Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Touring Series: Time Trialing On Touring Bikes

A Guitar Ted Productions series
 Thanks for joining me again on another adventure in "The Touring Series". This tour was dubbed the "Race Against Death Tour". This tour occurred in August of 1995. The three participants, Ryan, Troy, and your's truly, left from Cedar Falls, Iowa to try and get to Winter Park, Colorado in two weeks. Here I am reproducing the tale as it was posted on the blog in 2009. I also will add new remarks and memories where appropriate at the end of each post. 

 Once again, there were no cell phones, internet, social media platforms, or digital cameras in use by we tourers in 1995. I will post images where I can, but this tour wasn't well documented in images, so there probably will be very few sprinkled throughout. A modern image will be used only where it depicts things I want to clarify, like where we were in that part of the tour via a map image, or the like.

The "Touring Series" will appear every Sunday until it ends. Look for past entries by scrolling back to a previous Sunday's post, or type in "Touring Series" in the search box to find more. 

The "Race Against Death Tour" moves out from South Sioux City, Nebraska into the countryside....

As we pulled out of the town with our food supplies reinstated, we were at a loss as to how to find the two lane blacktop that was on my maps. We finally gave up and started down a four lane interstate feeder on Troy's suggestion. It was a bit hairy, but fortunately it didn't last all that long, as we were able to get off on a two lane highway that led away westwards. It was, in fact, Highway 20, but it was a much quieter, gentler Highway 20 than we were used to.

Troy was on point, as usual. Since we had fouled up our exit from the grips of Iowa, Troy felt it necessary to have us drop the hammer and go. Fortunately we all were feeling much the same as he, so off we went at about a 20mph clip on these fully loaded machines. Troy was happy to see us both holding his wheel, and we sped across the river plain until the road started going up and to the right around a bend. We dropped a bit of speed, but Troy turned and with some stern words of encouragement, willed us to hold pace. Fortunately our turn off caused a moment of uncertainty which allowed me to catch my breath.

Our route followed HWYs 20 & 12 near the Missouri River
The afternoon had grown hot and sunny now. We were headed up into rolling hills, but we also had a favorable tail wind, so things were easier than they might have been otherwise been. We finally reached a town named Ponca, and more importantly, a convenience store, and rest!

We hit the convenience store mostly for fluids. We did our usual sit down in front of the front door, and kicked back with our purchases much to the amazement of the locals, by the looks on their faces. I remember Troy grinding his empty Gatorade bottle on the concrete driveway until he about had a hole worn through it. Odd, but it was a habit he continued to display throughout the rest of the trip.

Before we left, we started thinking about the end of the day, but spurred on by our massive effort coming into Ponca, Troy wasn't about to let us rest just yet. We stopped in Newcastle to consult the maps. It was getting on into the late afternoon, but we all thought we could at least make it through Maskell and to Obert. Once we got that far, we would stop to reassess the situation.

The effort was not much less, and the energy reserves were being depleted. I was about set to fall off my bike at Obert, but Troy saw that we had a bit more time, and he challenged us to reach further. Up the road was the goal, and its name was Wynot, Nebraska.

We were working pretty dang hard, holding above a 15mph ride average. We had made 93 miles that day, but the heat and the lack of much stopping was taking it's toll. I was a bit disappointed to find that Wynot was a bit off the road we were on. I wanted to just roll in a ditch and go to sleep right there!

What is absolutely lost in this account is that I had just about killed myself, suffered heat exhaustion the day before, yet I was able to recover to the extent that I could ride as hard as I did, and Ryan and Troy could ride as hard as they did with my extra weight on their bikes. A pannier each, if you recall.  I think back on it now and just shake my head in amazement.

The turn off onto State Highway 12 led us up into some pretty country, as I recall. Ponca was a welcomed respite. We sat there quite a while, as I recall. Troy's habit of grinding the cap off a quart bottle of empty Gatorade was something he'd started doing the year before on our tour. I always thought that was an odd habit........

Troy had a way of enticing you to push yourself harder than you thought possible. He also could get really annoyed at a perceived "lack of effort" as well. If you responded to his goading with what he could see was max effort, he would be pleased and things would go smoothly. Fortunately Ryan and I were willing pupils to his program of suffering. The year before was tense because Steve was diametrically opposed to such pursuits of pain. So, we had a more mild mannered Troy this time than we had the year before.

Next Week: Fried food, VIP's, and a moment of silence for Jerry.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Minus Ten Review - 39

I rode on a group ride down the Las Vegas Strip
Ten years ago on the blog I was recounting my trip to Interbike. This one was perhaps the pinnacle of all the trips I ever had there in terms of the impact and fun I had.

Interbike was still somewhat relevant then, so the posts we were doing about the show were making an impact and were bringing us a lot of attention at "Twenty Nine Inches". It was also a big collaborative effort with cycling blog/industry luminaries like Arleigh Greenwald and Richard Masoner, who along with Tim Grahl, I shacked up with at a rented house in Las Vegas. It was weird to be in a house that seemed to not have changed since 1972.

This was a most memorable week for a lot of reasons, but one main memory was when I met Sonya Looney. Back ten years ago, no one had heard of her. I was interested in meeting her since she was having a relationship with my old coworker, Jeff Kerkove. Our initial meeting was something pretty funny, and I don't think I've told the story here before. Maybe I have........ Heck, after 13 years of blogging, it's hard to keep track of everything. But here goes.......

I met Jeff on the show floor and after a bit I asked him about Sonya. He said she was helping in a women's clothing company's booth not far from the Ergon booth Jeff was working in. So, I went in search of this booth, which was in a section of the show floor that was deserted at the time, and found Sonya there. Now this was just after the opening of the show for that particular day. So, this would have been 9:00am or 10:00am, something like that.

Sonya was happy to meet me, but immediately she asked if I could watch over the booth so she could use the restroom. I was a bit shocked, and I said yes. But before I could get the word out of my mouth she was sprinting for the waste can in a booth next door to us and barfed in it! Then she trotted off toward the restroom, giving me an embarrassed glance as she went by. Moments passed and I was glad that no one came by to ask any questions about the wares in the booth!

Eventually Sonya came back, apologetic and embarrassed for what had happened, Apparently, she had been out with the Ergon crew the evening before and had too much to drink! Hey! It was Vegas, and you know what......I've been hungover and sick the morning after plenty of times. Who was I to judge? So we had a laugh and we got on really well.

 Jeff and Sonya went their separate ways eventually, but I am very glad I got to know her the few times I saw her at different Interbike shows. Obviously she has made quite a name for herself and is immensely popular these days. It's great to see, and I am very happy for her.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Friday News And Views

That looks righteous.The new spec and color for the Big Fat Dummy
Surly Intros New Spec Big Fat Dummy:

The Big Fat Dummy is really an awesome idea, but fat bike wheels and tires are kind of.......well...... heavy, for one thing, and limiting for another. I mean, are you going to burn up a set of fat bike tires on pavement, or a harder surface, that you could ride a BFD on, or are you just going to stay off-pavement with it?

I'm no "insider" when it comes to what Surly does, but this new spec Big Fat Dummy makes a ton more sense to me than the fat tired version did. I don't know why they decided to roll with this, but I have opinions. With 29+ tires and wheels, the Big Fat Dummy now is more adept at everything  outside of mud and snow. Even then, 29+ would get you a long ways down the trail.

I also like the color better, but marginally so. The "military green" of the original wasn't my cup of tea, and while white bikes look stunning, they are a complete pain in the you-know-what to keep looking good. Meh! Color is subjective, I get it. So I gave a subjective opinion. Still, this gets me more excted than the original spec, and that's saying something.

Not enough for me to want to replace my Big Dummy though. Sorry Surly!

Byron the "Bike Hugger" has a take on Interbike via Facebook.
Polishing The Excrement: 

You may have seen or heard that there was an Interbike show last week. The show that used to be the focal point for the North American bicycle market has now become something of a minor event which is hardly noticed these days.

I am by no means an expert on the trade show scene, but I was at a couple Interbikes in the 1990's and then every year from 2006 to 2013. I saw what I saw. I also was witness, as were all (or most of you older folks) to what the innergoogles has done to media. That has changed to something that would have been unrecognizable to a journalist 15 years ago.

Marketing has reacted and changed along with that, so now days, nothing is the same as it was in 2006. Then it was still a show that commanded attention. The only reason it held on so long to any level of importance was that the big brands stuck with Interbike until, one by one, they all started dropping out around 2008 or so. The combination of punches that instant, easy information dissemination brought, along with content marketing, have rendered Interbike irrelevant. Companies that once relied on the audience which attended in person and the audience which was waiting on media to report for them are now using other means to reach their customers. So, in that sense, Interbike is useless.

Even the original purpose of the trade show hasn't been viable for decades. That was writing up business. This is even more unreasonable to expect today in a climate of "just in time" inventory and consumer direct sales. So, all that was left for the show to promote was the "getting together of the tribe" aspect, which, again, is rendered pretty moot by social media now days. We pretty much already know everything everybody else is up to. Oh! Wait! There were seminars too. Bah! I can't think of anything more exciting than a seminar. Wow! Why didn't I go? Seminars....... gimme a break!

So, Interbike trumped up e-bikes to the hilt, and the show was full of that. But beyond a bicycle that you have to recharge, and has a motor installed on it, the fare I saw being hawked at Interbike wasn't very impressive. Yet, you will see nary a bad word about Interbike spoken by those who attended, or were invested into it. But c'mon folks! It ain't anything like it was. Not in terms of business, impact, or attention given to it. Nothing at all. You folks at Interbike know it, and so do we all out here. It's a "dead parrot".

Harvest Time:

My ride back on Wednesday showed how the farmers are just getting around to the harvest. Had it not rained an insane amount Tuesday, I've no doubt that the combines would be running 24-7 in the fields right now.

The soy beans are seemingly first up this year. I saw evidence of some fields being in mid-harvest and one completely "shaven" down to the ground. It won';t be long before the landscape looks desolate once again with the barren fields all brown with stubble.

Between now and when the fields are stripped of their bounty, the farmers will be busy wheeling components and equipment around. Big semi tractor-trailers and enormous grain wagons will be cruising the Iowa countryside again, just like every year. These folk are in a big hurry too, so if you are out riding, and if you come across the big ag equipment or trucks rolling up dust, step aside and let them go by. And for heaven's sake, ride on the right side up hills. Especially now. I'd hate to hear of anyone getting smoked by an 18 wheeler or fast moving pick'em up truck.

Okay, have a great weekend and get out and ride!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Barns For Jason: Fall 2018

In years past I had a bit of a contest with Jason Boucher of QBP/Salsa Cycles in regard to posting images of barns, which he happens to love. Barns that is.....

Anyway, Iowa vs Minnesota in terms of barns seems to be, and has been, a bit of an unfair advantage to me. Barns in Minnesota seem to be far more scarce than down here. So, stipulations as to how I could gather the images were made. I could only post pictures of barns seen while I was riding and I couldn't post the same barn twice. I have tried to stick to that since. But even then, I still wallop Jason in the barn pic numbers. So, eventually he bowed out. That said, I ended up loving doing this so much I keep posting new barns when I find them.

So, despite there being no "barn image contest" anymore, and whether or not Jason even sees these anymore, well.....none of that matters. I'm going to keep documenting barns as long as I ride gravel. Here are some from my ride yesterday......

This was about a quarter mile off my route.
And this one was practically in the road!
Sometimes they are tucked away in a wild growth of trees and underbrush.
I saw a couple unusual cinder block barns with rounded roofs.
Typical barn in my area.
The other cinder block barn I saw.
Barn quilts aren't super common in Black Hawk County. Note the apple tree and apples on the ground.
So, to illustrate how "unfair" an advantage I have over Jason, most of these barns on this post are all on the same road! Generally speaking, if I haven't been on a specific stretch of road, I can take it and pretty much be guaranteed I'll find at least a few new-to-me barns.

Hope ya'all enjoyed that!

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Single Speed Spitballin' Part 2

Conditions in March could be brutal. Rider- Mark Johnson.  Image credit Jon Duke
Okay, the idea of a race on gravel specifically for the single speed nut jobs out there seems to resonate. I got plenty of feedback from you, the readers, and from elsewhere as well. I didn't really think answering all the comments and questions in that forum would be the best, because I wanted to let the other folks out there who won't dig that deep to see what is being discussed here. So, let's dig in point by point:
  • Thoughts On Classes For The Event: Essentially, for the sake of simplicity and streamlining, I don't want to get into slicing and dicing every permutation of bicycle into their own classes. Single speed is.......single speed. It's very nature suggests simplicity. So, no distinctions between fixed or free here. Needless to say, anything geared is out of the question. (More on this below) Now, I would definitely do a Male and Female class, but beyond that, initially, I don't see age breakdowns........yet. If the thing took off, well.....maybe. If certain organizational things happen, quite possibly age groups would be instigated. Stay tuned......
  • Distance: A couple of you made reference to an "odd numbered distance" in miles. I don't understand that concept. Never heard of it. So, that's kind of lost on me. But besides my ignorance, I will say that the course will end up being whatever it will be. I would aim at 100 miles, but it could be that 97.7 miles works out and it could be that 102.5 miles is what it is. The roads used will determine the final mileage, not some predetermined, "odd number" goal. 
  • Geared Bike Use: As mentioned above, there is no room for a geared bike here. This is why I am being strict on this. First off, enforcing the "SS Only!" rule would require an inspection before and after the event of everyone bringing a hacked geared bike. I don't have time for such things. Also, it becomes a "he said-she said" accusation opportunity for those who feel slighted if they get their dander up about whether or not someone shifted, etc. I cannot referee every inch of a 100 mile course, so the easiest thing to do is to make all riders bring singled out bikes. If there are dingles, three speed hubs, locked out derailleurs, or whatever, don't bother thinking I'll allow it. I wouldn't. Singulators and other means of making bikes single speed in reality exist and are easily attainable by the average cyclist. This is a single speed event idea, and I'm not envisioning that everyone could actually make it work. I'm okay with that. If you feel strongly enough about participating, then you could get a single speed, borrow one, or convert something you have to one chainring-one cog only. Single speeding is about commitment.
  • Time Of Year? Weather Conditions: I'm not married to any particular time of the year for this event, but to my mind, here is how things stack up from an Iowa perspective- First, CIRREM is always late Feb/early March, The Gent's race is early April, the new Iowa Wind And Rock is late April, mid-May is Almanzo, and the DK200 is early June. (DK200 thrown in there due to my having to cover the All Things Gravel Expo for Personally, my daughter graduates in May as well. So, we either do a late March date, or I wait until mid-June through mid-July. I'm okay with either. Weather would be VASTLY different between those two choices. March can still be very Winter-like, wet, rainy, cold, and WINDY. June/July would be HOT, HUMID, and WINDY. Pick yer poison..... Late Summer is out of the question for me due to GTDRI and Gravel Worlds. Then Fall comes and it gets to be cyclo cross season here and that cuts into possible participation numbers too much. More discussion is always welcomed here....
  • People Are Excited: Thank you! Some pointed out they were up for anything I produced, and that means a lot to me. I appreciate your feelings there. That said- this wouldn't be a Trans Iowa. It is a 100-ish mile event, (maybe), and this is just like the title says- spitballin'. Nothing says this would happen, but I get it..... Many would be behind this idea. Enough to say that I think it is a viable idea, so thank you for showing support here. 
One Gear To Rule Them All.....
  • Team Possibility: Maybe, if this thing gets going, we will have a Team category. 100 miles might be too much, but doing 50, 33, or 25, or however I decide to divvy it up might be appealing to some. This would fit the next item on my list, which is........
  • Social Side: My vision includes having an after-party/gathering. A hundy might take you 10-12 hours, but if we start good and early, that leaves you with some time to hang afterward. One of the reasons we gather is to be around each other, so this is important to me. A town with a decent venue is being researched in the event there is an event.......or something along those lines...,
Okay, so that's a lot to digest and again- I'm still mulling this over. Give me comments, thoughts, feelings you may have about this. I plan on updating things regarding this on a weekly basis until either an event is formally announced or the thing tanks before it is born.

Stay tuned.........

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Flooded Out

That shiny stuff down below? Water that doesn't belong there!
Wow! What a Fall we've started out having here. Water everywhere. Water in places we normally ride single track. Fall usually has this "golden time" for riding which is just awesome and I look forward to it every year. It looks like this time we're going to miss out.

Compare this to last year at this time when I was riding on the creek bed. Water levels were so low I was actually worried about a drought. The ground was rock hard, cracked, and everything was dusty or loose sand otherwise.

At least we could ride!

I suppose when they do the averages for this decade it will come out as, well........average. One year way over the line, the other way under it. Add together, divide by two, equals average. It won't tell the story though.

The bottom line is that I am terrible at math (just ask my old Trans Iowa recon buddy, J-Fry) and I am complaining about something that is, for sure, a first world problem. There are a lot bigger issues out there. I just am disappointed. That's all. I have miles of gravel to ride and if I were a pavement sort of guy, miles of that as well. Good, decent stuff. Nothing to sneeze at. So there is that to get to.

That said, it does affect business at the bike shops and it disappoints more folks than just myself. We've got a single track park about 12 miles from town that has been getting hit harder by traffic since that place is one of the only non-river bed single track systems around. The effects this has had are detrimental to the trails, which are seeing some erosion and breaking down due to the heavy traffic on the trails there of late. So, this flooding has been a real bummer.

With September on the way out the door and October coming on hard, we may be able to squeeze in some late fall activity. Of course, if snow holds off and the temperatures are moderate we may get November as a month to ride as well. So all is not lost. There is hope. That said, if we get a heavy rain anytime soon it won't take much to send the rivers and creeks back out of their banks. Let's hope that the rains hold off.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Single Speed Spitballin'

So, when I quit Trans Iowa I said that I wasn't completely out of producing or dreaming up events. I knew I would still be doing the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational, and maybe a Geezer Ride, but I also left the door open for thinking up other nonsense. Gravel based nonesense, mind you.

So it was that I was over at N.Y. Roll's house dropping off a wheel set and quaffing a PBR when, suddenly, I had an idea.

"Why hasn't anyone done anything single speed specific for gravel? Why shouldn't we have an Iowa Single Speed Gravel Championship?

Ideas can be dangerous. 

N.Y. Roll got a bit excited after his initial confusion about just what the heck it was I was spouting off about, but he was excited in the end. Ideas were bounced around. Grand ideas too. Hard to say that someone of my meager assets could pull it off, but then again, single speed hooligans never need much motivation to get out there and prove that they are never in the right gear. Or right mind, some would suggest, but that's another story.

So, besides some overall crazy idea, here are some ideas we were spit ballin' to share with ya'all.
  • Single speed only can enter, duh!
  • Course for a championship needs to be 100 miles, in my opinion. No other distances offered.
  • No support.
  • Course would be maybe marked. I still don't like GPS crap. can call me a retrogrouch.
  • Might be cue sheets for nav...... 
  • Possibly a jersey up for grabs. Special. Single Speed specific and all. 
  • No classes other than Male and Female. 
  • Adult beverages might be involved.
  • Thinking late March....... That way ya got a jersey to sport all year. Plus the weather might suck. Which would be a bonus in my mind. Besides, single speeds are best when the weather is bad anyway.
  • Likely it would be in Central or North Central Iowa. 
Now, don't go planning anything just yet. This is just being put out as a feeler for reaction to this idea. Good, bad, or ugly, let me have it. I just figured there needs to be a Single Speed Championship in Iowa. Maybe that's just dumb. Who knows. You should let me know if you know that it is dumb. Then I would know. 

Otherwise this will just go into the scrap heap of ideas and never be done. That's all......... 

Sunday, September 23, 2018

The Touring Series: Over The Border

A Guitar Ted Productions series

 Thanks for joining me again on another adventure in "The Touring Series". This tour was dubbed the "Race Against Death Tour". This tour occurred in August of 1995. The three participants, Ryan, Troy, and your's truly, left from Cedar Falls, Iowa to try and get to Winter Park, Colorado in two weeks. Here I am reproducing the tale as it was posted on the blog in 2009. I also will add new remarks and memories where appropriate at the end of each post. 

 Once again, there were no cell phones, internet, social media platforms, or digital cameras in use by we tourers in 1995. I will post images where I can, but this tour wasn't well documented in images, so there probably will be very few sprinkled throughout. A modern image will be used only where it depicts things I want to clarify, like where we were in that part of the tour via a map image, or the like.

The "Touring Series" will appear every Sunday until it ends. Look for past entries by scrolling back to a previous Sunday's post, or type in "Touring Series" in the search box to find more. 

After a brutal 83 miles on Day Two, the "Race Against Death Tour" riders depart Correctionville, Iowa to cross the border.....

Wednesday, August 9th, Correctionville, Iowa: We awake to cloudy skies and warm, humid air. Getting packed up and ready to go doesn't take too long. I am informed that until I can show that I am recovered, Troy and Ryan will carry one of my front panniers each. We get settled in without much conversation and try to get back on track with the tour route.

Troy was getting a bit frustrated with the route and with the direction we were heading in, so he made a call to stop at Moville, Iowa to wash clothes and figure out some alternative route. Originally we were going to go slightly north to include Tim's hometown on the ride, but since he wasn't with us, it didn't make sense anymore. Troy suggested running straight into Sioux City on Highway 20, which was a four lane at this point with a wide paved shoulder. I wasn't too keen on it, but Ryan didn't think it would be too bad, so after the clothes were dry, we were off again on the road.

Of course, we didn't get in too much conversation on this busy, noisy road. Troy led at his usual fast pace up the long grades. This was actually a good route from the standpoint of the grade of this road versus the county roads, which would have been steeper and had more climbing.

Once we reached the outskirts of Sioux City, the intensity level went way up. Adrenaline caused about a five to ten mile an hour increase in our already fast speed. Shouts and responses were given as commands and suggestions were made in haste to avoid traffic and get us downtown where we hoped to find food. Once off the main highway, we were all breathless and needed a stop. We wandered a bit to come right by a Godfather's Pizza at about the noon hour. Troy used to work at a Godfather's and knew about the noon buffet that they had. It was cheap, we were right there, so we went in.

It was quite a sight, as we three grubby travelers were rubbing shoulders with businessmen and office girls on their lunch hours. Lots of weird sideways glances, but we took it all in stride. We figured on being a bit different, on sticking out, so it wasn't any big deal.

Upon leaving Sioux City, the intensity level shot back up for a bit. The road we took was a major highway across the Missouri. We were out of Iowa, but no time to take note of that right then. We had our hands full with getting through traffic, navigating, and trying to keep up maximum speed right after plowing through a buffet line.

We got across the river, off on a side street, and we were lost. Consulting the maps a bit, we decided we were in South Sioux City, and that we needed to resupply our grub at the next supermarket. So we opted to head up a major through way to see if we could find something. On the way, we had to stop for the passage of a rather long freight train. Troy was nonplussed. After the train went by, we got to a grocery store within a few blocks.

After resupply, I was getting mounted up and as I started rolling away, I noted a fine looking lass at the vending machines, so I impersonated Butthead, from the then popular "Beavis and Butthead Show", and spouted out, " Hey Baby! uhh....heh heh!" To which a flabbergasted Ryan responded with a burst of laughter. This started a theme for the rest of the trip: Comedic relief, which would rear it's head at the oddest of times.

It was amazing that I could wake up a day after nearly having died from heat stroke and pedal as hard as we did through Sioux City. The stop in Moville at the laundry was probably helpful in that way, but we literally were riding fully loaded touring bikes like we weren't loaded up in a desperate move to avoid becoming fodder for a 18 wheeler's crushing weight. Not to mention the various speeding cars and smaller trucks.

The escape from the Sioux City area seemed nigh unto impossible, and that train, the grocery  store stop, and unsure route finding made things worse. We finally got out of there though, and the absurdity of our situation probably accounted for my outburst when I saw the pretty young lady. I didn't mention it in the original posting, but Troy was embarrassed by my remark, despite his thinking it was funny. This would continue all throughout the rest of the tour at random times- either Ryan or myself would make some off-hand commentary or impersonation which would help us to blow off steam and made the trip a lot easier to bear.

Next: Time Trial On A Touring Bike

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Minus Ten Review - 38

Pics from ten years ago were sucked into a digital black hole, so you get a pic of an owl in a tree instead.
Ten years ago on the blog, thanks to the mismanagement of Tim Grahl mentioned in my last "Minus Ten Review", all my images are kaput. Nothing I posted image-wise survived from that time ten years ago this week. Bah! It is what it is......

However; the words did survive since they weren't on that server Mr. Grahl neglected to pay for the use of. So, let's see what I was yakking about..... Hmm.... Trans Iowa v5, of course, was a topic being discussed for sure. In my opinion, v5 was the version where Trans Iowa finally matured into its final form, if you will. There weren't any major changes, outside of moving to Grinnell, after this one. Here's a succinct description of the former event I wrote ten years ago:

"Your first set of cue sheets will guide you about the first 45 miles or so where you will stop at a check point and pick up a second set of cue sheets that will guide you on to the next checkpoint, and so on. Expect there to be about three checkpoints total. The course length will be in the 320-350 mile neighborhood. You will be required to self navigate, and self support your way on Iowa's gravel roads in a time limit of around 34 hours, give or take an hour or two. (Totals will be set at a later date) On top of that, you will have a time limit to reach each checkpoint before the checkpoint closes. If a checkpoint closes before you reach it, your event is over."

Again, my only regret about any of the above is that we didn't hold on to the cues until the moments before the race started. I really wish we'd have thought of that before the final T.I. It would have made such a big difference in the way the event went and the outcomes would have been totally different. Otherwise, this was spot on.

Another topic which came up, and is relevant to the blog today, was my announcement on September 15th, 2008, that I would be writing up my touring experiences as a series dubbed "Touring Tuesdays". I was inspired by Jason Boucher's recounting of a tour he rode which sparked memories of my own adventures. You can see re-postings every Sunday, for a while yet, concerning my second self-supported, fully loaded bicycle tour dubbed "The Race Against Death Tour". The series has been in re-post mode for a while, so you can search it by using the title, "The Touring Series" in the search box on the upper left of the header area here. I may have to make a separate page with links to all the entries at some point if there is enough interest in that.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Friday News And Views

Remember when white was a component color choice? What the heck were we thinking?! From I-bike '11
Interbike 2018 Closes: 

Well folks, "that time of year" is over. Interbike, the industry trade show, ended, and I didn't go......again.  I used to go every year for the defunct "Twenty Nine Inches" site, but I stopped going in 2014 and haven't been back since. Now when this time of year comes around I start to think of the things I liked and disliked about going to the show.

Number one on the list of dislikes has to be getting in an airplane. I get have to fly to make travel make sense, but I just dislike airplanes and everything about the process of flying. Being canned into a small space with no freedom (relatively) to move makes me think that this must be what it is like to be a dog in a kennel. That lasts for maybe 3.5 to four hours and then you have all the shuffle, hustle, and bustle of getting into and out of airports. That would have been worse, for me, this year, as Interbike went to Reno, Nevada, which would have added even more complexity and airport transfers to a flight itinerary for me.

I didn't like being away from my family either. That's never fun, and when I went to Interbike all those years it was in Las Vegas, which kind of amplified those feelings of missing my family even more. The whole "Las Vegas experience" was a negative one for me. Sorry if you live there and all, but I just wasn't into it. The only saving grace I could find was Great Buns Bakery on Flamingo. Check it out if you ever find yourself out that way.

Pluses were seeing bicycles, riding bicycles, meeting old friends, acquaintances, and meeting new folks. A few nights out were notable...... That's about all. I could do without it since the negatives were outweighing the positives, which honestly, I could get elsewhere without all the hassles of air travel. Add in that the show itself was contracting at an alarming rate and the appeal was just not there anymore.

I hear this year's show was tiny compared to ten years ago. If that is true, boy! I am really glad I didn't make the effort to go again.

 Enjoying The Sawyer:

I wrote about my Sawyer a while back, wondering if I shouldn't just get rid of the thing because I rarely ride it anymore. Then I got it out and started riding it again. I'll be danged if I didn't end up really liking it........again. 

This wasn't ever designed to be a 27.5+ wheeled bike, but this bike is so much better as a B+ rig, I cannot imagine going back to 29"er wheels on it. I have 27.5 X 2.8 WTB Trailblazers on it right now, but I was curious. Would the full 3.0 fit? Well, I found out.

At work there is a take-off set of 27.5 X 3.0 WTB Ranger tires on WTB Scraper rims from a Fargo we switched out wheels on. I rode the Sawyer in and did a little test fitting. Amazingly, even with the wide Scraper rims, the 3.0 tires cleared. Not with any appreciable mud clearances, but they cleared. If I could run the sliding drops all the way back, I'd be better, but the gates Carbon Drive belt won't allow for that. I'd likely have to commit to a 1X drivetrain to get that right, and that would make more sense anyway.

The downside is that I would have to go with the original rigid fork, or buy a brand new fork from Fox, since they do just about anything in straight steer tubed forks if you want it. Or get some other brand that isn't quite as good. The straight 1 1/8th head tube really keeps my choices limited. One cool idea I had was that I could use my idle Ti Mukluk uni-crown steel fork and get a wheel built up for that using a 27.5" hoop. I have the hub, and the fork has Three Pack bosses on it, so that would make for a cool set up with fat 27.5" rubber.

Then again, I could just get a new set of 2.8" tires and ride this as is. Cheaper and less fuss. But it is fun to consider possibilities and since this bike is so fun and has versatility, I figured I better keep it around. Not to mention its cool frame, which I have waxed poetic about here before. That said, I found a story about how Merlin, freshly sold to Dean Bicycles, is going to make the Newsboy again. That was a titanium framed 26"er cruiser bike from the 90's that was a cult classic. This new one will be a 29"er, but that's not why I was intrigued by the story.

The story told of how the cantilever stays took a week to bend and fabricate. I've said that the Sawyer's frame had to have been a money loser for Trek, because of the complexity of the Sawyer's frame tubing. The bends in two planes, and all the details in it. Well, that Merlin story confirmed this to my mind. Consider that if you want one of the eight frames Merlin is going to make you have to pony up $5,000.00. That's not with a fork either! Makes me think that the Sawyer should have been a really expensive frame. Not 5G, but in steel, it would be less. I bet it would cost 2G plus to have a person make you a copy today.

I think I'll hang onto this ol' bike.

Speaking of bikes I think I'll just hold on to......
Dreaming Of Fat Bike Rides:

I'll tell ya what..... We've had a LOT of rain in September here and it has just about killed my riding opportunities for now and the foreseeable future. Especially for off road. Gravel travel will bounce right back, but anything else is going to be tough sledding for a while.

With the prospects for a shortened Fall mtb season upon us, I am looking more and more at my fat bikes for some off road salvation. Trails will likely be a mess once things do dry out around here, so fat biking makes a lot of sense when you've got debris, muddy patches, and softer trails anyway.

I'm happy and satisfied that I have that ol' Blackborow DS sitting there in the shadows waiting to roll out when the time comes. I must say that I was a little apprehensive about getting a fat bike with only two gears. But I haven't had any issues riding it around these parts this way. So, it remains a dinglespeed. In fact, the drive train hasn't been touched besides having the occasional cleaning and lubrication done to it. Low maintenance and durable.

Anyway, it should be good to go here after a brief inspection and clean up from last Winter's abuse. While I have been really happy with this bike, it has been on my mind a time or two to sell it. I never went much beyond the occasional thinking stages though. The bike is just too good, and alternatives available just cannot measure up. Not even the new Blackborow long tail, which has been touted to me as something I should get by trusted friends. I just don't see it being better for me and my situation. Just storing a bigger fat bike, for instance, would cause me a LOT of trouble. So, yeah. I am sticking with the ol' dinglespeed, thank you very much!

That's all for this week. Have a great weekend and get out to ride if you can!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Reactions Part Two

 NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

Yesterday I gave a rant about things I observed concerning the DK200 announcement that they were aligning with Life Time for event productions and promotions. Go back and read that if ya missed it. Today I am looking beyond that into the future. Let's dive in........

Ever since I can remember, gravel cyclists have been afraid of the onset of "more rules", more "produced events", and heaven forbid it, a sanctioning body for gravel events. Rules and ways of doing things vary vastly for events, but for a good take on what I mean about the divide between USAC and its ilk and the rest of the gravel scene, see my friend Craig Groseth's post. In that post he points out that "if'n ya don't like it, don't play with 'em." That's been mostly why you haven't seen a big intrusion by USAC into gravel cycling events. People don't like the burdensome past that they represent. But that doesn't mean that something like USAC wouldn't be developed with gravel events in mind. "But", you might ask, "how could that be if gravel cyclists don't want those silly rules and stuff?" Well, in a word, money. But it's a lot more complicated than you think, and it doesn't really have anything to do with event fees to riders.

First of all, let's say you've poured your heart and soul into an event for a decade and a half, spent more time than you can count on it, spent a ton of money on it, and somehow you've come to the end and want out. What equity do you have to draw from for all of those years you've burned up and all that you've served up to others?

Some may be willing to just walk away. Satisfied in knowing they have done good in some way. Others may have to get some recompense for their efforts, so they try to make their efforts give them a return monetarily. There is nothing better or worse in either way. Both are valid ways to go. But let's look at how you might get equity out of an event. You either charge enough for fees to build up a "war chest" at some point you walk away with at the end, or you find a way to pass on the value in your event to another person, group of people, or a corporation. Then you trade your event's value for money, and walk away with that. Now you've gotten something out of it that you can turn into whatever you want.

Is there anything wrong with that, as long as you are doing right by your riders that come to your event? I would suggest that the answer to that is "no". There is nothing wrong if your "customers" are satisfied and you get a monetary return for the equity you built up in an event. You are going to see examples of this in the future. This doesn't necessarily mean that you'll see a sanctioning body, but for obvious reasons, if a group of events were to band together under one banner, the participants in that group might be more readily able to draw equity from those events at some point. They would, naturally, want to streamline those events to a degree to help make it easier to provide a structure which is easier to implement at each event and provide for a "great experience" for the riders. Fees could be similar, and benefits could be spread across events to attract riders to stay within your "umbrella" of events. You're going to see this in the future as well.

Another thing that is already happening and that is organized teams with team tactics. Did you notice Panaracer's gravel squad showing up and getting on podiums all across the Mid-West this past Summer? That isn't going unnoticed by the rest of the cycling industry, by the way, and that sort of "cred" and free publicity along with brand awareness in the core group of gravelers is too good to pass up. You'll see more teams, more money spent on them, and a lot more team tactics in gravel races of higher stature in the future.

Does any of this bother me? No. It doesn't and here is why- There will be literally hundreds of other events that don't cater to those highly produced, marketable, expensive productions. I'm good, and with so many choices, I don't mind if I don't have the cache' of having done some "well known, high profile deal". Maybe that is attractive to some, you know.....the bucket list folks, but I just don't choose events for those reasons.

Most gravel riders are in it not to win it, because there can only be one winner, (in each class, that is), so most are coming for some other reasons. I'd wager that many are doing these events because of personal challenge, to push themselves, to have an experience alongside like-minded participants that have empathy for you and your experience. To make friends, to make memories, and to have a social experience that has little expectation other than the folks in attendance be open minded and accepting. Oh.....and let's not forget about riding your bike in cool places all day. That sort of thing is what propels gravel cycling along. Not big purses, flashy teams, high profile athletes, or big time productions in terms of event send off and finish line. Not the gear used, nor the fitness levels of the riders. Sure, some of that happens and will continue to happen, but for the most part, that's not what is driving this scene.

I think it'll all be just fine.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Reactions Part 1

 NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

Yesterday was a busy day on social media for those interested in gravel events. The announcement that the DK 200 had aligned itself with Life Time, an events promotions company that owns the Leadville 100/Trail races, the Chequamegon 40 event, among others, provoked a lot of reactions.

There were very negative reactions and some so-so all the way to "Meh!", and everything in between. I would say most folks are either okay with it or are taking a wait-and-see approach to this news. I know that these sorts of changes really challenge our beliefs and foundations when it comes to things we are passionate about. You just have to take things at face value and see where your values line up with what you actually know. Because, well.......assumptions abound. As I stated here yesterday, Jim Cummins says to expect the same sort of Dirty Kanza we have come to know. I am willing to bet that will be the case this coming year, at least.

What I wanted to discuss today was what this announcement provoked as far as gravel events in general. What makes gravel events fun, challenging, and what attracts us to them. Several things cropped up yesterday that were very interesting.

The reaction to the DK200 announcement from the Almanzo 100 (Chris Skogen)
Somehow or another, since 2010 the DK200 has been accused of "selling out". That's something that started being heard 8 years ago, so it begs the question, "How can it be so? Once you've sold out, you' know, sold out!" You cannot really do that every year. The fact of the matter is that this accusation of "selling out" is nothing but a cover for someone's negativity. The DK 200 never "sold out" though. Not in the terms people accuse them of that with. The reality is that the riders have spoken with their attendance and their dollars to make the DK 200 what it is today. What it has become would be a very successful event which is loved, literally, by thousands of people.

Reactions like the one posted by Almanzo 100's social media page just insult those people who pay for the DK 200, (and other gravel events), because they want to do so. They aren't being coerced to spend their bucks on the DK 200, they willingly do it because they like it. Conversely, folks go to the Almanzo because they like it. It just so happens that it is a free event. It is a different experience. Probably, most likely, people would not pay to do Almanzo if it were a DK200 clone. It's good to have different events. That's what's great about gravel grinding.

Conversations yesterday were being sparked and included ideas being discussed about creating new events. More diversity! More new ways and new places to do a gravel/back road events is what is going to keep the whole genre' alive and kicking into the 2020's and beyond. Once events become codified, generic, and a large dose of "sameness" happens, the whole scene will begin to contract. I don't want more Almanzos just as much as I don't want more DK 200's. We have both, and they both are great. Let's just keep being creative and keep having fun. Whether or not you decide to charge an entry fee or not.

One such idea was something I thought might be brilliant, and if someone could find an effective way to organize such a beast, I'd be all about going. The idea was to do a multi-day, multi course/distance gravel event. Not Tour Divide, not necessarily "bikepacking" either. I know a few folks have bandied about the idea of going to the old Odin's Revenge stomping grounds and to do a multi-day ride there.

Casual riding, socializing at night. Sounds good to me! But however you slice it, gravel grinding has become what it has become because people are inclusive, creative with event production, and provide experiences both challenging and socially exciting around riding bicycles on gravel. Whether or not you "sell gravel" is not the point at all. So, the future looks good, right? We have a diversity of events and lots of those events all across the country at all times of the year. What's the problem?

Well, tomorrow I will delve into my "crystal ball" and give my take on what might be the future of gravel riding and back road wanderings based upon observations I am making today. In other words, a bunch of foolish speculation will be engaged in tomorrow. Stay tuned for part two.......

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Gravel Grinder News Flash: DK Promotions Announces Alignment With Lifetime Fitness

News this morning has been released concerning the Dirty Kanza 200. An e-mail was sent out by Executive Director, Jim Cummins detailing news that an alignment with Life Time, an events promotion company most notably associated with the Leadville 100 and Chequamegon 40 events.

Reactions so far are mixed, but many comments are being made to the effect that this will be, eventually, a negative effect upon prices to enter the event, as noted by what happened to other events associated with Life Time. Most pointing at Leadville as the example here.

Others have pointed out, as does Executive Director of the Dirty Kanza 200, JIm Cummins, that Life Time will bring resources that will enhance the experience of the riders. Cummins was quoted in the e-mail sent out Tuesday morning as saying, "Ultimately, the added resources Life Time brings will allow us to continue all that is great about Dirty Kanza for our athletes and the broader Emporia, Kansas community."

Of course, change brings a bit of challenge and pain, so how this plays out within the DK Promotions production of this event is yet to be seen. Some will say that any vestige of "grassroots gravel" has been lost with this announcement, while others will welcome any future refinements to the Dirty Kanza events with excitement. The official word now is that nothing will really change as far as how things are done, again from Jim Cummins, "Most importantly, I want to be clear that Dirty Kanza won’t change. This is important to all of us at Dirty Kanza Promotions, and to Life Time. I will continue to be front and center at the event, Dirty Kanza will continue to be the world’s premier gravel cycling challenge, and you will still be served by the same great team."

Stay tuned..........

News Season: Salsa Bikes For 2019

The new, very pink, Journeyman Apex 650B
 NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

Well, you've probably heard and have seen all the news blasts concerning the new Salsa Cycles stuff for 2019. I posted a big article on about it as well. It's a big deal in the gravel/all-road category now, and as you all know, "gravel" is the latest thing in cycling. Everyone is doing something in the category, or so it seems. I guess we can say it has "jumped the shark" when I start seeing department store gravel bikes. (Maybe there already are some!)

I know a lot of people may not like Salsa Cycles, or QBP, their parent company, but look....... Salsa is no "johnny-come-lately" to gravel travel. In fact, they were doing gravel before it was a cool thing to do for most riders, not to mention bicycle companies. Salsa was doing research into what would make for a great gravel bike as early as 2008, and probably before that, I just don't know about it. That's years before any other company was paying attention to this niche. By 2009 I was fully aware that Salsa was testing prototype gravel bicycles, because I saw them and they were at my event, Trans Iowa. So, there is no denying that Salsa Cycles was, and still is, at the forefront of the gravel/all-road scene. 2019 product shows this.

The latest gravel gizmos from Bloomington are pretty noteworthy too. The newest model to be introduced by Salsa last Spring is a bike that fits the gravel scene well. An "everyman's bike" being sold at a price point that will, and already has, expanded the rider base for gravel-all-road cycling. The kind of cycling I think best fits what most people will be attracted to in the near future. Heck, they even called this new model by a name which reflects this- Journeyman.

The latest news in that model line is the addition of a higher spec. The Journeyman Apex 1 available in 650B wheels or 700c. is 1X. That doesn't move me, but hey! Maybe it's your deal and you love it. Good for you! I like the pink, but then again, I would! The move to 650B mtb XC tires on these, (and other company's bikes), still perplexes me. Is it a mountain bike? No? Then why not put something on that actually is an "all-roads" tire, like the WTB Byway? Or......maybe that Terrene Elwood, but then again, that would be working with the "enemy", so probably not. I guess, when you get down to it, the lack of good OE tire choices is why these XC mtb tires are on there.

This Vaya is a great looking bike.

 The other thing about this Journeyman Apex, and the Journeyman in general, is that it takes the same space in use/price point as the current Vaya. Even the 2019 Vaya is only a tic more money than the Journeyman Apex 1. That Salsa took away the second spec level of the Vaya is also telling. In fact, we were betting at the shop early in the year that the Vaya would actually be cut from the line. However; it hasn't been cut, just reduced in choice to one model with two color choices.

That said, it is a nice bike set up with 105 and the new fork the Warbird gets dubbed the Waxwing. This makes the Vaya, in my opinion, the steel gravel bike Salsa Cycles should have had all along. It's got really awesome tire clearances, and now it has all the versatility that many gravel riders want. The thing is, with only one spec level available now, many might overlook this machine. That's too bad, because I know Vayas handle spectacularly well, and, of course, they are steel, so they have all the toughness and ride feel that steel is known for. Plus, you can get a purple one! 

The least expensive Warbird, the Warbird Tiagra.
 The Warbird has been redesigned, and we knew all about that months ago, but we didn't know exactly what the bikes would look like, or how they would be spec'ed. There are five levels of spec now, with two SRAM 1X choices, an Ultegra Di2, a 105, and a Tiagra level spec in Shimano 2X set ups.

A couple......well a few.....comments here- First of all they finally got the Warbird right. Versatile, able to handle all the water bottles, fenders, racks, and bigger tires you might want, yet it is light and spritely. Versatility and "racy" are not mutually exclusive traits. Then they went and tweaked the geometry for more stability, and what they did was to shorten the rear center and lengthen the front. I totally agree with this, by the way. I could get all into that, but I'll save it for another rant......

They offer a wide range of spec choices, which I appreciate. Not everyone likes Shimano and not everyone likes SRAM 1X. Neither of those suit you? They sell a black frame set. Go nuts with it. In fact, I probably would take that option myself. That is, if I could justify the price, which is $400.00 cheaper than a complete set up with Tiagra. If I didn't have a bike to strip parts from, and a bunch of spares, I probably would just buy the Warbird Tiagra. I doubt you could spec your own for less than $400.00 including labor. The frame sets are 2G, by the way.

They screwed up their take on the prototype paint job here.
I've been highly critical of the Warbird in the past. Salsa Cycles didn't like it when the bike was first introduced and I bagged on it. But, they missed the mark until v4. This one finally nails it, albeit, carbon. Not a huge fan here, and that's because carbon has a proclivity for wearing away in abrasive mud, and I will sometimes be found in those situations. Just check out any of my steel bikes. I don't think any of them, save for the newest one, the "Bubblegum Princess", have any paint in the chain stays where the tire passes through. Had any of those bikes been carbon, well....... I bet I would have roached at least a couple by now. See where I am going here?

But that said, this is the first Warbird model I would be willing to take a chance with carbon on and the first Warbird of any kind I would consider buying. Salsa got it right and I really like the design. Had they chosen to mimic the prototype's paint job with some other, cool, bright scheme, I would have been all over that. However; they decided to make it look like battleship camo and it just looks wrong. Uggh! It could have been so cool too. Another reason I'd likely just get the black frame set and go nuts with something like a flashy set of Industry 9 wheels or anodized bits where I could.

Finally, in a somewhat ironic twist, I found out late yesterday that Salsa posted a "Story of the Warbird" in which Trans Iowa and myself are mentioned. What they had to say about myself and Trans Iowa is pretty humbling and I am honored and thankful to think that I and the event made some small contribution toward the Warbird and, more importantly, toward changing some folks lives there. That's an honor I do not take lightly. But that said, it doesn't sway what I have written here. In fact, I had most of this post done before I became aware of that Warbird story.

But I have to say a big "Thank You" to Mike "Kid" Riemer, Jason Boucher, Joe Meiser, Sean Mailen, Paul Errington, Tim Ek, Matt Gersib, Andrea Cohen, and any other Salsa sponsored rider, QBP photographer, and Salsa Crew member that had anything to do with, or any part to play in, attending Trans Iowa, promoting it in their marketing, supporting it with their thoughts and efforts, and for just being great people. They had a great impact not only upon Trans Iowa, but on myself as well. Thanks all of you!

Monday, September 17, 2018

History Rediscovered

(L-R) Ryan, myself, and Troy from the end of the "Race Against Death Tour"
This weekend I was digging around for some images I thought I might have tucked away some where. Okay......I need to explain. These weren't digital images, they are images on Kodak paper. You know........photographs? So, they were in a desk I haven't looked in for a while, so I didn't know exactly where they would be found.

Digging around I found a few other things. Maps I used to set up some early Guitar Ted Death Rides, some cues I drew up for solo gravel rides, and some early Trans Iowa cue sheet sets.

Those T.I. cues were from V2 and V3. I had forgotten how big those things were! They were a full 5.5" X 6" in size! That's crazy when the last set I produced were 4" X 5". The set for V2 is kind of a strange one because the second half was never seen by anyone but Jeff Kerkove and myself. I looked those old cues over and you know what? I can see much of it in my mind to this day, thirteen years later. Weird, huh?

I know a few folks would love to see what the second half of T.I.v2 was going to be like, but......nah! I've kept that off the radar this long, why stop now? Besides, there is a big chunk of T.I.v2 that was used for the Trans Iowa Masters Program. So, it isn't like I haven't let some of the cat outta the bag.

Ginormous cue sheets!
Well, eventually I came across the few images I have from my tour that I did in 1995. If you haven't noticed, I am recounting that tour in blog form every Sunday here. It's called the "Touring Series". Check it out.

The big thing that keeps striking me about looking back is that the entire way that we did things back then would nearly be impossible to recreate today. No cell phones is probably the single biggest thing that factors into this. I think about how many things are connected to that little device and how not having those things changes everything about a ride today.

No images, no social media, no connection to the world wide web, no information about weather, nothing! Try taking your next ride and leaving your phone at home and your GPS computer at home. See if you don't get anxious about that. Well, we never even had that choice back then.

So, just trying to do a big, long, self-supported tour with zero connection to anything would be deemed, well.......maybe it would be called "stupid" by your relatives and friends. They probably would be pretty offended if you tried that stunt today. Back then, no one thought twice about letting you do that. Yeah.....they thought you were crazy, but they weren't going to tell you not to do it because they couldn't keep track of you. That situation was everyday normalcy back then! 

Then there is the whole distracted driver thing now. That wasn't even an issue back then, and I suppose you could partially blame cell phones for that as well. Cell phones are the devil! Ha! But seriously, we never ever had any fear of being pasted by an inattentive driver back then. Someone trying to scare you or just downright being mean? Yeah......we got that, but rarely did that situation ever arise. Things were totally different out on the open roads back in the 90's.

So, I was reminiscing over the weekend as I looked at those old cues and especially at those old images. You can look forward to seeing a few of those in the coming weeks on the "Touring Series" which, again, posts every Sunday for the next several weeks. I am excited to post those images. The story of the one above will be told at the end of the tale. I won't give away what that is just yet. It does show the three main characters in the story though. Ryan, Troy, and myself. I am easy to spot since I was the biggest guy by far! Ha!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Touring Series: Superheated

A Guitar Ted Productions Series
 Thanks for joining me again on another adventure in "The Touring Series". This tour was dubbed the "Race Against Death Tour". This tour occurred in August of 1995. The three participants, Ryan, Troy, and your's truly, left from Cedar Falls, Iowa to try and get to Winter Park, Colorado in two weeks. Here I am reproducing the tale as it was posted on the blog in 2009. I also will add new remarks and memories where appropriate at the end of each post. 

 Once again, there were no cell phones, internet, social media platforms, or digital cameras in use by we tourers in 1995. I will post images where I can, but this tour wasn't well documented in images, so there probably will be very few sprinkled throughout. A modern image will be used only where it depicts things I want to clarify, like where we were in that part of the tour via a map image, or the like.

The "Touring Series" will appear every Sunday until it ends. Look for past entries by scrolling back to a previous Sunday's post, or type in "Touring Series" in the search box to find more. 

The "Race Against Death Tour" leaves the small town of Nemeha, Iowa headed westward on a hot August day........

As we left in the early afternoon, the heat started to really kick in. The temperatures were heading into triple digit territory and in a big hurry. As we went further west, conversation ceased and all three of us plodded along at a decent clip, but certainly no where near our fastest cruising speed. The road headed dead straight now. No turns, and not much to look at.

As I was rolling along it became very apparent that there were super heated pockets of air that you would run into coming up off of the now melting black top road. Suddenly running into these would raise the temperature 10 to 15 degrees from where they already were. We are talking dangerous heat. And it finally did me in. About 16 miles after leaving Nemeha, and just north of Galva, Iowa, I called out that I was stopping. I ghost rode my bike into the ditch and collapsed into darkness.

The next thing I recall is Troy yelling out my name from far away. Then he became clearer. Then I came to. I realized then he was standing right over me, and I was surrounded by tall grass. I sat up as Troy returned to his shaded seat next to Ryan and they were quietly discussing something. What to do about me, no doubt. I was severely dizzy and my head ached, really hurt! All through that though, I was intensely embarrassed about the situation. I resolved to get on the bike again, but I was very wobbly and really slow.

Later I learned that I was completely out for 20 minutes. Troy and Ryan were beside themselves wondering if they should call for emergency help and leave me behind. Troy yelling at me was a last ditch attempt to get me going before they called in for help, but I didn't know any of that then. I just hurt. Bad.
Map showing Correctionville and Little Sioux Park where we overnighted

We limped into Galva, and then just west of there into Holstein. There was a pizza joint we stopped at that Troy and Ryan ate at. I had zero appetite. I was just glad to be in some A/C and not move. We passed a bank with a thermometer sign that read 101 the shade.

Troy wanted to make the border, but as we went along, it became apparent I couldn't do much more than 10 mph and almost had to crawl up the long, grinding grades that were the outliers of the Loess Hills. There was a stop in Correctionville late in the afternoon. We sat a long time outside a convenience store as Troy and Ryan did some asking around about a place to stay. I finally got some food and drink down in me here as we waited. The sun was westering, and we needed a place to stay.

Much to Troy's chagrin the only good option was off route a couple miles in a county park. We rolled in, and I ate another meal, finally starting to feel better, much to the other guys relief. We sat around and conversed for awhile, told some stories, and generally joked around. Things seemed okay, but inside I was feeling terrible about letting the guys down and being a nuisance. At any rate, I learned that my front panniers were no longer my concern, as Troy took one and Ryan the other. They insisted I was going to make it. I thought of it as a demotion at the time, but in reality, I should have seen it as a positive sign. Ah.....the way time changes your perspective on things!

All I knew then was that I felt terrible, physically, but far worse mentally. I hit the hay hoping the next day would be much better.

Yeah, the "Race Against Death Tour" almost lost. That was a bad, bad deal. Of course, back in 1995, you had no options for immediate, quick advice or help. This is important to understand today. There was no cell phone to whip out and look up what to do in case of heat exhaustion. Then Troy and Ryan were left to their own wits, wisdom, or no. Making decisions back then, like they had to in an emergency situation, was not easy. I am very sorry to this day that I put them in such a situation.

My memories of that day are foggy, of course. I do remember clearly thinking I had to stop, and then Troy yelling at me. I remember sitting on a street side bench, in the pizza parlor, and seeing that bank sign. I remember having zero power in some hilly terrain and Troy's annoyed reactions to my lack of speed. Still, we made 83 miles that day. Amazing despite all the odds against us.

The campground was another world. I was so much better by that point, but I also remember we sat in Correctionville for at least an hour, maybe longer. I also believe I ate something there. That would explain a lot. At any rate, that was a touch and go situation, and the tour nearly was derailed at that point. I've no idea, but I imagine that talk between Troy and Ryan was whether they should stop the entire tour, leave me and continue, or wait it out. In the end, they waited it out, and I am forever grateful that they did.

Next Week: Over The Border

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Minus Ten Review -37

Jason Boucher shooting an image of me while I was shooting an image of him. Murphy-Hanrahan trails.
Ten years ago on the blog here I was prepping to go to Interbike in Las Vegas, Nevada. It would have been my third trip in a row to the show and my last as a "Crooked Cog Network" member. Later in '08 the network basically imploded at the hands of its leader, Tim Grahl, and the wreckage that ensued sent my life into a new direction. But ten years ago this week I had no clue what was in store for me.

I did notice that the blog lost a ton of images due to Grahl's mismanagement of a photo sharing service which cost me a lot of imagery here. Oh well........

Ten years ago I also summed up my season long experiment with 170mm cranks on 29"ers. You see, it was an unwritten rule for early pioneers of 29"ers in Crested Butte, Colorado to use 170mm cranks on 29"ers. There was "something to it" that was never really explained or written down, as far as I have ever been able to find. So, I did my own research into the matter.

I set up my '07 El Mariachi with 170mm triple cranks, (triple cranks?!! Yes!), and my Blackbuck single speed also received the 170mm treatment. I rode them from Spring all through Summer and into Fall. My assessment was that on the geared bike I really didn't notice anything substantially different from using 175mm cranks. However; on the single speed I was convinced there was a marked difference. Here is a quote from my post in September:

"I also have noted an increase in my ability to scale steeps that I normally would have crapped out on. The 170mm crank seems to get around to it's power stroke a little sooner for me, therefore I lose less momentum in my pedaling "dead spot" and I can keep those big wheels rolling easier."

In fact, I was so impressed I have never gone back to longer cranks on my single speed Blackbuck. I have used 170mm on various other single speed bikes as well, but typically my other single speeds are set up with 175mm arms. I've no real desire to go longer unless it is for a gravel bike, which then I prefer 180mm cranks. Longer, less severe elevation gains on gravel tend to lend themselves to those longer arms, I think.