Thursday, May 31, 2018

Bugging Out

Believe it or not, but this was the ONLY checkpoint on the DK200 in 2006, their first year.
Going Down South today to hook up with my good buddy, MG, who is doing the DKXL, and heading to Emporia Kansas. And......I am not riding down there. 

Or at at least I am not planning on it. I have another job to do and it is for RidingGravel.com. In fact, my partner Ben has unleashed a suite of podcasting gizmos and machines on me so that I can be interviewing folks down there. So, look for that to get posted at some point down the road.

They are also having this gravel expo thing again, but this year it is supposed to be bigger. We'll see what I can find that is interesting. I have a camera and an iPhone, so images on the blog and Instagram will be happening all weekend.

I'll probably also have a beer or two with some good friends. 

Look for a full report here next week. 

Bugging Out

Believe it or not, but this was the ONLY checkpoint on the DK200 in 2006, their first year.
Going Down South today to hook up with my good buddy, MG, who is doing the DKXL, and heading to Emporia Kansas. And......I am not riding down there. 

Or at at least I am not planning on it. I have another job to do and it is for RidingGravel.com. In fact, my partner Ben has unleashed a suite of podcasting gizmos and machines on me so that I can be interviewing folks down there. So, look for that to get posted at some point down the road.

They are also having this gravel expo thing again, but this year it is supposed to be bigger. We'll see what I can find that is interesting. I have a camera and an iPhone, so images on the blog and Instagram will be happening all weekend.

I'll probably also have a beer or two with some good friends. 

Look for a full report here next week. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Slow Start To The Year

Barns For Jason: The Memorial Day Weekend Version
I've already lamented enough about how this year hasn't gone well for me in terms of cycling. I had envisioned multiple century rides by now, but I think I haven't cracked 75 in one sitting yet. Just not a good way to enter into the halfway point of the year for me.

Usually I get the chance to roll into the Summer with some modicum of fitness under my belt, but not this time. The Summer is here, and it came fast. Just a little over a month and a half ago we had a snowstorm. Think about that. It went from too chilly and wet to decent for about maybe two weeks, then it was full on Summer. I am not in Summer mode, and last weekend showed me that.

So, I take out this carbon fiber wonder-bike I have to test for RidingGravel.com, which made the ride easier because it is a very light bike. But even with that advantage, I could tell, that heat wasn't going over well with me. I did get my objective accomplished, so there was that, but I didn't go far. Part of that was because I forgot my mini-pump and I was running tubes. Dang it! I know better, but with a new bike and my usual MO of having every bike set up ready  to ride, well, forgetting the pump was a higher percentage chance than usual. Yeah.......and this bike has 36mm tires. Pinch flatting would be a lot easier to do. So........I cut the ride short, just to be safe. It turned out to be the right decision.

One horsepower. I could use a little of that.
 When I got back home I could feel the effects of the heat. I just am not acclimated to dealing with it yet for longer rides. It takes a little getting used to every year, since we have such extremes in temperature here. This realization that I wan't quite tuned up for Summer has driven a decision I came to terms with over the weekend.

I won't be taking a bicycle to Kansas this year. Nope, not gonna do it.

Why? Because it is supposed to be "typical DK200" weather down there while I am visiting. Hot, dry, and windy. No sense in me getting into a bind on my own ride if I am not ready to tackle a 75-100 miler in those conditions. I hate it, and it sucks, but it is the smart decision. Besides, I think I may be more valuable to others if I am hanging out in Emporia versus being out all alone in the middle of nowhere. Been there, done that, so I am good.

I'll have to focus on more consistent riding when I get back from Kansas. I really do not have anything going on for about three weeks, so I'll try to get into some sort of decent shape by late June. Then we'll see about maybe turning this dismal year of cycling for me around.



Slow Start To The Year

Barns For Jason: The Memorial Day Weekend Version
I've already lamented enough about how this year hasn't gone well for me in terms of cycling. I had envisioned multiple century rides by now, but I think I haven't cracked 75 in one sitting yet. Just not a good way to enter into the halfway point of the year for me.

Usually I get the chance to roll into the Summer with some modicum of fitness under my belt, but not this time. The Summer is here, and it came fast. Just a little over a month and a half ago we had a snowstorm. Think about that. It went from too chilly and wet to decent for about maybe two weeks, then it was full on Summer. I am not in Summer mode, and last weekend showed me that.

So, I take out this carbon fiber wonder-bike I have to test for RidingGravel.com, which made the ride easier because it is a very light bike. But even with that advantage, I could tell, that heat wasn't going over well with me. I did get my objective accomplished, so there was that, but I didn't go far. Part of that was because I forgot my mini-pump and I was running tubes. Dang it! I know better, but with a new bike and my usual MO of having every bike set up ready  to ride, well, forgetting the pump was a higher percentage chance than usual. Yeah.......and this bike has 36mm tires. Pinch flatting would be a lot easier to do. So........I cut the ride short, just to be safe. It turned out to be the right decision.

One horsepower. I could use a little of that.
 When I got back home I could feel the effects of the heat. I just am not acclimated to dealing with it yet for longer rides. It takes a little getting used to every year, since we have such extremes in temperature here. This realization that I wan't quite tuned up for Summer has driven a decision I came to terms with over the weekend.

I won't be taking a bicycle to Kansas this year. Nope, not gonna do it.

Why? Because it is supposed to be "typical DK200" weather down there while I am visiting. Hot, dry, and windy. No sense in me getting into a bind on my own ride if I am not ready to tackle a 75-100 miler in those conditions. I hate it, and it sucks, but it is the smart decision. Besides, I think I may be more valuable to others if I am hanging out in Emporia versus being out all alone in the middle of nowhere. Been there, done that, so I am good.

I'll have to focus on more consistent riding when I get back from Kansas. I really do not have anything going on for about three weeks, so I'll try to get into some sort of decent shape by late June. Then we'll see about maybe turning this dismal year of cycling for me around.



Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Messing With The Numbers

I finally got the Trans Iowa History site updated with the final stats and the story on Trans Iowa v14. There was one thing I was curious about as I tallied up the final roster numbers for all Trans Iowas.

That was that over the fourteen years of the event, only 530 unique individuals ever toed the line for a Trans Iowa race.

That isn't many people in 14 years time.

You can break things down further, as in how many unique individuals ever finished, (150), and more, but the 530 people in 14 years is kind of interesting to me. First off, it is obvious that a lot of people came back over and over again. Many have done Trans Iowa ten times, nine times, eight times, and on and on. What does that mean? How do you interpret that number?

It isn't easy. For one thing, I weighted getting into a Trans Iowa towards those who had already done one. There were a few good reasons, in my mind, for why I allowed that to happen. The major reason being was that once you had done Trans Iowa, and wanted to come back, I knew that you understood the event. You "got it". What Trans Iowa was all about was well understood and accepted. Having a LOT of these folks in the field meant that the Rookies in the field had someone to look at, be guided by, and would have the benefit of leaning on during the event. In my mind, it would be easier to have it this way than to have a field full of greenhorns who maybe didn't understand what they had gotten into.

Then there is the fact, yes fact, that not that many folks are interested in a triple century-plus event done "the hard way". No amenities, no prizes, no aid stations, no "real finish line", and certainly no awards ceremonies or the like. Usually folks are attracted to getting their props, getting treated like "a rock star", or whatever. Trans Iowa was decidedly NOT going to be that way. I never had a distinct finish line, awards for top finishers, (most of the time), or awards ceremonies for a reason. I think that stuff is bogus. That's my personal take on it. To my mind, the reward to the rider and all the value in Trans Iowa was the rider's experience during the ride. So because of how I am concerning that, most people would never want to do an event like Trans Iowa. I think that also figures into this.

Of course, the roster limitation was a big factor as well. 120 was the max, but before V9 it was 75, and the earliest ones 70 and 50. The exception being V3 when we let 128 sign in and 64 showed up to ride. Which is another point to ponder- we let a lot of folks in that year- all that wanted- and half dropped out or just didn't bother to show up. It just goes to show you that when the responsibility is all on the rider to get 'er done, that is a big ask, apparently.

So 530 individuals in 14 years isn't that hard to understand when you consider all of that. Others have said that I "held to my guns" when it came to keeping TI the way it was, and that's the other thing I think that turned off a lot of people in the end. That's okay. Lot's of other events that cater to their peccadilloes to chose from out there, and that's fine. Obviously there is a greater need for that than an event like TI.

So, again, I didn't ever think a lot of people would ever get into something like a Trans Iowa, but the fact is, some foks did, and they kept coming back. Maybe a bit of text from my T.I.v5 report will help make sense of it all:

 "Known to racers as “TI”, “The Trans-Iowa”, or as something that haunts their unconscious mind until they tame the beast, Trans Iowa has been something of a cult. It seems to be a passion that is hard to explain to others unless they have been bitten by the bug that infects the soul of any who dare to toe the line at the late spring event."

The ultimate "you had to be there" event? Possibly. Only those who have done Trans Iowa can really make an attempt at answering the questions posed in this post. Maybe they could help decipher the numbers better than I.

Messing With The Numbers

I finally got the Trans Iowa History site updated with the final stats and the story on Trans Iowa v14. There was one thing I was curious about as I tallied up the final roster numbers for all Trans Iowas.

That was that over the fourteen years of the event, only 530 unique individuals ever toed the line for a Trans Iowa race.

That isn't many people in 14 years time.

You can break things down further, as in how many unique individuals ever finished, (150), and more, but the 530 people in 14 years is kind of interesting to me. First off, it is obvious that a lot of people came back over and over again. Many have done Trans Iowa ten times, nine times, eight times, and on and on. What does that mean? How do you interpret that number?

It isn't easy. For one thing, I weighted getting into a Trans Iowa towards those who had already done one. There were a few good reasons, in my mind, for why I allowed that to happen. The major reason being was that once you had done Trans Iowa, and wanted to come back, I knew that you understood the event. You "got it". What Trans Iowa was all about was well understood and accepted. Having a LOT of these folks in the field meant that the Rookies in the field had someone to look at, be guided by, and would have the benefit of leaning on during the event. In my mind, it would be easier to have it this way than to have a field full of greenhorns who maybe didn't understand what they had gotten into.

Then there is the fact, yes fact, that not that many folks are interested in a triple century-plus event done "the hard way". No amenities, no prizes, no aid stations, no "real finish line", and certainly no awards ceremonies or the like. Usually folks are attracted to getting their props, getting treated like "a rock star", or whatever. Trans Iowa was decidedly NOT going to be that way. I never had a distinct finish line, awards for top finishers, (most of the time), or awards ceremonies for a reason. I think that stuff is bogus. That's my personal take on it. To my mind, the reward to the rider and all the value in Trans Iowa was the rider's experience during the ride. So because of how I am concerning that, most people would never want to do an event like Trans Iowa. I think that also figures into this.

Of course, the roster limitation was a big factor as well. 120 was the max, but before V9 it was 75, and the earliest ones 70 and 50. The exception being V3 when we let 128 sign in and 64 showed up to ride. Which is another point to ponder- we let a lot of folks in that year- all that wanted- and half dropped out or just didn't bother to show up. It just goes to show you that when the responsibility is all on the rider to get 'er done, that is a big ask, apparently.

So 530 individuals in 14 years isn't that hard to understand when you consider all of that. Others have said that I "held to my guns" when it came to keeping TI the way it was, and that's the other thing I think that turned off a lot of people in the end. That's okay. Lot's of other events that cater to their peccadilloes to chose from out there, and that's fine. Obviously there is a greater need for that than an event like TI.

So, again, I didn't ever think a lot of people would ever get into something like a Trans Iowa, but the fact is, some foks did, and they kept coming back. Maybe a bit of text from my T.I.v5 report will help make sense of it all:

 "Known to racers as “TI”, “The Trans-Iowa”, or as something that haunts their unconscious mind until they tame the beast, Trans Iowa has been something of a cult. It seems to be a passion that is hard to explain to others unless they have been bitten by the bug that infects the soul of any who dare to toe the line at the late spring event."

The ultimate "you had to be there" event? Possibly. Only those who have done Trans Iowa can really make an attempt at answering the questions posed in this post. Maybe they could help decipher the numbers better than I.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Memorial Day

The three American flags in this image are a reminder of why it is we have what we have here.
Memorial Day. I wanted to say "Thank You" to any and all veterans of the US Military Services today with a special thought to my father in law and my own father, both who served in the Army.

May all of us take time to be quiet and thoughtful for a moment or two and think about our privileges that we have due to the sacrifices of many before us. Think about how we can more adequately share in these privileges, and be ever mindful that we should love our Brothers and Sisters as we do ourselves.

Be safe out there. Peace!

Memorial Day

The three American flags in this image are a reminder of why it is we have what we have here.
Memorial Day. I wanted to say "Thank You" to any and all veterans of the US Military Services today with a special thought to my father in law and my own father, both who served in the Army.

May all of us take time to be quiet and thoughtful for a moment or two and think about our privileges that we have due to the sacrifices of many before us. Think about how we can more adequately share in these privileges, and be ever mindful that we should love our Brothers and Sisters as we do ourselves.

Be safe out there. Peace!

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Touring Series: Dealing With The Consequences

A Guitar Ted Productions Series
 Welcome to "The Touring Series". This series is a re-posting of a story I told here on this blog in 2008. The story is about what I named the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour". This was a fully loaded, self-supported bicycle tour from just Northeast of Waterloo, Iowa starting in a little village named Dewar and the goal was to get to Sault Ste. Marie, Canada in one week's time. The plan called for us to be picked up there and taken home by car.

  As mentioned, cameras, smart phones, and the like did not exist for us in 1994, so images will be few. There are some though, and I will sprinkle those in when they are relevant. I will also sprinkle in any modern images of places we visited when applicable and when I can find images that convey the same look as 1995.

The "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour" fellowship had been broken up in the last entry. Now the two remaining tourists wake up to Day Five.........

______________________________________________________________________
When Troy and I awoke in the hotel room the next morning we quietly got ready with plans to hit up the Perkins next door for breakfast and a brainstorming session on what to do for the day. There was no sign of Steve, or evidence that he had stayed at our motel. I asked Troy what he thought we should do. Should we call his girlfriend, go look for him, or what? Troy's response was quick and given with a note of finality. "He's a big boy. He can take care of himself." By the tone of Troy's voice, I could tell that further discussion would only be futile.

So, we checked out and sauntered over to Perkins. It was cool, but partly cloudy. It looked to be an excellent day for riding. Fortunately for us, we had a Wisconsin map to plan with, but Steve had the better map with the roads marked out for traffic count that we had gotten back in Sparta. I suppose he needed it more than we did.


As we sat with our breakfast, pouring over the map, I saw something that caught my eye outside the window of the restaurant out in the road. It was Steve walking his bike across the road towards us! I suppose he spotted our bikes outside. I alerted Troy, and he said, "We're going to ride him into the ground today for what he did last night, okay?" I nodded in agreement. Although I was glad to see Steve, he did put us in a bit of a pickle the night before.


Steve came in and said hello. He didn't apologize, but then again, he may not have remembered what had transpired over the previous 18 hours. He said he had stayed in a hotel across the road that cost him $80.00. Troy chuckled and told him our room cost half that. Steve waved off breakfast, so we left and prepared to mount up and leave Steven's Point.


Troy's plan was to head out of town on the East bound highway, then catch a county road northwards. The night before, Dave the Skateboarder and his friends had warned us about our previous plans to go through Tigerton to the northeast of Stevens Point. They strictly warned us to steer clear of there because of some right wing nut jobs that they claimed would sooner "mess with us" than say hello if we were found out on the roads near there.


This would send us north out of our way, but we had already had enough trouble on this trip to last us a month. We weren't looking for anymore. So we went out of town in single file headed to the county road north bound. Troy, then myself, and then a very hung over Steve not far behind. Not long after leaving the main road, we lost the hustle and bustle of the city. Now we were back in the bucolic, rural environs of Wisconsin. The night before seemed like a dream. A bad dream for Steve, I'm sure!
________________________________________________________________________

The day starting out without Steve and for me, no idea of how I would be able to deal with Troy alone. I was willing to see how it would go though. Obviously, I ended up not finding that out, but things did switch around at this point, as far as my "standing", as it were, amongst the two more seasoned cyclists. 

I think it might prove to be a good point to remember here that in the beginning of this tale I was a rank amateur cyclist trying to keep up and not drag down two accomplished cyclists. At the moment we left Stevens Point, I was suddenly seen as more of an equal. Both by Troy and by Steve. Then there were the group dynamics.

In the beginning, Steve was my ying to Troy's yang. I found that there was a balance where Troy was the driving force and Steve was the the one that brought a balance of calm and relaxation to that. After Steven's Point I was the the one that had to be the counterbalance to Troy. Steve became the one that was holding us back. But in the end we shall see that this Stevens Point experience was just an outcome of what was really the thing that stopped us in the end from reaching our goals. In the end, it was all just that bad, rainy day that turned all of our fortunes.

There was still three days of riding ahead, and a lot more surprises and difficulties to overcome. Plus a long trip home. Anything could happen......

Next: Getting Buzzed

The Touring Series: Dealing With The Consequences

A Guitar Ted Productions Series
 Welcome to "The Touring Series". This series is a re-posting of a story I told here on this blog in 2008. The story is about what I named the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour". This was a fully loaded, self-supported bicycle tour from just Northeast of Waterloo, Iowa starting in a little village named Dewar and the goal was to get to Sault Ste. Marie, Canada in one week's time. The plan called for us to be picked up there and taken home by car.

  As mentioned, cameras, smart phones, and the like did not exist for us in 1994, so images will be few. There are some though, and I will sprinkle those in when they are relevant. I will also sprinkle in any modern images of places we visited when applicable and when I can find images that convey the same look as 1995.

The "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour" fellowship had been broken up in the last entry. Now the two remaining tourists wake up to Day Five.........

______________________________________________________________________
When Troy and I awoke in the hotel room the next morning we quietly got ready with plans to hit up the Perkins next door for breakfast and a brainstorming session on what to do for the day. There was no sign of Steve, or evidence that he had stayed at our motel. I asked Troy what he thought we should do. Should we call his girlfriend, go look for him, or what? Troy's response was quick and given with a note of finality. "He's a big boy. He can take care of himself." By the tone of Troy's voice, I could tell that further discussion would only be futile.

So, we checked out and sauntered over to Perkins. It was cool, but partly cloudy. It looked to be an excellent day for riding. Fortunately for us, we had a Wisconsin map to plan with, but Steve had the better map with the roads marked out for traffic count that we had gotten back in Sparta. I suppose he needed it more than we did.


As we sat with our breakfast, pouring over the map, I saw something that caught my eye outside the window of the restaurant out in the road. It was Steve walking his bike across the road towards us! I suppose he spotted our bikes outside. I alerted Troy, and he said, "We're going to ride him into the ground today for what he did last night, okay?" I nodded in agreement. Although I was glad to see Steve, he did put us in a bit of a pickle the night before.


Steve came in and said hello. He didn't apologize, but then again, he may not have remembered what had transpired over the previous 18 hours. He said he had stayed in a hotel across the road that cost him $80.00. Troy chuckled and told him our room cost half that. Steve waved off breakfast, so we left and prepared to mount up and leave Steven's Point.


Troy's plan was to head out of town on the East bound highway, then catch a county road northwards. The night before, Dave the Skateboarder and his friends had warned us about our previous plans to go through Tigerton to the northeast of Stevens Point. They strictly warned us to steer clear of there because of some right wing nut jobs that they claimed would sooner "mess with us" than say hello if we were found out on the roads near there.


This would send us north out of our way, but we had already had enough trouble on this trip to last us a month. We weren't looking for anymore. So we went out of town in single file headed to the county road north bound. Troy, then myself, and then a very hung over Steve not far behind. Not long after leaving the main road, we lost the hustle and bustle of the city. Now we were back in the bucolic, rural environs of Wisconsin. The night before seemed like a dream. A bad dream for Steve, I'm sure!
________________________________________________________________________

The day starting out without Steve and for me, no idea of how I would be able to deal with Troy alone. I was willing to see how it would go though. Obviously, I ended up not finding that out, but things did switch around at this point, as far as my "standing", as it were, amongst the two more seasoned cyclists. 

I think it might prove to be a good point to remember here that in the beginning of this tale I was a rank amateur cyclist trying to keep up and not drag down two accomplished cyclists. At the moment we left Stevens Point, I was suddenly seen as more of an equal. Both by Troy and by Steve. Then there were the group dynamics.

In the beginning, Steve was my ying to Troy's yang. I found that there was a balance where Troy was the driving force and Steve was the the one that brought a balance of calm and relaxation to that. After Steven's Point I was the the one that had to be the counterbalance to Troy. Steve became the one that was holding us back. But in the end we shall see that this Stevens Point experience was just an outcome of what was really the thing that stopped us in the end from reaching our goals. In the end, it was all just that bad, rainy day that turned all of our fortunes.

There was still three days of riding ahead, and a lot more surprises and difficulties to overcome. Plus a long trip home. Anything could happen......

Next: Getting Buzzed

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Shimano Changes A Longstanding Standard

That ubiquitous free hub spline pattern may be a thing of the past now that the new XTR is here.
Yesterday the big news in MTB circles was the release of the new XTR group by Shimano. It went to 12 speeds, a major focus on 1X, and introduced new derailleurs, cassettes, and hubs, none of which are backward compatible with anything we have now. See the particulars in this excellent Cyclingtips post HERE.

But the biggest news, to my mind, and a sea change moment in cycling, was the "Micro Spline" cassette body. This small part will radicalize cycling for years to come, just like Shimano's cassette body standard did in 1988.

When Shimano moved the free coasting mechanism from the cog set to the hub, it made every wheel set in existence in 1987 and before obsolete. Cassette technology overwhelmed the cycling industry so quickly that by 1990 free wheels were dead.

This may not happen so quickly with wheels today. Shimano has made this technology a "closed system", meaning that it would have to be licensed from Shimano for others to use it. Shimano has allowed DT Swiss to use the design for its free hub bodies though, so an aftermarket choice will exist there. This does two things- First it controls who gets to use Micro Spline, and secondly, it keeps Shimano's current free hub design relevant for the short term. Shimano doesn't necessarily want the current free hub design to be tossed aside like free wheels were in the late 80's, since it would be a huge strain on the company, not to mention the bike industry, to just dump the old for the new today.

This stuff won't hit the market till the Fall, so effectively not until next season, but I look for it change our wheels entirely within the next five to ten years. How this affects smaller, "artisan" wheel brands like Industry 9 and others will be interesting to see. But make no mistake- wheels will never be the same again. 

Shimano Changes A Longstanding Standard

That ubiquitous free hub spline pattern may be a thing of the past now that the new XTR is here.
Yesterday the big news in MTB circles was the release of the new XTR group by Shimano. It went to 12 speeds, a major focus on 1X, and introduced new derailleurs, cassettes, and hubs, none of which are backward compatible with anything we have now. See the particulars in this excellent Cyclingtips post HERE.

But the biggest news, to my mind, and a sea change moment in cycling, was the "Micro Spline" cassette body. This small part will radicalize cycling for years to come, just like Shimano's cassette body standard did in 1988.

When Shimano moved the free coasting mechanism from the cog set to the hub, it made every wheel set in existence in 1987 and before obsolete. Cassette technology overwhelmed the cycling industry so quickly that by 1990 free wheels were dead.

This may not happen so quickly with wheels today. Shimano has made this technology a "closed system", meaning that it would have to be licensed from Shimano for others to use it. Shimano has allowed DT Swiss to use the design for its free hub bodies though, so an aftermarket choice will exist there. This does two things- First it controls who gets to use Micro Spline, and secondly, it keeps Shimano's current free hub design relevant for the short term. Shimano doesn't necessarily want the current free hub design to be tossed aside like free wheels were in the late 80's, since it would be a huge strain on the company, not to mention the bike industry, to just dump the old for the new today.

This stuff won't hit the market till the Fall, so effectively not until next season, but I look for it change our wheels entirely within the next five to ten years. How this affects smaller, "artisan" wheel brands like Industry 9 and others will be interesting to see. But make no mistake- wheels will never be the same again. 

Minus Ten Review - 21

A Diamondback Overdrive hard tail I tested for Twenty Nine Inches
Ten years ago on the blog this week I was writing about three things that caught my attention now in 2018. First and foremost was a realization that I had one morning ten years ago that really rad people are into cycling.

Sure, we squabble about whether or not e-bikes are this or that, whether we need 12 speeds and 1X drivetrains with rear cogs the size of road bike front chain rings, and let's not forget the baggies vs Lycra debates.

But in the end, we all seem to be, in my estimation, pretty rad folks. I know I am blessed by all of you out there and I get excited about seeing old friends and meeting new ones anytime we cyclists gather together.

The next thing I noticed that it was ten years ago when I started taking Wednesdays off to be dedicated to my website work. That didn't pay off very well for a long time. But now it has, and I'm grateful for that. Plus I got a lot of extra family time due to this decision. But the point is, I made a decision that has significantly affected my life ever since.

Finally, on a somber note, I noted that it has been ten years since the devastating F-5 tornado in nearby Parkersburg, Iowa. It was a striking reminder to me that I was a survivor of one of these tornadoes myself, and how I could "pay back" the efforts made on my behalf by volunteering to do clean up in Parkersburg, which I did.

Minus Ten Review - 21

A Diamondback Overdrive hard tail I tested for Twenty Nine Inches
Ten years ago on the blog this week I was writing about three things that caught my attention now in 2018. First and foremost was a realization that I had one morning ten years ago that really rad people are into cycling.

Sure, we squabble about whether or not e-bikes are this or that, whether we need 12 speeds and 1X drivetrains with rear cogs the size of road bike front chain rings, and let's not forget the baggies vs Lycra debates.

But in the end, we all seem to be, in my estimation, pretty rad folks. I know I am blessed by all of you out there and I get excited about seeing old friends and meeting new ones anytime we cyclists gather together.

The next thing I noticed that it was ten years ago when I started taking Wednesdays off to be dedicated to my website work. That didn't pay off very well for a long time. But now it has, and I'm grateful for that. Plus I got a lot of extra family time due to this decision. But the point is, I made a decision that has significantly affected my life ever since.

Finally, on a somber note, I noted that it has been ten years since the devastating F-5 tornado in nearby Parkersburg, Iowa. It was a striking reminder to me that I was a survivor of one of these tornadoes myself, and how I could "pay back" the efforts made on my behalf by volunteering to do clean up in Parkersburg, which I did.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Friday News And Views

Trans Iowa v14 Video Surfaces:

The other day I received a message from my friend Ari who found the following video and posted it on his blog. It is a film concept featuring a rider in need of a "gravel fix" (Played by Nicholas McColloch) and then morphs into a music video and GoPro footage from the event itself. I've posted the YouTube link below here. 

It's a little rough in the beginning, but the event footage is telling. You get some pre-dawn riding from Grinnell, a scene of the group rolling into Hartwick which was CP#1, then some convenince store shots of Casey's in Brooklyn, Iowa and North English, Iowa. Then there is the brief appearance of a barn with a barn quilt, which is the remnants of Hinkletown, Iowa. After this you get a couple views of the chunky gravel in Johnson County, the torn up road North of Kalona, and then the fade into night. Nicholas stopped at CP#2, so there was no footage past the fall of night. 

All the while, Nicholas and his merry pranksters, including Charles Parsons and Trenton Raygor, take shots of whiskey along the way. Enjoy this unique look at a Trans Iowa!

Shimano Shows Heavy Investment Into Gravel Cycling:

Screen shot from Shimano's
I was cruising the "innergoogles" the other day and came across the new Shimano webpage all about gravel cycling. Check it out HERE.

A bit of background is in order here. First off, Shimano is a company that doesn't just "jump into stuff". They study things, do research, and test theories before announcing anything publicly. This is why a lot of people mistakenly thought Shimano was sleeping when SRAM introduced 1X. They were not sleeping, they were doing their homework. So, the "sudden appearance" of a gravel website should tell you that Shimano has been working on gravel specific components and accessories for years. In fact, if you dig into the site, you will find out that this has been in  development for two years already.

Secondly, Shimano sent over a contingent of employees from Japan to ride in the recently completed Almanzo 100. I actually saw a few of them come through Cherry Grove. Shimano also had a few of its new "Gravel Alliance" riders in the event who were supported by a Shimano course support van. (boo! Almanzo was supposedly a self-supported event at one time.) "So what?!", you say? Well, in reality, Shimano doesn't generally do this. That's why this effort to come to Almanzo was a very big deal.

You can bet that Shimano studied the riders, their gear, the needs of riders, and took in a ton of information which is going to get dissected in Japan and end up being stuff you and I can buy. They already are well on their way in terms of developing things if we are getting a "public display" (website presence, rider advocates) of their "gravel focus". Yes folks, this will be a big deal. It will also drive OEM product in the future as well. In fact, this nay be a result of OEM inquiries. Either way, gravel isn't going away, and if you thought there was a lot of product now, just wait.........

Raleigh's Tamland iE Step Over
Electric Gravel Boogaloo:

While it isn't the first e-gravel bike I've heard of, it may be the most refined version of one. Yep......electric gravel mopeds. It's coming  to a race near you, unless some wily promoters don't allow it.

Check it out on Raleigh's site HERE , but if you want the particulars, here they are. Pony up 4700 bucks and get assisted stroke that will take you to a breath taking 28mph maximum and go as far as 50-80 miles on a single charge.

Not specified- Weight. What happens when you are 20 miles out and the battery goes kaput? Maybe the gravel was fresh, causing higher resistance, or maybe you had a 20mph head wind. Well, your ride will really suck now, pedaling that heavy beast to town. Also curious: Do high profile events now have to provide charging stations at checkpoints, or do we get neutral battery support?

Seriously- I really don't care if you want an e-bike anything. But make no mistake- you are not experiencing cycling like I and many others do. Whether that is "good", "bad", or whatever is still up for debate. But what isn't up for debate is that e-cycling isn't the same as riding a human powered vehicle with two wheels. So, my take on this Raleigh is that it isn't in the spirit of cycling, or  gravel cycling in particular, where self-reliance on one's wits and athleticism is one of the tenets that I hold dear. Your mileage may vary.

MCD frame clearance with a Nano 2.1 mounted to an i23mm rim. Image courtesy of Mike Varley
 Getting Excited:

There is going to be a "new bike day" for me this year as I am acquiring a Black Mountain Cycles "Monster Cross Disc", or MCD, for short. It is a design similar to my "Orange Crush" rig, but with a bit different cut to its jib. The frame will have disc brakes instead of rim brakes, of course, and it has a much more severely sloping top tube/shorter seat tube than the original Monster Cross.

The frames are apparently quite popular. Check out the latest from Black Mountain Cycles here.  I am in for a pink one, and I am pretty excited about it too. Of course, when this frame and fork comes in, there are going to be a lot of changes in the Guitar Ted stable. Here's what I envision happening here:
  • The Twin Six Standard Rando is up for sale already. I will be transitioning the original build back onto this bike soon, but if you are interested it is on my Garage Sale Page already at a bargain price. 
  • I'm likely going to retire the Tamland. It looks as though gravel cycling is going all in on through axles and I need to swap the wheel fleet over to that direction. The frame is getting pretty beat up, so after 4 years of abuses it is time to hang it up on the wall. It is never going to get sold, as this represents a design I had an influence on, so I think I'd better keep it around. The "official" retirement ride will happen later this year. 
  • The Orange Crush will get made into a single speed. I set this bike up that way at the very first and I loved having a single speed gravel rig. The rim brake fleet of wheels will get SS'ed and be exclusively used on this bike with the possibility of one wheel set getting sold or used on a completely different bike. 
  • There may be a wheel set for sale or two.

Hey! It's Memorial Day Weekend! Stay safe and get out and ride those bicycles!

Friday News And Views

Trans Iowa v14 Video Surfaces:

The other day I received a message from my friend Ari who found the following video and posted it on his blog. It is a film concept featuring a rider in need of a "gravel fix" (Played by Nicholas McColloch) and then morphs into a music video and GoPro footage from the event itself. I've posted the YouTube link below here. 

It's a little rough in the beginning, but the event footage is telling. You get some pre-dawn riding from Grinnell, a scene of the group rolling into Hartwick which was CP#1, then some convenince store shots of Casey's in Brooklyn, Iowa and North English, Iowa. Then there is the brief appearance of a barn with a barn quilt, which is the remnants of Hinkletown, Iowa. After this you get a couple views of the chunky gravel in Johnson County, the torn up road North of Kalona, and then the fade into night. Nicholas stopped at CP#2, so there was no footage past the fall of night. 

All the while, Nicholas and his merry pranksters, including Charles Parsons and Trenton Raygor, take shots of whiskey along the way. Enjoy this unique look at a Trans Iowa!

Shimano Shows Heavy Investment Into Gravel Cycling:

Screen shot from Shimano's
I was cruising the "innergoogles" the other day and came across the new Shimano webpage all about gravel cycling. Check it out HERE.

A bit of background is in order here. First off, Shimano is a company that doesn't just "jump into stuff". They study things, do research, and test theories before announcing anything publicly. This is why a lot of people mistakenly thought Shimano was sleeping when SRAM introduced 1X. They were not sleeping, they were doing their homework. So, the "sudden appearance" of a gravel website should tell you that Shimano has been working on gravel specific components and accessories for years. In fact, if you dig into the site, you will find out that this has been in  development for two years already.

Secondly, Shimano sent over a contingent of employees from Japan to ride in the recently completed Almanzo 100. I actually saw a few of them come through Cherry Grove. Shimano also had a few of its new "Gravel Alliance" riders in the event who were supported by a Shimano course support van. (boo! Almanzo was supposedly a self-supported event at one time.) "So what?!", you say? Well, in reality, Shimano doesn't generally do this. That's why this effort to come to Almanzo was a very big deal.

You can bet that Shimano studied the riders, their gear, the needs of riders, and took in a ton of information which is going to get dissected in Japan and end up being stuff you and I can buy. They already are well on their way in terms of developing things if we are getting a "public display" (website presence, rider advocates) of their "gravel focus". Yes folks, this will be a big deal. It will also drive OEM product in the future as well. In fact, this nay be a result of OEM inquiries. Either way, gravel isn't going away, and if you thought there was a lot of product now, just wait.........

Raleigh's Tamland iE Step Over
Electric Gravel Boogaloo:

While it isn't the first e-gravel bike I've heard of, it may be the most refined version of one. Yep......electric gravel mopeds. It's coming  to a race near you, unless some wily promoters don't allow it.

Check it out on Raleigh's site HERE , but if you want the particulars, here they are. Pony up 4700 bucks and get assisted stroke that will take you to a breath taking 28mph maximum and go as far as 50-80 miles on a single charge.

Not specified- Weight. What happens when you are 20 miles out and the battery goes kaput? Maybe the gravel was fresh, causing higher resistance, or maybe you had a 20mph head wind. Well, your ride will really suck now, pedaling that heavy beast to town. Also curious: Do high profile events now have to provide charging stations at checkpoints, or do we get neutral battery support?

Seriously- I really don't care if you want an e-bike anything. But make no mistake- you are not experiencing cycling like I and many others do. Whether that is "good", "bad", or whatever is still up for debate. But what isn't up for debate is that e-cycling isn't the same as riding a human powered vehicle with two wheels. So, my take on this Raleigh is that it isn't in the spirit of cycling, or  gravel cycling in particular, where self-reliance on one's wits and athleticism is one of the tenets that I hold dear. Your mileage may vary.

MCD frame clearance with a Nano 2.1 mounted to an i23mm rim. Image courtesy of Mike Varley
 Getting Excited:

There is going to be a "new bike day" for me this year as I am acquiring a Black Mountain Cycles "Monster Cross Disc", or MCD, for short. It is a design similar to my "Orange Crush" rig, but with a bit different cut to its jib. The frame will have disc brakes instead of rim brakes, of course, and it has a much more severely sloping top tube/shorter seat tube than the original Monster Cross.

The frames are apparently quite popular. Check out the latest from Black Mountain Cycles here.  I am in for a pink one, and I am pretty excited about it too. Of course, when this frame and fork comes in, there are going to be a lot of changes in the Guitar Ted stable. Here's what I envision happening here:
  • The Twin Six Standard Rando is up for sale already. I will be transitioning the original build back onto this bike soon, but if you are interested it is on my Garage Sale Page already at a bargain price. 
  • I'm likely going to retire the Tamland. It looks as though gravel cycling is going all in on through axles and I need to swap the wheel fleet over to that direction. The frame is getting pretty beat up, so after 4 years of abuses it is time to hang it up on the wall. It is never going to get sold, as this represents a design I had an influence on, so I think I'd better keep it around. The "official" retirement ride will happen later this year. 
  • The Orange Crush will get made into a single speed. I set this bike up that way at the very first and I loved having a single speed gravel rig. The rim brake fleet of wheels will get SS'ed and be exclusively used on this bike with the possibility of one wheel set getting sold or used on a completely different bike. 
  • There may be a wheel set for sale or two.

Hey! It's Memorial Day Weekend! Stay safe and get out and ride those bicycles!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Country Views: The Greening

The Year With No Spring. It's definitely Summer out there now
Wednesday and rain........Bah! But the good news was that it was going away and by late morning we had glorious Sun and wind. Yes, we had lots of wind. Right out of the Southeast to begin with, but that would change.

I got out to the North of town. Yes......not good planning in terms of wind. Or was it? I'd get worked pretty hard, and actually, that's exactly what I needed. I have to buckle down on some fitness here because Spring is gone and Summer will be too before long. I need to be getting miles into my legs.

This poor excuse for Spring kept me off the gravel more often than not, and when it was good, well there was Trans Iowa or planning for that. Last weekend was supporting Almanzo, so zero bicycling for me that weekend. Man! Gotta get going on the riding. It's been way too long since regular miles have happened. It's not just me either. My buddy Tony said that riding the Almanzo 100 doubled his miles for the year. Yeah.....

So, North of town I went and I made some mileage East as well. The roads are like total hero gravel right now up that way. Well.......not for long though. I met the maintainer again. This time going North on Schenk Road. I don't doubt that truckloads of gravel are on the way too. These roads looked like post-Winter roads, not mid-May roads. This year has been so jacked up, it isn't funny.

Stopped to visit the Big Rock at the corner of Big Rock Road and Sage Road.
I was riding a pretty nice rig, at least, and it was light and felt fast. The Jamis Renegade Elite I am riding now is on test for RidingGravel.com and I will be doing a review of it in the next couple of months. It actually has a decent riding carbon fork. I was pretty impressed with it so far, but again- the roads were darn near better than pavement most of the route I took. I am holding out judgement till I get more typical Summertime gravel road conditions.

Barns For Jason
Crops are emerging and the landscape is going from browns and blacks to hazy greens.
Of course, going with the wind makes you feel like a super hero. I was cranking out a rhythm in the big ring and having my way with the Jamis Renegade as I flew down the road. All the while I was well aware that the piper would have to be paid at some point. Would the legs be there? Hard to say.

Barns For Jason- A small barn with two barn quilts.
Eventually I was too close to Dunkerton and decided to head back North and then West. I turned into a heavy crosswind, but it should have been a quatering tailwind. Hmm..... Wind was changing up on me. Fantastic! Oh well, nothing to do but to keep the pedals turning over.

Barns For Jason- With bonus sheep!
I ended up cranking back Southward and by this time the wind was a full on Southwesterly. It was pretty intense and I ended up doing a few intervals into it for good measure. The roads all were decent after the little bit I came across that the maintainer had disrupted. It was hillier coming back into Waterloo as well, which made for tougher pedaling. All good for the legs and lungs. Money in the bank to withdraw later.

Flowers are just starting to pop here. I didn't stop to photograph any, but next time I may do that. Stay tuned for more Country Views coming soon......

Country Views: The Greening

The Year With No Spring. It's definitely Summer out there now
Wednesday and rain........Bah! But the good news was that it was going away and by late morning we had glorious Sun and wind. Yes, we had lots of wind. Right out of the Southeast to begin with, but that would change.

I got out to the North of town. Yes......not good planning in terms of wind. Or was it? I'd get worked pretty hard, and actually, that's exactly what I needed. I have to buckle down on some fitness here because Spring is gone and Summer will be too before long. I need to be getting miles into my legs.

This poor excuse for Spring kept me off the gravel more often than not, and when it was good, well there was Trans Iowa or planning for that. Last weekend was supporting Almanzo, so zero bicycling for me that weekend. Man! Gotta get going on the riding. It's been way too long since regular miles have happened. It's not just me either. My buddy Tony said that riding the Almanzo 100 doubled his miles for the year. Yeah.....

So, North of town I went and I made some mileage East as well. The roads are like total hero gravel right now up that way. Well.......not for long though. I met the maintainer again. This time going North on Schenk Road. I don't doubt that truckloads of gravel are on the way too. These roads looked like post-Winter roads, not mid-May roads. This year has been so jacked up, it isn't funny.

Stopped to visit the Big Rock at the corner of Big Rock Road and Sage Road.
I was riding a pretty nice rig, at least, and it was light and felt fast. The Jamis Renegade Elite I am riding now is on test for RidingGravel.com and I will be doing a review of it in the next couple of months. It actually has a decent riding carbon fork. I was pretty impressed with it so far, but again- the roads were darn near better than pavement most of the route I took. I am holding out judgement till I get more typical Summertime gravel road conditions.

Barns For Jason
Crops are emerging and the landscape is going from browns and blacks to hazy greens.
Of course, going with the wind makes you feel like a super hero. I was cranking out a rhythm in the big ring and having my way with the Jamis Renegade as I flew down the road. All the while I was well aware that the piper would have to be paid at some point. Would the legs be there? Hard to say.

Barns For Jason- A small barn with two barn quilts.
Eventually I was too close to Dunkerton and decided to head back North and then West. I turned into a heavy crosswind, but it should have been a quatering tailwind. Hmm..... Wind was changing up on me. Fantastic! Oh well, nothing to do but to keep the pedals turning over.

Barns For Jason- With bonus sheep!
I ended up cranking back Southward and by this time the wind was a full on Southwesterly. It was pretty intense and I ended up doing a few intervals into it for good measure. The roads all were decent after the little bit I came across that the maintainer had disrupted. It was hillier coming back into Waterloo as well, which made for tougher pedaling. All good for the legs and lungs. Money in the bank to withdraw later.

Flowers are just starting to pop here. I didn't stop to photograph any, but next time I may do that. Stay tuned for more Country Views coming soon......

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A Piece Of Iowa History Comes Home

The coin has "Poweshiek County 125th Anniversary" and the dates 1843 and 1968 on it.
Every once in a while I get an actual "snail mail" letter from someone. They usually are even hand written. So, for any of you out there wondering- yes, people still do send letters. It's actually 100% more fun and meaningful than e-mail, and I would say a lot more intentional as well. Anyway.....

This letter comes to me Monday afternoon and has an odd weight to it. I opened it to find the coin pictured today along with a letter from a blog reader here. Basically, here's the gist of the story.....

This coin was minted as part of a 125th Anniversary of Poweshiek County, which Montezuma, Iowa is the county seat. The court house is depicted on the one side and on the other side are these words: "Good For 50c in trade redeemable at Centennial Headquarters July 20, 1968".

Now how it got into my hands is the really amazing part of the story. A reader here, we'll call him "Mr. T" for the purposes of this story, lives in Montana. He wrote to me to say that he found the coin while riding outside of Helena, Montana. He noticed the glint of something shiny mixed in with the gravel along the edge of the road, so he stopped to investigate. Here was this coin. Obviously Mr T pocketed it and decided that I might have an interest in it. So, he sent it off to me with a hand written letter. He stated he didn't know if I'd ever been to Powesiek County or Montezuma, but since I was from Iowa, I might be interested.

Ironically, as you long time readers know, I have been to Poweshiek County on numerous occasions for Trans Iowa and to ride on that county's excellent gravel roads. I've also been to Montezuma several times, mostly on Trans Iowa business or as part of the event, since it was a checkpoint for v8 and this year as a pass through town. Also noteworthy is that it has been exactly 50 years since the celebration which is commemorated by the coin. So, yes, this actually seems like it "should be". The coin has somehow found its way back to Iowa.

This might seem a little odd to share here, but the coin was found while bicycle riding, and both Mr. T and I are cyclists, so I think it's appropriate. What becomes of the coin after this point, I am not sure. We'll see what is most appropriate. I just think it is amazing this even happened. Thanks "Mr. T"!

A Piece Of Iowa History Comes Home

The coin has "Poweshiek County 125th Anniversary" and the dates 1843 and 1968 on it.
Every once in a while I get an actual "snail mail" letter from someone. They usually are even hand written. So, for any of you out there wondering- yes, people still do send letters. It's actually 100% more fun and meaningful than e-mail, and I would say a lot more intentional as well. Anyway.....

This letter comes to me Monday afternoon and has an odd weight to it. I opened it to find the coin pictured today along with a letter from a blog reader here. Basically, here's the gist of the story.....

This coin was minted as part of a 125th Anniversary of Poweshiek County, which Montezuma, Iowa is the county seat. The court house is depicted on the one side and on the other side are these words: "Good For 50c in trade redeemable at Centennial Headquarters July 20, 1968".

Now how it got into my hands is the really amazing part of the story. A reader here, we'll call him "Mr. T" for the purposes of this story, lives in Montana. He wrote to me to say that he found the coin while riding outside of Helena, Montana. He noticed the glint of something shiny mixed in with the gravel along the edge of the road, so he stopped to investigate. Here was this coin. Obviously Mr T pocketed it and decided that I might have an interest in it. So, he sent it off to me with a hand written letter. He stated he didn't know if I'd ever been to Powesiek County or Montezuma, but since I was from Iowa, I might be interested.

Ironically, as you long time readers know, I have been to Poweshiek County on numerous occasions for Trans Iowa and to ride on that county's excellent gravel roads. I've also been to Montezuma several times, mostly on Trans Iowa business or as part of the event, since it was a checkpoint for v8 and this year as a pass through town. Also noteworthy is that it has been exactly 50 years since the celebration which is commemorated by the coin. So, yes, this actually seems like it "should be". The coin has somehow found its way back to Iowa.

This might seem a little odd to share here, but the coin was found while bicycle riding, and both Mr. T and I are cyclists, so I think it's appropriate. What becomes of the coin after this point, I am not sure. We'll see what is most appropriate. I just think it is amazing this even happened. Thanks "Mr. T"!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

What Is A Level C Maintenance Road?

We LOVE to ride Level B Maintenance roads in Iowa, so what about Level C's?
Recently I have become aware of a trend I hope doesn't take root here in Iowa. This situation may exist in other forms in other states, but here we have what is termed as "Level C Maintenance" roads. They are kind of like Level B Maintenance roads, which you probably are well aware of from events like Trans Iowa. Level C was something I hadn't ever come across until 2005-2006 while doing recon for Trans Iowa v2. Since then my understanding of what these roads are has informed my stance against riding them. This post is a "PSA", if you will, to other riders to learn why you should not be riding these specific "roads".

First off, a little brief history. There were no classifications on gravel and rural dirt roads until the 1980's when the Iowa Legislature had to react to lawsuits being brought against the Counties where drivers had driven on these primitive roads and had been involved in accidents resulting in damage to property and loss of life in some cases. Certain roads were then marked as "Level B" maintenance and signs were posted at the ends of these sections of dirt and poorly maintained roads to warn drivers that to "Enter At Your Own Risk" would mean that you would be liable for your own actions. Obviously this was done to avoid liability to the State and Counties for loss of property, damages, and personal injuries and/or death resulting from driving on these roads. That's all well and good, but what about "Level C"? What is up with that classification in Iowa? Is a level C Road okay for a cyclist to ride on? What about the gates? What if there are no gates?

The warning on every Level B road is there to absolve the County from liability

Well, Level C is something more recent in Iowa road history. Here are a couple of excerpts found from the IDOT site when I searched the term, "Level C Maintenance".

"The Level C classification was added in 1991 by HF 419. This third classification was developed to provide a
means to limit access to roads that primarily serve adjacent farming operations and there has been resistance to
vacating them. This legislation included language stating that stated Level C roads may only be established by ordinance or resolution.

In addition, Area Service C classification roads shall adequately warn the public that access is limited. Access to the road shall be restricted by means of a gate or other barrier."

UPDATE: 11/6/20:  "Entering an Area Service “C” road without justification after being notified or requested to abstain from entering or to remove or vacate the road by any person lawfully allowed access shall be a trespass as defined in Iowa Code Section 716.7"

But "TRESPASS" DOES NOT MEAN : "(2) Entering upon the right-of-way of a public road or highway" -  from the Iowa Code Section 716.7

Most Level C Maintenance roads I have seen are gated, and many have a white, rectangular sign near the gate. These roads are not open to the public to drive or ride on. The gate is there to restrict access, and it is my understanding that the adjacent landowner to the road is the "local authority" when it comes to granting access to any Level C Maintenance Road. Where it gets a bit cloudy as to meaning is when it comes to Level C's being a "public road" or not. This is exacerbated when there is no evidence of a sign or gate, or if a gate is left open.  The bottom line here is don't ride on the Level C's!  

It isn't worth the risk, not only to you as a rider, but to the gravel bicycle riding community at large. Of course, if you find out who the landowner is and get permission first, then go ahead, but I'm betting most folks are not going to that level of trouble. Most folks just poach those roads and risk raising the ire of local landowners, or worse..... 

Here in Iowa we have 70,000 miles of gravel and dirt we can ride on. Don't spoil it for everyone else by riding stuff you shouldn't be on. I mean, your Level C pictures on Facebook are probably a really dumb idea, especially if a landowner gets ticked off and researches your activities. Then we all get blamed for being nere-do-wells and what then? Maybe you think I am a "Negative Nancy"? Or, maybe you are selfish and refusing to believe this is a problem. If you've read this far, you've got no excuse.

Example of a Level C Maintenance sign. Courtesy of IDOT

  I get why folks want to explore and see what is out there, but remember, these Level C's are the only way the State and County keep a possibility for a renewal of that right of way to become a road for the public again. It is also one step away from being annexed to the adjacent land owner's property, and is treated as such by those land owners. They get a bit testy sometimes if they see strangers on Level B's, (ask me how I know), and you can imagine that seeing strangers on bicycles on gated, "no trespassing" Level C's isn't going to be taken lightly by them. 

In the end, I cannot prevent any cyclist from making a bad decision, but there is no arguing that making the decision to ride a Level C is a bad idea. Yeah, you think no one will ever know...... until they do. I mean, I found out about this recently because some people were posting on Facebook that they had ridden a Level C in Butler County. So, yeah, we need to be careful out there, folks.

What Is A Level C Maintenance Road?

We LOVE to ride Level B Maintenance roads in Iowa, so what about Level C's?
Recently I have become aware of a trend I hope doesn't take root here in Iowa. This situation may exist in other forms in other states, but here we have what is termed as "Level C Maintenance" roads. They are kind of like Level B Maintenance roads, which you probably are well aware of from events like Trans Iowa. Level C was something I hadn't ever come across until 2005-2006 while doing recon for Trans Iowa v2. Since then my understanding of what these roads are has informed my stance against riding them. This post is a "PSA", if you will, to other riders to learn why you should not be riding these specific "roads".

First off, a little brief history. There were no classifications on gravel and rural dirt roads until the 1980's when the Iowa Legislature had to react to lawsuits being brought against the Counties where drivers had driven on these primitive roads and had been involved in accidents resulting in damage to property and loss of life in some cases. Certain roads were then marked as "Level B" maintenance and signs were posted at the ends of these sections of dirt and poorly maintained roads to warn drivers that to "Enter At Your Own Risk" would mean that you would be liable for your own actions. Obviously this was done to avoid liability to the State and Counties for loss of property, damages, and personal injuries and/or death resulting from driving on these roads. That's all well and good, but what about "Level C"? What is up with that classification in Iowa? Is a level C Road okay for a cyclist to ride on? What about the gates? What if there are no gates?

The warning on every Level B road is there to absolve the County from liability

Well, Level C is something more recent in Iowa road history. Here are a couple of excerpts found from the IDOT site when I searched the term, "Level C Maintenance".

"The Level C classification was added in 1991 by HF 419. This third classification was developed to provide a
means to limit access to roads that primarily serve adjacent farming operations and there has been resistance to
vacating them. This legislation included language stating that stated Level C roads may only be established by ordinance or resolution.

In addition, Area Service C classification roads shall adequately warn the public that access is limited. Access to the road shall be restricted by means of a gate or other barrier."

UPDATE: 11/6/20:  "Entering an Area Service “C” road without justification after being notified or requested to abstain from entering or to remove or vacate the road by any person lawfully allowed access shall be a trespass as defined in Iowa Code Section 716.7"

But "TRESPASS" DOES NOT MEAN : "(2) Entering upon the right-of-way of a public road or highway" -  from the Iowa Code Section 716.7

Most Level C Maintenance roads I have seen are gated, and many have a white, rectangular sign near the gate. These roads are not open to the public to drive or ride on. The gate is there to restrict access, and it is my understanding that the adjacent landowner to the road is the "local authority" when it comes to granting access to any Level C Maintenance Road. Where it gets a bit cloudy as to meaning is when it comes to Level C's being a "public road" or not. This is exacerbated when there is no evidence of a sign or gate, or if a gate is left open.  The bottom line here is don't ride on the Level C's!  

It isn't worth the risk, not only to you as a rider, but to the gravel bicycle riding community at large. Of course, if you find out who the landowner is and get permission first, then go ahead, but I'm betting most folks are not going to that level of trouble. Most folks just poach those roads and risk raising the ire of local landowners, or worse..... 

Here in Iowa we have 70,000 miles of gravel and dirt we can ride on. Don't spoil it for everyone else by riding stuff you shouldn't be on. I mean, your Level C pictures on Facebook are probably a really dumb idea, especially if a landowner gets ticked off and researches your activities. Then we all get blamed for being nere-do-wells and what then? Maybe you think I am a "Negative Nancy"? Or, maybe you are selfish and refusing to believe this is a problem. If you've read this far, you've got no excuse.

Example of a Level C Maintenance sign. Courtesy of IDOT

  I get why folks want to explore and see what is out there, but remember, these Level C's are the only way the State and County keep a possibility for a renewal of that right of way to become a road for the public again. It is also one step away from being annexed to the adjacent land owner's property, and is treated as such by those land owners. They get a bit testy sometimes if they see strangers on Level B's, (ask me how I know), and you can imagine that seeing strangers on bicycles on gated, "no trespassing" Level C's isn't going to be taken lightly by them. 

In the end, I cannot prevent any cyclist from making a bad decision, but there is no arguing that making the decision to ride a Level C is a bad idea. Yeah, you think no one will ever know...... until they do. I mean, I found out about this recently because some people were posting on Facebook that they had ridden a Level C in Butler County. So, yeah, we need to be careful out there, folks.