Thursday, January 31, 2019

This Post Is Cranky!

The best crank set format ever made.
There once was a time when bicycle crank set choice was not predicated upon whether you were a "roadie", a mountain biker, adventure cyclist, or a gravel rider. There was one crank set that could cover all those bases, and more, with a simple swapping of chain rings and adjustment of chain line.

Now days, things are not at all like that. This was the genesis of the discussion I was having yesterday with Grannygear, via messenger. First, I have to say that in all my years of knowing Grannygear, it has been a joy to be able to have differing viewpoints AND have a civil discussion about it. Trust me, Grannygear and I don't always agree on things. But when we discuss our ideas, we are both respectful to one another, we listen, we consider, and then, as in many cases, one or the other of us, (and sometimes both of us!) change our tune a little bit.

Anyway, I had to share that because, not to brag on us, but it is something sorely missing in today's communications. We could do with a LOT more of that sort of "getting along". But anyway.....

The crank thing! Right then.... Okay, so we were discussing gearing, specifically for gravel travel, and we both had different ideas of what that should look like for both of us. Which, after a bit of thought on the matter, turned into a revelatory thought. That being that the bicycle manufacturers, specifically parts manufacturers, have us pigeonholed into niche groups. They are trying to come up with multiple gearing solutions for smaller pieces of the pie that are demanding different things from their bicycles. The other thing is that, while doing the solution in the form of parts, the manufacturers have developed niche standards, not cross-compatible with others. This has led to much consternation on the part of riders who often are left with a compromised set up because they cannot customize their gearing to their individual needs and for where they live and how they ride.

Not that square taper cranks are better, but the 110/74BCD format was better.
Now, if you want to get a certain gearing set up, you have to accept current "standards". Like the limited chain ring availability on 1X, or the big jumps in between gears on those 1X specific cassettes, or the proprietary bolt circle diameters, (BCD's) of many cranks on the market. These standards, so-called, are limiting, not customizable, and not cross-compatible. This leaves many riders wanting for certain gearing set ups, that for them, would be better than what is out there now. If not better, than at least something a rider could experiment with, and then return to a previous incarnation without major component expense. This, in my view, is a barrier to making cycling more accessible to many of us.

I picked on the old 110/74BCD crank as being reflective of a time when gearing wasn't proprietary to a certain style of cycling or specific manufacturer of parts. That bolt circle diameter, and arguably the 94/58 as well, were the epitome of cross-compatibility and customization of gearing. You could get a double or triple chain ring set up and then combine that with almost any combination of chain rings. Go nuts. Do weird jumps, half-step gearing, wide, bail-out grannys, or even just one gear. A few stock crank sets could cover almost anything the cycling world put out.

Arguably, we could have that today as well. 4 bolt, five bolt arms, cartridge bottom bracket, adjustable chain line, pipe spindle bottom brackets, I don't care, just pick one type, make it 110/74 BCD, and then 11/12 speed compatible and let's get on with this. No one would complain a bit because you could set your bicycle up in about a 100 different ways to accommodate anyone's gearing needs. But what we don't need is arguing over what chain ring sizes are "gravel" and what ones are not. That is stupid and ignores the real issue at hand, which is the proprietary nature of what the component manufacturers have to offer us. It didn't used to be so much that way, and it shouldn't be now either. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Shopping For Bikes

Santa Cruz just announced the carbon version of the Chameleon.
This year I am shopping for a new mountain bike. The old one, my Singular Buzzard, is fine, really, and I've been in no hurry to replace it, but for a few newer developments. Wheels are a big thing, and it is that new Boost thing-a-ma-jigger that has me contemplating a new mtb. So, following is a few points I have that I wish to have represented in my new mountain bike.
  • I really would like to do something in a 29+, but that isn't 100% necessary.
  • Hard tail....probably. I'm not locked in to that either. I could be talked into a full suspension rig, but there doesn't seem to be much out there that is single track, Mid-West friendly. That is true for a lot of hard tails as well. But, there are some things that are "okay". 
  • No 27.5- Not even on my radar.
  • Front Suspension- Yes. Although a rigid front end isn't out of the question, I am certain a front suspension fork would make everything more-betterer. Or something.......That said I don't need a ton of travel.
  • Not Aluminum. Again.....not 100% agin' it. But aluminum hard tails are......not my favorite. 
  • Through axles. Boost. Dropper post routed. Threaded bottom bracket. All musts on this list. 
  • I shouldn't have to sell a kidney to buy it. Santa Cruz just announced a Carbon Chameleon. Retails at 5K. Uhh.......nope. Too rich for my blood. 
Right now some of Surly's offerings look rather appealing to me. But I'm open to suggestions. To tell the truth, my "budget be damned", dream bike would be a Jones titanium LWB 29+. To me, that is my ultimate bike. I guess a steel one would do.......

This all said, my current steel Singular Buzzard isn't all that bad. So, if a suitable replacement doesn't present itself within a reasonable budget, I can pass on it. A mountain bike isn't missing from my stable, it is just something I'd like to upgrade......maybe. 

Another one that is up for replacement.
Now I am not done shopping just yet. Oh no! I have one other aging rig in the stable and this is actually a bit more pressing in terms of "need". That being a new gravel frame and fork with through axles to replace the aging Tamland Two.

The Tamland Two is really hard to beat. It is steel, the fork is steel and is famously smooth. But......quick release axle standard. That's really all there is against it, in my eyes. The thing is, the wheel market is moving to through axles and I need to be able to have that available in my test sleds for so when I get wheels in for testing I am not limited to one bike. (The BMC MCD currently)

Once again, I have a list of desires for a replacement and these are fairly non-negotiable.
  • Deeper than 70mm bottom bracket drop. I am convinced it makes a difference in handling. The sweet spot being somewhere between 72mm and 75mm. 
  • Head angle of less than 72°- Steeper than this brings on a front end that hunts for a line, requires more attention to keep on track in loose stuff, and generally is not of interest to me. My ideal would be 71°. 
  • Chain stays at least 430mm long. Too short and that rear wheel is right under my butt and that translates to rougher, sketchier ride quality. No longer than 440mm is necessary though. 
  • Threaded bottom bracket, standard head set, (pressed in cups), not real interested in internal routing. 
  • Single speed conversion a plus. 
  • Steel, titanium, then aluminum, and finally carbon fiber, in that order of frame preference. Carbon is susceptible to wear through from mud and detritus found in mud like grass, rocks, and whatever else Level B roads may contain. Much more so than the other metal frames would be. Carbon would be at the bottom of my list in desirable frame materials. Steel and titanium are tops on my list. By a country mile. 
  • Not interested in a 1X only frame. It must have front derailleur compatibility. 
So, I really am being pretty picky here, but after riding thousands of miles of gravel roads in several states, I am pretty sure I know what I want. Will I find it? Maybe...... Maybe another Black Mountain Cycles MCD!

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Winter Intensifies

Fat biking amongst the Dead.
Winter, which has been largely absent for the first two months we usually have it, has hit back with a vengeance. Obviously, it's all the news today what with the ultra-cold temperatures.

We've had two really good dumps of snow here. We have, what I would call, a really good base of the white stuff now. The thing is, unless you have a groomed trail, this snow sucks. It's about as sand-like as it gets.

I was out shoveling this snow all day off and on Monday. It is so unconsolidated that it acts like sand. It just spills off the shovel blade like nothing else. So, unless you have something heavy to compact it, ala a snow groomer, you're going to be walking a LOT in this stuff. I found that out again Sunday, just before the latest snow came. Yes, the previous snow was almost as "dry".

I managed to roll about 30 yards of 7" or so of untracked snow over a bike path here in Waterloo before my heart rate sent me into seeing "pink elephants" territory. It was so much work spinning the rear tire, keeping the front end light, that I couldn't keep it up for longer than that. Good workout for the heart though!

I know the "lower your air pressure" mantra, and I use it, but I'm telling ya, this tactic wouldn't make riding easier in this snow. That's why you really have to have this stuff groomed. It just isn't fun any other way. Now, if you get enough snow machines out there, and they aren't just burping their throttles, then you have a pretty fair chance at making that sort of line work on a fat bike. The trouble is that those sled-necks like thrashing and over-using the throttle, so they end up churning up the snow instead of rolling it and compacting it. Those newer sleds with the big cleats on their tracks are the worst.

The Sergent Road trail was rideable only because of a passage of snow machines.
I made about an hour and a half loop out of the bike trails, downtown stuff, and residential streets, sidewalks, and back-alleys. Honestly, some of the best fat biking is down through alleys in Waterloo. Enough of a challenge to make it interesting while being packed in enough to make it all rideable.

The snow is here, but temperatures will not be very favorable for fat biking. Negative temperatures in the single digits to teens below for highs with near 30 degree below overnight temperatures. Windchill values are to be in the negative 40-60 degree range. So, getting out in that sort of air is difficult at best.

Than it is supposed to zoom up to around, or above, freezing for the weekend with a  possibility of rain! (What The What?!!) Crazy weather. We get snow and then we cannot even get a chance to use it. Sounds about right.....

Monday, January 28, 2019

A Quick Hitter To Capital City

Road food. Casey's pizza, Coke, and rollin' in the "Truck With No Name".
Friday I was scheduled to appear as a speaker at the Iowa Bicycle Summit. My appointed time to speak was at 1:45pm. Fortunately, Friday was a decent day with none of that crazy wind and blowing snow like we had the day before, and it was void of the snow we had Saturday. Basically a somewhat tranquil weather day. This was good since the "Truck With No Name" isn't what I would call the best Winter vehicle. In fact, it is downright dangerous to drive it when the road surfaces are slick since, in true pick-up form, it's very light on the rear wheels. Well, true to pick-up form in the old school sense. Today's rolling palaces that are called "trucks" are a different story.

Anyway, I started off on my journey at about 9:45am figuring on it taking a good couple of hours plus some to get into the Iowa Events Center in downtown Des Moines. The trip was fairly uneventful, with the exception of stopping for a slice of Casey's pizza. I have to do the Casey's pizza!

Des Moines was......uggh. I really do not like big cities. Parking ramps, messes everywhere, about five times the amount of traffic everywhere than the place was designed to handle. Yeah.... Not my cuppa.....

But that's me. I wasn't cut out to live in such places. Maybe you are? Great. I just don't get on with the "City" life. Although I live in Waterloo, which isn't "small", but it isn't a "City" like Des Moines is. But I digress................

I get in there and Mark West, the coordinator of the goings on, finds me and directs me to the room I will be speaking in. There is a fellow ahead of me who is, I think, from the University of Iowa and was giving a talk about AI and self driving cars. It was pretty interesting. Basically, the aim, as this man was telling it, was that these cars and trucks are being "taught" to recognize cars, bicyclists, and pedestrians, and then take evasive or "appropriate" maneuvers to avoid contact with those other forms of traffic. The man was explaining that it might take 40 years for this technology to become "ubiquitous" on the roadways. Meanwhile, Google, Waypo, and other car manufacturers are working to make it so cars automatically slow or stop to avoid things like a moving cyclist.

I was floored that he, nor anyone else, had thought that this line of thinking is not going to work well, because humans are little devils and will mess with how these cars react to peds and cyclists. You know, just to be mean spirited. 

The Iowa State Capital as seen from outside the Iowa Events Center. 
 Imagine a cyclist, waving his arm about, because he knows it will make the cars behind him slow down, thus frustrating the folks inside. Then imagine what those folks will think, and how they may react, especially if the system cannot be overruled. Priceless! Yeah......they are going to have to work through a lot more issues than they think to get these cars on the road with no need to drive them.

Anyway, it finally came time for me to talk and I gave my little bit about why communities in Iowa might want to embrace gravel roads as a way to get events and recreational opportunities going in their areas. That done, I bugged out and started back home. I would have dearly loved to have stayed in Des Moines and overnight to attend the Iowa Bicycle Expo the following day, but money is so tight right now that I simply could not afford to do it. Sorry if that offends anyone in the DM area I know, but it is my reality now.

So, that was a quick hitter and not too exciting, but it is what it is.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

The Touring Series: The Rapid City Scene!

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

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

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

After a really weird, tough, and draining day, "The Race Against Death Tour" takes its leisure in Rapid City, South Dakota...........

The end of the weirdest, toughest, most emotionally draining day I have ever had on a bike was a welcomed thing. I wasn't the only one feeling this way. All three of us were ready to forget all about the day and find a great meal, a hot shower, and a restful nights sleep- not necessarily in that order!

The Casa Del Rey with it's owners, circa 1974. A Walgreens stands on this site now. Image courtesy of the Rapid City Journal
Obviously, showers were the first order of business. As we got settled into our motel rooms, we perused any neighborhood restaurant opportunities and found a Mexican joint up the road called the Casa Del Rey. We hit the streets and walked over to this place that was oddly dark inside. It was still quite bright out and we had quit the day with plenty of daylight left to us, so the interior darkness seemed odd to me. Cool air conditioning, soft seating, and waiters were also odd things. I think we all felt like kings after foraging for peanut butter sandwiches and begging for water for several days!

Well, although we ate huge platters of wonderful Mexican grub, we were still not quite satisfied. Yes- we only rode 76 miles this day, but we worked harder for that 76- the last 40 plus in the crazy wind- than we had for anything else during the whole tour so far. Our bodies were blowing through calories at an alarming rate. So, it really isn't any wonder then that as we left Casa Del Rey we were looking for something else, and that something else was Dairy Queen!

Now the DQ in Rapid City was on a main stretch of highway going through town. There was lots of afternoon traffic here, most of which was peppered with Sturgis motorcycle goers. The DQ was hopping, and we were obliged to fall in a waiting line that was outside the front doors. As we stood there, Troy lit up all of a sudden, "Oh my God! Did you see THAT! Did you f#@king see THAT!" Well, we had to calm him down a bit, but he saw a Harley go by with two riders, a man and a woman. The woman was wearing a halter top and chaps. Period. Yes.......that was bare for the world to see. I told Troy that Sturgis was sort of a wild affair, but he still couldn't get over the woman's choice of dress.

Our motel receipt.

Then Ryan pipes up with one of his Ren and Stimpy bits. Troy asked me what I was getting, and when I turned behind me to ask Ryan what he was going to get, he says in Ren's voice: "Ice cream.........SANDWICH! I love your oh so creamy center!" As he finishes the statement, a girl right behind him jumps back and looks at me saying, "Is he all right?"

Laughter all around while the confused girl just gets disgusted with us clowns and turns around. At any rate, I got the best tasting Blizzard I ever had that evening. I was satisfied. Oh yeah, this was when Blizzards were served upside down to prove how thick they were, and these were really thick!

Back at the room, we watched kick boxing for an hour or so before turning out the lights. Troy and Ryan were really into it. I wasn't so much, so I just stood back, reflecting on how much fun I was having with these two guys. What an incredible day! One I won't forget for a lifetime, that's for sure!

So, I'd been through so many emotions on this day. Literally from high to lowest of low and back again. I'd gone through something life-changing, but at the time, I wasn't really aware of it yet. The things happening were so impactful and present that reflection on what had occurred wasn't going on. I had no idea what day it was, or what time it was. We were totally disconnected from our normal lives, time, and responsibilities. We were left without any distractions from "the now" of our surroundings. There would be plenty of time to reflect later.

Next week: A Big Announcement

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Minus Ten Review 2009-4

The Lynskey Ridgeline frame announced in 2009.
Ten years ago this week I was snowed in and not doing much riding. There were things going on nonetheless. First and foremost was a tidbit I slid in on a post, under the radar, but was, in fact, a huge deal in my life.

I got the reins, officially, of "Twenty Nine Inches", the website which was all about 29"ers. The deal I had been offered was to take control of the old "Crooked Cog Network", but in reality all I got out of the deal was two of the five or so websites associated with that old network.

So, basically the only good thing that came out of it was that I didn't have to deal with Mr. Grahl any longer. Well.......sort of. There was one last hurrah that happened which will get talked about in the coming months. Then the other good thing was that I had started to get a handle on all the things that, previously, had been beyond my reach. But I will tell you now that without having met Grannygear the previous fall at Interbike, "Twenty Nine Inches" would have folded in 2009. The technical acumen necessary to run things was not passed on to me by the former owner.

Anyway, that was all in the background. I never did post anything about my troubles and travails which were going on then. I did post about a Lynskey titanium mtb frame, which I ended up getting in to test, and I also reported that I got in on CIRREM, the early season gravel event held down in Madison County every late Winter. So, I had an event to get ready for. That was a bit concerning at that time! I hadn't been getting out to do much of anything, and I had about a month to get in gear!

Friday, January 25, 2019

Friday News And Views

Maybe......maybe not!
Hold On There Just A Minute!

A week ago I reported on the pending sale of ASE's assets to Head Sport. the sale was looked at with approval by most in the industry who felt that it would save the legacy brands, many jobs, and might even help inject a bit of optimism in a flagging industry.

Unfortunately the entire deal is in jeopardy of falling apart as reported Wednesday by "Bicycle Retailer And Industry News". Head thought the terms of the sale included around 9 million in cash assets that ASE has, according to the story. That's a bit bonkers to think that, and of course, everything was put on hold at once. Head wants a "re-do" of the auction, because they obviously feel they are paying too much now. The bankruptcy judge, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Benjamin Kahn, characterized the developments as "a gosh-awful mess", when he was asked to comment for the story.

The losing bidder on the original auction was a manufacturer for ASE called Ideal. They actually bid higher than Head, but the judge and ASE felt that Head was a better suitor. Now it appears as though that the sale has a good chance of going to Ideal. If this happens, it may not go well for many parts of the ASE empire. It is assumed by many that Ideal would want nothing to do with the retail side of ASE and all those jobs would be lost. Time will tell, but this cannot be seen as a positive for the industry any longer.

Enve Composites introduced a new line of hubs. (Image Courtesy of Enve)
 The Hub Of It All:

Wheels are not much good for cycling without hubs. Enve Composites, who started out doing carbon rim manufacturing, knows this. Yesterday they debuted a new range of road hubs. they are for rim brake and disc brake applications with different models for each.

I found one of the new features of these hubs to be rather intriguing. It is called Perfect Preload™. Basically it is somewhat similar sounding to what you see on some FSA bottom brackets and crank sets. A wave washer of a preset strength is set against the sealed bearing and a snap ring, presumably set into a groove in the axle. this applies a preset amount of pressure laterally against the bearing and snap ring to take up side play in the system. As bearings wear, the wave washer spring adjusts for that wear. This is how I interpreted the information, as I haven't seen any diagrams of this set up. 

It seems like a clever way to adjust and hold adjustment of a sealed bearing hub with little to no maintenance. It seems to have worked on cranks/bottom brackets, so it will be interesting to see how it goes for Enve. 

The other notable thing was that they went for a paired spoke hub flange to save weight. This will make for a challenging set of hubs to calculate spoke length for, but I am sure it can be done with not a whole lot of extra work.  

Lezyne Torque Drive Tool (Image Courtesy of Lezyne)
 Torqued Off (or On, as the case may be):

Tools for working on bicycles have always been of interest to me. I have seen a bunch of pre-set torque tools out there but this one looks pretty slick. It's from Lezyne and is called, you're not going to believe this, Torque Drive. I know.....amazing, right? 

Anyway, it comes with hardened steel bits which are housed in the included soft case. Apparently the wrench works on the torque rod principal, from the appearance of its use on a video I watched. That's cool because you'll never need a battery. A gradated set of markings exists on the base with an indicator hash mark on the bit holding side. Simply twist on the fastener until the hash mark lines up with the desired torque setting. (Range is 2Nm to 10Nm) 

This is a pretty cool tool for travel or home use. Torque rod type torque wrenches typically stay calibrated for a long time if they are not abused and are handled with care. That said, I don't know that you could calibrate this wrench, so.....handle it with care! The other nit I have with it is that for tight quarters the wrench is pretty useless. So, for stem face plates obscured by accessories or for bolts that are in tighter places, you'll have to look elsewhere for your torquing needs. That said, this should work in most cases. Lezyne sells these for about 50 bucks. Not a bad insurance policy against failure to torque properly. 

 Traveling Over The Frozen Tundra To Blow Some Hot Air:

Today I am traveling to Des Moines, barring any calamity, to speak at the Iowa Bicycle Summit. They want to hear about gravel travel and how Iowa communities can get on board with the burgeoning gravel scene. 

This will only take up a small amount of time while I am there, so I am probably going to visit somewhere/someone else whilst I am down there. Stay tuned for a report on my adventures.......

That's it for today. I hope that you all are staying safe, warm, (if need be) , and having a good time with bicycles. 

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Happenings Of Late

A new set of Easton wheels to review
With the sudden arrival of Winter proper last weekend, I have been holed up, for the most part, catching up on things, shoveling snow, or doing maintenance. Family time has also been high up on the menu lately as well.

So, last weekend I had to bust out the shovels and do my duty. We have a sidewalk, parking on the street out front, and I help keep the widow woman's walk and driveway clear with the help of my son as well. It's hard work, shoveling, but it burns up a lot of energy and works muscles I do not get to work when cycling. I guess I actually like doing it too. I know.......weird, huh? But I feel good about myself and the job I can do after shoveling.

I was spending time with my two kids on Monday, since they did not have school on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I figured I would ride to work Tuesday, which I did, but then Wednesday was another big snowfall day here and I spent the better part of the morning shoveling with my son. Plus, Tuesday and Wednesday the kids got the day off from school, so they were around more and we got to hang out together more than I thought I would.

Then the furnace guy had to come to inspect the boiler, (passed with flying colors), and then the whole family had dental appointments, (passed with flying colors). Then errands, and after all of that, we went out to eat for my birthday. After this, I got presented with a special birthday cake my daughter bought for me.

I did get to squeeze in some time working on bicycles as well. I revived the "other Inbred", which is a single speed. I also started setting up those Easton wheels, but I don't know how soon I'll be getting to ride them in the upcoming frigid temperatures.

Riding home from work Tuesday in mashed potato snow.
So, now we have snow. Yeah, and I am not really stoked on it because it is the typical granular, sugar-snow which when the temperatures reach 25°F or so, turns into mashed potatoes. I can ride through it, but it takes a lot of effort, and it isn't a whole lot of fun. The did try grooming some trails here, so we'll have to see how that turns out.

In the meantime, I am scheduled to be in Des Moines for the Iowa Bicycle Summit Friday. It is supposed to snow again that day. I sure hope I can get back! (Or even get there!) Plus, it is supposedly going to get bitterly cold starting then through to the end of the following week. That may help this snow set up, or it will turn into beach sand and be darn near impossible to ride through. We'll see.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

How I Keep My Drivetrain Clean

My old Gen II Fargo after the "Mud Year" at the DK200.
Yesterday's post generated a question concerning the cleaning of drive trains and how to keep them clean. I view this as an entirely different subject from the cleaning of a bicycle. While you may need to do both things- clean your bicycle and your drive train- you probably should clean your drive train more often than you clean your bicycle. The techniques involved are completely different as well, so this is why it is a different subject for me.

Again, I have been at this a long, long time, so I have a few things that I do that may seem weird, or unconventional to the casual observer. This is how I do it. Not necessarily how anyone else does it, or perhaps, not even how one should do it. Think for yourself and see if there is anything of benefit to you, and take what you need, or nothing at all. That said, I am not interested in hearing about "how I am doing things all wrong and such-and-such is how you should do things." I've proven that my techniques work for me. I'm not going to change the way I do this.

'Nuff said there........

Just as with cleaning, I have one cardinal rule for keeping the drive train clean. "Use A Quality Lube And Apply It Correctly"

So, take a look at the chain/cassette image above/left. That's what my Fargo looked like after the "Mud Year" of 2015. That's 165+ miles of mud, grit, and water applied over the course of, I cannot remember.....16 hours or something stupid like that. No, I didn't finish that year. I missed the last checkpoint cutoff by two lousy minutes. But that's another story......

The point is, I had used a quality lube, (DuMonde Tech), and I applied it correctly. I did have to stop and lube the chain after about 120 miles, but as you can see, the chain looks pretty dang good for that much abuse. Keep in mind most people were blowing off derailleurs and breaking chains that year. Drive trains were being replaced afterward by most riders. I didn't have to. I merely cleaned mine up and it was fine. Had I used some marginal lube, or had I not applied a good lube correctly, I would have had far different results.

(L-R) Pedros Chainj, Pro Link, DuMonde Tech
I belabor the lubrication point because it is key to keeping a drive train clean. If you are lazy about preparation and application, you will get poor results. If you use "whatever" for lube, you will get what you deserve for results.

In the case of DuMonde Tech, it is imperative that you make your first application on a chain that is perfectly clean. So clean you could put it in your mouth without reservation. Then you apply the lube per label instructions, let it dry, and then, and only then, can you ride your bicycle. You do not reapply it until you hear your chain making noise. if you do this, it will keep your drive train really clean. Then you don't have to clean it, or rarely ever will you need to. 

Get the point?

Now, moving on.... Yes, as with my Fargo after the DK200 "Mud Year", you will need to clean your drive train once in awhile. I use a degreaser called WD-40. You may have heard of it. (snicker!) But really, that is what  use. I get the spray can, and blast the chain out with that. Then I back pedal the chain through a rag. Then I examine the chain and see if it needs replacing or not. Good to go? Then I fully clean it, re-apply DuMonde Tech, and that's it. Or, I replace the chain if that is what is needed. Cassettes and chain rings are cleaned with a rag soaked in WD-40 and then wiped dry. I like to take the edge of a terry cloth rag and run it across the cassette like dental floss, with the cloth going between gears. That's soaked in WD-40 as well. Things come out shiny-clean and then I'm good to go there.

I know a lot of folks say that gravel travel is hard on drive trains. I guess it isn't any worse than mountain biking, or road riding, really. Fat biking? Worse case scenario there, if you actually use that bike for what it is designed for.

A season's worth of gravel travel here.
I know you may not believe this, but again- use a quality lube and apply it correctly. The image to the left here is my Tamland Two after a complete Summer season of gravel travel. Never cleaned the chain. Not once. Hundreds of miles represented here. This was a very dusty summer too. Again, I think this is from 2015, for reference.

So, I don't think I reapplied lube the entire Summer....... maybe once? I'd have to go back and review the "Lube-Off" tests I conducted, but I know it was only once, if that. The point here being that dusty gravel roads don't necessarily mean a gunky chain. In my experience using lubes, DuMonde Tech was best, but again- feel free to use whatever you want. I don't need to know because I already have my lube choice and I am not changing.

I will mention one other thing here in regard to keeping your drive train clean- Use high quality cassettes, chains, and chain rings. Cheaper, lower quality chains, chain rings, and cassettes will not clean up well. You will have a harder time keeping them from oxidizing, getting gunky, and they will wear out faster. I generally use 105 or higher quality Shimano chains and SRAM cassettes with chromed steel cogs in the 11-36T spread. Cannot recall the model number here, but they are commonly available. Chain rings are generally Shimano, SRAM, or FSA of high quality. No cheaping out here, because it isn't worth it from a performance or cleanliness angle.

So, that about covers it with one more piece of advice here- Never, ever, EVER put water on your drive train to clean it! This also includes cleaning the bike, and is another reason I never let water touch my bike with the exception of riding conditions.

Another Trip Around The Sun

Ain't gettin' any younger here.....
Today is my birthday.

Thought I may as well get that out of the way right up front. I am not looking for any extra special shout outs from any of you out there, but on the occasion of this momentous day, (well.....for me and my family, it is momentous), I thought about a couple of things that I wanted to share today.

I was thinking, at my age now, I don't receive many cards that, at one time, I never thought about not getting again. Not that I deserved to get them, but that I didn't acknowledge getting them, maybe, as well as I should have.

I won't be getting any more of those great birthday cards with $5.00 in them from Grandma ever again. I won't be ever getting another card from my parents. Those are cards I never thought about not getting anymore. But as with all of us, time marches on and we only have a very short time on this Earth.

So, don't tell me "Happy Birthday" today, but I would rather that you gave someone you love a call, or a hug, and tell them you love them, and look at them and remember.

Because one day you won't have that chance anymore.

I hope y'all have a great day!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

How I Clean My Bicycles

I'd already started cleaning the chain and crank set before I thought about this story!
I was down in the Lab doing some maintenance and set up when I remembered that one of you readers out there had suggested that I might tell you all how I clean my bicycles after they get all dusty and dirty from gravel riding. Of course, this thought appeared in my mind only after I had started cleaning the Orange Crush rig from the mud and grit it had accumulated over a few wet country rides. But that didn't stop me from making this post! So, here following are my unconventional tips for cleaning a filth ridden bicycle that has been treated poorly and put away wet.

First though, I need to tell you that these techniques have been honed over the span of 27 years. That's a LOT of dirty, filthy bicycle cleaning. Also, keep in mind that I am a mechanic and that "pristine finish" preservation is waaaaay down on my list of priorities. If you want to keep your bicycle looking perfect- don't ever ride it. And certainly, don't read the following tips. They aren't for you.

So, over the years of cleaning, not only my own bikes, but those I get in at the shop, and those from past shop gigs, I have developed one, major cardinal rule, never to be messed with.......

Don't Ever Use Water To Clean Your Bicycle!

Yep! Never, never ever, and don't spray anything on your bike with a hose. Spray bottles are okay. I stay away from any of that if I can help it though. So, you are probably wondering how I ever get a bicycle clean. Well, it's easy, actually. I just don't let water anywhere near my bicycle, unless it rains, it is snow, or I ride through a puddle. Water rusts, corrodes, and gets in places you cannot see it hiding. The absolute worst bikes for water intrusion I have ever worked on were almost always bicycles which were meticulously cleaned by their owners with water from hoses, buckets, or whatever it was they did. Water ruined their bottom brackets, head sets, wheel bearings, and cables. Keep water away from your bicycle and guess what? That cannot possibly happen to you, that's what.

Secondly- if you get your bike muddy or dirty, let that stuff dry out first! It will be easier to get off, in most cases, and believe it or not, you'll be less likely to scratch your finish. Wet, gritty mud takes the shine off your finish far easier than dried out dirt and mud do. Typically I end up knocking off dried up mud with my fingers, a soft cloth, or soft brush. In fact, in the instance above, which is my Black Mountain Cycles "Orange Crush", I used a soft brush and a t-shirt torn up into rags. That's it. Nothing else.

So, there is the result. Clean and shiny! That took less than three minutes to do, by the way. Now after doing that, I might come in afterward with some Pedros Bike Lust. It cleans up remaining dust, and like they claim, it leaves a protective coating behind which does make future cleanings much easier. Plus it helps your bike and parts "glow" which is something a lot of other cleaners do not do.

So, you may have some fine dust left over, but a spritz of Bike Lust will knock that right off.
I generally do not spray anything directly on a bicycle to clean it, not even Bike Lust, but instead, I spray some directly on a rag, then apply it. That way you keep overspray from infecting certain things like disc brake pads, or rotors, which can contaminate easily.

Now, there are a LOT of tight places in and around a bicycle. Bottom brackets, front derailleurs, wheels/hubs, and around brakes, just to name a few. I use the t-shirt shreds, spray some Bike Lust, or in extreme cases, some other stronger cleaner, on the strip, and then thread the t-shirt strip through the "tight spots" and use it like dental floss to wipe away grime, dirt, and mud. A soft bristle brush can be employed in and around spokes, hub flanges, and other tight spots to scrub off stubborn bits of dirt lodged into tight corners.

Now, I've used TONS of different degreasers, cleaners, polishes, and elixirs on bicycles, but Bike Lust is the best of the lot. It even breaks down many greases, cleans off bug guts, and dried worms are no match for this stuff. It just cuts through like most other cleaners only wish that they could. So, you may have, (and you probably do), a favorite cleaner or degreaser. I understand. However; I don't want to hear about it unless you know it is better than Bike Lust. I doubt that it is.

You may also wonder how bad my finish must be. Well, keep wondering. It looks perfectly fine for a bicycle drug through the knothole more than once in the eight years I have owned it. My other rigs all get cleaned similarly. No one notices any oddness in my finishes in relation to their own rigs. Plus, scratches and biffs only add character to your bike. A little dulling of the finish, if there is any, (I can't tell), only adds to the patina.

That's pretty much it. I usually keep a cleaning under a half an hour, but sometimes in extreme cases it can take longer. My post-2015 Dirty Kanza clean up (the "Mud Year") took hours! But that is the exception, not the rule. I usually don't have to take anything off the bike either. Not even the wheels. It just goes a lot faster that way, and look......I'd rather ride than clean. But it is super cold here, snowy, icy, and gravel riding isn't going to happen for a bit. Time for maintenance! So I am cleaning up the fleet a bit and sprucing up a couple of rigs.

Got questions? Hit me up in the comments section.

Monday, January 21, 2019

It's Not All About Racing

From a recent Tweet from "The Path Less Pedaled"
This past Friday I was part of a thread on Twitter where someone had opined that the "media" was going to ruin gravel riding by focusing almost exclusively on racing gravel. A few responses came and then this quote from "The Path Less Pedaled", "So burnt out on the default mode as racing".

Okay, a bit of housekeeping on this quote: What "..the default mode.." refers to is how the bicycle industry, and the major media that covers it, almost always uses racing bicycles as its touchstone for any cycling related subject. This has been something I have criticized for years. When a small percentage of bicyclists actually race during any given year versus the overall amount of cyclists, it doesn't make any sense for cycling media and the industry to almost exclusively speak in terms of racing. This is especially bad when it comes to pavement style cycling. But when the industry desperately needs to bring in new cyclists, it really makes no sense at all to focus on something most people that ride bicycles would never do.

Of course, there are publications dedicated to racing. I get that in those instances, but many publications are not, and the default mode from them in reference to cycling is almost always about racing.

No numbers, smiles, and a casual pace. From the '18 GTDRI.
Then there is the basis for many designs of bicycles to be directly or indirectly influenced by racing. That has been a really bad route that the American market has gone down for decades. Look at any European city and most bicycles are definitely not racing bicycles because most people are not racing that ride.

Of course, this has as much to do with culture as it does a misplaced focus on racing, but the cycling industry could have been helping itself by focusing on more practical and fun modes of cycling, but it never got around to it. Not in any serious, long term way.

Yes, there is People For Bikes and some "feel good' donating and lip service being shared by the bigger brands. However; what dominates their social feeds is racing. Their marquee offerings are racing bicycles. There has been somewhat of a shift with the gravel scene poking its dirty little head into the goings on, but even that is getting the "racing treatment" by the brands and marketing wonks. The "default mode" still reigns supreme.

So, this all ties back into what I was talking about late last week with the media stories talking about the "Pro roadie" issue with gravel racing. So, there you go. The reason for the quoted reaction above by the PLP folks. It is such an old, hackneyed way to look at cycling that it becomes tiring when those of us that see the potential of cycling see and here these views again, and again. 

There are good things happening out there though, and I think I speak for some of us when I say that it would be nice if those things got some run in the press, if they influenced new gear, and if the narrative was redirected toward fun and freedom from competition. I know that we in the shops have been touting the "let's have fun" line to sell cycling and not the racing side. yet the industry seems entrenched in the racing side of things. The big brands sponsor race teams, the media focuses on them, and the narrative we all get from both is "race-centric".

Let's not eliminate racing, but let's put it in its place. It isn't what most cyclists do, so why should most companies and media make it the basis of any stories told to all cyclists about cycling. I like some of what I see going on out there. But I also get tired of "the default mode".

Sunday, January 20, 2019

The Touring Series: Beggars Again

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

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

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

The "Race Against Death Tour" is looking for water...again!

Now with about 20 miles to go to Rapid City, we had to find some water. Troy had motioned that we should stop at the next likely farm house. It wasn't very much further up the road when we came across a farm, hard against the side of a steep hill, at a point where the road turned straight west to Rapid City. The wind had let up somewhat, but was still a formidable force, and after our hard efforts, we were not at our strongest at this point. The wind also had contributed to a much higher than expected water uptake by all of us, so we were again in a desperate state of mind as we knocked on the screen door.

We rode 73 plus miles that day from Interior to Rapid City.
A shadowy figure of a woman answered, but did not come out. She seemed apprehensive and afraid of us. I suppose we did look strange, being cyclists, and there were a lot of those crazy motorcyclists about too. Strangers. Not welcomed....

She spoke to us from the relative safety she had behind the door. After explaining our situation, she was willing to help, but we couldn't come in, and we had to hand up our bottles through the door. It didn't really matter to us, because we were focused on the water only. However; we did manage to ask about the wind. She had a name for it......(I wish I would have remembered it). The woman said it came at odd times, sometimes lasting only a few hours, sometimes for a whole day. Well, we got a closer to a full days helping, and we were not thinking it was good luck either!

As we bade the woman farewell, we took the last run into Rapid City, which seemed as though it was going to take forever. I remember I kept looking at the map and thinking every mile was an eternity. Well, I suppose we were going pretty slowly, even though the wind became less and less until just before town, it was fairly calm. No matter, the damage had been done already, and we limped into a road side convenience/tourist trap late in the afternoon about ten miles from Rapid City.

Here we saw a couple of motorcyclists playing pool on the pool table as we rummaged about for good stuff to eat and for anything suitable to re-hydrate with. We wandered about the place, seeing things and just vegging out on anything mildly interesting. Not really wanting to move on, we mounted up and made the last stretch into Rapid City, where it was agreed upon that we would get a hotel room for the night. We were beat, and setting up camp was quite out of the question.

Modern day Google Earth image shows the race track at Rapid City (Green dot)
It wasn't long before signs of civilization were everywhere. This buoyed our spirits after a long, tough day. Rapid City not only brought a slight uptick in our spirits, but also in our tempo. Of course, there was a LOT more traffic which added to our excitement.  But we weren't put out at all. A "real" city, and something we hadn't seen since Sioux City, was a welcomed thing. I saw the race track on the edge of town and thought back to the "V.I.P" I spoke with back at Witten. "200 miles to the race track at Rapid City", I could clearly hear the words being spoken in my head by the man. I smiled as I remembered and the race track disappeared behind me. We forged into the heart of downtown and found a place called the Lazy U Motor Lodge. Looked good to us, so we checked in and got cleaned up.

Whew! What a day! The whole experience was so overwhelming, I think we were in a daze by the time we got to that little roadside store near Rapid City. Then it was a feeling of relief, the wind was dying, the city was nearing, the day was almost over. Excitement rose in each one of us. The strangeness of the day, my experience alone, (which I never spoke of to Troy or Ryan), the awfulness of it all...... We just wanted it to be gone. And for the time being, it was. Now it was time to cut loose.  

Next week: The Rapid City Scene!

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Minus Ten Review 2009- 3

Early marketing handout from WTB about the "new" 29"er tire, the Nano
Ten years ago on the blog I was talking about how history was made by "The Tire". Since I've been on a bit of a history bent lately, this seems fitting to discuss for today's look back.

If you haven't heard about "The Tire", you could be forgiven. It was the component necessary to kick into motion the entire movement toward how we experience and know mountain biking today. WTB introduced "The Tire" in 1999, and while it didn't catch on right away, eventually it did, and a bunch of other folks followed in "The Tire's" tracks.

Of course, I am referring to the WTB 29" X 2.1" Nanoraptor tire. This is the tire which spurred Wes Williams of Willits to coin the term "29"er", and it was the tire that Gary Fisher did a lot of testing around and motivated him to want to add 29"ers to the Gary Fisher Mountainbike line up in 2001.

Anyway, ten years ago I came across a scan of a document which was handed out by WTB to dealers and OE manufacturers describing this new thing. It is kind of cool to have these sorts of historical touch points to reflect upon. If you'd like to read more about 29"er's beginnings, I wrote a series on that called "The Beginnings of the Modern 29"er: A History" where you can read all about it, as they say.

Back ten years ago the entire 29'er thing was still being argued about and being put down by many mountain bikers. Of course, things have changed and even those who said ten years ago that 26" DH bikes would never die now are probably riding 650B wheeled DH sleds or even 29"er DH bikes.

My how times have changed!

The Green Belt ten years ago this week. There would be a LOT more fat bike tracks now!
Also ten years ago this week there was a LOT of snow and very cold temperatures. Of course, it would be another two years before anyone around here had fat bikes. But let's be honest here......hardly anyone did anything outside back then. 

I mean, just look at the image. XC ski tracks, and..........nothing else! Think about all the folks walking, snow shoeing, and fat biking. This would be an unheard of scene now in the Green Belt if we have snow. But ten years ago I pretty much had the Green Belt to myself for XC skiing. I cannot recall seeing maybe more than a handful of people doing skiing, or anything else, out there in the winter when I XC skied.

Maybe I should call that time "BF"- before fatbikes! Ha!

But there was something about what happened in 2012-2013 when everyone and their brother discovered fat bikes and started getting outside and off trainers and what not. Suddenly the woods were tracked to death by every mode of Winter-specific travel types. Not to mention all the post-holed bumps given to us by walkers. Yes, suddenly everyone was on the trails.

Weird how that works.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Friday News And Views

The scene as recorded by Australia's "9News" cameras.
"E-Bike" Fire Causes Concerns:

Recently a Pinarello road bike, retrofitted with an electric motor, had its battery catch fire and cause a minor brush fire in Australia. You can read Carlton Reid's story here.

Pinarello was quick to point out that this bicycle was retrofitted with an aftermarket electric motor kit not approved by Pinarello. But this isn't an odd case. There are a lot of retrofit kits out there, and the potential for something along these lines to happen again, with possible devastating effects, is rather high.

The story from Australia brings up a couple of interesting points to ponder. I've noted several modded bicycles and scooters in the Mid-Western city I live in. I would assume that nationwide, that it is true that there are other examples of such vehicles running streets and trails. We have no idea if the installations were dodgy, if the products are safe, or if we might see more battery explosions causing fires. The fellow in Australia escaped with minor burns, but the next person may not be as lucky.

The brush fire also brings up another interesting point to ponder. That of what might happen, say if this scene were to play itself out in a western state, with major consequences. Wildfires start easily and have had devastating effects which are well known to us all. Even if an electric motor on a two wheeled vehicle is installed properly, it only takes a spark.

Former Pro roadie, Ted King gets a hug after winning the Dirty Kanza 200
More On Why Grassroots Gravel Isn't Dying: 

Okay, tacking on to what I posted yesterday, and which I mentioned there I would be talking about here, is the following. A bit of redundancy, I know, but I do not think everyone is getting the point here. ......

Another article speaking about the Pro roadie invasion of "gravel" events, (which is really just another story about the Dirty Kanza 200), hit the web this week written by Joe Lindsey for "Outside Magazine".

It's an interesting take, but again- it really is only referring to one event. There is a reason for this.

The Dirty Kanza 200, for all intents and purposes, is "the" gravel event. Outside of folks who know and love gravel, this event is really the only event anyone knows much about. Even the media focuses on this singular event as being the example of "gravel" as it refers to cycling. That's a bit skewed. is a LOT skewed. But it is what it is. The DK200 has positioned itself over the years to be "THE" gravel event in the eyes of the cycling world, and it has largely achieved this goal. It's no wonder then that publishers like "Outside" almost always reference the event in their coverage of the gravel scene. Sure, there are token references to other gravel events, but they are not the focus here.

Really, if you think about it, the story headline should be "No, Pros Won't Ruin The Dirty Kanza". There ya go, "Outside", fixed that for ya..... The point being is that the gravel scene is far more than just that event. Obvious, yes- but it is not portrayed this way in coverage to average cyclists and casual onlookers. This is really why grassroots racing won't be affected by the Pros. Because there are more gravel events than just the Dirty Kanza. A LOT more!

Canyon Strive with 29" wheels
 It's Remarkable Where 29"ers Have Gone:

When I started blogging in 2005 (GASP! It's been that long ago!) I was really passionate about the then new 29 inch wheeled mountain bikes. I still am, but, ya know.......they are pretty much just mountain bikes now, right? I mean, you have some 27.5" stuff, but most mountain bikes are 29"ers anymore. Nuthin' new there!

But back then we never thought long travel or DH bikes would ever be 29 inch wheeled bikes. Why would they be? That was ludicrous. No way.....

But it has all happened. Long travel, big wheels, full suspension, all in one bike? Crazy. The latest news came from Canyon Bikes who debuted the enduro-centric Strive 29"er yesterday. The team issue one has a 170mm travel front fork and 150mm travel rear suspension. What the what?!!! That's crazy talk right there.

But I am pleased to see that it seems just like "the normal thing to do" now. No one is really all that surprised by this. It is the trend now. Long travel 29"ers, a dream ten years ago, are reality everywhere in 2019. Crow is being eaten. Hope it tastes good.......

Head sells bicycles and related gear, but is best known for tennis and ski gear.
Head Sport Buys Up Bankrupt Bike Company:

Recently the bicycle industry was rocked by the news that ASE, parent company to brands Fuji Bikes, Breezer Bikes, Kestrel, and more such as retailers Performance Bike and Nashbar, was going bankrupt. Now news is spreading via "Bicycle Retailer and Industry News" that Head Sport has offered to buy the ailing companies.

You may remember Head if you were of age in the 70's. They were part of AMF, remember that? The same AMF company that owned Harley-Davidson back then. Anyway, Head makes tennis rackets and ski gear, which has been their bread and butter since the 50's when the company was founded by Howard Head.

Head sells bicycles under the "Head" brand name in Europe, for the most part, and carry a full line of bicycles and HPB (Hybrid Powered Bicycles) units as well. In terms of the particular brands we know that were part of ASE, it is a good thing and it seems likely these marques will live on to see another day. What becomes of the retail side of the business seems to be up in the air at this point. My feeling is that if Head decides to keep a few outlets open, they won't be anything like the old Performance/Nashbar. But we will see.

That's all for this week! We have snow coming in, so I hope to get a fat bike ride in. Get out and ride!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Setting The Record Straight

Certain details- Important ones- are lost on "The Media". I won't let them forget.
Long time readers here know all about this gravel scene. You've been with me every step of the way if you've been reading here for ten plus years. You know the drill.

However; since gravel grinding has become "THE" thing these days, a lot more twisting of stories, false claims, and downright ignorant "knowledge filling" comments are being noted by myself and my long time friends. Sometimes I consider the source and let it go. I cannot enlighten everybody to what really went down. That said, every so often I notice how the chains get yanked by marketers, podcasters, and especially media wonks. I see total fabrications, lack of depth of research, and "spinning" on stories and when enough pile up, I have to let off some steam. Today is one of those days.

First, the "twisting" of story lines. I will address this again on "Friday News And Views", so I won't get too far on this today. However; when you read in many online and print media publications about "the gravel scene", and then read several lines about how "Pro/roadie" things are possibly going to "ruin gravel", what they really are talking about is the Dirty Kanza 200. How do I know this? Because it is pretty much one of a half a dozen gravel races annually that attract legit Pro riders and is the most well known of any of those races by a country mile. 

So, when you see "doom and gloom" stories about how "grassroots gravel" is possibly on life support, just remember that there are over 500 other events across the USA that are not the Dirty Kanza 200 and don't have any Pro/roadie issues. So, if you want to say that these types of twisting the story line articles are click bait, yeah........I'd go along with that. At best, it isn't truthful journalism. Not when it comes to gravel events. Basically, stories like these aren't even stories worth printing.

I'm not the only one who thinks this...... (From Twitter)
I've also noted that a few pundits out there are making statements that "such-and-such event" was a "gravel event" back in the day. They almost always are "pre-Trans Iowa" dated. Then there is no other explanation, context, or history given to educate the listener/reader. That is misleading people and isn't right. The implication being that somehow the referenced event had something to do with what is happening today within the gravel scene.

First off, I'd point these foolish individuals to the following historical reference- "The State of the Gravel Scene" Secondly, anytime you read or hear folks refer to any one event, or even three, or four, as being "gravel events" back in the day that, by implication, were the precursors to today's scene, your "B.S. Meter" should be pegged. They weren't influential to today's scene. They just were events. Plain and simple. They did not spur the modern (within the last 15 years) grassroots movement everyone recognizes today as "gravel grinding".

Finally, you will hear and read about the mythical "Godfather of Gravel". I've heard at least four or five different people being referred to in this manner recently. Okay, this is simple. The "Godfather of Gravel" is about as real as Santa Claus. Period.

I get it. Everyone wants a source. A beginning. Some way to codify and box up things and tie that all up with a neat little bow. The fact of the matter is that there are a lot of individuals who were responsible for what you and I know today as "gravel". The DK200, Barry-Roubaix, the Almanzo, Gravel Worlds, the former Trans Iowa, and many others all have individuals and groups of people, male and female, that forged what you know as "gravel" today. There were people involved in the scene before there was a "scene" to be in. I try to be careful to give credit where credit is due. There is no "singular" individual responsible for this scene. There just isn't and any attempt at saying that there was is just people being goofy.

 As with most things in life, any subject is generally more complex than many make it out to be, and always requires thought and research to understand it correctly. Ultimately you can choose to consume the "fast food" stories parading as knowledge or you can dig deeper and find out what is truth and what is fiction. I am not in charge of that. That is true. But I'm not going away either.........

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

C.O.G. 100 Update

Jersey pre-order has closed.
Okay, it's time to talk about the C.O.G. 100 some more. The latest update is that we have 9 spots left to go before the event field limit is reached. Registration is open until March 22nd and we still have a few spots left that we are designating for women entrants. So, if you are considering an event for late March, here ya go.

It is single speed only though, just so ya know. It isn't for everybody, and that is perfectly alright. No event I've ever done was "for everybody". Really, no single event on gravel is. Anyway......

On the jerseys, we got 14 commitments to purchase these. So, that pre-order window closed Monday, and the order will be put in after about a week or so to allow for everyone to get their funds in. No funds-no jersey, so if you dilly-dally no one will get these. An e-mail was sent out yesterday regarding this to those interested parties. If you are one of those folks and didn't receive the e-mail, let me know.

Next on the agenda is getting the cues drafted. Then when that is done those will be checked next month in the field on another course recon. If everything checks out we will go to print. Along with that I will begin doing the race numbers and finalize those in March.

Finally, we have a couple of other things that are not 100%, or even 50% nailed down just yet. I cannot say a lot about those two things other than one has to do with an idea for awards to places 1-4 and the other has to do with a joint to hang out at post-event.

Stay tuned on those and more coming soon. The event will be just around the corner, so I hope that y'all are sharpening up your single speed devices and getting into shape for this deal. It's going to be a fun time and I cannot wait to see everyone down in Grinnell on the weekend of March 29-30.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Winter Views: The Season Finally Caught Us

Looks like a January now.
There was a big snow storm over the weekend across the mid-section of the country. We almost missed it entirely. We were on the Northern edge of things, so it was a tranquil, soft snow that fell most of the day on Saturday. The flakes were so tiny that despite the precipitation lasting all day, we maybe got three inches. Maybe.

The snow fell so gently, and with little wind, that it coated trees and structures like white paint. Everything looked clean and glistened in the lights at night. We got just enough snow that it covered the brown stuff we've been looking at most of the time since late October of last year. So, at least it was pretty if not very deep!

I headed out to the Green Belt for a spin on the Titanium Mukluk. I didn't expect that the trails would be very difficult. Especially since there had been a sizeable amount of fat bikes out there the day before me. And as expected, I found a nice, wide swath of beaten in snow. In some places the traffic had iced over the trail. Not real bad, just noticeable in spots.

It was a grey day, and the Sunny days we have been having for weeks seem to be gone for a while now. This is much more Winter-like, and the temperatures are certainly reflecting it as well. Although it was in the upper 20's while I was out, the air felt chilly due to all the moisture in it. That's okay though as it could easily be well below zero at this point of the year. In fact, I believe the second week of January is traditionally the coldest week of the year here. that probably will not be the case this year.

Black Hawk Creek remains unfrozen and has plenty of flood related flotsam and jetsam sitting in it.
My old trail, Marky-Mark, is in pretty good shape. The reroute seems to have worked, (not shown here), so I was pleased with that.
I decided to run over to my old trail that I put in back circa 1997/98, and see how things were, especially after my re-route. I did that the last time I was out there to get around a big knot of downed limbs and tangled vines. Yes. Vines. We get these, I don't know what variety they are, but they are big, woody, long, sinuous vines that grow up around trees here. They can be 30-50ft long and 3-4" in diameter. They are tough as nails too. You cannot break them. So, when they come down with branches that break off, or when trees snag one and pull it down as they get blown over, it is best to just route around them, under them, or bring a sharp saw and a LOT of patience. I chose the "go around" option and it seems to have been understood and accepted by riders, judging by the tracks I saw.

Frost on the trees across the lake.
 You know, I was just thinking about this, but that trail has been in for 20 years now. That's pretty crazy to think about. I remember working on it nights after I would work all day at the car repair place I worked at then. As if working 10 hours a day on cars wasn't enough! Ha!

I ended up taking a bit of a shortcut home which led across a frozen bit of backwater. That is one of the bonus features of Winter woods riding. You can cross small streams and run-offs without worry. Places that you cannot cross any other time of the year are accessable in Winter. It is pretty fun when that works out.

At any rate, it was a good day out and I got two hours of riding in that I wouldn't have otherwise. The gravel roads are maybe too icy to ride, I don't know. I have to go check that out, but I have a feeling this will be the case. So, fat bikes in the woods it is for now.