Sunday, October 20, 2019

Trans Iowa Stories: Hanging Out In Hawkeye

 "Trans Iowa Stories" is an every Sunday post which helps tell the stories behind the event. You can check out other posts about this subject by going back to earlier Sunday posts on this blog. Thanks and enjoy!

Last week I left off with the meeting of Ira in Janesville and seeing off Marcin Nowak on his pursuit of him. I didn't stick around long as I wanted to be sure nothing fishy was going to happen during the evening.

I still hadn't heard a thing from Zach and I was beginning to think he had bailed out on me when he buzzed me on his cell phone. Now, rural Iowa in 2007 wasn't a very well covered state in terms of cell service. Zach's transmission to me was crackling, static ridden, and he cut out a bit. It was difficult to communicate with him. I tried but we decided to connect later and see if the signal would be better.

In the meantime I was leapfrogging the course again, bypassing more flooded roads which I only learned about well after T.I.v3 was over. In later Trans Iowas this event cemented in me that I had to stick to the course in the future. But for the time being, I was none the wiser. Another issue began to raise its head during this Trans Iowa also. That being that small town convenience stores were ceasing the 24hr service and closing at 10pm, 11pm, and in rare cases, midnight. This meant that the next planned service I had on course would be closed before any riders got there. Yeah......they ended up riding something like 88 miles without service. At least the front runners did. In the early days of Trans Iowa I felt that was a problem. However; I came to understand that the riders could manage longer distances between service opportunities, so later on, an 88 mile stretch between stores was nothing.

Later into the event the slower riders didn't have these issues. They actually were welcomed at 6:00am when this particular place on the T.I.v3 route opened up again. I'd guess about half the 24 finishers benefited. I was a bit upset about it back then because my gauge was to have service opportunities at 50 mile intervals or less. So, I felt a bit of a failure was suffered there on my part, but at the time I just had to let things play out. I could change this in the future. 

Only I was not sure there ever would be a future for Trans Iowa.

Anyway, one of the notable things to me about this T.I. was that I did take a camera, but I lost the files, so I have about two images that I took from it. Weird. That never happened again! But this time, Zach actually covered the event well enough in words that images are not needed as far as my part went, and David Story's awesome covering of the event in terms of images was more than enough to satisfy me. Also, a rider in T.I.v3, Cale Wenthur, took a bunch of great images, some of which I have been using to document T.I.v3 here. (Thanks Cale!)

Speaking of Zach, his take on events of that particular evening were epic. He mentioned being lost in Iowa, the gridded out roads presenting a maze which confused him to no end. He finally did call me and got back on track. By this time I was in Hawkeye awaiting leaders to come by and I was parked in front of a Lutheran Church there. Zach finally arrived a little before 2:00am, and we compared notes from the day. Ira lumbered through town then, with little more than a nod to our existence, he rode on. Then the young women in the truck scene happened:

*".....a pickup truck lumbered around the corner at the telltale pace of a DUI dodger and bumbled over the curb and into the middle of the lawn across the street. A woman jumped out and sprinted inside the house. She left the driver's side door open. She left the country music station on. Blaring. The latest Nashville hits now pound through Hawkeye's half dozen comatose streets, a twangy and tinny surrealist performance-art installation in the making. First I expect the cops to come. then I realize there probably aren't any.

 That was one of the odder things I ever witnessed during a Trans Iowa that wasn't related to the event. By the way, Zach didn't really impart how loud this was. The truck had headers and glass packs, and the stereo was blaring over that. So REALLY LOUD! I remember Zach standing there, slack-jawed, and asking me when the cops would show up. That's when I had to explain to him that there weren't any cops. Maybe a county deputy?.... nah! I told him that the only thing that would happen would be that the local residents would be talking down about it for a few days afterward. Otherwise, standard procedure for these parts!

Not long after this, Marcin came through, his jersey fully unzipped, flapping in the wind. He asked me if there were any convenience stores up the road, and I told him there were none.

" Oh boy, oh boy!", he exclaimed, and he stood up and punched his pedals, disappearing into the blackness. We then waited to see who else would follow up, but by around 3:00am, Zach was cashing out. I stayed up and kept vigil. It was cold, dark, and now eerily silent in Hawkeye. The girl in the truck had long since gone. Nothing was stirring. I had to relieve myself after having downed several Red Bulls. I found a suitable scrub pine behind the church, away from the street, and then I was anxious to get on to the finish line. We had about 40 miles to go, and I figured that Ira would be getting there around 5:00am, so we had to get a move-on.

I tapped on Zach's rental car window until he stirred. "C'mon! We gotta roll!", I said. Zach finally got his act together and we zoomed out of town to the finish. I wanted to be there to make sure I didn't miss it. On the way I rolled a huge racoon under the "Dirty Blue Box" and I was running so hard around the twisty-turny roads that Zach said he could barely hang on to my car. We met up with our two volunteers, Marty and Rob, plus a few others. Zach kind of faded into the background after this point. I was pretty out of it by mid-morning anyway, despite Zach saying that I was bouncing around full of energy. He was busy observing, speaking with others, and then he disappeared. Needed more sleep, I guess, but I don't ever remember saying goodbye to him and I never saw him again.
I've no recollection of doing the awards for T.I.v3. (Image by Cale Wenthur)

Of course, I've written about what happened at the finish a bunch of times. The epic chase of Marcin Nowak coming up ten minutes short. How Team Polska animated the entire finish line experience.  How Ira Ryan was not pleasant to me, and how his entourage was not friendly as well. It's interesting to look back on the apologists who have commented about the incident with Ira in later years, but as it stands, I have never heard from Ira Ryan since that day. And ya know, it doesn't matter. He won. Twice. He was awesome as a cyclist and certainly holds a high place in Trans Iowa history. I will never deny that he did good for the event from afar. If it hadn't been for Ira, Zach would probably never have written the book, and well......I would be poorer for that. So, in the end, despite Ira's malediction at the end of T.I.v3, I still hold that he is a champion of the event. An enigmatic champion- certainly, but a champion none the less.

*Note: Quotation in blue italics is from Zach Dundas' "Renegade Sportsman" chapter on Trans Iowa. I'll be referencing Zach's book in future editions of Trans Iowa Stories. 

Next: The Reasons Why It Shouldn't Ever Have Happened Again 

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Minus Ten Review 2009-44

The leaves of ten years ago.
Ten years ago on the blog I was chatting about Fall weather and riding some of the biggest, baddest tires for 29"ers yet made. The WTB Dissent was, if anything, a harbinger of things to come. But at the time, it was the outlier. A tire with no where to really use it, or a bike to use it on.

Ten years ago, trail riding was still dominated by 26" wheels. That's amazing when you think about that. The longest travel, mainstream suspension fork for a 29"er had 4" of travel. There were oddball efforts with longer travel, but these were rare. In fact, I was using a 120mm travel Reba, which at the time was the long end of suspension fork travel for any 29"er. times have changed! Now days anything with two wheels going off road is available with 29"er wheels. 26"?


Ask anyone ten years ago if 26" wheels wouldn't be available for trail, much less DH, in the near future and you would have been run outta town. Just ask Chris Sugai of Niner Bikes. He could tell you.....

The image used today was from a mid-week ride ten years ago on Camp Ingawanis' North Side. These trails are largely unused by cyclists today, and as far as I can tell, it will remain so unless there is some movement by the Boy Scouts to invite cyclists back again. That's really a shame for the locals here. Of course, Ingawanis Woodland, the trails formerly known as "The South Side", when the BSA owned that parcel of land, is a fantastic resource, but those old North side trails were technically more challenging, faster, went "cross country", and had far more variety than anything on the South Side. Just one trail, the old "Broken Finger" section, was ten times more challenging than anything on the South Side. But, yeah...... I could talk for days. Only those who were on those trails can really understand what it is I am trying to convey here.

Obviously, I miss riding there. It was my choice to always do the North Side trails and then maybe do the South Side if I had the time. If you did all the North Side you were pretty tuckered out. There was more mileage there, (even considering today's Ingy trails which didn't exist back then), and the efforts required to do all the North Side were more taxing too. It was just all-around more fun.


At least I had the opportunity to taste what that was like a lot ten years ago. I am very grateful that I did get that chance.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Friday News And Views

RAGBRAI Forges Ahead:

Since Tuesday's announcement that the entire RAGBRAI staff had resigned and decided to start up a different ride called "Iowa's Ride", everyone concerned with the issue had been wondering what RAGBRAI would do. Well, on Wednesday a statement was released by RAGBRAI via its newsletter to email subscribers from a marketing person stating that RAGBRAI would, in fact, occur in July 2020.

Obviously the Des Moines Register is scrambling to get an organization set up to take care of the production of the event. No details were given that anyone had been hired or appointed as of yesterday.

Also, yesterday the Iowa Bicycle Coalition announced its support of "Iowa's Ride". Here is an excerpt from their announcement: "We believe that Iowa’s Ride will be the most successful way to continue the iconic annual bicycle ride across Iowa, not only in 2020 but for many years to come. The team that has formed Iowa’s ride and that will be organizing and managing it have unmatched experience and success in doing so. They are the best hope for continuing this proud tradition. We also believe that a cross-state ride will be best operated and most likely to succeed as a stand-alone and independent entity. This is what Iowa’s Ride offers."

On one hand you have a seasoned team in Iowa's Ride that knows how to do this deal. However; this ride has no equity with traditional RAGBRAI riders, many who won't give a rip about the Carson King Affair. They just want to do RAGBRAI, since.....well RAGBRAI. It's a religion with some folks. That said.....

RAGBRAI has a pickle to deal with, and they won't have anyone with the sort of experience that T.J. Juskiewicz and his team have. What sort of production can we expect from a rookie team? Then too, will mainstay vendors stick with the ride? There are a lot of issues with RAGBRAI, and like anything that's been around a long time, a lot of grumbling factions, some of which may want to jump ship to see their visions possibly become reality.

In fact, that's probably the underlying reason why the folks behind Iowa's Ride left RAGBRAI in the first place.

Measure Your Wrists- Find Your Saddle Size! Really!

Many of you may be aware that saddle size for your bicycle is like shoes, or gloves, or helmets. One size does not fit all. Or even most, for that matter. So, in the last ten years or so, a few ideas have been put forth to help people sort out which size saddle they could be more comfortable on. (Note- I said "could be")

Sometimes this might be effected by having a sample run of saddles that you actually tried out on your own bicycle. Several companies went that direction, including WTB, back a decade ago or so. Then Bontrager had a system which included a gel filled cushion on a small bench. You sat yourself within the center of this, and theoretically, your sit bones would push away the gel and a color coded scale would lead you to your correct saddle width choice. It was a start, for sure, and I realized when using this system that I had been using a saddle too narrow for me.

Once I had narrowed that down I still had to search for a saddle shape and padding that worked for me. Eventually I ended up on mostly WTB stuff with a smattering of Brooks saddles thrown in for good measure. Last year WTB announced new, wider widths for some of their saddle line and I got to try out the Silverado in a 143mm width. Oh! New favorite saddle!

Then at Gravel Worlds the fit system was being talked about at the WTB booth. I was......pretty skeptical. I watched as my friend Tony went through the four steps and had a width suggested to him along with a couple saddles that matched his profile. Then I went back home and pretty much forgot about it.

In that time I started experiencing some discomfort with my old standby, the WTB Pure. As we age, things change. Maybe I needed to start thinking about a new saddle. The Silverado? Maybe. Then WTB's marketing guy sent me an e-mail asking if I wouldn't go through the saddle finder system and try a saddle or would I? So, I agreed, and this new Volt is what I was sent. Stay tuned for the results.....

One sided, but made for gravel travel.
TIME Does Gravel:

TIME is a well known pedal and shoe purveyor that has been most used in the road cycling circles, but they do have an excellent MTB pedal that is shamefully under-represented in the mountain biking and gravel road segments.

Recently TIME announced a new pedal aimed at, what else, gravel riding. Well, to be fair, they are saying this was also influenced by the needs of cyclo-tourists as well. The deal here is that road pedals have a great, supportive platform, but generally use a cleat that necessitates a shoe design which is awkward to walk in. TIME solved this issue with their new Ciclo pedal.

I used road pedals and shoes once, for a short time, in the early 1990's. The ones I tried were those Shimano two bolt cleat ones, remember those? They were smallish and harder than heck to get into, at least I thought so. And those shoes! Gah! Not for me. And then I went MTB shoes/pedals and never looked back. So, I really have no reference point for this "support" you get with more of a platform pedal.

This will be newer territory for me, and I am going in with an open mind to see what, if any, real differences there are. I am quite familiar with carbon soled shoes and stiffer soled MTB style shoes, while my preference usually was for a bit more flex than not. In fact, one of my all-time favorite shoes of recent years was a pair of middling Shimano three strap MTB shoes.

I'll probably bolt these cleats to my old 45NRTH bootie shoes, since, ya know, Fall has progressed to the point that traditional shoes are not going to be a good choice. Stay tuned for how this all works out.

Note: TIME and WTB sent the items mentioned in today's post to RIDING GRAVEL for review at no charge. There was no money exchanged or promises made to include these items in today's post. 

That's it for this week. get out and ride, but be careful of all the farmers this weekend if you ride out in the country in the Mid-West. 

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Fall Views: Blustery Day Back On The Bike

Many of the roads were in fast shape.
Well, good news! Mrs. Guitar Ted's recovery is coming along really well and I was released to go out and ride again. So, I took the opportunity to head out on a grey, blustery day with the Gen I Fargo, which I needed to put time on to continue the "Lube-Off" test.

With a steady wind out of the Northwest, maybe about 15-18mph, I decided to go North first. I went the traditional way up Moline Road first and then hopping over a mile East on Airline Highway, I then headed back Northwards on Sage Road.

The goal for the day was two hours. I had a steady cadence going as I tried to keep things "spinny" going into the wind. It is a mostly uphill slog too, at least until you pass C-57, and then it flattens out more until you get to the County line where it gets positively flat. Then the plan was to head West over to Burton Avenue to check on the two rural churches out there, then back across East at some point to get back to Sage and Southwards to the starting point again.

With the temperatures in the mid-40's and that wind, it was going to be chilly. So I busted out the wool that has been stored away since last Spring and used a wool base layer, an old Salsa Cycles wool jersey, and the Riding Gravel vest over that. I wore 3/4's length Endura pants with a liner short, and wool socks from a company called Feeture. The Shimano RX8 shoes were used with shopping bag vapor barriers. My gloves were full finger jobs from Cuero, and on my noggin I used a "buff" synthetic sock and my aero helmet. Ready? Ready!

Skies looked ominous but there was zero rain in the forecast.
One of the rare times the Sun shone on me. Lots of corn still out here too!
The harvest, which on a normal year would be wrapped up by now, is just now cranking into high gear. It was postponed a couple weeks back when we got all the heavy rains in the area. As I started out my ride, I saw no movement in any field. Just a lot of rattling corn leaves in the wind and a lot of dried up soybean fields.That scene would change as the day went on though.

Methodist church on Sage Road
I surprised this dog I found trotting North on Sage Road.
Earlier in the year, I was getting pinned down by aggressive dogs on every ride. That prompted me to dub 2019 as "The Year of the Dog". and of course, as soon as I did that, the dog problems ceased to be an issue for the rest of the Summer. Going up Sage Road I came up on a black dog trotting up the road in the same Northerly direction. The dog could not hear me or smell me because I was down wind of it. I whistled and caught its ear, figuring that would be better than taking it by surprise and perhaps fomenting a bad response. However; when the dog heard my whistle, it turned toward me and started trotting back, keeping as far away to the side of the road as was possible. It had the look of a dog just caught being naughty. It never barked at me, it just shot a furtive glance at me as I passed seemingly to say, "Please don't hurt me!" Poor thing!

Farm equipment was being marshaled for the assault upon the ripened fields all across the area.
A harvester in a bean field on the Black Hawk/Bremer County line.
Eventually I started seeing trucks and farm machinery moving across the gravel roads. LOTS of pick-up trucks were flying around, and a few busted up vehicles as well. No doubt men and machines were being put into motion as the harvest gets really cooking now. I caught several weird looks, as I suppose most people would not expect a cyclist out there, especially at this time of year. I'm sure I made the albums on more than a few cell phone cameras.

East Janesville Church.
St. Paul's Lutheran Church
I cut across on the county line Westward with the aim to go check on the two rural churches on Burton Avenue in Northern Black Hawk County. After this I planned on crossing C-57 on Burton, then turning back East on Bennington Road to go back to Sage and then on back the way that I came out of Waterloo.

I was measuring my efforts after turning out of the wind, trying not to take too much advantage of that, and eventually the tailwind as I went South. I wanted to check up on my speed to make sure I didn't go too hard and to make sure I got two hours of riding in.

The light caught just right in the high tension line's insulators making them look like they were lit up.
I had to dismount for this enormous harvester. It took up the entire roadway!
I made my way back the way I had come out, which was basically no big deal, except at the corner of Sage Road and Airline Highway, where I met this gigantic John Deere harvester. It had been fitted with duallys, no doubt against the high probability of wet field conditions, and that made it so wide there was literally only two feet either side of it of open gravel road. I dismounted, considered getting into the ditch, but it turned South and so I waved and watched it move down the road. Not far behind, the cutting head, the part that cuts the bean plants and conveys them into the harvester, was being pulled behind a 4X4 truck. That vehicle made as wide a turn as possible, due to the length of the apparatus, and it barely made the turn. These machines could not be any larger! They simply could not be transferred on these gravel roads built with horses and wooden wheeled wagons in mind.

And of course- Barns For Jason!
So, I ended up with two and a half hours of good times and I sure needed that! The harvest will quickly change the look of the landscape. I am sure the next ride I do will be all about barren fields and the scenery will be sullen and brown again. But for now, I was stoked to get this ride in on the cusp of harvest.

I have an hour and a half yet on this drive train for the "Lube-Off", then it will be on to the "control bike", the DuMonde Tech lubricated one, and the conclusion of this test will then be arrived at. I better get to gettin'! The riding days are surely numbered now with November on the door step.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Former RAGBRAI Staff Look To Start New Iowa Tradition

In a bombshell announcement, former RAGBRAI director, T.J. Juskiewicz and the entire RAGBRAI team under him resigned on Tuesday. This apparently over issues regarding the kerfuffle that the Des Moines Register/Gannett/USA Today found itself in over the handling of the Carson King social media affair.

 That affair has to do with Carson King's initiative to support the Iowa Children's Hospital charities, an initiative precipitated when King, a college student here in Iowa, asked for beer money by holding up a sign on national TV. Subsequently, the prank went viral and King was flooded with dollars which he then promised to the Iowa Children's Hospital. Several large corporations and entities joined in the viral media blitz which quickly raised hundreds of thousands of dollars. Then, in research for a Des Moines Register article profile on King, King's social media history was mined by a Des Moines Register reporter and the reporter found racist comments King made years ago on Twitter as a teenager. These comments, when brought to light, had the effect of causing Anheuser-Busch to pull support from King's initiative. King publicly apologized ahead of the DM Register story, and public opinion, which was in support of King, was such that the whole situation blew up into what amounted to a public image fiasco for the Register. This went so far that the DM Register reporter had his social media history searched, and when racist statements were uncovered that he had made, he resigned.

Why does this matter to RAGBRAI? Well, the ride is owned by the Des Moines Register/Gannett/USA Today, and their public image handlers were, according to Juskiewicz, trying to hush the narrative since it was a negative for the business. Apparently, Juskiewicz had endured enough.

Quote posted to the RAGBRAI page by T.J. Juskiewicz which was later pulled from the site. 
 In response, Juskiewicz and his team had a ride announcement, website, and statements at the ready for this day. The new venture, dubbed "Iowa's Ride" is set to occur on the week that traditionally was RAGBRAI week, and half the proceeds from the ride are tabbed to go to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. The route announcement is set for November, and further details will be released later.

Comments/Reactions: RAGBRAI, an Iowa tradition since 1973, was the largest organized bicycle ride, maybe world-wide, but certainly in the U.S. Now that string is threatened by this development. It's almost too bizarre to be true, but apparently it is- RAGBRAI just might be done. (Or not- see below.) Note that the "Iowa's Ride" website is fully developed and was obviously worked on and developed ahead of Tuesday's bombshell announcement. So, it is safe to say this move has been in the works for awhile now.

Just the other day I was remarking to N.Y. Roll, (ironically via Facebook Messenger), that "social media ruins everything". One perhaps could now say this about RAGBRAI. Had social media not existed, this whole Carson King mess would never had happened, and RAGBRAI would be chugging into its 48th edition unabated. But, in a twist of fates that could only have happened due to social media, we just may be seeing the demise of one of the greatest cycling spectacles in history.

Or......will we see litigation against the former director and his team tie up the new event so that it won't happen? Money is involved here, so don't be at all surprised to see this happen. If it does, it will likely have a negative effect on the DM Register/Gannett/USA Today which may surprise them, and cause both rides to not happen at all in 2020. From a Des Moines Register article Tuesday:

"Asked whether Gannett plans to take legal action against organizers of the proposed Iowa’s Ride, Yost said the company is exploring all legal options."

It's a big deal economically to bicycle shops in the Mid-West, and communities that host the ride are also standing to be affected negatively if the situation devolves into a litigation battle. Public opinion is not currently on the side of the Register either, so they need to be careful not to deal themselves a further blow by making the situation worse. With several people voicing support for the new ride, it would seem that the tide has already been turned against RAGBRAI.

So could there be two concurrent cross-state rides rivaling each other for the rider's time and monies? Doubtful. The RAGBRAI relies heavily on support from the State Patrol to operate, and without that support, neither the RAGBRAI or Iowa's Ride could happen. It's doubtful the State Patrol would support two concurrent rides of this magnitude, assuming "Iowa's Ride" could draw a big enough crowd. But who knows? It also will be a decision many vendors will now face. To support the old event, or the new? Again, with all the economics of the event at stake, it seems that a legal battle might be imminent.

Apparently, according to a report posted online by KCCI late Tuesday afternoon, the following statement was made by a representative of Gannett/USA Today: 

"We’ll continue RAGBRAI’s longstanding tradition in 2020 with another great bicycle ride and strong partnerships with Iowa communities to raise money for good causes. Our commitment remains to donate $50,000 to the University of Iowa’s Stead Family Children’s Hospital. We’re proud of the good RAGBRAI has done for the state since 1973."- Andy Yost, chief marketing officer at Gannett.

So, the coming weeks and months will provide some drama in regard to what may or may not happen for next Summer where any "Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa" is concerned.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

KOM Sealant Injector Reviewed

KOM Sealant Injector. (Tire levers and core remover are in foreground)
Note: As Mrs. Guitar Ted convalesces, and "other things" transpire, I will be rolling out some reviews and other pieces until I can resume a regular riding and cycling life schedule. For background on what is happening with Mrs. Guitar Ted see this post from Monday, October 14th

Recently I reviewed the KOM Cycling Sealant Injector System on Riding Gravel. This won't be a re-hash of that review, but I am going to give you an "extended viewpoint" since I posted that review and a bit of background. 

Sealant injectors are not anything new and I have used one in one form or another for......maybe ten years? I bet it's been that long. Early tubeless valve cores did not have removable cores in some cases, so sealant injectors weren't always applicable, but now a removable valve core had better be there, or your valve is last century technology. Once those became ubiquitous, I started using a plastic syringe and a piece of surgical tubing to suck sealant into the syringe, then by placing the tubing over the nipple of the syringe and the other end over the open valve, I could seamlessly inject sealant into a tire. Well.....theoretically, I could. 

Some times the sealant would back out of the syringe and dribble. Some times the tubing would pop off the valve or the syringe with the messy result of sealant spray all over the place. Some times none of those two things would happen. However, there might be times when air was trying to get out of the tire, since it was being displaced by sealant, and it would burp sealant back out of the tire once you removed the tubing from over the valve. Messy, messy, messy! 

 So, what is different with KOM's set up? Well, a couple of big things, but really simple things. First, they developed a petcock valve that sits in-line with the syringe tubing. This allows you to shut off any chances of back flow from the syringe tubing. Secondly, they developed screw on attachment points instead of friction fittings which can come off at inopportune times. Thirdly they made a smaller diameter tube which screws on to the petcock valve and this inserts into the valve instead of fitting over it. That's an important distinction since it allows for air to escape the tire as sealant is injected into it. Less chances for mess. 

The petcock valve in shut position. You won't drip a drop.
These are seemingly minute details, but maybe I am outside the norm, as I set up and maintenance tubeless tires far more than most. That said, this system sets up as a way to make life easier, less messy, and more successful. Who doesn't want that? I know that the system I had been using for a long time is now gathering dust, and I won't be digging it out anytime soon, that is, unless I need a back-up for some reason, or if I lend that old tool out. 

This KOM Sealant Injector is not going anywhere anytime soon. For more info, see their site.  

A word about that lever/core remover deal: KOM also sent me a lever set and a core remover. The core remover is every bit as effective as the Park Tools one, and it nests into the levers, which snap together themselves.  All in all a not-so-lightweight but effective set up that makes it really hard to misplace the core removal tool. I've seen a lot of nifty core removal tools but 90% of them are so tiny that they get sucked into the Swirling Vortex of Hell (SVoH) that is inside every bag on any bike. I cannot count the times I've emptied top tube bags, bar bags, and seat packs and said, "Oh! That's where that went!", and then proceeded to send that same item into another SVoH inside another bag only to be lost again. At least when three things band together, as with the KOM Cycling lever set, they have a fighting chance to survive. And, you know, the core remover is anodized red aluminum, which is basically Kryptonite for any SVoH situation. So, there is that. 

 NOTE: KOM Cycling sent these items reviewed here for test and review at no charge to Riding Gravel. We were not paid, nor bribed, for this review and we strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Family Time

Squeezing in some time to do review work, but that's about it right now.
I am not real stoked on 2019, I'll tell y'all that right now. This year is going to go down as one of the most down years I've had both personally and professionally in a long time. But that will all come out later. I can't even talk about some of the stuff that is going on now.

Anyway, I wanted to say that several of you must be sensing this because I've been getting a decent amount of "Is everything okay?" messages of late. To you who have reached out. Thank you. It means a lot. But again- I am okay- it's just that several situations suck right now, and getting through this will see me doing better and being stronger. That's what I believe.

Anyway, one of the things I've had to deal with is Mrs.Guitar Ted and her knee issue. She developed pain and a "catch" in her right knee over the Summer which got progressively worse and then we decided it was time to get something done about it. Surgery to scope out what was going on was required, I think they cleaned up a tear in a ligament, (we get the full report Tuesday), and she's been laid up since Friday now. This precipitated my missing the unPAved event in Pennsylvania over the weekend, and I've been real busy doing the job of two parents since then.

So, I've had to stick close to help my wife if she needed anything. That meant I spent a lot of time cleaning the shop. Which, by the way, has been neglected for far too long anyway. So, that was a good thing. I also got my drop bar Badger back in the game, re-upped sealant on the "Orange Crush" BMC, and worked on the Noble Bikes GX5, which had developed a creaking noise.

The creaking wasn't that sort that I associate with a bottom bracket. But it was higher pitched in frequency, which lead me to think pedals, chain ring bolts, or something like that. So, I removed the crank set, a SRAM Force 1X, and checked the bolts. two were loose. So.......hopefully I put the thing back together and rode it. Still had the same creak, but quieter. Hmm..... I did clean the cranks up a bit. I don't know if my cleaning solution got into the interface of aluminum spider and carbon arm, quieting down a creak? Maybe.

At least Noble Bikes used the Wheels MFG Thread Together BB
I still do not think it is the bottom bracket since Noble Bikes had the good sense not to use standard Press Fit plastic crap for cups in a carbon frame. Nope! They used the Wheels MFG Thread Together unit, which I have installed in a few bikes at work. They seemed to quiet the bikes I put them in down quite a lot, and I was happy to see Noble using this component.

I still might remove it and clean everything up just because. It certainly wouldn't hurt. Besides......something is happening soon that will require it anyway. Stay tuned....... I am pretty stoked to have this development happening, and sooner than later I can talk about that. (So, 2019 isn't all bad!) 

So, yeah...... No big bicycle outings for me this past weekend, and probably not for several days yet. Mrs. Guitar Ted is dealing with a fair bit of pain, so far, but the hope is she'll be back going again in a couple weeks or so. In the meantime, family is priority number one here and it has been all hands on deck with me and the two kids pitching in. Oh! By the way, pardon me while I go check on the laundry...........I'll be back tomorrow.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Trans Iowa Stories: More Tales of v3- Part 2

"Trans Iowa Stories" is an every Sunday post which helps tell the stories behind the event. You can check out other posts about this subject by going back to earlier Sunday posts on this blog. Thanks and enjoy!

Last week I left off with tales of the event up to the checkpoint. Past that point of the event is a moment that was cemented in my memories of Trans Iowa as being one of the best ever. When Zach Dundas, the author shadowing me for the event that year, reunited with me, we decided to hang out in a section of Level B Road in Tama County. The thought being that (a), it was about as "rural" as it gets there, and (b) we wanted to see how Team Polska was doing as they had overtaken the duo of Ryan and Hannon at the checkpoint in a well told exchange that I won't cover here.

What hasn't been told is how, for several hours, Dundas and I relaxed in the afternoon Sunlight of a late April day without a single care in the world. I recall Zach reclining in his red Pontiac rental car, doors open, with his feet sticking out of the rear door, snoozing. We didn't talk with each other. We weren't even within several feet of each other most of this time. It sounds really boring, I am sure, but to have had some time in a quiet, peaceful rural setting without a worry in the World? Priceless. I am not sure I've had many times in my life where I felt such peace and contentment in just "being", if that makes any sense. Zach? I just hope he had anything similar to my experience. But I don't really know.

Team Polska crests a hill on a Level B road in Tama County. My car is obscuring Zach's here, but you can see his open door.

So, after this, of course, racers started coming by, and I recall Zach being sort of amazed by the fact that they were so strung out on the road. We then proceeded to follow the course behind the front runners that had gone by us. One by one, or in pairs, we would occasionally catch them, slowing waaaay down so as not to 'dust" them badly. It was dry and almost hot that day, as I recall. Then, just as we turned left onto Ridge Road off  K Avenue in Tama County, we saw a rider coming backward toward us. It was Brian Hannon.

Wow, were Zach and I ever heartbroken for him! He had been pushing so hard that his knee was giving him fits. Something about a pre-event change he made, and didn't test out, a new to him bike, had bitten him. He knew it was his fault for changing something right before an event, but Zach and I were still very sad for him. We did our best to lift his spirits, telling him his efforts earlier in the day were super-human. Eventually, with his head down, he made his way back toward Traer, the last town the route had passed through, and called for a ride. I haven't seen Brian since then.........

A famous image from T.I.v3 which was on the T.I. website front page for years.
Of course, this left Ira Ryan alone at the front of the event. So, now I was very concerned. Where was Ira? You'd think we'd come across him not much further up the road. Right? Hannon said he had turned back not long before we had found him.

So, following the cues I had, I drove with my head on a swivel. Zach followed in the Red Pontiac. Peering ahead, I was looking for any signs of a rider alone. From South of Reinbeck to Dike, Iowa, where the next convenience store was, I figured we would have to come across Ryan. But.......there was no sign of him! Now, I wasn't much for math, and I still am not, but I knew Ryan wasn't going that fast. Eventually Zach and I reached the convenience store, the next likely stopping point on route, and Ira Ryan wasn't there. We still had no idea where Ryan was. I was super suspicious now, especially since I knew Ryan's short-cutting the course in v1 was in his history. Was he doing that again? No way. There was no where to short cut this course that would have given him any advantage. It was pretty much due North from where we had seen Hannon last. But, maybe he was lost? Could be. Wrong turns are not uncommon at gravel events.

 Or, was Ryan getting pre-arranged support? Hmm.... That wasn't out of the question. He certainly wasn't carrying much, that's for sure, and he gave me a bunch of his home made energy bars at the checkpoint, saying he couldn't gut them anymore. So, just what was he going to be eating? 

At the convenience store, I kept watch up the street, not standing still for Zach's conversation. To be honest, I was so distracted by Ryan's "missing in action" that I don't remember a word of what was said there. I kept walking over to the street from the parking lot, peering up Main Street, to the South, which was the route to the convenience store. Then I saw him.

Ryan was up the street a couple of blocks, chatting with someone in a Chevy van stopped in the street. I carefully watched to see if anything was exchanged between he and the van driver, but saw nothing. Ryan then waved to whomever that was and made his way to the convenience store where I questioned him about his whereabouts. He answered with dismissive, short sentences, saying that I must have missed him, that he got off the route for a bit. Maybe he got off at Reinbeck to look for water? Ryan wouldn't say. The course did skirt the city limits of that village. Hmm..... I was suspicious, but I let it go. But I was also going to keep a very close eye on him through the night.

I took this image of Ira Ryan in Janesville, Iowa during T.I.v3
 Team Polska arrived not long after Ryan pulled out of town. They were animated and everyone's spirits who were around them were lifted. Macjei, who was riding his first T.I., was done. He was calling it in there. He offered his stash of goodies to Douglas and his brother, Marcin, who gladly accepted his offer. Macjei stripped down to his bibs and kept pulling out bars, gels, and stuff like clowns out of a circus car. He lined up everything on a edge of a brick wall of the store. It was amazing to watch customers trying not to get caught gawking at Macjei's muscular, slim body, now nearly naked. It was quite the scene!

Then an overweight male lumbered towards the door of the convenience store from his Harley Davidson motorcycle. He asked what was going on here? When we described the event to him, he was flat out amazed. He offered advice and quipped, *"You know what you need, boy?  A got-dammned motor, that's what!" Then he ambled on into the store. We laughed pretty hard about that after he disappeared!

I stuck around for a while and Zach said he needed to take a break, and he stayed while I went on chasing the leaders again. I bypassed a bit of the route in order to leap frog the riders that had passed through already, and staged a look-out at the next convenience store up the road in Janesville, Iowa. I came across David Story and his friends, who were documenting the event in images. They were weary, and it sounded as though they were going to pack it in not long after I saw them. I stuck around, and it wasn't long before a weary Ira Ryan, alone, moved in toward the convenience store.

He didn't waste any time and was in and out quickly. When he came out, I made some comment to break the ice, and Ryan, slowly munching on a cheeseburger, flatly told me that there were flooded roads he had to navigate. No emotion in his voice, so I was a bit taken aback by this, plus I was immediately concerned. Ryan said that the road was passable, so it probably was no big deal, but mentioned that he was surprised by this turn of events. Ryan then whipped out the second cheeseburger, and quipped something to me about that these were a good deal. Two for two bucks, or something. He ate a couple bites, wrapped up what was left and stuffed it into his jersey pocket, and asking a bit about which way out of town, then rode off in the direction I pointed him.

I waited for what was left of Team Polska to arrive, and they weren't far behind. Pietz was shot. His knee was toast and he was dropping out there. He bid Marcin the best. Marcin then asked for information on Ryan's lead, and when he heard that he wasn't far up the road, he set his face with steely determination and took off smartly down the course. I followed out shortly afterward, but took another short cut to reach a point up the course in Hawkeye, Iowa. There I wanted to wait to see how the progress of these two leaders was playing out.

*Note: blue italicized quote is from Zach Dundas' "Renegade Sportsman" chapter on Trans Iowa. I'll be quoting from this book more in the future.

Next: Hanging Out In Hawkeye, Iowa

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Minus Ten Review 2009-43

Ten years ago I was extolling the virtues of single speed devices. Still am doing that.
Ten years ago on the blog I was chilling out and doing some work on some of my single speed rigs. I also was waiting patiently on any news on the Big Wheeled Ballyhoo. The "festival" of 29"ers that was to occur near Brady, Nebraska at Potter's Pasture. But before I get wrapped up in the tale of ten year's ago, it may prove beneficial to you readers to recap the whole thread concerning the Ballyhoo idea.

I first was enamored of the idea of a barbecue/bike get-together when I read about what George Wissel was doing in Vermont via the old "Bike 29" blog. He was doing something he dubbed as a "Meat-Up", (where have you seen that before? Hint- Trans Iowa, and yes- I stole it from George!). The "Meat-Up" was essentially an excuse to gather up the 29"er faithful and have a hootenanny based loosely on the idea of mucking around on bicycles in the woods. It was all about fun. No real industry ties. No real organization necessary or desired.

The idea was perfect, and I was batting around the thought of doing something similar here in the Mid-West when my former head of operations at "Twenty Nine Inches", Tim Grahl, saw my meanderings on the subject and thought it should be something monetized for profit for the site. Well, we had a bit of back and forth, but with some industry interest voiced, Grahl's ideas won the day and the first "Big Wheeled Ballyhoo" was essentially an expo for 29"ers. Not my idea of a good time, although many of the Decorah people, where the event was held, tried to steer it in that direction. The event was kind of a dud, but there was enough potential there to encourage industry folks, Decorah folks, and Grahl to push for another go at it in 2008.

2008 was a disaster based upon the extreme weather and the effects it had on the expo/camping site. The event was cancelled. Grahl basically was no help whatsoever. He later basically abdicated all responsibilities for the websites he held later that year, and so the Ballyhoo idea was mine to do whatever I wanted to do with it. At the behest of MG and some other folks, it was decided to move the event to Potter's Pasture, although my initial idea was to put the event in Lincoln, Nebraska. "Fun" was back on the menu, but some industry interests pushed in and we had some sponsorship that year which was low key and cool. This was far more what I had in mind, but it wasn't to be.

As reported again in last week's "Minus Ten Review", my father in law suffered a stroke necessitating changed plans on my end. I could not attend. MG took over as the host, and no doubt the event would have been a success, but for the "wild card". The weather.

"Just got word that the site of the Big Wheeled Ballyhoo was dumped on with 12-14 inches of snow last night. They decided to bag it and the event is off. Too bad really, a lot of work went into this. A lot of sweat equity on the part of the folks in Nebraska too."

That paragraph above is what I posted the morning the Ballyhoo was to kick off. It was a freak snow storm, and in my mind, it was a sign to quit. It just wasn't meant to be. Besides, at this point, going into 2010, 29"ers were not weird anymore. They were "mountain bikes" and 26"ers were obviously on their way out.  The unique factor was played out, and I couldn't see the point in basing an event on a gathering of "29"er freaks" when we weren't really freaks anymore. Which, in itself, was alright with me. I was happy to see 29"ers weren't going away anytime soon. Plus, I had enough crap on my plate to choke a horse. 

So, thus ended the Big Wheeled Ballyhoo.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Friday News And Views

Updated Cutthroat for 2020. Image courtesy of Salsa Cycles
Salsa Cycles Announces Redesigned Cutthroat:

If you follow social media at all, you already have seen the new Salsa Cycles Cutthroat by now. I won't go over all of the nitty-gritty of the new design, but I wanted to touch upon a few things that struck me about this announcement and the bike.

I've not been a big fan of carbon fiber as an adventure bike/gravel bike frame material since I've seen first hand what a muddy ride can do to a carbon frame. Now, you may say something to the effect of "Well, how many times is that going to happen on typical gravel rides?" Well, I've been doing this activity around the Mid-West for a decade and a half and I can tell you the answer is, "It happens a LOT". Yes- even when it doesn't rain. 

So, with that out of the way, I have advocated for some sort of protective inserts in high wear areas on carbon frames to ward off premature wear through while traversing muddy areas. I've seen damage occur with one passing on a one mile section, and that without riding the entire section. So, this isn't a wild, out of the ordinary request. Now Salsa is doing this on the new Cutthroat. It's a start, but more bike companies need to adopt this practice on gravel/adventure rigs,

The other thing they did with more fork compliance is another "no-brainer" design feature other bike companies need to adopt. At least we aren't still thinking those overly stiff carbon Enve forks and their ilk are good for gravel. Compliance is king, and Salsa figured this out. Kudos.

But did anyone notice that they are calling these new models "Carbon Cutthroats"? Hmm..... This begs the question, "Why even bother using Carbon in the name unless there is a Cutty coming in another material?" I mean, of course a Cutthroat is carbon. They have always been so. Makes you wonder.......

TIME Ciclo "gravel" pedals.
At First They Said It Was Stupid......

1990: Shimano introduces a clipless mountain bike pedal dubbed the M-737, but it quickly became known as "Spud", a verbal rendering of "SPD" which stood for Shimano Pedal Dynamics.

Howls of "you don't need mountain bike specific pedals!" were heard from all sectors of the land back then. But today? While there has been a renaissance of flat pedal use, the clipless pedal is "The Standard" for more than mountain biking.

Fast forward to 2019. TIME introduces a pedal based on road pedals wider, more performance oriented platform, but capable of being used with any two-bolt cleat compatible shoe. (A cleat/shoe compatibility first introduced by the "Spud" in 1990) TIME calls it "the first gravel pedal design". Cue the howls of derision.

I'm really not quite sure about the "how" of this pedals supposed advantages, but here's the deal. If there is anything to it, it will catch on. MTB shoes and pedals are, generally, over-built for what amounts to road riding without the paved roads. You aren't likely to be side swiping big rocks, branches, or pointy, sharp things wielded by desert plants. Not on typical gravel and dirt roads anyway. A more efficient platform and walk-able shoes? Sounds good to me. If it is an advantage, I can totally see it taking off.

Now I have seen comments like, "Yeah, but how many times do you actually get off your bike during a gravel race?" To which I would answer, "Well, if you even have to get off once, wearing road shoes is a disadvantage, not to mention mud, which can foul your pedal interface even if you don't get off." I've actually seen this in an MTB race I was in in the 90's. I've also seen road pedals and shoes finish Trans Iowa. (That rider mentioned the wider platform which he preferred) So, horses for courses and whatever works.

But for those of you that like to poo-poo the latest "specific" component, accessory, or bike, I hope that you are consistent in your lifestyle and use only one bike for everything and use a fixed gear bike, because anything else "you don't really need". On the other hand, if you have some well thought out criticisms or thoughts about the latest craze, well then, carry on......

MG checked out the Roval wheels recently in Calli.
Materials Technology: 

When it comes to bicycles, almost anything you see that is called an "innovation" was already thought of over a hundred years ago, or close to that. When bicycles represented technology akin to what we feel about artificial intelligence, or digital ......well almost anything, back in the 1890's, ideas were flowing like water. Things were dreamt up then that would not look alien to a savvy cycling aficionado today.

So, why didn't they have full suspension bikes, wide, tubeless rims and tires, and more back then? 

Materials technology. Mostly, that is what held everyone back from realizing their dreams back in the day. The recent Roval wheel debut in California is a prime example of what I am talking about.

You don't have to go back a hundred years to see this at work either. Think about 29"er rims circa ten years ago or maybe 12 years ago. The widest thing going was, what? A Stan's Flow? There were oddball rims like the SUN Ringle' MTX and the Salsa Gordo, but those weighed a metric ton. Stan's Flow rims were 28mm outside width, or so. Inner width? Maybe what? 24mm? (HOLD ON)...... Okay, I just remembered I have an old Flow rim. It measured a hair over 27mm outer and 22.3mm inner. Okay.....those were considered trail MTB rims in 2007. 

Build weights for rims that wide back then were close to 2000 grams a pair and we thought that was fine. Fast forward to today. Roval introduces a gravel rim/wheel set. It has 25mm inner width, and full wheel builds are sub-1300 grams for a pair.


The thing is we are like, "Oh..... Yeah, that sounds pretty cool." When we should be floored. We are sooooo jaded when it comes to this sort of thing, in my opinion. Yes......the wheels are prohibitively expensive. one "needs them", at least in the sense that you cannot cycle without them, or whatever. But, you cannot deny that they would be awesome to ride with. Rims that wide, and light? That's materials technology right there. That's what I was talking about. It's amazing how this facet of engineering has brought so many cool ideas from long ago (or even just ten years ago) to life, or made them practical.

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

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Wide Gliders Part 2

The OS Bikes Blackbuck with the "new" wheels.
Well, this has been a crazy beginning to the week. I had plumbing issues (resolved) and a car to get serviced, plus I had to commute by bike after the car was dropped off and to go get it. Then.....well, you get the picture. It was one of those busy days which left very little time for bicycle stuff.

This did leave me time to finish the wheels and get rotors, tires, and a freewheel mounted to the rear wheel. So, the Blackbuck is up and functional again. The Blackbuck may not be familiar to you, so let me give you the background on it, if you are not familiar with this model.

The Blackbuck is an OS Bikes model. The "OS" stands for "Of Spirit", for whatever that is worth to you. I think it is significant. Anyway.... The brand only had one model, the Blackbuck, and the brand only made two production runs of the Blackbuck. Mine is from the first run produced in late 2006, which came out in 2007, and that is when I got mine. OS Bikes was the brand belonging to one of Wilderness Trail Bike's founders, (WTB) Mark Slate, a Mountain Bike Hall of Fame member, designer of many famous tires and saddles, and is still working as a designer of tires and saddles to this day for WTB.

The first run of Blackbucks, as I was told, was 500 pieces. These were CroMoly steel, and were sold as either a frame set with a special, very short, very long offset fork, or as a complete with the OG Reba, which was a bit unfortunate, since by 2007 everyone was all buzzing about longer offset forks, and the original Reba still had the old 38mm offset. So, the original Blackbucks were hard to sell.

Slate made another run of these under the OS Bikes moniker around about 2010, in a different factory, with a different paint scheme from the originals. These were slightly different, had a tiny bit less tire clearance, and for whatever reason weren't quite as well liked, which I suppose had something to do with OS Bikes still running "Gen I" 29"er geometry.

The freewheel is a White Industries one as well as the hub.
So, take a look at that head angle! This looks impossibly steep these days, but let me tell you, this bike slices up twisty single track like nothing out there on today's market. The head angle is nominally 72° with a fork suspension corrected for 80mm of travel. The rigid Blackbuck fork was even more radical! With an axle to crown measurement of something like 430-ish millimeters, and an offset of 51mm, this made the head angle of the Blackbuck a super-steep 74°!

Amazingly, this was how Mark Slate liked to ride his personal Blackbuck on the super steep trails around his home in Marin County. I tried it around here- the super steep set up- and while it was blazing quick in terms of handling, it required such attention to riding that it was no fun. You had to be on your game or you were crashing. So, I ended up letting my co-worker, Joe, have the fork for his Xtra-Cycle conversion.

The Blackbuck was the bike I did my "Fork Tests" on where I ran forks from 420mm AC to 510mm AC both rigid and full suspension. My favorite fork on the bike was the one I have on it now- a Bontrager Switchblade fork with 470mm AC and 38mm offset. Another odd thing about this bike is the crank set. It is square taper, (of course), and vintage Sugino from the late 90's. I had it anodized by some local guy that was doing this back over a decade ago around here and it turned out really nice. Perfect antifreeze green! I had these little chi-chi caps made from alloy that screwed over the crank bolts from back in the 90's and I used those on there as well. Now for the weird part- they are 170mm long. Something about short cranks, 29"ers, and single speed.

So, this bike has been in and out of rotation in the stable for years. I haven't been riding it a lot over the last several years, since I have been focusing on gravel, but I love this bike. I have always just really liked how it handles single track around here. Of course, another thing I really like about it is that it is a dedicated single speed. No derailleur hangar here! Although, you could get a pinned hangar from OS Bikes and make the bike into a geared bike. I never did any of that malarkey!

One other thing this bike has, and which was a foreshadowing of the "three pack boss" idea, is the triple bosses on the down tube which were meant for a Blackburn Bomber Cage. I happen to have a Bomber Cage too. The thing is, it's tough to find a water bottle that'll fit the dang thing these days! But that is a neat feature of this bike too.

So, anyway, there are the wheels. The rear Kenda Honey Badger 2.4" tires barely clears, so I may look for a 2.25"er to put on these wider rims. If I keep this for drier rides, it'd be alright, but we'll see. I'd probably be best to switch out the rear tire. Oh! I taped these for tubeless but I stuck tubes in there for now. I need tires that are easy to get up and running after long periods of no usage. So, tubes it is.

That's a wrap on this project for now. Hopefully I can get into the woods soon and ride it.

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Wide Gliders

Apparently it is time I vacuumed the floor again.....
Lacing wheels is one of my favorite pastimes. I know....weird, huh? But I find the process to be immensely satisfying and oddly calming. There is also something really cool about taking some stainless steel wires, some aluminum nuts, and an extruded piece of aluminum and assembling those components into a nice wheel set suitable for cycling.

I know several people that have told me that they have always wanted to learn how to lace up a wheel. Well.......get to it! It isn't as intimidating a process as you might think at first glance. But I get it. I was once on the other side and had similar thoughts until my first bike shop boss walked me through the process. Once I got the hang of it, I never stopped.

There are a lot of great resources available these days to get your feet wet and try out wheel building. I highly recommend giving it a go.

Now, back to these wheels. These are the ones I've been posting about lately, and now they are all laced up and ready to be tensioned and trued up. I don't expect them to be perfect, they are made up of all used parts, for the most part. I wouldn't recommend anyone use used parts, by the way. Always use new stuff, but in this case, I wanted what I wanted and you cannot get this stuff anymore. Plus, it was all paid for. All I had to do was recycle it into something usable.

You may recall that I said I had something special up my sleeve for this wheel set. Well, this hearkens back to my White Industries XMR wheel set I built up a few years back. There I decided to lace one side of a wheel in black spokes and silver nipples, and the other side with silver spokes and black nipples, then reverse on the rear wheel. This idea turned out pretty cool, and I haven't seen anyone else doing this. There probably is something out there like it, so I don't claim to be an innovator, but I liked it so much I decided that it is my "signature build".

Well, for this particular build I did the disc side of the rear silver and the disc side of the front in black, with the non-disc side front in silver and the drive side rear in black. Black spokes got silver nipples. Since the OS Bikes Blackbuck has a hint of red in its paint scheme, I used red nipples on the silver spokes. It's hard to see in the image here, but that turned out pretty well, I think.

Next up will be finishing up the build, taping the rims for tubeless, and installing rotors, a White Industries free wheel, and a set of tires. Then I'll get the Blackbuck down and get it set up with these wheels and it'll be all good to go. Stay tuned......

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

In The "People Will Cheat To Win Anything" Files

The so-called "Tron" bike in Zwift has certain in-game performance benefits.
So, I have always said, "Never underestimate the stupidity of Mankind", because if you do, you'll always get sideswiped by something really dumb. Like cheating at racing on-line. For championships. That's a thing, apparently.

Last week a "champion" rider was stripped of a "national title" which he illicitly gained from using a "hopped up" version of a virtual bicycle on the Zwift platform. Carlton Reid wrote about it on "Forbes" here. Look, I am so flabbergasted on this story, I don't know what to say.

Obviously part of this story is about technology. Now, I know about that, a little bit. We had some deals with technology in Trans Iowa, during the time I ran that event. So, in terms of actual racing, well I can make sense of what goes down. On-line? Well, while it seems weird, I guess if it means you might get a UCi World Championship jersey, you're going to consider cheating.

It just seems like such a disconnect from "real" cycling. You know, when the wind is in your face and real gravity pulls against your body and bike. Not some algorithm of what some programmer came up with. I cannot even think of a good reason why the UCI would even give this sort of competition a nod. Oh.......wait. Money. I forgot. Silly me!

The UCI is on it though, no worries! Carlton Reid's article said, "A statement from the UCI added that the governing body “deplored” the “cheating attempt” and said it would work with Zwift to “ensure the sporting credibility of the cycling esports competitions.”

This will include measures to ensure that manipulation of both hardware and software by competitors is counteracted, said the UCI, as well ensuring that rider profiles are verified ahead of competition.

I dunno. This all seems so far removed from what I know as cycling that it is something else. But whadda I know? Well, I do know this whole thing sounds really far out and cheating? Well, that's just dumb whether it is in the virtual world or the real world. 

Once again: The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same.

Monday, October 07, 2019

Washed Out

The old nipples must go!
Well........that sucked! I woke up at 5:00am Saturday morning, checked the radar, and the bad news was plain to see. The Geezer Ride wasn't going to be in the cards for me. Heavy rain, lightning, and cool temperatures are not a mix that makes for a fun ride.

It rained here till around 11:00am and then it spit, spewed.....showered? Whatever you want to call it. It did that for a few more hours on top of it all. That was Saturday. I did not deign to throw a leg over a bike. Then Sunday was perfect.....of course, as I had other obligations.

So, once past a minor plumbing issue on Sunday afternoon, (Have I mentioned I hate plumbing issues?), I sat myself down and finished unlacing an old wheel and then lacing that rim back up with the old White Industries ENO hub I mentioned here last week. I managed to scare up enough spare bits and bobbins to get the job done. Well......the rear wheel. The front I haven't started on yet.

Fall weather looks to have settled in here and the next few days should provide opportunities to get out on the bike. I am very hopeful of that, as missing riding this weekend was tough on me. Not only that, but the end of season reviewing game is ramping up once again. Playing against what the weather may do in late October and early November is dicey. The whole season may shut down in mid-November or I may be riding into December.

And I have wheels to finish building.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Trans Iowa Stories: More Tales of v3

T.I.v3 volunteers carefully consider Ken Yokanovich's Rivendell fixed gear rig at the checkpoint.
 "Trans Iowa Stories" is an every Sunday post which helps tell the stories behind the event. You can check out other posts about this subject by going back to earlier Sunday posts on this blog. Thanks and enjoy!

The night T.I.v3 started was a dark, fairly decent one, and the 3:00am wake -up call came in the motel and I sprang into action. I recall wondering where Zach Dundas stayed the night, then I saw his red Pontiac rental car parked on the road where we were to muster the starters and realized he likely spent the night there sleeping in the thing. So started my solo running of Trans Iowa.

As you fine readers may recall, I had already spent a LOT of time running this event myself. Most of the first one after the pre-race, and a lot of time during the truncated v2, I was on my own. However; what was different this time was that I had to shoulder the responsibility of this event alone. There was no "back-up", no one else to lean on for support or advice. I was "The Guy" now. If there were any issues, the excrement was going to roll uphill and stop right at the top, with me.

While that was known quite keenly by myself at that moment, I was also pretty ticked off yet about all the no-shows and was ready to just kick the can over and get on with this deal. Looking back, I think this attitude served me well for the duration of v3. See, as I stated a couple of posts back, I was pretty sure I didn't want to do this without Jeff, and having all those no-shows pretty much sealed the deal. All I had to do was to make sure I held up my end of the responsibilities of putting on the event and that I did that in the best way I knew how.

I already wrote a bunch about this event. (You can read a fine recapping of some of the event here) So, I'll just hit on some of the highlights I neglected in the previous post and tell you a bit here and there which Zach Dundas wrote about so well in "The Renegade Sportsman" book. Zach described the Trans Iowa experience he had and Trans Iowa thusly: "In deepest, darkest Iowa, I tracked the inspiring and insane Trans-Iowa endurance race, a 300+-mile amateur exorcism of cycling’s Lance Armstrong-ish demons."

Yeah, it was pretty funny, me being a rustic, 40 plus year old bicycle mechanic and Zach, an erudite college graduate cum punk rocker from Montana. I recall standing alongside the road North of Decorah, shivering under a star filled sky awaiting the leaders, and watching riders smack through a huge pothole at the bottom of a speedy downhill at the Sattre Store. Both times showing Zach why I felt the event mattered and both times answering a lot of his questions. Then we separated for much of the remainder of that morning.

Judging from this cue sheet, this road is in Allamakee County and the image was shot during T.I.v3
Interestingly, this was the Trans Iowa when I started inserting in odd and historical bits along the way for the riders to experience. During T.I.v3, I realized that the riders would likely be going through Postville, Iowa during Saturday morning. No big deal, except that at that time, Postville, Iowa had one of the largest ascetic Jewish communities in the nation, and I knew that they all would be out in full regalia on their Sabbath walk. Many riders reported seeing this afterward, much to my satisfaction.

This was also my full introduction to "Team Polska", a three man group consisting of Marcin Nowak, Macjei Nowak, and Douglas Pietz. The first two being brothers and natives of Poland. They showed up in matching kit, rode as a team, and were giving chase to the lead duo of Brian Hannon and Ira Ryan. Marcin had attempted the ill-fated T.I.v2, and during this version, he came prepared to lay down what would become a very memorable performance. His brother and Doug were support, and gave everything to the effort. It was amazing, beautiful, and unreal to see this as a bystander. Zach Dundas got his money's worth there for a story!

Ryan and Hannon were also just machines. They were killing it, and at one point I was afraid that they would arrive at the Checkpoint in Brandon, Iowa, before my volunteers were going to be ready for them. I spent most of the morning shadowing the duo and crunching numbers like crazy. Fortunately, after 100 miles of scorching fast gravel riding, (they averaged above 18mph including stops), they slowed the pace a hair, enough so that I figured they would get there after the Checkpoint opened. I think it was somewhere around Stanley, Iowa where I realized that would be the case. Shortly afterward, I ran across Zach, near Independence, and we made plans to rendezvous in Brandon at the Checkpoint.

Ah! Checkpoint volunteers! That was an amazing relief to me. And one of them handed me a cold beer. Gosh! This was like, almost fun! That feeling would linger for a while. But later on into the event, I lost that feeling, and the reason why was due to one individual, who has been an enigma of Trans Iowa ever since.

Next: Part 2 of "More Tales of v3".