Saturday, November 30, 2019

Minus Ten Review 2009-48

Some nice flowers sent to me for T.I.v6 registration
Ten years ago on this blog I was detailing the "fallout" from the just completed Trans Iowa v6 registration. This was back during the "heyday" of post card registration where I would get in a bunch of gifts and nice things from registrants.

Today's image shows flowers which I always liked getting, and still do, although now there isn't a reason for anyone to do that. So, this is something I miss, and looking back, I cherish those times when I would get something thoughtful like this from a registrant.

I will detail the whole evolution of Trans Iowa registration in the "Trans Iowa Stories" series at some point, so I won't dive too far down the rabbit hole on that front. I will say that this particular Trans Iowa was about when the press to get in was felt. I had about 45 card entries that didn't make the cut off for T.I.v6.

Looking back, I had a roster limit of 75, and of course, not everyone would ever come to any T.I., so realistically speaking I'm looking at 60-ish starters. Out of the 45 extras, I would assume, based upon the fact they were rookies, and rookies were always the biggest part of "no-shows", that maybe 15 of the 45 would have actually shown up. This is why we eventually went to 100 as a limit, then 120 in the last few years. My intentions were always that we not overwhelm volunteers and, especially myself and any co-director I may have had at the time, because we wanted to be sustainable, provide a good experience for all (including myself and volunteers) and not to overwhelm the local populace with hordes of cyclists.

What the "right" amount was, in my view, was right around 100 riders actually in the event. The record number we ever had was 106, or 108, I'd have to verify that, but that was max for convenience stores and the locals in my view. Had we gotten any "bigger", I would have had to fundamentally change what Trans Iowa was at its core. It would have ceased to be the event I had guided it into being.

A great example of this is the Dirty Kanza 200. They realized after a while that they could not continue to have the original, Trans Iowa based format they used to use. The convenience stores were just not cutting it. This is when they went to the aid station formatting that they continue to use to this day. How they get around not irritating road users and locals probably has something to do with the fact that the Flint Hills are sparsely populated and there aren't many to tic off in the first place.

Anyway, that's a quick hitter on why I did what I did back then.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Friday News And Views-Black Friday Edition!

USAC Gets A New Director Of Membership

I came across an interesting podcast the other day with USAC's new Director Of Membership, Lindsay Goldman. She used to run a professional women's road squad up until recently. So, why should I- or anyone else- care? 

I have stated here several times how gravel events have helped to erode the base of membership for USAC here in the US. It is no secret that USAC has lost thousands of dollars- perhaps millions- in membership/licensing monies over the past three to five years as the rise of gravel events, the fear of riding the road, and ambivalence toward USAC has grown.  Lindsay Goldman has been tasked by USAC to revert this trend. In fact, she states on the podcast (linked above) that her mandate is to grow USAC membership by 50%. (!!)

That's a stout figure and a big mountain to climb. I was hooked into skimming over the podcast to hear if anything gravel related would be mentioned beyond the typical roadie affairs. There were a few mentions, and from these, I think we can draw a couple of vague conclusions. Goldman wasn't overtly pointing toward gravel riders and events as a means to gain that heady goal set before her, but I think gravel events are definitely on her radar, and thus, USAC's as well.

A question about NICA, the highschool MTB league association, and whether a road or gravel equivalent might be started by USAC, led to this comment from Goldman, "...don't know what the plans are for that. I know people (within USAC) are talking about that."

When Goldman spoke about how she would transform USAC through membership drives it was clear that she was detailing how USAC wants to shed the perceptions that it is a "road cycling/racing based organization only" and move perceptions towards USAC being the "community leader" when it comes to all cycling issues- transportation, recreational, and participation in cycling by minorities and women. She summed this up by saying, "If we (USAC) can be not just the national governing body, but the primary highest level community in America for uniting cyclists, and encouraging participation, and looking after the interests of cyclists, I think that's where the organization (USAC) wants to go."

Obviously, this includes gravel cycling. In fact, as an aside, Goldman mentioned she had signed up for "several" gravel events in 2020. She mentioned that she wouldn't be "racing" but enjoying "just being out there", again enforcing the idea that USAC wants to shed the "roadie/racing only" perceptions it has outside of road racing.  You can bet that she, and USAC in general, will be eying what makes gravel events tic and how USAC can get involved.

I think I've also mentioned that I have heard that in January USAC has a meeting planned where they want to talk with event promoters and riders involved in gravel events. You can bet that if this is true, the "big" events and "influencer" type riders will be the ones called to the table. But what about the grassroots event directors and folk? I'd be really surprised if that type of promoter or rider was invited. I'd be very surprised if that were the case.but, however it goes, this USAC thing bears watching. Stay tuned........

Iowa's Ride Route Announced:

In case you missed it, RAGBRAI isn't the only game in town anymore when it comes to Iowa based, week-long recreational rides. That bomb was dropped when in October the entire RAGBRAI staff quit and announced "Iowa's Ride", a mirror image of what RAGBRAI is, and in more ways than one. The route, announced this past Wednesday, will be an East to West route, not the traditional RAGBRAI West to East.

Originally the Iowa's Ride was going to occur at the same time as RAGBRAI, but when RAGBRAI didn't fold up and blow away, the dates were changed so that Iowa's Ride will occur the week before RAGBRAI. Of course, this sets up the possibility for the "IR-RAG Double", where you start Iowa's Ride, go West to the end, find the start of RAGBRAI, and go back.

Whomever has tags from both rides in the same year will have the upper hand in Iowa cycling bragging rights at bars and on Facebook forever. Think of the possibilities!

Honestly, they should just fold both rides into one, make it a true competition/fondo, and call it The Tour Of Iowa, and be done with this duality mess.

I Hear You!

Tuesday's post dubbed "End Of The Year Scheduling" elicited several responses from readers saying that they didn't mind my going over my bikes here during my retrospective December postings. One reader even suggested that I write about my guitars like I have before (just search the title "The Six String Side" and you'll find all those), but there is a problem there. I've already covered all the guitars I have. In order to do more there, well, you know........I'd have to buy more guitars! I'm not sure Mrs. Guitar Ted would be down for that. Maybe I'll have a look at her guitar. It's pretty nice......

So, at any rate, I'll squeeze in a couple detailed posts about the bikes here. Likely I won't do all of them that I used in 2019, but the significant ones- yes. I'll try to squeeze those in. As I stated on Tuesday, I will be doing a little extra this December as it is the end of the decade and I wanted to touch upon that as the year closes out.

That's all I have for this week. I hope that y'all get some "Turkey Burn" rides in, and that y'all have safe travels from wherever you are to wherever it is you are going.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving 2019

Happy Thanksgiving!

Guitar Ted Productions wishes all of you a happy, healthy, and safe weekend with whatever and whomever you are thankful for.  

I'll be back with the typical "Friday News And Views" tomorrow. Maybe I should call it the "Black Friday Edition"! ha! That would be pretty funny. Anyway, here's to you and your loved ones! Stay safe, have fun, and I'll hope to see you here tomorrow.

As always- Thank You For Reading Guitar Ted Productions!


Wednesday, November 27, 2019


I was chatting with MG just last night via text, and we were gawking at something he's just got in the house. I won't let that cat out-o-the bag, but something else we touched on got me to thinking again about how far we've come in regard to wheels these days.

Thinking back to just ten years ago. 2009 was arguably the year when the 29" mountain bike gained "legitimacy" amongst most mountain bikers. It was not anything but a hard tail, XC, or single speeder's bike, but I think many at that time realized these wheels weren't going away. Only a few manufacturers weren't on board yet, (most notably Giant), and there were legitimate aftermarket and OEM parts for 700c sized mtb's by that point in time.

Wheels, obviously, were the most important thing. But wheels were what was holding the genre back as well. Salsa Cycles had been one of the first to realize that wider internal width rims were going to break out the 29"er as a legitimate trail biking choice. The widest popular rims at that time were the Stan's Flow and similar rims at a 28mm outer rim dimension. We weren't even thinking in terms of inner rim widths at this point.

Salsa's visionary rims were predecessors to the "wider is better" rim movement in the mtb world, but the problem then was that those rims were deemed to be too heavy. Materials technology hadn't been applied sufficiently up to that point on mtb-worthy 700c rims to make them wide, strong, and light. Typical mid-market priced wheels at that time were in the 1600-2000+ gram area and were, again, only 28mm-ish wide.

Recently I got a hold of some wheels to test which are all aluminum and have rims that are 25mm inner width. (We never speak about "outer widths anymore. Sheesh!) They are not very expensive at 800-ish bucks for a set and they weigh 1640 grams for the set. That's amazing for wheels that wide. For about what those cost now, you couldn't get anything in 2009 money at that weight and width. Not even close, and these are gravel road wheels. 

Throw some carbon fiber at that. Now we're talking even crazier things. MG has a gravel wheel set coming in which weighs in at 1305 grams for the set. Internal width on those? 30mm!! 

As MG said to me, "We are (living) in super great times." Amen to that! 

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

End Of Year Scheduling

Like it or not, we are entering the final stretch of 2019. The holidays are cranking up, and before you know it, you'll have broken all your New Year's resolutions again and mid-January depression will be setting in. Or hopefully you have a more realistic handle on life and you won't be entering into any of the upcoming insanity.

I know what I'll be doing. December will be quite the month with some of the regular fixings and a couple of surprises. I'll let the surprises be a mystery for now, but I did want to go over what you can expect here over the next several weeks on Guitar Ted Productions.

Obviously Thanksgiving Day will be a day off here. Then the regularly scheduled posts will follow on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. That brings us into December.

Traditionally December here brings the "Rear View" posts which is my retrospective on the year which is about to close. Since this is also the end of the decade, I'll also be touching upon some of the highlights of the 2010-2019 time span here. Those will also be "Rear View" posts, but you will know they are not about 2019.

I also have done retrospectives on the bikes I used most over the year here. I'm not sure this is a well received or looked for thing. You let me know in the comments if you feel strongly about those posts. I may skip that due to the amount of retrospective stuff I plan and with the upcoming news posts.

Finally, I am drafting up another round of "The State Of The Gravel Scene" posts. Got any subject matter related to riding gravel events that has been sticking in your craw? Wonder what I think? Ask me now and I'll cover it in these upcoming posts which will be published January 1st and beyond if there is enough to make multiple posts.

Okay, that should do it and this should give you readers an idea of what to expect now through New Year's and beyond. As always...... Thank You For Reading Guitar Ted Productions!

Monday, November 25, 2019

Brown Season: On Borrowed Time

They don't get much better than this in late November.
The skies were blue, the fields all cleared, (well.....almost all of them), and the roads were super-fast. It was time to get while the gettin' was good. Saturday started off pretty cold and frosty, so I waited until after lunch when the temperatures were into the upper 40's and the Sun was riding high. As high as the Sun gets a month out from the Winter Solstice, that is.

The respite from early Winter has made for a nice little window of opportunity to get out and ride the country roads a few "last times" before we get hammered by Winter again. Supposedly today is our last, good chance at riding without a storm, or a lot of snow and ice on the gravel for a while, at least.

As I said, the roads were fast. The harvest is almost complete around here now, and the County will not be interested in maintenance until next Spring now. The roads will freeze up, the rock has been pushed into the pulverized limestone and dirt now, and the tracks are buttery smooth in many places by this time. Despite rains and the cooler temperatures, the wind has managed to keep the roads fairly dry. That means my tires didn't push into the road bed, and that meant more speed. At least where the rock wasn't still sitting on top of the roads.

I had swapped out to 650B X 47mm WTB Venture rubber for the Winter, and that wider footprint lends better float, so had the roads been softer, at least I wasn't going to push into that as far as I may have with 700c X 40mm tires. But as I say, the wind made it all a moot point Saturday. And it was windy! In town it was very deceptive. A mere breeze. But out in the open it was a strong, Southwesterly, and I worked hard getting South on the first part of my ride.

Many farmers are letting the cattle graze the corn stubble now.
Super-smooth and fast roads made for an easier push against the wind going South.
This time of the year is interesting to me. In my opinion, it brings us views much closer to what this area may have looked like 150-200 years ago when nothing but tall grass prairie would have dominated the view of humans living around this area. With the crops gone, everything that sticks up off the horizon is pretty much due to the white settlers of the land in the 19th Century. Things like groves of trees, buildings, of course, and utility poles. It's easier to mask those out as you stare outward across the prairies. It must have been quite an intimidating landscape back then, with no real good way to navigate your way through.

Light filters through a decaying old farm outbuilding.
Look carefully in the middle of this image and you'll see two Bald Eagles in flight.
I decided that something between two to three hours was sufficient for a ride, so I reached a good turning point, and I went East. As I was grinding up a grade, I heard the scream of an Eagle bourne upon the wind, which was coming from my right, more or less, at that moment. I turned to look and when my eyes caught up, I saw two Bald Eagles in what can only be described as a dance with each other in mid-air. They were being carried along by the stiff wind, only taking brief opportunities to stay aloft with their long, outstretched wings. I managed to grab a shot, then I stood staring at them until they disappeared in the haze along the horizon.

I have heard that in mountainous areas, eagles mate with each other by falling through the air. Was this what I was witnessing? I don't know, but it was one of those times when the beauty and the majesty of Creation had me in tears. I was a mess for a couple of miles afterward.

It is for moments like that which I ride. They don't come very often, but when they do........ Yeah, that was good. Really good. The rest of the loop was great too. I saw more cows in the corn, and once back into town on the bike trail, I saw a beautiful red cardinal. Icing on the cake, you could say.

Will this be the last ride of 2019 for the "Bubblegum Princess"?
I noted that the bottom bracket on the pink MCD is really grumbly now. Time for a new one! Those Shimano outboard bearing units, while cheap, are not noted to be a very robust, long lasting design. I really don't like how they wear. Usually within about half their lifespan they start feeling weird, rough, and kind of grumbly. I generally put up with that for a bit until they feel really grumbly, like you get buzzed under your feet through the crankarm grumbly. All the while they don't display any wobbly knocking, like when you check a bike for a loose bottom bracket. They feel tight, but they turn roughly.

So, I am going to pony up for a Chris King bottom bracket here. I'll get a purple one, most likely, because, why not? But with money being tight and all, and since I have other bikes, well, this means the ol' Black Mountain Cycles rig is likely done for the year. It may not matter much if we get the predicted snows they have been talking about. So while the gravel gets blanketed in a covering of white, I can always ride the fat bikes I have in the interim.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Trans Iowa Stories: Endurance Promoting

Post-stuck image. T.I.v4 recon shortly before the event.
  "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!

Trans Iowa v4 was mainly a survival event. Obstacle course? Ah.........crap-show? Well, we ended up calling our experience "endurance promoting". Trans Iowa v4 was all of the above, certainly. It all started, as most "bad" Trans Iowas do, with weather.

We had a particularly deep, late running Winter that year, as I recall. David Pals and I tried to do recon the December before, but with -12°F below zero temps, snow packed in the roads, and no good way to assess the roadways, we bailed out on recon after only a handful of miles. We kept hoping that Winter would relent, but by mid-March we were still no where closer to verifying the route and snow was still on a lot of the roadways. We finally knocked out recon just before I had to go to Sea Otter and David did the cues, last minute-like. The week of the event I was still verifying roads, in the rain, and ended up getting my Honda stuck in a Level B road. I managed to miraculously push it out unassisted, and drove it a quarter mile in axle deep mud to freedom. That was just a portent of things to come.......

Rain was prominent that week, and we were getting flooding all across Iowa. In fact, the morning of the Pre-Race David called to say that he may not make it due to a basement flooding. I was in a panic as he had the cue sheets! Well, it worked out, but then I was afraid that the roads were going to be bad. I back-drove a big portion of the beginning of the event, and saw that while things were iffy, it was clear.

The event was kicking off with the pre-race meeting at T-Bock's in Decorah, like the year before, but instead of in the vacant Odd Fellows attic, we had T-Bock's party room. They even offered two different kinds of sauce for the spaghetti. And they requested that I taste-test the sauces the morning before the meeting. The cook actually reduced the sauce all day. Amazing! It was as if this Trans Iowa thing was a "big deal" or something. I remember thinking people were taking this waaaay too seriously. Taste-testing the spaghetti sauce? Outrageous!

Back-driving the T.I.v4 course the morning of the pre-race I saw this calf. It became the T.I.v5 header
At least the riders were loose and relaxed. I recall the T-Bock's staff were amazed at the amount of beer they sold prior to a 300+ mile endurance event! The rest of that day was unremarkable. David made it up, of course, and we hit the hay and got a pretty decent amount of sleep. Overnight we were supposed to see a cold front come through. I remember hearing the wind howl across the roof of the motel as I fell asleep that evening.....

The next morning we got up at 3:00am to howling Northwest winds and snow? Yes- snow! It was blown in on a frigid wind and the riders which were gathering on Ice Cave Road that morning were all assembling behind some dump trucks parked in a gravel lot at the corner to get out of the icy blast. I recall Craig Severson, then a co-worker of mine, shivering with nothing on but a light jacket and no tights or anything beyond cycling bibs. I was really concerned for him, as it was probably in the teens for windchill that morning. Fortunately wisdom got the better of him and he bailed not long after the frigid start.

Oh yeah.....the wind! It was so powerful it was knocking riders off into the ditches. I remember John Gorilla telling me years after the event that he figures he got blown over at least three times that day. Him and most of the field of riders went down at least once that frigid morning. It even almost knocked me over a few times as I stood peering Eastward on a hilltop South of Cresco, Iowa, looking for any signs of the leaders. It was also the only Trans Iowa that I ever saw snow. Now, other riders say they saw snow in other Trans Iowas, but I can only verify that it happened at v4.

The lead pack grouped together South of Cresco, Iowa during T.I.v4
The reroutes happened all day, and with the wind, it made the going really slow. David and I were nervously watching the clock, doing calculations, and working that against what we had set as a cut off time to reach the first of two checkpoints that year. It was going to be really close for many riders. DNF's were happening at an alarming rate, and as we neared Wadena, Iowa, a small hamlet in the middle of a valley surrounded by hills, we knew the field was going to be whittled down to a bare minimum of riders.

Riders were getting turned around on the twisting roads North of Wadena and as time ran out, I recall that many of them were saying they could see Wadena as they were struggling to get in under the time cut. So close, and yet too far! What a feeling that must have been! David and I went down into the village where a lot of riders were calling it quits for the day. It was then that we heard that cell phone coverage was bad, or non-existent, in the town. No wonder we couldn't get a hold of the check point volunteers! I recall feeling bad as riders, spent from their efforts against the elements, were forced to climb the steep hills surrounding Wadena just to get a call out to their support people. Another lesson learned! (But fortunately cell coverage improved dramatically in the years that followed. Or unfortunately, as we shall see.......)

The riders were getting spanked, and we had some stressful times at points, but as the number of riders in the event dwindled, our "spanking" was ratcheting up. It didn't take long after leaving the first checkpoint for it to start in either.

Next: Endurance Promoting: Part 2

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Minus Ten Review 2009-47

One of the most unusual registration gifts I ever received- shark's teeth.

Ten years ago here on the blog the entire week was all about Trans Iowa v6 registration madness. Back in those days T.I. registration was something all the people at the shop I work at used to look forward to. Even our mailman was excited when Trans Iowa registration time came around.

It was exciting for me as well. The Trans Iowa riders were so creative and thoughtful, it was just nuts. It really was a very special time in the event's history. I looked forward to coming into the shop each day to see what would be showing up.

I got whiskey, pizza, a bag of chips, and cigars that year, but the oddest thing I got, and maybe the most unusual Trans Iowa gift I ever received, was a bag of shark's teeth. I didn't quite know what to make of it, and I wish I still had them. I have no idea where they ended up, but they were a curious gift for sure.

Registration ended that weekend with the roster full at 75 people. Of course, that would dwindle down as the weeks and months went on toward the event, which for 2010 was scheduled back on the last weekend in April instead of the first weekend of May, as T.I.v5 had been held. That was because I did not plan on going to Sea Otter, and in fact, I haven't been back there since that year.

There also was a ride that I did ten years ago with A-Lo, a former co-worker of mine, and David Pals, my co-director in Trans Iowa at that point. It was a fun day out on the bike, and an unusually warm day with temperatures in the 50's. I chose to ride my old steel El Mariachi which was geared far too low for gravel travel, and I spun my legs out like crazy on that three hour ride. Good times!

Friday, November 22, 2019

Gravel Grinder News Flash! The Heywood Ride

Almanzo is no longer- Now there is The Heywood Ride
News came in today that the event once known as the Almanzo 100, which had traded hands and had the name retired, will now be called "The Heywood Ride". The event will be run out of Northfield, Minnesota on the third week of May. Presumably this would be on Saturday, which was the traditional date for the Almanzo 100.

The Almanzo 100 and its attendant events, the Royal 165, and the 380 mile long Alexander, were run out of Spring Valley, Minnesota until 2018. Then, in a series of strange events, Almanzo ended up in Northfield, then it was changed in terms of details on how it was run, and then the event was turned over to the new Race Director, Marty Larson. For a deeper dive into the history of these events concerning the Almanzo 100, see this post.

After the 2019 running, Almanzo's creator, Chris Skogen, retired the name. It was unclear then what was going to happen with an event on gravel which now had no name. Then today's news came out. So, that piece of the puzzle has been solved. More details will be coming, so stay tuned to this channel and for more updates.

Friday News And Views

Iowa Gravel Expo- Pop Up Series: 

Over the last two years N.Y. Roll and I have put on an "Iowa Gravel Expo/Bike Party" which was a one day event. I covered recently how this was going to change and turn into a series. Well, we have details now to share. 

This time we have a sponsor and venue in Second State Brewing Company. We also have another sponsor in Andy's Bike Shop. The series will have four dates- two in January and two in February, so hopefully a lot of the area gravel grinders can attend at least one of these- or all if you are so inclined. Here are the dates, which are all Wednesday evenings starting at 6:30pm at Second State Brewing Co.
Each session should last an hour-ish or a little longer. We are also inviting Iowa gravel event promoters to come and speak at these since one of our aims is to promote Iowa gravel events. In lieu of promoters, should we get an evening where we do not have any, or weather prevents them from attending, we will do a short presentation for selected events on our own.

Specific gravel related topics: N.Y. Roll and I will also serve up tips and recommendations on various gravel related subjects during each session. The plan is to make each session unique, so you may want to attend several of these. The main point we have is to celebrate Iowa gravel events, and as a community of riders, just get together and have a good time through a part of the year that is typically when we aren't out there doing what we really like to do.

So, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns about these events, please comment here, or go to the Facebook page, (Link in red above) and leave us a comment there. Thanks! We hope to rub elbows with a lot of you this Winter.

Patent application drawings for Lauf's rear sus ideas.
Lauf Working On Rear Suspension For Gravel:

A recent "Bike Radar" article revealed that Lauf, famous for its leaf sprung, backwards looking forks, is working on an idea for rear suspension using leaf springs.

Comments: Showing three different ideas, it is clear that Lauf is still in the development stages of this idea, but it bears watching, as the gravel segment of cycling is still heating up, and is one of the only bright spots in the sport now. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see something fast-tracked to prototype stage to be shown at various gravel events in 2020.

To my way of thinking, the idea that Lauf is pursuing is much more acceptable than where Niner Bikes went by using more "traditional" telescopic suspension with the complex rear linkage system. Minimal amounts of suspension travel, in this case less than 80mm, lends itself to more simplistic designs, and when executed correctly, it can be a superior riding experience.

This Lauf idea is very intriguing. In my opinion, the direct competitors to Lauf will be those that use suspension seat post designs. While what Lauf is doing will be activated anytime a rider in on the bike and moving, where a suspension seat post is not, (only works while seated), the Lauf idea has some concerning limitations. For instance, how do you account for differing rider weights and styles? The design has to work similarly across a wide size range. That's not going to be easy to pull off. Plus, it cannot infringe upon anyone else's patents, a definite limitation.

Those are not insurmountable obstacles, but I have to wonder, why didn't Lauf apply what they are doing with the fork on the rear of the bike? Yes- it wouldn't look traditional. But that didn't stop them from making the ugliest fork in the road bike market. So.....?? Anyway, this will be interesting to follow.

Add caption
End Of Year Changes:

Next month brings a close to 2019, and obviously I have been doing a lot of thinking about that and how it relates to what I do here and professionally. I kind of do this every year- I take stock of where I've been and where I want to go with this. First of all- Thank you all- each and every one of you, for reading this stuff I put out. I could never thank you all enough.

Secondly- This blog will continue, so no worries there. 

With that out of the way, I think 2020 will be a great year to do a few things differently. It will mark a new era, as I will have closed out 15 years of blogging in May of 2020. So, I want to do a little celebration of that.

Part of that will include a change to one of the longest running series on the blog. The "Minus Ten Review", which covers the happenings here from ten years previous, will change slightly. Part of the intentions there were that I wanted to document, in a weekly fashion, what I did to develop the blog. However; that morphed into me riffing on a theme and telling stories. Many times this did not have anything at all to do with ten years ago.

Since I feel I have gone over the beginnings of the blog, covering the initial four years here, I thought that maybe it was time to just admit that I want to tell stories based upon things I've done over the past 15 years here and riff on that. So, the "Minus Ten Review" will morph into something else. Something based on the 15 year idea. I've got a pot full of themes here and some deserve some refreshing, retelling, and expounding upon. So, look for that idea to start up next January.

Other than that, the blog will pretty much remain the same. I think you'll notice some new twists though. There are plans on the horizon for multi-media connections. I may have my own, "Guitar Ted-centric" podcast dealing with the blog stuff. Maybe even video. I will definitely be doing more on the podcast/video/live stream side in connection with something new I will be involved in for 2020. That's exciting for me on several levels. I cannot wait to release this news.

There will also be some major changes professionally. Things ending. Things beginning. I cannot say anything more than this right now, but a clearer pathway into 2020 is forming now and I am pretty happy about that.

Stay tuned folks. It's going to be a bumpy ride!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Blackbuck Report

So back on October 1st I wrote about the upgraded Blackbuck. I mentioned that I wanted to get out and ride it after that, and well........I did. 


But knowing that bike like I do, I knew right off how good- or how bad- it was. There really are no surprises anymore with that bike. But there are things you might forget, and then be reminded of, after such a long time off the bike.

Things like how stiff that chassis is, or how a Thomson post is pretty unforgiving. I'd kind of forgotten how a steeper head angle worked with a long- for today's standards- stem. But those things came back to me and then were immediately familiar. I was just out for a cruise. I wasn't trying to rip-roar as fast as I could go. Besides, it was wet and the mud made things loose and sketchy. Wet leaves made for treacherous corners. No need to go and remind myself of what happens when you tempt fate in such conditions. Been there- done that.

I don't know what I expected. The wheels were......fine. No big deal. The White Industries bits worked. Just like they would, ya know. So, nothing Earth-shattering here, just a ramble on an old friend of a bike I've had for years. In fact, I found I missed this old thing. I was envisioning more single track rides and where I could go to test my legs on this bike. That's a good sign and I am glad that this bike is up and running again.

This was right about the time when Winter arrested Fall and held it hostage.
One thing I had forgotten about this bike. That is that it has the original style Avid BB-7's. You can tell when you get these by the calipers and the adjuster knobs. The adjusters are different. They do not have the Torx fitting in the center. The calipers are one piece. Not split and bolted together like all the ones you've probably seen all your life. These Avid BB-7's are fundamentally different than subsequent issues of this model. My calipers are vintage 2003, so you have to go pretty far back to find these. should. They are fantastic. They make newer BB-7's feel like junk.

In fact, I've heard rumors that trailsin guys seek these early BB-7's out for the one piece caliper design because of their superior clamping power. All I know is that paired with my Avid long pull levers from the mid-90's, these brakes have hydraulic power and feel. These are better than 90% of the hydraulic brakes I've ever used on flat bar MTB's. It doesn't hurt that these were the OG brakes on my 2003 Karate Monkey, which I moved to my first Inbred, and ultimately over to this bike. So, we have history.

One of these days I want to transition the off-color bits to silver or red anodized parts so I will eventually have a bike that looks like it makes sense visually. That said, this bike makes a ton of sense on trails, so I won't be making any radical component changes at all.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The Return Of Brown Season

The snow melted, the rains came back, the temperature rose, and the mud returned.
Last week at this time I was in full-on winter commuting mode and we had snow all over the place with icy patches to boot. This week? Well, one week later the highs are in the upper 40's, the snow is gone, and ice has been replaced with wet leaves. Both are very slippery and treacherous, but landing on mud and wet leaves beats hitting concrete hard dirt and ice any day. That is, if you were to crash.

The weather has gone to a wet, moist, and definitely late Fall-like feel. it's so weird having had an interruption by Winter, and how that icy cold has basically altered the way the leaves are falling, the way the leaves are decaying, and how that is working into the soil already in the woods. There are patches where the water in puddles is so stained by the tannins from leaves that it is orange-yellow or deep brown. Many trees still have green leaves on them, which never had a chance to turn colors, because we had such a quick, deep freeze a few weeks ago. It's been an odd Fall, for sure, and I am just glad it came back for a bit.

I have a component I needed to test out on my bike, so I went off to Lower Hartman to check out the single track. I'm not hip to the modernized names that CVAST (the local soft trails association) has given these trails. I remember them by their old names. I went down old Shirey Way to a deer trail and bushwhacked through that toward the old "John's Trail", which I have spoken of here before.

John's Trail was a quickly made affair. I recall we laid it out in a day along an old deer trail, for the most part. Oddly enough it was one of the trails that managed to survive all the major floods and is mostly intact as far as its original layout. Only the far West end has been modified from the way it used to be. But no one really cares about any of that anymore. I'm probably one of very, very few people that even knows anything about the old Lower Hartman trails and their origins these days. I don't mean to brag, but all the younginz probably don't have a clue as to the who, what, or why many of these trails were put in back in the 90's. And none of them bother to find out, which is why I say no one cares.

Its as if you were a million miles from civilization, but this is within maybe four city blocks of residential areas.
Well, I had a wonderful pre-work ride. It was almost foggy, drippy, and there was zero wind. One of those days when everything seemed drenched in peace. I almost didn't go to work! (Not that there is much to go for these days, but anyway.....) It was a good respite from the stress which has characterized things in my life of late. Good stuff! I highly recommend a good woods ride on a quiet day.

The Cedar Valley has a healthy and active beaver population. Evidenced by this fallen sapling.
I have all my fender action going on here with the Ti Muk 2, which needed testing, and it all came through in flying colors. No mess on me, and mostly none on the bike. I have one more place I want to try a shield for splashing muck and that is behind the seat tube. I think I am going to try to fabricate this out of milk jugs. We'll see. I'm in no big hurry to do that though.

I did note that the Terrene Cake Eaters were slipping on wet rocks and roots under the leaves. Probably due to my "commuting tire pressures". I am not too concerned by this. If I were to lower the pressures a couple of psi, I think that would make a huge difference in the way these tires worked over such things in these conditions. Overall though, I am really pleased with the Cake Eaters. They roll pretty well, and yet they display good grip, and last week in the snow they were mildly impressive, so I am keeping those on for now.

I did stick on the old Revelate/Salsa/Surly frame bag meant for this bike and I have to say that while the quality is good, I am not a big fan of how it was fitted for this bike, and the internal divider is vertical, not horizontal. Soooo...... That's coming off. I really don't need it either, so after a bit of cleaning up I think it's going on the Garage Sale Page here. My purple Bike Bag Dude one is going back on, despite it being not quite right, but then, it was made to fit the 2012 Ti Muk, not the 2015 one! Still, it is close enough and it has a LOT more room than the original bag here.

This bike will be slop-season/Winter ready soon. I have to re-check sealant levels, and then I should be good to go through most of the season to come.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Trans Iowa Stories: Bonus- Registration: Part 1

 "Trans Iowa Stories" is an every Sunday post- (except today!)-  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!

Note: With some events announcing registration this week and with a peculiar requirement from one, I thought it would be a good mid-week bonus post to talk about my philosophies on registration, who could get in or not, and all in relation to Trans Iowa versus other gravel events.

Now it has to be said that with only 550 unique individuals that ever were in Trans Iowa over 14 events, it is obvious that it was a hard race to get into. I want to make this distinction about Trans Iowa though- while I rewarded experience, winners, and people who were loyal, I made room for absolutely anyone else that wanted to try it out. That was not a very popular position amongst many folks that commented on Trans Iowa throughout the years.

There were grumbles throughout the years that I was "wasting spots" on riders that weren't worthy of trying a triple plus century in potentially tough conditions. They thought there should be some sort of seeding system, or that riders should have to show some sort of resume' to me to gain entry if they were a "rookie" to the event. Obviously, that never happened.
From the Leadboat Challenge registration page.
 My take on it was that while there could be some folks that may get in that were over their head, (and that happened every year), at least they were getting their feet wet and were learning. Sometimes these folks were coming back and eventually overcoming the challenge. Sometimes no one had any idea who this person was and they slayed Trans Iowa on their first attempt. Who knows who is going to be which? You find out by giving them a chance. That was my take on how I dealt with rookies.

Now with the way things went, I ended up having to go with a lottery, but I tried to keep it open to rookies, and I think I did that. It was a tough job to balance things out. I think I managed it pretty well. Some folks got in that never finished a Trans Iowa, but I know that their experiences were rich, life changing, and that friendships were forged. That's worth letting someone in that maybe 'was just taking up roster space' in someone else's eyes. And again- for the umpteenth millionth time- Trans Iowa was never the event that could handle vast amounts of people in one shot. I mean, most "big time" gravel events eclipse the number of folks that did Trans Iowa in 14 years in one single event.

Image by David Pals of Trans Iowa v5
And other events do things however they see fit, but increasingly I see lotteries that exclude, not ones that include. I see "so-called-lotteries", which I am going to bet are actually selection processes done behind closed doors in a way that only the race directors know. And now we see out-and-out application requests, much like what was asked of me for Trans Iowa back in the day. I don't like this new trend at all, and fortunately, most gravel events do not handle things this way. The ones with a ton of marketing, high-brow "influencers", and former Pro road racers seem to be making a LOT of noise, rendering the direction of the narrative to be skewed toward them. But listen, it isn't true, it isn't true to gravel's roots within the last 20 years, and in my opinion, those races aren't "gravel grinders" anymore. They are something else altogether. Here's something I wrote back in 2016 about gravel grinders:

" People come to these gravel based cycling events and they know they will be accepted. They know that there isn't a hierarchy based upon classes, points, categories, or what have you. People understand that you can show up on a Schwinn Collegiate converted to single speed and get the same amount of respect and acceptance as a guy on the latest Open Cycles UP rig. People understand that if you need help out on the course, someone, or five, will offer you assistance. In the gravel scene, there basically is only one rule. That is, "Don't be a dick", to put it bluntly. It seems to have been a widely accepted, respected, and followed rule, as far as I can tell."

Trans Iowa folks always held to that rule whether you were a rank beginner or the guy that won the year before, or anyone in between. In my event I wanted registration to reflect this. I wanted a wide variety of folks and with all sorts of skill levels present. One story I will share here reflects this.

I used to lead a local weekly gravel event. I had "one last ride" in November of that year, and only two people showed up to ride. They were a couple, two women, and one was on a Next department store bike and the other was on a 70's era Kubuki. We went out, slow- but we went out, and I tried to make the ride the most fun that I could. Later, after I had regaled them with some gravel stories on the ride about Trans Iowa and other events, they asked about getting into Trans Iowa. Now they were about as "rookie" as it gets, so I went about giving them advice and whatnot. Whatever ideas I could share with them, I did.

They made it through the registration, and they then committed to training. One of the couple had gotten a good, sturdy bike for Trans Iowa, and she wanted to get her partner a better bike, but money was an obstacle. So, I had a bike and made that obstacle go away. They were set. They had a goal- to reach Checkpoint #1, and they did due diligence and showed up for Trans Iowa v9. Just the fact that I saw them making the start line filled me with immense pride. But you know what, they made their goal too. 

If that isn't winning, I don't want anything else to do with gravel grinding events ever again. Trans Iowa was always as open as I could make it towards all skill levels, and in my mind, that was what gravel grinding as a genre' should have been all about all along.

Thanks for reading this "bonus" Trans Iowa Stories post. I'll have another one coming Sunday, so stay tuned.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Not Quite Right

Preparing for Winter
Saturday morning rolled around and I tried rolling out of bed. unnnnh! oooh! OW! 

Something was not quite right. You know the feeling. When the joints ache, the head feels like someone is trying to crack it open from the inside, and are you dead tired, despite getting plenty of sleep. Yep! I was sick. Something.....whatever it was, was trying to bring me down. So, I knew I was out as far as riding a bicycle went.

I did get some work done that I'd been neglecting over the last few weeks. Can redemption, grocery shopping with Mrs. Guitar Ted, and some other little things. I took it pretty easy though, and I drank water throughout the day. I still felt "not quite right" when I went to bed though. It continued on into Sunday as well. So, the rain on Sunday was not a big deal to me.

Instead, I decided to get some Winter preparation work done. On bicycles, that is. I had thought about those studded tires, the 45NRTH Gravdals, and I found a spare set of wheels that weren't going anywhere soon, and slapped those together. These could go on the pink BMC MCD whenever I needed grip on ice. Of course, this level of preparation guarantees that I will not need them the rest of the Winter. (I hope) We'll see......

Then I decided to refresh the 650B Irwin Cycles wheels shod with the WTB Venture tires. This combination worked last March in a surprising way on some icy, snowy bike trails. I already know it works well on softer, wet gravel too. These are the sort of conditions we get in Winter on gravel roads, unless it goes all ice, or it gets so cold it becomes impossible to stay warm for longer than an hour. Then I will retreat into the woods and ride a fat bike.

Now, my body being not quite right isn't the only thing lately which hasn't been "quite right" and this has also been an issue for me. It has to do with my job at the bike shop. Things are in upheaval, and in the coming weeks, there could be some major changes. Well........there will be. Just what will happen has me, and the rest of my co-workers, in a state of stress which is not a lot of fun to be going through, as you might imagine. And I have to believe this has something to do with what happened with me this weekend as well.

I don't have a lot to complain about in life, and really, I have it pretty good. So, don't go and think my life is going down the toilet, or that things are super-bad here with me. There are folks with a LOT worse things going on than myself, and I realize that. But that said, I won't be looking back on 2019 with a ton of fondness. Especially on the professional side. Still, I am blessed, and that's what I'm focusing on.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Trans Iowa Stories: Meeting New Friends

The header Jeff Kerkove made using a David Story image from v3
 "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!

Trans Iowa v3 and v4 were notable from the perspective of my gaining several new friends and acquaintances. The "Lincoln Crew" from v3, the "Slender Fungus" guys from v4, and other individuals like Charlie Farrow, Tim Ek, Joe Meiser, Charles Parsons, John Gorilla, and more were folks I got to know starting back in those days. Many of these characters came back for ten Trans Iowas or more. Amazing!

One of these people I got to know was actually my co-director, David Pals. He became a great help to me immediately in putting on the next Trans Iowa. I probably could have leaned on him more initially than I did, but as the "caretaker" of the event, I felt a bit protective, I suppose, and I was still also formulating the spirit of this event as I became more comfortable in my skin as an event director.

As I've said before, David didn't seem interested in being the spokesperson for Trans Iowa. That probably also contributed to my kind of pushing myself through in the beginning. So, he never really got integrated into the event as a "co-director" in the public eye. I was not very sensitive in that way, and it became an issue at times. But still, in the beginning anyway, we got on quite well, and David had some really good input into the event which shaped it for years to come.

One of his ideas we used in v4 was multiple checkpoints. Instead of essentially splitting the distance into two and having one single checkpoint, David suggested having two checkpoints, splitting the course into thirds. This would allow us to have more control over keeping track of riders, which was a huge headache for me in v3.

This image from T.I.v4's pre-race meeting is interesting- (Image taker unknown)
So, back to meeting folks. I have an image here today from an unknown photographer showing myself pontificating as usual. To my left (the right as you look at it here)  of at the table is Steve Fuller. Steve became a good friend after this. He showed up to help keep track of results and riders. I really am not quite sure how that happened, but there he is! We had a computer with a spread sheet! Boy! Was Trans Iowa a "thing" now, or what?

Just to Steve's left there, in the green cap, is Michael Rowe, and next to him , almost out of the frame, is Ari Andonopoulous. These two characters became Trans Iowa "super-fans" and good friends of mine. This was the first time we met here in v4. Immediately to my right is David Pals, and his brother, Mark, who volunteered that year. I'm not sure who else has their back to the camera here, but I probably got to know them over the years as well. Trans Iowa v4 was the one that had a lot of return riders on the roster in later years. So, from that perspective, it was a watershed year for me.

On the other hand, this was the end of the line for a lot of original Trans Iowans. People that came for v1, v2, v3, and v4, but never showed up again. But like I said, v3 was a prototype, and a pattern which was followed till v14, and the earlier riders maybe didn't jive with the "big assed loop" idea, or multiple checkpoints, or the novelty of the event wore off. Who knows? I just know that after v4 a lot of continuity with regard to riders started happening, and for several reasons, I liked that. I'll get around to saying why in later editions of this series.

Next: Endurance Promoting

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Minus Ten Review 2009-46

Breaking in the "Truck With No Name" right by doing recon for T.I.v6
Ten years ago this week I was doing recon for Trans Iowa v6 and then it was a meeting with the Grinnell folks, then it was all T.I.v6 registration for the remainder of the week.

I should probably hold off on some of this for the "Trans Iowa Stories" series, (next post will be up tomorrow), but I will say a bit here, since nothing else was really on the blog that week ten years ago but T.I.v6 stuff.

I chose today's image because it represents a bit of skullduggery that I used to pull off whenever I did Trans Iowa related posts on the blog. You must remember that there never were any leaks or even much of any hinting about our courses. The directions and even many features concerning T.I. courses was always kept very close to the vest. I also understood that many folks would be trying to piece together what I was up to based upon my imagery here. So, I was cognizant of many things whenever posting recon images for Trans Iowa. (This goes for C.O.G. 100 pics as well, by the way.)
  • I never posted any images with the corner "street signs", as this would give away position and may lead to folks guessing the course direction, and/or allowing for cheating, or for folks to camp out at those spots hoping to be spectators, ( or aiding in cheating). 
  • I tried to be cagey with images of bridges, or identifiable structures. (See above for reasons why)
  • I never posted village images for obvious reasons. 
  • I would sprinkle in images from places not on the T.I. course. (See today's image, ostensibly from T.I.v6, but not actually on the course)
  • I would post images out of order to throw off folks thinking they could tell which direction I was going in from shadows and the position of the Sun in imagery. 
And y'all probably thought I was just blithely posting images from my recon, and as well you should have. But I was always trying to think about the cheaters.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Friday News And Views

REEB Hooptie- Single Speed only, 29" wheels, like it was meant to be.
REEB Hooptie SS Announced:

Oh yeah! A cruiser style frame, MTB wheels, and skinny CrMo frame tubes. Why do we like this sort of thing so much? (Asking those of you that actually do like this sort of thing a lot)

Look, I get it...... Not everyone sees the appeal, but this is the sort of bike I like. I think REEB (Which, if you didn't know, is "BEER" backwards), nailed this in a much more "Surly" way than even that company has managed to do in recent years. (Which begs the question: What the heck, Surly! This is a no-brainer for you!)

Anyway..... Simple track ends, QR wheels because you probably have them or can buy a killer set used cheap, and dedicated to single speed. Now that's the sort of commitment I like to see. None of this geared or single nonsense. One way or ta'other! Even the price is great for either the frame only or complete build.

Don't look at me if you think I'd get one though. I do not need another single speed bike. So, things like little details of aesthetics would have had to have been spot on for me to lose all inhibitions to getting this. That said, I would recommend this one to anyone else. It's the perfect "hooligan" bike and would be a ton of fun.Check out the REEB Hooptie here.

This does not look like it is supposed to be from this month at all.
 Welcome To "Novembruary":

This past week was the end all. I was in full January regalia at one point on a commute, and I looked at the calendar. Lies! No way is it only the second week of November. This must be some parallel universe I am in which has different weather.

I dubbed it "Novembruary".

Fall? HA! What "Fall" What we did have was wet, colder than normal, and dismal for bicycling activities. For the second year in a row, my favorite cycling season gets short-circuited. I felt cheated.

Oh well..... This has the look of last Winter when we had a cold snap in November, a thaw, decent weather for December and early January, (minus the storms and rains), and then the most horrific, snowy February and March ever. Uggh! I hope I am wrong, but this feels like last year's Winter so far.

The short term looks better. Temperatures are supposed to get back closer to normals, and riding on gravel may actually happen again. I hope so as I have some test and review work to get done. (See yesterday's post)

Lots of bikes will fit 650B X 47, so where are the Winter tires?
Looking For Studs:

With the early onset of icy, snowy conditions here, thoughts amongst my cycling friends has turned to studded tires again. This got me to thinking about a certain application for studs that, to my knowledge, doesn't exist. That being the 650B X 47mm size.

My thoughts are that if I want to ride all Winter on my "gravel bike", and that bike can fit a 650B tire, well why wouldn't it make sense to have a studded tire option? The footprint of such a tire would, in my opinion, be better on ice and snow than a 700c X 42mm tire, and I likely can get away with lower pressure in those more voluminous tires than a 700c X 42mm, lending me even more traction.

I actually already have 700c X 40mm Gravdal studded tires which I would use. However; if I had a 650B X 47mm option in a studded tire, I would pick it over the 700c tire every day I needed a studded tire. So, where are these choices? I cannot find even one.

Sure, there are wider, gnarlier, MTB studded tires in 650B, but they won't fit my bike and they have far too aggressive a tread pattern. There are 650B X 38mm options in studded tires, but that is too narrow and too small a diameter. May as well just run my 700c X 40mm Gravdals. Finally, I don't want to have to make my own, but if I did, I'd use the 650B X 47 Sendero tires from WTB. Those at least have knobs meaty enough for studding.

That's it for this week! Hope y'all stay safe, get some riding in, and thanks again for reading the blog!

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Getting My GRX On: Update #2

Before the snows.
Okay folks, I've ridden GRX components more since the last update, and I figured what the heck, it's time for an update again. So, here's the deal so far. But first- Shimano sent these components over for test and review at no charge. I am not being paid, nor bribed for this post.

I'll take some categories here and expound on my experiences so far within each category. Shifting, braking, ergonomics, and ride performance overall.

First up: Shifting- the GRX stuff, so Shimano says, is its own group. They really don't like comparisons to the road groups, but look- GRX 800 is pretty much Ultegra level stuff. With that out of the way, let's compare and contrast using Ultegra as our baseline.

In my opinion, having been on Ultegra 11 speed for many years now, the GRX stuff actually works better. It takes less movement of the lever to actuate a shift, and the shifting is so nice, you'd never guess there was a clutch on that GRX derailleur, but there is, of course. I mention this because I have seen folks mention that they really didn't see why road stuff needed clutch rear derailleurs because of their fears that it would make the shifting feel weird. It doesn't. Not at all. Like I said- it's actually the best shifting bike I have over any of my Ultegra bikes. 

I did have to adjust the cable once. But that's to be expected. Beyond this, the shifting has been a non-issue with the only possible exception being that since it is so easy to shift, I sometimes go lower by two than one when shifting going uphill. Talk about a light touch for this lever!

The best Shimano road hydraulic brakes? Possibly.
Brakes: The Best. Really, they are that good. I haven't been enamored of anyone's hydraulic road disc brakes versus mountain bike brakes since the advent of road disc. The various road disc systems I have used were "okay", but they did not inspire the sort of confidence in stopping, modulation, or power that many mountain brakes have displayed over the years. Now with GRX, road disc brakes have the range of modulation, power, and the overall feel that I have liked with my MTB experiences. GRX brakes have bite, and I have heard that the rotors may actually be "softer" metal which might help to explain that if true. Whatever it is, I like it. And........they are whisper quiet. I almost hate to say it, because I'll have jinxed myself now and they will squeal and howl next time I ride the GX5 bike.

If you've ever wondered why it is that the levers come so far back and almost hit the bars before you feel you've "bottomed out" with regard to power, well then you'll like a good GRX set up. The levers travel about half as far, at least on my bike.

The GRX rear derailleur with a clutch is amazingly quiet and great at shifting.
Ergonomics: When GRX was introduced there was a lot of hoo-ha written about the ergonomic advancements Shimano put into the levers. I thought, "Yeah, yeah, yeah..... We will see about that. Probably no big deal here." Well, I was wrong.

The levers, for all their clunky, angular looks, have a feel which falls to hand in a way that does feel very natural to me. The reach from the drop to the lever end is perfect, in fact it is an easy two-finger reach. At least with the PRO Brand Discovery Big Flare Bar.

The hoods are shaped broadly, but not too bulky, with a new rubber compound and textured surface which feels just fine to me either bare handed or with gloves. I have zero issues with the hoods. Of course, the real test is what the hoods look and feel like after a long time in the field, which, of course, I cannot say yet.

Ride Performance- As you might expect, I have seen no issues that might give me pause as to the design or function of GRX so far. In comparison to Ultegra, I see better brakes, better shifting, and the ergonomics are another step up from Ultegra. It's quieter, and that's probably due to the chain stability the clutch derailleur brings to the table. I did not mention the cassette since Shimano uses existing cassettes from both the road and mountain side with GRX. The one I got is an XT level 11-42T and works as you might expect- really well. The cassette does have a little better spacing for gear jumps throughout the middle of the cassette, which I enjoyed.

The GRX wheels are actually pretty nice.
GRX Wheels:

When Shimano sent me all this stuff to test and review, they also sent out a set of GRX wheels. I have had two basic thoughts whenever I have thought about Shimano wheels in the past. First thing- heavy. Second thing- durable. Oh, I suppose there is a third thing too and that would be narrow rims. I remember those Shimano 29"er wheels they used to tout back ten years ago. Man! Those rims were narrower than gravel wheel's rims nowadays.

Now these wheels are all aluminum, they don't have low spoke counts, and the hubs aren't anything spectacular, so the weight isn't going to wow anyone. That said, the GRX wheels are not crazy heavy, like past Shimano wheels I've tried were. I have the weights written down somewhere, but that will go into the Riding Gravel review when I do that. Tubeless set up was really easy though. Plus the wheels seem airtight, because I lose very little pressure over several days.

While riding these wheels I have been not noticing anything. That's good. No flexiness, no weird noises like spokes pinging and such, and no wobbles. The freehub pawls are fairly silent, but if you tune in, you can still hear them. I can accelerate, stop hard, and corner hard with no ill effects stemming from the wheel construction. In my opinion, these are wheels you just ride into the dirt, however long it takes, and you don't worry about them along the way. I wouldn't call them "race day" wheels, but if you raced on them, they would hold up and perform for you well. So, nothing flashy, all business here.

Now with this early onset of cold and ice, I am not sure when, or even if, I'll be getting more rides on the GRX stuff, but this is the bike I will be riding a lot throughout Winter when the conditions are right for it. I may slot in some 650B X 47mm wheels and tires if things get softer out there. But anyway, I am looking forward to more miles with GRX soon.

Disclaimer above. But to repeat- I did not pay for the GRX bits and Shimano did not bribe me, nor pay me to write this up. In fact, they are not even aware I am doing this here. As far as I know anyway. Look for more on GRX on soon.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

First Ti Muk 2 Winter Ride

The 'sled-necks" were a wee bit excited that it snowed a touch Sunday night/Monday morning.
Well, you just knew it was coming. Snow! Winter has made its presence known in Northeastern Iowa. Sunday night and into Monday morning, we received about 4" max. maybe 3.5". Anyway, it was an odd snow, since it would have been this powdery fluff, had it happened a month from now. It wasn't though, as it absorbed a lot of moisture from the ground since it hasn't really froze here yet. That kept it from blowing around a lot too, which kept it piled up more than it would have been otherwise.

Sheltered areas had the most snow, but open areas were scoured of the white stuff by 20+ mph winds unless there were ruts or things that the snow could drift behind. A mixed bag of conditions then. Perfect for checking out how this Ti Muk would handle versus the old Mukluks I have ridden.

This would also be the first time in a long time I have used a tubeless set up on snow, and the first time I've used tubeless tires on proper tubeless rims for fat biking on snow. Would that make a difference? These were questions I wanted answers for, even though the snow wasn't much to write home about. So, I planned on tracking in some of my commute to work, as it crosses a couple of grassy, open areas, and goes down a few alleys as well. I didn't want any surprises on Tuesday when I went in for work. I wanted to know what ice conditions might be, and it was certainly cold enough for ice!

Cruising some levee tops.
I found some snow at a depth that made my feet touch the snow at times, so it was fairly deep. I was most struck by this bike's stability in snow. Sometimes changing consistency or changes in the terrain under the snow can upset the bike- especially the front wheel- but this bike seems to be more immune to that. Well, so far anyway. I couldn't fault its handling, that's for sure.

The Rohloff 14 speed internal geared hub has a super low gear and I had spinny gearing for days. That may have been a reason I had more stability? Not sure. The Terrene Cake Eater tires were grippy on ascents of the levee. No issues there. Speaking of the Rohloff, I was also wondering if the weight distribution of the drive train may have been part of the reason for the feelings of stability and traction. I'm certain it has something to do with what I was experiencing. All in all, this Mukluk displayed better handling in snow, so far, and I'll have to report back whenever I can after we have more snow and conditions more conducive to fat biking in that snow.

Stay tuned......