right. Going up over a hill, certainly, but nothing astoundingly terrible, as Doug-E had described. Still, here was a B Maintenance road I hadn't seen before. The funny thing was I had ridden right through the intersection leading up to it probably two dozen times, but the farm house and slight uphill gravel leading to it obscured the view to the dirt and the traditional signage is not there.

Doug-E had also said it was really wet when he rode this, but of course, it has been dry since, so the dirt was solid leading up the hill.

Up over the hill and down again. I found the mud hole, and it was still slightly wet. There were ruts the size of Texas and plenty of tractor tread marks that made for a dirt rumble strip sort of ride. Then up the other side it got sandy. Really deep, fine sand too. My two inch tires were wallowing, but had enough width that I was able to float up over the stuff.

Did I say there were ruts? This road has some of the worst I've seen. Deep ruts that will catch your pedals if you are not careful. Up the hill again and down again. I decided to stop and enjoy the rustic solitude for a bit. Flowers- the last of the season that had survived the first few frosts, were adorning the sides of the road. My favorite color too. Purple. I took it in as I knew I would be waiting another six months before I would be able to enjoy wild flowers along the roads again.

At the end of the road, I saw the evidence of Doug-E's earlier passage. It was real. He was right, and this was no longer a mystery. I had searched for the road and found it. What is more, I rode on it, and it was fantastic! Rutted, bumpy, sandy, and pretty awesome for being so close to home.

The thing is, this isn't going to last. It is pretty apparent that zero maintenance has happened here for a long, long time. This is usually a sign that the next step is nigh; Decommissioned or "C" class status will be next, and it will happen sooner than later. Any locals that want a taste of this had better go check it out now. A gate or a plowed field will be all you'll find within a year or so, is what I am thinking.

And if that happens, it really will be a mystery road with no discovering it!