Friday, October 31, 2014

Friday News And Views

The new route was done to keep this road in the final T.I.V11 course

Back when we did the first big Trans Iowa recon at the end of September, I mentioned afterword that I was contemplating a reroute and that we still had about 80 miles at the end to look at as well. I did end up doing that reroute and it came out to almost the same mileage as before. Tentatively it is 1.7 miles shorter. We have to check that out, but that will likely be about right.

The main reason I did the reroute was to get a convenience store in at about the Checkpoint #2 area, so riders going into the night on Saturday would have a chance to resupply. This reroute should take care of that issue. Secondarily, I didn't like the bits of pavement we were being forced into using, and this reroute erases a lot of that. It does add in some more dirt road though. Oh well......

Look for a full recon report Monday and along with that a bit of an outlook on the Veteran's registration opening up next week. I know that the registration this week wasn't all that exciting, but I have a feeling that next week we will see the category filled in two days or less. In fact, I wouldn't at all be surprised to find that the category fills up in a day. It is going to be nuts, I think. I just have seen a lot of cards posted to Facebook over the week, and while I didn't keep track, I bet I saw at least a dozen cards shown. That is one third of the allotment right there!

Fattening Up: Update

Okay, the brake upgrade was well worth the effort. Oh my! The difference between the Avid Elixir 9's and these "entry level" Maguras is night and day. The Maguras have twice the stopping power- maybe more, with waaaay less effort at the lever. Did I mention that they are quiet? Yes. Really. Very. Quiet.

I ordered up the Surly OD crankset, so when that gets in, all I have to do is get a new chain, and I am pretty sure the cassette is still okay, but yeah.... I am going against what I would recommend here, but I am going to try to run the old cassette. I think I can make it work. If not, I'll know pretty quickly, I think! The bottom line is that after measuring up the crank I have now, the OD will give me just about every gear combination without tire rub, and maybe all of them. It'll be very close.

The old crank and bottom bracket will go into the parts bin awaiting the rebuild of the Snow Dog. I am almost certain that will be a triple crank set up. I originally had a triple set up on the Snow Dog and I remember really liking it. More updates later......

Steel Upgrade:

I also ordered up a new steel free hub body for the Fargo Gen 1 which should get that rig back on the trails here soon. The minimal amount of weight gained by going with a steel free hub body will be easily off set by allowing me to use any cassette with single cogs and avoid the dreaded "digging in" that occurs with the aluminum free hub body. Convenience, and ease of maintenance. Win-win, as they say. I suspect the ol' Hope hub will be happily "clackety-clacking" along again. Those Hope hubs are definitely not quiet! 

Besides the hub upgrade/repair, I have to inject a bit of sealant into the tires for Winter, and then see if I can fit the Cascadia fenders back over those big Kenda Honey Badger tires. I may have to resort to a clip on arrangement for keeping things clean over the Winter, but at any rate, I feel like this Winter I may actually have a significant amount of miles on this rig. We're not supposed to be so snowy they say, so fat biking to work may not be always a necessity, or desirable. We'll see.  

Okay, it's cold, windy, and getting more like Winter, but there is no bad weather for cycling, only poor clothing choices! Get out there!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Registration Daze Update #3

There has been only one tandem team at Trans Iowa up until now....
It has been a slow news day for Trans Iowa registration today and for the last couple of days. The big news is that we have a second ever tandem team committed to race in the event next April.

I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the first tandem team that had ever tried Trans Iowa. It was back in 2010 at Trans Iowa V6, which was the first one we ever pulled off out of Grinnell, Iowa. The previous year, a relatively unknown married couple from Idaho tried the Tour Divide on a tandem and finished the event. It was Jay and Tracey Petervary. When they signed up for T.I.V6, I was told privately by a few folks that I should expect big things from these two folks, and they delivered for sure.

Riding pretty much the same set up that they rode to success in Tour Divide, the Petervarys were stalwart and steadfast in an event that threw strong rain, winds, soft roads, mud, and intense lightning at them throughout the event, which eventually was called short in North English, Iowa at a malt shop Saturday evening. My lasting impression of the Petervarys was from watching them leave a convenience store in Pella, Iowa. They both mounted their Vicious Cycles tandem, clipped in, pushed off, stood up out of the saddle together, and rode off, all in perfect synchronization and without a single word. It was as if they were communicating by unheard signals, but later, I found out that it kind of just worked out that way through constant repetition of tasks on the bike.

L-R: J. Petervary, T. Petervary, C. Parsons, M. Braun, on floor- M. Gersib
That event was brutal, and the Petervarys were still truckin' when we pulled them off at the end. Would they have finished if the conditions hadn't been so brutal? Maybe. That will never be known now. I will say that they showed every sign of having the total package for clocking in with a solid finish, but you just never know in any Trans Iowa what will befall the competitors as they try to reach the end of the road.

That was then, and now we have another team signed up which will be captained by former T.I.V7 winner and multiple Trans Iowa finisher, Dennis Grelk. He will be teaming up with Christina Anthony, who technically is a Rookie, but since this is a tandem team, and Dennis is a former winner, I gave Christina a free pass on getting in together with Dennis. It is kind of unknown territory for Trans Iowa. We so rarely ever get a tandem team, (this being the second one ever), so I felt that by doing this it might be seen as an encouragement to others to try it out. Personally, I think Trans Iowa is a great event for a tandem team. The dynamics of a team working against the challenges could be a positive, but just as easily could be a huge negative. I like the possibilities I see in it. Anyway.......

Finally we saw the man from Duluth, Tim Ek sign on. All I will say publicly about that is that Tim is one you should keep an eye on and that he is one of my favorite Trans Iowa competitors and one of my rewards that I have enjoyed from doing Trans Iowa over the years. Thanks Tim!

Okay, Registration for this group will probably peter out Friday and Saturday. We'll maybe see a few straggler post cards show up, but I suspect that I will be adding at least six spots or so to the Vet Class allotment for their registration next week starting Monday.It'll get weird Monday, so stay tuned!!!

The Future Is "Wide Track"

Wider IS better!
Unless you've been hiding under a rock somewhere, you've probably heard about all this wider rim that and wider tire this chatter on the bike forums, in ads, and in reviews. The bicycle industry is rediscovering its roots in stuff with width and volume for your wheels.

It used to be that rims for mountain bikes were pretty wide. Heavy, but wide. Tires were.....well, big tires weren't easy to get. They were out there, but if the early mtb guys had the really big meats, we would maybe have had the voluminous rubber sooner than we did. Then something odd happened.

Rims back in the early 80's weren't all that great, and like I said, they were heavy. The best stuff was going to roadies. Keith Bontrager saw that and started rolling down some old Mavic rims to get 26"er size with the strength and weight that he felt 26"er mtb bikes should have. Of course, these were skinnier rims, but what could he do? Without thinking about it, the industry just jumped down that trail and started pushing skinny rims for mtb and we never really recovered fully until recently.

Velocity's Dually- Meet the new width for rims.
Think about this: Stan's Flow rims were considered All Mountain/Trail rims when they were introduced. They have an outer width of 28mm. That's considered an XC width today! Want proof? Velocity USA recently introduced a new Blunt SS rim, 30mm wide, XC light weight. Okay? So what......

Well, the new set up for the XC/Trail rider is to slap on a 2.1"-2.2" on these wider rims because the tires are better supported and can be run at lower pressures to absorb more of the trail surface and go faster. And what if you are not an XC/Trail speedster? Well, you go even wider. Trail rated rims and tires are going to go fatter and wider. The diameter of the wheels are going to be......unusual. Next year, by all accounts, you'll be seeing these wheels, and they will be called "B+". Oh.....and you'll be seeing them all over.

Muy Grande' Gravelo!

 If you run gravel, or even on the road, you also will be seeing wider stuff, and really, you already have. Road cyclists are now considering 28mm tires because 25mm tires have become "normal". It wasn't all that long ago that riders were pining for 20mm tires and "big" tires were 23mm.

The missing piece of the puzzle here is tubeless technology. Companies are working on it, and before long, it will happen. Pushing to go with wider tires will help. However; the hurdles to jump over with this are proving to be high. Riders need to be able to service these tires out on the road if necessary. That hasn't been the case so much as of yet.

Then there are fat bikes. Yes- you will see more and more of these out there too. They will slowly shed the "snow bike" nomenclature and become more of an "ATV" on two wheels in most folks minds. Weights will stabilize at under 30lbs for most average fat bikes, and at the high end we'll see a 20-ish pound fat bike someday for sale anywhere. It won't be an odd thing. The "other" fat bikes- the "mid-fat", 29+ bikes and aforementioned "B+" stuff, that will become more and more accepted and widespread. It is my opinion that out of all of these, B+ will become the most popular choice due to its better fit for most riders and its balance of weight and fat bike flotation characteristics.

The bottom line is that the 29"er and traditional road bikes will fundamentally change and become less prevalent on bike shop floors and on trails and road ways. Wider will become the new normal, and "skinny" will be weird. 26 inch bicycles will go the way of 27"ers and become the "old" bikes with about three tire choices. Tubes will be weird, and everyone will know and understand how tubeless bicycle tires work on the wider formats.

That's the future.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Fattening Up

Corpulent Titanium
There were some issues with my set up on the Snow Dog that made me want to do something different. I was thinking about swapping out a few things, but then something else motivated me to go in a totally different direction. I found out that the Blackborow, my planned corpulent answer to Winter, wasn't going to be showing up until December, and well......I know how that can go sometimes.

Now maybe it will show up, but just in case, I had to start coming up with a "Plan B". That was going to take the form of titanium. I have the extendo-Alternators which would boost clearances. I could swap over the carbon Fatty fork to keep the brake standard the hub has. As long as I was at it, I decided to ditch the ridiculous Avid Elixir 9 noise makers masquerading as brakes and put on some real brakes. Namely, the Magura MT-6 stoppers which have traditionally been reliable and more importantly, powerful and quiet. 

So a Saturday spent down in the Lab transformed the MukTruk into By-Tor the Fatty. The transformed titanium beast is super smooth and the fork handles well on this bike as it did on the aluminum Mukluk. There is a bit of a drive train issue in the granny gear. This will be helped a bit if I get a Surly OD crankset. So, I think that's the final piece of the puzzle until the Blackborow comes. Well, I may also be swapping to a wide bar/stubby stem here as well. Anyway, the Winter steed is almost ready.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Registration Daze Update 2

T.I.V10 winner, Greg Gleason will be back to defend his title.
Well, we are not even a third of the way through registration and the Trans Iowa field is looking stacked. Last Spring's Trans Iowa victor, Greg Gleason, will be coming back, and will try to "just finish", (his words), Trans Iowa V11. Greg has competed at a top level in several events over the season, so if he shows up in form, I expect big things from him.

On the women's side, we will have two strong riders in Sarah Cooper and Andrea Cohen. Sarah and Andrea have both shown grit and toughness throughout the '14 season and should both be considered favorites to take out a win in their category, or even for the overall.

Single speeders Troy Krause, Mark Johnson, and David Swanson are also very capable of taking out an overall win and should be watched closely. These guys could very well have an advantage if Trans Iowa is wet this next Spring since their drive trains are less likely to fail in the unforgiving grit and dirt of Iowa roads.

Anther guy I'd tab to win is Corey Godfrey, who could, if he can avoid calamity, win this event easily. He's shown that he can get out front and stay there, but it seems that something always bites him about 3/4's of the way through. He is way overdue to take out a win. Chris Schotz is another guy you cannot count out. He will be at the front if he shows up in form. I don't think Chris has ever finished outside the top five when he has finished.

There are others that could snatch away a victory if these folks fail. Charles Parsons is tenacious and has finished several T.I. events. Lots of experience is on his side. Same with Charlie Farrow, who had a gutty ride on a single speed last Spring, showing that while he may be aging, he still has that intangible "something" that makes him push through things others simply cannot. Better watch him too. I think I saw another Duluthian's card on Facebook, and if that shows up, there will be a multiple T.I. bride's maid with some formidable capabilities at the start line. Oh yeah......this could get interesting! 

And we haven't even gotten to the Vets and Rookies yet. Could be the best Trans Iowa field ever. Can't wait to see who else signs up in the coming days.......

Fat Biking Sunday

Following the boy on the leafy single track
Sunday was another big ride for my son on his fat bike. He is getting a bit cocky with his one handed riding and drinking from his bottle, but otherwise he's doing well.

I probably don't get him out often enough, as he's not gotten some concepts down that maybe he should know by now. Trouble is, in the neighborhood we live in, I cannot let him ride this very far out of eyesight, or some ne'er-do-well would knock him off it to steal it. That's not a wild imaginative thought here- it's a real possibility. I've actually witnessed this happen years back. Sad to say it, but that's how bad things have gotten since I was a kid.

So, I take him out as often as I get chances to, but it isn't like when I was young and I rode ten miles a day for days on end, learning everything about bicycles I could learn in a fast paced learning environment. That all by myself with my parents often not knowing where I was at. Not a once in a while outing with a parent, like it is with my son. But that's another story.....

Our ride was great. A bit trying at times for both of us, but great none the less. Learning isn't easy this way, but it is forward progress.......

Monday, October 27, 2014

Registration Daze Update

T.I.V11 mailbag- It's just the beginning!
Trans Iowa V11's first day of registration went down much as I expected it to, albeit maybe with lower initial numbers. There were surprise visitors, nice e-mails sent, cards came by all manner of delivery methods, and some folks screwed up again.

It never ceases to amaze me how registration gets goofed up by some folks. I try hard to be super clear, I try hard to link to details, and I think I have made things really simple to understand. 

BZZZT! Wrong. Wrong again.......... ah well. 

We're humans and by definition we are not perfect or even close to being able to communicate clearly all the time or in certain cases, any of the time. Why should I be any different? I am not. So, I simply must shrug this off and take solace in the fact that most of you get it and things go mostly quite well, actually.  For those of you that have stumbled due to my set up, or for whatever the reason- haven't gotten this straight in your mind- I apologize. I'm positive I did my best, but it may not have been good enough for you.

But anyway...... 17 folks signed on so far. One from the pool of 12 winners, the rest are past finishers. That means we have 11 spots reserved for past Winners and 14 left for past finishers. If the Winners spots are not all taken, I will toss up to ten of those over into the past finishers pool. If there still are left overs, they will get passed down to the Veterans for next week's phase of the Trans Iowa registration. We're going to have a roster of 120, so this is how it will work from this point. Stay tuned tomorrow for updates on the progress of Registration.

Any questions? Hit the comment section, please. Thanks!

Registration Daze

Mail bag from T.I.V10
Today I suspect will be a bit of a strange day at work. Trans Iowa V11 registration starts today for Finishers and Winners. Veterans and Rookies will have to wait their turn. (All the registration details can be found here.)

This week will be the week where we will see 30 spots filled by past finishers of Trans Iowas and there are 12 spots reserved for past winners of Trans Iowas. I've seen several shots of cards sent already which were posted to Facebook over the weekend. From this intel, I can already tell you that last Spring's victor, Greg Gleason is coming back to defend his title, and that a few guys that haven't been back for a few years or skipped last year are making their intentions known that they will have to be dealt with next Spring for V11.

The end of October and beginning of November are usually pretty slow times at the bike shop where I work, as they are in many regional bicycle shops here, so this bit of distraction is a welcomed thing now. We'll all be curious to see who walks in right away with cards today and what the mail man will bring us. I suppose we'll even see the FedEx lady and the UPS guy will likely be in early as well. Plus you never know what surprises lie in store for us today. We've enjoyed some pretty unusual deliveries in the last ten years!

Whatever happens, I'll have a report on it for tomorrow and I will try to update the roster throughout the day. How long will it take for all the allotted spots to be claimed? I bet it won't take long! We'll see........

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Trans Iowa V11: A Look At The Rules Part 7

Not for hire. Mooo!
Last year I did a historical overview of each Trans Iowa up to T.I.V9. This year I am going to revisit something that I feel many folks have overlooked for a long time; The "Race Rules".

  Last week I covered Rule #5 This week I cover the following rule seen here.....

 6: Competitors may not advance on the route by any means other than bicycling or in the case of a mechanical, by foot. There will be no hitching of rides via Iowa farm animals. Moooooooo.

Okay, this week we have a rule which is pretty self explanatory. It is a self-supported event and you have to either ride your bicycle or walk. There isn't any real way to get confused here, you would think. If your bicycle breaks down in this long event, well, walking isn't really an option, or is it?

Charles Showalter's Gravel Mutt at the finish of T.I.V8
Actually, during Trans Iowa V8 we had two separate instances where competitors mostly walked the last seven or eight miles to finish. In that version of Trans Iowa, there was a surprise B Maintenance road near the end of the event. It claimed two derailleurs- One on Charles Showalter's "Gravel Mutt" and the other was on Corey "Cornbread" Godfrey's rig- his second Trans Iowa "derailleur-ectomy" in as many years.

Charles was the first. He called me to get a clarification on whether he would be counted as an official finisher if he walked in with his disabled rig. I confirmed to him that it was well within the rules to do so, and he proceeded to scooter, coast, and walk his bike into the finish for his first Trans Iowa finish.

Corey had whacked his derailleur the year before, which was well documented in the film, "300 Miles Of Gravel". In that event, Corey got his rig converted to a single speed, went back out and rode 300 plus miles to just have the experience, even though he was out of the event due to his getting a ride back to Grinnell to get repairs. However; Corey notched an official finish for V8 by doing essentially the same thing as Charles to get to the end of the cues for that version of Trans Iowa.

Next Week: If you cannot ride, and walking is out of the question.....Rule #7!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Night Time

Doesn't look like a trail much.....
A night ride or two has been happening of late. I have gotten a Lezyne helmet mount for my old Super Drive light and with the Trelock 950 on the bars I now have the perfect, (for me), night riding set up.

The Lezyne has a more intense light and the fill type wash that the Trelock puts out really work well together. I have a hard time distinguishing them from one another. They really blend that well. In the image to the left here, my tail light is washing in with the light from the Lezyne which is up on my helmet.

That's an old log crossing. The bits stuck in there to help you cross that log are sort of decayed now and beaten down. They need to have a bit of work. There are two other logs down back in there as well. Oh.......this is on Marky-Mark, by the way. The rustic, nearly overgrown connector trail between the two forks of the Green Belt Trail along Ridgeway Avenue.

I made the trail all in one take without any bushwhacking this time, but the West end of it is sketchy to figure out now and with all of the fallen leaves, it'll only get worse. My memory was taxed hard. I would imagine that darkness made that issue greater. However; I think those who find the East end would be hard pressed to do the last quarter of it on the West end without a great deal of luck and sunshine.

Almost went into the drink here.
Of course, I had to ride back from Marky-Mark. I was pushing the Snow Dog's speed up and I didn't catch a hard right hander, which was a reroute made over a year or so ago to account for some river bank erosion. You can still see the old, burned in single track line and I followed it right to the edge. Slammed on the Magura brakes and halted the fat rig about a foot from going off the edge. That was too close!

I backed off a bit after that, but it was a glorious night out on the trails and I have had a few other nights just like that. Mostly on the Snow Dog too, although that is going to change here in a bit. I am going to pull off the 29+ wheels from the MukTruk and swap wheels with the Snow Dog. Brakes too. A special experiment is the reason why. I cannot say more about it now. However; the MukTtruk will again become By-Tor and with the extended Alternator drops I am hoping that the gears will all clear the monstrous no-name tire I am using now.

Besides the experimentations, I also want to have all my best stuff on one fat bike coming into Winter. Things should get to a point where a fat bike makes a lot of sense for commuting again soon, so there is that as well. I probably won't see the Blackborow until December sometime, if it makes it on schedule, so that is another reason I want to do this. The Snow Dog? I've got plans for that too. Stay tuned......

Friday, October 24, 2014

Friday News And Views

Meet The Maker
Most fat biking freaks know all about Surly fat bike rims, or do you? They are not manufactured by Surly at all, but by a company called Alex Rims. They make stuff under their own name as well. In fact, I used to use their workmanlike TD-17 Disc as a 29"er hoop back when. Anyway......

I found a link to a Polish site that had information saying that Alex Rims are going to release a version of the Rolling Darryl and another, slightly less wide fat bike rim. See the post here and use Google Translate to read it if you want.

You'll also see there that Alex Rims is releasing a 29+ hoop. This is all relevant to those of you looking for bargain hoops that are of decent quality, as I have found Alex rims to be quite serviceable if not very spectacular. They just work. Typically they are pretty reasonably priced as well.

Curiously, there is also news on the bottom of that post revealing the fact that Alex Rims is also doing a 36"er rim that will be tubeless ready. Hmmm......... Could someone actually be considering releasing a mass produced 36"er mtb? Alex Rims do a lot of OE work, so that could be, but I'd be willing to bet that a unicycle wheel would be a safer bet here. never know.


Hey, remember when I wrote this big, long post about registering for T.I.V11?  It had the following line in it:

"30 spots for Finishers will also be up for grabs by post card entry starting October 27th. Again- DON"T SEND ENTRIES SOONER!! They will not be accepted"

Notice that I stated very clearly that post cards sent early would not be accepted? Yeah? Well, someone didn't listen.  Someone actually tried to send my boss a letter containing a post card and with it a note that instructed my boss to wait until the 27th of October and then hand me the card. There was also some money with instructions to buy the shop some beer.

Bzzzzzt! You've been red flagged! 

First off, this is an unfair tactic to those who will actually play by the rules. On that basis alone I have to disallow this entry. This person just left me no choice in the matter. Secondly, my boss is quite possibly the worst person ever to have asked to buy the shop beers. Well.......unless you like Miller Lite. Because that is what he would buy. I told him to not bother. But the offending potential entrant wouldn't have known that. That's just collateral damage there!

 So, besides that oddity, Trans Iowa registration kicks off next week, and I am sure more crazy stuff will happen. I can just feel it. I also can about guarantee some more folks will do some things that will be outside the parameters of the instructions I gave or their cards will be unreadable. Some folks will miss T.I.V11 on technicalities. It happens every year.........

2015 Beargrease XX1
Beargreased Lightning:

At the shop the other day I had the honor of building up this 2015 Salsa Cycles Beargrease XX1. They should just rename this the "Beargreased Lightning" and shorten it to "BL-XX1". Why?

Because it weighs 24.38lbs in a size Large. 24.38 freakin pounds!!! That's just nuts right there.

This is with tubes, mind you, and if you went tubeless on this beast, it would easily drop a couple of "el-bees". Okay? So we're looking at a potential weight with pedals of a bit over 22 pounds. Blame this on a liberal sprinkling of carbon fiber. There isn't a whole lot of metal bits on this rig. Even the rims are carbon fiber here. costs a lot of money. Over 5G to buy this one, but you have to pay to play when it comes to light weight bicycles. In the case of the "BL-XX1" model, it is well worth it if you race one of these fat bikes in Winter events. It is worth it if you want a premium, all year around mountain bike. It is worth it if you like to have fun and go fast and have the cash to spend. I don't know many folks who would turn down one of these rigs if money wasn't a barrier. It's that nice.

The deal here though is that it kind of casts a pall over anything heavier. That's too bad, because you can have a blast on a fat bike that weighs 5, 8, or even 10 pounds heavier. You don't have to spend an enormous amount of cash to get into this sort of bike and have a blast on any sort of terrain. Take the Mukluk 3, as an example, which goes for a very reasonable $1899.00 and weighs about 34 pounds. Point is, I hope my posting about this crazy bike doesn't put you off from getting jazzed about fat bikes, because they are a ton of fun. Try one and see.......

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Shake Down Ride Shakes Something Out: Part 2

Stuck On You Part 2!
Okay, a week ago I had a great Fall ride on the Fargo Gen 1 when at the end of it all I had something odd happen with my rear wheel. (See the post here) Well. yesterday I got around to sussing that issue out, and here's how it went down.

The Subject: A Hope Pro Evo II hub with a SRAM 9 speed cassette with the individually mounted cogs. Yes......they were stuck on! It wasn't critical to getting to the bottom of my problem, but you'd rather not have to deal with those teeth. At least I didn't. The Hope Pro evo II has removable/swappable end caps for quick release or through axles, so you simply pop off your end cap. Then this allows a tool free removal of the cassette free hub body, which reveals the free hub mechanism. You can see what that looks like on the left here.

Now I could remove a couple of the smaller cogs off the cassette and then bang on the backside of the cassette with a rubber mallet to push off the cassette and get that out of the way.

Cassette removed!
The Diagnosis:  Once the cassette is removed I could handle the free hub body much easier and get to cleaning the old grease away so I could see if I either had a breakdown or just some stuck pawls. I employed some foaming degreaser of the citrus variety from Tri-Flow. I had to do this about three times to begin with. Whatever grease those U.K. blokes put in there is pretty tenacious!

As I worked more and more grease away from the mechanism, I noticed two things. One- The grease coming off was silvery. That's never a good sign! This means the grease is contaminated with metal. Hopefully just worn metal from years of coasting!

Two- The pawls were not "springing back to life", and this was cause for concern. Maybe something really did break. More applications of degreaser and the mystery was solved. I had a complete failure of all four pawl springs!

It's a dead parrot! No! Its pining for the fjords, or simply stunned!
Bummer! Well, as I stated last week, better to find out about it before the Geezer Ride! Had I not done the 32 mile pre-ride shake down cruise, I would have had the failure on the ride, and that would have been disastrous. Or at the very least, it would have provided quite the story! 

The Solution: Well, now its on to the solution. I have a spare Hope Pro Evo II wheel sitting around that I could scavenge the free hub body off of, but I am not desperate to ride the Fargo just now. So, I won't be stealing that free hub body now. My second option, of course, is to just replace the whole shootin' match with a steel free hub body and that would also solve my issues with the cassette digging into the alloy bodied free hub. I'm thinking this sounds like the reasonable choice, given that I typically don't buy XT level cassettes for my gravel/rough stuff bikes. It really doesn't weigh all that much more either. I'd gladly trade off the minimal gain in grams for the ease of servicing the cassette/free hub.

So, I think a steel free hub body will soon be on its way, and this nearly seven year old hub will be back in service again on the good ol' Fargo Gen 1 rig. I won't necessarily be needing the old bike for a bit, so I'll be okay with waiting on that. Heck- it's getting to be fat biking season, and the single speed bikes are all ready to roll in the meantime. Fall is definitely single speed time around here anyway.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Geezer Ride Fall Out

Michael came all the way from Omaha to ride the Geezer Ride Image by R.J. Fry
Well, I have to say that I not only was blown away that 12 other folks besides myself came to the Geezer Ride, that not only did more people express the desire to have wanted to come but couldn't, but that I am getting requests to do this more! 

I got comments like the following- "So much fun, you can't do it just once", "I think riding some gravel on a spring Geezer Ride is a great idea.", and " I thought the Geezer franchise could be a Spring, Summer and Fall event." 

Geezer Franchise?!!! Whoa!

I guess this deal struck a nerve with riders and the idea seems to resonate with those that either participated or wanted to. I'm beyond flattered, really I am, but how many folks would really want to see more Geezer Rides? That's something I just don't know right now. But before I go any further, let me put this out there: There will be at least one more Geezer Ride and it will happen in Spring of 2015. It will start and end out of Grinnell, Iowa. So......there is that. (I don't have any other details than that right now, so please be patient!)

So, more of these types of rides, eh? For those that don't know- here's the format. The Geezer Ride is a sloooooow ride. Not in the Foghat vein, but in the super-chill, casual vein. To give you an idea, we didn't leave anyone behind and we stopped at least three to four times in the first ten miles. Yeah.......that kind of slow. 

We stopped to look at stuff. We stopped to talk about stuff. We stopped to make sure we all stuck together. So, you know- it wasn't about going fast, dropping people, or being competitive. People talked, got to know one another, and we saw some rad countryside.

I think I have made my point here. The Geezer Ride, when it happens again, will be about the same things. The other thing that I feel is super important about the Geezer Ride comes after the ride is done. The socializing, drinking, and eating together. For me, this has to be a part of whatever Geezer Rides happen in the future. Oh yeah......the future. About that......

So while there will be at least one more Geezer Ride, to accommodate the guys that inspired all this, should there be more? Heck, I had one person suggest there be Spring, Summer, Winter, and Fall versions. Another said that it should move around the state of Iowa. A suggestion that others do the "heavy lifting" and have me be the roving host was put forth. Obviously, there is no lack for ideas out there!

But what about it, folks? I need to hear from you and see where this should go, if anywhere, beyond next Spring.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Looking Back At "300 Miles Of Gravel"

During the Geezer Ride, I was asked about "300 Miles Of Gravel", which is the documentary of T.I.V7 filmed by Jeff Frings. To clean up a little business, I will first point out that you can purchase a DVD of this HERE. Now that I have that taken care of, I wanted to reflect a bit on the film with the perspective of three following Trans Iowas after the one documented on the DVD.

There are several things about this film that I think about when I watch it that many of you out there that have seen it may not see, or know about at all. Conversely, I have been told about things that the riders saw and knew about that happened in the film that I didn't realize at all. Perspectives are a wonderful thing! So, I wanted to just touch on a few of the things I think about when I see "300 Miles Of Gravel" that you may find interesting.
  • The beginning of the film starts out with a replay of the National Weather Service's forecast and some audio of me from my audio-blog that I used for "Trans Iowa Radio". The particular audio clips Jeff Frings used there in the beginning were actually from Friday, the day before the event when I was traveling down to Grinnell. I can remember exactly where I was, out in Tama County, when I made that post, but T.I.V7 hadn't even started yet! 
  • As you see the title roll out, the scene is of the race start. There is a shot of the riders coming at the camera, which was taken by Jeff Frings hanging out the back end of David Pals' Element. The audio has the acoustic guitar music, and if you listen closely, you will hear what sounds like a horn blowing and cowbells clanging. The "horn" was actually me blowing a note on a Salsa Cycles Woodchipper bar. I could do that since David was driving. I've always wanted to do that again, but it's kind of difficult when you are driving as well!
  • Of course, there is the whole B Road scene in the dark, but besides the fact that this became a major factor in the outcome of the event for many, it wasn't even really part of the course! There were two other, crazy, gnarly B Roads which either Jeff never filmed or didn't make the final cut.
    The B Road that didn't make the cut. (Image by S. Fuller)
    I kind of wished at least one of them would have been in the movie because they both are pretty spectacular "roads". 
  • The big hill on the cover, (seen above), for the DVD is what I dubbed the "Wolf Creek Wall". It isn't all that far from Waterloo, actually, where I live, and it was scheduled to be on the T.I.V10 route. However; the bridge leading up to it, (also featured in the film), was out and that's where the reroute happened.
    The bridge from T.I.V7 that led to the "Wolf Creek Wall" is no more.
Besides those details, (and others I won't delve into now), the main thing I see now is that T.I.V7 was a watershed year for Trans Iowa. Yes.....a lot of things changed. But more than that, it was definitely the last Trans Iowa where the B Roads really were a mess and tough to the point of causing issues for the riders, and the first one where we had a female finisher- Janna Vavre- who came back and finished Trans Iowa again in V9.

That Janna finished that Trans Iowa was a really big deal, to me at any rate, and I feel it kind of blew the doors off the barriers to the event for women.  Although it took a year to take effect, as we had a small Womens field in V8 and no women finished that year, ever since then the class has had a healthy amount of competitors and finishers with Monika Sattler even running with the front runners in V9. It used to be that we were stoked just to see a couple gals even enter the event! Now we expect a women to maybe even win the overall someday. It could happen, but I wouldn't have ever guessed at that even three or four years ago. Jana really was a pioneer in that respect.

I heard last weekend that some of you out there still watch "300 Miles Of Gravel" and enjoy it. I find that it is a compelling view into what Trans Iowa is, and I am humbled to know that many enjoy that work. I am sure Jeff Frings appreciates that as much as I do. I am not sure how I feel about the thing, at the end of the day. It is kind of personal for me. That said, it is out there and I just kind of tune it out most of the time. I even forget about it some days until I run across someone that saw it re-air on IPTV here when they have occasionally chosen to show it. "Hey! You're that guy that puts on that Trans whatcha-ma-call-it deal, aren't you?". 

Yep. That's me.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Geezer Ride Report

Waiting on a rider. Image by R.J. Fry
The Geezer Ride was conceived as a ride that would cater to the less intense rider, the rider that wasn't going to do a metric century gravel ride, but wanted to taste what it was like to be out there. It was made for conversations, stopping to "smell the roses", and most of all- to have some fun. Certainly there were some challenges along the way, and of course, B Maintenance roads!

I had done the planning and organizing for this at the insistence of a couple of friends, who ultimately had to back out of the ride for reasons beyond their control, but I am really happy, and more than that- satisfied- by what came of this day. I'll get to that later.....

I had gotten word a couple of days ahead of the ride that Robert, a local gravel/rando rider, was free to go and "would I like to drive down with him?" Plans were laid to leave at 6:30am to get to the meet-up point in Amana by 8:00am when the ride was to start. The trip was smooth, and as we approached the designated spot, I felt that we would be the first ones there and would be waiting to see the few riders that might show up roll in. I knew about a few commitments to come, but you know how that can go. I wasn't expecting more than six riders in total.

Rolling out of town.....finally!
Well, imagine my surprise when I saw the little grassy lot lined with cars and cyclists buzzing about! There were ten there and one more would show up just as we were about to pull out to leave. 13 riders in all?!! I was flabbergasted.

Yes, it was called the Geezer Ride", and most of the assembled riders were qualified to bear that moniker. There were a few "youginz", and we even were graced by the attendance of Dee, the lone female to show up for the ride. She wasn't backing down from the challenge set to her by her friend, Ed, and that even though she had only been riding since April of this year and never had done a gravel ride. Well, that was pretty cool, I thought, and so we had a great group. Two were on fat bikes, just for good measure!

I led the assembled horde out on the bike path, which petered out on our side of the road, then picked back up on the opposite side. I got my wires crossed here and missed the road out of town that I wanted to take. I stopped and my bewildered mind had trouble reading the smart phone map I was looking at. Finally my brain turned on and we made a backtrack and were on our way......finally! Up a long, gentle climb by the golf course and back up to our first gravel road. There we had our first stop to gather up stragglers.

The first B Maintenance road was coming up soon, and I wanted to stop there to give a fair warning to those less experienced with these dirt roads. A trio of barking dogs came out from an adjacent farm and while they were barking vigorously, it was obvious that they were a bit befuddled at seeing thirteen cyclists in a bunch. We pulled out and started our dirt road descent, leaving the puzzled canines behind.

The bottom of the first B Road descent. This was where Wally & George took some T.I.V10 photos in the Spring.
Climbing back up the other side. R.J.Fry taking images up ahead, and....
......he gets me with Ed (L) and David (R). (Image by R.J. Fry)
"Hero Gravel" and spectacular Fall color in the trees. A theme throughout the ride.
We gathered back up again at the top of the B Maintenance road climb, then it was a twisty, roller filled ride and descent down to our most Northwestern point on the loop. During the descent I was out front. Coming down a sweeping right hander I saw two hawks take fight from the right side of the ditch. The trailing one screams as I pass underneath. Then I take a left, get some speed up, and the next thing I know a bunch of turkeys run up out of the ditch on my left. One looks like it is on a collision course with my front wheel, but mercifully switches directions before impacting me. Thanks birdy! That would have been a nasty crash!

Not far East up the road from there was to be another stop, and one of the highlights, in my opinion, of the ride. Swedenborg Church. My hope was that the giant maples out in the church's lawn would be in their full Fall glory. I was not disappointed!

Swedenborg Church

In a stroke of fortune, we discovered that there was a porta-jon around the backside of the church, which we made use of. After everyone was ready, we set off for the barren fields Eastward. At least the wind was mostly at our back. Our first mile was Northward, and it was here that a driver of a car behind us displayed their displeasure with us by revving their engine and speeding away. We all shook our heads and carried onward into the wind for the moment. A turn Eastward then gave us a decent tailwind and it was immediately beneficial.

Any bike can be a gravel bike.
Barren fields, grey skies, and a hint of Winter in the air.
Then we finally get back to the trees!
This long, straight stretch was a bit of a let down after the constant sensory input of the twisty roads, hills, and spectacular Fall colors. We were pretty strung out along here. Finally some of the guys up front pulled up and waited on the rest at a point where the road went to chip seal. Hmm.......I found this odd. Apparently another mistake on the maps! Oh well, at least it was only a mile, and I figured it may be a nice respite for some of the lesser experienced "gravel-ists".

Then after the gathering up of riders again, we made a Southward turn into some rollers that featured short but steep ups. As the main bunch of us approached one of these, a Dodge Ram truck came over the top of the hill just in front of us at full song. Fishtailing and spewing dust and rocks, we estimated that it flew by us at 70mph! Whatever its speed, it was way too fast and we were fortunate that all of us were on the right side of the road going up that hill.

After this we arrived at our next left hander and gathering up all to see if we had all escaped the madness of that truck's passing, we rolled back into the pretty, winding gravel roads. It was a spectacular set of roads that led us down to the Iowa River Valley and our next stop to gather up the tribe again.

Looking up back the road we descended down to our gathering up point. Less than 10 miles to go!
Here we waited and gave instruction as to the next bit of roads we would be taking. The plan was to go back up a bit to catch a B Road and then a gentle descent back into town. However; I offered the stragglers an option to take the road straight back to town if they chose to. They did not sound like they would bite on "Plan B", so we took off again to go up, over, and back down again.

Knapp Creek Road was an awesome, gentle climb with spectacular views. 
We decided to stop to give some more directions to the riders strung out behind us, but only 10 of us showed up! Where did the other three go? We sent three riders back down the hill twice to look, but after twenty minutes, we figured they must have taken the short route back to town after all. This was troubling to me. I didn't like it at all.

"Rock Ends". It means a good helping of dirt is dead ahead!
The B Road proved to be a really fun one to ride. 
The final miles were mostly down hill or flat to town.
We eventually all got back with about 37-ish miles in, well......all but the three missing riders! Where could they be? I was worrying more as the time went on. Meanwhile, gear was removed from tired bodies and bikes were racked up for transportation back home. Many thanks and hand shakes. A decision by Robert and I to go for some lunch was enjoined by Marty, who asked to follw along wherever we went.

The first stop was Millstream Brewing Company, where a good pitcher of "Backroad Stout" was consumed. Whilst we were relaxing outside the brewery, we suddenly saw a welcomed sight. The three missing riders appeared up the street and were riding straight towards us!

A smiling Dee crests one of those "unflat parts" and lives to tell about it! Image by R.J. Fry
I was so relieved to see that they made it, and hear that they had not had any serious trouble. Apparently, they missed a turn, but somehow managed to ride most of the rest of the course and come in with a few "bonus miles". We asked them to join us and they sat and had a beverage and we laughed and chatted for awhile in the now bright light of the Sun under blue skies.

Eventually, Ed, Michael, and Dee took their leave of us and Marty, Robert, and I went to the Colony Inn and had a great family style German dinner. Pie and ice cream ended our dining experience there and eventually we all set off for home after what I would have to describe as a stellar day out on the bike with good people.

We were especially proud of our newest riding friend, Dee, who despite the hated hills made an end to the course successfully and now is well on her way to becoming "one of us". (<===HA!) Welcome to the "dark side", Dee! I hope you find many more miles of smiles on your bicycle wherever you decide to ride! Just keep on pedalin'!

THANKS: To all who showed up to this ride, thank you! I was blown away that you all came and some from hundreds of miles away. To Wally & George for the inspiration for, and naming of, The Geezer Ride. You were missed and you will come to ride this route someday! To Robert Fry for the ride to and from, the images, and the excellent company on this trip.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Trans Iowa V11: A Look At The Rules Part 6

Last year I did a historical overview of each Trans Iowa up to T.I.V9. This year I am going to revisit something that I feel many folks have overlooked for a long time; The "Race Rules".

 Last week I covered Rule #4. This week I cover the following rule seen here.....

5: Competitors will stock up on food and other items at stores and businesses along the route. Viva la gas station burritos and Oatmeal Cream Pies! 

Okay, now we're getting into specific rules set up by Jeff for Trans Iowa. Obviously, with only one checkpoint at approximately 128 miles in, there had to be ways for riders to be "self-supported" in their efforts. We deemed that the convenience stores on the route would provide the way this would be able to happen. This is why this rule exists. Obviously, we left the option open to get grub or drink from "other businesses". This was in part because in one city we passed through in particular there wasn't a traditional convenience store, but a gas station, and if I recall correctly, one other place had a grocery store right on the route as well.

Convenience stores are still the main source of staple items which provides sustenance for the riders of any Trans Iowa. The thing is, they don't stay open for 24 hours in most places anymore, which really puts a bind on things at times. This was the case in T.I.V8, where the area was so rural, and the timing of things happened just so that I decided to provide the "Secret Checkpoint" that year. There just wasn't a good convenience store opportunity. Fortunately, I haven't had to repeat that again.

Finally, we see Jeff's sense of humor arise here. It was something he interjected not only in these rules, but in his daily dealings with me at the shop. This is a great little window into how his mind worked back then. By the way, the Oatmeal Cream Pie reference was from when Jeff would be bonking out and sleepy at a solo 24hr event. He often would say that an Oatmeal cream Pie was the only way he could revive himself to be able to finish. That and Red Bull! I'm not entirely sure this was real, because I never witnessed him doing that, but maybe he did. I can say I am almost positive he never ate a gas station burrito back then!

Next Week: Rule #6 Mooooo!