Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Iowa Wind And Rock Registration Opens

Hey there! Yes you, dear reader. Maybe you come here for the "Trans Iowa Stories". Maybe you wonder if that crazy old coot named Guitar Ted will ever do another Trans Iowa. (Answer: No. Not ever.) Maybe you got a hankerin' to see if'n ya kin do such a cray-zee dealio. Well, ya still kin, if'n ya wants ta.

Just pony on up and put yer name in that hat called "Iowa Wind And Rock Registration". Y'all have till the 18th ta git'er dun!

Seriously- this is the most "Trans Iowa-like" event out there. There isn't anything else you can do in the gravel grinding niche that will come close. The folks that put it on are all Trans Iowa veterans and loved that event so much they didn't want it to go away, so they did the next best thing. They started their own deal.

Just to be perfectly clear, I have nothing at all to do with Iowa Wind & Rock. I have "retired" from that sort of nonsense and I have no desire to get back in. Been there, done that. That said, I have a LOT of respect for these folks, and I am really HAPPY that they are pushing this sort of an event onward. There truly is not anything else out there like it.

Of course, they are free to do it the way they see fit, and going onward, things could change and maybe I won't be down with those changes. But that's me. They have to figure out things for themselves now, and I've moved on. Sure, I hope they keep things close to the heart of what Trans Iowa was, but there are never any guarantees. I saw some guy grousing about how he hated cue sheet navigation. See, that's a cry to make it easier. Cue sheets are a pain in the butt. They are harder to use. To my mind, that's part of the point of it all. But these things are always relative. Ask any pioneer from the 1800's if they would have liked to have had cue sheets/maps instead of relying on memory or tales pointing to landmarks for navigation. See what I mean? Challenges are not about using the latest technology, as far as I am concerned. Technology? That actually is a crutch to lean on. And it causes all sorts of complications.

Anywho...... Get on the registration if you want such a challenge.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Brown Season: Half And Half

The day started out beautifully and along the Cedar River, it looked great.
Brown Season means that you never know when it will be more like Winter or more like Fall. Saturday, it was the "more like Fall" so I got out on the Noble Bikes GX5 with the GRX group and did a nice loop that was about half paved and half gravel.

There were other gravel rides going on Saturday. N.Y. Roll had one, but it left at 6:30am and I wasn't feeling like getting out of bed at 5:00am to get there since I wasn't feeling 100% Friday. I had been sneezing a lot and I had a headache all day. I assumed I would do well to get a really long, good night of sleep. There was another ride set to leave and do the New Hartford Hills later in the morning, but I wanted to just set out from my house and see what I was in for. So, it was a solo slog for myself.

This particular day was to be- maybe- the last 50+ degree day in 2019. So, I wore a wool base layer, a wool long sleeved jersey, my Riding Gravel vest, and a pair of thermal bib tights. I wore some glove liners, and my buff on my head underneath the Bell aero helmet. On the feet were a pair of wool socks and the Northwave boots I have. I felt fine for the entire three hour ride until I got home and then my feet were freezing. Weird.

The temperatures were in the low 50's for the entire ride and the winds were out of the Southwest at probably close to 20mph, but not over that. I had about seven miles right into it, but it wasn't too bad, really.

I saw a couple Bald Eagles frolicking over the Cedar River. Here I highlighted one. 

Gravel- finally- going South on Foulk Road.
I'm pretty fortunate in that I only have to travel about six or seven blocks to get to a bike trail that leads along the Cedar River which then takes me to the Cedar Valley Nature Trail and out of town. Getting through Evansdale can be a bit tricky for the uninitiated, but the "Nature Trail", as the locals call it, gets you out into the rural areas fast. Once out of town I veered off onto Foulk Road which goes straight South and turns to gravel after Washburn Road.

Barns For Jason- Another tiny barn!
Farmer are starting to work the ground in preparation for next Spring. Note how black the soil is here.
Foulk Road is pretty flat, really, and so I figured that if I was feeling bad, I could just turn around at some point and ride all the flat stuff back to my home. But actually, I felt pretty good, and I had never been on portions of Foulk and Quarry Road which I had intended on using. So, I forged ahead.

A beautiful draft horse and it's smaller companion, a normal sized quarter horse, on Quarry Road.
Going West on Quarry Road was double trouble this time since the wind was out of the Southwest. That and the fact that you climb up going West made for a tougher slog, but i was surprised that I felt strong and it didn't really bother me. Now I never would have guessed I would have felt good about head wind and climbing, and especially after not feeling my best, but there ya go. Who knows what the deal is? I just took what I had to work with and had a decent push up and into that wind.

I saw a bunch of these "woolly-bears", caterpillars they are, crossing roads Saturday. 
Now we've had some Winter already with snows and sub-freezing temperatures. So when I saw some Wooly Bears crossing the roads, I had to marvel. How do these caterpillars make it through the snow and bone chilling cold? I have no idea.

So, the turn North put the wind kind of at my back, but the roads were super, super gravelly. Like I almost was out of control many times due to the depth of fresh gravel. The rest of the route was fine, actually, but Aker Road, for whatever reason, had tons of fresh gravel. What a way to end the gravel part of the ride.

Then it was back down toward home on the Sergeant Road trail and when I got home I had 33 miles under my tires. That was just good enough to tucker me out and amazingly, I felt fine. No headache anymore!

Guess a good ride can cure what ills ya.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Trans Iowa Stories: Setting The Scene For v4

One of my all-time favorite images from a Trans Iowa, but it is because of the story behind it.
 "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!

With a new lease on life, Trans Iowa would happen again for the fourth time in 2008. The stories I will tell about this one won't go into as much detail as they did for v3. The third Trans Iowa was, as I said when telling the stories of that event, a prototype for what came afterward. That is partly why I went into such detail about it. The formatting, the protagonists, and the way things played out in a general sense were very much all foretelling of the next ten Trans Iowa events. The particulars of each event were different, and specific stories were as well. This is where I will be spending my time, for the most part, here on out. I won't be going over blow-by-blow recounting of the events, as that has been done to death already. That said, I wanted to take on T.I.v3 that way due to its being "the first" of its kind.

Jeff Kerkove, the co-founder of Trans Iowa was now fully out of the picture in regard to the event. But I had gained another good friend and helper in David Pals. His enthusiasm and in particular, his ideas, were very important for the next several years of the event. So, while I rued the exit of Jeff, I gained a great partner in David who was up to the task and helped innovate and evolve Trans Iowa further than I would have ever done by myself. He was an invaluable resource for me, mostly behind the scenes. David wasn't really interested in being up front, or the "face" of the event, so that part was all on me.

This left me with the unenviable task of dealing with "problem children". The folks who were interested in Trans Iowa, but had "ideas" and criticisms which they wanted addressed/implemented so the event would be "better". In reality, what they wanted would make the event "easier", or at best, more convenient to ride in, and were not at all in the spirit of the event.

"It takes a lot of organizational willpower to keep a design simple"
 - Paul Boag

This quote from a Twitter post really resonated with me because it reminded me of the struggle to keep Trans Iowa on point. In the beginning, this task was largely Jeff Kerkove's, but by v3 I was the guy steering the ship and dealing with the folks who were a thorn in my side. A lot of this back and forth happened on the Endurance Forum on MTBR.com. So, it was public and I had to rein in my comments somewhat. However; a lot of this dealing with the potential "dumbing down" of Trans Iowa was on emails. There I wasn't quite so "diplomatic". There was also all the questioning about why this, and why that. Long winded questions requiring long winded answers really were not only time consuming, but energy draining as well. There were plenty of times I wished I would have decided to stop at v3.

The year 2008 was also one where I had so many irons in the fire, and so many demands on my time, that  I was overwhelmed. It was just far, far too much to handle, looking back, but in the moment, I was thinking I was fine. Had I stopped Trans Iowa in 2007, it would have been a lot easier, but that was, maybe unbelievably so, one of the easier things I did in 2008! That should tell you what a cracker of a year it was. I definitely do not want to repeat that again in my lifetime.

Next: Meeting New Friends

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Minus Ten Review 2009-47

Doing the recon in the "new to me" rig at the time.
Ten years ago on the blog I kind of "soft-launched" the news that I had a different vehicle. The old "Dirty Blue Box", 1990 Honda Civic 4 door hatchback wagon died during the Summer of 2009. I finally replaced it with a 2003 Toyota Tundra. This became the "recon vehicle" for the remainder of the Trans Iowa events and to this day it is my vehicle.

I've been fortunate to have had this truck, and I have had some pretty crazy times in that truck, some of which will be covered in my "Trans Iowa Stories" series. Stay tuned for that in the future.

The other thing I was chatting about, and probably one of the most surprising things that ever happened to me, was when I got a surprise gift from George Wissel from Vermont. He ran a bike shop at the time and somehow he had gotten the last few purple anodized 1 1/8th head sets from Chris King. I remember saying something about that on the blog here. Well, good ol' George packed one up, put in some cool t-shirts and stickers, and sent the box off to me at unawares. Boy! Was that ever a cool gift.

That head set went straight on the Salsa Cycles El Mariachi I spoke of last week which was Gun Koted a kind of purple-egg plant type of color. Then I took it out in 2012 when I got the original Ti Muk and it has been in that bike since until I sold the head set and bike earlier this year.

Of course, since 2009 Chris King made purple ano stuff again. So, the head set wasn't all that odd by 2011. But the thought George had to send this present to me was not ever forgotten. Way too kind!

Friday, November 08, 2019

Friday News And Views

Once unobtanium- now reality
Niner Bikes Releases The MCR 9 Gravel FS Bike: 

Perhaps the most controversial and wildest "gravel bike" ever seen has now made it through production and is available from Niner Bikes.

Dubbed the "Magic Carpet Ride 9" (MCR 9), this bike features Niner's CVA rear suspension in a short 50mm version. It is mated here with a Fox AX fork with a travel rating of 40mm.

It retails in the "5 Star" build (SRAM AXS and high end bits) at an eye-watering 8G+. This then begs a LOT of questions.....

Cool bike and all, but: why not re-cycle an older, FS 29"er design and have a bit more travel, bigger tire clearances, and run a flat bar? Maybe a Jones bar set up? 

I can only think of one reason why and that would be a limitation to a MTB drive train. But.....if you were to go to, say a design from pre-2010? Say you had a Fisher Hi-Fi, which featured 80mm of travel, and geometry that is nothing like today's trail bikes. Well.....I just happen to know where one is, and there will be a project bike coming soon. Stay tuned.......

Gravel Expo/Bike Party 2020:

This deal N.Y. Roll and I have put on the last two years is going to happen again in 2020. The "Gravel Expo/Bike Party" was originally an idea to bring the gravel scene to the local riders in the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area. Out of this grew the "Monday No Drop Gravel Ride" which N.Y. Roll has hosted for two season now.

Year Two of the GE/BP brought our idea to feature Iowa gravel events. We brought in several folks and let them present their ideas for their gravel events. This proved to be very popular.

 The expo was not without issues, and logistically N.Y. Roll and I wrestled mightily with just how to manage demand, room space, and convenience for all concerned. This go-round we are going with a new idea. We are going to have multiple nights with visits from Race Directors and a little bit of information sharing. We have a new venue in the works for the expo, and we have a brand new sponsor for the events.

We're working on details now, but the general idea is that during the dead of Winter, (think mid-January to late January or early February). We are thinking either mid-week night or weekend, or a mix of both. Four sessions, as of now. Expect about 90 minutes for each.  Again, a lot of this is in flux. Stay tuned......

Signs of the "roadie invasion" from 2016 were easy to see if you paid attention
World Tour Pro Quits To Race Gravel:

Wednesday news broke on the web that World Tour Pro and American rider, Peter Stetina, had decided to quit the World Tour and focus on gravel events and endurance MTB events for 2020. 

Citing his excitement and a renewed passion for racing stemming from his racing in the Dirty Kanza 200 and Leadville 100 this year, Stetina is going to go it alone as a privateer racer for 2020.

Comments: This is a huge blow to the profile of road racing in the U.S. Add in that the Tour of California was cancelled for 2020, and one can make a strong argument that serious cracks are evident in the road racing scene in the US. In fact, the signs have been there for several years that something was amiss.

Younger riders have abandoned road racing here, and bicycling in general. So, the road scene was suffering from "aging out". Secondly, the gravel scene has cannibalized whatever was left. Several years ago now, (and I have mentioned this several times here on this blog), it was reported that USA Cycling (USAC) was losing revenue from licensing at an alarming pace. Many Continental and former road Pros took up gravel racing then. Riders like Ted King, who won the DK200 in 2016 (Image shown at left here)

USAC made some half-baked overtures to the gravel scene in the last few years, but now with the cancellation of the biggest road event on the continent, and with current Pro Tour riders looking hard at gravel, (you can bet Stetina isn't the only one), it would appear that the "red alert" has been issued by USAC as a rumor is floating around that they are asking many gravel event promoters and top athletes to meet in January. Furthermore; it has also been mentioned to me that the UCI, (Union Cycliste Internationale) is poking around and will aim to set up a series for Pro riders on gravel

Who are these people, if the rumors are true? My guess is that since Life Time wants to expand to six gravel events, and since they own the DK200, and since that single event is the most well known of the gravel events in North America, that Life Time and their gravel promotions folks are going to be at that table. Probably others as well, but certainly, you'd be nuts not to talk to Life Time if you are USAC/UCI.

This will certainly only be a North American phenomenon at first. The Euro folk are not at all interested in going this direction. It isn't hard to imagine that the "gravel road scene" could be a big deal for USAC, though.  It could have potential for possibly bringing their mission into a more relevant area of cycling than paved road riding.

Cheers folks! That's all for this week. Get out and ride those bicycles!


Thursday, November 07, 2019

Guitar Ted Lube-Off: Final Results And Commentary

NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

Okay, the final results, as determined by me, Guitar Ted, have been rendered in this round of the "Lube-Off". First, for reference:

Note: For the Introduction to the contenders and procedures used in this test, please see THIS POST. Also please note that the possibility of a fourth contender never materialized, so this test is just between the three lubes mentioned in the introduction. 

 The first update on the Muc-Off lube can be read here. The Squirt Lube post can be read here.The "Final Update" concerning DuMonde Tech can be found HERE.

It was tough this time to determine a winner. Usually, that hasn't been the case in the past with DuMonde Tech simply blowing away the other challengers. I think all three lubes I tested this time are worthy choices, so let's get that out of the way first thing. I could live the rest of my days using any one of them and not have a lot of nits with any of the trio. That said, there is a "best, "better", and a "good" choice here. I'll start off by telling you right up front that DuMonde Tech is still the best of the lot, so if you want to skip the rest of this post, go ahead.

The rest of you- read on.......

 "Good"- Squirt Lube:

Squirt did well. It stayed slick until the six hour mark and then it was definitely done. To be fair, the label suggests reapplication after six hours of use. (Thus the six hour limit used for the Muc-Off and the six more hours on an already used DuMonde Tech set up)

The thing is, you have to re-up at least every six hours of riding, if not more often. This means cleaning up the chain first, drying, then reapplication of Squirt- that is if you want to do this "right". But however you see that going down or not, the fact is that you are going to go through a lot more lube than with the other two choices here. That means more overall expenses. (You'll need to replace the lube at a quicker rate, besides any cleaning or what have you.)

The other nit I had with Squirt lube was that it attracted a fine coating of dust on everything the Squirt lube touched. Dust means accelerated wear. It wouldn't be terrible, as Squirt didn't seem to "gunk-up" like other wax based lubricants have that have gone through the Lube-Off in the past. Squirt is BY FAR the best wax based lubricant with the LEAST amount of fuss to apply it. It is biodegradable. It uses water as a lubricant carrier. So, there is a lot here to like. But the other lubes did not coat the drive train bits in a fine dust, so while it isn't a major deal, it knocks this choice down a notch for me.

"Better" - Muc-Off C3 Ceramic Dry Lube:

Now here is where it got tough. The Muc-Off C3 Ceramic Dry Lube was fantastic and really gave DuMonde Tech a run for its money here.

After six hours the Muc-Off lube was still rockin' and it had a ton of life left in it. The "Touch Test" revealed a nice, slippery feel and the chain looked pretty good after a six hour stint that even included some wet mud and water spray. The lube actually hung on pretty well, despite that more severe test, and it shows me that a little abuse is okay with Muc-Off. That's a great trait. I was thinking Muc-Off might actually topple DuMonde Tech off the pinnacle of lube dominance here at Guitar Ted Productions. But for one minor nit- it would have. 

Muc-Off C3 Ceramic Dry Lube had just a hint of gunky build up. DuMonde Tech- if used properly and applied correctly- doesn't do this. Again. I could take Muc-Off C3 and live happily ever after. I recommend it as a good lube for gravel, but DuMonde Tech is jussssst a little bit better....... 

And The Winner: DuMonde Tech:

Yep. Use this stuff correctly and you will have a chain and cassette that simply sparkles throughout miles and miles of gravel travel with zero gunky build up and you should experience a long chain life. But you HAVE to apply it according to label instructions. If you do not- it sucks, plain and simple. The magic here is in the preparation. And actually- that is true with all lubes. Most folks do not take the time necessary to "do things right" and there is no "easy button" when it comes to exposed chain and gear derailleur drive trains. You simply must do due diligence or your results will suffer.  

That said, IF you do use DuMonde Tech correctly, it is one of the easiest lubes to "live with". As shown by this run of the "Lube-Off", chain maintenance is minimized with this lube, whereas lubes like Squirt are actually pretty high maintenance. Also, DuMonde Tech runs really clean, and is a bit cleaner than the Muc-Off C3, but not by much. Again- I'll continue to use the Muc-Off product going forward as well. I want to see a longer term use of the lube, like I have seen with this DuMonde Tech, and then compare results.

Thanks for checking out this edition of the "Guitar Ted Lube-Off". Please note that I was not paid, nor bribed for this review of these three lubricants. I always strive to give my honest thoughts and opinions throughout. My results may not reflect others experiences and any results I have shown are simply my own and may not necessarily mean anyone else will experience these products similarly.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Brown Season: Mud And Wind

Appearances Can Be Deceiving File #238: Looks nice- Reality = Miserable.
I probably should have taken the day to do some lighter effort and recovered from the big weekend I had. Or maybe it was just that the Northwest wind was actually stronger than reported. But then again- maybe it was that it rained most of Sunday afternoon and Sunday night, which soaked the gravel and made it soft.

Or maybe it was all of those things together which conspired to make going North on Monday a real chore. Whatever it was, all I know is that I was slogging out a slow, methodical cadence and realizing the blazing speed of 8+ mph. Simply eye-watering. The wind that is, not the speed I was going.......

I had a little extra time to put on the Black Mountain Cycles MCD for good measure to get the "Lube-Off" test completed. (Results and Commentary tomorrow) I was hoping that the wind would have dried up the gravel by the time I went out, but to no avail. It wasn't dry out there. In fact, there was standing water and much of the gravel was mud or saturated with water to the point where the tires made that distinct sound of rubber squeegeeing out the moisture as the wheels pressed into the roadway.

Some of the last cornfields to be harvested. Note the darkened gravel indicating a saturated road surface.
At least it looked somewhat cheery out, with faded "blue jean blue" skies and big white, puffy clouds hurrying overhead. The Sun cast shadows, now with a low-angled light indicative of late Fall/Early Winter. This time of year, everything just looks odd, and more dramatic, due to the light angle.

Machines stopped mid-harvest awaiting the fields to become dry again.
A big tractor sits alone in the midst of an enormous harvested soybean field. Again- Note the muddied gravel here.
I toughed it out going North as long as I could, but beating myself down after already being worn thin on the weekend wasn't probably ideal for my health. So, I eventually turned East and South, which obviously was much easier and faster going. 20+ mph? I'll take that. Yes!

Harvested fields expose this wood framed home as being quite isolated. 
The roads weren't quite so gravelly for the back 3/4's of my loop, and with the wind at my back- mostly- it was a far easier ride. But the roads are slowly finding their way to what I call "Winter Mode"- Less gravel, more dirt, and really smooth. Good days of weather mean fast, smooth sailing, but I never know when- or if- I will be able to take it all in on a gravel bike.

The forecast looks pretty bleak, with an Arctic blast aimed at us and high temperatures in the 20's. Any wind with that and you are talking near zero wind chill. Too cold for gravel travel. I may be fat biking most of next week. After that, who knows.........

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Guitar Ted Lube-Off: Final Update

the Bubblegum Princess has done her duty.
Lube-Off Final Update: 

 Note: For the Introduction to the contenders and procedures used in this test, please see THIS POST. Also please note that the possibility of a fourth contender never materialized, so this test is just between the three lubes mentioned in the introduction. 

 The first update on the Muc-Off lube can be read here. The Squirt Lube post can be read here.

The "control" lube in the Lube-Off this time was DuMonde Tech, which has been the "Champeen" lube for several years here at Guitar Ted Productions. The set up, just as a reminder here, was as follows: Two contenders were run on gravel for six hours each. The DuMonde Tech, which was applied last sometime last Summer, was not reapplied, but was run another six hours and then would be compared to the contender lubricants.

The lubricants are all of the "dry" variety. Meant for drier conditions and also meant to be "cleaner" lubes, thus the "dry" designation. I wasn't expecting any build up on the chain or cassette, and certainly no "wet", sticky, or messy grease coming off the components when performing the "Touch Test". That test is where I run my index finger across a part of the inner run of the chain to see if I can feel any lube and detect any greasy, wet build up.

The contenders were the Muc-Off C3 Ceramic Dry Lube and Squirt Chain Lube. I will post my direct comparison and thoughts on each in my final Lube-Off post soon. Now let's take a closer look at the DuMonde Tech chain, the cassette I ran, and what I saw when I performed the "Touch Test" with this lube. Again- Please keep in mind that the DuMonde Tech was run - most likely- at least twice as many hours as the contenders were. In fact, I ended up putting on not six hours for the test, but seven hours, just for good measure. Okay, enough chit-chat.........

The DuMonde Tech lubricated chain
The close up of the DuMonde Tech lubed chain shows a bit of what appeared to be wear and pitting where the chain interfaces with the cassette cogs and crank set. Also, there appeared to be a bit of corrosion around the chain pins as well. This is the original chain on this bike, and it shows barely any wear after a year-plus of gravel riding. So, I am left to assume that I must have gotten into something that made the chain pit and tarnish like that. The rollers show no such damage, and there is minimal dust accumulated on the chain.

The cassette and a bit more of the chain. 

The cassette also showed a little bit of this as well, but again- barely any build up and it looks pretty good. Note that I tried rubbing off this irregular appearance with no luck. It's into the metal, as far as I can tell.

The chain did not make any noise. DuMonde Tech recommends that you re-lubricate when you hear chain noise. With no noise noted, I don't see any reason to dump more DuMonde Tech on this chain. Although I am sure that time is coming. Now, for the Touch Test......

Not much to show here.
I actually ran my finger over the chain in three different spots, since barely anything was coming off on my finger. It didn't matter and what you see here is all I could get. It's worth noting that in the last two rides with this set up I had bouts with wet, sloppy gravel and grit. So, this chain was exposed to some of that and not just a straight diet of dust, although it saw its fair share of that as well.

Generally at this point I would take a dry rag and just knock off any dirt or dust on this drive train and continue onward. Again- the pitting and staining on the chain is unusual and I haven't ever seen DuMonde Tech be the cause of something like this before. So I think it was a chemical or just rain water sitting on the chain that caused this, although I have no clear idea as to when that may have happened. Keep in mind that it rained at the Solstice 100, and this chain and cassette were on this bike then. It very well could have happened that weekend in Nebraska.

Stay tuned for the final Lube-Off post coming yet this week.

Monday, November 04, 2019

Brown Season: Saturday Morning Cartoons

Dark-thirty. Time to ride!
My friend N.Y. Roll has this ride he does sometimes on Saturday mornings he dubbed "Saturday Morning Cartoons". This is a great name for a ride on Saturdays, but I think the significance of this name might be lost on anyone who was raised post 1985 or so.

You see, at one time, there were no cable television channels. There was no "Netflix", no You Tube, nothing on the internet. There were (maybe) a few analog T.V. channels and programming for kids? Almost non-existent. We had few windows of opportunity as kids to see programs, (usually cartoons), which were meant for us. I know where I was raised we had three analog, over the air channels and two worked well. One of those had an afternoon cartoon show. That lasted a half an hour. That was it until Saturday.

We lived for Saturday mornings back then. You rolled out of bed at 6:00 am and it was on! Cartoons all morning long! Some days I didn't get out of my P.J.'s until after lunch. It was something we really looked forward to in our week back then. Of course, this is all lost now. You can watch a cartoon at any time, 24 hours a day. Spoiled you are!

So, this is why N.Y. Roll's "Saturday Morning Cartoons" ride is a brilliant name, but maybe you younginz just don't see the point. I get it. (Okay, Boomer. Move along now.......) But you can diss it all day long. Those who know.......know. Those who don't.....that's their loss. But I digress.....as usual.

Heading South after being out for around a half an hour. The morning Sunrise was spectacular.
I heard about a gravel version of the "SMC" ride, and so I asked N.Y. Roll if I could join him and ride to the start, which was about 8 miles or so from the house. We met Robert there, and Paul and Keith also showed up. The five of us headed out of town, Eastward, at about 6:30am. It was still plenty dark at this point.

My light, a Lezyne 1100 i, was showing a full green status when I left, although I knew I had been using it as a flashlight down in the Lab. So, it wasn't a full charge by any means. Still, after 8 miles it showed a red status and I wasn't sure I'd have a light for the ride until the Sun gave enough light to ride by. It was pretty cold though. 30's with a good West/West-southwest breeze that maybe made the battery current a little wonky. The thing held up, and I guess that is all that matters.

We all stopped to admire this for a bit.
Barns For Jason #1
On the way out of Hudson going West, there was a hill and the group was really hammering. I held my own until I realized my heart rate and breathing were getting to be a bit much. This was not a sustainable pace, as N.Y. Roll had about 30+ miles planned for the loop, not counting our going and coming to the start/finish. So, while those fellas were feeling strong, I knew my motor was going to blow running that hard. I haven't been able to ride with folks most of 2019, so I'd be better for it if I had been, but it is what it is. I let them roll on while I dangled off the back.

The Sun finally gave enough light to allow me to ride without a light.
Of course, those guys were great and waited at a couple points or drifted back to keep me company. The headwind going out was rough, but the roads weren't, so it all kind of balanced out. Once I got my legs under me I managed better, but besides a couple of "outbursts", I was riding in the back the entire ride. Turning back Eastwards helped a ton.

Barns For Jason #2: This one was a cute, little barn. 
We got the benefit of Sunshine for about a minute. Then it got overcast and cold.
We spent most of the ride in Grundy County. The roads were marked by a lot of heavy tread marks, presumably from harvesters. Otherwise it was a mix of hero gravel and freshly bladed surfaces which could be a bit difficult. However; that said, there weren't any fresh, chunky, deep gravel patches like I ran into last week in Eastern Black Hawk County.

Barns For Jason #3
Barns For Jason #4
The ride East went a lot quicker than the ride west, that's for sure! We got to the Black Hawk County line where Robert turned off. Then Paul went south back to his home when we came across the local bike path leading Southward. Keith, N.Y. Roll, and I went and had a bit of coffee, and then we headed home. I got in 45 miles and felt pretty tired, but okay.

The gear I wore did okay, but I will have to maybe retire those 45NRTH Fasterkatt boots. My feet got frozen on the ride, and all else was okay. The Northwave boots I have are a LOT better in that way. I got some time on my last "Lube-Off" chain. Two more hours of riding to go......

Sunday, November 03, 2019

Trans Iowa Stories:The Reasons Why It Happened Again

"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!

One of the first gifts I got for putting on Trans Iowa from Gary Cale, vet of  V1, V2, V3, V4, V5, V7
Summer 2007. A normal day, one in which I worked at the bike shop, came home to write reviews and do behind the scenes stuff for "Twenty Nine Inches", and of course, to write the next day's post for this blog. Along the way I was checking e-mails. I had one from a friend in the in-box. It was from the head of Salsa Cycles at the time, Jason Boucher. I was excited. Maybe it was news of a new 29"er, or a new Salsa component. But the subject line wasn't encouraging. It sounded more deeper and personal than a chance to review a product.

Jason wasn't a Trans Iowa guy, but he knew guys that had been in it. Joe Meiser, a young engineer at Quality Bicycle Products, had been in v3. There were also other guys that Jason heard buzzing about Trans Iowa. Then, I suppose, he had also got wind of my desire to quit the thing. By the way, and this will come up again, I became aware over the years that many people were very passionate about Trans Iowa and myself, and you folks were talking about myself and T.I. a lot over the years. Rumor spread like wildfire amongst the Trans Iowa Freaks. This I know now.

Anyway, I am imagining this was how Jason heard the story. Or it could be that I told him myself about the reasons I didn't want to do another Trans Iowa. Either way, but I cannot recall if I had told him or not. He felt compelled, based upon what he had understood from the riders of Trans Iowa, and possibly from myself, to send me this particular e-mail. He was, and is, a good friend, and while it could be argued that he had an ulterior motive, being the head of Salsa Cycles, I am quite certain that was not his motivation.

In this documentary I shared the story of the famous e-mail that I got post T.I.v3
In the video documentary, "300 Miles of Gravel", by Jeff Frings, you see a scene which shows me telling the story about Jason's e-mail, and it is pretty easy to see how choked up I got while telling it. That should tell you how powerful this e-mail was for me in 2007. Jason asked me to consider how it was that I was giving people the chance to change their lives. It was a short e-mail, but the weight of its impact helped to pushed me on towards another decade plus of doing the event.

But the question of Jeff's influence missing in the event, and whether or not what I would do could even be Trans Iowa, or whether Jeff would ever feel okay about that, still was hanging out there. That question was answered not long after I received the e-mail from Jason. In an odd, and what turned out to be final visit, Jeff told me he was okay with me carrying on. Basically, he didn't care what I did, trusting to my judgment, and he was just happy to hear I wanted- maybe- to do it again.

Also during this time, I was riding and communicating with a Trans Iowa rider by the name of David Pals. He a veteran of V2 and V3. He and I attended the first DK200, and David was helping me to organize and put on the second Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational. Of course, I told David about my misgivings concerning the putting on of another Trans Iowa. David offered himself up as my assistant, should I decide to do this event again. This was a huge thing, by the way, because despite Jason's e-mail, and despite Jeff's blessing, I was not going to do Trans Iowa alone again.

So, those three things conspired to tip me toward doing Trans Iowa again. If any one of those three things had not happened, I doubt Trans Iowa would have ever been put on again.

But they did happen. And so did more Trans Iowas.

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Minus Ten Review 2009-46

Before CVAST, before Ingawanis Woodland- There was the Turkey Burn!
Ten years ago on the blog I had some chit-chat about a Salsa Cycles El Mariachi frame I had "Gun Koted". It had been a Superior Blue 2007 model from Salsa's demo fleet that I purchased from a friend. I ran it geared for quite some time but it ended up becoming a single speed. It's still in the area, but I do not own it anymore.

Then there was a bunch of reporting on the Trans Iowa v6 recon which was occurring at that time. This was going to be the very first one out of Grinnell. Little did I know then that I would be going back there to recon for gravel events to this day. (Not Trans Iowa! That's over, but the C.O.G.100)

But with the news that came out this week about Life Time Events debuting a new, fancy gravel event at 100 miles for $140.00 a pop, I thought what I said ten years ago about some news in the gravel world of the time was relevant to today. Here's the bit I am talking about:

"Well, you knew it had to happen sooner or later! Yes, some of the "under the radar" classics are banding together into a series. Mostly located in Minnesota, the Almanzo Gravel Road Series "Race For The Cup" consists of The Almanzo 100, The Ragnorok 105, "The Gentleman's Ride", The Heck Of The North, and the lone Iowa event, CIRREM. 

Of course, there has been talk of creating a "Gravel Triple Crown" series for several years now, even before a Nebraska based event existed. Now that the GLGA is up and running, the talk of the "Gravel Triple Crown" has resurfaced with Trans Iowa and Dirty Kanza 200 filling out the limestone triumvirate. Of course, it is all just talk right now, but if what I am hearing actually happens? Yeah.......... Crazy stuff!!! And throw into that mix that the GLGA is going to be the "Official Gravel World Championships" , well, things could get "big". And well........I have some reservations about that. 
 I'll keep it brief and just say that these developments most likely signal a slippery slope downwards. You see it all the time with stuff like this. You can call me pessimistic, crazy, and downright wrong if you want to. I say, let's revisit this in five years and see. I am not saying this is all doomed, just doomed to change, and I wonder if it'll be for the better. I'm not feeling all that great about it sitting here today. That's all I'll say."
While none of the above from ten years ago is about the monetization of gravel events for the support of  individual's lifestyles, it was a bit concerning in that the whole "freedom to shape events" seemed to be going away. The trappings of "events" that many in the scene at the time were going to gravel events to avoid was creeping in. Series of events, rules governing series, more serious levels of competition, race venue trappings like finish lines, trophies, prizes, and the like. It was a bit of "growing pains" that was the issue, I think.  

As I said then, and the same applies now- "Gravel riding and the events connected to that are not doomed, but they are doomed to change". Even more than before. Will we see things get better? Or......is this the beginning of the end? 
Ask me again in five years........

Friday, November 01, 2019

Friday News And Views

Life Time Events Announces New Gravel Event:

Life Time events, the same outfit that runs Leadville, Lutzen, and the Dirty Kanza 200, announced on Tuesday that they were unvieling the "sister event" to the Dirty Kanza 200, dubbed the "Big Sugar NWA Gravel". Life Time hosted several influencers and media folks on a short pre-ride of the event which should have its inaugural running October 24th, 2020. Citing a lack of an "iconic gravel event" in Northwest Arkansas, Life Time said that they would be bringing such an event to this region. The distance was set at a very saleable 107 miles, and much is being made about the elevation gain which is said to be something around 9000ft.

Registration is not open yet, but the price for the 100 + mile event is $140.00 and the half distance is $85 bucks. Registration opens November 15th. The field limit is set at 750 riders.

The article posted to "Bicycling" about the Big Sugar NWA Gravel had something interesting about the DK200 and Life Time events intentions in the future. Apparently the limit on riders in the DK200 is going to be increased. The article states that for all DK events the rider count will increase to 3,800 individuals. 1600 will be allowed into the 200 while the field limit for the ultra-distance DKXL is set at 150 for the 2020 versions of these events.

Furthermore; it was reported in that article that Life Time events means to add at least four more gravel events under its control within "the next few years".

Comments: Once again, I have to wince at the marketing language here. When you haven't even had one "Big Sugar" yet, how can it even be said you are adding an "iconic event" to the gravel repertoire? The event's directors have pedigree, and that is maybe where the marketing should have focused, but some of the the web pages for this event and some of the press release language is a bit over the top for something that has never happened yet.

The really interesting bit, to my mind, was the price for admission, (more than a buck a mile), and that according to the language on the site, which looks very familiar to what I see on the DK200 site, a lottery process to choose riders seems imminent. Certainly, by the way I read the articles about the B.S.N.W.A.G, it feels that they expect to sell through the 750 spots quickly. Time will tell. A Fall event competes with college football, school, and many other activities that are not issues with a Summer event like the DK200.

How about that roster expansion for the DK200? Talk about having trouble getting a room, or getting around Emporia that weekend. This will really test the mettle of the area's residents. I had been told several years ago, when the DK reached its current roster limit, that there was "no way" they could ask to have more folks there during the week of the event. Life Time moves in and hey! I guess there is room to grow. No other explanation has been put forth as to how this will be accommodated........yet.

Finally, how about Life Time wanting six gravel events under their umbrella? That speaks volumes about what this genre' of cycling has become. USAC has to be steaming about missing this boat. Road cycling isn't going to ever be the same again, and Life Time's ambitious plans are a good example of this. (Ironically, on Tuesday the Tour of California was cancelled for 2020. Not that these two things are related, but.....) I've always said I really had no idea how big this sector of cycling would become, and I bet no one would have guessed it would have come to this ten years ago. More thoughts on this in another post soon. Stay tuned.....

First snow of the 2019/20 season
First Snowy Commute Of 2019/20 Season:

The snow came Tuesday and lasted till about noon when the temperatures got up high enough to melt the stuff where the Sun could get at it. Of course, we got dusted again Thursday too. Is this Winter going to kick in early and be a long, drawn out affair?

The questions stand and we won't know until Winter gets going in a solid way around here. I just know that I sure could use a little more time, a reprieve from Winter's icy grip, at least through November. There is a lot of gravel testing/review stuff I would like to put to bed before we get shut out of riding on the gravel roads till Spring.

Of course, we could get reprieves throughout the Winter months. You just never know. But you cannot count on good windows of opportunities to fall when you have the time to actually ride. Or the health. Spring, Summer, and Fall, well you can about bank on it being nice enough to ride when you can and when you are ready to.

Anyway, barring gravel travel, I have the fat bikes ready. I got a new Muckey-Nutz front "flap" style fender which should pair up well with my front Mud Shovel. I will be switching out the bottle cages for a frame bag soon too. The Blackborrow DS has been sitting idle since last Winter, but I cleaned it up before I stored it and it should be ready to roll at a moment's notice. I still have the Snow Dog as well. (The 2011 Salsa Cycles Mukluk) That bike is pretty much in reserve these days. That said, it could be pressed into service at any time I need to use it.

So, while I am not really into Winter coming soon, I am ready for it, and switching to that mode shouldn't be that big of a deal. Bring it on! Or not..........

My most popular Inktober drawing.
The Artist In Me;

Now that October is gone I have to wait another whole year for "Inktober". "What is that?", you say? Well, it is an artistic exercise where you get a prompt list. It's words- one for each day- and then you sketch an image for each word in ink, of course. Well, I was asked by my daughter in 2018 to join her in this activity. I ended up really enjoying it, and so her and I were planning on this again for this October.

We took it a step further and decided that we each would post our daily images on Facebook and on Instagram. We had an informal "comparison" of reactions to our stuff, which led to a bit of fun for the both of us. Anyway, I was having a lot of fun, especially on the day that "tread" was the word prompt. I drew the image you see here, and out of all 31 images, this one was by far the most popular based upon social media reaction.

But that wasn't all. I drew an image one day for "misfit" that someone liked so much they actually bought it from me! I was shocked by that, to be honest, and it was nice to know that someone thought that much of a little sketch I did.

Anyway, I thought it was interesting too that "tread" and "ride", two word prompts I did in a bicycling theme, were the top two reaction getters for 2019. I guess most of the folks I know, or I should say, that know who I am, are into bicycles. That's a good thing.

Okay, that's a wrap for this week. get out and ride if you can. Winter is creeping in!