Sunday, August 25, 2019

Trans Iowa Stories: Tales Of v2 Part 3

If you look carefully, you can see riders on the left in the ditch. Image by Jeff Kerkove
 "Trans Iowa Stories" is an every Sunday post which helps tell the stories behind the event. You can check out other posts about this subject by going back to earlier Sunday posts on this blog. Thanks and enjoy!

Well, Trans Iowa v2 was the event that set the tone for Trans Iowa for several years afterward. It took until v11 until the legend of this event was eclipsed. Some versions came close, but T.I.v2 was one for the ages.

My experience is pretty much a remembrance of a few key things during the event. First off, I can not recall that the start was that big of a deal. Yes- it was the first 4:00am start, but riders were especially nervous, quiet, and hoping the mist that was falling wouldn't break out into a full on rain. Which, by the way, it would not have made any difference at all if it had not rained. The damage was done already.

But back to the start. We rolled out and this being my first rodeo with a nighttime start, I found that I was immediately into that "alone zone" which I had experienced the year before, only this was right out of the gate. I couldn't see anything but what was illuminated by my headlights. I ran across a couple of "support people" on the route. One was Majiec Nowak who was looking for his brother, Marcin. Apparently he had already called in for pick-up and the Sun hadn't come up yet! My next encounter was with the father of another racer, Joe Partridge. It didn't look good for Joe to make it in v2 as he had the year before. This deal with cars on course was going to have to be dealt with.

The first Level B Road was cause for excitement for Jeff and I. We both rendezvoused at the beginning of that section where we saw about 12-20 guys rolling in a group all head right into the muck head on. Many expletives were expressed! Then I went to the other side of that mess to time how long it might take for riders to ride through it all.

The Level B Roads killed everyone's ability to reach the cutoff time point in Algona. Image by Jeff Kerkove.
 Well, I was floored by how long it took. I never dreamed they would be walking a whole mile! This was bad, bad, bad! I had a gut feeling things were not going to go well for me that day. I assumed wholeheartedly that I would be dealing with very angry racers and maybe I would even get punched out. Seriously! I was totally ready to take a LOT of abuse for this course choice. However; as bad as it was, that fear never materialized. For years afterward I would always joke that someday someone would punch me in the face for the courses I dreamt up, and this is where that saying came from.

Unlike v1, Jeff was there and his blogging skills were such that he snapped a lot of great, iconic Trans Iowa images that day. If you have a particular image in mind from this event, chances are Jeff shot it. By this time I had a digital camera as well, but I did not get as many images as Jeff did that day, nor any as iconic as those he got. Of course, Jeff was familiar with what it took to do an ultra-endurance effort, so he kind of knew what to look for in an image.

Jesse LaLonde, staring blankly at a piece of pizza covered in Cheetos, at a convenience store in Sutherland Iowa. Image by Jeff Kerkove.
Well, there was the Paulina convenience store, where the lead group was still hoping against hope to somehow claw back enough time to get to Algona in time. It was full on raining by this point. Most of the field had, by this point, dropped out. This was what was left of T.I.v2- about ten to twelve riders.

Then the interminably long wait at the end of a three mile stretch of Level B's just terminating North of Sutherland, Iowa. This was where Trans Iowa v2 ended for most everyone else that hadn't dropped out by then. The convenience store in town was the focal point for the decision to quit for most. Most - other than two riders from Canada who carried on until about 5:00pm. Dallas Sigurdur and Lindsay Gauld were the two who went the furthest, reaching Mallard, Iowa and then holing up in a bar until they were picked up by their fellow Canadian, Patrick Humenney.

Well, that was that. Afterward, Jeff made a couple of You Tube edits featuring the end of the last mess of Level B's and then another with his van following Sigurdur and Gauld up the hill out of Wanata State Park on 125th South out of Petersen, Iowa. That last edit was a haunting one showing the windshield wipers on delay and the two riders slowly clawing their way up to the sounds of "The Verve's" Bittersweet Symphony. I must have watched that clip a thousand times. (It was pulled down eventually due to copyright issues, of course) Anyway, I can clearly see that clip every time I hear that melody.
A rider picked up a "souvenir" along the road during Trans Iowa v2. Image by Jeff Kerkove.

Jeff had a way with media and that was clearly evident in his handling of the Trans Iowa v2 imagery. He clearly made an impact afterward upon several folks with what he produced, and of course, the tales coming out of that event were legendary. The event no one could finish! It was too odd that this was happening in Iowa of all places. I know that it raised some eyebrows, and going forward, Trans Iowa had a certain "something-something" which struck fear and awe into the minds of those who tried to comprehend what we were up to.

In many ways, because we had set such a course for a gravel event, it made others do things very differently, and others were starting to offer alternatives to Trans Iowa, (and by association, Dirty Kanza), which weren't so daunting, but still were gravel based and free from restrictions set by the ways things had been done in the past. But that is a different story. This is about Trans Iowa.

Next: Trans Iowa v3 - Moving On.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Minus Ten Review 2009-36

Check out this 2010 Raleigh XXIX Pro. Remember when head tube angles were steep?
Ten years ago on the blog I was yakking about a new rim. A really wide rim. It was called the P-35 and was going to be offered by Velocity. It was the precursor to all this wider rim stuff we all take for granted now days.

There was also a big announcement from Trans Iowa. Jeff Kerkove knocked out another of his humorous Trans Iowa headers. I enjoyed having Jeff do these and he genuinely seemed to not be bothered by my requests for his artistic talents. The header for v6 was a mostly white background with black lettering and a "spilled pill bottle" theme. It actually inspired one entrant to send me a prescription bottle filled with gravel as his "post card" for that year. Pretty crazy. (And yes- I still have that bottle filled with gravel)

Then another thing that happened annually for a few years was when Raleigh was headed up by Brian Fornes. They were arguably the coolest during his tenure at the helm of that company. The 29"ers Raleigh made, especially the XXIX Pro models, were to die for. They rode awesomely, the spec was unreal, and the frames were top notch steel.

By the time they were hitting their stride I had far too many bikes sitting around and I never could bring myself to getting one. I maybe should have, because I likely would still have it. The geometry wasn't so laid back, low, and stretched as it is today and those bikes would have been perfect for around here.

But, times changed, geometry went whacko, and now most hard tails are so slacked out and short in the rear end that they are like riding wheel barrows here. maybe someday it'll all pull back toward something that makes sense for slicing through Mid-West single track.

Oh, and you probably are yelling at the computer now wondering why I didn't post an image of that T.I.v6 header. Well, here ya go.....

Designed by Jeff Kerkove

Friday, August 23, 2019

Friday News And Views

WTB Hints At 700c Versions Of Popular Road Plus Models:

While at Gravel Worlds last Friday, my friend Tony and I visited several company's booths. One of the most intriguing stops was at the WTB booth.

Of course, WTB's main business is tires and saddles which were both on display there. Tony stepped up and asked something about them making a 700c X 50mm Byway. The rep had a very interesting answer. 

"Keep an eye on our website for the next couple of weeks."

Now, you can read all sorts of things into that remark, but here are a few facts that might help support my guess, which I will share here in a bit:

First off, WTB has already told me that a 700 X 42 and 700 X 50 Venture tire was due this Summer. (Obviously- that hasn't happened yet) At the time that was announced, there was no word about any other of the Road Plus tires being brought to 700c. However; the rep at Gravel Worlds said the Byway is their number one selling tire. Hmmm....

Also, considering the fact that Eurobike is about to happen starting on September the 4th, an announcement of something new around that time would be totally believable. Many companies announce product ahead of shows so dealers will look for it when they attend a show. That would put an announcement "in a couple of weeks" in the perfect time window for Eurobike.

Finally, WTB, who arguably single handedly made 650B tires a "thing" for gravel with the Road Plus line, have none of those models available in 700c, which is the diameter of tire most gravel bikes come stocked with. Original Equipment (OE) contracts with manufacturers are what makes new product roll into the marketplace. So, if a manufacturer says, "Hey, WTB! Make us this Byway in a 700 X 50 and we'll buy thousands of them.", what do you think WTB would say?

Put all that together and what do you come up with? I am saying that the entire Road Plus line will be announced in 700c sizes. We'll see.......

For more of what I saw at the Gravel Worlds Expo, check out my RidingGravel.com report here.

A Shimano PRO Koryak external actuated dropper post in 27.2mm.
The Dropper Post Cometh:

Have you noted that many new gravel bikes come with dropper post routing but that you almost never see the actual dropper posts on any of these bikes? Yeah.....me too, but that is about to change.

One of the big reasons why this has been is due to the size of almost all gravel bikes internal diameter (ID) on the seat tube. Traditionally this has been 27.2mm. The reason why dropper posts haven't been prominent on gravel bikes is because most dropper posts are 30.9mm and 31.6mm in size, which reflects what an MTB bike's seat tube ID is most commonly.  There are 27.2mm dropper posts, of course, but generally speaking, the dropper range is either too much, the post is too expensive, (Thomson and Fox being prime examples of 27.2mm dropper posts here), or the quality is so poor, that manufacturers are possibly avoiding spec'ing them.

However; and this has been my experience using a dropper post on gravel, the component is something that would be a huge asset to anyone that rides on gravel. Free speed is there for the taking and I, for one, will eventually own a gravel bike with a dropper post. It isn't just a little bit faster on downhills, it is dramatically faster. 

"But", you may be thinking,"a dropper post is only for off road, or racers." Think about this scenario then: My fastest downhill speed at Gravel Worlds last weekend was a tic under 40mph. There is no doubt in my mind, based upon my experience riding a dropper post on gravel, that the max speed I would have seen had I been using a dropper post would have easily been closer to 45mph. Think that might affect average speed a bit? Multiply that over tens of down hills where I reached speeds of around 30mph regularly, and it doesn't take a genius to realize that the effect on overall time and speed on course would be greatly affected in a positive way simply by using a dropper post. All that with practically zero energy expenditure to gain that speed and time.

Now with several manufacturers stepping up with quality dropper posts in 27.2mm size, and more gravel/adventure bikes coming with the internal routing for these components, my bet is that dropper posts will become very common at rides in 2020 and beyond. I saw several in use at Gravel Worlds. No longer will you have to sacrifice your nether regions to the abuses of sitting on your top tube, ala Pro roadies, on descents. (And please- don't do that on gravel. It isn't really very safe on pavement!

The fargo Gen I with the Schwalbe G-One tires mounted.
I Missed You, Knobbies, I Missed You:

One thing I wanted to cover before moving on from Gravel Worlds was the gear I used. and in particular, the Schwalbe G - One 29" X 2.35 tires. Of course, you all that have been reading along already know about the issues I had with air loss in the rear tire.

The culprit ended up being a failed rim strip over a spoke hole. That was my fault since that wheel only had one run of tape, and I should have laid down two. Most times I do it that way, but for whatever reasons I had then, I didn't when I built up that wheel set.

Now- I'll talk about the performance of the tires, because I am taking them off this wheel set, and I'll tell you why in a minute. First- these tires are very light and very fast! I weighed them in at 553 and 556 grams. They had absolutely blazing downhill speed and I was able to out-coast anyone around me. That said, I had to really be careful in Nebraska's looser, sandy corners. These tires have very little grip unless the surface is hard and smooth. So, not much to dislike there, but I would also surmise that in Iowa's looser, deep gravel these tires would also be a handful.

Now, as to why I won't be keeping them on this wheel set. First off, these are WTB i19 rims you see in the image and they typically fit tubeless tires from several manufacturers really well. I've used these rims for at least 7 years, I think it has been, and all sorts of different tires have been mounted on these. And.....they all mounted pretty easily. Not so these G - Ones. They were utter Hell to mount because they were too loose! I had to take eight stabs at mounting one of them last week. Eight! I almost gave up. The other one took a few tries. Now that they have been on there, and that I had to dismount the one that gave me the most trouble, it- of course - is looser than when it was new. It's silly. I cannot mount it, nor would I leave it on,  if it would go, because of fear of blowing it off at some point. Of course, I tried it, it will not mount, and there is just no way I am going to fight to make that work. Not in 2019.

So, I have a Stan's based wheel set, a Sun Ringle' pre-built wheel set, and I'll try mounting them on there, but I am in no hurry to do this. Despite the speed and the size of these, I think I wasted my money if all they will securely fit is a Stan's based rim.  I think that is despicable these days. There is no reason for a tubeless tire manufacturer of Schwalbe's stature to have such poor tolerances in their product on the market. Bottom line- If the G - One 29" X 2.35" tires are all like mine, and unless you use Stan's rims, these tires are not recommended.

Note- I spent my own damn money on this product and was not paid, nor bribed for this opinion. 

Thanks for reading. have a great weekend!


Thursday, August 22, 2019

Ti Muk 2 Upgrade Path: Part 4

The current look of the Ti Muk 2
In my last update, I mentioned getting the SON "Tail Light For Rack" rear light. Then I was going to install that and hopefully get to cleaning up the wiring situation a bit. Well, last week before Gravel Worlds I got to do all of those things. In this post I am going to detail what I did, how, and why I did these things. There are still many details left to attend to, but this is a rideable, durable, and pretty much worry free set up, in my opinion. With a few minor details tidied up, it should be about bomb proof.

The first thing I did was to remove the old Busch & Muller stay mounted tail light. That light is a good light, but it is just the wrong application for an adventure bike such as the Ti Muk 2. That old tail light may get repurposed, but that is another project for another time.

During the process of dealing with the tail light, I also delved into the rats nest of wadded up wiring which had been zip tied to the front cable housing. The connections were just twisted together and the leads were waaaaay too long! I had enough wiring from the tail light and the head light to wire up two bikes. Of course, I was going to have to shorten all of that. Then I had to sit down and give some serious thoughts to how I wanted to have the new wiring done. There were several points which guided my decision making process. Instead of laboriously going through each one, here is a bullet point list instead. If anyone has questions about these points, feel free to comment or e-mail me.
  • First- The wiring had to be really durable. Able to withstand rain, mud, snow, and rocks. 
  • The wiring had to be clean looking, short as possible, and not interfering with frame bags and pannier mounting. 
  • I did not require any provisions for rack removal or travel which might require boxing up the bike, etc. This isn't going anywhere unless it gets ridden there, transported by my truck, or via a bicycle car rack. This meant I didn't need to consider adding additional connectors to facilitate breaking the bike down. 
  • I wanted to reduce stress on wires wherever possible to prevent internal breakdown of the copper strands, and ultimately, failure due to that. 

That SON light is TINY!
The first thing I did after removing the old wiring was mount up the tail light. I've found that by doing bicycle computer wiring, and full run cable housing, it sometimes is best to wire from the back to the front, instead of the other way around. This ensures you don't cut your wire too short!

With the light secured to the back of the Salsa Alternator Rack, I then had to sit down and figure out not only where I wanted the wire to run, but how I was going to protect it. This area was going to be getting mud baths, snow/slush thrown around in there, and rocks from gravel roads could easily be flying around back here. While the lead provided by SON is about 20 times better than the flimsy plastic covered wires most dynamo systems use, I wasn't convinced it would survive my brand of fat biking. What to do?

After much deliberation and looking through the enormous piles of bicycle detritus I have, I came upon a great solution. I have, for whatever reasons, about three dead Blackburn floor pumps. (Why do we keep this stuff?!) If I could push the wire through an old hose from a floor pump, then mount that to the bike, it would be ultimate protection for the wire, and I could zip tie that hose without stressing the copper strands inside the lead dress. Cool! So, that is what I did with the tail light lead. It fit in with a bit of room to spare, and my new "rubber conduit" now could be routed from back to front. It would not only protect the lead wires from the elements, but from a rubbing frame bag as well.

This was going to work out well. I was excited to get going on this project, so instead of going to bed early, as I should have in preparation for Gravel Worlds on Wednesday evening, I stayed up until almost midnight wiring the bike up!

Wiring under the rack and to the top tube of the Ti Muk 2
I decided I needed to make sure I could use the rack with panniers, and I wanted to clear the rear tire as much as possible, so I chose the routing you can see above here. NOTE: I am planning on modifying a Dave's Mud Shovel rear fender to go in here permanently as another layer of protection to the wiring.

A view of the business end of all this wiring and cable housing. There is still much to do here.
I had to use a second bit of hose from one of the other dead pumps to make the distance from the rear of the rack all the way up to the head tube of the bike. This left me with a good sized chunk of pump hose and got me to thinking, "Why not do this to the front wire lead as well?" So, I undid the wiring for the front light, which was miles too long anyway, and pushed that even more fragile wire lead through the old pump hose, then "Boucher Routed" it along the back of the right fork leg, behind the fork crown, and exited the wires on the left side of the bike. Conveniently, the hole drilled through the fork crown can then be used as a zip tie mount. I use this same routing for rigid fork disc brake hose/cable routes as well.

I used brand new crimp-on spade connectors and shrink tubing on the connections to the lights and for the connection between the fork wire and headlight. There is a nifty little coaxial connector which looks very robust for the hub to fork wiring, which is available from Peter White Cycling, and at some point I may get that. But from stem to stern otherwise, the new wiring scheme should be very robust.

I did make one minor mistake the first time I got everything back together. This had to do with the light itself. Many readers will remember that when I got this bike that the head light was mounted on the outermost bar of the Carbon Jones Loop Bar. This was fine from a lighting standpoint, but it wasn't good from my perspective when it comes to adventure biking, bashing around in the woods, and the like. That thing cantilevered off the bar, as it was, could have been knocked off easily in a tumble. So, my friend Tony suggested I "hang it down" from the bracket in between the outer "loop" of the Jones Bar and the inner part of the bar.

The light is oriented correctly and much less apt to be damaged in a tumble in this placement.
I did this, but when I went out for my test ride last week, I was baffled by how bad the light was shining ahead of me until I realized what it was I had done. By simply "flipping" the mount and hanging it down, I had put the headlight in an upside down orientation. It is designed to be one way, and not upside down! The light was spilling in the completely wrong way, thus my dissatisfaction with how it looked that night.

Now instead of simply pointing the mount down, I re-oriented the light correctly with the bracket pointing forward and down. That made all the difference in the world, and actually gets the beam up and out of the cable housings.

So, everything functions as it should, the wiring is far more robust, stable, and better looking. The SON tail light is bright, even without a reflector, and it can be seen from the side quite well also. When I get that Dave's Mud Shovel fender in there, the plan is to have it extend out enough to protect that tail light from splash and flying debris. That should do it for the rear end. I may also get one of those minimalist "fenders" as a splash guard of sorts for the front wiring as well.

When I have ridden the bike several times and I am satisfied with it all, I will then heat shrink the tubing where I have it over connections and seal off the open ends of the old pump hose/conduit with silicone gasket material or the like. Then I should have the "upgrade path" completed.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Gravel Worlds '19: Part 3

Rolling into the high country of the "Bohemian Alps" at Gravel Worlds
My plan was working excellently. I felt great so far after 30 miles in, and I almost had an hour "in the bank" to spend on stops, if need be. My first planned stop was going to be at Loma which was about 40 miles into the course.

While on my way there I ran into a couple of folks giving me props on this blog and for RidingGravel.com. (Sincere thanks again to anyone who mentioned my work while we were riding. I totally appreciate it.) I cannot remember everybody, but I remember Shane, and of course, Warren. I do also remember seeing Ben Petty who is from my area and he quipped, "I think I see you more in Nebraska than back home!" I generally run into Matt Wills, a former Trans Iowa finisher and GTDRI veteran at some point during every Gravel Worlds I do, and this one was no exception. Matt took notice of my square taper crank set and said, "Square taper! How do those arms even stay on the bike?!" He was being sarcastic, of course, as he was spinning a set of square taper White Industries cranks!  Anyway, the interactions with other riders was fun and much appreciated.

As I was chatting with Warren, we ended up in Loma. Warren pushed on riding his black single speed, and I pulled up for my first stop. I needed to use a restroom, get more water, and maybe look for some suitable road food to take away with me when I decided to leave. By the time I reached Loma, the Sun had cleared the clouds and it was bright and sunny. Of course, it was also getting hotter. That didn't matter to me. I was having a great ride so far. But I also new that there was a long way to go.

The scene outside the Loma Tap. Free water fill up at the red pick-up truck. That's Pell Duval in the orange tutu. 
The owner of the bar plugging in some coins to get the music rolling. Mostly country music from the 60's and 70's here.
Upon entering the bar I did a double take. There was a woman working there, probably into her 60's, and in good shape for that age, with a raging beehive hairdo, heavy eye make-up, and a shirt that said "Loma Is My Second Homa". She looked like a brunette version of Tammy Wynette. Anyway, I was floored because I don't think I've seen a beehive hairdo in the wild since I was a younginz.

I didn't spend a ton of time there, but I moved on with a full compliment of water and a couple of granola bars for the road. Next stop on the course was going to be Valparaiso. I didn't plan on stopping there, but instead I thought I'd put in another 20 miles and stop next at the first checkpoint at Mile 60. The roads were very hilly, but since we had passed the highest part of the course, it was mostly downhill to Valpo. I think it was in this section where I hit 39.8 mph at one point, which was my max speed for the day.

Valparaiso, Nebraska
I was cruising along when I saw a couple of cyclists as we were about to make a right hand turn. One was a smaller woman on an Ice Cream Truck fat bike and the other was a guy on a nice looking red bike. I almost missed the turn and kind of cut off those two in the process. It wasn't intentional, but I felt bad about that. Anyway, the guy on the nice looking red bike came up alongside on my right and I noted that it was a Singular. Now, those are rare bikes, and so I thought, "Hey! Maybe I know this guy!" Upon more scrutiny, I found out it was Scott, and it was his old red Singular he's had for years. We chatted a bit and then I moved on down the road. I saw Pell ahead of me, and I eventually passed him as well and went right on through Valpo on my way to Branched Oak Farms which was about another ten miles down the road.

In this section I was passed by a young woman on a bike and I thought I recognized her from breakfast earlier at the hotel. I sprinted up to her and sure enough, it was her. We had a fantastic conversation and I was duly impressed with her personality. She suddenly said, "By the way, my name is Meg. What's your name?" Well, of course I answered, but having such a direct question like that was attention getting. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with Meg. Thanks, if you ever read this. That made my day better.

So, Meg finally outpaced me and disappeared up ahead. I plugged along feeling okay as the heat got hotter and the Sun rode up into the sky. It was getting to be about 11:00am and I had a good hour plus in the bank time-wise. I was looking forward to a bit of a rest at the checkpoint. I thought I wouldn't spend much time there and then just push onward to Malcolm, another ten miles up the road, and rest a bit more there since there is shade in Malcolm, not so much at Branched Oak.
The Branched Oak Farms volunteers were awesome.

Eventually I pulled into Branched Oak Farms and I was tired, but I was feeling like I had more miles in me yet. The weather had gone hot and humid with a good stiff wind. That's always a tough deal for me. But I had time in the bag and my plan at this point into the ride was to take it easy and rest when I needed it. At this point I was just interested in getting water, maybe eating, and then getting out and back into some kind of rhythm.

As I was getting something to eat, (a handful of Fritos, a plain hot dog, and a Coke), I ran into Meg again as she was just getting ready to head back out on the course. We chatted a bit, then I went around the backside of the small outbuilding there to get into some shade while I sipped my soda. I spoke a bit with Steve and Kathy who were doing a tandem class ride. After I sipped the last of the soda. I grabbed my bike to head out. Just as I did I saw Meg take off. I wouldn't see her again, but I heard she finished strong.

WooHoo! A MMR in Gravel Worlds!

I hadn't gone up the road far when I realized something wasn't right. My guts were churning and I was starting to feel like I was not "running right", for lack of a better term. I turned onto a dirt road then and this was where the course was two-way. The 75 mile course riders were going against us and so on these rutted out tracks on the dirt road, I had to watch carefully as I climbed a steep hill and the others were bombing down the same. Yeah......ahhh....Frankly I wouldn't have ever considered doing that in one of my events. It just sounds like trouble in the making, but I made it with no issues. That is, other than breaking off a water bottle cage!

Wait a minute! Something is missing here!
It was comical, actually. I was thinking I needed to get more water down the hatch and climbing slowly was as good a time as any to start hydrating. I grabbed my right fork mounted bottle, and as I did, unbeknownst to me, the cage pulled through the bolts that were holding it. It was a Velocity Bottle Trap, so a plastic cage, not metal.

I took several swigs as I kept an eye on any traffic that might be speeding downhill toward me. Then I tried to replace the bottle in the cage, while not looking, and kept missing the cage, which was frustrating. I have had this bike so long, I can "no-look" a bottle in that fork mount cage any day. What the heck!...... 

So, finally I bend down to look and no cage! What?!! I stopped and looked 20 yards down the trail and there it was laying in a rut. So, I fetched it and stuffed the bottle in my Chaff Bag after rearranging some other stuff. Then I was back on the bike. By this time the heat was raging on that dirt road and I was feeling not so great. I climbed slowly up and finally back on gravel. It was becoming quite the slog and my gut wasn't getting better, it was getting worse. The legs felt fine, I didn't have any dizziness, no sleepy feelings, just a big, bloated gut feeling and churning in the intestines.

Well, my power was being sapped since my guts were shutting down. It wasn't far to Malcom now. I figured on cruising into town, finding some shade, and just giving myself some time. I had a lot of "time in the bank", my average speed was above 12 mph, and it wasn't even noon yet.


As I was assessing my options, Pell Duvall caught me again and asked how it was going, as I tried to answer I just about belched up my dinner. I probably should have. Maybe it would have been gross, but maybe it would have made me feel better. Anyway, Pell gave me some thoughts to chew on and then he rolled on. I made it into town and sat down besides the Post Office in the shade on some cool concrete. I felt awful by this point. My gut was not happy. It was getting painful now. Things weren't fun anymore.

Well, I gave myself until 12:30pm to make a call on whether to go on or to cut the course where the return loop of the next 75 miles came back to Malcom. Rob Evans and his crew were in the car wash building and invited me over. I walked over, a bit light headed and sore in the gut, and by 12:30pm, despite feeling kind of okay, but weak, I had to say no more. I knew what lay ahead. Some of the biggest hills, the hottest part of the day was yet to come, and this would be the furthest point away from the start which I would be headed into.

Crash landing site back at Fallbrook neighborhood.
I made the prudent decision, as I was responsible for myself, to get myself back to the start without encumbering anyone else. I knew it wasn't going to be easy to ride about ten more miles, or whatever it was, but I figured the last drops in the tank needed to be about making sure I got back.

I set off, bidding Rob and his merry men farewell. I felt awful. Not just physically awful, but I felt shame and a lot of disappointment. This last section was going to be populated by guys finishing. Fast guys. I had heard that the winning lead packs were about finished up, and had gone by Malcom already, but surely more were coming. It wasn't going to be fun cutting the course back to Lincoln getting passed by the serious racer crowd, but whatever.

I did get passed by about six guys going, what I assumed was, cruising pace for them. They were guys that probably had gotten shelled out of the lead group. Now, with "nothing to gain" they were kind of like me. Just riding to get back to the finish. Only they were a lot faster at that! 

It was slow, but I slogged it out to the finish area. I stopped at one point to take my number plate off and disable my chip timer. When I made it back, I stopped well short of the finish line to inform a volunteer I was not a finisher, then I dismounted, giving the finish line a wide berth. I did not want any confusion that I was a finisher. Gravel Worlds, to my knowledge, doesn't have a "DNF Line", so this was the best I could think of at the time and in the condition I was in. I ended up walking around the SchillingBridge Tap House looking for a suitable place to sit in the shade but there wasn't anything appealing to me. So, I walked back to Tony's truck, saw some shade under a pine tree, and threw myself into the grass. Just about 77 miles down.

By the time I got back to the finish area, it felt like someone was stabbing me from the inside out. I definitely made the right decision to head back from Malcom. There was no way I was getting much further down the course without assistance later. I writhed in half awake pain and fitful napping for about an hour before the pain relented enough that I could get into Tony's truck with all the windows down and just concentrate on relaxing and recovery.

Then I grabbed my phone to pass the time and take my mind off my disappointing finish. That's when I saw that someone posted on my Facebook timeline and was congratulating me on finishing 11th in Gravel Worlds. What?!! Oh! Hold on! I figured it out. That timing and scoring loop must have picked me up anyway! I sent a message to the person who posted as a comment on that post of there's and made sure I set the record straight. Not long afterward, the guys from Gravel Worlds contacted me and we got it all straightened out. I apologize for that mess! I had no intentions of "finishing" like that!

Oh, and remember my rear tire that had gone soft the day before Gravel Worlds?

Tony ended up finishing at around seven o'clock. We met up then and were going to go out to eat when Tony discovered that my rear tire was dead flat on the bike rack on the truck. Crazy tire! It was fine all day! Well, at least as long as I needed it to be.

This ends the Gravel Worlds '19 report. Thanks to the PCL, volunteers, and riders that make this event so special. I had another awesome day with rad folks.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Gravel Worlds '19: Part 2

The Cycle Works gang (Me in center) Image by Michaela courtesy of Rob Evans
Tony and I got our gear on quickly after breakfast and we were out the door with plenty of time to get to the Fallbrook area North of Lincoln for the start at SchillingBridge. I noted that my tire held air again all night, so..... ??? Weird. (More on the rear tire later)

The bikes got unloaded and as we were riding over to the staging area for the start, I could hear Tony trying to shift his front derailleur. But it wouldn't shift. It was just grinding, grinding, and this after Tony had said that his bike had been working perfectly. Great! Why is it that these gremlins rear their ugly little heads at the most inopportune times?

Well, we stopped under a street light and tried to diagnose what the issue was. Everything looked normal upon a visual inspection. The cable tension was thought to be the culprit for a brief minute, but that wasn't it either. Tony tried shifting without him in the saddle as I held the bike's rear end up off the ground. It shifted! So, Tony went for a brief test ride. He came back with more positive, but guarded news. It shifted, but it wasn't a real inspiring shift. He was going to live with it.

With that done I moved to the back end of the starting chute where I belonged. Suddenly I found myself surrounded by many in the Cycle Works crew. Their distinctive "Rasta" striped jerseys are hard to miss. I saw Rob Evans, (he was at my GTDRI ride in July), and his girlfriend, Michaela was there as well. I moved over to chat with Michaela a bit and next thing ya know I was in the middle of the Cycle Works start line image. Literally. I was in the middle of it. Anyway.......

Tony looking over his bike pre-race. It turned out to be okay.
Then we all chatted until the minutes wound their way around to close to 6:00am, which was the slated start time, and we began to get a bit more focused on what was about to happen. I even remembered to turn on my Lezyne Super GPS unit! Amazing, right? (By the way- I hate that you have to mess with the menu and physically turn on two different things to get the stupid computer just to read out the info on your ride.)

I was taking things calmly. No need to stress out about my lack of training, my rear tire, or whatever. I just wanted to give it a go and see what would happen. My plan was to "shift early- shift often" and as an alternative to a maxim I heard from former Trans Iowa winner Dennis Grelk, I was going to "go easy on the hard parts, and go easy on the easy parts". Dennis didn't say, "go easy on the easy parts" though!

We were talking amongst each other at the starting line about how when Gravel Worlds used to be led out for the neutralized start by an old Ford pick-up truck with a very throaty exhaust note. You could tell when the driver dropped the automatic transmission into "Drive" as the RPM's would cause the exhaust note to lower in pitch. You knew to get clipped in then because it was about to be "go time". Now, with a police cruiser doing the escort from town, that is a distant memory. Suddenly, I heard a chorus of metallic clicking noises. Lots of clipless pedals being engaged all at once. Guess we were off! With the start chute being so narrow, we had to wait about 30 seconds before we could get ourselves mobile. Then it was a left turn out into the neighborhood. The course was pavement for the first mile plus, so jockeying for positions is pretty common here.

An overcast sky greeted the riders. It actually rained a tiny bit before the start.
The scrum on the initial parts of the course wasn't as bad as I have experienced in years past. The riders seemed to holding lines, not cutting people off, and everyone just seemed to be working well around each other. At least where I was in the group. The overcast, very humid, but cool weather was also odd. Typically it is baking already an hour into this event and you are looking at a long day in the heat. However; the overcast skies made the temperatures hold down in the upper 70's longer than expected, and everyone I came across seemed to be having a lot more fun than we would have been had the Sun been out.

The full moon hadn't set yet as the riders get strung out over the Gravel Worlds course.
I got settled into a groove and found out I wasn't working too hard but was "putting time in the bank". My goal was to keep well above a 10 miles covered per hour pace so I would be able to take longer breaks when necessary when and if the Sun came out and it got hot. It would get hot, right? I mean, it is Gravel Worlds we are talking about here. 

Everything was working so smoothly it was scary. I was eating, drinking, and keeping from horsing the pedals too much. Then I got up to around Mile 30, a left hand turn at the bottom a fairly fast downhill. The road was graded here, fluffed up, and the surface was loose. What's more, the turn was off-camber, and also very loose. A woman on a small fat bike was just entering the apex of the turn as I started to enter the turn. I was gaining on her quickly and I figured that as she straightened up off the corner I would pass her on the outside. But just then she stabbed her brakes, and drifted to the outside, right into my planned line!

You know when you do something pretty outstanding and you wish someone would have filmed it? I made a pretty spectacular, one-footed save, and rode the bike to a halt just before entering the ditch. One person behind me who didn't see what caused my fancy stop said, "Get in too hot?", with a smirk as he flew by. Whatever. I know what went down, and in the moment I was pretty upset that this woman bailed out and got on her brakes. She ran me right off the road.  It wasn't her fault, just one of those deals, and I quickly got over it and moved on. I was just glad I didn't eat it and go for a ditch header.

Next Gravel Worlds '19: Part 3

Monday, August 19, 2019

Gravel Worlds '19: Part 1

Pared down the load to the bike and one bag for 2019.
Friday morning I was ready to go. Everything was ready from a gear standpoint. But you readers who have been paying attention know that my outings in the country have been sparse in 2019. Long rides? Ha! That hasn't happened with the exception of the Solstice 100 and the GTDRI for me, neither one of which I managed to finish.

So, the goal going into this Gravel Worlds? Just have fun and go as far as I could go. That's it. Realistically I knew going in that finishing a brutal 150 mile course was pie in the sky thinking for 2019 on my part. I pretty much figured that finishing would be a very low percentage point wish on my part. So, I just wanted to get as far as I could with no issues until there were issues. If that makes any sense. I wanted to do things smartly, which is the #1 reason I chose the Fargo. It fits me perfectly, and it has a triple crank, so the widest gearing range I have access to was on that bike. I knew that would be a boon to my chances of going far.

I also was counting on the water bottle capacity to be a big advantage, as I am a heavy sweater, and Gravel Worlds is typically very humid and hot, in terms of weather conditions. Finally, I just tried to have a very casual approach to the event, because I knew it wasn't going to be easy for me, or likely an effort that resulted in a finish. I just didn't put in the proper amount of time to expect anything more than a fun ride in the country. I knew that, and accepted that fact ahead of time.

So, my friend Tony picked me up and we were off to Lincoln, Nebraska. The drive went well, we actually made it there in record (for us) time and had time to kill. Fortunately, Gravel Worlds had a bit of a vendor expo that we viewed and, as it turns out, was profitable from a RidingGravel.com perspective, although I was not expecting that at all.

Schwag from Gravel Worlds- (t-shirt was optional upon registration)
Tony and I eventually went in to get registration completed, got our t-shirts, and the "schwag-bag" of goodies, including a sweet coffee cup and "spork" dealie-bob from presenting sponsor Lauf.

My brother MG was there, and we hung out for a bit until it was time for MG to head back to tend to his children. That was the cue for Tony and I to get some grub. The "homebase" for Gravel Worlds is SchillingBridge Cork & Tap House. So, we ate there, which was a wise choice. My meal was awesome and I would highly recommend the place. Gravel Worlds had a special Radler-type beer brewed by SchillingBridge and I must admit, it was the best Radler I have ever had. 

Then after all that Tony and I retired to the Graduate Motel in downtown Lincoln, and we downloaded our stuff into our room for the weekend. Upon getting everything unloaded, Tony noted that my rear tire was soft! Oh no! But I pumped it back up and it seemed to be okay. Now this was the same tire that went soft Tuesday last week on me. Crap!  Just the thing you need to have on your mind before a big ride. Well, there was nothing to do about it late Friday evening but to forget it and try to get a good night's rest before the 4:00am wake up call. 

The night's sleep was "okay", interrupted as it was by loud children in a room across the hall and by fireworks later in the evening after a University of Nebraska baseball game. 4:00am came and Tony and I quickly went about getting dressed for the free breakfast the motel was providing. As we were munching down scrambled eggs, and perhaps the best bacon I've had, a young lady came over and asked about sitting with us. Of course, we obliged her and had a bit of small talk before begging our leave and going to our room to kit up and get down to getting down. A minor deal? I would think so, on the surface of it, but later on, this small, seemingly insignificant meeting would have a bigger impact upon me. 

Next: Gravel Worlds '19 Part 2

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Trans Iowa Stories: Tales Of v2 Part 2

The start of T.I.v2- The first 4:00am Trans Iowa start ever, in Hawarden, Iowa.
 "Trans Iowa Stories" is an every Sunday post which helps tell the stories behind the event. You can check out other posts about this subject by going back to earlier Sunday posts on this blog. Thanks and enjoy!

The road to Trans Iowa v2 was a bit smoother, we had more confidence, and things were dialed in a bit better. Yeah, there was the "Rogue Seven" incident. That was a big scare for us. Well.....for me anyway. The story was that Jeff had set up online registration to go live on a Saturday night. What happened was that it went live on Saturday morning! I was getting e-mails about it and that is how I found out. I was at home, and Jeff was working. Since he wasn't at his home computer, he couldn't get to fixing it right away. So before he got it shut down, a bunch of registrations went through. We were immediately aware that seven guys got in, but the number turned out to be slightly higher than that. In the end, "Rogue Seven" stuck, and the guys that slipped in early kind of had a cult-like status for a few hours.

 I remember the days leading up to v2 at the shop where Jeff and I worked. We were pretty loose. There was a good feeling about this one. But then, the weather turned on us. Three days before T.I.v2 it started raining over Northwest Iowa. Not just any ol' rain, but the steady, soaking type of rain that swells the Earth, causes the rich Iowa soil to become a sticky mess, and the kind of rain that fills pools and ditches to overflowing after a while. This is what we faced going into it.

But it didn't seem to dampen our spirits much. We were stoked and hopeful that the event would be a great one. I remember loading up the shop van behind the store and it was like Jeff and I were playing hooky. It was as if we were off on a "road trip" and leaving all our Worldly responsibilities behind to go do some crazy stuff in rural Iowa. The drive out was one of the most fun times I've ever had during Trans Iowa. We were having a hoot!

Things got a bit more sober when we came into an area not more than 40 miles from the start at Hawarden and took a look at a road we were going to have on course. Now it matters that you understand the gravel out there to get a handle on what the conditions were like. Later, after T.I.v2, we were told by Rich Gosen, a man learned in the ways of geology, that the gravel out there was mainly "glacial till". This gravel, local to Northwest Iowa, is mostly quartz, granite, and sand. It makes for a gravel that can hold a LOT of water, not letting it run off. If you've ever been in Minnesota, upper Wisconsin, or around the Great Lakes, you'll understand it when I say that the roads for T.I.v2 were like a soaked lake beach.

This shot, taken West of Paulina, Iowa, illustrates the Northwestern Iowa "glacial till" gravel conditions during T.I.v2
Jeff and I were concerned, but we shrugged our shoulders and headed onward to Hawarden anyway. What could we do? We had decided weather wasn't going to postpone this event, and so, we moved forward. Once we reached Hawarden, the gray skies continued to spew a mist here and there, but we were focused upon our task at hand. That being the "pre-race meeting", which was going to be facilitated by Jeff and I at the local Pizza Ranch in their party room.

Jeff doing some ninja moves while I look on. Pre-race meeting, T.I.v2 Image by Dave Nice
The event was marked by the appearance this time of the LaLonde Brothers. Both were single speed aces in the MTB fields at the Wisconsin based WORS Series. The Pre-race meeting had to happen the night before now, with the 4:00am start. We held the meeting during the get-together at Pizza Ranch and had a "rider call-up". This started the annual tradition of the T.I. racer call up I used until the very last one. I started calling riders up for v2 in alphabetical order that year as Jeff did the handing out of bags. Jesse LaLonde approached me just as I called him up to ask that I announce his brother, Mark, as "The Darkness", and that he'd be especially pleased if I would do that. Of course, I did. I think he was actually happy about that too.

The pre-race was marked by the sobriety and solemness that an event going into nasty weather often has. We had a fair number of "no-shows", so even though we had let 70 people in, only 51 actually started. This was also the event that marked the beginning of our relationship, (mine, actually, since Jeff left for Colorado by the next year) with the Nebraska Crew. There were several good friendships that came out of that race.

The pre-race ended and Jeff and I went to the same host home we used for T.I.v1, but if I recall correctly, there may have been no other racers there, just us. Anyway, the host family had put in a new toilet since we'd been there a year prior and it was so loud when flushed I awoke every time it was used throughout the evening. As would become typical, any sleep for me prior to a 4:00am start of a Trans Iowa was minimal to none. We got up at 2:30am and started our day.

There were a few Canadians in the event this time and they wanted Jeff to ferry their van across the state as the event progressed. So, at the start I was kind of back on my own again, driving the shop van, while Jeff kind of laid back and did......? I really do not know what he was doing and would not see him again until well after Sunrise.

Next: T.I.v2 tales, part 3.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Minus Ten Review 2009-35

The last one. The ill-fated 2009 Big Wheeled Ballyhoo poster.
Ten years ago this week on the blog there was a LOT of 29"er news. Gary Fisher Bikes, (remember that brand?) announced their new MTB's for 2010. It would be the last year that Gary Fisher would be a stand alone brand. But, of course, we didn't know that then.

I also had news of a 29" Maverick American bike with one of those Maverick American forks on it. Remember THAT brand?

Weird handle bars were still a big deal back then and several were introduced into the market. What was it about 29"ers and "alt bars"? Gotta say this- 29 inch wheeled bikes really opened up a can-o-worms not just in the wheel size realm, but in several other areas as well.

I also announced the details on the 2009 Big Wheeled Ballyhoo. While it didn't all turn out the way I wanted it to, due to a family emergency and weather, this was the version I had in mind from the beginning. No vendors. No hoopla. Just a bunch of yahoos getting together to ride 29"ers. In fact, it was still too tied to media and the industry for my tastes. But whatever..... It was what it was.

Ah! The "what ifs" about this idea still haunt me to this day. Had I not listened to Tim Grahl and just done it my way, ya know? But you cannot re-live the past. Only learn from it. In fact, the failures of the Big Wheeled Ballyhoo actually reinforced my desires to do better and to "do it my way" in regard to Trans Iowa. The lessons from this deal finally pushed me out of "Twenty Nine Inches" and into doing something else I really wanted to do. The lessons of the Big Wheeled Ballyhoo helped me to end Trans Iowa in the way I wanted to do it.

So, while on the surface of it, the Big Wheeled Ballyhoo may seem like a colossal failure, it was not. It gave me some good lessons in life. It helped me forge friendships and I owe a lot to the event for that. Yes- I have regrets. But had it not gone the way that it did, who knows what my life would be like now.

Not as good, I bet.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Friday News And Views

Knolly Bikes steel Cache frame which is progressive and forward thinking- NOT carbon! Image courtesy of Knolly Bikes
It's Not Carbon Fiber?!!

A new gravel bike gets introduced. Big deal, right? Probably another carbon framed, "same-as-the-last-verse" deal. Well, not this time! Not only that, but this bike is steel, and it isn't some neo-classic, rando deal either. (Not that there is anything wrong with that. But it is expected more so than this)

Nope, Knolly, who did a turn with a similar design in titanium earlier this year, have rendered this design in steel. Steel is less expensive than titanium, and while I'd love a Ti version of this bike, a steel one is more attainable. I also happen to like the Sky Blue Camo color option. (pictured here) You don't normally paint Ti, so a nice paint scheme over steel, that's kind of neat right there as well.

Of course, I don't really need another bike, but...... If I keep on with RidingGravel.com, I do need to do something about the Tamland Two. It isn't up to date with through axles and what not, where this Knolly rig is, and if I replace the Tamland, I'd rather that bike be steel than not. This Cache fits the bill. Plus it would be both 700c and 650B compatible, and it can handle 2X or 1X, which is helpful.

So, the interest is there, but right now isn't a good time for me to invest. We'll have to wait and see......

The jersey I'll be wearing for Gravel Worlds celebrates their tenth year of the event.
Gravel Worlds #10:

A decade of Gravel Worlds is about to pass by after this weekend's running of the Pirate Cycling League's tongue-in-cheek take on Pro roadie World Championships. Of course, it isn't really a Worlds of gravel. But that never stopped the PCL from just running with that presumptuous idea and poking holes at what was going on in the Pro ranks.

The event is just the PCL's irreverent, punk rock attitude put into an event which initially was designed to be a challenge, fun, and all-inclusive. The event grew out of what was the "Good Life Gravel Adventure", and for all intents and purposes, if you had attended the last GLGA and the first Gravel Worlds, you'd have noticed barely anything was different. (I happen to have done this very thing) For all intents and purposes, the Gravel Worlds of today is about as "Good Life Gravel Adventure" as it gets. Just an evolution over a decade, really, and the fact that there are more folks riding now. The first Gravel Worlds had 96 riders. This coming one? Over 300.

Signing up at "race central" (The former Oso's restaurant in Lincoln) for the 1st Granel Worlds
 Ten years is a long time to run an event. Figure 12 if you include the previous two GLGA events that preceded Gravel Worlds. The PCL is celebrating its accomplishment by offering a cool poster at the pre-Race get together, and I may have to buy one. I have the limited edition, one of 50 first GW poster on my wall right now. It needs a friend, don't you think? Ha! Well, maybe I will get that poster, we'll see.

Anyway, Gravel Worlds is still, in many ways, the GLGA it always has been, but the PCL guys have managed to bring in the more competitive, "pointy" end of athleticism and its attendant trappings. This all co-exists with the down-home, grassroots feel they always have had, but it also brought some unwanted attention back in 2017. Well, actually, myself and my partner Ben at RidingGravel.com were the ones that got the unwanted attention first. You know, when you get an e-mail with this heading: "Subject: Illegal use of the UCI Rainbow colours - gravel worlds", well, THAT grabs your attention straight away! Especially when it really is the UCI that is getting upset with you!

I won't get into details, but that e-mail eventually got directed to the proper party, and this is why the Gravel Worlds "theme" for their jerseys and merch has changed. Another pitfall of being an event promoter and being a bit subversive. Lawyers don't have a sense of humor. Trust me- I know from a T.I.v8 incident involving the mocking of a certain vegetable juice can design.


So, here we are. Ten years of Gravel Worlds and I'll be there to ride it. Expect a full report starting on Monday.

Low water crossing at the DK200 in 2015
 It's A Risky Business:

Well, you know, every so often I see stories about how gravel events aren't doing it right, and the story writer continues on to "set us all straight on how it could/should be".

sigh!

Okay, so here's my take on the linked article above from Marshall Opel, a road Pro at one time, and the guy Cyclingtips pegged for their "Endless Gravel Summer" tour of sorts, with sponsorship and some support from several industry brands.

The premise of the article is to "do away with finish lines", or some such malarkey. I have to wonder if he felt the same way when he was racing on pavement, but we do not know. Anyway..... Several misguided assertions are made here which, unfortunately, are going to lead not more than just a few folks off into the weeds. Here's the deal as I see it.

Mr. Opel, first off, got himself injured, and I wish him a speedy and full recovery. He is a fellow human, and I don't like seeing anyone get hurt. Now as for what he wrote, well, for one thing, he seems to assert that "gravel, in its current state, is not optimized for racing", and then states that without road closures most events are really just group rides.

Wow. 

Thank you for letting us in on that secret, Mr. Opel. Thousands of us had no idea we weren't racing, but were on "just big group rides taking advantage of low-traffic areas".

Mr. Opel then goes on to describe a couple of events that take the greyhound chase out of the events a bit, which is fine. Gravel events like this have existed for well over a decade. Had Mr. Opel done even just a little research, he could have informed readers that there are literally hundreds of different types of gravel events, one or two sure to suit anyone's desires for full-on competition, or all the way down to chill group rides for adventure. It would have been easy to have just written about how those choices have existed for all this time. Apparently, Mr. Opel doesn't know, or neglected to tell us these facts.

And when you know those events have existed and are available, well then- you can do what is comfortable for you to do, if "comfort" and "safety" are what concerns you.

Then, curiously, we get a somewhat detailed accounting of how Mr. Opel got injured in the heat of "racing", (I guess it could have just been "just a big group ride" if the roads weren't closed), and ended up getting some internal hardware from his mishap. He admits to making an error in judgment, then states, "... you do what you can to hedge risk while knowing full well that shit happens in races. It’s a part of the game."

And that's it, really. Full stop. It's a "risky business, this riding bicycles, and when you sign that waiver, you assume the risk." And like ol' Mike Curiak told me once, "If you don't like that, maybe this event isn't for you." Find something you are comfortable with. Those events are out there. Tons of them.

Gravel racing, (or big group rides.....whatever), are dangerous. They are not like Pro road events for a reason. Without the danger, the risk, then what is there? A fun, chill group ride? That's fine, if that is what you want. But thousands of people sign on for these "races", and yes- some of them are going to crash, some of them are in over their heads, and some of them are inexperienced riders. It's a beautiful mess where everyone gets to try to figure it all out together. You should know that going in, and if you don't, you are ill-informed. No one is making you enter these events. You do not have to ride in them.

That's why we always said "You Are Responsible For You". It means that you assume risk, that you assume research into the activity beforehand, and that you accept that sometimes, as Mr. Opel so eloquently put it, "...that shit happens in races." 

Have a great weekend, y'all. Get out and ride some bicycles!



Thursday, August 15, 2019

Remembering A Milestone

You know, it is very ironic that I became a person that writes so many things. If you'd had known me as a kid, you would have never guessed this would have happened.

My earliest memory of writing was when I was in the second grade at Lincoln Elementary School in Charles City, Iowa. Mrs Scmidt had me for a special section in English. My regular teacher was Mrs. Ruesch, who was, for some reason, not teaching this section. Anyway, the assignment for several days was to write a story about some random image given to you on the spot.

I remember having a severe case of what you might call "writer's block", although I did not know I was a writer at the time. I just have a vivid memory of staring at an image one day in class and feeling a tremendous pressure to perform which paralyzed me. Somehow I overcame it, because I remember subsequent days afterward I was able to write things.

Then there was the sophomore year in high school. We were supposed to have English taught by a teacher, but she fell victim to what was described as to us as a "nervous breakdown" just before the year started. So we had substitute teachers. One we ran out of the class room by our poor behavior. The other was so laid back nothing mattered, and so I did not learn anything at all about English in high school as that was my last English class I ever had. I guess that means the last "real" English class I had was in 9th grade. So, you are reading stuff from a guy with a 9th grade English education and no formal training in journalism, writing, or editing whatsoever.

Why go into all of this? Well, yesterday I got one of those "Facebook Memories" notifications that reminded me that seven years ago I got published in my favorite MTB magazine, "Dirt Rag". It was a feature story for that particular issue and was all about the history of 29" wheeled bicycles. Now think about that for a minute. They could have asked a LOT of other folks to write that piece. Gary Fisher? Wes Williams? (Built the first 29"er and advocated for "The Tire" to be made) Maybe even one of their own staff could have written it, say Maurice Tierney, a Mountain Bike Hall Of Fame member himself and one that witnessed the entire 29"er thing alongside of those that developed it. Maybe some others, say like Bob Poor, who was intimately familiar with 29"er development and had the first 29"er specific website.

But, for whatever reason, I got the call. Me. A poorly educated bike mechanic from Iowa. Go figure......

So, forgive me please for bothering you today with something from the past. I am still amazed and blown away that my life has taken the turns that it has taken. This memory from 2012 is another one of those milestone moments in my life that fits into the "I can't believe I did THAT!" files.

Thanks for allowing me to reminisce. Thanks for reading, as always! 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Dialing In The Set Up: Part 3

Getting the dashboard set up for Gravel Worlds
Monday the course cues for Gravel Worlds were released into the wild. I did what I always do- I printed them, folded them, and covered them in packing tape. This year there are a few more cues, so not as many big, long straight sections.

I set up everything on the bike as I will have it Saturday and took a short cruise to ensure nothing is going to tick me off. I'll also do a short gravel cruise today to test out the stability of everything. Gravel is like a paint shaker. If it isn't attached securely, there will be trouble!

So, here's a good example of why I love the Luxy Bar. I really get annoyed if I have to set up my light off-center. So, the way I have my Bar Yak cue sheet holder set up means the cues have to be offset to the left side of the bar. That means the Lezyne GPS mount has to go on the right side. To allow enough room for the light and the GPS to co-exist, I had to slide the mount over to the right on the bar. Now, notice that my mount for the GPS is a 31.8mm clamp mount. See how far to the right that mount clamps? Try that with a tapered center bar from any brand. Ain't-a-gunna work. The Luxy Bar, with its full 31.8mm diameter from ramp to ramp, makes this a non-issue.

The cues are such that when I get one sheet done I just flip the card over, re-clamp it, and I'm good through the next page, then I can take that page, once front and back cues have been passed, and discard it. The funny thing about the first page is I probably won't even need to use it. I'll just follow the stream of blinky lights. Last year I think I was in the middle of the second page before I figured I probably should start paying attention to the road names. It's not an issue as long as you remember to start your computer at the start line. I forgot to do this in 2017, and it made for some "interesting" calculations out on the course that day.

I had a little bit of a scare Tuesday morning on the commute to work. I had to negotiate the presence of  a couple of construction vehicles on the "island" at the interchange with Greenhill Road and University Avenue. The position of the vehicles was such that I had a strip of ground about two to three feet wide between the curb and traffic and the vehicles. As I passed by, something flipped up and severely smacked my bottom bracket and left crank arm. It was like someone hit the bike with a ball peen hammer. Immediately afterward I felt the rear tire go all squishy. I made it to work, but when I checked the pressure it was around 10psi.

Did I destroy a brand new Schwalbe G - One? I checked the tire over and found no outward visible evidence of sealant leakage. Either I burped the tire or I had an internal failure in the rim strip which healed itself. At any rate, I pumped the tire up at 9:00am to 30psi and its been good since.

Today I go shopping for nutrition and start packing. It's very nearly go time.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Ti Muk 2 Upgrade Path: Part 3

Here you can see the Salsa rear rack on the Ti Muk 2
The story on my finishing out the Ti Muk 2 is coming to a conclusion soon. It has been a while since the last update on the progress on this path, so for a refresher, click here.

Basically I was going after three things: New tubeless tires with less rolling resistance than the 45NRTH "beist" combo that I got it with was the first thing. Terrene Cake Eaters solved that problem quite nicely. The next two things were tied together and had to do with the rear tail light of the generator system the bike has.

The bike came with a Busch & Muller Secula stay mounted tail light, and honestly, I think it is a great light, but it comes in a plastic housing. I just find that to be an untenable solution for adventure biking or gravel travel since things can get pretty rough and tumble at times. Plastic housed tail light? Seems like a break waiting to happen. Added to that was the fact that a seat stay mounted light on a fat bike seems like a really bad idea when I think about mud, snow, and other trail debris that gets tossed, churned, and ground up between the rear tire and frame members of a fat bike. (At least that's been how I have observed things going. If you never run your fat bike on anything but groomed trail, please disregard this)

So, it was imperative to me that the seat stay mounted light get replaced and mounted either on the seat post, or..... as it turned out, a rear rack was an option. I decided against the seat post mounting since I may want to use a big seat pack  on this bike, and that wouldn't work well with a light that is "tethered" to a hard wired system. The rack was a better choice, and that also opens up options to use panniers, or a trunk bag/dry bag set up in the future.

So, I needed to get a rack. There were several good choices, but in the end, it was the Alternator Rack which won out. There were a few reasons for this, not least of which was the fact that it was designed for this bike. That it was one of the lighter weight choices didn't hurt matters either. So, I got that in and installed. It's been out of the way and unnoticeable when riding, so no noises, no interfering with off piste ramblings. Bonus- It has dynamo tail light mount holes at the rear. Perfect for many option out there which would work with my SON 28 hub on the Ti Muk 2.

I was shocked at how small this light is. The light shows red at night despite the clear lens.
So, I ended up landing on the SON "Tail Light For Rack" rear light. (NOTE- This also is available as a seat post mounted light) It mounts right to the rear plate on my Alternator Rack, and it is so tiny as to be really out of the way when it comes to the rough and tumble lifestyle I lead with my fat bikes.

The housing is anodized aluminum and despite its tiny size, it has some decent heft. Not that this matters, but my confidence is boosted when something has a solid, in-hand feel as opposed to a thin, plastic shell for a housing. I was pleased to see that it comes with a sturdy looking lead which is much nicer than the two flimsy looking wires the Bush & Muller tail light had. I will route the lead up along with the rear brake line on the frame and tuck the remaining distance along the rack so it will be out of the way and unobtrusive in case I decide to use panniers.

I got extra spade connectors and some shrink tubing along with the tail light, so all I have to do is route the thing carefully, connect the spades to the lead ends and connect it up. Hopefully it all comes together well and I have a functioning light system when I am finished. Once I get everything done I will have a final post on the lighting and tire upgrade which will detail out the performance upgrade each part brings to the Ti Muk 2. Then I'll be ready for some adventuring. (As if I haven't been doing some already, but, ya know........)