Saturday, November 30, 2013

Trans Iowa: Ten Years Of Tales #14

In mid-November, the idea of Trans Iowa was hatched. The year was 2004. In the ten years since then there have been many stories and memories. These posts will tell of the most prominent ones to my mind. Maybe I'll even spill the beans on some things you never knew....

Editor's Note: Images courtesy of Cale Wenthur.

I have no recollection of doing this!
 Trans Iowa v3, in terms of the event, was shaping up to become an epic, Mano-a-mano showdown between two, haggard road warriors. I was excited to see what would happen. I remember racing through the night on twisty, turny highways with Zach barely able to follow me to make sure we'd be at the finish line before either Ira or Marcin could climb that steep, two tiered hill to the cemetery.

As we pulled up, I saw Captain Bob, my finish line helper and not long afterward, there came Marty with his Haro Mary single speed 29"er. These guys and several others began hanging out in the pre-dawn twilight waiting to see who would crawl up the hill first. It was cold and dreary, but we didn't have to wait long until we saw Ira Ryan struggling to reach the crest of the hill. He put in a final finishing flurry, coasted to the side of the road where his support crew was, and collapsed onto the pavement.

Now in his defense, Ira was obviously exhausted, and mentally he likely may not have been 100%, but as I congratulated him on his win, he swore and cursed me and the course, while his crew scowled at me as they drug him away, wrapping him in a blanket. That was my last contact with Ira Ryan to this very day. He didn't come to the awards ceremony, and I had to ship his prizing to him in Portland, Oregon. He stands out as the singular example of a finisher in nine Trans Iowas that has reacted negatively. So, that is definitely a chief memory from the past years!

Well, with that bit of a shock, I was reeling. However; it was all soon forgotten as Team Polska arrived, (Marcin's brother, Majiec, and Doug Pietz), and they were armed with wooden spoons and metal pots. They screamed some Polish encouragements to Marcin, beating the pots and running alongside him, as he toiled up the final slope to finish just ten minutes down on Ira. Unlike Ira and his crew, Team Polska stuck around to the bitter end, encouraging every finisher that came up that hill loudly and with banging pots in hand!

One of Trans Iowa's enduring images came from V3
And we had finishers! It must be pointed out here that V3 was the first time I got to witness anyone finishing a Trans Iowa. V1's 9 finishers all finished without anyone from Trans Iowa being there, and of course, no one finished the second version. So, this was all new and fun for me. (Ira notwithstanding)

24 folks climbed that last hill, and it was a glorious, sun drenched morning with folks hanging out and having a fantastic time. I had a great time, but soon, I was getting a bit antsy to get on to the upper room above T Bock's to run the awards ceremonies. The event was scheduled to run until 2pm, and it was 1:40pm. I was packing up my stuff. Everyone was gone except Team Polska, who were sitting in their car waiting for me to pull away. I sat down in my Honda, I looked hard at the crest of the hill in front of me, hesitating. I was missing one person, unaccounted for. Could they still be out there? I hated to leave, but I wanted to get the awards done so folks, (and myself), could go home. Just as I hit the key and put the Honda in reverse, I saw a helmet bob above the horizon line. It was a rider!

I shut the car off, jumped out with clipboard in hand, and began encouraging the rider. Team Polska leapt into action as well, and Mike Denehy finished T.I.v3 with 15 minutes to spare!

You know.....that's the last thing I can remember about T.I.V3! I went and did the entire awards ceremony, packed up the Honda, probably said some goodbyes to folks, and left town. All of that time I have zero memory of. I'd been up for 34+ hours straight, and I suppose my mind was fried. Stressed out before the event for sure, and I know that had to be an issue afterward as well. 

Tomorrow: How Trans Iowa almost never happened again, and what made it continue.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Friday News And Views

Trek Valencia+
The Electric Bicycle Conundrum: At this year's  Interbike show, there was a very large presence of and prominent placement for "electric" bikes. Many in the U.S. cannot figure out why these rigs have not taken off here as they did in Europe.

Then there is the "pedelec" versus "throttle control" electric bike debate that goes on within the electric bike industry here itself. The term "pedelec" is in reference to how these bicycles are "assisted" types, where the rider has to pedal to enjoy any benefit from the motor on board. The "throttle" controlled type needs no introduction as it works like any motorcycle or scooter.

In brief, the whole premise behind the electric bike is that it will presumably get those who would not otherwise be cyclists to become cyclists. This is itself a flawed philosophy merely from the standpoints of safety and cycling infrastructure.  Getting an electric bike will not begin to fix those issues, and non-cyclists either know this, do not care, or are the very ones trying to kill cycling commuters.

Secondly, as was recently pointed out in "Bicycle Retailer And Industry News" latest "Reader Feedback" column by a CEO of an electric bicycle company, Americans do not want "pedelec" type bikes, but the throttle type. I would go even further and say that what Americans really want are motorcycles with proper turn signals and lights that don't require any license or insurance and that can go on any bicycle path, where cars do not go, so they can circumvent the "system" like cyclists do, only under power.

It is important to understand this. Non-cyclists with the disposition to get out of their cars are not going to do that on normal bicycles. They probably see how cyclists "get away" with doing things that the motorized set can not do, and they want in on the action, but they want to bring their motors along with them. I'm pretty sure the guy with the Huffy equipped with a small gas motor and the fellow with the full on electric scooter dressed in full leathers and full face helmet I see on a regular basis on my city's bike paths would be a clue here.

Maybe I'm wrong though.......

Workin' on it.....
Trans Iowa Masters Program:

The Trans Iowa Masters Program seems to have struck a nerve with a lot of riders in the gravel riding scene. There seems to be something about a "border to border" crossing that gets folks stoked. Maybe it is something else, but whatever "it" is, I have heard from a lot of riders that are thinking very strongly about taking a stab at this one. Frankly, I am surprised and humbled by this.

So, with Trans Iowa v10 stuff calming down a bit here, I am starting back up with this project. I have a rough idea for the certificate for finishers that do the route, submit the GPS proof, and do the written report. I am going to set up a web page where the reports and images can be viewed, and of course, the cues will be drawn up soon.

Basically, the final outline for this event will be in place. Then all I will have left to do is to verify the course, and it will be ready to roll. As I have been working on this again, I have wondered about the course, actually. It will be fun to see just how the entire thing plays out when I do get a chance to check on it, likely early next year.

Sterling Tire Update:

My previous update is here. Now we've had some minimal snow stick around for a bit and here are my thoughts.

I figured the tires were a "win" over my previous Larrys, and I still think that, but I do not like a couple of things about these tires and it kind of bugs me the longer I get into ownership of these.

First of all, there is no way these tires are stretching anymore than they have and they are a far cry from being anywhere as big as advertised. If I had some Rolling Darryls to mount these on, they would likely gain a bit more girth, but here is the problem with that theory- It wouldn't make the tires work any better. This is because the Sterling has a very "flat" top and the side walls start turning down to the rim immediately after the outer row of knobs. Pooching out the side walls with a wider rim won't gain you anything, which is just the opposite with a Surly tire. The Sterlings will only have what they have for float, unless there is a new, wider casing with a wider set of rows of knobs on it.

The second thing that kind of bugs me is how these tires seem harsh, but I don't think lower pressure will help that without hurting steering and rolling resistance a lot more. I hope to find some sand somewhere around here to test out my theories on air pressure with these tires. More snow at some point wouldn't hurt either!

Again, these are better than Larrys that I was running, but if I had to do this again, knowing what I know? I'd get the Husker Du or Dillinger out back and a Lou up front.

That's it- Have a great weekend, and don't get mowed down by shoppers!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Trans Iowa: Ten Years Of Tales #Special Edition

In mid-November, the idea of Trans Iowa was hatched. The year was 2004. In the ten years since then there have been many stories and memories. These posts will tell of the most prominent ones to my mind. Maybe I'll even spill the beans on some things you never knew....

Making a Trans Iowa Radio post during T.I.v6
 This particular "tale" will be all about the "Trans Iowa Radio", a "feature" I have been doing during Trans Iowa events since v2. A lot of folks have found the posts I made on different audio-blog services interesting, so I figured that maybe a segment of this "Tales" series should be dedicated especially to that.

The whole idea of doing an audio-blog during Trans Iowa was mine. I basically was looking at it as a way to have some fun during the event. A way to keep my mind engaged, and also a way to express my "goofy, creative" side, which many folks probably don't realize I have. So, anyway- During T.I.v2 I would call in a post, make up fake sponsors, fake ads, and maybe add in something about the actual event as an aside. These typically appeared as a link you could click on and listen to on this blog. It was all just a farce, as far as I was concerned, and I had a blast doing it, for as long as the event actually lasted!

Post T.I.v2 I found out that folks were actually listening, and what's more- they wanted more detail and seriousness than I provided and some went as far as to chide me for "not doing my job" correctly. Wow! They just didn't get it! Even though I didn't pre-plan the Trans Iowa Radio thing, or make a big deal out of promoting it, folks still thought I should not have been goofing around, but giving detailed reports on where each person  was. (Namely the ones they knew, but whatever..), They seemed to want to know where everybody was during every second of Trans Iowa. I counted it up as a misunderstanding, but I found the reaction rather bizarre.

Getting social. (Image by J Fry)
This was all happening pre-social media as well, so I guess you could say Trans Iowa Radio was a bit ahead of its time, and folks didn't quite know what to make of it yet. I was insisting that it was purely an "extra", a way for me to be "social", and share what I was seeing. I never, ever intended for the audio-blog part of Trans Iowa to be a "race tracker", or a blow-by-blow accounting of everybody's experience in the event. Nor would I ever want that. Trans Iowa, as far as I am concerned, is a personal journey/experience. Hey- if the racers want to write a tell-all after the fact, well, that's their business. While they are in the event, they are (mostly) out there on their own, and that is one of the main reasons for the event in the first place. I was just wanting to tell about what I was seeing and that was that.

It probably didn't help matters any when during Trans Iowa v3 I allowed the audio to be broadcast over "Ride424", a now defunct endurance racing site/calendar. But I did that, and the same hue and cry afterward was seen. Although I did get a lot of nice compliments, and found out that Team Polska's relatives in Poland were listening in!

Trans Iowa Radio continued for T.I.v4 and at that time it was hosted by an audio-blogging service available here on this blog and not on any other site. During this time, it was not uncommon for me to have a little kids toy that made some music or unusual noise which I would use as "bumper music" for my posts. A funny thing about what folks were expecting from Trans Iowa Radio can be told by example of an incident from v5.

It was pretty late Saturday evening when we found ourselves near the town of Marengo and David Pals' then residence. It was decided that things were running smoothly enough that we could catch a few "z's" at David's place, then wake up and finish the event. There was a phone call, (which I will relate to you all later in a Trans Iowa Tales post), and I figured, "okay....NOW I can get to sleep!" But the phone rang again, and it was a worried woman, asking if I knew where her man was, and that she hadn't heard anything about him on Trans Iowa Radio, so could I tell her anything? Well, I did, and that was cool, but again, I could see that the audio-blog thing was a bit misunderstood yet.

The pre-start of T.I.v7: Image by W. Kilburg
By the time Trans Iowa reached its Grinnell phase, the audio-blog was better explained by me and folks finally took it for what I had intended for it to be all along. Of course, social media, instant connectedness, and what not also allowed racers to be sending/receiving messages without any reliance on Trans Iowa Radio, so I suppose that helped with regard to the current understanding.

The pinnacle of the whole Trans Iowa Radio experience was when Jeff Frings used a bunch of the audio-blog soundtrack for his documentary, "300 Miles of Gravel". For the record, I had absolutely no idea at all that Mr. Frings would use that stuff ahead of the event, so it comes off as a true rendering of what the audio-blog portion of Trans Iowa has become over the past few years or so. 

Last year a new feature was added where riders could call in their own "Trans Iowa Radio" posts along with mine. This was graciously hosted by Mountain Bike Radio and was well done and well received by listeners. It is just one more step in the evolution of this crazy feature I dreamed up on my own back in 2005.

Next: Back to the regular posts on Trans Iowa: Ten Years Of Tales.....

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Singular Gryphon Gets A New Look

Gryphon with Luxy Bars
The Singular Gryphon is my "other" Singular bike in the stable. I had originally set it up with Salsa Cycles Woodchippers, but I never really took to those bars. They were "okay" for me, but I like On One Midge Bars, Luxy Bars, and the Salsa Cycles Cowbell bars a whole lot better.

So I took a set of extra Luxy Bars I had and dedicated them to going on the Gryphon. It just took a while to get around to getting them on there. There also was some other work to be done before the bike got to the point it is at now.

For one thing, I was switching up wheels on it. I decided to get my dusty old Chris King wheels with Stan's Flow rims going again. There was a broken spoke nipple to address, and then new tape and mounting the Vee Rubber X-C-X tires tubeless. Then I got a different stem lined up, since the old Thomson stem was a 25.4mm one and I needed a 31.8mm stem. New tape and a switch of the Brooks saddles and here ya go!

I still need bar end plugs, to clean up the drive train some more, and to just clean up this bike overall. Then I should be good for some long, slow miles of gravel whenever the single speed fit takes me.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

End Of The Year Scheduling

With the end of the year coming up, I figured I had better lay out how things are going to happen around here in the coming weeks. In years past I have done a bit of a year end retrospective. I may do a small bit of that at the end of December, but not quite to the extent that I have in years past.

However; I have been having a lot of fun telling you all about my past Trans Iowa memories in my "Trans Iowa: Ten Years Of Tales" posts. I have been rolling out those every Saturday for a while now. However; this past weekend I started crunching some numbers and realized I might only get up through Trans Iowa v7 by the time Trans Iowa v10 hits. I had wanted to get through that series long before then, so I started doing two in a row posts just this past weekend.

Even with two every weekend, I doubt I'll quite get through all of those when I want to, so I have hatched a plan where on Holidays coming up, you will see the "Trans Iowa: Ten Years Of Tales"  appear on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day also.

So, look for a Thanksgiving Day post from this series and then Saturday and Sunday posts from this series as well. Just figured that those who are looking for those stories should be aware of when they are going to get posted. Thanks for all the positive feedback I have gotten on those so far. It is much appreciated.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Project LTHT: A Frozen Buzzard Takes Flight

The Buzzard @ Ingawanis Woods
After a long delay waiting on parts, I finally got the Singular Buzzard all together. This is my Project LTHT, which I've written about here before, but it has been a while, so a quick recap:

I had ridden a Diamondback Mason HT a while back and really was impressed by how it handled the local trails, with an extra capability to go on trips and tackle bigger terrain. That bike had to go back, since it was a test bike for That planted the seed to get a longer term rig in as a replacement, and hopefully take it with me on trips to El Paso, or elsewhere.

I liked the Singular Buzzard since it is a steel bike, and I already own a Singular Gryphon. I like the way Singulars look, and so I pursued getting this size Large frame in. Then I was going to build it up with a parts bin selection, but I decided to look into a more modern build, and I had to wait for the SLX group to show up, then put the bike together. This is the highlight list:
  • Size large Singular Buzzard frame
  • Rock Shox Reba 140mm travel fork
  • Velocity "Dually" wheels featuring Velocity's new hubs.
  • Shimano 2X10 drive train and brakes from the SLX level.
  • Shimano PD-M530 pedals with the "cage" deal. In white, no less. 
  • Shimano Tharsus riser bar.
  • KORE B52 stem in white
  • Ergon grips
  • Specialized dropper post
  • Bontrager saddle
  • On One Smorgasbord rear/Chunky Monkey front tires tubeless. 
  • Cane Creek 40 series head set for tapered steer tube/44mm head tube. 

Enough snow to make things interesting
The snow we got recently stuck around this time, instead of melting right away, but it wasn't enough to make me think about riding something else like a fat bike quite yet. This bike with the Duallys is almost a "fat-lite" rig anyway. The On One tires are really spread out and "flatter profiled" than the same tires are on a set of Charger Pro wheels I have, and that means all the tread is hitting the ground all the time. That means great traction.

I set the tires at 20psi indoors, which likely yielded a lower pressure outside in the cold by a tiny bit, but whatever it actually was really worked nicely out there. I wasn't pushing things too hard at first anyway, what with this being a new bike to me and for the fact that I was not tempting fate due to the new build. But both things faded rather quickly as I rode along the frozen snow and dirt. The tires felt fantastic. Smooth and with loads of traction. I climbed the steeps with no problems at all.

Climbing meant a slight forward shift, but unlike many bikes, the back tire still is tucked up underneath you, since the chain stays are shorter on this bike than most. (425mm) The front end wasn't hard to keep pinned down either. It also didn't seem to have much, if any flop or a tendency to wander. The wider bar/stubby stem combo helps here.

The Sun! She sets early!
I had one weird noise going up a steep, like a dry torque sound, but then nothing else. Gotta love clutch equipped derailleurs! No chain slap at all. But there was one small issue. A tire buzz on the front fork's brace. Just a slight rub, and when it happened, the snow would be scraped from the tire and spewed into the air like a puff of pixie dust. It was kind of cool, actually.

The Duallys are to blame. They spread the On One tires out to 61.5mm in the back and 63.1mm up front. The edge knobs on the front tire are pretty close on one side of the brake arch, and there is where the rub happens. Happily, I can report that the Singular page on the Buzzard reports tire clearance for "up to a 60mm wide tyres", but that is rather conservative, as it turns out. If these tires stretch a bit, I am going to be in trouble with the front. We'll see.

So, what do I think? Well, it's really hard to say how I will end up liking this, but things are pointed in the right direction for sure. The bike felt great yesterday, and climbing was maybe better than the Diamondback with just as good a cornering feel and of course, going down anything was really almost too easy. It's amazing what a little longer fork and big, fat cushy tires will do for that. One thing the Diamondback had going on was a tendency to never feel quite right while seated. I never could quite get comfortable with the seated arrangement on that rig, but the Singular, which has the same handle bar height and saddle height from the ground as my On One Inbred, doesn't strike me as that it will be that way. That's good!

So, there is Project LTHT up and running. I'm not sure how many more rides I can get in on this rig with Winter coming on, but maybe a few before the snow gets too deep!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Trans Iowa: Ten Years Of Tales #13

In mid-November, the idea of Trans Iowa was hatched. The year was 2004. In the ten years since then there have been many stories and memories. These posts will tell of the most prominent ones to my mind. Maybe I'll even spill the beans on some things you never knew....

Tim Ek at his 1st T.I.
 Editor's Note: Images courtesy of Cale Wenthur

Well, I'd already had enough drama for one weekend, but the event had not even started yet. I got up at 3am, left the motel, and checked out. From here on out I was up for the duration. (This wasn't a wise plan, as it turned out!)

Besides the getting up and starting at 4am, this Trans Iowa was unprecedented. In many ways it was one of the best ones I ever had the pleasure of being a part of. But I'll get into that later. This Trans Iowa was the first to start out of Decorah, and the first to be a loop. A new checkpoint staffed with a really good bunch of guys was going to be waiting for us 127 miles up the road. Of course, there was also Zach Dundas. He was waiting at the start line in a red Pontiac rental car. I think he slept in it all night long!

Much of the chief memories from T.I.V3 are actually recorded in Zach's excellent account in his chapter on the event in "The Renegade Sportsman". I'm not going to relate anything of those here. I will focus on the things Zach wasn't around for, either because he was resting, focusing on another part of the event, or sleeping.

There was the bit where I was trying to ascertain the speed of Ira Ryan and Brian Hannon as they sped along towards Checkpoint #1. I remember waiting for them not far from Fayette, Iowa, when a farmer approached me and asked if I had run out of gas. That actually happened on three different occasions during that weekend! It was always a half "wanting to help" mixed with a very suspicious, "what the heck are you doing out here?" feeling for the other half. I learned not to linger in one place for too long in the country in a beat up Honda Civic!

Checkpoint #2 in Brandon, Iowa
I recall getting to Checkpoint #2, being totally relieved that all was falling in place there, and having Redgie Blanco crack open a beer and hand it to me. That was a big deal then. Jeff wouldn't have ever went in for stopping for a beer. Not that this was a bad trait of his at the time, but a cold one at that point of the event, after everything else, made for one of the best beer moments in my life. It was awesome.

Then there was more waiting. I had been hopscotching down Southwards all morning, and standing along lonely, windswept gravel roads. No one to talk to. I was wondering where the heck Zach had gotten himself to, and then he reappeared. We stayed at the checkpoint until the leaders had zipped through, and then we were obliged to hopscotch around the Cedar River on a different route to the B Road sector South of Traer, Iowa where Zach and I spent the better part of Saturday afternoon.........waiting. 

It was all good, and I think during our hours of lounging around here was when Zach- he of such a different background and scene than I- really made a connection. Somehow something kind of clicked then, and it was something that made the rest of the event outstanding for me. 

How's the water, Skip?
Of course, there were things that I had going on out there that were learning experiences again. It was becoming obvious that the long route to a checkpoint was making the event two different events. The way the riders had to tackle the second half was very different than the "time trial" to the checkpoint on the front half. Then there was the "unknown" of the watery roads.

I didn't know anything about the flooding until after dark on Saturday evening. Ira Ryan was the leader, and had stopped in Janesville to resupply. He flatly told me about the situation with no emotion in his voice. I didn't know if he was pissed about it or what, but I was certainly concerned. More roads afterward were also found to be slightly flooded. All were fordable, but I realized I had to double check the roads ahead of the rider's progress next time, and have a reroute procedure in place.

Then there was the confusion in the middle of the night over a certain corner, which just so happens to have been on my 3GR ride all this past year! Anyway, I understood how riders saw things differently in the dark, and how perhaps marking certain potentially confusing corners might be a good idea. Of course, the mere fact that the cues were even close to being right was a minor miracle to my mind at the time, and even now looking back on it, I still feel that way.

My photo of Ira Ryan in Janesville, IA

That evening I was separated from Zach for awhile and the meeting with Ira and seeing a few others chasing was all done on my own. I flew solo for quite awhile into the night, wondering just what the heck happend to Zach again, and wishing he'd catch up, when the cell phone crackled to life and he called for directions.....twice! Apparently the grid of Iowa gravel roads was a maze too confusing for a Portlander to fathom after hours on the rural roads. He finally caught up with me after I had been sitting a long time in Hawkeye  Iowa, sipping several Red Bulls down waiting on him.

We had some more good conversation. We saw Ira roll through town, and then Marcin Nowak, the Polish native, chasing him. Zach was being overcome by the sleepies, so he bailed out into the back seat of his car for a bit. I stood vigil alone again on a cold April morning in the dark. After seeing a few more of the leaders pass through town, and after finding a suitable shrub behind the church we were standing in front of to relieve myself at, I decided that it was high time to head for Decorah and the finish line of Trans Iowa V3 where I had hoped a few more volunteers would be showing up to help out.

It was 4am in the morning and things were getting weirder and hazier by the minute......

Next week: The highs and lows from the end of Trans Iowa v3

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Trans Iowa: Ten Years Of Tales #12

 In mid-November, the idea of Trans Iowa was hatched. The year was 2004. In the ten years since then there have been many stories and memories. These posts will tell of the most prominent ones to my mind. Maybe I'll even spill the beans on some things you never knew....

A complete set of T.I.V3 cards
 Editor's Note: Images in this post are courtesy of Cale Wenthur, a T.I.V3 finisher.

With the whole debacle concerning the cue sheets just put behind me, (see last Trans Iowa Tales post), I had taken Friday off to go up to Decorah to meet with Zach Dundas, an author living in Portland, Oregon who had met Ira Ryan in his shop and was turned on to including a bit about Trans Iowa in his new book he was writing concerning "renegade sports". I found him in T-Bock's Sports Bar after back driving some of the course coming into town. Fortunately, I found no mistakes on the cue sheets!

Zach was a anomaly in Iowa. A skinny, freckled, red headed man of approximately 5'8" in height and maybe going a "buck forty" if that. Not the prototypical Iowa farm man build! To say he "stuck out" would be an understatement. I sat with him and was immediately engrossed in his questions and tales from the road. We ate a meal and then he requested a drive through on part of the opening miles of Trans Iowa V3, which worked for me since I wanted to check that out as well. After some more conversation I found Zach to be a pleasant diversion from my stressed out preamble to the production of another Trans Iowa. It took my mind off my having to "fly solo" and I felt a bit more at ease. But eventually Zach had to take leave of me for awhile and I had to go set up for the meeting.

That's me @ the ramshackle T.I.V3 Pre-Race venue
That entailed my hauling everything upstairs to a long unused Odd Fellows hall where an old bar and some tables and chairs were randomly set up for me to make use of. I made all the trips up the stairs with the race bags, prizing, and whatnot. I arranged everything in order so I could find racer's packs in short order, then it was time to see about a bit of food before the racers arrived.

They eventually started drifting in. A keg of some brown beer was brought up and riders were quaffing the suds out of plastic cups. I started the meeting thinking the crowd looked a bit sparse, but maybe I was off on my impromptu head count. I figured the roster, which was right at about 100 riders or slightly above that after a bit of attrition over the previous months, would all show since the weather was predicted to be nice for the event.

As I started the call up, I quickly realized that a bunch of folks just decided not to show up without any forewarning. I was getting increasingly angry as the call up went on. By the end of it, I had over 30 no-shows, probably  around 35. With all the effort I had made to get those cues done right and pack everything up, haul it upstairs, and show up somewhat organized, well it left me with a really bad taste in my mouth for putting on the event at that moment. But I had to move on. A motel bed beckoned, and 3am was going to come very quickly.

A few kind souls stuck around to lend me a hand with the tear down. I had been given booze for prizing- a whole case plus a few bottles of Stranahan's Whiskey, an 18 pack of Busch Light from the Lincoln, Nebraska contingent along with a Bush Light beer banner, (which still hangs proudly in my basement shop to this day), and some Yazoo beer and socks from Tennessee racers that showed up. I had some other booze and beer as well. It all went into the back of my Civic, as I wasn't going to leave that behind for folks to pick over while I was gone! The T.I.V3 race event car was a rolling liquor store!

Tomorrow: The fun begins!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday News And Views

Cycling back roads getting "official" State designation?
The (Scenic) Road Less Traveled: 

The avid gravel road rider in the Mid-West will likely tell you one of the several reasons they like riding on gravel is because of the scenery. Well, it appears that at least one state in the Union just may make some of their gravel back roads official "scenic cycling routes". 

Oregon cyclists are gathering in meetings with State officials to possibly designate certain routes as "State Scenic Bikeways" to help boost tourism and bring people in to the state's rural towns. Roads are being looked at and advisory teams made up of some of the more prominent Oregonian cyclists are helping out. They are aiming to help bring gravel road riding to the masses. It is hoped that by promoting the routes as being scenic, little trafficked by cars, and having friendly rural towns along the way it will lure cycling tourists and their dollars to some of the towns and villages in rural Oregon.

Oregon is home to several gravel road rides and races which generally cover the State's little known Eastern interior. The rise of gravel road racing and the cycling industry's introduction of "gravel road" specific components and bicycles helped spur the idea.

It makes me wonder how this might look in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, or elsewhere. It is quite obvious to me that really great riding exists right here in the Mid-West on back roads that are unpaved. I will be watching this Oregonian idea closely to see how it might turn out. 

For more details on this Oregon gravel initiative see here.

Post cards still coming in...

Mail Bag:

Even though Trans Iowa v10's registration ended on Monday, the post cards have been trickling in all week.  I probably have enough post card enties to field another event!

Not that I am going to, one is enough. I suspect that the uptick in interest in Trans Iowa is maybe due to the word getting spread via the "300 Miles of Gravel" deal and because Trans Iowa appeared in a lot of print articles or was referenced in a bunch of gravel stories throughout 2013. It's getting harder and harder to say this event is an "under the radar" event, like it used to be!

At any rate, I will be moving on to doing up some cue sheet drafts for T.I.v10 and for the Trans Iowa Masters Program. That should keep me occupied for a while on these cold Winter nights upcoming! And I will also mention the Trans Iowa Clinic coming up December 7th. There are still spots available, so send in your RSVP if you are interested.

Oh yeah.....the eagle-eyed here will notice the design for the t-shirt for the Trans Iowa participants is shown in the image with the post cards. More on that soon......

And something I haven't seen before until just yesterday:

A version of "300 Miles of Gravel" shown on "Iowa Outdoors", a PBS Iowa show. It's kind of weird seeing some T.V. "talking heads" doing a bit about your event. Like I said- it isn't so under the radar anymore!

Have a great weekend ya'all!

Thursday, November 21, 2013


The harsh reality of Winter is setting in. Early sunsets, colder air, and the inherent desire to find a cave and hibernate until Spring. It gets harder to find motivation when it is gray, brown, and drippy outside.

Once it snows, it seems that it is suddenly no big deal, but this in between stage- the time of Late Fall, it is a toughie. So I was a bit discombobulated yesterday, trying to keep moving. Despite this, I did manage to accomplish a few tasks. One of which was to spruce up the inbred for Winter.

When it is clear and fat bikes are not really needed, a fat tire on a 29"er does a lot. I've ridden entire Winters on such set ups. The single speed drive train is a perfect set up to help deal with ice, slush, or the general grit of Winter, which derailleur drive trains are not so happy with. But more than that, the single speed makes you work a little harder. Working harder creates more heat, and that can be the difference between staying warm, or freezing some days.

The Inbred may see the addition of the SKS fenders that I have on the Fargo, which will make wetter rides more enjoyable as well. Flat pedals help with keeping me in warmer footwear when the mercury dips into the single digits.

This rig, the titanium Mukluk, the Vaya with studded tires, and my Raleigh which is getting resurrected as a fixed gear bike again are going to make up the Winter fleet here. I should be all set soon....

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Trans Iowa Clinc

Looking forward to going here again soon
I should apologize to the regular readers here. This Trans Iowa stuff is pretty intense of late, but that won't last much longer now. Registration is over, the roster is set, recon is done, and now there will only be the Trans Iowa Clinic which happens December 7th, down in Des Moines.

That clinic is going to be a good time too. I have some good folks behind this, and we'll do our best to answer all the questions and put on a good showing. Essentially the night will look like this:

  • 5:30pm: The clinic happens at Tacopocalypse , 621 Des Moines Street, in downtown Des Moines on December 7th.. Come early and savor the good food on sale at the Tacopocalypse and then direct your attention to the side door where you will find a room set up for the clinic. We'll have chairs set up, a big projector screen, and a few bicycles all set up for a Trans Iowa type assault for your perusal. 
  • 6:00pm: I'll be saying a few words before we cue up the documentary from Trans Iowa V7 called "300 Miles of Gravel" which you can purchase for yourself here. That documentary should go about a half an hour. You can continue eating during this time if you'd like.
  • 6:30pm: I'll introduce the experts on hand, and they will make a presentation and accept questions along the way. They will cover things like Strategy, Training, Gear and Nutrition.
  • 8:00-ish: (Could run a bit longer depending on how things are flowing. ) The clinic will come to a close and we will hand out a bag of some Hammer Nutrition goodies for those who stay for the end of the clinic.
If you want to come because you are curious, but not in Trans Iowa, please feel free to. There is no cost, but I only ask that you RSVP at to secure a spot. We are just over half way full for available spots, so don't hesitate!

Thanks all! I'll be getting the blog back on track here soon!

Registration Is Over!

The last mailbag for T.I.v10
I said Monday morning that it would be a crazy day, and I was spot on! Trans Iowa filled out its 120 spot roster yesterday, and here's the brief recounting of just how that happened.

First off, I may have to explain once again that finishers of past Trans Iowas get first crack at the roster. They take a certain number of spots off the top of that 120, and whetver is left over gets split as evenly as possible between the Veterans of past Trans Iowas and the newbies, whom I have dubbed "rookies". This year the Veterans had 42 spots, which got filled out last week, and the Rookies had their crack at the remaining 41 starting yesterday.

I got to work and there were three groups of cards already there via courier, dropped off at the front door, and by a flower delivery guy. I suppose about 12 spots were lopped off the top right there. That was pretty amazing, but the UPS overnight and FedX were yet to come.

I think a couple of walk-ins showed up next, and that cut about three more spots off. Then UPS came with about five overnighted letters. That dropped us to 21. Not more than a half an hour later, FedX showed up with seven overnighted letters. That dropped us to 14, and we had still to receive the day's post.

One thing was increasingly clear- Trans Iowa's roster was going to fill up on Monday! Then we had two more walk-in drop offs, bringing the total left down to 12. I figured that we would get more than 12 entries in the mail, and some folks were going to end up in "the pile of broken dreams", as were were referring to it as. I figured only a few would end up there.

Now when the postman comes in, I was going to take the stack, however many there were, flip it upside down, and take the first twelve off. Random. The fairest way I could do this. Now keep in mind- the cards had to be filled out correctly, and I had to be able to read them.

The mail man came in eventually, and he had a fistful of cards! I was floored! I did the flip, looked over the cards, had to throw two out for illegibility and one for an incomplete answer to the question asked, and that was that. I had 12 entries extra! What is more, I am sure some stragglers will show up today, pushing the "pile of broken dreams" higher.

So, there is your report on the crazy registration that filled up for the Rookies in four hours! Congratulations to all who made it on the roster, and to those who tried, I thank you as well. It is humbling and amazing to me that this event draws out such responses from all of you who sent in entries. Thank you isn't enough!

The Best Of The Post Cards

Trans Iowa registration has closed and all the post cards are in. Here's a sampling of what I thought were the best.....

I was an Art Major in college, so I have always liked the more "painterly" looking cards like this one from an Arkansas entrant.

I don't know what to say here other than it is "terminally cute". And I had a cat as a boy. There's that, I suppose.

Gotta pick this one, since I am a bicycle mechanic. Plus the caligraphy is nice on the backside, which you get a hint of here.

This isn't all that spectacular, but it was driven, (along with a very similar looking card), from 5 hours away to be hand delivered and there is a personal story about overcoming adversity attached to each entrant. I was very humbled and honored by this. Sometimes it isn't what the card looks like, but more about the stories behind them. This and its companion card are great examples of that.

Hmm.......yeah! There were three cards that were a bit cheeky. This is the "nicest" of the three I can post here on the blog! (It is also the most humorous of the three.)

Every year I get some very folksy, heartfelt entries like this. I especially am attracted to the Iowa map based ones, for obvious reasons.

And this year's best card, hands down, is this "gem" of a card. Looking at it I was super impressed by the detail, textures, and colors this card has. I was super bummed it got damaged in transit, but it still rocks!

Some honorable mentions from the Veteran Class. All the rest are rookie cards. It seems like the Rookies always put a lot of effort into their post cards, and I appreciate that.

And on Agatha's card, (which I really liked, by the way), I had to obscure her e-mail address, so that is why the orange pencil is there!

Thanks for brightening my November!

Monday, November 18, 2013

New Shoes For By-Tor Part 2

Wet leaves and dirt
Saturday was a toss up on what I would ride. Gravel or dirt? In the end, due to the possibility of rain, wind, and lightning, the dirt ride won out. And I didn't miss out on the rain either!

The word was that the Ingawanis Woods trails were being blown off and raked, but that maybe they would just ride the leaves into submission. I figured the new Sterling tires would do well at steamrolling those leaves down so we could see the trail better, so that is what I took up there with me.

On the way up, I realized that I do not think I had ever ridden By-Tor at the trails up there. The Snow Dog made the trip on Global Fat Bike Day last year, but I do not think the titanium bike had ever been there. Well, with the new, theoretically grippier tires, it should have been okay. I decided that I would air down the pressure if things got out of hand, so I left the higher pressures in there, probably close to 20psi front and rear.

When I got up there, several folks were already there busily doing trail maintenance. (I thank each and every one of you very much, by the way.) I unloaded and got moving along. Now- not knowing these tires, how the pressures I had them at would affect things, or how the rain and showers that were happening had affected the trail, I was taking it very cautiously. Would I be slipping out? Would I be ricocheting off every root and rock?  Would these tires not have very good grip? I had a lot of critical unknowns going in.

Early signs were that the tires are good here.
By the way, after several days at 20psi, these tires have stretched......a tiny bit! Where before they were just a hair over 3.8" they are now 3.9" wide/97.8mm on 70mm rims. Okay, with that bit of info, keep in mind that I also thought the contact patch would be bigger than a Surly Larry 3.8 aired down at a lower pressure, say like 8-10psi. I was right about that part. It is obvious that the Sterling is getting every knob in play. Considering that the Sterling's casing is actually wider than the tread area, you are likely getting about 3.7" wide contact area on tacky trail surfaces. (The trails were actually in great shape!)

To my mind, that is a "win" over the older Larry, and even over the Big Fat Larry I ran before it. At least on dirt, I see the Sterling being a winner in the traction department. But what about that dreaded "self-steer" that flatter tires can suffer from?  I have to say that I didn't notice any self-steering traits on the trails I was on. The tires steered as well if not maybe a shade better than the Larrys, but that may be due to better grip with the Sterling. It certainly didn't show me any self-steering traits though.

The ride feel was solid, as in a bit jarringly solid. That probably is due to the higher pressures I was running, and the rigid nature of the bike, but it wasn't bad. I committed to just sticking to the air pressure I had to eliminate one variable. As things went along, I gained more confidence in the grip level and the trail surfaces, (which were tacky perfection, since they were newly uncovered by leaf blowers mere minutes before my passage), and I was moving along a bit more quickly than before at the start. By the end of it, I was pleased with the Sterlings as a dirt tire. I think with a bit of air pressure tweaking, they could be really good.

How this bodes for snow riding is yet to be seen.  That's the final test. If they pass there, I think I will be rather pleased with these new shoes!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Trans Iowa v10: Registration Mayhem

Cards that arrived too early in 2012.
Sometimes this whole Trans Iowa deal freaks me out. Let me explain this, if I can....

Registration for the Rookies is always a crazy time. Folks want to get into Trans Iowa in the worst way, or so it seems. Keep in mind that Trans Iowa is a free event and that it is a crazy, 300 plus mile ride all in one sitting, all on gravel roads. Okay? Obviously this isn't a "normal" cycling event, or one many would ever want to do at all.

But through the years that I have been facilitating this event, I am constantly amazed by the lengths folks will go to get on the roster for Trans Iowa. You'd think that just getting on the roster was some sort of prize in and of itself. Folks are e-mailing, Facebooking, and commenting here on the blog wanting to know how they can get their cards in on time.

Drive 5-6 hours one way to hand deliver them? Overnight mail from a foreign country? Just have me let them in? I've had all these questions and more. Then Saturday I see that nine cards came in, ahead of the acceptable day by two days. Man! That really stinks, but here's the deal........

I can not circumvent the framework for registration because of mistakes, lack of timeliness, or because you finished Tour Divide. Nope! It is not fair to those who are making the effort to do this the right way, and that's that.

Yeah.....maybe I am too "hard core", or maybe I am right. Either way, it is going to make some folks upset, and maybe worse. I get that a lot of time and effort has already been paid out by some of you out there in preparations for T.I.v10, (I've heard from many of you that were training already a month ago), but it still amazes me that the reactions are what they are sometimes. But be that as it may, the registration process is going to run its course as it has been set up.

It's been a crazy ride this weekend!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Trans Iowa: Ten Years Of Tales #11

In mid-November, the idea of Trans Iowa was hatched. The year was 2004. In the ten years since then there have been many stories and memories. These posts will tell of the most prominent ones to my mind. Maybe I'll even spill the beans on some things you never knew....

 So, what's that saying again? Something along the lines of "Life Happens", or some such? Well, a lot of that happened just before T.I.V3. I guess in a way you could say that the "excrement hit the rotating bladed air moving machine". Whatever it was, it wasn't an ideal situation that led up to T.I.V3. Here are the ingredients to give one a higher stress level experience than necessary.

First there was the whole writing/testing gig for Twenty Nine Inches, which I had been drug into reluctantly the year before. Now I was being asked to attend Sea Otter to help report on things. Yes.....lot's of fun. One week before T.I.V3......not so much fun! This was a great trip though. One where I got to see the California "mid-coast", ride with Gary Fisher, Keith Bontrager, Travis Brown, and others, and had supper cooked for me at Keith Bontrager's home in Santa Cruz. You just don't pass stuff like that up. That was all part of a Trek dealio I got to do just ahead of Sea Otter. Anyway, that was not the best timing coming into an event I was going to have to run myself, (mostly), and keep track of everything going on as well.

The book with a chapter on T.I.V3
Then there was this guy calling me up asking if he could tag along for T.I.V3. Really?!! As if I didn't have enough stuff going on, but in the end, the guy swayed me over, and I agreed as long as it wouldn't be a burden. He said he found out about it from Ira Ryan, and Ira was going to be in T.I.V3, so I figured I should accommodate this guy.

As part of the research this fellow named Zach wanted to do for Trans Iowa, he requested a meeting with me the day before T.I.V3 to go drive the course a bit and for him to interview me. Sheesh! I was going to have to pack that in as well as get the pre-race meeting set up by myself in an upper room lent to me at no charge by T-Bock's in Decorah. Then I'd have to get the pre-race meting done, and hand out, (what I had anticipated would be), 100 or so race bags.

But the icing on the cake- the real kick to the junk- was when I did recon a day or two after getting back from Sea Otter. Jeff had printed all the sheets, and during all of that, he called and e-mailed about several questions he had about my notations. Then he delivered the cues, and promptly left for a race/work trip for Ergon. It would be the last "hands on" task Jeff ever did for a Trans Iowa.

Well, I wasn't hardly ten miles out of Decorah, and the cues were off. Way off. I drove back and forth over that section several times, but I could not make sense of the cues. Dang! That put everything coming after that waaaay outta whack. I would have to reprint 100 sets of cue sheets in four days time, plus work four eight hour shifts at work, plus be a Dad and a husband at home. Nice! This was going to be a miracle if I pulled all of THAT off, or so I was thinking.

I went into "emergency mode" for the entire week. I was up past mid-night every night, and on Thursday evening before T.I.V3 I was having my entire family, Mrs. Guitar Ted, my then six year old daughter, and my then 3 and a half year old son, stuff the race bags with me. Somehow or another, we got it all put together. I was ready to leave Friday morning with a stuffed 90 Honda Civic wagon to head up to start a crazy weekend. As if the previous two weeks weren't enough!

Next Week: The things I remembered from T.I.V3's pre-race meeting and more.....

Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday News And Views

Mail bag
Trans Iowa v10: Today one lucky Trans Iowa vet will get the last spot on the roster for Veterans and that part of the Trans Iowa v10 story will have been told. All that will be left to do is to bring on board 41 more Rookies and Trans Iowa v10's roster will be full.

So far it has turned out to be a solid, stacked field. I hear rumors of some Rookies waiting in the wings that may prove to be the "next Sattler or Wince" in next Spring's Trans Iowa. I've heard of plans to break the 24 hour barrier, and I've heard plans for a fixed gear attempt. I even heard that Ira Ryan was thinking about coming back to run Trans Iowa! One thing that is a common denominator- almost everyone is saying this is the catalyst to getting fit over the Winter months.

Keep in mind that Vets and Finisher registration is closed.  Rookie cards will be accepted starting Monday, November 18th until we fill up the remaining 41 spots on the T.I.v10 roster. I predict it will fill up in two days.

Generally speaking, the registration runs its course and then there is that quiet period up until about March when I get out to start doing course recon to verify cues. However; this year there is a little something extra I am involved with. I'd like to take a few lines here to talk about it again....

See this documentary at the
Trans Iowa Clinic: This is a unique opportunity for veterans and rookies of Trans Iowa alike to get into the brains of a few Trans Iowa riders that have finished Trans Iowa and know what they are talking about. By the way- you do not have to be registered to ride in Trans Iowa to attend! Maybe you'll be looking to do Dirty Kanza, or the Royal 162, or the Alexander, or maybe even Tour Divide someday. Cool! Come on down to Des Moines on December 7th at 5:30pm and visit us at Tacopocalypse located at 621 Des Moines Street, Des Moines 50309. We'll have food available to purchase, a viewing of "300 Miles of Gravel", and a bag of goodies from Hammer Nutrition to take home. 

We will have a Q&A session where you will be able to ask our small panel of experts questions and see bicycles set up for Trans Iowa. Ask gear questions, nutrition questions, strategy questions, or just come to hang out. It'll all be done in a fun, laid back atmosphere. Expect to spend about 3-3.5 hours with us.

Again, this happens at 5:30pm on December 7th at Tacopocalypse in downtown Des Moines, Iowa. Admission is free, but we ask that you RSVP and a spot will be reserved for you. Space is limited to 50 folks, so don't hesitate to e-mail your intention to attend at 

New Fat Bike Event: The fat bike racing scene keeps growing at a pace that I find pretty amazing. Here's one that just popped onto the scene and sounds like it will be a pretty cool event. It's called the "RiddleBox Fat Bike Race".  They will have two distances available and all bikes are welcome that can do off roading, but anything skinnier than 3.8" will be put into a different category. 

It's being put on by Two Wheeler Dealer in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. They seem to be big fat bike proponents and the event seems like it will have the vibe and feel of Triple D over in Dubuque. Might be worth checking out for you fat bikers here in the Mid-West and it looks like a fun way to start out the Winter riding season. Me? Well, it is the day before my lovely bride's birthday, and I hadn't ought to mess with that! 

Knard Time
Planning a Weekend Ride: Saturday will be a day when many will be "Jingle Crossing", or doing something more constructive with their lives, but I think I'll be out doing some more ride time with the Knard 41's and those Mavic Drift Winter shoes. 

They are talking rain, so maybe I ought to toss on the fenders. Maybe I'll get around to that here, but I also have that little SKS strap on rear mud guard that most likely will be the way I go. Why? Because I have a lot going on and not a lot of time to fiddle with Allen head screws and plastic fenders. 

Or maybe I'll just chose to trundle the Green Belt, but I understand that the bow hunters are out looking for deer, so maybe that is not an advisable path to pursue. Not that I would be in danger from any malicious hunters, because they are not that way here, but an accident? More likely when you have guys out there with compound bows and razor sharp arrow points. If I wait until it is dark, it is game on, so maybe if the fat bike wins out, the ride will be in the dark.  

Well, that's it for this Friday! Have a great weekend and ride those bicycles folks!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Project LTHT: Update!

I bet a lot of folks forgot about this! Project LTHT is still alive, and now I finally have something to say about it!

I had a sort of mismatched parts spec I was going to put on this frame, but a conversation with Shimano resulted in their wanting to be a part of this review for Twenty Nine Inches, so I had them send a kit to build this up with.

That took a lot longer than I wanted it to, and now, with Winter knocking on the door, I have to scramble to get this thing done so I can get it out before it is snow up to our eyeballs out on the trails. But either way it goes, this should turn out to be a fun little rig and I will be looking forward to trying to push it and myself a little harder on the trails.

It's funny when you are building up a rig how the silliest little chunk of aluminum can stop you in your tracks. For instance, I forgot to mention that I needed an IS adapter for the rear brake. Doh! Easily taken care of, but a simple bit that you just have to have. I was so hoping just to assemble this and get going by the weekend, but until I can lay hands on an adapter, I'm going to be out of luck there!

In the meantime, I have a couple more things to get to anyway, so I always have something or another I can be working on. I've got more sealant and tubeless tire work, and a couple of swaps on components here and there to fine tune the fleet.

More on Project LTHT soon.......really!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

New Shoes For By-Tor

Fatback Sterling tires
Ol' By-Tor the Titanium Mukluk was needing new shoes before Winter. The old ones were looking pretty worn down, and I knew that they wouldn't be much good in any kind of snow I'd be wanting to tackle. So, when I was at Interbike, I spied these new tires from Fatback called "Sterling" that I thought looked interesting. These tires just became available and I bought a pair and had them sent to me here.

In the fat bike world, there has been Surly tires, and........nothing else, until just very recently. Vee Rubber, (they go by just "Vee" these days, I guess), jumped into the market last year but their tires were very heavy and the tread pattern didn't turn me on at all. Then Vee started making other fat bike tires, but again, they were essentially blown up versions of not very good 29"er tires. Meh......

However; now with Greg Matyas' of Fatback putting in his two cents, this tread pattern, (and another called the Snowshoe, also a collaboration with a fat bike company), look much more promising. The tread pattern looks smart, and traction should be decent with the open pattern of squarish shaped groupings. However; Vee also tended to have dead casings and tons of weight. This Fatback Sterling seems to be a much better offering in that vein as well. My two examples weighed in at 1220 and 1225 grams each. For a comparison, that's a tick lighter than my Big Fat Larry 120TPI tires and much lighter than the 3.8" Larrys these tires replaced. For as many knobs as these tires have, and considering they are Vee Tire made, that's impressive to  me.
Quickie ride last night

Now I will say that all I have ever used on a fat bike are "Larry" type tires- either Big Fat Larrys or the standard issue 3.8's. So, please take the following comments with that in mind.....

The Surly tires I've ridden and seen seem to have a higher "crown", or in profile type terms, a very pronounced"C" shape. That means the tires steer well on dry terrain, but you've gotta air them way down to get all the knobs engaged and grab all the float you can outta these things. The Sterling has a much shallower "C" shaped profile. The casing is much wider than the tread area as well, which also differs from Surly's Larry tire line. I aired these up to an unheard of, (for me), 20psi to seat the tires well, and when I rode them at that pressure the tread contact patch was significantly wider than what a 3.8" Larry lays down at 10psi! The ride wasn't all bouncy and out of control either. Hmm......

On width: Fatback claims on their website that the Sterling is 4.25" wide on a 70mm rim. By-Tor has the older Uma 70mm rims from Fatback on there and with the Sterling aired up to 20psi and measured immediately after mounting I got a hair wider than 3.8" at the casing, but that was already wider than the "3.8"" Larry I had just removed. However; these tires would have to stretch about 10mm to get to be 4.25"ers on my rims. That's a bit optimistic, I would say!

But that doesn't really bother me. As I said, I can already put down a wider contact patch than I could with the 3.8" Larry, and that's where the traction and float come from, not from the casing width. To my mind, a flatter profile should float better, and obviously, with more knobs hitting the trail, I should see an increase in traction, disregarding the superior tread design. With the tread design considered, I am thinking these should be far better tires.

We'll see.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


This past weekend I decided I'd better get on the stick and get that last Gravdal tire studded up. The weatherman was calling for a big swing in the weather and maybe there would be some ice and snow.

Not that I put a lot of faith into what the weatherman says, and even the weather people will tell you Winter weather is the hardest to predict. So, I was just being motivated by a false prophecy, or so I thought, and that was okay, because the deed would be done. When the time came that I really needed studded tires, I wouldn't be scrambling to get them on the bike.

I got the last one done watching the race Sunday, and then mounted them both up on some older Bontrager Race X Lite wheels I have with tubes. The Gravdal tires are not tubeless rated, and I figured tubes would be just fine in this case.

That all went on the Vaya. I figured I would ride it Monday when there was a chance of flurries, but not because I thought I needed studded tires, but because I figured I would bed the studs in by going to work and back. I could hear the difference in the sound the studs were making by about a mile in, and I knew that they were seating into their molded in spots well. By the time I got to work, they all looked great, setting just perfectly into the beefy tread blocks of the Gravdal tires. Mission accomplished.

And whatta ya know? They were right!
At work I saw the flakes start to fill the air. Nice, fluttering flakes of snow. No big deal. Then a barrage of snow, but I knew that the first few snows of the year generally don't stick. However; it kept coming down, and the temperatures were plummeting, and the winds were blowing hard.

Wait a minute....

I kept a watchful eye on the outdoor happenings from inside the shop. I was starting to get concerned when the streets were getting very wet, and cars were getting covered in the white stuff. Much more of this and we'd be seeing accumulations on pavement, and then the ice would form from car traffic. Hmm....

But then the snow faded, then it quit altogether. Maybe it would be all melted before I left. I figured it was no big deal, and I went about my business, satisfied that there would be no icy threat to getting home. Besides, I had studded tires! I had nothing to fear, right?

And I didn't need to worry, but I did run across plenty of snow and even some patches of ice that maybe would have been trouble on tires of this width. A fat bike or even a 29"er? pffft! Child's play for that, but I was glad I had studs all the same. And the bonus? These actually ride pretty okay for studded tires, which isn't usually the case at all. Oh- and let's not forget, I am ready for the next time!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Trans Iowa v10: Registration Update #2

Veteran's Day is today, and first off, I want to extend my deepest thanks to all those who have served this country in uniform. I especially am thinking of my Dad, my step Dad, my Father In Law, and my Brother In Law.

As a small token of my appreciation, and as a way to make some folks realize it was Veteran's day today, I decided to open the Vets registration for Trans Iowa today. I have heard that it has had the effect I desired on some folks, so I hope it is understood that I meant for this to be a positive thing.

Now, Finisher's took 37 spots before their window of opportunity closed. That left 83 spots on the 120 spot roster to fill, and those will be split between Veterans and Rookies. Astute math minded folk will notice that 37 does not divide evenly. This is true and means that the Veteran's class will get the "extra" slot over the Rookie class this time. Last time this happened I gave the larger number of the left over slots to the Rookies, so turnabout is fair play.

A post card entry for T.I.
Starting with Trans Iowa v3, we took post card registration entries. Every year since then the post card entries have been a highly anticipated event at the shop where I work. Everyone working loves to see the creativity and variety of cards that arrive via USPS, UPS, FedX, and by other means.

For example, folks have walked their cards in, I have had them slid underneath the door before the shop opened, and I have had them attached to pizzas, flowers, and even a case of oil once!

So despite the fact that tomorrow their is "no mail", as we say, there will be mail! I know for a fact that there will be overnight packages sent in, and who knows what else! With this being the 10th anniversary of Trans Iowa, the entries for the 42 available Veteran spots will likely be filled quickly. I imagine within three days, but the past two years showed me that it would take the entire week to get it done. We'll see!

So far the roster looks really strong. There are T.I. winners, guys in the SS/Fixed class that could win the entire thing, and one women finisher that has the talent to win that division, and obviously, the only one coming back that's got the experience of completing a Trans Iowa. I can't wait to see which past veterans of Trans Iowa will sign up. It should be a strong field as well.

Stay tuned to the Trans Iowa v10 site for updates to the roster throughout the day.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Trans Iowa V10: Recon Report Part 2

With just a little over 80 miles left to recon to finish off looking at the Trans Iowa V10 course, I knew it would be a short day. I was back at home by noon to eat lunch with my family! I don't think that has happened before.

As always, I was up way before dawn getting ready to go. Jeremy was with me once again, and his stalwart volunteering to help with recon has been invaluable. Thanks Buddy!

Dawn cracks the windmill laden horizon.
We actually got started reconning the course before the Sun lifted her head above the horizon line. It was obvious that it would be a clear, cool day with breezy winds. Perfect for a dry, safe recon. Jeremy and I were in good spirits and munching on goodies we purchased at a convenience store, which will be on the route. (More on that resupply story which concerns the Trans Iowa participants later...)

It certainly didn't hurt that a long, ten mile stretch of road lay before us after a short bout of turns to start out the trip. There were the usual big, rolling hills, and the beautiful landscapes. These were further highlighted this fine morning by the slanting November sun which lent some amazing contrasts and kicked up what color there was left in the trees. Mostly oaks are the only trees now with leaves left. Their rusty hues were seen on many a hill.

We also found some great roads that are "off the grid" system. Curvy roads, roads that cut diagonal. All totally against the rigid mile square pattern layed out by the law of the Land Ordinance which was passed in 1785. (Yep- you can partially thank Thomas Jefferson for how Iowa and other states are "gridded out"!) I always look for roads like this, and while some are boring, many show signs of being old stage coach roads or Native American trails that were adopted by settlers and remain somewhat the same now, preserved as gravel roads, despite being somewhat "straightened" a bit for purposes of farming. Most are really interesting to travel on and have good views.

Right in yer eyes!
The bad thing about doing all those last miles at this time of the year in the morning, (or later in the afternoon), is that the Sun stays low in the horizon longer, which made traveling East a real interesting deal! There were a few times where going around curves and meeting trucks was........close!  Even with sunglasses on, the view out the windshield was blinding going Eastward.

Thankfully, that didn't last very long! The roads were also not very dusty either, and the recent rains are to be thanked for that. If it had been dusty as well, on top of the blinding sunlight, it would have been much worse.

The roads themselves are hard to judge right now. The Counties are not going to be investing into much maintenance during harvest and going into Winter since it would be a waste. That said, we did see fresh gravel patches where the roads needed it. The closer we got to Grinnell, the more clay in the road bed was noticed, and Trans Iowa vets do not need to be reminded what that turns into when it gets wet! (Peanut butter-like wet mess!)

I would imagine at some point Poweshiek County would put down a bunch of fresh gravel, but it is hard to say if T.I.v10 will fall before, after, or during that maintenance time. Last Spring we hit it right on the money for maintenance time!

This is NOT a B Maintenance Road. Really!
The Powesheik County roads are weird though, and along with Jasper County to the East, the rural areas are very unlike those North or South of these counties. We found a few roads on the course that were narrower, had little gravel, and even had black earth for significant stretches. They looked all the world like B Maintenance roads, and if they get wet, I bet they will ride a lot like B Maintenance roads too. Hopefully they will be drier than not!

This IS a B Maintenance Road! Really!
Of course, there IS a B Maintenance road or two before the end of the loop. In fact, for the entire loop I added in one B Maintenance Road for every year Trans Iowa has been around. That's ten in all. Some are no big deal, (in terms of B Maintenance Roads), and a few are real toughies. There will be a really tough, challenging one right out of the gate, for instance. There will be no sub-24 hour Trans Iowa in 2014, and I would wager no one will be under 25 hours either. (Yes- that is a challenge!)

Some harvesting was still being finished up.

Now a word or two about the convenience store opportunities for v10. Like last year, the course is a bit "front loaded" with opportunities to get stuff. Here's why- convenience stores in rural areas close early on weekends!!! I can not emphasize, underscore, yell this, or try to push it into your Trans Iowa riding brains enough. You will not get a chance to re-supply in the overnight part of v10. There just isn't anything anywhere that will be open for riders to access. You will probably need to consider being able to carry enough water, rations, and whatever you need to get through the night to cover 120-ish miles. Convenience store stops will fall at 54, 113, 177, 248, and 292.5 miles into the course. The stop at 248 miles? Yeah.....I will be surprised if anyone but the back of the field gets to see that one open. You should plan on going from 177 to 292.5 with everything you'll need in terms of food and water. This will be the only time I'm going to give these specific details.

Okay? That's a wrap on recon reports for now. The next course recon to verify the cues will happen this coming Spring. Next up: The Trans Iowa Clinic on December 7th in Des Moines, Iowa!!