Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Cycling For The Adventure: Part 2

Can you imagine cycling without one of these?
Yesterday I touched upon how today's version of "adventure" differed from where I came from. But am I just being an "old fart"? Maybe I'm a retrogrouch and I just am out of touch with a better version of cycling that has more people jazzed about getting out there than ever before.

Or, maybe that's just not really what is happening here. Consider that by the very nature of social media, we are, or can be, more aware of who is out there. Think about the Tour Divide, or even better, its predecessor, The Great Divide Race. In the late '90's, John Stamstad rode the route solo. Did anyone follow that dot? Well, of course not. He wasn't wired with a SPOT device. So it was with everyone else that was "out there" previous to SPOT's launch in 2007, social media, Strava, and whatever else you have to "connect" with. In other words, who can really say that folks weren't "out there" in just as big a way then as they are today? What we can say is that in 2017 we are more aware than ever of who is doing this adventuring by bicycle. 

Conversely, it is also easier than ever to be found. Think about it: We used to get on our bicycles to "get away from it all", but are we doing that anymore? Most of the time, we are not. Especially if we are carrying a cell phone. At a moment's notice, we can be drawn right back in to the rat race by a text, a notification, or a phone call. That doesn't even count devices like GPS computers for cycling which can push notifications right to your wrist or handlebars. Heck.....they even have a heads-up display for glasses for cycling now! Talk about life being "in your face"!

Of course, all those devices with GPS can be tracked too, so you can have a significant other or (who knows who) tracking your every move out there. Is that what we signed up for when we went in search of adventure?

So, yeah......to be completely honest, I don't buy in to the whole being connected 24-7 thing. If I leave my cell phone at home I kind of kick myself, but more so because it ticks off Mrs. Guitar Ted. Me? I don't care. After a moment of guilt I am really relieved no one can bother me. If something happens when I'm 20 miles from the house on a gravel road traveling by bicycle, what the heck can I do about anything that happens anyway? By definition I am out of the loop at that point, You'll have to carry on without me, or come and find me out there....

Oh, you may say that I should have my cell phone handy in case of an emergency, but really..... If I can't be self-supported/self-sufficient, should I be riding out in the country at all? Then there might be the super rare time I get myself injured, have a bad mechanical, or whatever, but look...... That's a risk I'm willing to take that wasn't a rarity at all previous to 2007 or so. Stop and think about that for a minute. Everyone that rode a bicycle away from a population center before then was likely doing what I do now when I forget my phone at home. It's a risk I'm willing to take anytime now.

But that said, I know I am in an ever shrinking group of like-minded people. I get pressure all the time from folks wanting routes provided to them, to have Trans Iowa have GPS downloadable course maps, to have on-line registration for that event, and on and on. It's hard to keep "on point" when everyone seems to be going whole hog for being connected and have everything handed to them on a silver platter when it comes to adventure stuff. Gravel roads seem to freak folks out, or they are just to lazy to do some simple research and take a small risk to see what is out there. I don't think I am remarkable in that I just go out and ride and see what I can find, but then again, it seems a lot of people are hamstrung by the idea of just winging it. It really isn't that tough, in my opinion.

Plus, the lessons learned make memories and teach you far more than checking off a list from some internet site and downloading a pre-ridden course on your GPS device. I don't know.......

Maybe I've got it all wrong.......

Monday, October 30, 2017

Trans Iowa v14: Rookie Lottery Time Announced!

Rookie Lottery Time: 

The Rookie Lottery for Trans Iowa v14 will be held at 5:00pm CST. The Lottery will be broadcast LIVE on Periscope which you can access by going to Twitter and searching for the @guitarted1961 account. The broadcast will take about 15 minutes in which I will draw 50 cards from a pool of 84 received. These cards will have the names of fifty lucky entrants whose names will then be etched on to the roster for T.I.v14. After that, the registration process for T.I.v14 will be complete and the roster closed.

Stay tuned for the lottery at 5:00pm CST tomorrow!

Cycling For The Adventure

A fuzzy photograph of a friend from 1994 when I went on a cross country, self supported bike tour.
Bicycling was taken up by most of us when we were children. We did it because the bicycle could carry us to places to do things, see people, and, of course, to "get in trouble". That last thing is code for "adventure" when you stop to think about it. That was the main reason I was into cycling. I was in it for the adventure.

Of course, it was a different day and age when I came up. There were no media blitzes going on every second to distract me. We were not bombarded with social media, the world, life...... We set out to discover the "unknown" which may have been the next neighborhood, the next farm down the road, or the next city down the blacktop. If we weren't going to school, visiting friends, or going to Little League practice, we were having an adventure by bicycle, or "getting in trouble", as I mentioned already.

I saw a great story about the days when people, grown up people, would go looking for this so called trouble on purpose. It was called "touring" back then. The story by Peter Flax on Cyclingtips.com can be read HERE. In the story, Mr. Flax recounts his journey in 1992 with a friend across America and parts of Canada by bicycle. It is a story that resonated with my own experiences on tours just a couple of years after the experiences recounted by Mr. Flax. My tours happened in 1994 and 1995. While they were not across the U.S.A tours, they were filled with adventure none the less.

Much of what I do today was informed by my experiences cycling on those early loaded tours.
If you read the linked article, you will note that Mr. Flax equates the loaded cyclo-touring of the 90's with today's craze called "bikepacking". He's right, you know. There is no difference but the name. Well, as far as the basic, simple activity of being self-sufficient on an overland tour goes. The day and age we live in now is completely different, and what we think we "need", or must have, to go on an overland cycling tour nowadays is radically different than it was back in the 90's.

I don't want to judge anyone, but I am glad that I got to experience cyclo-touring pre-social media and before cell phones. There's something about a memory when you are miles from the nearest house or business, out of water, and it is over 100°F and you have absolutely no way to communicate that outside of the two guys along with you on the ride. That changes the playing field.

Mr. Flax wrote about how he and his partner would stop at bars and motels to get a heads up on the world's cycling news, (and news in general, most likely). Can you imagine setting out for a 100 mile day without knowing the weather forecast for the day? We did that back then. I'm not saying we were better for it, but it was sooooo different then and I am saying I am glad I experienced it that way. We were oblivious to so many things that are fretted over in the minutest of detail today. 

Of course, you could recreate the 80's/90's type of touring experience if you dare to. Leave the smart phone at home, stay off the devices, and just keep your head down and ride. But can anyone actually manage to tear themselves away from this culture? Could you ride without GPS, a rear radar detector, or a freaking phalanx of flashing red lights? Could you simply ride off a map and just trust that you will have a most excellent journey? Nowadays it seems that we cannot do that. We have to have "routes". Someone else has to do the discovering for us, and only then will we go out and try to ride the route already mapped out for us. We have to post to social media, we have to have a track of our route to upload to Strava, we have to be connected 24-7.

Maybe I am wrong, but "adventure" seems to be a different flavor these days, and I wish I, and the rest of us, could taste it like it used to be again. But I'm just as guilty as many others.

Maybe it is time turn off, tune out and drop in.........

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Trans Iowa v14: Registration Has Closed!

The registration for the next Trans Iowa has ended. There are 84 people vying for 50 spots. There will be a lottery drawing on October 31st and the roster will be completed that evening. 50 names will be uploaded to the Roster Page adding to the 70 already there and we will have our 120 rider limit.

So, what's next? Well, training, training, training! Then at some point some of the riders will get injured, have "life" happen, get sick, get married, change jobs, etc...... Six months is a long time for things to come up. If that happens to anyone on the roster, I ask that they let me know as soon as possible so I do not waste resources on them before the event takes place. It really matters to me that people do this.

Anyway, I do not maintain a waiting list or allow transfers. Obviously, it would be a near miracle for Trans Iowa to end up with 120 folks on the start line in Grinnell in late April. It is more likely that we will end up around 80-ish riders, maybe a few less, maybe a few more. The curious amongst you may wonder what the biggest field ever was and that would be from T.I.v10 when we had 106 starters. That was the most since the roster limit was raised to 120 for T.I.v9 which saw 91 people start. The last two Trans Iowas have seen a precipitous drop off of riders by the event start time. T.I.v12 had 83 riders while T.I.v13 had 75 riders. What will happen for T.I.v14? Who knows.

All I know now is that I have a lottery drawing to do on Tuesday!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Minus Ten Review- 43

A bad image of a Sunrise in late October near Marengo, Iowa ten years ago.
Ten years ago on the blog I was bantering about a "Trans Iowa Tune Up Ride" that I had planned along with David Pals, my co-director of Trans Iowa back in those days. It was a promotion to Trans Iowa rookies that had just gotten onto the roster for Trans Iowa v4. That would have been the first Trans Iowa I had worked with David Pals on and it would be the last one we would run out of Decorah, Iowa.

Anyway, we planned this long gravel ride out of Marengo, which was David's home at the time, and the ride started in the dark, to kind of mimic the start of Trans Iowa. So, you had to have a light. I cannot emphasize enough how difficult it was to find reasonably priced, powerful, long lasting lighting back then. You either had to spend hundreds of dollars on a system that usually had an external battery or even more on a specialized dynamo hub light system. Lighting up the night back then was not easy. We have it made today. 

The ride didn't go so well for me, as I recall. My body decided it was going to have a low energy day. I cannot remember if it was a bonk, the onset of sickness, or what. I was pretty bummed out, I do recall that much. It was a mostly forgettable experience.

The light thing though. That I do remember. I was using some fancy new Blackburn battery powered unit that barely made the roads visible. Now, for the same money I bought that light for, I could get a 400 Lumen light that blazes the darkness away.

Other things being talked about ten years ago were the SE Racing Stout single speed bike that came in for Twenty Nine Inches testing, The first of many bicycles I would be testing throughout the next seven years. Also, related to the TNI gig, I was brought in as a contributor/editor for The Bike Lab, which was the "everything else mountain bike" besides what we were doing on TNI. Once again, I was promised help and it went away pretty much right out of the gate. So, for the almost two years that the site was up I essentially had my work doubled and with nothing to show for it in the bank. This would have been the time that the TNI gig started to unravel for me. More on that later....

Friday, October 27, 2017

Friday News And Views

T.I.v14 Registration Update:

There is today's mail and tomorrow's mail and then that's it! So far we have a pile of 77 entrants with more sure to come. The lottery drawing will take place on October 31st, because trick-or-treat, ya know?

I plan on hosting a live drawing for the Rookie Class on my Periscope account which you can access from Twitter at @guitarted1961. Just keep checking back for an exact time for that. All Trans Iowa related Tweets are hashtagged #TIv14, so you can search that on Twitter to keep tabs on the goings on with this. I will not be posting the live feed anywhere else, so don't even ask. If you cannot do Twitter, or won't, then you'll have to wait until I upload the roster to the Trans Iowa v14 page later that evening.

New Riding Gravel Radio Ranch Podcast!

Episode #23 of the Riding Gravel Radio Ranch podcast is up and ready for you to check out. Here is the page you can listen to it on and pretend to be working. (Or whatever.....ya know? )

It's been a while since we've posted a podcast, but my partner, Ben Welnak, has been involved in a big cross-state move for he and his family which caused a lot of disruption on the podcast side for Riding Gravel. Now that things have settled down a bit, we're both hoping that the podcast becomes a bit more "regular".

I know. We've said that before! But we cannot always predict how the changes in life will go and that almost always will be more important than the podcast is. Honestly, I like doing the podcast. I find it to be fun and enjoyable. I missed doing it all Summer long. (Our last podcast previous to #23 was back in May!!) So, if you tuned out over the past several months, I get it, but give it another chance and we will see if we cannot be a bit more regular going forward.

This episode deals with the changes to the Dirty Kanza 200 registration, some Trans Iowa stuff, news about stuff I am reviewing, and more. Check it out, please, and if you do, let me know what you think. Thanks!

Thinking of fixing it for Winter
Fascination With Fixed:

I've had a hankerin' for riding fixed gear again. I don't know quite where that comes from either. It's kind of weird.

Why deny the free coasting fun of "normal" bicycles and hamstring yourself to some 19th Century technology? I know........there are benefits, it's great for your pedal stroke, yada, yada, yada.............

And there are those of you reading, no doubt, that are proficient in the fixed gear ways. I get it. The thing is, I don't understand why I sometimes gravitate toward fixed gear riding. I almost always am a klutz at it. I forget I cannot coast and I about launch myself and tweak my knee. Then I have that anxious few seconds when I approach the curb and I am not in a good part of my pedal stroke to pop that front wheel up. Or how about when I stop and my "chocolate foot" isn't in the prime starting position? (Don't know what "chocolate foot" is? See Hans Rey.... It's old skool trialsin/mtb lingo)

I actually have a rat-rod Raleigh Grand Prix converted into a fixed gear bike in the garage and my 1X1 Surly has a flip-flop hub with a fixed cog on one side. Then I also have that Tomi cog in the picture as well. One of the three is getting some use this Winter, maybe all three. We will see. If we get inundated with snow and it gets super cold, well maybe the fat bike rules. Time will tell.

Have a great weekend and hopefully you get to ride your bicycles!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Country Views: Late Fall

It is getting on in the year and now things have changed from the greens of Summer to the golden hues of Fall with the "brown season" just at the doorstep. I haven't been able to get out in the country lately but Wednesday I did and so I gathered a few images to share.

Freshly harvested fields leave an interesting pattern of lines not unlike corduroy.
 Fallen leaves gather along the road edges and the trees are blushing with golds and rich oranges.
A silent combine with a hopper full of corn sits under the Fall Sun
Barns For Jason: Sheep watch warily as I pass by on my single speed.
There is still a fair amount of corn left to be harvested. All the soybeans have been taken out by now.
A perfectly good car in the ditch. I don't see this often unless it has snowed heavily or unless there is ice. Weird!
The restored Bennington No. 4 School house in the distance to the right here.
Wild asparagus turns a beautiful shade of orangey-gold in Fall.  The shoots in Spring are considered a delicacy in Iowa.
Heading South on Moline Road a couple miles before hitting Waterloo again.

Single Speed Century: Training Ride 1

One gear, gravel, and grit.
Wednesday I got out for a training ride on the single speed. After a month of being on the down low, I have to start building back up to a fitness level that will allow me to complete a century on gravel. That means I needed to put in a couple of hours at least on the Pofahl.

It was chilly, but Sunny and the wind was out of the Northwest. That meant I needed to go North. The routes to the North out of town are all mostly uphill, so that would also be good for training purposes. Now getting out of town, well that is something else altogether these days.

There is so much construction now with so many routes cut off that I ended up just riding along HWY 63 North on the bike path. Then I went East over on East Donald Street to catch a route North and I was on my way. Things felt pretty good, and I was chugging along thinking about several things on that bright, glorious morning. One of those things was a curiosity about why my front brake wasn't working well.

The Pofahl's front brake, well both actually, always worked so well. So, it was a curious thing now that all of a sudden I had a very weak front brake. In fact, I was so curious that I purposed to stop when I reached Bennington No. 4 School house and check it out. When I did, I laughed out loud!

Silly me! I didn't check to see what rotor size I was using on the Pofahl and make sure the alternate wheel set I swapped in was set up appropriately. So, I had a caliper set up for a 180mm rotor with a 160mm rotor bolted to the hub. Yeah.......that doesn't work out. So, realizing this I did the rest of the ride with only a rear brake, which was fine, really. But it was a good thing to figure out now instead of well in to a hundy.

And that saddle...... yeah, that's not gonna work either. 

More soon......

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

When The Simplest Thing Fails

The Raleigh Tamland Two- Highly evolved, not much stock here anymore!
I was doing maintenance on a couple of my gravel rigs yesterday. The first up in the stand was the Twin Six Standard Rando. I wasn't happy with the SRAM cheapo cassette that was on it as it was making a racket whenever I shifted due to the individual cogs not being secured perfectly. I opted for a lower geared cassette, an 11-36T, and in eleven speed, of course. The cogs are mounted on a carrier for the last three, largest cogs, and the others are made more precisely and should not rattle. I have the same model cassette on the Tamland Two which has worked really well.

I thought I might need a chain also, but when I checked it with my tool for wear it was well within spec. Such a waste to pull it off, so I left it on there. I am chalking the longevity up to using DuMonde Tech lube which I have used on that chain for a while and on the Tamland's chain for ever. That chain also checked out good as well. The Tamland just needed a bit of fresh lube on its chain and a refresh on sealant. Then it was out for a bit of a test ride.

I noted a "clunk" which was hard to repeat. Was it the chain not shifting quite right? Hmm.....nope! What about that bottom bracket? I couldn't remember ever replacing it. It could be time for it to go. However; the noise wasn't tied to pedaling. Weird. What was it?

Bad part! Bad part! Go to the bin!
I got off my bike and grabbed the rear wheel and tried to see if the hub bearing maybe had loosened up. To my surprise, I could wiggle the wheel and recreate the clunk. That White Industries hub had a bad bearing already? Well....... I do ride it in severe dusty conditions a lot. It was possible, but I had ridden other wheels more miles on gravel with no ill effect. Maybe the axle was broken? Gah! That would suck!

But once the wheel was pulled I could not find fault with the hub at all. Hmmm...... What about that QR lever? Now, I'd be real surprised if it was that, because the wheel moved a lot when it was clamped in the frame. But whatever..... I had to try it to see if I could eliminate that as a reason for my troubles. I grabbed a good Shimano skewer, they are the best, you know, and slammed the wheel with that Shimano skewer installed into the frame and clamped it up.

No more wiggle, no more noise!

A simple part swapped in and no more issues. Shimano skewers are always a sure bet.
I'm not sure what company made that skewer, but it won't ever get used again after that! It is ironic that Shimano makes such a dead reliable skewer and hardly anyone else can seem to come close. Most skewers that you see are external cam skewers and most of those are junk. Then you have some internal cam skewers which can be relied upon other than Shimano, (Velocity USA's are pretty good), but those are rare. I have a set sold by FSA that were designed like Mavic/Simplex skewers and those are pretty decent, but they are an oddball design.

Obviously, through axles get rid of a lot of this, but they also have their own issues. One being that no one wants to pay SRAM or Shimano/Fox a royalty for their good designs and they come up with their own. Some are good, some are........dumb. Some are so difficult to get to work properly you may as well just use a bolt, and some other through axles are bolts! So don't just say QR's are dumb and everyone should use a through axle, becuase there are some real clunkers in the through axle world too.

The bottom line is that a simple part like a skewer should just work, and when it doesn't, and fails, I find that to be rather amazing. Just quit trying to make it different so you can avoid the fees and make simple parts that actually work!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Single Speed Century: The Rig Is Ready

So, now that I have a modicum of a chance to physically do a century again, and now that my rig has proper tires and wheels on it, I am ready to set sail for 100 miles of single speed gravel travel. I thought I would share the details of the rig I am using before I head out on this deal.

The single speed I chose to use is the Pofahl custom bike I had made ten years ago. You long time blog readers need no introduction to this one. It has already been on a century gravel ride before, so I know it will be a comfortable, capable bike for this trip.

I did make a couple of modifications to the usual Pofahl set up here though. The wheels and tires are completely different here. While the wheels are still Industry 9 hubs and spokes, the rims are Bontrager Duster TLR rims. The rear hub is single speed specific one in black ano and a few years newer than the one I have on there usually which is kind of orangey-bronze and was a 2006 model single speed specific hub.

The tires are new Donnelly MSO 50mm with the old Clement hot patch on there. These are tubeless ready versions too, and as such, they are a beefier tire than the Sparwoods or the Cazadero 50mm tires I've tried out. In fact, they weighed a hefty 750 grams each on my Park digital scale of Doom. That's heavy.......or is it? There are "tough" tires and then there are fast, supple tires. You usually do not get both. For instance, the aforementioned Sparwoods are designed to be extra tough, they are heavier, (700-ish grams in 60TPI), and they have a puncture protection belt under the tread (60TPI versions), which makes them ride stiffer too.The Caz's, on the other hand, are light, (530 grams), and paper thin. They do not hold air as well either due to this. Fragile? Yes- likely they are. 

All set and ready to roll now.
I've got a lot more to say about all that, but that's all coming up in a tire review soon, so stay tuned. For now I am just sticking to the changes to the Pofahl. One other change was to add a partial set up of the Bar Yak system on there to hold my cues. I may try turn-by-turn directions with my Lezyne Super GPS if I can figure it out in time. Then there are lights, because, well, Late Fall, that's why!

The Lezyne light and the modified Bar Yak system for cues. I may add an accessory bar.
So, I have this Lezyne light which I mentioned a week ago or so here. It is plenty bright at the middle setting which yields 9-ish hours of light. I won't need that long a run time, but I figure on starting in the dark, at least.

The tail light will just be an ordinary Bontrager cheapo unit. Battery operated. Old school. Out on the gravel it should show up just fine. Again, I doubt that I will be in the dark all that long on this run. Hopefully I also will get done before sundown.

So, that's basically it. It's all set up and all I have to do is to get the map tweaked out to actually be 100 miles. Right now it is a little short. The route will be mostly single speed friendly and I have towns to go get things out there. It won't be the most scenic route, or the toughest, but it will be a gravel century. Hopefully I can get this knocked out yet this month. That's the plan. Then if I am successful I will look at the next century plan, a reprise of the Fat Bike Century.

Monday, October 23, 2017

It's Okay To Fail

The team meets after the last game of the season which they lost by less than a touchdown.
I have been trying and trying to get things together to do another century length bicycle ride. Life, circumstances, and illness have conspired against me and I've lost a good month plus to various things which have kept me from my goal. There have even been a few mechanical and technical issues to overcome as well. Some could say that my Fall has been one great big bite of "fail" and it doesn't taste very good.

One of the bigger disappointments was an event I wanted to do. I was signed up for the Spotted Horse, but I got sick, had a vacation come up, which was a bit unexpected, which I didn't know about until mid-August. I had to make the difficult decision to not join in on all the reindeer games that weekend of the Spotted Horse due to those things. In fact, I've been off gravel and only recently really started doing any significant riding beyond my commutes to and from work. I thought by now I would have had an easy 5 century dstance rides for the year, maybe six, but I still am stuck at three.

You know, it would be real easy to get all down about all that. Failing doesn't feel very good. It can eat at your mind and bring you down. However; I try not to dwell on it and there have been a lot of good, albeit non-cycling related, things happening in my life of late. Cycling is important, for sure, but it isn't everything in life. Not when you have a wife and two children. Or, at least cycling shouldn't take preeminence over those things. 

The Pofahl with some proper gravel tires and different I-9 wheels.
One of the things I've been enjoying is watching my son and his football team this Fall. They are freshman and still have a lot to learn about the game and each other. Still, their character and actions on the field of play have been inspiring to me.

They haven't won a lot of games. In fact, they lost more than they won. However; the way they failed was what I was intrigued by. Yes, they made mistakes. Costly ones, but......and this is key....they never gave up or backed down. I watched two games of theirs, both lost by less than a touchdown, that came down to the final seconds of the game, and they never lost heart. They kept pushing. They did not let the loss affect their resolve to come back again the following week and give it their all again.

Football isn't everything in their world, and it shouldn't be, but obviously these young men find importance in doing their best at it. I guess I could use a bit of that motivation in terms of my cycling goals. I have a tendency to get too far down the rabbit hole of comparison and too many times I let my emotions take over and I get down about things. The lack of daylight doesn't help matters either. But again, cycling isn't the be all, end all for me.

The key is finding balance and to keep a positive outlook on my cycling. Oh, I am turning the corner now on a lot of things, but my son's team experiences really resonated with me after watching their last game that they played Saturday. It made me take stock and realize that this ain't over yet. So, I am forging ahead, and my plans for the Single Speed Century, however long delayed, are still on.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Fall Views: B&W

I am coming to point where the black and white imagery is starting to make more sense to me again. The greens and colors from flowers has faded and Fall isn't really popping like it has in the past. So, I decided to shoot a few shots in black and white on my "Dirt Home From Work" ride the other day.

I've been riding the Singular Buzzard hard tail of late. It is a bike that was arguably a little ahead of its time. A slack head angle, short-ish rear end, and a long travel fork. I think it was really meant to have a 120mm travel fork on it but I run a 140mm travel MRP fork on it which really makes the bike a bruiser. It isn't light, by any stretch, and it feels nearly indestructible with that burly steel frame.

The wheels are a bit unusual as well. Velocity USA Duallys with On One tires set up tubeless and they look positively beastly on those rims. This bike is not going to get mistaken for an XC rig anywhere. That's for sure! That said, there are a few things, due to its forerunning status, that were missed in the design that are ubiquitous on other bikes of this ilk these days. Things like a port for an internally routed dropper post, through axle rear drop outs, and Boost spacing.

But one can live, and certainly ride just as well, without those finer details. The Buzzard is a fun, capable, and good looking bike. It's my only geared mountain bike these days, and by the way, it is 2X 10! Not the usual 1X fare here. Well, anyway, here are some views in black and white from my last week's riding of the Buzzard.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Minus Ten Review - 42

A head set race to clearance the fork crown for early 29"ers from Chris King.
Ten years ago this week I was talking about 1 1/8th head set stuff. That's funny now because, well, hardly anything uses an 1 1/8th headset. Things have really changed in ten years time with bikes.

Now, don't get me wrong, 1 1/8th headsets are not gone. Many bikes still use them. However; any serious mountain bike has eschewed the former standard for something that has a tapered steer tube and some form of mixed bearing size set up. The straight steer tube thing in mountain bikes was the standard for years. Ever since Gary Fisher pushed the "Evolution" sized steer tube and the industry followed up with a move from 1" steer tubes to 1 1/8th, and not the 1 1/4" Gary wanted back then. But still, things were all pretty much a standard cup pressed into a tube with bearings usually spinning on angular contact surfaces. Well......okay. Maybe "spinning" is taking things a bit too far. You know how much a head set bearing rotates.

So we had all these cool anodized cups we could press into frames and add a bit of color to our rigs. One of the companies that was all in to that was Chris King. Ten years ago they announced that you could mix and match colors on their headset components. I actually got a blue/orange/silver mixed Chris King 1 1/8th head set that I had in my Pofahl, if I recall correctly. But that got moved when I was trying to track down a creak in my bike and the King multi-colored headset ended up in my Mukluk dubbed the Snow Dog where it has been ever since.

I know tapered steer tube, integrated head set frames are stronger and it is a better deal for longer travel suspension bikes, fat bikes, and maybe your road racer rig, but those old cup and cone/sealed bearing 1 1/8th head sets are so simple and added a nice touch to the overall look of a bike.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Friday News And Views

The Spurcycle Multi-Pouch
High Tech Sandwich Bag:

Okay, I have a preponderance for using the "dirt bag way" when it comes to a lot of things. Take Trans Iowa, for instance, where I have used plastic shopping bags from various stores we frequent as recycled race bags for the Pre-Race Meat-Up. Or my penchant for using a sandwich bag for my cell phone and money when I go out on a ride.

I'm not here to go in to a deep psychological search for the reasons why I am the way I am, but I will say that when something comes around that purports to be better than a "dirt bag way", then I am skeptical. I was quite skeptical when Spurcycle sent over this "Multi-Pouch" dealio to me to try out. I know sandwich baggies have limitations. The lifespan of a sandwich baggie isn't long, but they are el-cheapo, so I can forgive that flaw. Where you have sandwich making going on for school children, there is a steady supply of those plastic thing-a-ma-bobs. But, some aren't very durable and leak. Some have malfunctioning zipper locks. But......they are so cheap and plentiful! 

Actually, I once got a hold of a couple of those heavy duty baggies that Skratch Labs was sending along with their product. Those were awesome when phones were smaller. Not so much now. I have had some other phone holder thingies but none of them were exactly what I wanted. For one thing, in my humble opinion, a cell phone is to be buried as deeply into your kit as possible, not prominently displayed on your handlebars. Better to leave it behind, in my opinion. But that's me being all dirt-bag-ish.

Well, that said, the Multi-Pouch is pretty cool, if a bit on the spendy side for a high-tech sandwich baggie. Check out the review I did on it on RidingGravel.com here

Gentrified Fat Bikers rejoice.. Behold! The $345.00 boot from 45NRTH
 45NRTH Collaboration With Red Wing Yields Expensive Boot:

Wolvhammers are one thing, but make the outsole out of leather sourced from Red Wing and add a gauche white sole and you have the latest money-separating-from-wallet item for fat bikers this season.

The style statement from the 45-ers up nort will cost you $345.00 big ones. That's a lot of cabbage to look fashionable. But.......at least you can clip in to your Spuds! 

Look, I'm not a big believer in clipping in for Winter rides in real snow and ice. Flats work well, remove the possibility of a "heat sink" effect on your feet, especially if you use nylon composite pedals, and you can get a foot down and get going a lot easier with flats. But that's me. It just makes a lot more sense to my mind to use flats and in my experience, it has proven out. But you could use this fashion statement on flats too, couldn't you?

Yes, you could, but if that's how you are going to roll in Winter, you could arguably buy two pair of boots for the price of these, keep your feet as warm if not warmer, and look mahvelous dahling! 

Meh! Fahgeddaboudit. It's probably just the "dirt bagger" which is coming out in me here.

A Note On The Rookie Registration:

One thing I forgot to mention in yesterday's Trans Iowa v14 update on Registration. I wanted to say that since the outcome of the Rookie registration will certainly be a lottery drawing, I am not posting names of Rookies on the Roster page. 

I will provide a page where Rookie names will be listed so you know if the card sent made it and who is in the running for the 50 available spots.It will also keep tabs on the number of Rookies in the running.

So, stay tuned for the updates and look for the link to the Lottery Page on the Trans Iowa v14 site.  

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Trans Iowa v14: Registration Update

New and improved now with date and place!
Okay, the second phase of registration is over! The first was for past Winners and people who had done more than six Trans Iowas, dubbed "Plus Six". Then it was those who had finished a Trans Iowa or were a veteran rider of the event who got a crack at it. Both folks in each group had to be "active" Trans Iowa riders- meaning anyone that had ridden post-T.I.v8. Anyone having ridden in an older TI and never past V8 would have to reapply as a Rookie, winner, finisher, or veteran.

So, here's how things shook out. The Winners/Plus Six group left six spots on the table. Those got kicked down to the Vets/Finishers group who then left 10 spots on the table after yesterday's registration period for that group concluded. That means we have 70 folks signed on and 50 spots left for the Rookies, whose cards should start showing up today. Rookies have until October 28th to get a card in.

We have some stellar folks signed on already and it will be fun to see who will throw their hat into the ring for the first time at a Trans Iowa. Interestingly, this may be one of the biggest Rookie classes at a Trans Iowa, if they all show up in April. But.......they won't. Historically, most drops on the roster for a Trans Iowa come from the Rookie class. Last year had the potential to smash the Rookie class record at the start of a Trans Iowa, but that didn't happen by a long shot. And that's how it has been all along.

Surely some Vets/Finishers, and Winners won't show. That's inevitable, but attrition on the roster from those groups combined never equals how many Rookies drop off in a given year. In fact, there have been Rookies that have made it through the lottery two years in a row now that still haven't shown up in April. That's kind of crazy, isn't it? Oh well........

Obviously I did not have to instigate the lottery clause for the Vets/Finishers, but that definitely will happen for the Rookies. It has for the past two years and I do not see that changing this time. Of course, this is all predicated on whether or not the cards I get are filled out correctly and legibly. Last year I threw out several cards that were either not correctly filled out or that I could not read. So, if I get 50 plus readable, correctly filled out cards from the Rookie class, there will be a lottery. But then again, maybe not, if many cards are screwed up.

By the way, the penmanship on the cards I have received is "next level" stuff, for the most part. Y'all have really raised your game out there and I am impressed! I knew you folks could do it! So, the Rookies best have their "A game" on for penmanship because the bar has been set pretty high by the Winners, Vets, and Finishers!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Dirt Home From Work: That Light

Mid afternoon light in the woods.
Fall- The shadows grow longer and the days grow colder and shorter in October. This is the time of year we get "that light". The Sun is in the right part of our sky now so that the light gets that diffused, golden hue during Sunny days. It gives everything a much more ethereal, dramatic look about it.

Maybe that is why Fall is so loved by many around here. It can be achingly beautiful at times. Yesterday was one of those days here in the Mid-West. In fact, we're supposedly going to have a string of days like that. Best to get out and enjoy this while the gettin' is good, because we're days away from freezing cold, and if we are to get snow, that is only weeks away, most likely.

I rode home without a jacket through the woods on my way home from work. It was perfect. 70°, no wind to speak of, that golden light, and a peaceful countenance was on the land. That won't be the case later as the winds of Winter are sure to get cranked up soon enough and the leaves will be chattering in the streets as they scurry by bare trees where they once thrived.

The only negative thing I can see about the day yesterday was those dratted Japanese beetles which are flying around all over. They look like lady bugs, but they are not, and they are far worse than those. But other than that, this weather is going to be some of the best we'll have until next Spring, in terms of warmth and comfortable bicycling.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Light 'Em Up: Part 2

Economy mode @ 150 Lumens
Yesterday I posted about this new Lezyne Power Drive 1100i light I bought. Well, I had a couple of obligations last night, but I did finally get out to buzz around the neighborhood and see what this light could do.

Of course, street lights and what not pollute the darkness so I sought out the nearby bicycle trail which is canopied in trees and gets pretty black at night. I toggled between a few of the settings and decided I liked one of them that I could live with for a lot of my gravel rides. I didn't know how powerful it was, because in my mind, knowing the numbers influences you to think you have to have "such-and-such" amount of light if the number is too low and you go higher because you think you should. The thing is, you can ride off of less light on a gravel road than you think.

Back in the day, I did a lot of light testing. I was using cheaper commuter type lights that were the norm unless you went in for the ultra-powerful mountain bike lights and their attendant expensive prices. I found a hack by getting a camping light meant to be worn on the head which I modded into a head light for my bicycle. It was rated at 110 Lumens and it probably was that for the first 10-15 minutes, then it gradually got dimmer. I did plenty of night time gravel with that light. I also used a Cat Eye and Blackburn commuter lights there for a while which were similarly powered battery units with similar light outputs.

Then I got a hold of some light, I cannot recall what it was, that had 150 Lumens, and it was so much better that I determined this is all will ever need. Of course, brighter and brighter lights have come out for very reasonable prices. I have gone up in power and still toggle back to medium settings on most lights for gravel travel.

650 Lumens here, but I don't need that much light.
I tried the higher settings but I knew I didn't need that much. I ended up settling on the third from the brightest, (This was still not counting the "Overdrive" mode, which I never did try), and I rode through some alleyways to check out if that middle setting picked up the terrain clues which I need to find the "good line". I could, so I think the middle setting was just perfect. High speed downhills might require something different, but around here those don't last all that long and generally go straight anyway.

I also have to consider that I most often would be supplementing the handle bar light with a helmet mounted one, which would also help with speedier downhills.

So, despite my having three higher settings, including that "Overdrive mode", I don't think I'll often use those. What did I end up with? Well, 150 Lumens! Just like I did a long time ago. That setting is listed as lasting 9 hours and 30 minutes without the extra battery pack. I think I'll be pretty happy with this light, and I suspect night time riding will be fun with it. Also, I should mention that the light features a mode which you can use to toggle between the Economy mode, (the one I liked best), and the Overdrive Mode, which might be useful in certain situations where max light might be necessary or advised.

Finally, a comment about the light pattern not being "car friendly" yesterday in the comment section made me think. You know, most vehicles I see are trucks and SUV's, which have higher headlights than most cars. In fact, I noticed last night that most of those vehicles headlights are only slightly below my eye level. So, I am not concerned about "blinding" an oncoming driver with 150 Lumens of light when their low level lights are almost at eye level and are more like a 1000 Lumens in intensity. Plus, I don't live in Germany where that is forbidden. And I hope to be traveling gravel at night, so traffic is almost nil out there in the country. Maybe for urban commuters, that is a concern, but it isn't for me.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Light 'Em Up

This is what I have to punch a hole through the night, only mine is silver.
Tis the season for night riding. That means you need to have a good light. The thing is, these days is that you don't need to settle for a "good light", because there are now so many great lights. 

Case in point is this new Lezyne Power Drive 1100i that I just got the other day. This light has an 1100 Lumen output at maximum output for one hour and fifteen minutes. Now, that may not sound super impressive, but that is from a self contained unit. Compare this to a Magicshine light I have which came to me via review duties about four years ago, and the Magicshine at 1100 Lumens doesn't even come close to the same form factor or in as efficient a design as the Lezyne unit.

That Magicshine light, for its day, was really a good value, at something like $200.00, while this Lezyne light costs $179.99. Okay, so.....? Well, the Magicshine light has a separate battery pack and charging unit, plus the light head is fixed in position and cannot pivot. The Lezyne light costs more, but I have a separate battery to supplement the internal battery in the unit, it charges via a simple USB cord, and the light head is positionable. Plus, the spare battery pack can be used to charge other USB charging type devices. Or I can use the external battery to lengthen my run times on the light.

The Magicshine simply cannot compete with that. The Magicshine is still produced, by the way, and its basic feature set and limitations make it less expensive today. You can get one for a little over $100.00.

That's just one example, and the lighting color, intensity, and the heat given off are all improved as well with this newer technology. It's amazing to me because I remember the day when you had to shell out about a grand for light this intense and it came with a ballast and a water bottle sized battery. That wasn't all that long ago either. Now you can spend a little over a hundred bucks and light 'em up all night long if ya want to. It's just crazy how good lights for night riding are these days.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Trans Iowa v14: Quick Update On Registration

As registration rolls on I wanted to get an update out there as a way to explain the situation as we sit now and what could happen. 

The Vets/Finishers segment is limited to 61 entrants this year since we kicked down 6 entries from Winners/Plus Six category. As of today, there are 34 entrants in the Vets/Finishers segment. This segment's window closes on October 18th. That's three days to come up with 27 cards, which wouldn't be out of the question, which would fill this category. If I get 28 more cards, or more, there will be a lottery for the 61 spots

So, if your name is on the roster, don't get too comfy. There may be some more to this if I get 62 cards or more and someone is going to get booted and someone is going to get lucky and get in who didn't have there name on the roster for a few days.

I marked all Vet/Finisher names with a "V/F", just to help make things clear.

Questions? Hit me up in the comments.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Minus Ten Review- 41

The Lenz Lunchbox I got to ride at Interbike in 2007 thanks to Mike Curiak
Ten years ago this week on the blog I shared an image of the Lenz Lunchbox belonging to Mike Curiak that he brought for me to ride at Interbike. This was the bike with the "super-secret" tires on it that Niner Bikes mistakenly showed on the floor of Interbike that year when they were not supposed to.

In a fitting irony, the testers of the then unnamed tire decided that this design wasn't cutting it and a new design was worked out instead. Unfortunately, by the time the eleventh hour decision was made to change directions, the first design was tooled up and ready to go. This first tire was known as the "Kodiak 2.5"" tire.

The second design, deemed much better by nearly all who ever had ridden both designs, was called the "Descent 2.5"" tire. So, what about the Kodiak was it that became ironic? Well, the very company that exposed the design too early ended up buying the entire production run of the Kodiaks. Niner sold them on their long travel 29"er. They also sold them separately.

I remember asking Curiak why the first design was panned and he said something to the effect that the Kodiak was too much of a "one trick pony". It was only really an effective design in one specific condition and area where the Descent was a much more versatile tire. In the end, the Kodiak and the Descent were too far ahead of their time. Only now, ten years down the road, are we finally seeing a push to make big, tough, voluminous 29"er tires for trail riding on long travel 29"ers.

The Trek Slash 9.7 29"er. See any similarities to the Lenz?
That Lenz bike was also ten years ahead of its time. Of course, we now have better wheels, tires, and forks to make the idea work. The "geometry du jour" is different, yes, but this Trek Slash owes a lot of its DNA to the groundbreaking work of Devin Lenz and Mike Curiak. Lenz and Curiak were doing stuff in '07 that many in the industry were saying was impossible to do. Yet there they were, largely ignored, and yet making a fully capable, high performing platform which was doing the job with big wheels that others could only pull off at the time with 26" wheels.

Looking back on that day I got to ride that bike, I had little idea that I was riding something from the future. The tires, the deep travel, the capable geometry which, by the way, was so different from the then current thinking on geometry that it could be thought of as being from another planet. Curiak purposefully held back any specific geometry information from me until well after I had ridden the bike, because he knew that had I known the numbers up front it would have colored my impressions of the bike. He was right, because those geo numbers, which would be considered tame by today's standards, were so outside of the box, circa 2007, that I would have laughed at him had I known what they were ahead of time.

It is no small feat then, and in no way hyperbole to say that the Lenz Lunchbox was a game changer. Devin Lenz went on to make a 7" travel bike dubbed the "PBJ" and it further pushed the boundaries of 29"ers. Now everyone is being taken aback by all this big wheeled intrusion into DH and enduro territory, but the mold was cast ten years ago, and I got to ride the prototype.

Thanks Mr. Lenz and Mr. Curiak! I never would have believed it then, but you two helped usher in an era of big wheelers that is nothing short of amazing.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Friday News And Views

T.I.v14 Registration Update:

The first phase of registration for the 14th Trans Iowa was completed Wednesday. There were six spots available which were not claimed, so I am pushing those down to the Vets & Finishers classes which now will have 61 slots available to fill before I would require a lottery. Last year I didn't have to do that. Maybe I won't have to do that this year. Hard to say. But if the Vets and Finishers don't add up to more than 60, there will be open spots getting kicked down to the Rookies. I'll know more on October 18th when the Finishers and Vets window for registration closes.

So.......yeah! Did you see that Dan Hughes, (T.I.v13 winner), Greg Gleason, (T.I.v10 overall winner, T.I.v 12 co-winner), Walter Zitz, (T.I.v12 co-winner), and Eric Brunt (T.I.v8 overall winner), are on the roster? Plus Mark Johnson is signed on in the SS/Fixed category, as always, and is a threat to win the overall as well as the SS/Fixed category. Sarah Cooper is signed on, but she will not be racing for the Open Womens category, as she is going to give it a go on a tandem with veteran/finisher/super-volunteer Steve Fuller.

Interesting field so far in terms of the competitive, pointy end of the T.I. field. It will be cool to find out who amongst the finishers and Vets comes back, and ultimately who will be the new gun coming out of the Rookie class.There is always someone or two that ends up pushing the front of the race every year.

"Ultra-premium" tire levers "optimized for carbon fiber rims"? How did we do tire removal without these?
Spendy Levers:

Silca is now a US owned and operated company and when they came out of the gates with that track pump for $400- plus dollars, I figured it was just a stunt to get attention and then they would go back to being reasonable. But ohhhhh nooooo! I was very wrong about this. In fact, everything Silca has proffered since then has made me shake my head in disgust and disbelief. The latest is a pair of $18.00 tire levers.

Eight. Teen. Dollars!

The marketing blather may as well not exist after I saw the price. Look....... I've been a mechanic in a bike shop setting for nearly 20 years. Tire levers are not an issue for carbon fiber rims unless you are using metal ones or are hamfisted. I've been working on taking tires off and installing them on carbon rims for well over a decade. Any ol' lever will do the job, (again, as long as it is not metal), and my current favorite is the Pedros levers. Did you know that you can buy three sets of Pedros tire levers for the price of a pair of Silca ones? Oh......and if you can mount a tire without levers, you should. Many times you can.

Question: When will the Wallmart family buy Silca like they did Rapha? These two brands were made for each other.Those Walton boys oughta look in to that. Otherwise I don't see the point here. That sort of money for tire levers is just goofy.

But they will probably sell out by the caseload. Meh!

Ignore that "Clement" branding. It's "Donnelly" now.
 Big Gravel Tire:

So, many gravel tires that exist are in the 35mm-45mm size range and for good reason. Most "gravel/all road" bikes won't fit anything bigger than that. At least in 700c sizes. Cyclo Cross bikes? Fahgeddaboudit. 

However; now there are a few rigs sporting capacity for up to 2" wide 700c rubber. And let's not forget that many Fargos and the like are used for gravel travel and those bikes might benefit from a bigger tire which is a gravel specialist. 

So, there are not many tires that fit the bill for fast, voluminous casings, and that have a modicum of traction for the hard packed dirt sections. The MSO tread design does have what many riders like, and about a year ago, Donnelly Cycling introduced the 700 X 50mm MSO with a tubeless ready casing. Then it was still Clement, and the tires I have to test are branded as such. That said, going forward they will have Donnelly branding, but they will be the same tire. I don't have a bike with a "gravel specific" geometry that fits these so they will likely go on the Fargo Gen I bike with a tubeless set up.

I hope to get that done this weekend but I also will be testing a different sealant combination so I may not have everything in hand until next week. Hint: It will be a competitor to Stan's Race Day sealant.

Okay, more soon..... Have a great weekend!


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Getting Back On It

The Fall colors haven't quite come in yet.
Wednesday and I was feeling better, so I went for another ride. Over the weekend I was too busy, it rained a lot, and I felt awful. I relapsed, in fact. But since then I've been on an upswing and I think I am coming out of this funk. Finally.....

Anyway, I ran out of time for, and thought better of, an attempt at doing a big gravel ride. I probably need to take some baby steps first here. It has been a good month since I have done any hour plus long rides on gravel. So, in an attempt to not over-do it, I stuck with a fat bike ride in the Green Belt.

That made sense also from the standpoint of doing some work on Marky-Mark Trail. I wanted to make sure it was still clear, number one, and then I wanted to scout out an extension. First I had to get out of the house. I know that sounds so simple to do, but for some reason, I feel like a tractor beam gets turned on whenever I want to get away from the house for a ride.

Either I cannot find some essential, wanted bit of kit or gear, or I get interrupted. Yesterday it was interruptions. Not "bad interruptions" mind you, but time stealers all the same. I had to take care of these details first before I left to ride. Sometimes it is much more frustrating than that, especially when I cannot find a wanted item.

It is nice to see water running through the Green Belt again. Still- we could use more rain!
So anyway, I got out there on the Ti Mukluk with a clip on rear fender, you know,  just in case. We have had a lot of rain of late which I know may have made a mess of things in the Green Belt, but with it having been so dry previously, I was betting on okay conditions. I was mostly right. The water crossing at the dike was a hike-a-bike. It probably will erode to become far worse, and in my opinion, it will eventually end up as deep as the section we used to cross for years. So much for moving it, but then, I could have told you it would go like this.

Things are still mostly green out there.
I went out to Marky-Mark Trail and stopped to do a bit of recon. I feel like there is a lot of potential here. The land that Marky-Mark traverses is higher ground, and to my knowledge it has never flooded. Well.....maybe it did in '08. That was the record flood year, but the point is, this land does not flood out very often, if at all. A trail would be sustainable and easier to maintain through there, as evidenced by Marky-Mark, which sees so little maintenance it isn't even funny.

I think I am going to eventually do two new sections, but for now I am only going to work in one. It won't take much, I feel, and my preliminary scouting trip revealed a nice flow and some good area to punch it through on. Some deer trail will be utilized, but the underbrush is very similar to what I remember dealing with in 1997, so I know what needs to be done here to establish this new section. It will mean that I will have to dedicate much of my late season and early next season riding to "burning it in", but once that gets done, I think it will stick.

The fat bike felt odd yesterday since I was trying out my new Keen boots which I hope to use most of the Winter. They are insulated and waterproof, so they are built to take it, but heavier boots and thicker soles just make your bike feel different. I think it took two thirds of my ride to get comfortable with how my pedal stroke felt and to figure out my gearing. Plus I always feel more restricted with Winter stuff on, and Fall starts me down that road again.

Stay tuned for more on the Marky-Mark trail extension coming soon......