Monday, June 17, 2019

Ready Or Not

This coming weekend I am signed up to do this century on gravel starting in the little village of Malcom, Nebraska. It's called the "Solstice 100" and, as you may recall if you are a regular reader here, that was the event I was supposed to have gone to last year when my truck's gas tank fell out. That made it so I had to miss the inaugural event, but this year, hopefully, nothing of the sort will prevent me from at least getting there.

Once I get there, and at the starting line, who knows how it will all go. 100 miles in one go will be about three times the length of my longest ride this year. Well......maybe I've done 40 once or twice. Whatever. It is what it is. All I'm going to say is that this year has not been the year for long rides and weather has thrown a wrench in the works more times than I can count.

The bike, at least, will be dialed in. I'm going to be taking the Black Mountain Cycles MCD with me and it is all set to roll. I was thinking I may have to swap out wheels on that bike, but now I don't even have to do that. The Spinergy GX wheels I just reviewed on normally would have to go back, but Spinergy has allowed me a bit longer time with them. That was extra nice of them since now I don't have to peel off the WTB Resolutes I mounted up on those wheels and stick them on my Irwin wheels. The last thing I want to do is swap out tires a week ahead of an event. In fact, you shouldn't change anything a week ahead of an event. Although I've certainly been guilty of that before.

I made one significant change recently.
I did swap out the saddle though. I had been running a Brooks C-17 on it, then I swapped out to try the Tioga Undercover saddle. That turned out to be just too narrow for my posterior. So, I went to the "tried and true' choice, a WTB Pure saddle. My ride last weekend pretty much settled the debate on saddle choice. The Pure is still the one for me. I like those Brooks saddles as well, but the Pure just does not have any nits to it that I can find. It just plain works. The C-17's can be a bit ouchy sometimes because on long rides that shape chafes me at times. But it is good and I'll continue to use them.

 I probably will add another Bike Bag Dude Chaff Bag to the mix, but otherwise, this is the rig. Oh....I may rig up a cue sheet holder. The Solstice has GPS or cue sheet navigation, but since my GPS doesn't do turn by turn, (or- more likely- I cannot figure out how to get it to do turn by turn), so I'll be using good ol' cue sheets, I guess.

So, a bit of light riding the rest of the week and Friday I'll be heading down to see MG and do the Solstice. (No.....I won't forget my shoes)

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Trans Iowa Stories: The Danger Zone

One of the long standing iconic Trans Iowa images- T.I.v2 just North of Sutherland, IA
Last week you might remember Deke's question to us; "If you put on this event, and no one finishes it, will you be okay with that?" Well, besides being a big moment for Trans Iowa, it was a big moment for me. This was because I realized at that very moment that this endeavor was dangerous. 

You might scoff at that notion, but think about it more, and you will see why I felt that way, right up to the very end of Trans Iowa v14. It's like this, while you may not at first see the danger in putting on a Trans Iowa, it doesn't mean it isn't there. The very real possibility that someone could get seriously injured, or even die, was not a circumstance that was unlikely. Especially when you are dealing with a field of riders that is putting themselves into situations where decision making is sometimes compromised severely due to exhaustion or other physical and mental stress. And you realize that you have no control over those decisions. 

Never mind the potential of offending land owners, pet owners, or ticking off the local volunteer fire department chief. (All of which happened during various Trans Iowas) Never mind the possibilities of people getting very lost, going way off course to quit and go back to the start, or wandering around off course severely dehydrated. (All of which happened at Trans Iowas) Yes, the very real chance of severe injury and death never happened, but it very well could have, and there were situations where I was very fortunate things went the way that they did.

Trans Iowa was dangerous, I knew that going in, so, why get involved at all?

That's a question I didn't have the answer for until very recently. In fact, at the onset of Trans Iowa, I was fairly cavalier about the possibilities for danger. I recall in messages back and forth with Mike Curiak, himself a promoter of ultra-endurance events at that time, and thinking along the lines of, "Well, maybe in Colorado, or Alaska you might have a rider die, but in Iowa? There is a farmer right down the road willing to help." And while that was true, and while we did see a lot of the goodness of people helping people, the danger factor was still there.

So, while I may have been oblivious, to a degree, to the potential dangers of Trans Iowa, I had no idea what other elements of "danger" were lurking in the unfolding of the event. Jeff, well, he was accustomed to the danger, in terms of the riding, and was willing to accept that as being part of a "good event's DNA". I mean, without the danger, what is there?

Joel Dyke (L), co-founder of Dirty Kanza, at T.I.v2
I was watching a You Tube video from a guitarist named Pete Thorn. He was doing his regular Sunday Live show and got on a bit of a rant about how rock guitar had been "sanitized", (his words) and effectively this had removed the excitement from live performances. Playing loud, with aggression, used to be scary. It used to feel dangerous, he related, and furthermore; Rock and Roll should be a bit dangerous. Otherwise, it is something else. 

Jeff and I had hit upon a bit of something "dangerous" with Trans Iowa. Not just in a physical sense, but in the sense that it went against all the "rules" of racing bicycles. It was rebellious, it wasn't conforming, and Trans Iowa upset a lot of people out of the gates because of this. The "you can't do that" mentality was something that was definitely against us, and the element of what something like a Trans Iowa idea could do was dangerous to the status quo of the day in racing. It obviously was an event that was far too small to be, by itself, a revolution, but what it set off became that revolution. Only by looking back today can we see how dangerous it really all was.

Then again, Trans Iowa's irreverent take on racing was attractive to many. The new connections on the internet made networking with like-minded miscreants easy. A sort of punk rock ethos arose where people were inspired by what Jeff and I had created and it sprung up all across the nation in the form of gravel and back road based events put on by regular folks. Folks like Joel Dyke, who along with his partner, Jim Cummings got wind of this crazy Trans Iowa nonsense and figured they could do something like it in Kansas. Joel Dyke, who actually came and rode in the first two Trans Iowas, was very influenced by Trans Iowa and took a lot of what we were doing and brought it into their Dirty Kanza 200 event. Likewise, Jim Cummings has since ridden in several versions of Trans Iowa.

So, the subversive, "it isn't a race" style racing was taking root, and since then, has become so "dangerous" to the status quo that the bike industry, and even Pro road racers, finally just accepted it. Too many people were jumping ship and finding out what was going on "out there" on the gravel roads.

Now one might point here or there and, like Pete Thorn, say things are too "sanitized", to "nice". But I don't think the Rock & Roll is dead yet. But that's another story for another time.......

Next: I get back to the early days of Trans Iowa's story and how Mike Curiak helped formulate much of the framework of Trans Iowa going forward.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Minus Ten Review 2009-26

A view of the Turkey River between Elgin and Elkader Iowa.
Ten years ago this week on the blog I was just back from a week's vacation and thoughts had turned to the fourth running of the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational which was coming up in a few week's time.

I had been running the event South for the three previous editions, but this time I thought about how we had to move Trans Iowa out of Northeast Iowa and how maybe a running of the GTDRI up there might be fun from the standpoint of quality of the roads up in that area. I was not disappointed in what I found up there.

In fact, the course was sooo good that we revisited it on three more occasions and some of the best and worst GTDRI stories are from those four epic rides. Two of the times we did this route we started from Echo Valley County Park, and two other times we launched from Backbone State Park. But all four times the route was done in a "clockwise" loop.

Interestingly, that isn't how I initially envisioned doing this ride. I was going to start out heading Southeastward and basically doing the whole deal anticlockwise. You know......maybe I should try that sometime! But I digress......

The route ended up being a bit more than a 100 miles, I think it was around 110, but I'd have to consult my blog posts later into 2009. That'll come out when we get to reviewing it soon enough though. Stay tuned.... For now suffice it to say that I knew that this would be a very scenic course, and a very, very tough one. Those things were both born out in the riding of it.

So, anyway, this course is an enduring classic. I wouldn't mind doing it again, as mentioned here already, and I think it makes for a fantastic century gravel route. That's why we did it four times for the GTDRI. No other course has been repeated this many times. The past "Tour of Dirt Roads GTDRI" course, which we have run the past two years consecutively, is another "classic" GTDRI course. That's another one I'd be willing to pull off again some year. But that will have to wait.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Friday News And Views

Dot Watchers will be busy for the next month or so. Tour Divide starts today.
Musings On The Tour Divide:

Today is the day a lot of riders full of hope will clip in somewhere around Banff, Canada for a long ride down the spine of the Rocky Mountains to Antelope Wells, New Mexico. Maybe some of their hope will win out and they will actually accomplish this feat.

I used to get really excited about this event, but anymore......meh! It isn't the event it once was, and for me at least, it isn't as intriguing as it once was. Actually, I think the Tour Divide is responsible, in part, for why the "shine is gone" off this event after 12 or so years of its existence.

That's right. "TD" has only been around about a dozen years. But you may have heard about events like the Tour Divide that predate this. You aren't wrong, but it was a completely different event. It was an event that left from the "Port Of Roosville" Montana and ended in Antelope Wells. That event had cutoff timing points, a rule against cell phone use, and was largely done in an era where "social media" was either absent, or did not even exist yet. The ubiquitous SPOT trackers which generate the "dots" which fascinate today's Tour Divide watchers weren't a thing then. The only real feedback anyone could get outside of actually participating in the Great Divide race were the phone calls some riders would post along the way on a specific call in site. For a great look at what once was the Great Divide race, check out John Billman's excellent write up for "Outside" HERE.

John's story heralds the event as "The World's Toughest Bike Race", and back then, there was a plausible argument to be made for that claim. There are those who would say that the Tour Divide is still "that sort of an event", but to my way of thinking, that ship set sail a LONG time ago. In fact, I wrote a bit about this in a past "Minus Ten Review" on the blog a couple of years back now. I was musing on what the Great Divide Race once was compared to today.

".....that was a time when "bikepacking" had yet to become a term on the tongue of every wannabee hipster wanderer with a beard and a high priced bivy. There were lots of people using racks and hard mounted bags. SPOT trackers weren't a thing yet, but they were coming on strong by that time. Cell phones didn't work throughout most of the route, and GPS wasn't something most folks even had access to yet. There weren't ten ways to follow someone on the route, there was only one, and if they had a "dot" to watch, it was a bonus. Most of the time you had only the uploaded call ins, if a rider made call ins at all.

Am I saying that the Great Divide was a bit "purer" event than the TD is now? Maybe. You could make an argument for that for sure. I guess I don't know the answer to that question, but I do know I liked the event back then better than I do now.

I still feel the same about it today. You know though, that's just me. I'm probably an outlier. I know that there are "different levels of self-support" events and everyone has their own definition. I've written about that before as well.  

The thing is, the TD has become a marketing tool, a social media scene, and more. It obviously is difficult, and it has elements of the previous years events which are laudable and worthy of pursuit. That said, it isn't as tough to ride 2,000 plus miles today as it was back ten plus years ago alone with no Facetime, no "likes" to count, and no interaction on digital platforms. There was no Salsa top cap pie token, no folks camped out looking for you along the way, and you had to hustle because there was only an allotted 25 days to "get 'er done". If you didn't get there within the time allotments, it didn't count. Imagine if that were the case today. 

GTDRI Reactions:

It's funny, because in years past I would never know if anyone would show up for this ride. I posted about it, asked for comments, or if anyone was coming, and......... crickets. Usually a good handful would show, but one year I had only two other guys show up! This year I have already had at least a half a dozen folks say they were coming. 

Last year I had the most riders ever show up. Now you never know, but it would't at all surprise me to see that equaled or surpassed this time. Then again, maybe only a half dozen will show up! One thing that has been a bit of a disappointment over the years is that there have been very few women that have ever done the GTDRI. Maybe three years we had any women show up. It sure would be great to get some of the females out along with the group.

But whatever..... I'm riding no matter if anyone shows up or not. So, in my opinion, when folks do show up, I count it as an amazing thing, and I am very grateful for it when people decide to come spend the day with me. 

Mud guard success evidence.
When Mud Guards Are Good:

This past Spring was a wet, cool affair and the roads were often messy. I have two rigs set up with fenders and they worked great this Spring keeping me cleaner and my bike less goopy. My choice? Planet Bike ALX fenders

I have been a Planet Bike fender user for years, but the Cascadia ALX is their top choice for me these days. The hardware is stainless steel, the fenders are aluminum, and the simplicity of mounting these and removing them is tops. One set resides permanently on the Black Mountain Cycles "Orange Crush" single speed and the other I installed on the Raleigh Tamland Two last year. 

Well, with summer here I figured I would remove the fenders from the Raleigh. I took the rear fender off first, and it was dirty underneath, certainly, but when I removed the front fender, I was shocked. 

First of all, it was oddly heavy in the hand. The ALX fenders have a bit of heft to them, which I appreciate since that heft results in strength and rigidity. The ALX fenders are dead quiet on the bike. But I knew they didn't weight this much! I turned the fender over to find what you see in the image to the left here. I was amazed!

The part you see between my feet? That was level full of dried up mud. My tires must have had barely any clearance! And as I recall, during one of my recent rides on the Tamland, I heard some high pitched whining/buzzing, which was this mud scraping the tire, most likely! Obviously, I cleaned that out before storing them until later in the year when I will remount them for Winter and early Spring. 

That's a wrap for this week. Get some riding in and thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational 2019 Update

2019 Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational- July 27th, 2019:

The site has been pretty silent since last year, but you should expect to see some news cropping up over there on the GTDRI blog now that June has kicked in and there is only about six weeks or so until this goes down.

The 14th annual GTDRI will be a bit different and back to an old location for this event, but a familiar one for me. This time the GTDRI is going to start and end in Grinnell, Iowa and the route will be a different animal as well. The last time the ride was in Grinnell it was the 8th annual edition. That ride was over 100 miles and did not take in much for Level B roads.

Well, this version is going topsy-turvy on that mold and you can expect a distance of around 60-70 miles with at least one third of that being dirt roads all in Poweshiek County. That is, if the route I have planned pans out. It may not if it rains, but that will all be part of the adventure. I also may not get all of the route reconned, which I have done in the past- not reconning the entire route- because I like to leave bits of the GTDRI as a surprise for myself, but I also may just look at the whole thing anyway.

The Level B's are steep in Poweshiek County. From the 2012 GTDRI.
Okay- some basic information for the new folks here: The GTDRI is basically an open invite to join me on a no-drop style group ride/adventure for a day. It isn't "exclusive", or even an "invitational" in the truest sense of that word. I just came up with a pompous name for this ride 14 years ago and have stuck with it ever since.

It is cue sheet guided, and since the group sticks together, we all don't even have to have cues. But that said, I will provide the route and maybe even a tcx file for your fancy pants GPS devices. Probably on Plot-a-Route. I'll link to that via the GTDRI site when I get a route nailed down. The day of the event you show up, if you want to. No registration, no fee, no number plates, "no barriers", or whatever. It's the way I've done this since the first one in 2006.

As I said, this one will start in Grinnell, probably in front of Bikes To You on Broad Street to get a little Trans Iowa mojo going. The start is always around 6:00am. The end is always whenever we get back, but hopefully that is in the afternoon Saturday. There may be a bit of hangout time, since the route distance will be shorter than I've ever planned, but that's due to the difficulty of the route and possible re-routing on the fly. The Level B roads will be very steep at times since Poweshiek County is pretty hilly. I expect that winching up and getting down some of these may take a bit of extra time, and depending on the group, we may have to make several regrouping stops as well.

So, I've got to get myself in gear to recon bits of my sketched out route and nail down some details. Give me a shout out if you have any questions about this event or the route ideas. More soon......

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Gotta Keep'em Separated

You can paint whatever lines on this street that you want- It doesn't mean a thing.
It always seemed pretty obvious to me, but I have been commuting by bicycle for nearly 18 years now. Mostly on the same route too. What I noted a long time ago was that if you can separate yourself from traffic, you are safer. So, when I first heard about "protected bicycle lanes", essentially a bike path with some sort of physical barrier between cyclists and traffic, I knew that was the way to go when it came to designing paths and roads for cycling.

Then I saw where a study by two universities basically have come to the same conclusion. The studies say that cities with protected bike lanes realized a 44% reduction in fatalities for cyclists. No kidding! It was one of those, "Did they really have to spend money on a study for this?" moments for me. But then again- like I say- I've been in this game for almost two decades now.

Another chunk of personally observed experience came into play last year when the fair city of Waterloo, Iowa took a four lane street and divvied it up with painted lines and reduced the available lanes from four to two. They also reduced the speed limit to 20mph. Most of the time there have been no barriers except for a few months last year where they set in some pole barriers to direct traffic around the convoluted painted "bike lane", but only at intersections.

I've been paying attention to this and have cycled this street a lot in the last year. By the way, I never use the painted in "bicycle lane". Why? Becuase of what I observe as a situation that is unsafe, and definitely not as safe as using the wide sidewalk which runs nearly the entire bike lane on this street. My reasoning is that, based upon my observations, that drivers are far less likely to strike me with their vehicles when I am on a slightly elevated paved surface protected by a curb.

Pathways separated from motor vehicle traffic are my preferred routes to take, when the take you somewhere.
I have observed drivers going right over the "bike lane", and the lower speed limit? Ha! NEVER been enforced. Cars still speed along at 40mph all day and night on this stretch of city street. In Winter it is even worse, as the painted lines are often obscured by snow and ice, and by Spring are in dire need of repainting. Which, they may as well not bother with, as ineffective as the "bike lane" is in regard to motor vehicle traffic.

So, I get it. The study verifies my findings as well. Get cyclists and motor vehicle traffic separated and everyone will get along better and there will be less injury and death. It's a no-brainer. And I should be completely transparent and fair and tell you that this street which I used as an example is supposedly due to get a make-over which will feature separated bike lanes. Physically separated bike lanes. But I thought this from the onset- don't do a half-assed job and paint of bunch of lines on a street. That doesn't separate us from the dangers of traffic. It is pretty much a waste of effort and money. Do it right, or don't do it at all.

So, until it is done right, and we get separation, I'm going to create my own separation whenever possible. You can bag on me all you want for riding the sidewalk downtown, but I'm not willing to trust distracted, uncaring, unskilled drivers in three to five ton boxes of steel, plastic, and rubber barreling down this street at well over twice the posted speed limit. And of course, we all know that if I were in the street and got taken out by one of these people driving a motor vehicle, that they would get off with a mere slap on the wrist while I'm either dead or maimed. Nope. Not gonna take that painted, so called "bike lane" ever. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Ti Muk 2 Upgrade Path: Part 2

The Cake Eater 26" X 4.0" tires on the Ti Muk 2
Last week I outlined my "upgrade path" for the Ti Muk 2. As I stated then, the first order of business was to swap out the tires. I received the Cake Eater tires shortly afterward and set them up this past weekend.

Now, when I picked the bike up from Sam, I had no idea if the tires were set up tubeless or not. We never got around to talking about that. But when I dismounted the 45NRTH tires, I found out that they were set up tubeless. This was a process I was dreading a bit, having dealt with taking off fat bike tires set up tubeless at the shop where I work at. I knew about the Mulefut rims and how hard they were to deal with. But we just don't see a lot of Whiskey rims come through, so I wasn't experienced with that rim myself. Not tubeless anyway. So, I was really hoping that these weren't going to be the dreaded Mulefut experience. Thankfully, they were actually easier than some 29"er rims I've dealt with.

I did have to patch up the tape job on one wheel a bit, but overall, the set up was straight forward. Tip: When mounting up a fat bike tire first place the wheel inside of the carcass of the tire. Both beads should be outward of the rim. Then start working over each bead until it is inside the rim well. This technique is far easier than using the traditional mounting technique most of us use to mount other tires.

The Cake Eater tires are about 300 grams lighter a piece than what I was running. I used the "MG" home made sealant and the tires never weeped, burped, or did anything odd. They held pressure overnight. So far, so good.

I rode them to and from work yesterday and the smoother ride was readily apparent as was the speed. I was running about 10psi, but I think I can go a pound, maybe two lower and get some more smoothness out of them on harder surfaces. Coasting downhill was faster and so I know the rolling resistance of those 45NRTH tires was much higher. The Cake Eaters are not as voluminous nor quite as wide as the Flow/Dunderbeist tires I was using. Obviously, they also are not as knobby either. That's all to the good for my purposes for Summer and Fall riding.

So, the next bit to get is a rear rack. Then I will tidy up the generator light wiring. My friend Tony came into the shop and looked at my light mount. He has a similar one and Jones Bars as well. He advised me on a great way to mount the light mount and how he ran the wiring. So, when I get the rack I'll do that all at once.

That should about wrap up the upgrades. the fork? Meh....... I could live without that, and the expense is more than the benefit I might derive from it. Plus I have a fork made from metal. I like that idea. So, I am leaning toward not getting that upgrade.

More soon......

Monday, June 10, 2019

Country Views: Not The Ride I Was Looking For

The roads East of Waterloo are pretty torn up yet in spots.
Yeah......... This was supposed to be the day I was going to tell you all about my Prairie Burn 100 story. Well, that ain't gonna happen because of a forgetful brain and circumstances. You see, I got up Saturday, drove about halfway to Grinnell, which is 40+ miles, and realized I had forgotten my clipless shoes at home.

I. Felt. Terrible.

Anyway, I turned around and went home. There was no way I could get back to register on time. So, instead, I went to the farmer's market with Mrs. Guitar Ted, I attended a graduation party for one of my son's friends, and then I went on a ride by myself.

It was good. It wasn't the ride I was looking for that morning. It was the ride I needed to do. It was probably a really good thing I didn't do the Prairie Burn 100, in retrospect. I am pretty sure I would have struggled mightily. Not because of anything other than where I am at in Life at the moment. While I cannot divulge what it is exactly that is going on, my work situation is causing major stress at the moment, and I haven't been myself for several weeks now. I think if you know me and have seen me lately, you probably have gotten that vibe. Things have been pretty depressing, and I have had a hard time coping. So, forgetting my shoes doesn't surprise me at all. It is a result of where I am at now. I needed some time alone. Not with a crowd. I apologize to those who were looking forward to seeing me. I hope you can forgive me this indulgence.

So, I headed East. That was the direction the wind was out of and I haven't gone that way in a long time. It was a good ride of over three hours. I turned my phone off. I didn't use my GPS computer. I just rode my bicycle.

Barns For Jason

Barns For Jason- Part 2.
Things are greening up out in the country very quickly. There are a few freshly planted fields and more than a few untilled ones. More than I can recollect ever. We used to have this government funded program which paid farmers to leave fields alone for a year, but this isn't because of any subsidy this year. It is because we have had the coldest, wettest May in years.

Obviously you can see that it was a blue bird, big sky kind of day. The east wind was stiff, and it was dry! Low humidity in the upper 20's and lower 30's is super rare this time of year. It felt like I was riding in Kansas! This also has caused the roads to become broken down in many spots to a dusty/sandy condition. Very unusual.

Barns For Jason- Part 3
I ended up going as far East as the outskirts of Dunkerton, then North to Bennington Road, then I "stair-stepped" back West and South so I didn't have a long stretch of headwind. The wind was kind of out of the Southeast, but was mainly East. Going South wasn't bad, but it was way slower than going West!

I did extend my "Year Of The Dog" experiences again. This time it was a trio of "ankle biters". One was lame, so it was not really a threat, but the hoary old grey and black dog was still spry and meant business. A younger dog came out last and dared to defy its owner, much to the owner's chagrin. She apologized profusely. It was no big deal, but again.... The dog encounters this year have been off the charts. I have no idea why.

When your bike is ditch flower color coordinated.

A big Ag sprayer kicks up copious amounts of dust as it travels down a gravel road Northeast of Waterloo, Iowa.
So, it wasn't the Prairie Burn 100. I didn't ride with a bunch of other gravel freaks. I didn't see people that were expecting me. I am truly sorry, but I did get my head on straight Saturday, and that was worth more than anything else to me. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have had quite the same experience in Grinnell.

There is light at the end of the tunnel though. I just have to hold out to get there. In the meantime, I am going to keep pedaling, keep my head up, and keep trusting that there is something good coming out of all of this. Time will tell.

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Trans Iowa Stories: Jeff Kerkove & Guitar Ted - Part 2

From a meeting at Interbike, circa 2010- (Image by Sonya Looney)
In this post we follow up on Jeff's original intentions for Trans Iowa and how this led us to a seminal meeting with Richard, "Deke" Gosen. This meeting was part of the skeleton of the philosophical basis for Trans Iowa's future. 

The thing one needs to keep in mind about the first Trans Iowa is that all along Jeff wanted it to be a mountain bike race. You may recall his question I have quoted over the years to me which precipitated the snap decision to put on an event. Well, just before that we were actually trying to figure out if, somehow or another, we could string together snippets of the rare Iowa single track, linked by gravel roads, into a cross state route. That was the original intention behind what was to become Trans Iowa. It was supposed to have been an ultra-endurance mountain biking event.

And why wouldn't that have been the goal? Jeff was in the upper tier of solo 24hr racers at the time. It wasn't unusual for Jeff to come home the winner of one of those hamster wheel events on dirt. He was a highly regarded racer in the scene, and he had a very popular blog. He was sponsored by top tier companies like Giant and Cat Eye. Jeff was a mountain biker. Not a gravel grinder.

But Jeff was also well acquainted with gravel riding. He trained on gravel roads all the time for their higher resistance and more rolling terrain. That said, this new event was first and foremost promoted as a mountain bike adventure. NOT a gravel grinder. That's why you will still see references to the "Trans Iowa Mountain Bike Race" on the Trans Iowa site. Jeff wrote most of that blogsite up and created it in 2004. I left it as intact as I could since. So, the evidence is still there.

This is not only important from a ideological perspective, but also from an influencing perspective. Jeff, of course, tried to get his endurance riding friends and acquaintances on board with the idea, and most of them were excited about the prospects of a cross-state adventure. Sure, there was some grousing by many that it wasn't in a mountainous state, but Jeff managed to get many of the heavyweights of the solo, ultra-endurance mountain biking folks to commit to coming. They did this in deference to who Jeff was. Had I been the one doing the promoting, well...... Trans Iowa would never had been heard from again.

The whole mountain biking aspect of the original idea was why we stuck the single track of Pilot Knob State Park in the middle of the route.  That was by my suggestion, if I recall, since I had ridden there back in 1995 or '96 with friends of mine from my first bike shop gig. We were also thinking about tying into the single track in Decorah, then running the route on to Lansing, Iowa, on the eastern border. However; when Jeff contacted the race director of the Decorah Time Trials, Richard, "Deke" Gosen, about this possibility, he came back with some other ideas.

Deke's ideas were to run the inaugural event Jeff was proposing to coincide with the running of the Decorah Time Trials which traditionally had always been held on the last full weekend of April. That way we could cross promote this new, crazy idea and the Decorah Time Trials. Deke was a bit reticent to have us running a similar course as his at the end of Trans Iowa, but offered that they could man a finish line which would be right where the time trial's was at. Also, Deke insisted on meeting face to face with us. So, one day in late 2004, we trekked up to Decorah to sit down with Deke.

The meeting was a bit awkward, but since Deke had run gravel events before back in the 80's, we were eager to be as absorbent as possible so we could learn something of how it was he did things. I do recall some banter about the old races, and "gravel grinding", the old roadie way of training on gravel. Then Deke asked us the strangest question.

"If you put on this event, and no one finishes it, will you be okay with that?"

Silence for a second or two. Jeff's and my eyes met for a brief moment. It was silently understood what the answer would be. We both agreed that would be okay.

"Yeah. I see no problem with that.", or something to that effect, was said by the both of us. Deke, who had been leaning in with a very intent look on his face then suddenly sat back, smiled, and said, "Good! Now we can get on with the rest of it!"

Deke later explained that had we been reticent to have an event so difficult that no one would finish it, he wouldn't have helped us out. His take was that this sort of challenge should be without compromise, but we had to realize as well that there was a huge responsibility on our part to be caretakers of that challenge, and of those who trusted us to pick that challenge up. This was a pivotal grain of wisdom which guided me for 14 years of Trans Iowa events. It was something I took hold of and based much of what I did around. Without Deke and his meeting with us, I very much doubt Jeff and I would have started out on the right foot with Trans Iowa.

Next: Why danger figures heavily into not only Trans Iowa, but the early gravel racing scene as a whole. 

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Minus Ten Review 2009-25

The start of the 2009 Dirty Kanza 200. From the original start in a motel parking lot.
Ten years ago this week I was telling the story of my 2009 attempt at the Dirty Kanza 200. The year I had a wicked head cold and barely made CP#1.

That year saw, what I reported then as, 85 folks taking the start. Imagine that! The DK200 pre-ride has three times that many riders! It was a much smaller and much more intimate affair back in the day.

This would mark the beginning of the end of those days though. The next year, 2010, marked the year the event started in front of the Granada Theater for the first time and the pre-race was at a different motel than we had used the first four years. 2010 was also the last year I went to the DK until 2015. By 2015 the event was BIG TIME. Nothing at all like the halcyon days of yore that built the foundation of what people think of as the "rootsy, good feeling event" when they think about the DK200 these days.

Anyway, I happened to walk out onto the back patio of the seedy motel the DK200 used to run out of that year in 2009. I saw a man talking to Jim Cummings. He was a local business man and was telling Jim that this deal oughta be held downtown. There could be side events, more hoopla, getting the town involved, and "whatta ya think?". Well, we all know where that went after that conversation.

And I went on a vacation right after that. In fact, I went with my family and we stayed a few days in Bellevue, Nebraska where my wife had a best friend and her family ask us to stay with them. This gave me the opportunity to sample some fine Nebraska single track and have MG as my personal guide to it all. The THOR trails were great then, but I understand they are even better now.

This might be from near the top of Texaco Hill. The '09 route went South that year to start.
I did a bit of Swanson Park myself and with MG again. I also rode Jewell Park, which was short, but steep and demanding. I also got down to Platte River and rode, which was tremendously fun and challenging. All in all it was a big deal to me to have that opportunity and to have ridden with MG so much.

I did a big write up on the experience for "Twenty Nine Inches" and this blog, plus I think I sent my story in to be published in a Nebraska magazine. I don't remember, but I am pretty sure that happened. If I am right, it was one of my first published articles in a print magazine. Pretty good for only having been a blogger for four years!

So, it all ended up becoming a great trip, despite the sting of being snake bitten again in Kansas. I chalked that year up to just the misfortune of being sick, and to the weather. It was in the high 90's, maybe over 100 that year, and the wind was fierce! There hasn't been a year like it in recent memory. So, I figured one more go at it at the least and I could see what I could do with fresher legs and healthier lungs. I immediately gave thought to coming back the next year.

Friday, June 07, 2019

Friday News And Views

This Knolly gravel Ti frame was seen as kind of a novelty, but it is seriously cool.
The Knolly Cache Story:

A while back I posted about this new titanium gravel frame from the small but popular company, Knolly. This a company not known for its jumping on trends or for anything other than full suspension mountain bikes. So, at first it was easy to dismiss this as a way to cash in on the gravel trend. Hmm.... Cache- Cash? Interesting...........

Anyway, I filed that away as something I'd likely never hear about again. I mean, I cannot count how many companies send me glowing press releases about some new bicycle only to have that fade into the background noise so fast that it never resurfaces again. Not that the bicycles were, or are bad, but the business being so small, and with certain perceptions of the ridership so firmly held, I never get too excited about anything out of the "left field", as it were. One in a million catches on, but you can pretty much discount most of these deals. The Knolly Cache fell squarely into that mold for me.

Much to Knolly's credit, they have made a PR push on the bike and actually have one of the most informative webpages on a bike I have seen in a while. It's actually interesting, and engaging. I recommend taking a look, even if you don't have any intentions of buying this bike. The frame tech talk alone is worth it. Check it out here.

A "high end" 36"er? Yep! (Image courtesy of Bike Radar)
Fancy-Pants 36"er:

Back ten years ago and more, when Ben Witt told me about this crazy idea for a 36 inch wheeled mountain bike, I thought it was a bit of a fool's errand, to be honest. There was nothing for wheels, and the geometry wasn't dialed in, not to mention what to do with frame design.

Well, of course, Ben pulled it off, and not only that, he had two of these behemoths built. That kind of spurred on a bit of movement in the realm of 36" wheeled mountain bikes. A few builders picked up torches and worked on making the idea legitimate. Then a few companies came around with nothing but 36" wheeled mtb's. Tires and rims got better. Then that seemed "good enough" for quite some time. I never saw much else being developed around those huge hula-hoops.

But that all changed the other day when i came across this "Bike Radar" story about a company that built up a 36"er with front suspension and carbon rims! Not just any ol' carbon rims either, but the high end, Italian made Alchemist rims. Talk about bling! That's crazy stuff right there. And top that off with the upside down MRP suspension fork, and you've got one mighty capable 36"er.

I know Ben Witt is pretty humble about this, but I think you have to tip the cap to him for setting off that big hoop idea in motion back in what? 2006? Anyway, look what they did with that idea now. I'm pretty blown away by this bike, to be honest. It might not be my cup-o-tea, but it sure is cool.

A Wheels Manufacturing T-47 bottom bracket.
Is Press-Fit Finally Going To Die?

In a recent announcement, Trek has confirmed that it is using a T-47(-ish) bottom bracket standard now in the 2020 Crockett cyclo-cross bikes. There is a hint that it may actually go across Trek's entire line of bikes currently using Press-Fit style bottom brackets.

This might be a good time to review why we have Press Fit to begin with. The reasons are "lighter weight" and "ease of manufacturing", but not necessarily both in every case. First- lighter weight: The carbon frame technology had reached a point where eliminating metal interfaces with bearings had become possible. Molded "pockets" took the place of threaded metal inserts. This advanced frame technology into the 'super-light" categories quickly. Then there is the "ease of manufacturing". traditional threaded bottom brackets rely on perfectly parallel surfaces for precise alignment of bearing cups. Threading also is an extra step in machining. This all could be eliminated by simply running a hone through a shell to insure roundness and then pressing in plastic cups which themselves held bearings. the plastic deforms to any out of trueness in the inside diameter of the bottom bracket shell, thus saving money and simplifying manufacturing processes.

So, what's the big deal? Well, problems arose when contamination between the bottom bracket shell and the plastic bearing cups occured and the "squeaky,groaning" noises started driving riders nuts. This was in any frame using those cheap, plastic press in cups. The carbon pockets, most notably on Trek frames, weren't always at the tolerances they should be, and wear over time also showed up, causing Trek to have to manufacture over-size bearings that would press in with a bearing press instead of just being hand-removable parts. Not to mention the ease of which these Press Fit bearings would go bad due to exposure to the elements.

Metal framed users could always opt for one of the expensive "thread-together" solutions, but then Chris King came up with the idea of actually threading these Press Fit bottom bracket shells and they made a cartridge unit that would thread into this. They dubbed it "T-47". This happened about four years ago.

A few other companies picked up on the idea, but it basically was something in the realm of custom, NAHBS type bicycles and no mainstream companies were looking at this, until now. So, why go T-47? Well, it still allows manufacturers to utilize those wide shells to place chain stays outboard as far as possible for maximum frame stiffness and maximum tire clearances. Plus, it gets rid of the problems Press Fit introduced. Sure, it will cause more expense, and in carbon frames cases, heavier weights, but other areas of technology have advanced now to keep the overall weights of bicycles really low, so this won't be that big of an impact anyway in regard to weight.

So, with Trek thinking about making T-47 a spec throughout its line, that may signal a sea change across the industry. Maybe the days of Press Fit bottom brackets are numbered. It will be interesting to watch.

That's it for his week. Keep the rubber side down and have a great bicycling adventure this weekend!

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Gonna Go Climb That Hill

Switching out to purple Bike Bag Dude bags for the event.
Well, my riding this year has been pretty much on the down low compared to years past. That weather thing, Life, and work stress has all conspired to make 2019 pretty dismal as far as riding time goes. All that to say that I'm not expecting much from this Saturday's Prairie Burn 100.

In fact, I'm going in and treating it like an "organized training ride" and that's all my goals are for this. Just a ride. Nothing more, and the distinct possibility that it will end up being a short one. But I gotta start somewhere and climbing that hill isn't going to get easier the longer the year goes on.

But anyway, this event is perfect for exactly the reasons I am going for. It is not a race. It's pretty much just an organized ride with number plates. Speaking of which, it was famously announced just before the Almanzo this year that number plates were being eliminated. They were perceived as being a "barrier" to participation. Yeah.......I don't buy into that at all. In my view, it's the opposite. Number plates, if anything, are attracting folks to events. They are souvenirs of participation. I don't see that having them, or not, is a barrier. It's just a thing. It shows you "were there" and rode.

I recall one year at Trans Iowa we didn't have numbers at all. (T.I.v7) If anything, we heard more grumbling that we didn't have them. We heard nothing about how cool it was that we didn't have them. But I digress.........

I hear a lot of locals are going to be at the Prairie Burn 100 too. That's awesome. My friend, Tony, mentioned it is the kind of event, "we all want to go to." It's just a fun ride, a potentially good time with bands, music, and food. Of course, the gravel family will show up. That and hopefully new folks too. I just don't see any downside to it.

So, I'll ride it and get whatever I can get out of the riding part, then I'll hang out maybe a bit and come home. Should be a good time.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Ti Muk 2 Upgrade Path

Now that I have had the Ti Muk 2 for a bit I have a few things I want to get upgraded/straightened out on it. One thing is going to happen very soon here, the next thing fairly quickly, and the third thing probably not for a long time- if ever. 

The imminent upgrade happening is tires. the Ti Muk 2 came to me with Flowbeist and Dunderbeist tires which are great for traction but have a LOT of "rolling thunder", and they can be a lot of work on harder surfaces. Plus, I probably should save these for Winter and true off road.

So, I have a set of Terrene Cake Eaters coming. Lower knobs. Still has traction, but more for drier conditions and not bad on gravel. I have a big idea which a couple of other guys are wanting to join me for and those 45NRTH tires are just too rumbly and slow for this idea. Once those tires come in I will probably go tubless on the Whiskey carbon rims and see how that goes.

The second upgrade, which will happen soon is getting a rear rack. The reason for the rack is to get that rear generator light away from the rear tire and off that seat stay. It is in a position now that almost guarantees that I will destroy it. So, a rear rack settles that issue, and allows me versatility in carrying stuff, maybe even using panniers. The only question is what rack? Obviously the Salsa Alternator Rack is a good choice. If I can find a 170mm spaced one. Then I like the looks of the Tubus, but OMG! The thing is a tank. I don't need anything that gnarly. But anyway, whatever I get, I can then put that light on the back where it belongs and have a lead dress for the wiring that is tidy and safe.

The final upgrade is being considered, and I know what I want, but it will be so expensive, and not 100% necessary. I'm thinking about the fork. Salsa has a Kingpin Deluxe Fork with dynamo routing. Obviously that would really clean up the routing for the front end and make it more protected against harsh conditions. But.......five hundred clams. Ouch!

Stay tuned......more soon.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

On Podiums- Or Not

Dismay at the 100% no-show for the DK200 Pro Men's podium awards shown by Rebecca Rusch's Tweet
Podium ceremonies are often held at the end of competitions in many forms of sport. Cycling being one of those sports, of course, and so why wouldn't a big event like the Dirty Kanza 200 have a podium celebration? I mean, if you are billing yourself as "The World's Premier Gravel Event", you probably should have a podium ceremony for the winners. 

Well, I have actually attended the podium ceremony for the DK200 a few times. I have noted no-shows before, and every time I went, there were more than a few, usually from amongst the age groupers. The "premier" over all podium ceremonies were almost 100% attended, as it should be for all podium ceremonies, not just the so called "top tier" event performers.

So, I noted this Rebecca Rusch Tweet Sunday evening and thought it was kind of sad. I would think that anyone signing up to do this event would bother to get to know the details of said event and plan ahead. (It's no secret that the DK has a podium ceremony, by the way) But I've seen it go the other way before. People not having a clue as to what they signed up for and then getting into hot water afterward when their actions didn't align with the stated rules or, as in this case, procedures, of the event. 

 Sometimes winners and placers cannot be at a podium ceremony, but if you are gunning for the top step, well, this ceremony should be the pinnacle of the event for you. Or at least part of the "Top Five" moments for you. I get it. Sometimes things happen, (and one of the Pro guys had owned his no-show publicly), but if you sign up with no intentions of doing the podium, if you earn it, then that is kind of an affront to the organizers. I guess most of the top male racers are offenders then, based on the image shown here today. If that is correct, that is a sad state of affairs.

Personally, I think podium ceremonies are goofy and infinitely boring to attend, but I can see the other side. Those riders earned that privilege.  The recognition of their achievements by their colleagues can be very rewarding. The organization went out of their way to provide a venue and set up the physical podium, PA, obtained the services of an announcer, and publicized the hoopla to the masses. The Dirty Kanza has a history of doing this ceremony. Most premier races have such events. If not showing up when you were expected to isn't an affront to all of that, I guess I just don't get it.

The Tweeted response to the "no-show" Pro Men's podium from the DK200 organization.
 That the organization knew ahead of time that some "travel & accommodation nuances" were going to affect the participation on Sunday morning, and that they bothered to even have the announcement Sunday with no Pro Men there is , on one hand, bad optics. On the other hand, the announcer is there, so "why not?" Then again- why should everyone else be expected to show up Sunday? (All the Pro Women showed up, by the way.) This is a messy looking deal, from where I sit, and I expect it will get ironed out. That said, if you are having "early podium" availability for media and what not Saturday evening, (and the DK200 promotions team did actually announce this on social media), and then you have a Sunday deal "for everyone else", that doesn't look like "equal participation across the board".

Then yesterday this appeared from Peter Stetina's Twitter feed

Again- It looks bad when you don't show up, whatever your reasons are. It also seems rather incredible that not one person organizing the Saturday "podium shot", nor any of the photographers on hand, told any of the five podium guys on Saturday night that there was a Sunday morning gig. That seems.....unlikely. Especially when it was something I had seen announced on Twitter Saturday evening. It's hard to believe not one of the five was told, or more than one of the five, but whatever. It is what it is.

Like I said, podium ceremonies are goofy. But what do I know? I'm just some dude in Iowa who wasn't there. So, there's that.....

Monday, June 03, 2019

Messy Schedules

Due to the mayhem surrounding last week's events, this was all the cycling I got in.
Readers of the blog here know I value relationships with people to a high degree. That is most important when it comes to my family. Not much gets in the way of my cycling, but family trumps that every time.

So, last week, as you know, I had to forgo the DK200 trip since it was more than a stretch for me to get it in. In fact, it would have seriously encroached upon my enjoyment of another event, one far more important than any bicycle race. My only daughter graduated from high school.

So, besides the big commencement last week, I also ferried my daughter and Mrs. Guitar Ted to the airport, as I have written about, and then Wednesday was a wash since my schedule was waaaaay outta whack! Thursday I commuted to work and back on the Ti Muk 2. Friday- same. Friday night I figured on retiring early for a good night's rest and a Sunrise ramble on my gravel bike of choice. But.....I found out my son had a midnight football practice Friday night. 

Yes. Midnight.

See, according to Iowa High School Athletics' rules, no coach can hold an organized practice for the upcoming season of football until June 1st. That was Saturday. The date changed at midnight, so the coach of my son's team wanted West High to be of the first to hold organized practices for the 2019 season. Midnight to 2:00am!! 

So, I fetched my son at dark-thirty, took him home, and by the time I get to sleep the Dirty Kanza 200 riders were waking up to get ready for their day's ride. Uggh! I slept until 11:00am, then I had to leave at 2:30pm to get my wife and daughter at the Des Moines International Airport. Soooooo........

No gravel riding for me. 

Sunday was my daughter's graduation party. So......yeah. Not going to miss that either.

It's a new week. Glad that I spent the time doing the important things. That stuff you only get one chance at. Bicycle rides? They are a dime a dozen.

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Trans Iowa Stories: Jeff Kerkove & Guitar Ted

He started on gravel and now he races on it again. (Image courtesy of the Spotted Horse)
Obviously there is no story to begin with without Jeff Kerkove. I've written about how he had the idea to start Trans Iowa, and in the process, he is really the one responsible for gravel/all road events as we know it today. Of course, he would never admit to that. 

But that alone speaks volumes to who Jeff Kerkove is. He never sought the spotlight, but he also never shied away from it when it was shone on him. I was lucky enough to work alongside of him for about four years. In that time, we became pretty good friends, even though I was just about old enough to be his father, and our common interests outside of cycling were few.

Jeff was a young man just out of college when I met him and he was a laser focused person. The most disciplined person I have ever gotten to know. He was going to be a really good solo 24hr endurance racer, and no one was going to get in his way. Nothing was worth going off the training program. So, socially, well........there was no social aspect to Jeff. He was either working at the shop, or working on his training. He always used to tell me, "Everything is training." he lived life that way 24-7, 365 days a year. He never let up.

Now, I was a beer drinkin' lackadaisical, goofy dude that was married, had two children, played guitar, and liked to ride bicycles. Why on Earth did Jeff want anything to do with me, or me with him, is anyone's guess, but I had more fun working with that man than I had a right to. We had the greatest times at work. 

Back in the days when I worked with Jeff, you'd never know he was such a serious young man.
We worked hard, for sure, but we had a LOT of memorable times and we took every opportunity to be silly, goof off, and lighten up the mood of the shop. In fact, it got to be such a tight bond that our own boss was jealous to the point he'd try to break it up when he heard us laughing and goofing off. Of course, we caught on to his ruses quickly. One of those that the old boss man would routinely use is that he would come out and start spinning yarns of the old days. The days when he raced criteriums in the 70's and early 80's, and especially about the time he and three other guys rode across Iowa in a day on road bikes.

Now, that is a feat and no one would argue that. Especially since, to anyone's knowledge today, it hadn't been done before these fellows did it in 1980. But after you've heard the story told for the 25th time, it gets a bit......well, it grates on the nerves. And we had been getting an earful one day in November 2004 to the point that eyeball rolling wasn't going to assuage our disdain for the story anymore.

So, a bit of frustration with that was all the fuel that was needed for bored minds to start going off on random ideas that might trump this story. A story that had worn out its welcome with us a long time before this. Besides, we knew it was a ruse to get us to pay attention to the boss, and to break up our fun and what little time we had to enjoy our relationship, such as it was then.

"How about if you tried to do it on a mountain bike on gravel roads?", or something to that effect, is what Jeff said. We were thinking of something that would be even tougher than this story of the roadie, fully supported deal we had been getting drilled with. I said we probably could do that, sure. Why not? I figured that gravel roads pretty much criss-crossed the state in a vast network. I had been all over in the country on gravel roads since I could remember. The vast amount of these gridded out, square mile gravel tracks was surely something that could be laced into a coherent gravel course that would traverse the state of Iowa. Those were my split second thoughts of that moment. I was sure I could pull off a course. But, you was all just talk out of frustration. There was just no way it would........

"Let's do it!", Jeff immediately said as soon as I had answered.

Now, you all have no idea how shocked, how scared that answer made me feel in that moment. Right there and then, in late November of 2004, someone I knew only from work just pulled the rug out from under my feet. With the sound of those words, I was in a free-fall that I had no idea when, or if it would end, or if I would ever end up on my feet again. In the days and months afterward, my life was challenged, changed, and I became committed to something I had never thought I would ever be involved in. I was going to help put on an event that was unprecedented in cycling as far as I knew.

And believe me, I had no clue as to what it was I was in for.

Next: Jeff Kerkove & Guitar Ted- Part 2

Saturday, June 01, 2019

Minus Ten Review 2009-24

The Gen 1 Fargo as it was when I rode it at the DK200 in 2009
Ten Years ago this week on this here ol' blog I was yakkin' about the Dirty Kanza and, well........ There wasn't much content. 

Kind of like this past week, I had no way to post a story easily, or back then, at all. Here's a dirty little secret about blogging- They are called "Scheduled Posts". That's right! You can write up a ton of content and schedule it to post up whenever you want to in the future.

Wish I had figured that out ten years ago, but as I keep drilling into you here, I was a techno-rookie. I had pretty much no real expertise on the web other than henpecking at a keyboard and loading up images. Of course, by this time ten years ago I was getting a trial by fire, and I learned a ton in 2009-2010.

But anyway..... Back to the Dirty Kanza!

So, this soiree was still a small deal back in '09. I looked back and see I figured there were less than 100 people that showed up to ride that year. I also see that it was one of those "blow-torch" days on the bike down there when the temperatures reached into the upper 90's and the wind blew at a strong gale. Typical for the earlier DK's, actually. I made it to CP#1 and called it a day.

I had a bad head cold, as I recall, and I knew I was in for a weird ride. I was dizzy, then I'd be fine, then dizzy, and in the end, I got too dehydrated anyway. This was the year my family made the trip down with me and we ended up going to Council Grove and hanging out for the better part of the day. It was a memorable day with the family. 

Friday, May 31, 2019

The Trans Iowa Stories:The Template

A Guitar Ted Productions series
NOTE-  This is the basic template for the series, "Trans Iowa Stories". Please let me know if you have any suggestions or comments!

 The layout on this series may be in flux for a bit depending upon how I feel the thing develops. I won't be stuck to what I am laying out here today, so if anyone feels strongly enough about something, please leave a comment. I will seriously consider any suggestion that is reasonable.

With that said, yesterday I posted that this would be about the people, and I still feel that is the most interesting facet of Trans Iowa. I think I am going to kind of break down the story into "eras" of Trans Iowa. There were some people that figure heavily into the T.I. story but maybe weren't along for the entire fourteen years of it. In fact, hardly anyone crosses that time span. There were folks that did have some good runs and were integral parts of the T.I. story. Some were parts of the earliest ones, some in the middle years, and some at the end.

Then there were people that were a big part of this story that never were part of the event proper, or maybe only were in one Trans Iowa. Influencers, helpers, and supporters which without them, Trans Iowa wouldn't have existed or wouldn't have been what it was.

So, here is a bit of an outline with some names of people that I am thinking about. If any readers out there have any names they think I am missing, once again- please suggest those names in the comments. I'm splitting up the "eras" as well in this and anyone that disagrees can let me know what they think there also. Keep in mind that some of the people span eras, and I am not repeating names here. It keeps things simpler for me that way. So, you will notice less names at the end than in the middle.

The Beginnings: 2004-2006
  • Mike Curiak, Jeff Kerkove, Richard "Deke" Gosen, Russ Clarke, Dave and Linda Kerkove, The Lalonde Brothers, Ira Ryan, Ward Budweg, The People of Hawarden, Patrick Humenny, Joel Dyke, Jim Cummins
The Growing Up Years: 2007-2009
  • Steve Fuller, The Slender Fungus, David Pals, Jason Boucher, Corey, Cornbread" Godfrey, Zach Dundas, Joe Meiser, John Gorilla, Team Polska, Gary Cale, The Lincoln Crew, Trans Iowa Radio's Beginnings, Technology Intrusions, Dave Nice, Ben Shockey, Charlie Farrow, Tim Ek, David Story, Ken Yokanovich, Charles Parsons, Brian Dukek, The Braun Brothers, Jeremy Fry, Volunteers
Forged In Tears: 2010-2012
  • Matt Gersib, Eric Brunt, Sean Mailen, Mike Johnson, Jana Vavra, Jay & Tracey Petervary, Dennis Grelk, Jay Barre, Mark Johnson, Sheryl Parmely, Craig Cooper, The Grinnell Steakhouse, Rob Versteegh, Jeff Frings, George Keslin, Wally Kilburg, Andrea Cohen, Sam Auen, 
Fine Tuning The Beast: 2013-2015
  • Greg Gleason, Ben Welnak, Riding Gravel, Monica Sattler, Tony McGrane, Will Ritchie/WTB,  Josh Lederman/Lederman Bail Bonds, Sarah Cooper, International riders
The End Of An Era: 2016-2018
  • Dan Hughes, Walter Zitz, Bob Moural/Cumming Tap, Jon Duke
So, that is by no means a definitive list, but it is obviously a huge list of people and the stories connected with them will take an enormous amount of time to tell. Along with the people will come the stories about the weather, the efforts, the relationships, the sponsors, the logistics, and everything the people brought to the table to make Trans Iowa a success story. Some folks will fall under a certain heading, like Volunteers. I think I could write a book just about them.

I'll try my hand at a start this Sunday, and then next Sunday. I'll take up the story involving the beginnings of Trans Iowa and why certain people were important to the story. I will likely reference any of the "Trans Iowa Tales" posts already written as companion reads to my entries as I don't want to cover the same ground twice unless I have new things to say. Keep in mind- there were 46 of those posts alone!

See ya this Sunday!

Friday News And Views

Nope- I didn't go after all.
Bonus Post Because I Didn't Go:

So, you may have missed this, but I did not make the trip down to see the "All Things Gravel Expo" this week at the Dirty Kanza 200 event. I had intended to, and plans were laid, but at the last minute, MG and I talked, and well.......I realized how crazy this idea was. Nothing to do with the event, by the way. This was all circumstances on our end. I'll let MG speak for himself, if he ever wants to do that, because he had great reasons for not going, but as for me, it wasn't a prudent idea.

See, I had my daughter's commencement on Tuesday evening to attend. Then, my daughter and Mrs. Guitar Ted were to fly out to El Paso, Texas the next morning to see relatives that couldn't make the trip up to see us. Well, and here is the thing- their flight left at 6:00am from Des Moines International Airport, a full 100 plus miles away from us. Maybe you can see how that might work, but if not, here are the details. Commencement ended at about 8:00pm, (we had to be there at 4:30pm!), and it took a full half of an hour just to get out of the parking lot. Then we had to eat. This and preparations to get into bed left us with a nice three hour window to sleep until 1:00am. That was when we had to get up, dress, check over baggage, and load the car. We left the house at 2:15am, stopped for coffee and gas, and left town at 2:22am to get the gals to the airport by 5:00am, so they would have time to check bags, get screened by TSA, and board the plane which was leaving AT 6:00am. We made it with a little less than a half an hour bonus time. So, that was good.

I got maybe two hours of decent sleep, (not nearly enough), and then I would have been driving a further 180+ miles to hook up with MG. It was hard enough driving the 100-ish miles back home. Then Saturday, I have to be back in Des Moines for the arrival of the gals back home, so yeah..... The time spent would not have been well spent in Kansas, and more to the point- the windshield time, which would have been a LOT. Heck I was so out of it Wednesday as it was, I wouldn't have enjoyed the trip, nor would I have been effective. Add in that I would have missed out on two pay days and it really made less sense, and right now, that is important. Then throw in what MG had going on. I wasn't willing to do the trip alone.

So, there is my end of the story. I figure some of you may be wondering why I wasn't down there. Now you know.

SLX 12 speed. Shimano hits back with new XT and SLX MTB parts.
New Shimano XT, SLX Parts:

Shimano has dropped a couple of new MTB parts groups on the market as you may have heard yesterday. Besides the expected XT update to 12 speeds, they also did the SLX group in 12 speed. I like what I see Shimano offering here and there are a few things that I found interesting about the new group sets.

MicroSpline hubs are featured in both groups and this wasn't made prominent in the press release I saw. It was there, but this is a sea change, folks. This is a big, big deal. The line was drawn, I felt, when the new XTR was introduced last year and if you thought it was just nonsense, well this underscores the point that the old, Hypeglide type free hub body is going to end up becoming the pedestrian choice and will maybe live on in entry level groups in the coming years. But your wheels you are riding now aren't going to be compatible with anything new in about five years time. MicroSpline is going to become ubiquitous across the board with high end wheel choices very soon. I know that ticks off a lot of people, but I really don't see any difference with what SRAM did with XD Driver free hub bodies.

HyperGlide + chain link plates. (The blue highlights the "extended inner plate" feature)
Another notable thing is what Shimano has done with chains and chain rings. Obviously, 12 speeds crammed into the same-ish spaces we have had for decades means things have to get slimmer to a degree. Shimano has developed a new Hyperglide + chain which uses a clever shaping of the inner chain plates which mates to the chain rings, effectively causing the two parts to have more contact area than traditionally made chains. This should decrease chain and chain ring wear, since it distributes forces over more material instead of less. Of course, the chains are developed with the chain rings to shift flawlessly, and I expect that they will do just this. No one is better at how chains shift over chain rings and cogs than Shimano. This new chain technology should be implemented over future 12 speed groups, and I bet the GRX group will benefit someday from this.

I also noted that Shimano has front derailleurs for 2 X 12 set ups. Again- not everyone wants a front derailleur, and not every design can use one, but I like that Shimano hasn't given over to the thinking that everything has to be 1X.

It's also noteworthy that Deore XT 12 will be available June 14th, not at some unspecified time six months from now, which was the way Shimano used to do things. That's a big improvement as well.

Finally! A WTB Road Plus tire in 700c sizes.
WTB Introduces 700c Sizes Of The Venture Tire: 

Early this year I had the opportunity to test out the WTB Venture Road Plus tires for the site. one of the rides I got in on them was a sketch-fest with N.Y. Roll one Saturday when the snow was still melting off stuff here in March.

During that ride it struck me how the Venture could do far above and beyond what it looked capable of in severe conditions like slick ice, snow, and even a bit in sloppy mud. This, I wagered, would make the Venture an ideal tire for a Fargo, but it would need to be in a 700c size and at least 50mm wide. And guess what? A lot of other folks were thinking similarly. So much so that WTB is now going to offer the Venture in a 700c X 40mm and 700c X 50mm size for those who want to give this versatile trad a go. Also, if you hate skin walls you are in luck, because each will be offered in a black wall version as well.

As luck would have it is getting both sizes of 700C Venture tires in for review any day now. So, stay tuned and I should have some feedback on them for you all on that channel. Until then, you can click the link up there and read about the 650B version.

That's a wrap for this week. GOOD LUCK DK200 RIDERS!