Tuesday, December 31, 2019

New Year - New Decade

The "Rear View" is over and out. Now with the turn of a page on the calendar, I am looking at a new year, and a new decade. It's a unique time to consider.

Ten years ago here on this blog I did the same thing. I looked ahead, set some goals, and had hopes. My life was so very different back then. There were two, now defunct, websites I worked very hard at. There was a brand new one that I had no idea would become my primary focus within the next four years. I ran one of the legendary gravel events in Trans Iowa, and I had a "day job" I never really ever talked about here for several reasons.

Now, looking at the future, I have a focus on my next stage in my family life. My two children will set off on their own adventures in life. What they do, I have no idea right now, but I want to be present in that. My wonderful wife will be by my side, I hope, all through this time coming up. Our lives are bound to change, what with my new chapter professionally which is going to happen soon. (Stay tuned)

But I want to focus now on the blog here. I've mentioned it before, but I'll have 15 years under my fingers here in May. There should be something to mark that occasion with, so I am going to come up with a few items of merch to put up for sale to commemorate the occasion. This will be a one-time, limited offering. I don't like to monetize the blog here, and I don't want to offer merch for sale on a regular basis, because, well........it wouldn't be special then now, would it?

Over the years I have found you, the readers, like the series, like the ongoing "Trans Iowa Stories" series. I'll find ways to keep stuff like that coming. I also found that you folks like the adventures I go on, the images, and the tales that go with those. So, I want to get away from home more in 2020. I want to ride in more interesting places and report on that here.

My professional life will be a part of the story, unlike in the past. There will be a shift here as well. My past at the old shop is a tale I could tell, but...... yeah..... That's touchy. Not for myself, but for the former owner of the shop, who, shall we say, is a difficult personality to portray in anything other than a dim light. I know I mentioned back when I left that shop that I might get into the details around that, but......nah. Better left unsaid. Besides, it's a very negative thing to deal with and I won't be bringing that into this blog. Which explains why I almost never spoke about my place of work here in the past.

My hope is that with a new opportunity, I won't be reticent to give out more details on my life at work. My immediate goals are to be able to get employed again and be comfortable with my employment situation, unlike before.

I'm hoping to diversify in the coming years also. I am dinking around with guitar amp servicing and repair. I want to mess about with music recording at home. I've mentioned the podcast thing. Art is another avenue I want to explore more and share here. So, the bicycle thing will always be number one, but perhaps a glimpse into other aspects of Guitar Ted might be fun to have here on the blog in the future.

As always, I am very grateful to you for reading this and my other posts here. I am always open to suggestions and ideas, criticisms, and any constructive comments you may want to share. I started out here almost 15 years ago with a lot of enthusiasm and not much knowledge. I've learned a lot along the way, and I want to continue to keep learning more.

Guitar Ted

Starting tomorrow will be a three part series on the "State Of The Gravel Scene - 2020". 

Bikes Of 2019: Raleigh Tamland Two

That old stand-by- The Raleigh Tamland 2
Raleigh Tamland 2: Okay, the last day of 2019 and so we have to roll out a classic of the blog here- The Raleigh Tamland 2.

You readers have seen this bike for years, and really, if I had to pick a "Bike Of The Decade", the Raleigh Tamland 2 from the first run of this bike would be it. To recap, let's briefly run over the history one more time, for old time's sake. (It is New Year's Eve, after all!)

So, I was at the now defunct shop where I used to work. It was a busy day and a phone call comes in for me. It was Raleigh, and they had set up a conference call with their R&D, engineers, and marketing folk. They asked me to tell them what I would do if I had free reign to design a gravel bike. Their only caveat was that "it has to be sell-able".

Keeping in mind, this was 2012. There were no gravel bikes. (Well, there was the Warbird, but it had just come out, and I wasn't impressed, much to the chagrin of certain Salsa Cycles folks.) Disc brakes weren't a slam dunk.....yet. Carbon fiber was coming, but it would be too expensive and too far outside of what the gravel riders then wanted. So, it was a steel frame then, steel fork, (because no one was making a very smooth feeling carbon fork for gravel in 2012), and yes- disc brakes. The Raleigh folks were like, "Are you sure?", and I told them to just wait- it was coming.

I asked for rack and fender mounts, a lower bottom bracket, a slacker head tube angle, a longer offset fork, room for big 700c tires (43mm w/fenders) and a braze on chain hanger. Why not? It was a fantasy at that time, and I had no idea if any of it would ever come true. Fast forward to 2013 Interbike. I was aware that Raleigh had come out with the Tamland series. I walked into the show and saw the Tamland as then head of Raleigh's marketing, Brian Fournes told me that Raleigh utilized every one of my suggestions! The geometry, the disc brakes, even the chain hangar! 

The current state of the Tamland 2
 I was floored, slightly embarrassed, and very worried that the bike would be a flop. It was definitely not a flop. The 2014 Tamland sold out, Raleigh subsequently ran the same color scheme for 2015, and the model is still being produced to this day, although Raleigh is not the company it once was.

If I screwed up here it was that I did not have the foresight to spec through axles. Flat mount brakes weren't even on anyone's radar yet in 2012, but through axles were, although we were a couple of years away from seeing that on gravel bikes. But that said, I am proud that the Tamland came out the way it did and that it is one of the modern day classics of gravel bikes. As I've said many times, I'll likely never have this much influence over a design of a bicycle again- unless I weld it up! 

The years have passed and I have had several adventures on this bike. Six seasons of riding have left their scars and six years of parts swaps have left little of the original Tamland 2 but the frame, crank set, and the rear derailleur. I keep threatening to park this thing and not ride it anymore, but it is just too good.

Many people have asked me if Raleigh gave me a Tamland 2, or if they compensated me in any way for the consultation. They did not do anything for me. I bought my Tamland 2 from Europa Cycle & Ski, (now out of business) and paid employee discount for it. (Perk of working at the shop at the time) So, I have no ties to it that way. All I have is the knowledge that I have had an influence on the design.

The future for this bike? Well, things will change on it, more than likely. The drive train needs updating, that's one thing that will likely happen. I still have the original fork for it, but this Fyxation one is actually a better fork, in my opinion. I may get it re-powder coated. Who knows! I'm sure I'll be putting more miles on it in the future though.

With this post I bring to a close my "Bikes of 2019" series. Happy New Year!

Monday, December 30, 2019

Gravel Grinder News: Land Run 100 Becomes "Mid-South"

The logo for the renamed Land Run 100, now known as "Mid-South"
Special Edition of Gravel Grinder News: Breaking Story- The Land Run 100 Becomes "Mid-South"

History is an ironic thing. You can read into it what you like, but history has an ever-changing perspective, and a great example of this is the re-naming of one of gravel grinding's classics. This was just announced today and came as a bit of a shock, but upon further reflection, it makes sense in today's world.

The Land Run - the historical, late 19th Century event - used to be portrayed as one of the U.S's final achievements in its "Manifest Destiny" philosophy. It's a very complex and difficult bit of our past to understand, and it affected millions of people, both native and immigrant alike.  Against this backdrop, it was criticism of the naming of the Oklahoma gravel event as the "Land Run 100" which ended up causing some reflection and ultimately the scrubbing of this event's name from the records.

So, moving forward the event will be known by the curious name of "Mid-South". The former name is being swept away, and you can read about why that is here and here. The event has a completely new website as well which can be seen here.

Comments: Interestingly, this new name is quite a change from before. In my opinion, it is such a neutral name that it has hardly any excitement or inspiration to it, unlike the former name, however misguided and hurtful to some folks that may have been. The logo reflects this as well. It has no "identity" to it, (at least that is obvious) but it may not matter in the end.

People were flocking to enter the "Land Run" before, with its former, now understood to be questionable, name choice, and they will likely go to the "Mid-South" event despite its uninspiring facade. This is because whatever they want to call the event, what makes the thing a "big deal" is the enthusiasm of Bobby Wintle and his crew, their style, and the myth of the legendary challenge of the red mud roads. Name notwithstanding, apparently.

Regardless of how anyone feels about the changes, this reflects how "gravel is growing up" and points to a more inclusive and less offensive face for a very popular event on the calendar. That's the real point here, and it probably was a very difficult situation for Mr. Wintle and crew to navigate through. My hats off to Mr. Wintle and crew for moving forward with this new name and I think it speaks to his and his crew's character highly.

C.O.G. 100 registration Announcement

C.O.G. 100 Iowa Single Speed Gravel Championships: March 28th, Grinnell, Iowa. Registration opens on January 2nd, at 8:00am! 

C.O.G.100 site link

Please read the event details on the site and make sure that you understand and agree with them. If you register and complain after the fact, we are not going to put up with it. So, make sure you are onboard with ALL the rules, suggestions, and registration details BEFORE you register. 

We'll say it again- This Is A Single Speed ONLY Event. Yes.......really. This means you will have to either (a) convert your bike to fit the rules or (b) borrow a single speed, or (c) buy a single speed bike to get into the event and participate in it. We will have inspections to determine if your bike is within guidelines, so don't show up with your levers zip-tied thinking we'll just turn our heads the other way. That isn't going to happen. 

We are going to have hats as part of your entry fee, and we are going to offer an optional t-shirt in two designs. First will be the livery for the event seen here. (Maybe not the camo part.....we'll see) The other will be a simpler shirt that will say "Real. American. Gravel." Both designs will be $20.00 and you can buy one, two, or none. It's completely optional on the shirts. We decided to not offer a jersey, like we did last year. So, no jerseys. 

Preemptive Strike: So, maybe some of you are thinking, "Well, well! I thought you were all about breaking down barriers and being inclusive. So what's the deal with single speed only then?" This is a fair question. I'll go back to my original musings on this type of event, "Why not?" No one, that I was aware of, was doing anything like this. There are a rather large number of single speed fanatics in the ranks of gravel riding. I figured, hey! Let's offer a focus on those riders. 

Secondly, a single speed gravel bike is easy to come up with. It cost little to nothing to "dirt bag" up a single speed rig. If you don't know how, consult your local LBS with some knowledge in SS MTB. They will know. And speaking of mtb bikes, an SS 29"er would be a banger C.O.G.100 rig. Anyway, it is about the opposite of most of these "Big Time Gravel" events where unless you are sporting a $7K carbon rocket with carbon hoops and electronic shifting then you're off the back. Making the event single speed only kind of backs that "arms race" thing up a bit. Actually, it is more inclusive, come to think of it. 

Anyway, if you want to come but you just cannot get around the single speed hurdle, (meaning you can't come up with one to ride, not that it is "harder", or that you cannot ride it) , then get a hold of me. N.Y. Roll and I will make it happen. So.....you may not like the bike, but that won't be a hurdle. 

Questions? Hit me up NOW! 

Looking Ahead: Goals

The end of the year. many of us already have some goals set, and I have been giving some thought to this as well. They say that if you write your goals down, you are more likely to achieve them. So, to that end, I have physically written down goals on a sheet of paper, but this will reflect that here.

I have two lists, actually. One is personal, and I won't share everything here that is on that list. Some of it I will. The list concerning cycling I will share completely here. Okay, in no particular order.....

Centuries: 2019 saw me riding a total of "0" century length rides. I had some planned, but failed. That MUST change for 2020. I know I didn't put in the work, and that is another goal here. To that end, I have already made some personal changes in my lifestyle and eating habits. There is much more work to do there though. The other stress I had was my old job, and that was a year-long dance of not knowing what was going to happen, and that affected me negatively in terms of riding. That part is gone, thankfully. Then the third thing was weather. We had a bad Spring here which set the tone for the rest of the year for me. So, if we have bad weather again, I have to find a way around that.

Finish Gravel Worlds Again: Pretty much related to the above, just a more specific goal. I know I can do it, I did it once in 2016, but I've a feeling this may be my last go-round with this event, so I want to cap it off with a finish.

Ride In Some Different Places: I didn't get very far from home in 2019. I would like to venture out back to Eastern Iowa, Northeastern Iowa, go see my friends in Northfield and ride there, and who knows where else. I just am a bit worn out with the local roads.

Shrink The Fleet- Clear Some Space: It's time to clear out a bunch of stuff, old bicycles, parts, and junk that I have accumulated over the last 15 years. I have already started on this, but I am going to thin out things more in 2020.

Solstice 100: I already signed up for this event again which will be held in a new area of Nebraska. Again- I'd like to finish a century. 

Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational: This will be the 15th GTDRI. First- I'd like to finish this as well!  

So, on a personal level I have a few things to share which are obvious. First, I need to get a job. I've been working on this, but I need to finalize details and get onboard somewhere soon. I cannot just be floating here with no job for long.

Secondly is my health, and that's related to riding, which I've already touched upon. Beyond this I want to also get a few things squared away at the house, and be present for my family.

On the blog-front, social media front, and beyond, I have some goals as well. Podcasting is something that has to be tried, at least. And it cannot hinge upon other folks or technical issues. As for the blog, well I've been doing a lot of thinking.

I have posted everyday, sometimes twice a day, for years now. I didn't always do that. In the last ten years I have posted every day, or more, for 6 years, two other years were within 4 posts of every day. That's something I've considered for the future, a thing that I may not do so often. It's hard to say though, as I like writing here, and as long as I have relevant, interesting things to share, I don't see the post count going down. Let's just say I am mulling things over, but don't expect me to post any less. I probably will post like crazy anyway. Oh well......

So, as for goals, I want to continue the "Trans Iowa Stories", maybe introduce some "other than bicycle related" content here and there, and just keep refining my writing. I am also going to go for showing more of my art here, and we will see where that leads. In 2019 I was thrilled to have had a couple drawings I did sell. So, obviously people appreciate my art, and it is bicycle related, so..... why not? 

That's a good list. So, I'll leave it at that for now. Here's to a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2020 for one and all!

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Trans Iowa Stories: The One-Off - Rejected!

 "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 easy thing to pick out amongst Trans Iowa's fifth running was that it was held out of a new location. That town was Williamsburg, Iowa. I've told the story several times already about why it was David Pals and I decided to move Trans Iowa out of Decorah. Basically, we were rejected by one of the leading figures in cycling there at the time, and unfortunately, he was also one of Trans Iowa's earliest supporters and mentors. Getting rejected by "Deke" Gosen hurt, but we forged ahead with optimism that Williamsburg would be a great place for a fresh, new start.

Then reality set in. The town of Williamsburg thought we were fruitcakes and cycling events were weird. Cold shoulders and unfriendly looks were all we could find in that town as we hit up businesses and the City government as we went looking for help to find a venue for our pre-race meeting. I remember the meeting we had with a local sports bar and how we felt really down afterward. That pretty much characterized our entire experience with Williamsburg. It seemed that we were going to have to hold a pre-race meeting right out at the start line. And, in fact, that was the official plan as late as two weeks out from the event.

Since there was "no room at the inn" for a Trans Iowa pre-race meeting in Williamsburg, the plan was that I was going to be at a motel lobby near I-80, just North of Williamsburg, to hand out pre-race bags with the all important cue sheets. We even thought about having David sit at another motel lobby nearby to split the duties up, and catch more riders where they were staying, but that plan was put on hold till the last second. David was wanting to put in one, final effort to secure a spot where we could hold a proper pre-race meeting.

So, where were we going to hold the meeting? Well, we had found out during recon that Williamsburg had a cemetery located just on the outskirts of the village South on our way toward Checkpoint #1. We had thought about starting the event in town, but given the fact that the town fathers were so cold to our event, and that Trans Iowa had ended at a cemetery before (v3), why not start at one? Had David not accomplished the miracle he did, this is where the pre-race meeting would have been held.

That miracle was that David, somehow or another, talked someone into letting us have a meeting room in the second level of the local Municipal Community Center. I cannot recall that we had to pay anything for it, but if we did, it was a minimal amount. David pretty much handled all those details, so I am a bit foggy on that bit.

The point was, we had a room! That said, we were strictly told that there would be no allowances for food or drink whatsoever. We had some chairs, but we were responsible for the setting up and putting away of those, and we had a time limit which we had to meet in order to get the space. Any deviance or after-the-fact clean-up required by the staff of the Community Center would incur costs on our part. But, we had a room! 

While relief and happiness at the eleventh hour obtaining of the room was felt, David and I were not very pleased at all with the village of Williamsburg. Contrasted to the previous year, where we had cooks making spaghetti sauce in two flavors and reducing it all day, where we had beer and food, and a welcoming atmosphere, this austere, no frills meeting was a big let-down in our eyes. This was not David's, nor my idea of a Trans Iowa experience. This rejection and struggle with the village was not forgotten, and it pretty much guaranteed that T.I.v5 would be a one-off affair. The following Trans Iowa events would be held somewhere else, we knew that. Where that would be could wait. We had an event to put on first.

Next: The One-Off: Subterfuge At The Meeting

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Minus Ten Review 2009-52

Ten years ago on the blog it was mostly all about the "Rear View" for that year. No particular reason to re-hash any of that here again. So, I wanted to take this opportunity to remind you all that this will be the last "MTR" post.

I have decided that these were really about the beginnings of the blog. I started these as a kind of way to celebrate a decade of blogging in 2015. Well, it was neat to revisit those ancient posts, and to recall the way this grew. However; I have noticed with this year and last that I have taken the MTR posts as opportunities to riff on themes having more to do with "the now" than "the yesterday".

That tells me it is time to retire the series. Also, with my closing in on 15 years of blogging here, I thought it might be fun to switch gears and just have me talk about whatever random posts I find in the pile from the last decade (2010-2019) that stick out as being relevant today, or which were impactful to me/the blog, or noteworthy for whatever reason. Maybe you've got ideas? Let me know. I want to mark 15 years somehow though.

That will happen- the 15th anniversary, that is- in May of 2020. So, I've got time to dream up something, or to ponder any ideas you might have out there.

Or maybe Sundays I'll take off. Gee....... That's a thought! 

Anyway, something different is going to happen regardless. I hope that you enjoyed the past several years of looking back on Sundays at the blogging history, and thank you for reading Guitar Ted Productions, as always!

Friday, December 27, 2019

Friday News And Views

The Solstice 100 gravel grinder will be in a new location for 2020.
Solstice 100.......Again!

Last Summer I did the Solstice 100 event out of Malcom, Nebraska. This was a fun event, which I talked a bit about recently in the "Rear View '19" post for this past Summer. I didn't finish it due to getting off course, and I wanted to get back there and get a century distance of gravel under my belt.

So, on the Winter Solstice here a few days back, I signed up again. The event is moving to a new area though, and that makes it even more exciting for me, because I like checking out new areas. This time the event will be out of Beatrice, Nebraska, a city near the Kansas/Nebraska border, Southwest of Lincoln.

When I did the Solstice last Summer it was evident that this is still a "grassroots", lower key event, although track cycling phenom Ashton Lambie showed up and took top honors going away. So, it isn't like events which are low key, less flashy affairs don't have "quality competition". That's there if you want it. I am looking to just complete a gravel century again. Hopefully that will have happened before mid- Summer 2020 as well. It sure would help if it did!

I think my brother-from-another-mother,  MG is doing the Solstice again as well. Hope so. I'm sure I'll be seeing him down there either way. That will be fun. I also probably will see him and many other friends at the other Nebraska gravel event I have already signed up for, Gravel Worlds, in August.

The new site header and will become the icon for the 2020 C.O.G. 100 schwag.
 C.O.G. 100 News: 

The registration for the next C.O.G. 100 is set to occur on January 2nd @ 8:00am. There will be a link to the Bikereg.com page on the site (C.O.G. 100) that you can mark to get ready for registration, should you be willing to commit to single speed devices.

So, I came up with this new livery for the site over the Holidays. It represents a bit of what we as the event directors are passionate about. N.Y. Roll is a veteran of the military, and I wanted to highlight the fact that we are trying to be true to gravel grinding roots by keeping things simple, low key, and fun. So, the theme using the stencil, military-like font, the Bald Eagle, and the red, white, and blue colors which we are planning on using for the hats. Oh.....yes, there will be hats again this year. We noticed throughout 2019 that our very limited edition C.O.G. 100 hats were being worn proudly by many of you at various events across the country. We were very humbled and happy to see the folks who were proud to wear our livery. So, we figured since the hats were a hit, why mess with a good thing? Besides, I have a drawer full of t-shirts, but not very many hats.

We haven't devised a shorter course option as yet, nor a way to implement that for the day of the event. We want to do this, but in order to make it work, and keep an eye on everyone, it would require two separate courses, and as of now we just don't have the manpower to accomplish this feat. That may change but we set the event up just as a 100 miler with no other option at registration. Growing an event is cool, but not at the expense of what you already are doing, and that is where we are at right now with offering a shorter course option for the time being.

It sure hasn't seemed like Winter here. Christmas Eve ride at 55°F!
 So......What Have You Been Up To Lately?

Many of you might be wondering what is going on with me and my situation now that I am no longer affiliated with the old shop I worked at. Well, there is a tentative plan in place and some exciting things are afoot. I think you all will be safe in assuming that I will be still working in the cycling industry. If I have my way, that's what will happen. The time for announcing things hasn't arrived just yet. But you know that when it does, it'll be here.

Meanwhile, I have been struggling to overcome a nasty head cold I contracted at the beginning of December. I've had to be off the bike for a while and lately have only been able to do shorter rides without putting myself back into the hurt locker with this malady.

I have done some experimenting with the Nobel GX5 bike and the new HED wheels I am reviewing. I have been out on the fat bike a couple of times too. Actually, I have been doing a bit of maintenance on the old connector trail, Marky-Mark, in the Green Belt. There are three downed trees that need a bit of chainsaw work, but other than that it is in excellent shape for a trail that is 20 years old and not much used.

For me, Marky-Mark is more than just some pathway from one leg of the Green Belt Trail to another on Ridgeway Avenue. It marks a time in my life and when I ride that trail I remember those days. I was single, alone, and working at the auto shop. I went and cut in that trail after working ten hours at that shop, busting my butt. It was very difficult to accomplish what I did back then, and to see it still around and being used 20 years later means a lot to me. Actually, its been more than 20 years, come to think of it.

Okay, well, that's the last "Friday News And Views" for 2019. See ya sometime next year for the next FN&V! Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Winter Views: An Unusual Christmas

Nearly 60°F and Sunny on Christmas day?!! WHAT?!!
Okay, I couldn't let this slip away without documenting it on the blog, because many years from now I probably won't be able to convince people this happened. I know, well, I'm pretty sure, this has never happened in my lifetime.


SIXTY degrees on Christmas! WooHoo!

That was my gift I received, and I know many of you folks out there got this gift as well. How could you pass that up? Well.....to be fair, this happened on a day when many had massive plans with friends and family that, frankly, you just do not skip out on. That I understand completely.

However; I don't have that in my life anymore. We had planned on a quiet time at home, just hanging out with the immediate family members. No big hoopla, no tree, no gifts, none of that usual Christmas stuff. I'm not against that sort of thing, but Mrs. Guitar Ted and my daughter's birthdays are within a week or so from Christmas and I never liked putting up a tree or decorating before that. Added to this is our focus on staying away from the consumerism aspects of the season for various reasons, and well, anyway...... Enough about that. Point is that I had free time to get out and take advantage of that weather. So, I did.

Now, I had been out on Christmas Eve on my fat bike as well. That was the first ride I had done in well over a week, maybe closer to two weeks, because I have been battling a head cold since the first of the month. It has finally relented on its assault of my body to the point on Christmas Eve I finally felt up to doing a short ride doing an easy pace. Then on Christmas day I felt as good, maybe stiff though, and decided I just had to hit up some gravel. How could I not do that on such a historic day? I cannot remember ever in my life it being like this on Christmas Day. A good bike ride to soak it all in was in order then.

With the lower angle of light, (the lowest, I suppose), the skies looked more ominous than they were.
Sage Road looking North. The sky changed constantly during the ride.
Mt. Hope United Methodist Church on Mount Vernon Road.
And of course, no ride North of Waterloo is complete without a visit to the Big Rock of Big Rock Road.
It was glorious outside. A little Southeasterly wind, but it was just an awesome chance to get out and ride. I saw a big Bald Eagle not long into my ride that set the tone for the rest of my time out. I tried not to ride too hard, but to just go steady and take a few breaks. I need to be careful not to over-do things after being sick. I have also lost a great deal of my fitness as well. So, that needs to be built back up again. You can lose that fitness fast! Especially when you are sick and cannot really be all that active.

But I was so happy to get out again. It is good for the soul, and I miss the country. I cannot say that I have ridden gravel right around the Winter solstice, as it is usually not all that wise to be out in the whipping winds and sub-freezing temperatures during this time of the year in the country. It isn't pleasant, and it doesn't do much for your fitness or your soul. But this was a complete opposite of that. Really, really nice out there, despite everything being brown, dead, and rather quiet on the wildlife side, despite seeing the big eagle. This was so unprecedented that I needed to document it.

So, despite having all the rest of the year pre-planned on the blog, as far as posts go, I had to slip one more post in. I hope that you don't mind. And, I hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas. Mine was extra special this year.

Rear View '19 - Fall

I got the OS Bikes Blackbuck up and running again this past Fall
 Hello Readers! Once again I am doing the annual retrospective on what went down over the year of 2019. This post will focus on Fall. Previous posts have covered the other seasons for a total of four, one each week of December on Thursdays.This is the last "Rear View" post of the series. 

Fall kicked off with a ride with N.Y. Roll which went really well. We stopped in LaPorte City at Rockets Bakery and then came back via the Cedar Valley Nature Trail.

I ended up doing a couple of rides in that general direction over the Fall, seeing roads and views I hadn't seen before from a bicycle saddle. The Southeastern quarter of Black Hawk County had been a mystery to me, but no longer.

There was also a chilly early morning ride at the beginning of November with N.Y. Roll and several other folks starting out of Hudson, Iowa. We rode down to the start and I came back with N.Y. Roll for a good long one to kick off the chilly part of Fall. October was pretty much shot, since it rained nearly the entire month, and then it got super cold. We even had a bit of snow for a spell at which time I got the fat bike out for a bit of a ramble in the white stuff. That has since melted and we are just brown and chilly as the year closes out.

Of course, by now you all know that my time at Europa Cycle and Ski has come to a close since the place is going out of business. This was probably the main theme for 2019 for me, because this has been coming on for a long, long time. Unfortunately, not a lot could be said while things slid downhill for various reasons. Since that was the case, I want to apologize to local customers and those that felt left out of the loop. It was not for me to "let the cat out of the bag", as it were. That made things even harder. Keeping face and trying to work through that was a big time sap on my energy. Having a far less profitable year in terms of work satisfaction and in terms of pay added to the pile. Not knowing the future of my employment status was hard. No help at all from a rudderless management, that's for sure.

As I said the other day, I think better times, and far less stressful times, are ahead. I hope to tell a much more detailed and better story for you all in 2020, but for now, that was the year that was 2019, and I am really glad to see this one go into the past for several reasons. Definitely not one of the best years of my life, but definitely not the worst either. There were good times, certainly, but the whole employment/work situation ended the year on a down note. Well, another way to look at it is that this whole mess at the end of the year was a blessing, because I can finally move on. So, that's what I'm taking away from 2019.


Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Rear View '19: In Images

The 12 best images from the blog for 2019 as chosen by me, Guitar Ted. All decisions are final! (HA!) I actually do not have one from this month as it is filled with all this other garbage from looking back on the other 11 months, so you'll get a "bonus" November image instead.

So, here we go with the 12 best images from 2019. Enjoy!

January- Winter came late, around about January 15th, so gravel travel went longer into the season than usual. 
February- There wasn't much riding done in February as all I did was shovel snow. The C.O.G. 100 was a month away!
March- While it took about two weeks to melt all the snow, we were pretty worried going into the inaugural C.O.G. 100 that it wouldn't be.

April- The Renegade Gents Race day presented me with this opportunity to ride to the start from Ankeny Iowa.

June- The Solstice 100 was a fun, but strange adventure for me.
July- The Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational. Dirt, rain, and heat.
August- Peace falls on Southern Black Hawk County
September- "Grandpa Flowers" on Petrie Road's Level B section.
October- A lonely dog trots down Sage Road in Black Hawk County
November- Sunrise over Grundy County
Bonus November image- Riders coming back towards Cedar Falls, Iowa on a chilly morning. 
Thanks for checking out Guitar Ted Productions!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Here's wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and joyous holidays spent with family, friends, or doing whatever it is that brings you happiness this time of the season.  May you have safe travels and the best of times.

I'll be back tomorrow with a regularly scheduled dose of Guitar Ted musings for y'all.

All The Best From Guitar Ted Productions!

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Thank You!

I would be remiss if I didn't immediately and thoroughly thank so many of you readers here, (and others that reached out with messages of encouragement), after I posted yesterday about the end of my time at my old shop job. I wasn't expecting the outpouring of support and remembrances that were shared with me. Please know that I am very grateful for all of it and I won't forget this day, that's for sure.

It is weird to walk away from something that has become a fixture in your life. Although in your heart, you know it is the right thing to do, there still are those doubts and fears that crop up and need to be put down. Your thoughts and messages really helped to kick doubt straight out of my mind. Thank you!

One side effect of all of this was learning how I had touched a few of your lives in ways that I did not expect. I was honestly surprised by these remarks which warmed my heart also. One lesson for us all: Never underestimate how you may have impacted someone's life. It makes you wonder if we shouldn't all keep it positive and move forward, because what we are doing really does matter to people you'd be surprised to know about.

Anyway...Thank You One and All! 

I can never repay all the love and goodwill I have received over the past 24 hours. 

Bikes Of 2019: Noble Bikes GX5

As currently set up. A "test mule" for Riding Gravel
Nobel Bikes GX5: This will be an odd post for this series because this bike was a review bike for RidingGravel.com . It was a test/review bike sent at no charge, and I am under no obligation whatsoever to talk about this bike at all. So a bit of disclosure here to begin with:

Here is something not many folks that review stuff tell you- they end up with things companies don't take back, or do not want to take back. You can look at that however you want. I'm not completely sure how to explain it, and I've been doing this sort of thing since 2005.

What I can tell you is that most wear items, clothing, and accessories under, oh say $100.00, maybe more- don't go back. Some of this is obvious. What is a company going to do with a pair of socks after a reviewer has ridden in them several times? Same goes for shoes, jerseys.....you get the idea. It isn't new anymore and you don't want to wear clothes that someone else has sweat in. Well, typically..... Anywho.... Tires, bar tape, and things like that fall into this category as well. Bikes however; well, they usually almost always go back, always on the company's dime, as far as shipping goes.

Back to this bike. I offered to send it back. It was left here. So, instead of just leaving it to rot in a corner, I'm using it as a test sled for stuff for Riding Gravel. Currently it is set up with Shimano GRX 1X which is being reviewed for the site. The drive train and wheels are all GRX here. Shimano PRO covers the bars, seat post, and stem. The saddle is a WTB Volt.

I've ridden this bike a lot throughout 2019, and so it deserves to be on this list. It's a great bike, taking the "DNA" of the Raleigh Tamland and translating that to carbon fiber. It rides very smoothly for a carbon bike. The fork is nice, not a jackhammer, but not a noodle either. It isn't going to probably be the bike that folks coming from the roadie side think will be good on gravel, because those folks want to mimic the road geometry on gravel, which isn't optimal. The Noble Bikes GX5 avoided that trap, thankfully, and rides far better on gravel for it.

It's not a perfect bike by any stretch. It isn't mechanical front derailleur compatible, so this is a 1X only bike unless you go Di2 or AXS. The tire clearance is good, but it isn't what some bikes have now. It doesn't have a lot of extra bottle mounts. (Nothing on the fork) So, there are things it could have that its competition does have, but this is still a great gravel bike.

Plans for this bike in the future? Ride it as a test sled until the manufacturer wants it back, or....???  Stay tuned.... 

Note: Noble Bikes sent the GX5 for test and review to Riding Gravel at no charge. 

Monday, December 23, 2019

Shifting Gears

This has been a looooong time coming. So, hang on, because I have to start this tale at the beginning, and that goes back 17 years and three months ago, give or take a few days. It was 2002, and I had a young daughter, only a year and a half old, and I wanted to get out of the car fixing business. That was a great job with an awesome, business savvy boss and fun co-workers, and I made a LOT of money doing that. I had benefits, a 401K, insurance, and the whole nine yards. But......I didn't want to be THAT kind of father. I was working 60+ hours a week, and I would be dead tired at the end of the day. Plus, I had to work six days a week every other week. It was too much, in my mind, for me to be a good Dad. I needed to change jobs to be the father I was wanting to be.

That's me back in 2005 at my bench. Image probably taken by Jeff Kerkove.
And in September of 2002 I did. I started working at the bike shop.  I ended up being a part timer for many years, with little to no benefits, no  retirement, no insurance, and a boss that was the polar opposite of my boss at the auto repair shop. I took a HUGE pay cut. But in return I didn't have to work nights, weekends, and I got Holidays off. I got one week paid vacation, and later on, two weeks. For a while I got paid holidays too. But the biggest benefit of all was that I could, at a moments notice, take care of family matters with no repercussions. I could be there for my kids to take them to school every morning, and pick them up in the afternoons. I got Wednesdays off for years. This helped a ton with my review work. It was low stress and a lot healthier lifestyle, despite the lack of benefits you'd normally associate with a job. I was very fortunate to be able to raise my two kids in this era of my life with this employment situation. I was also very fortunate that I met many of the people I have met because I was in this job. I am well aware of that part.

But then things went bad. I cannot say much about the business here.  (You know what they say- If you can't say anything good, don't say anything at all.) As far as how things were going personally, about three years ago, with no warning, my paid vacation and holiday pay were yanked. It became increasingly clear that something was deeply wrong at my place of employment. About a year, year and a half ago, I started looking into my options. The kids are grown, I didn't get the same benefit out of working there anymore. The plan was to move on in the Spring of this year, but circumstances didn't pan out.

Meanwhile, things got worse. My hours were cut again and again due to poor business decisions. Repair and maintenance work disappeared due to the appearances that the shop was in trouble. There was a new shop and many good customers went there instead during late 2019. Things got weird at work with management, then they got weirder. On December 1st, I found out via Facebook that the shop was closing its doors for good on December 31st. (Not that I was surprised, mind you, it was the principle of the thing that got to me) Maybe someday I can release details, but for now, all you need to know is that I no longer work for Europa Cycle & Ski. I terminated my relationship with that shop as of last Friday.

My work area during my last days at the shop.

I knew the end was coming for quite some time and I had been moving my things back home piece by piece over the Spring and Summer. The "situation" has been obvious to many, I know, and I wasn't blind to it either. By the time December came I had pared my tools back to a bare minimum to do basic stuff. Not that there was much to do....

Switching gears now will be tough until I can enter whatever will be my next phase in my employment life. I'm excited for that, and I know I will be a LOT better off than I have been for several years. But until then, I have to muddle through for a while. It'll be okay. I've managed to save some money, and I have some odd jobs lined up. It'll be tight, but change is never easy, is it?

Stay tuned.........

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Trans Iowa Stories: The One-Off- Intro

The calf from the morning of T.I.v4's pre-race became the header for T.I.v5.
 "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!

By the time of the running of the fifth Trans Iowa, you would think I'd have had everything all figured out. Boy! Nothing could have been further from the truth. With the event evolving every year, and with some of those changes being pretty significant ones, the event really lacked a lot of continuity. The fifth one didn't help much in some ways with that, but in others it was the event which 'solved a lot of problems' for me. I hope to paint a clearer picture of this as I get into the telling of the stories about this, singularly unique, and very memorable, Trans Iowa.

Some things I won't dive into very deeply as there are things I've beaten to death concerning this event. But there are details I've never shared which may help put some puzzle pieces together for some fans of Trans Iowa. I will touch on all that was unique to the event though. One thing in particular should be told up front that I believe was a story that sets the stage for what is to come concerning T.I.v5's stories.

David Pals was still my co-director, and for this Trans Iowa, we had a new territory to explore, but an area that David knew well, being it was within his area of gravel riding from his home, then in Marengo, Iowa. I'll get into why it was we were down that way later, but one of the things David was excited to share with me was a quaint little village called Washington, Iowa.

Now, I had a bit of familiarity with this town, located Southwest of Iowa City, as I had explored possibly living there at one point when I was working in Iowa City as a jeweler. (That's another whole story of my life, but there is no space for that here.) That said, I hadn't really gone "downtown", and this was what David wanted to show me. Washington, like many smaller Southern Iowa villages and towns, has a town square. It was surrounded by businesses, and David was thinking we might use the town square as a checkpoint location. He showed me the central, park-like lawn, and then we drove around the square looking for a coffee shop or bakery. David was sure there was one, but he didn't know exactly where it was.

It was early, perhaps too early, for small Iowa businesses to be open on a Saturday. We didn't see anything inviting, that is, until we saw her. She had appeared as if out of nowhere. We hadn't noticed her on our first circumnavigation of the town square. She was a strange visage for such a town in Iowa. She seemed to me to be more like a liberal arts student from the University of Iowa than a small town, conservative, rural woman. We immediately were both struck by the incongruity of her appearance and her presence on the very edge of the street. She stared at us intently as we gazed upon her. Then something very peculiar came over us. We slowed down. It was as if we were hearing the Siren's song, but it was eerily silent. She beckoned to us just then. As if under a spell, David simply pulled into a parking space, and we both got out. The young woman then offered us coffee from her shop, which plainly was there, all of a sudden. But we didn't see it until just at that point in the day.

Odd that. But the coffee was as magical as the woman's appearance, and she not only was a fine and engaging hostess, but the owner of the shop. In the end, we struck up a deal for her to offer her coffee and pastries when we arrived with the event later that April, and by all accounts, the coffee was excellent and she did a great business that day.

It was weird like that, and so was the entire event. A one-off, magical moment in Trans Iowa's history.

Next Week: Rejected!

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Minus Ten Review 2009-51

One of the prettiest bikes I think I've had. A 2009 Soul Cycles Dillenger.
Ten years ago on this blog I introduced a stand alone site for "Gravel Grinder News". The whole "GGN" thing was something I had been doing right here since, oh.... about 2008 or so. It was kind of like a search term/tag at first, then I started naming posts "Gravel Grinder News" whenever the content was there and I could publish a post on this blog with that content.

The whole concept for the name came from way back in the 1980's when I worked as a jeweler. The shop I was employed at made, repaired, and designed jewelry. There were four stores, at one point, that were in the chain. Where I worked was the headquarters, so we would send out communiques as faxes to the stores to keep them up to date on repairs in progress, designs in progress, and the like. Instead of just sending out some bland newsletter, I decided to have a theme. I drew up a header which went with every fax and those were titled "Mother Faxer News". So, obviously, "GGN" was an evolution of that.


"GGN" started out on a blog format I had intended for the Trans Iowa History site. I ended up migrating that over to a site based on Wordpress which was going to become "Guitar Ted Productions.com" at one point. But that never happened, although I still have that domain. It was a very messy affair, but I didn't want to start up and abandon blog sites if I could use what I had. ya know? At any rate.....

"GGN" ended up becoming a "dot-com" address after a while and existed until I folded it in with RidingGravel.com in late 2014. And that's a bit of back story on that whole idea. Now I still post "GGN" posts here when it is a bit outside of the beat of RidingGravel.com. So that's why you still see that here up to this day. I also do "GGN" posts on RidingGravel.com when I cover press releases and the like.

I know......it's complicated.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Friday News And Views

Flared drop bars are not well understood. (Easton EA 70 AX bar pictured)
Flared Drop Bars - Hype Or No?

The other day I saw a few posts on social media from a few riders deriding the trend in gravel bikes using flared drop bars. The overall feeling was that they were completely foolish, unnecessary, and "who really stays in the drops in the rough stuff anyway?"

I restrained myself from trying to teach on the benefits of the flared drop bar, because really, in light of such ignorant and uninformed criticism, it was obvious I'd have been wasting my time there. But it does point out the fact that the mass adoption of the flared drop bar has been completely without any education, marketing of the benefits, nor with any historical context. If this type of bar had been detailed by brands in such a manner, then riders could make informed comments and choices. Unfortunately, the deafening silence on this type of bar, (and other facets of cycling in general), from brands that sell this stuff leads to the sort of worthless banter on components and bikes all over the internet. (Tires are the worst, for instance)

Standard race bred drop bars are perfectly fine, for what they were meant for, but gravel riding is a different animal, and therein lies the reasons for being when it comes to flared drop bars. Then there is the propensity for many drop bar bike owners to never use the drops in the first place. This also leads to a misinformed opinion on drop bars, because if the drops are something you'd rarely use anyway, well then, yeah.... Flared drops are pointless. But on the flip side, you should be using the drops a LOT, or why bother? Just cut them off, or use "bull horn" bars. It'd be lighter and those pesky drops wouldn't be in the way, using up bar tape when you could be double wrapping those bits by the levers. Or....maybe just use flat bars. 

Uneducated, misinformed opinions and takes on components abound on the internet. Flared drop bars are just one thing in the pile of parts that are not well explained, nor marketed correctly by the brands that spec them on their bicycles. I could write an entire series on this sort of thing, but the recent flared drop bar commentary I saw prompted me to post this time. I wish companies would see that they are doing a really poor job in this area.

The Cowchipper (shown here) and the Cowbell are now available in silver ano from Salsa Cycles.
 HiHo Silver!

I look at my Orange Crush BMC Monster Cross rig once in awhile and wish I had silver handle bars, but.....yeah. Silver flared drop bars aren't very common, and the ones that you can get in silver are not up my alley. It used to be that you could get the original Gary Bars in silver, and I may actually have a set somewhere, but no..... Cowbells or Cowchippers just blow those things away, at least for me.

So it was that I was rather excited to see that Salsa Cycles has now offered silver anodized Cowbell and Cowchipper bars in the "Deluxe" level. (7000 series aluminum, lighter weight) It looks like my dream of putting on silver flared drop bars on the BMC just might come true soon.

The Evil Bike Company's "Chamois Hagar" gravel bike.

The other day I saw a Tweet about Evil Bike Company. You know.....the radical mountain bike, trail shredding brand? Well, they now have a "gravel bike". Yep! But check it out, because it is not a "me-too" bike at all.

Now y'all may wonder what I mean by "me-too" bikes. That was a term coined in the 00's for companies that were throwing together something with fat 700c wheels and calling it a 29"er, when in fact it was just a Taiwanese, or Chinese sourced "catalog" bike and was about as generic as they came. At one point I think there were a half a dozen brands using the same, or nearly the same, carbon hard tail from the same factory, but claiming differences. This also happened when gravel bikes took off four years ago and companies were slapping the gravel tag on cyclo cross bikes with terrible geometry for gravel roads.

I'm sure Evil Bikes sees the gravel scene as "the latest shiny object" like many bike companies do, and if you cannot afford, or want to deal with electrifying bicycles with motors, then gravel is your game. Evil Bikes took a very "clean sheet" on the design table and went nuts. Just what do we have here anyway? A new game in town- that's what.

Back when I was looking at what I thought would make for a really great gravel bike, I was advocating for a deeper bottom bracket height, slacker head tube angles, and longer fork offsets. In my mind, a 70° head tube angle and a 80mm bottom bracket drop was "pretty extreme". Ben Witt and I actually were toying around with having Mike Pofahl, a frame builder in Northfield, Minnesota, weld up a couple of these bikes. We were thinking fatter 700c rubber too. Maybe not 29"er sized, but bigger than 40mm for sure. At the time, (2010-2011), there just wasn't much of anything other than Bruce Gordon's Rock & Road tires, which were nominally 43-44mm wide, depending upon the rim you used. So, that was the tire Ben designed around. Unfortunately, we never got around to pulling the trigger.

But the "Chamois Hagar", (dumb name, but whatever), blasts past most of what we were thinking back then and sets a new bar. With a 66.8° head tube angle mated to a custom fork with 428mm axle to crown height and 57mm of offset, you could be excused for thinking this was a gravel bike designed by a trail shredder, because, well......it was! They used the 80mm bottom bracket drop too. And, with room for 50mm tires in 700c and 650B, the bike would be a pretty interesting rig in Iowa on a day where you had fast hills and fresh, chunky gravel.

What I don't know that I'd care for is the really low top tube. I know.....dropper post, but this makes the Chamois Hagar a bit less capable in terms of carrying along a top tube bag like a Revelate Tangle bag. But there is a lot to like, and more to be very curious about here.

That's it for this week! It's going to be nice this weekend around here and I hope to get some riding in. I hope that you do as well! 

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Rear View '19 - Summer

After getting lost on the Solstice 100, I had this meal at the Loma Tap.
 Hello Readers! Once again I am doing the annual retrospective on what went down over the year of 2019. This post will focus on Summer. Previous posts have covered the other seasons, with one to come,  for a total of four, one each week of December on Thursdays.

Summer: The year wasn't going well in regard to riding since Spring was so wet and cool. I was way behind on miles and training was not up to snuff. The Solstice 100 saw a day where it got hot and humid, and of course, that made things really hard on me. I ended up off course and found my way back to Loma, Nebraska where I had quite the experience in the tap there helping prepare my own lunch!

Well, while that was fun it was another DNF to add to the piles of DNF's that had been experienced before this one. Getting to finish lines was becoming a rarity in my riding, and it was wearing on me. But Summer was finally getting together, and heat and humidity were the name of the game. I managed to get some rides in, but I was not getting the miles in that I wanted to either. Part of the problem was stress related to work. The "end" of the shop's life was nigh, and how management was handling affairs was causing me, and other employees a lot of trouble. Let's just say "denial" was the strategy being employed which many of us at the shop could see right through.

The next big event on the horizon was the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational. After two successful years of Tama County dirt road tours I decided to roll a route in Powesheik County and it was brutal. I knew it was going to be a big day of rollers and hot weather was sure to play a part in things, but thunderstorms? Yes, we got rained on, and we barely escaped lightning which hounded us for a few hours. Still, it was fun to ride with so many great folks.

Then it was only a few short weeks until Gravel Worlds. I had good intentions, but the day went South on me. No big surprise there, the whole year was a big DNF as far as events went for me. A gut issue got me this time. Oh well!

From the 2019 GTDRI

From Gravel Worlds 2019.
After Gravel Worlds I did not have any riding plans. I just got out to help clear my head from the work related nonsense which was going on, saved my money for leaner times, and took in as much as I could whenever I did get out. The late summer riding was awesome. No events to "get ready for", nothing to prove. I needed every mile I got this past late Summer and into Fall.

The single speed version of the Orange Crush is a blast to ride.
I got this new Sully Guitars Raven model which I have been enjoying a lot.
On the "Six String Side" I got a new guitar after many, many years, and I am really enjoying it. It is a Sully Guitars Raven model from the Conspiracy Series. It plays so well, and I was pleasantly surprised by that and the sound, which, obviously, has to be there. This was, at least, one bright spot in the Summer for me.

Next: Fall and the close of this year's "Rear View" posts.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Maybe You Need A Mustache (Bar)

The Soma Fab 3-Speed Mustache Bar
Got an old 29"er sitting around? Maybe you are thinking about getting one of those "gravel bikes" you've been hearing so much about. Well, you already have a gravel bike! It just needs a little love, maybe a few parts swaps, and BOOM! Gravel travel will be easy-pasy.

Now you may be thinking,"Sure, Guitar Ted! Easy for you to say, but what about swapping out the bars, and then I'll need different controls, and what about a riser stem, and......" HOLD ON THERE!

Maybe all you need is a mustache bar! Let me explain.......

Years ago this guy came in where I was working and said he had a special handle bar I might want to try. It was, at that time, a rare handle bar. It was a mustache bar that accepted mountain bike controls. He lent me the bar and it was a revelation. I LOVED it! But, he wouldn't sell it to me then and I forgot all about that until recently.

You see, most mustache bars are for road bike controls. The mountain bike controls on a 29"er are of a smaller clamp diameter, 25.4mm to be exact. So, when this idea of doing up my old Fisher HiFi as a gravel bike project came up recently, I was trying to configure in my mind this project with drop bars and road controls. Maybe a Gevenalle set up..... I'd need a stem, and maybe some other bits to make it work. This was not going to be an easy project.

Then I saw an image of a bikepacker with a pretty cool set up. The image was head-on, and it was clear he was using a mustache bar. As the character "Gru" from "Despicable Me" would say, "LIGHT BULB!!" Of course! If only I could find a mustache bar that fits mountain bike controls. A simple Google search later turned up a few good prospects. The Soma Fab 3-Speed Mustache Bar looks to be the best solution here.

Getting an mtb control compatible mustache bar means life gets waaaaay simpler. I can use the controls the bike came with- hydraulic levers, grips, and shifters. I do not need to get a different, weird riser stem, although I may need to play with the length. In return, I get all the hand positions, including a forward, aero position to cut through the wind. Downsides? Well, you won't find a super-wide bar, but the Soma 3-Speed Mustache Bar is claimed to be 540mm wide, which should be pretty good. You also won't get any straight-on accessory mount points for lights and such except right next to the stem.

But spending around $60.00 or less, (depending on your on-line source), you can pretty much count on an almost straight over swap of your components. You might have to lengthen the brake lines depending on how you like the levers. Pointing the levers pretty much straight down will require less length and probably will be close to optimal. Flared out is good in some cases, but will require more housing length.  Your stem length will also come into play. Shorter will require less cable housing length, longer and taller the opposite. You could probably get away with the stem you currently are using. If anything, you can go a bit shorter.

Another cool thing about mustache bars is that you can flip them for rise, or use them traditionally for a bit of drop. But the big thing is the varied hand positions. I'll let you discover this, but trust me, it's rad. So, stay tuned. I'm going to get these in and start the project after the New Year.