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've......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 is 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 RidingGravel.com 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. Yeah.......it 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, no......it 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 degrees.......in 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. 

Friday, September 14, 2018

Friday News And Views

Bow Tie Strap Adapters-  Sorry! This widget remains under wraps for now!
Problem Solvers Introduces New Widgets:

More "News Season" stuff today and this time it is a couple of items from the QBP brand Problem Solvers. This new little gizmo is called a "Bow Tie Strap Adapter".


Editor's Note: Sorry folks! The info on that widget has been redacted at the request of Problem Solvers who didn't say it was embargoed. Hmm...... Communication and all.... Anyway...

The next bit they allowed, as they are in stock now, so carry on, and again- Thanks for reading "Guitar Ted Productions" 

Problem Solvers is also reviving an idea which gained some popularity in the 90's. Back then some folks complained that their fingers would slip off brake levers so some companies made these neoprene brake lever covers to give you better grip. A couple were actually stick-on type grip enhancers. Well, Problem Solvers has something like this for drop bar and flat bar applications called "Lever Grippies".

Available now, just in time for cyclo cross season. These might also be nice for fat bikes or anyone running a bike in cold conditions as it would provide another barrier between you and cold metal.

Surly 1X1 hauler.
No Rack? No Worries!

 I have been really liking the Surly 1X1 "Mechanic's Bike" since I've gotten the Velocity Cliffhanger/Velo Orange wheel set on there with the Extraterrestrial tires. I set it up fixed/free but have been running it fixed all year so far this year. I have really enjoyed riding fixed gear on this bike a lot.

But there was one thing that bugged me about this bike, and that was that it was built at a time when "purpose" and "commitment" to single speed meant that you ran a stripped down frame and fork. The fact that you can even mount fenders on this is somewhat amazing, given the philosophy of Surly circa 1999 when this was made.

Making a mountain bike purpose built to be a single speed derby bike into a versatile urban/commuter rig is asking a LOT. Probably not a good idea there. But I was so enamored of how this bike made me feel when I rode it that I searched for ways I could easily make it into the bike I wanted. Sure, I could have just pitched this and gotten a Troll. That would probably make more sense, but when did making sense come into the equation here? 

Anyway, I had some spare bikepacking bags lying about so I stuck them on there with my rain gear tucked into a seat bag. The perfect urban commuter ready for anything! But I had no where to stuff groceries, or tires I bought, or......beer! My old Schwinn townie had a rack and my old panniers on it, which could carry a week's worth of groceries if I wanted it to, but the 1X1 is way more fun to ride. Finally, I got my wits about me and solved the problem.

I have a Banjo Brothers Water Proof Saddle Trunk in size Ginormous. Really. The thing is so big it is ridiculous. Anyway, I needed a gallon of milk. I had the empty container in the recycling bin, so I filled it with water to see if the big ol' Banjo Brothers sack would hold it. It passed the test, so off to the convenience store and a gallon of moo juice was procured for the family. The pic here shows the Saddle Trunk with the milk jug inside.

So, I should have figured that out a long time ago! This saddle trunk will now live on the Surly after I do some tweaking to the set up. I now have the bike I wanted. A single speed, fixed gear, fat tired grocery getter/commuter.

Thanks for reading this week! Have a great weekend and if you are out on the East Coast, be safe!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

News Season: Pre-Interbike Intros

Hayduke Lives: Esker Cycles Hayduke steel hardtail
Note: A bonus post detailing some interesting bits that are coming out around the time of the Interbike trade show, which happens this coming week in Reno, Nevada. I won't be there, but anything I find interesting, I'll post here if I think it warrants it. Thanks!

Hard tail mountain bikes were, arguably, brought back from the dead by the 29 inch wheel in the early 00's. Steel hard tails led the way back then, and with the advent of adventure cycling and "bikepacking", steel hard tails have reserved a special place in the hearts and minds of many off road cyclists, this one included. All my current off-road bikes are steel. Even a couple I don't even have up and running!

Salsa Cycles axed its venerable and long running El Mariachi model a few years ago now, and since then the crown for the best steel, mass produced hard tail 29"er has been passed around to a few companies. Niner Bikes came out with a revised SIR 9 a while back that most closely approximated what I felt was an "evolution" of the El Mariachi. Another contender for that was the Advocate Cycles Hayduke model. But then the company, and its bikes, sort of faded away. However; recently the folks behind Advocate have revised their business model, canned Advocate, and re-branded and launched a new company called "Esker Cycles". They brought the Hayduke over, albeit a new Hayduke with some new frame tubing and minor geometry tweaks.

Since this has the closest relationship, via one of the company's principals, to the old El Mar, I would say that the successor to the El Mar has to the Hayduke, a fully modern steel hard tail. A choice of two swappable rear drop out plates,  multi-wheel size and drive train capabilities, and a price for the frame, rear through axle, Wolf Tooth head set, and seat collar at $675.00 make this look pretty attractive. Completes will be offered starting at 2G. Pretty cool. Plus, it is supposed to be lighter and more responsive than the original Hayduke. See Esker's site linked above for more.

The new 45NRTH Ragnorok Boot
45NRTH Introduces Third Generation Transition Season Boot:

45NRTH is kind of a funny company when it comes to its naming conventions. Their tires are often named after obscure black metal bands or old Minneapolis area punk bands. Their boots get renamed every time they offer an evolution on the old design.

Yeah........so, think of this as the latest version of the Fasterkatt, only with several design changes and upgrades. The last model, which supplanted the Fasterkatt, was the Japanther. This, the Ragnorok, would be version three, if I am counting correctly.

Anyway...... The Ragnorok features a move to the BOA closure system and a rubberized, neoprene upper "sock"which has been redesigned as well. The silver edition, shown here at left, is fully reflective and will retail at $235.00. A non-reflective, black upper model is offered as well at $195.00. The soles, by the way, look like a dead ringer for my first edition Fasterkatt's, so apparently no changes were made there.

The shop where I work received a full size run of these boots and they look like a great boot. I still rock the original Fasterkatt boots and they have been rock solid for me as a way to ride in conditions which are wet and cold down to about 25 F, but much below that and my feet get chilled. These Ragnorok's are rated similarly, and I've no doubt they are actually better made and function better than my Fasterkatts do. Available at 45NRTH dealers now......

SKS Bluemels 65mm Fenders
SKS Offers New Blumels 65mm Fender Set:

SKS is a German based company best known for inflation devices and fenders. They make a full line of fenders which are well known in certain cycling circles.

Being introduced at Interbike this year, and available at dealers in November, is this new Bluemels 65mm fender suitable for 29"ers. SKS claims the front fender is 680mm long and the rear is 920mm long. MSRP is set at $74.99.

The only image I got was of what looks like a rear fender. You can make out some wide clearanced stays and what appears to be a rubber edge on the end of the fender itself. If this is indeed a rear fender, I would judge from the image that coverage is not all the way down the back, so perhaps this is meant more for mountain bike/off-road use.

But that said, it might be a handy design for bikes like Fargos and the lot which are used across a wide range of terrains and in varying conditions. I could see this being very useful for early season "sloppy" gravel rides or for those commutes where run-off from daytime melting is a concern during Winter.

SKS is also introducing a foot pump. I see another inflation device selling company is also doing a foot operated bicycle pump. Maybe this is a new thing for the near future. Ditch that old floor pump with a handle and tall profile that is so tippy! Use your feet instead! Ha! Well, to be fair, when I was a younginz, these types of foot operated pumps were still around. They were a relic even back then, but apparently the idea is being revived for 2019.

Stay tuned for more as I get things in...........

Too Early

End of the line for the single track here.....
The Cedar Valley just experienced some major flooding. The crest was over the weekend and the flood warning went away after Tuesday. Wednesday I decided I needed to get something other than gravel riding in. A steady diet of gravel, when I could ride, was all I had done since "fat bike season" ended last Spring.

So, I grabbed my single speed Sawyer and decided to go see if the single track in the Green Belt was still under water or what. Originally I had no intentions or thoughts that I even could ride in the Green Belt. I figured I would end up on top of the dike, at best, and just do some viewing of the carnage.

I saw that the flood gate, which is used to close down the road when the water is high in the Green Belt, was open. I figured I'd go take a look. The grass was dried out, so I went down in and found that it wasn't bad. I got sucked in and tried the wide "single track" which runs out to Ansborough and the parking lot there. Actually, it wasn't bad for the first half.

Well, then it got slimy, the wheels packed up, and I was sliding like I was on ice. Not sinking in, but slipping. The mud was firm, just really greasy. I had to walk it, but then I came upon the end of the line. (See the image at left here) The flooding changed things and the old way was gone. It was time to figure out how to go forward, because, you know......going back wasn't an option! I mean, c'mon! 

So, I looked around for a way forward and eventually I did find a way. It involved a bit of wading, some bushwhacking, and trudging along with a bike that probably weighed 50lbs with all the wet mud stuck on it. 

The way through was found here. Yes- it was a mess.
I managed to get to drier ground, scraped off a bit of mud, and then tried riding, which didn't last long. I was off again pretty quickly, and this time I just gave up and walked out to the parking lot area. There I grabbed a stick and scraped a bunch of mud off and then headed up onto the dike on the North side of the Black Hawk Creek. I ended up riding a while hoping that the dry grass would clear off the mud, but this mud was so wet and sticky it wasn't coming off. So, I stopped and grabbed my tire lever and went to work.

Finally cleaned up.....well, kinda!
Okay, so the Green Belt isn't quite ready yet. My bad. Too soon! But it was fun to do a different form of riding and break it up a bit. Hopefully things bounce back soon around here because Fall is so great for riding the Green Belt. I gotta get my fat bikes going too. Meanwhile I have a very messy Sawyer to clean up! That's the price you pay for playing in the mud.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

New Tire Day

The Tamland Two mounted up with Michelin Power Gravel tires.
Tires. I have been drowned in a pile of tires over the years due to my reviewing gig. The very first thing I ever reviewed publicly was a set of tires, and tires kept coming around here ever since then.

But sometimes you see a tire, and for whatever reasons, the chance to review them doesn't come up. In those cases I purchase tires, and I have bought a LOT of tires over the years. These newest ones here are the Michelin Power Gravel 40's which I had seen earlier in the year.

They were intriguing for a few reasons. First was that I have liked a lot of Michelin tires over the years starting with those green rubber mtb tires they used to make in the 90's. I had those on my old Bontrager Race. Then I was also impressed with their 29"er tires, and there were several models I liked. So, when I heard that they were doing a "Power Gravel" tire, despite the goofy  name, I was intrigued. I ordered a pair up through the shop where I work.

Like I said, I get a LOT of tires through here, and when tires show up, I am always interested in how the different companies do their point of purchase retail packaging. (Nerd alert!) Since I've been in retail, I've seen many strange, smart, and goofy ideas for the presentation of product. Tires usually, these days anyway, come on thick plastic cards which the tire is wrapped over, or through a slot in the card, usually secured by a zip tie. It used to be that high quality tires came in a box. Not anymore, unless you get the Power Gravel tires. They came in a box! Old school!

Unusual for tires these days to come in a box.
I suppose other tires come in boxes yet, but I don't see that as often as I used to. Anyway, the Power Gravel looks a lot like a G-One Schwalbe tire. Little, triangular knobs all across the carcass only here they are bordered by "squashed hexagonal" shapes. The G-One doesn't have any side knobs. I rode G-Ones briefly once and wasn't impressed. They were thin, too rounded in profile, and too narrow in the version I got to test. Michelin makes a 35mm Power Gravel, so I stayed away until the 40's came out. They mounted up to measure 42+ mm at 40psi. Nice!

My initial take is that these are a stiff tire. The Protek puncture protection belt in these is the reason for that. Typically that sort of thing kills the ride quality. I had to back off from my typical pressures to start feeling the tire "work" for me. I will say they are fast! That's not always the case with puncture protection belted tires, especially bead-to-bead belts like the Protek one in these tires. So, a mixed bag so far in ride feel. I'll keep working on pressures to see if I can't get them to work better.

I'll have a full review series on these for RidingGravel.com along with supplemental material from N.Y. Roll. He got the 35's earlier this year and has about 700 miles on a set. So, look for that to start soon.

Yeah, I've always like wheels and since I like wheels you have to like tires as well. Wheels are pretty much useless without them. Tires are the only thing connecting you to Earth when you ride a bicycle, so they are pretty darn important. I guess I take a bit of a special interest in tires and wheels, but I also know I am not the only one. Lots of people argue, debate, and are passionate in many ways about tires.

Regardless, "new tire day" is a good day in my opinion!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

"Iowa Wind And Rock" Gravel Race Announced

A new gravel grinder event called "Iowa Wind And Rock" was announced publicly on Monday, September 10th, 2018. The following are my thoughts, comments, and answers to any potential questions about this announcement and it's relation, whether imagined or real, to the now defunct Trans Iowa.

Let me get a few things straight here. First of all, yes- I knew this was coming. I've been aware of the beginnings of this since May of this year. Second of all, no, I have nothing to do with getting this off the ground. Well, that isn't entirely true, because it was the event, Trans Iowa, which I ran for 14 years, that inspired this. So, in that way, I did have something to do with that. I suppose you could also say my dialogue with the RD leading up to this had some guiding benefit, but really, they had it figured out without me. Now, here is what I know about this new, ultra-length gravel event.

Iowa Wind And Rock will be held in Winterset, Iowa on April 20th, 2019. Yes- 4-20. Read into that what you may. I know that this event is to emulate Trans Iowa in several ways. NOTE- It isn't Trans Iowa. But it will be very much like Trans Iowa, just don't expect things to be exactly the same. Yes, I know this is the intention of the RD of this new event. As stated, we've had previous discussions pertaining to this. Other, fine details, and elements of this event are yet to be revealed. So, that's all I know about things so far.

The People: I know the folks organizing this event. Their names are well known to many gravel aficionados. Sarah Cooper, Steve Fuller, and Dennis Grelk are the main characters behind this. I know that they have every intention of doing this event to the very best of their abilities and that their intentions are honorable and sincere. I have hosted these folks at Trans Iowa, I have had them as volunteers. They "get it", as I was wont to say about people that understood what Trans Iowa was all about. They are going to take that and make it into something new. What it will be is yet to be seen.

So, thirdly- Yes, I have given them my "blessing", so to speak. If you are thinking these folks are popping in at an opportune time, taking advantage of my quitting Trans Iowa, well, you are right. In the very best of ways too. They understand that "now is the time" because I guarantee you that there are other events thinking that "they will be the new Trans Iowa" on the calendar. While that notion is ridiculous, this event has the pedigree and, as I said, these folks understand what TI was about. Can't say that for anyone else promoting out there.

All you really need to understand is that these folks loved the idea of Trans Iowa so much, they are motivated to do this. They want to extend the legacy of an event in Iowa that had what Trans Iowa had, in the best way that they know how to do it. It's a free to enter event too, so, yeah......money has not a thing to do with their motivations. 

Finally, I wanted to post this to not only make you all out there aware of this, but to head off any "What do you think of this, Guitar Ted?" questions that might come my way. I think it is rad, and I wish them all the best. If anyone asks me in the future about this, they are going to get directed to this post. I've said all I want to say about "what I think about this event's existence" here. A podcast version will air on RidingGravel.com at some point for those not tuned in here.

The Future: I expect that this will be a quality event and that people will be able to attend something here with similar feel and challenges that were once offered by your's truly. Will I have anything at all to do with this event? I have pledged my support in whatever way they see fit. Right now an appearance on race weekend is being talked about. That's a long ways away and anything is possible at this point. I will be happy to show my face there though and be a service to this event. As far as "how they do things" goes, that's on the RD and the team they have. Ask them. Don't ever bother me with questions of that ilk. So, that's my statement as of now.

Questions? Ask in the comments, but otherwise, this is all I have to say about it.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Going Backward

Escaping the city was made a tad bit more difficult due to flooding.
Saturday the weather straightened out and it was one of those perfect Fall days. Glorious. Low humidity and the clear air with a touch of that cool crispness which will only increase over time as we get nearer to the end of the year.

I decided to get out and try to put in a decent length ride. Now, for me anyway, that is something over 40 miles. I deem anything less as a "short ride" and I am often less than satisfied with rides of that length. I need to work on that......

Anyway, I got out the "Bubblegum Princess" and prepped for a journey out into the country. I had been thinking that I was getting a bit bored with the same routes all the time. I needed to do something different. I didn't leave time to research a route and make cues, so I was in a bit of a bind. Rides I know from memory are the same ones I was trying to avoid this time! What to do? I figured I could ride the planned Geezer Ride route which never happened, but I wasn't thrilled about that direction. Then it came upon me what I should do.

Back when I rode mountain bikes almost exclusively, we used to do this thing where we would ride our typical loop backward. Then it became a "new route" because everything was backward and reversed from "normal". Climbs were descents, lefts were rights, and descents were climbs. Plus, you saw the route completely differently. You noticed things you had passed by a million times and hadn't seen before.

I decided to employ this scheme and ride the old 3GR route clockwise instead of anti-clockwise, which was the way I had always ridden that route. I couldn't believe I hadn't tried it the other way before. Now that said, there were parts I had ridden both ways, but much of it I hadn't, so I was excited to try this out.

The fields are turning gold and brown, and the sky was marked with wispy clouds.
I headed out of town North with the goal of using Burton Avenue to get to Bennington Road which was a way we would sometimes come back into Waterloo. Great idea, but getting there wasn't made easy by the major flooding of the Cedar River, which cut off several lower lying streets to my use. I eventually worked my way through some strange to me neighborhoods and linked up with Burton. Heading North, I then realized I was bucking a head wind.

It won't be long before the harvesters will be busy in those fields out there.
The ride out on Burton to the gravel confirmed that the wind was going to be a factor. I couldn't tell just then exactly what direction it was coming from, but my thoughts were that I should have an easier time of it on the way back in. That was great, as I typically would have chosen to ride out into the wind first anyway. Then also, I wasn't trying to push super hard, or hard at all, since I didn't want to undo the good rest to the legs which I had gotten. Shift early-shift often, and keep things chill.

Barns For Jason
I turned onto Bennington Road, going West, and then I knew it was going to be rougher than I thought. The wind was coming out of the Northeast. More East though, as I was flying with little effort going West. Bummer! Maybe coming South would be a crosswind. I just settled in for a long ride of grinding it out. Two miles of easy West and then it was North up Streeter Road.

Now Streeter is hilly, and coming North I had to grind a long, long grade we generally coast down. Fresh gravel made the grind tougher. Steady as she goes! Make a rhythm and stick to it. The climb wasn't too bad, and I ended up on the false flat going across the county line. The dark smudge on the horizon ahead was the Denver Hills, and the road seemed to drop off to nothingness as I approached.

Looking back at the closed bridge on Ivory Road. I took this shot over my shoulder!
The sign said "Road Closed Ahead", but somehow we gravel riders interpret that to read "Adventure Ahead!" Ha! Well, I knew that Ivory Road has a closed off bridge, but the approach has been half bulldozed away, not sure why, and my friend Tony had reported that the road was washed away in a couple of sections due to the recent heavy rains. I was on the lookout for this as I descended into the creek valley.

Nasty section of washed away gravel road. You wouldn't want to hit that at any speed! 
The washed away section was nasty. Pretty deep drop off and into big, loose, baby head limestone. No good way to navigate through that, but fortunately there is a bit of margin to the West side which is ride-able. After that it was up, up, and up. The climbing section was beginning! This part leads you to a left turn, up a big grinding climb which bends to the right, then a right turn on Hilton and the big rollers going by the Boy Scout Camp.

Where gravel is born! The gravel quarry is located in the Denver Hills east of the Boy Scout Camp
Those rollers are steep! Then you come out to a bit less steep rollers but it doesn't stop with the up/down until you finally reach the hard right hander and then the turn where Hilton goes back North, only the route goes East and straight ahead. It's at that very point where there is a staple of the 3GR route I haven't written about here.

That would be the small dog tied to a post outside of a dog house. He's been there for years. He barks and goes berserk every single time I've ever ridden by there. Poor thing! He's barked so much his voice is hoarse. I've a mind to cut the critter loose and set him free, but my friends with "dog knowledge" say that's as bad as tying him up forever, so, I don't know about that idea. Anyway, it's amusing and heartbreaking all at the same time.

So, then it was straight East and into the teeth of that wind. It was okay, just a bit slower going and I had to take it easy up the longer grades which feature into Ivanhoe Road. But right before I made it there, I stopped to take a rest and to take in the beauty of the area with all those leggy, yellow flowers waving in the breeze. This would have been right at the corner of Ivanhoe and Ivory. Just before the passing under the trestle bridge which used to carry a rail road, but now carries the bike path from Waverly to Readlyn.

Ivanhoe Road looking Southeast where it goes underneath the trestle bridge.
The passing of Highway 63 was met with another long grade to get up against the wind. I was looking forward to going two more miles to Navajo Road and getting out of the blast. I was fairly sure that heading South would be easier than going East on this day! However; remember when I said that going backward on a route can sometimes show you things that you missed going the other, "usual" way? Well, when I got to Midway Road, where we used to come off going North and turned right, against the way I was coming, I looked North and saw something I never noticed in maybe a hundred times of going up here. Cemetery headstones in a field! Was there a rural church just north of the intersection? Why hadn't I ever noticed this before? Well, I had to turn North, even though I hadn't meant to go that way at all.

Once the sight of a German church? Most likely, yes.
I saw the cemetery gates and I knew I had to "bag" that photo. I have been doing this for the last few years. Everytime I come across one of these rural cemeteries with a gate, I get my bike in the middle of it and snap off an image. This one was unique for the big, empty space before the cemetery proper.

I hypothesize that this empty space was where a church once was. Many rural churches had the cemeteries in the rear of the church, or off to one side or another. In the back is most common with Lutheran churches in this area though. This being an obviously German cemetery, it most likely was Lutheran. Some online sleuthing turned up that there was a church in this location. The church was founded in 1861 and moved to Denver, Iowa in 1902. According to a plat map of the township dated 1894, St. Paul's's also had a school on premises as well as the church building proper. That would account for such a large, empty space here today.

I love history! (And being able to look stuff up in the innergoogles). But, back to the story of the ride....

A patriotic themed barn quilt as seen on Sage Road.
Once I left the cemetery I headed North and caught the bike path going East again. I couldn't just go a mile North, as that is Highway 3, so I would have ended going a minimum of two miles North and at least five miles round trip to get back on route. But I wasn't in to seeking out many more miles, so I bailed off on the bike path. That led me to Navajo Road and back on track, headed Southward.

Headed home......
The Southward direction I was headed in was easier, thankfully. I was cruising along at a pretty decent clip, but my legs were feeling tired after pushing up hills, grades, and against the wind for most of that. I decided to just head straight down Sage Road to Airline Highway, make a right to Moline Road, then left the rest of the way into Waterloo. Before I got far though, I had a dog encounter. Two dogs came out from a farm yard, one a grizzly looking old yellow lab and the other looked to be a mix of a Boxer and American Terrier. Both were the same size. The Lab was barking with a weird, higher pitched, slightly fuzzy sounding voice and the other dog was just looking as if it would rather play than fight. My worry was with the yellow one.

As I stopped the Lab got behind me, which is generally what a dog does when it is afraid and sometimes they will snip at you from behind becuase of their instinct. This one just sniffed and barked though. The other dog actually approached me from the front and looked as if it wanted to be petted. It licked my shin and my hand but as the other dog was barking it seemed unsure what to do. Finally the owners came out and the situation was diffused, but the yellow dog wasn't ready to let things go.

I eventually got away with apologies from the farmers and a nice wave goodbye. Then I made my way back to Waterloo with no further incidents. Once back in town though, I had to re-route due to a train parked across 4th street. That tacked on a couple miles so I ended up with 44 plus miles on the day. It was a good ride, and my legs were glad it was over.

That's a great start to my getting ready for the ICGravel event coming up on October 27th. Hopefully I can get in a lot more rides like this.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

The Touring Series: Burgers In Nemeha

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 Barnum, Iowa on Day Two.........
___________________________________________________________________________

Tim's bike (see last week's post) as it appears in 2018.

Tuesday, August 8th- Barnum, Iowa: We awoke from the labors of our first day's riding to a very humid, warm, and uncomfortable morning. Having spent most of the night warding off mosquito attacks, setting up our tent, and tossing and turning trying to get comfortable in the stifling air of the enclosure, we were all a bit slow to get going. The day looked to be starting out overcast, with a heaviness from the humidity and temperature that made moving through the air seem like a greater effort than it should have been.

Once packed up, we found our way along a highway headed directly west. This road was a State highway, but seemed to have little traffic. After agreeing upon our route, Troy took the job of setting the pace once again. I found his early morning pace a bit fast, but Ryan seemed to be okay with it, so I just kept to myself and dug in. The road was mainly flat with a few rollers thrown in, but I was not fully rested from the day before and I felt tired yet.

Soon the State highway took a turn, but a county blacktop continued onward in a direction we wanted. Namely- due west! The road was a bit boring. The only thing we found that broke up the monotony was a huge grain bin that was being constructed near an intersection we passed by. The weather was clearing up and heating up. This was going to be a hot day. A hot, humid day with little to no wind.

As noon approached we reached the little town of Nemeha, Iowa which was halfway to Sioux City. We were hungry and hoping for a convenience store. We turned off into the small town but were disappointed to find only a small cafe' named "Hazel's" that seemed to be run out of a residence with a "business addition" in a white clapboard building. Having no other choice, we dismounted and walked inside.

It was a small cafe' with maybe five booths, some of which hadn't seen use in a long time judging from the piles of boxes and things in their seats. We found an elderly lady there and she asked us to be seated and "What would you guys want?". We politely asked if she had any menus to look at. Instead she explained that she'd have to check and see what she had on hand to cook. She dug around and told us all she had were some hamburgers. Well.......hamburgers all around then!

As Hazel cooked up our burgers the story had to be told of what we were up to. Hazel listened and asked a few questions, marveling that we would be taking on such a challenge. She also gave us some background on her little town. As we munched our burgers, she went about doing some tidying up. Afterwards, we payed our bill, but we couldn't go until Hazel had her picture taken with all of us. We obliged her. It was a kind of quirky lunch, but I think we were amazed as much as Hazel was by each others oddness.

As we left town, Hazel bade us farewell, and we turned our faces westward into the sweltering heat and incessant sunshine.
_____________________________________________________________________________

This was pretty much the day we went into "uncharted territory" for all three of us. The first day was like that at the end, but this entire day would be into an area we knew little about. The terrain was pretty flat, easily ridden, but equally as boring as you might imagine. Long stretches of corn and bean fields with little else to break up the monotony were the main scene on tap for this morning stretch.

Meeting Hazel was cool. We actually all enjoyed that bit. That would be, probably, the last "normal" interaction we would have with a "civilian" for the rest of the tour. Unlike the year before on the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour", we ended up speaking with a lot of adults on this tour, albeit many were unwelcome encounters! 

As we left the quaint village of Nemeha, population 85 in 2010, we were hopeful of having a decent shot at getting to Sioux City, as we had already covered half the distance there already. But the weather would take a turn and we would find ourselves struggling.

Next: Superheated

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Minus Ten Review -36

Hard to handle, but imminently ride-able.
Ten years ago on the blog I posted what still is pretty much my thoughts on fork offset, front end geometry, and how that affects handling.

"In the end, most combinations are immanently ride able and most of us would be able to handle the bike with whatever geometry we want to consider. Whether it fits an individuals style and how a bike should handle in their mind is going to vary quite a bit from person to person. That is what I think is great about today versus five years ago. Back then, you were stuck in a box handling-wise, only being able to vary how a bike rode incrementally with a head angle change. Now you can have it spicy or mild, or anywhere in between. I love it and it opens up a whole different set of perspectives on what a good handling bike really is."

There were thoughts shared on Trans Iowa and the recon for v5. I split the course finding duties with David Pals that year. He rode a lot of his bits and eventually I was to join him in doing that for what would become v7 a couple of years later. The recon of the course in this manner was a big lifting of weight off my shoulders and I was very relieved to have David working in the capacity that he did back then. 

Finally, by this point in 2008, Salsa Cycles had introduced the Fargo. The name had been revealed! Now folks had a look at the bike and reactions were.........passionate! Folks either loved it, or slagged it off as Salsa's "rip-off" of custom bikes, or said it was a "Jones Bike clone", or they even tried to draw parallels to Niner Bikes. The commentary was goofy, sometimes extremely negative, and not one of these people had actually ever ridden one yet. I kind of felt like it was a bike that had tons of potential to bring a lot of non-racer types back into a form of cycling I briefly was calling "adventuring". Here's a bit of a snippet from 2008 on what I thought about the Fargo:

"I think that the Fargo will be a trend setter, but maybe I'm off my rocker. I do know that it is a bike a lot of folks have been waiting for. Perhaps a bike that will set off a thousand adventures? Time will tell."

Judging from the Facebook page for the Fargo and the long running Fargo thread on MTBR.com, I'd say I was right about that. The Fargo still sparks that same kind of wonder and curiosity that it did in 2008. Kudos to Jason Boucher, Joe Meiser, Kid Reimer, and all the Salsa Crew who, at that time, had the vision and the passion to bring that bicycle model to life. I and a whole bunch of other folks owe a big debt of gratitude to those people.

Friday, September 07, 2018

Friday News And Views

Misunderstood Doesn't Mean "Bad"- Part 3:

So, to put a nice ribbon on this week's discussion about 1x and multiple chain ring drive train options, I wanted to talk a bit about cassettes. The chain line notwithstanding, there is one other issue with 1X that many don't stop to consider. 

The number of rear cogs in a cassette has steadily climbed upward since 1990 when Shimano introduced 8 speed cassettes. Nowadays, 11 and 12 cogs in a stack are not uncommon. Why? Where did the impetus  for going with more cogs come from? 

Was it to provide a wider range of gearing? No. The overall range for gearing hasn't changed significantly for any bike since that time. Then why do we have more cogs? You have to look in the mirror for the answer. it's because you are the "motor". Humans don't have a lot of power, so what we do have has to be doled out in an efficient manner. We see it in how we analyze our power output to the watt, how we interface with our machines based on that power output, and in how meticulously we set up our bikes in order to eek out the best possible power output. 

So, the move toward more cassette cogs was made to help keep our cadence in a range that is best for our power output. Ideally, in a perfect world, you would have an ideal cadence which produced the best power over a period of time and that would never vary even though you shift gears to different ratios. Therefore, the jumps between gears is critical to maintaining a high level of performance. More cogs can/should mean less change in cadence when shifting from one ratio to the next. That's why we have 11 speed drive trains. But what about 12? 

Well, that was done for 1X where all that mattered was the range of gearing. You saw it in the press releases and initial "reviews" of that system. However; you will note that without a way to shift in front, the only way to cover that range was to add an extra cog and have big jumps between gearing. In terms of jumps between gears, 1X is sub-optimal. Not only that, but the overall range might have to be adjusted up or down, as it were, and the only way to do that is with a front chain ring swap. You know.......basically manually shifting gears, only by doing it the hardest way possible. 

I just wanted to conclude this little series by once again stating that I do not "hate" 1X, nor do I wish for it to go away. It has its places. But that said, please keep it away from my gravel bike. 

 Signed Up:

Well, I alluded to something going on with me in a cryptic manner a few days ago. Now you know......I signed up for a gravel event. This time it is the ICGravel event which is being held on October 27th in River Junction, Iowa.

This will be year 2 for this event and they have two course length options of 100 miles or 100 kilometers (63 miles for you non-metric folk). I signed up for maximum punishment, of course, so I will be out for the hundy that day.

This is kind of an interesting event in that it happens at a time when you don't think about a gravel event, but doing one makes so much sense this time of the year. Yes......it could be wet, and in their inaugural year, it was, and it looked pretty sucky. But Fall riding rules if it is dry, and I like that time of year to put in big rides, so this makes sense to me. 

They have registration open, so if you'd like to join me, please do, and I bet it will be a rousing good time. No matter what the weather. I'm hoping that I will actually live up to that previous statement and really have a good time. But to do that, I have a lot of work to get going on. I need miles now, and I need to work consistently. 

Fortunately the weather has straightened out and the next ten days look great, so I look forward to getting on the right track and getting good and ready for this day on gravel in late October. 

I just might be running these tires at ICGravel
Michelin Power Gravel 40's:

Gravel this, gravel that. You can hardly keep up anymore these days. I remember when WTB was going to make the Nano 40 tubeless ready and that was the very first gravel specific tire you could get tubeless. Seems like eons ago, but it wasn't but maybe five years ago (?). Crazy. 

All that to say that if you weren't aware that Michelin had a gravel tire, well, you could easily be forgiven. Why would you know? These things pop up on a daily basis anymore. But in reality, these have been out for a while. I waited until the 40's came out as they first were out in a 35 or 38, I can't recall right now, but that wasn't what I wanted. 

So, I waited for these and we'll see how they go. Michelin tires always impressed me when I tried their 29"er tires, so I am expecting big things here. I will say that the tread pattern looks susceptible to being a "gravel flinger" type tread, but time will tell. They could be the bee's knees for all I know. Tubeless ready, of course. What tire shouldn't be tubeless ready for gravel? As far as I am concerned, all bicycle tires should be tubeless ready. At least higher end ones. 

I plan on sticking these on the Raleigh Tamland Two for the time being, but maybe they will be going on a different wheel set. This will depend upon how tight they fit. My Irwin wheels fit tires really tightly, so the Michelin may be a "no-go" there. If so, I think they will end up on my White Industries/WTB wheels. 

Stay tuned for more on the Power Gravel tires, which I purchased myself, by the way, just to be up front about that.

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