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 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, 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.

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!

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

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. 

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!

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 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"!

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.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Almanzo 100 2018: Cherry Grove Report

Arrival at the Cherry Grove Community Center, a former school house, was a bit early.
"Gee, you're here kinda early, aren't ya?", said the salt and pepper haired man. He was a local, and had been loading up a motor scooter on a trailer from what was once likely a thriving business 100 years ago, but was now serving as a storage shed. The village of Cherry Grove, Minnesota is not much on retail business these days. The man with the salt and pepper hair was curious as to what we were up to and I think he figured out we were with the Almanzo 100 in some capacity, so he sauntered over to have a word with my son and I. I replied to the man by saying, "Yeah, I like to be early." I said that because he was right, by the way. We were a bit early.

My son and I arrived in Cherry Grove a few minutes past 8:00am. The Almanzo 100 did not start until 9:00am. Riders probably would not begin to show up at our location until after 1:00pm, but I wanted to be there in plenty of time to help my partner Ben, who had driven down from Northern Wisconsin the day before. He had just texted me saying he was going to wait for a table to become available up in Spring Valley, the starting point of the Almanzo races. He would pick it up before he made his way on down to meet us. So, I was not really needed there that early. We'd have plenty of time to wait around, as it turned out. Meanwhile the curious local had left me and my son was off messing around somewhere behind the community center.

Don't'll miss it.
The village is one of those typical rural crossroads with a few scattered buildings. Many are unoccupied. Many are mouldering away to being untenable as useful for anything. A glaring exception to this would be the Cherry Grove Community Center, a building dating back to the late 19th Century. If there is any hope left in a rural community, it usually can be detected in the condition of its former school and/or churches. The Community Center was well taken care of, clean, and restored to its final version as a school house. Since it falls conveniently at approximately three quarters of the way around the Almanzo 100's course, it makes for a perfect checkpoint for the event. Right at that moment though, it was still just another building in the sleepy hamlet. Just as quiet as it usually was in Cherry Grove for the other 364 and a half days a year.

As the minutes ticked away to 9:00am, all I was seeing were songbirds flitting by. Robins, Red Wing Blackbirds, and various other feathered creatures warbled in the grassy yards and trees. A dog yowled a lonesome call which reverberated off into the distance. The local cemetery is across the street and boasts of the former residents of Cherry Grove's past. Hundreds of the tombstones sticking up like uneven teeth out of the green gums of the Earth. Silence is a peaceful sound in rural Southern Minnesota, only occasionally broken by the odd agricultural vehicle, car, or truck coming through on Fillmore County Road #5.

Ben Welnak, (L) sets out food and snacks while Jacob Stevenson, (R) cooks some of the 35lbs of bacon for CP#3

This would all soon change as riders would soon be filtering in from the East, crossing County Road 5, and then make their way West through Cherry Grove, right past our position. Ben eventually arrived with the table plus a pickup truck load of supplies including snacks, beer, soda pop, and 35 pounds of bacon. We then started to set things up in preparation for the riders which would be showing up after the leaders would go through. You see, the lead group never stops. 

It's kind of an odd thing. The Almanzo was at one time an unsupported event. Riders had to stop in the only "real" town on the route, Preston, and re-supply from there to finish the route which has a lot of climbing. However; in later years the Almanzo has developed into a route with aid stations. Then there are the folks trying to do the event as fast as possible.

Essential fluids: (L-R) Pickle juice, Fireball whiskey, and Jack Daniel's. Oh, yeah, and soda, beer, and water too!
I noted this during our first stint at Cherry Grove in 2016. Not long before the lead riders would steam through the village, various cars with "support" people would appear. They would strain their eyes down the road to the East, looking for any sign of their riders. Once they came through, musette bags, water bottles, or food hand-ups would be passed off and without stopping the riders would continue to hammer toward the finish. Fortunately only a small handful of riders deem the free-to-enter, no prizes given, Almanzo 100 worth winning, so the press of cars is not too overbearing. However; if much of this sort of thing spreads, it could get ugly out there. I think this is what the checkpoints of the Almanzo help prevent, but "support cars" were seen coming through all afternoon.

At about 12:50pm, the leaders blasted through Cherry Grove, not stopping, as expected. We saw about 20 go through, but a surprising thing happened. A few of those later riders actually stopped for water, bananas, and a couple quick snacks. The day was turning out Sunny, hot, and we heard the gravel was pretty chunky coming into Cherry Grove. Perhaps this was putting a bit of hurt into the legs of these speedy fellows. I was positioned at the cross roads helping to wave riders through if the road was clear of vehicles. Thank you's were heard and the general attitude of gratefulness was felt from then on from all the riders I met that afternoon.

Early riders into Cherry Grove take advantage of the offerings on hand. Not surprisingly, the bacon was very popular.
Once re-supplied, riders rode of to the West toward the finish of the Almanzo 100.
Once the first group trickled through I was standing waiting on riders to cross the County Road 5 intersection and was having a great conversation with a young lady from Decorah named Raina (sp?) who was waiting on her husband, Luke, to appear. She was lamenting having to miss riding her local gravel since she was pregnant, but being a part of the event with her husband seemed to make up for that a bit. Then there was Mary Grove, the wife of contributor, John Ingham, himself also riding the Almanzo. It was fantastic to be able to get to know a little bit about her, and through her, John as well.

The caretaker of the Cherry Grove Community Center, Ross, (here in a salmon colored polo) with a plate of fresh asparagus.
 Along about this time the caretaker of the community center, Ross, sidled up to me and asked, "Do you like asparagus?", to which I enthusiastically replied, "Yes!". It seems that Ross was good at harvesting wild asparagus in the ditches and had gathered 30lbs of the stuff. Later I noted he was offering spears of the freshly cooked greens to riders and they were gobbling it up. I got a few spears myself, and I don't mind telling you that it was the greenest, most flavorful asparagus I've ever had.

Ross also had another ingenious idea. He appeared out of the community center with a card table and a poster board. He asked if we thought it might be okay if he sat out the table and poster board and gathered autographs of the riders. We were excited about this idea and we were also dumbfounded as to why it was we hadn't thought of doing that before. Ross ended up getting two poster boards full of autographs which he is going to proudly display inside the community center this Summer.

Business picked up from about 1:30pm all the way up to about 5:30pm at Cherry Grove
Things started hopping at this point. Jacob, Ben, and I were busy refilling coolers, setting out more snacks, and gabbing with riders. Ben spent most of the time frying bacon, which ran out about 4:00pm. 35 pounds of bacon.......gone! 

Of course, I was gabbing my fool head off with lots of new faces and many old, familiar ones. Hugs were offered and given freely. Balvindar Singh, the only person to ever finish a Trans Iowa on a fat bike, was there and we talked for a while. (Thanks for the socks, Bal!) I saw Kate Ankofski and she was beaming. She gave me an awesome hug and made it through to finish later. Of course, I met John Ingham, as mentioned, and the joy in his eyes was palpable. I saw Northfield resident, Marty Larson, who was riding strongly. Tony, my riding buddy from here, also came by for a brief chat. There were so many others, and I am sorry if I missed you, but the afternoon was so busy I did the best I could do.

Things were winding down along about 5:30pm.
It is maybe cliche', but there really is a "gravel family", and the checkpoint, aid station, or whatever you want to call it, at Cherry Grove was a "family reunion" of sorts. New connections were made, like with John, Mary, and Raina, and old ones were continued, like with Pete Jaros, Joe Meiser, (even though I only saw him for a minute!), Andrea Cohen, and Trans Iowa volunteer, Kyle Platt. It is really about the people you meet. That's the special part. Taking a small, supportive part in the Almanzo is a really gratifying experience for me. Thanks to all of you who stopped by!

But as with Trans Iowa, or any good thing, there is a time for it to end, and the Cherry Grove checkpoint was winding down to a close at about 5:30pm.

We were condensing down towards the finish, but people kept streaming in, maybe not in the droves that they were earlier, but in smaller groups of twos and threes. Even without bacon and some pickle juice we were getting heartfelt thanks for being there. It was hard to be pulling down things while this was going on, but we were running out of stuff!
A tuckered out Ben finally gets to sit down at the end of a long day.

Earlier I had my picture taken with Joel Raygor, the father of Trenton Raygor, and part of the team that puts on the Filthy Fifty and the DAMn event. Joel was telling me almost everyone calls him "Trenton's Dad" now because Trenton has a bit of exposure as the race director of these two Minnesota based events now. Well, Joel was having a good time with that, and told me to be on the lookout for Trenton, but as we were closing up shop in Cherry Grove, and things were about to go back to being sleepy and peaceful there, I was wondering what had happened. I hadn't seen Trenton, and now it sure looked like I wasn't going to either.

The last riders we helped at Cherry Grove head out to finish the Almanzo 100.
I snapped an image off and was coming around my truck, ready to hop in and leave. Ben was already packed up and was giving a rider who was not feeling good enough to finish a ride back to Spring Valley. I looked up to see a rail thin, six foot plus man coasting up to me. It was Trenton! He immediately hopped off his bike, and with his breath coming in heaves, gave me a big hug.

It was a great way to end the Almanzo 100 for me. What a day! We were so glad for the great weather and the opportunity to serve the "gravel family" there. And Ross? He was also an integral part of the experience for the riders. Not only did he hand out that amazing asparagus, but he toted water out from the community center from mid-afternoon on after we ran out. He had a ball, by the way. What a great guy!

I was tired and beat, it was a really long day. Jacob and I were the last ones to leave, fittingly, at 6:40pm. Yep, it was "kinda late" late now. We left Cherry Grove just like we found it- a quiet Southeastern Minnesota hamlet on County Road 5 in Fillmore County.

Till next year........

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Touring Series:Taking A Turn For The Worse

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.

Today I can share an actual souvenir from the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour". It is the doodle that "Dave the Skateboarder" drew the night we were at the "Mission Coffee House" with him. I tucked this away in my bags and it survived the trip home. I actually still have this somewhere in my personal archives.

This was a very unusual thing for me since I am not generally a souvenir type of guy, but being that it was a doodle, and thus artwork right up my alley, I asked Dave to let me have it and he heartily agreed to allow me to take it. So, that's why it survived the rest of the trip and up to this day. On with the story.........

 Today we rejoin the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour" in Stevens Point, Wisconsin as Troy and Mark leave to look for Steve......

Art by "Dave The Skateboarder"- I still have this somewhere.
So, we took leave of Dave The Skateboarder and went back to that corner bar to get Steve. When we arrived, we found the bar in "full court press", full of college kids and loud music. We asked about Steve at the bar, but apparently the shifts had changed while we were gone. No one seemed to recognize his description. Finally, someone came out of the back to say that they recognized our description of Steve and that they thought he had left some time ago!

Needless to say, Troy and I were in panic mode! We rushed outside to grab our bikes, wildly throwing out ideas and theories as to what had become of Steve. Just as Troy was pronouncing some unrepeatable malediction against Steve, I spied his bike across the street in front of another bar.

Relieved, we walked across the street and entered the bar. Our feelings of relief were short lived though. As I walked in, I noticed a bar with large, powerful looking men in work clothes seated around it. One of them immediately motioned me over to himself.

As I approached he asked, "You know that guy?", as he pointed with his large man-paw in the general direction of an open area by the bar. I didn't need to ask him who he was talking about. I saw him immediately, wavering like a willow in the wind. It was Steve, being very loud and giving some guy some grief about something or other. Umm.........this wasn't good, not at all!

The large man spoke to me again, "You better get him outta here......NOW!" I could easily see that the request was not an optional one. The anger was palpable. I perceived that Steve was only moments away from something ugly. Really ugly!

Troy was incensed and I decided to get him out of there to wait for Steve and I outside. I tried talking Steve out, but he would have none of it. "I'm already in a bar!", he snorted, "Why do I need to go to another one?!!" Steve was apparently proud of his ability to slight these men without their reacting. What he didn't realize was that they could turn him into a wadded up mess in a heartbeat, and they knew it. It was only their strained capacity for mercy that was saving his bacon at that moment.

The patrons and the bartender started in on Steve then, telling him to get out. This only made Steve more obstinate. Things looked to be reaching a breaking point, when I suddenly had a plan. Now I'm not one to intentionally mislead folks for my own personal gain, but this situation called for desperate measures. I blurted out to Steve, "Hey, this bar has topless waitresses! The gals are naked!"

What can I say? Sex sells!

Steve backed down immediately, seemingly interested. I took the opportunity to get him out the door as fast as I could. Once I got out the door, I gave Troy the "high sign" and he caught on and played along like a champ. We escaped! Now it was back to The Mission Coffee House to see if Dave The Skateboarder could help us. When we got there, Steve wasn't going in because it wasn't the topless bar, obviously. So we had to have Dave come out and he graciously gave us detailed directions to the area where we could find the "topless bars", (Motels and Hotels!).
The opposite side of the card above.

Now we were on our own, with a very inebriated Steve in tow. We had two or three miles on four lane streets to get there. Fortunately, the streets were quiet at this time of night. Steve was having control issues now, spontaneously swerving across two lanes of traffic without notice and miraculously not dumping it. After he narrowly missed taking us out, we put him behind us, and fretted about him the rest of the way.

Once we got out to the area where the motels were, Troy and I picked one out and rode up to it. Steve figured out what was going on now and would have nothing to do with it. He wanted to find these "topless bars" or whatever. Troy told him in no uncertain terms that he was on his own, we were going in to sleep. I tried to reason with him, but Steve mounted up and rode away. We turned our backs to him and walked into the motel, secured a room, and hauled our heavy touring rigs up the elevator to our place of rest. After some reflection on the evenings happenings, we turned in, not knowing what had become of our traveling companion.

Okay, obviously this was one of those, "you had to be there, it was so weird" deals that seem unreal, but it really went down like this. We were literally seconds from a bar fight, and I was so relieved when we got out that I was dumbfounded. I couldn't believe we made it out unscathed.  But now Troy was livid. Absolutely furious. So on one hand I had to placate a drunkard, on the other hand I had to negotiate on the fly with a man that was about to do something murderous.

Then Steve, literally weaving so hard it was unbelievable that he didn't crash, was belligerent enough to just walk away from us when we reached the motel. This was a moment I won't forget. On one hand I felt we should do anything to preserve the trio, but Troy had had enough by this point. There would be no reconciliation, no searching. On the other hand, here I was, left alone with Troy and I felt under-prepared to deal with his forcefulness and physical acumen. I was not ready for this......

Next: Dealing With The Consequences

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Minus Ten Review - 20

It is uncanny how similar 2008 weather and conditions are to today's.
Ten years ago on the blog here I was trying to get into some semblance of shape to do the Dirty Kanza 200. I was out riding a single speed and hitting the Post-Trans Iowa fatigue issues. Things weren't going well.

But what strikes me is how late planting was and how the roads are now really match up with how they were ten years ago. It's almost identical, and it seems weird.

I was sure I'd find some mention of Almanzo but you know, it was only in its second year and a pretty small event at that time. I probably was aware of it, having already started cataloging the events I could find on gravel, but Almanzo was just another grassroots ride at that time not unlike several others happening in 2008. Since it wasn't the icon that it is now, I suppose there wasn't really any reason to single that event out yet at that time.

Now it is a huge event drawing well over a thousand riders on a good weather year. It will be interesting to find out what the official count was for today's Almanzo. I do know that they only started seven individuals for the 380 mile Alexander at 5:00am on Friday morning. My bet is that the numbers for the 100 will be pretty big this year, but we will see. Stay tuned for Monday's report......

Friday, May 18, 2018

Friday News And Views

Image by Jon Duke
A Trans Iowa Soliloquy:

I was fortunate to have had the most awesome volunteers throughout my tenure as the RD of Trans Iowa. One of those people was named Craig Groseth. I met Craig at Odin's Revenge, fittingly while riding a bicycle, and we became friends. Craig lives way out in Western South Dakota, but made the trip out just to be immersed into Trans Iowa as a volunteer. Since he decided to do that, I put him into a few different situations to make his trip worthwhile.

Another great thing about Craig is that he is a pretty good writer and posts on his own blog. While I am not normally one to push anything about myself in terms of personal things, the article Craig wrote about Trans Iowa after his experience does something really well that I never was able to tell due to my perspective. Craig's take is from an outsider's view and it nails many of the things I was trying to get across about Trans Iowa. Anyway, he did a great job, and instead of having it just be sitting there in a corner of the internet, I thought I'd link it here today. Click Here.

Cherry Grove Checkpoint. My son is standing on the corner.
Almanzo 100 Weekend:

This weekend my son and I are making the short trek Northward to the tiny hamlet of Cherry Grove, Minnesota to man Checkpoint 3 of the Almanzo 100.

This will be the third year that Riding Gravel has been tabbed as the sponsor of this Checkpoint. I sure hope that we get better weather than the first two times. The first year it was chilly and very windy. Last year was simply just brutal. Cold, windy, and rain all afternoon. Yuck!

This time it looks to be a lot better. So, I expect that we will see a LOT more riders than we did the previous two years. We will be ready. I expect Ben will be bringing the same sort of set up  we've had the previous two years and that my son and I will be very busy helping out riders and yakking with all sorts of folks.

In fact, if the weather actually holds up and is decent, I'm not sure what to expect Saturday in Cherry Grove. A "nice weather" Almanzo is something I've not yet experienced. Well, whatever happens will get reported on here come Monday morning. Stay tuned........

County maintenance is happening- Here is the evidence!
Grading The Gravel:

With the big wave of corn planting done the soybean planting is now in full swing. I was out Wednesday and saw evidence of planting going on along with emerging corn plants. The greening up of the Iowa countryside is happening now and it won't be long before we're riding down halls of eight foot high corn and rows and rows of bushy soybean plants.

Another "second wave" that is happening now along side of the second wave of planting is the maintenance of gravel roads. The ag machinery pretty much wastes the gravel and pushes it off to the sides. Well, that is being redistributed across the roadways by the big grader machines.

I caught a freshly graded road in Southern Black Hawk County and eventually passed the grader coming back North on Beck Road. The gravel was deeply distributed across the roadway and all loosey-goosey. Running in the tire tracks was the way to beat the mushy gravel which tried to make my tires swap ends. I found Aker Road wasn't a whole lot better, by the way.

This will probably get us through the soybean planting phase and given no long, soaking rains, I suspect regular gravel maintenance will start up late in May. Get out there before they dump even more crushed rock!

Late Edits & Updates: 

No, your eyes do not deceive you. This is the new Lefty Ocho
Cannondale Introduces The Lefty Ocho (And Some New XC 29"er Too.....BUT THAT FORK!)

A rumor was swirling around late last year that Cannondale was going to unleash some new technology on the mtb world for 2018 and that one of those things was to be a new Lefty fork. Well, today Cannondale let the cat outta the bag and here you see it- The Lefty Ocho.

Of course, traditional media already has this fork (and the bike it comes on) and you can read the reviews as well as I can. I will only pass on a few tidbits I have gleaned from the Cannondale rep that serves the shop where I work.

First, and most amazingly to me, despite losing the triple clamp of yore, the fork's original prototypes were too stiff and the designers had to go back and design in some compliance. Secondly, and probably most importantly, the fork is now compatible with bikes using a tapered steer tube- not a proprietary steer tube as before, or limited to specially modded crown/triple clamp mods. So, Cannondale has always sold aftermarket with Leftys, but now they are pursuing this more overtly. Expect to see Leftys on all sorts of bikes in about a year. Not only has the fork been made more universal in terms of fitment, but now Cannondale can use head tube lengths appropriate to whatever bike they want to design, and not have to fit the triple crown length specifically.

Of course, you may be so weirded out and/or repulsed by the Lefty Ocho that none of this matters, but this still represents a major innovation in fork technology, and it works well. My thought is that a travel reduced version might easily be adapted to a gravel bike. Hmm........I bet we see that too. 

 New Post On Riding Gravel:

I generally don't push content here, but I am particularly proud of the effort put in by contributor John Ingham on his latest essay for the site entitled "To Cosmos and Beyond". If you decide to check it out, be forewarned- it is a long read. Get your favorite beverage ready beforehand!

Okay, this weekend could be quite a doozy. Things are happening behind the scenes which could make things real interesting! Get out and ride yer bikes folks!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Ergon ST Core Saddle Review- Part Two

The Ergon ST Core Saddle continues to get use on my Surly 1X1 fixed gear commuter and I figured it was time to give an update on how things have been going with it so far. I got this saddle in February and started riding it before the month was out so I have a solid two and a half month's worth of riding on it now. (See the first part of this review HERE)

The conditions have ranged from sub-freezing, snow, rain, and have now included temperatures as high as 80°F and lots of Sun. Basically everything you can throw at a saddle for conditions, this saddle has seen it. My commute also takes in several potentially muddy sections, LOTS of busted up pavement, curb hops, and even a grassy field.

First off, the saddle has come through remarkably well in terms of its condition. It looks as new, save for a few wrinkles in the cover where the nose of the saddle flows back to the sit bone area. I have an image below showing this. It is a minor thing and it points out something I will detail further into this article.

Secondly, I think it is pertinent to remember that the bicycle I have the ST Core saddle mounted to is a fixed gear bike. The dynamic forces on the saddle are quite different than if I had a freewheel and it is my opinion the fixed gear riding puts more stress on the saddle. Since there is no coasting, the saddle sees pedaling forces 100% of the time I ride it as well.

You can see the slight wrinkling in the saddle cover here in this image.
Saddles are intensely personal. One saddle that your friend raves about may be your worst nightmare. So, I hesitate to say that the Ergon saddle here is "bad" or "good" in this regard. I can only relay to the reader what I like and what this saddle does or doesn't do to accommodate that. Then you have to think that over and come to your own conclusions.

In my case, the ST Core is a bit too much in the back half for my rear end. I compared it to saddles I like, (WTB Pure, SST, Brooks C-17, B-17) and it gets wider sooner in its length than those other saddles do. This may be why I find it hard to sit on the back end of this saddle and why it chafes me some where you see the wrinkles above.

I was forewarned that this is a saddle that is to be used in a more upright riding position, and I cannot think of a more upright seated bike than my 1X1. So, in terms of how I am using this saddle, I think I am well within the parameters as set out to me in the beginning. Fit issues aside, this saddle does have great attributes for those whose posteriors do fit the mold of the ST Core.

The shape is pretty broad from the mid-point on back here.
First off, the Core technology works. You will think you have a half inflated tire the first time you ride an ST Core saddle because it has a lot of give built into it. This smooths out the cracks and crevices in any road so well you hardly think about unweighting the saddle and standing on the pedals. This works on sharp hits and higher vibration inducing chatter as well as rocking in tune with your pedal stroke. It all adds up to comfort that isn't obtrusive or that messes with your cadence much at all. I only noticed excessive bounciness when I out ran my fixed gear and was spinning wildly. That said, even then the ST Core absorbed a lot of that self-induced bobbing.

I think it is also noteworthy that I used this saddle almost exclusively with street clothing. I wore my usual denim jeans, Dickies, and shorts when it got warmer. In fact, I don't think I ever put a chamois to this saddle once. So, besides the minor fitting issues I had, I believe this saddle would be the bees knees for a commuter, city biker, or recreational cyclist with an upright positioned bike and a penchant for a broader saddle. The channel in the saddle wasn't noticed at all while riding, so I guess it worked. I never went numb, just for the record!

The Ergon ST Core saddle as mounted to my Surly 1X1 fixed gear commuter rig.
Conclusions: The Ergon technology used in the ST Core is impressive. It works when it is cold and when it is hot. It works in rain and in snow. After almost three months of hard use it shows hardly a wrinkle. The ride you get from this saddle is definitely smoother than it would be without it and using another saddle. You can think of it as sprung, but not bouncy. The material used to absorb vibrations seems damped to a slight degree. Well enough that bouncing out of the saddle is rare and only happens on sudden, jarring hits that would send you flying using a typical saddle.

Such a great saddle but.......sigh! That fit...... It just doesn't quite fit the ol' Guitar Ted rear undercarriage. I would love to see a pared down. sleeker, "bucket style", maybe less foam-infused version for my gravel bike. I think a performance oriented saddle of this nature would be a great idea.

However; if you have an upright seated position on your bike and you gravitate to a wider saddle profile, this may be for you. MSRP: $149.99

Note: Ergon USA  sent over the Ergon ST Core saddle at no charge for testing and I was not paid nor bribed for this review.