Thursday, December 31, 2020

It's Over - But It's Not Over Yet

 March of this year was looking to be a busy, busy month. N.Y. Roll and I had the C.O.G. 100 coming up fast. Last minute recon needed to be done, and things were coming together in that old familiar way for this guy who has put on events for 15 years. I was looking forward to all the reviewing and all the changes coming in the gravel scene. Then.......

Well, you know all about what came next. 

For the next three months I lived in great fear and a renewed sense of wonder simultaneously. On the one hand, I avoided people like crazy, washed and sanitized like my life depended upon it, (because that was the messaging then) and my only time out of the house besides work was to ride my bicycles in the country. 

Out there I found the wonder, the peace, the beauty of creation that had always been there, but which I hadn't really appreciated all that much. Not like I should have been. And I found escape. Escape from news, from politics, from people saying one thing, and then another. Escape from the fear and anxiety. There were times I never wanted to ride back home. 

The rides to work were weird. The normal crazy traffic was gone. I almost didn't have to look for cars. There was a quietness that was unprecedented. It was the missing din of cars, trucks, and motorcycles. People were staying home, and the effects on the outdoors was immense. I actually found this aspect of what happened really nice, actually. 

There was something about April and May that I miss. Not the fear and anxiety part, but there was a peace over the land and everyone had slowed waaaaay down. The pace of life seemed much more manageable to me, anyway. Maybe not to you and others. I liked that part of what happened too.

I spent a little more time tuning in to stuff like this.
Then May ended and so did the peaceful, slower pace of life. Folks eager to 'return to normal' made the highways busy again. Folks seemed to relax and go back to pretty much the way things were before with the caveat that there were none of the recreational/distractional facets of 'normal' life. Things like restaurants and movies, motels and amusements of all sorts- these were still discouraged. So, the focus changed to outdoors activities, including cycling, and the economy got hammered on that end while the 'normal' businesses were left hung out to dry. And then the political mayhem kicked in.

Presidential election years are something I disdain and I do not look forward to all the grandstanding, hearing the lies, and seeing all the money wasted on print ads and digital stuff. It's rather embarrassing from a national standpoint, not to mention extremely annoying to deal with. Schools were gearing up to bring students in and with a son still in public school, I had that fear and anxiety to deal with concerning his safety as well. Fall came and so did the higher numbers of cases and deaths caused by this plague. The weight of all this and having more concerns about myself and my family's safety was overwhelming. 

Winter is here now and we are still going through the dark valley. The days aren't just shorter, but the times are dimmer as well. People are struggling. Hope seems thin. Holiday seasons are rough enough for many of us without the extra weight of the rest of this nonsense.  So far, we're okay. I am still having rough days, as I am sure many of you out there are. 2020 may be over, but we're still needing to make our way. I'm reminded of an old John Mellencamp song these days:

"Now more than ever 

The world needs Love.

Not just a slogan

But the world needs Love

Now more than ever I can't stand alone

Now more than ever.

We've got a long ways to go yet to make it to the other side. I know I'll need encouragements and I know others will as well. Let's be part of the solution and not part of the problem. Going forward won't be easy and well........when was it ever? This is really just a different set of problems and obstacles to overcome or, at the least, be dealt with in a way that builds us up, as long as we build each other up as well. 

Tomorrow a New Year starts, but really, it's just an artificial marker. A boundary that doesn't really exist, we just believe that it does, so we make it real. We can make what we need to be real come to life in 2021. All we have to do is believe.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Rear View '20: The Top Ten Posts of 2020

 The 15th year of the blog deserves to have a few different things done in celebration of not only what I did, but what you thought about the posts here this year. So, I thought it would be fun to rank the Top Ten posts from the blog during the calendar year 2020. These posts are ranked according to what Blogger stats tell me were the most read posts of the year. 

I'll start with #10 and work up to #1 and then I will put up what post I got the most feedback about, but isn't on the Top Ten List at all for reads. 

Now- On with the list!

#10: A Further Commentary On The Cummins/DK Story, June 23, 2020: 

Much of 2020 was marked by what happened to what was the event known as the "Dirty Kanza 200". Previously, before the turn of the calendar to 2020, back in 2018, it was announced that Life Time Fitness had purchased the Dirty Kanza 200 and its associated events. With that change in ownership, a new set of corporate driven decisions were possible concerning the event and its core principles. Not that anything was meant to change, but with new owners the reins had been handed over. 

This post was an explanation of how corporate decision making and culture trumps personal actions when it comes to public perceptions. It sought to explain 'cancel culture' in this particular instance, and it sought to show that - not only would the event's name have to be changed, but how that all would render this event something completely different going forward. When you 'cancel' your history you don't get to cherry pick elements you want to keep.  

#9: Gravel Grinder News: Dirty Kanza 200 Co-Founder Fired, June 20th, 2020:

Obviously #10 doesn't happen without this happening first and it slotted in at #9 for the most read post of 2020. Pretty self-explanatory here. All over a viewpoint shared on Jim Cummings personal Facebook page. This is representative of a lot of what is frustrating about 2020. But, what about calling people in instead of calling people out? Hmm..... (Some food for thought)

#8: A Concept Bike Revisited Part 4, February 6th, 2020: 

Around about 2011-2012 or so, I was dreaming up what I thought would make for a good gravel bike. This was a pretty deep dive, it was nerdery of the highest order. Then the Tamland happened and that put an end to that dreaming. Well, as I was wont to retire the Tamland going in to 2020, I picked up the thread and started reviewing several bikes I felt were right for me. Apparently, many people thought this was interesting as well. This post slots in at #8 for 2020. 

#7: Salsa Cycles Introduces The Rangefinder, February 1st, 2020:  

The press release machine never stops anymore these days when trade shows are pretty much a dead horse and consumer trade shows are non-existent, even pre-COVID. (Sea Otter notwithstanding) So, these days companies and brands along with marketing agencies often send news to "influential" sites, bloggers, Instagrammers, and the like in a way to get the word out. This post was pretty much my take on the Rangefinder 'range' of bikes introduced by Salsa Cycles along with some of the press release info. It slotted in at #7 for the most read posts of 2020.  

#6: The Elephant In The Room, March 12th, 2020:

On the eve of our World being upended by the pandemic, I wrote this post concerning gravel events for 2020. I asked why in the world no one was talking about just postponing, or even cancelling, the season's events. Obviously, the gravel community thought this was an important topic then, and it still is today. That's probably why it slots in at #6 on my most read posts for 2020. 

#5: A Concept Bike Revisited Part 3, January 28th, 2020: 

Another post from the four part series, this one looked at what materials I preferred in a gravel bike and why, with several examples reviewed. Apparently you readers like nerding out about bicycle stuff here. This put this post at #5 over-all for the year. 

#4: The New Job Announcement, January 7th, 2020: 

 The career of Guitar Ted apparently was of some interest to many readers as the announcement of my new job in January drew enough hits to place it comfortably in the #4 slot of the most popular posts for 2020. 

#3: Gravel Grinder News: DK200 Postponed, Cancelled.......Dead?, July 8th, 2020: 

Among the events cancelled for 2020, Life Time Events announced in early July that they were calling off any gravel events in Emporia Kansas for 2020. There was a move afoot to change the name of this event, which we know now has been done. It will move on as a new event called "Unbound Gravel".

New? Isn't this just going to be the DK200 renamed? I said this in July, "The Dirty Kanza 200 died as an event on July 7th, 2020. It's over folks." The rest of the third most popular post on the site for 2020 goes on to explain why I think this still is the case. 

#2: The State of the Gravel Scene 2020 Part 1: January 1st, 2020: 

Since 2018 I have made a "State of the Gravel Scene" proclamation on the site. Coming into 2020, it looked as though moves by a few major players in the gravel scene- Life Time Fitness, USAC, and a group of high profile promoters, were about to take the grassroots out of gravel and monetize, promote, and codify the scene into 'the next level'.  Basically replacing the old crit/road race scene with gravel events pushed more into what those old racers, promoters, business people, and influencers thought should be the "way things are done around here". I mentioned that I thought there were going to be a LOT of changes.

Boy howdy! Were there ever! Just not in the way I figured there would be. 

#1: The State of the Gravel Scene 2020 Part 2, January 2nd, 2020:  

I take on the notion that HPC's (otherwise known elsewhere as 'e-bikes') are going to bring in more participation in gravel events. I show how these types of motorized vehicles will be used to cheat to gain advantages, and that money to buy technology will actually decrease, not increase, rider participation. I ask what we are doing to reach marginalized and disadvantaged people and bring them into gravel riding, and that only an open heart to these folks and open minds as to how to get them out there really matters. No electrified bike is going to do that. It became my #1 most read post in 2020 by a country mile. 

And Now For The Most Impactful Post Of 2020: 

Once in a while, I get private messages or emails concerning what I have written and how it affects you- the readers of G-Ted Productions. This year, being what it has been, was rather trying and I did not escape this. I wrote a post that elicited a response of the sort that has not been seen by me before in all the years I have blogged. 

It was a risky post to make, but I felt so strongly about expressing these feelings that I just had to go ahead and publish it. That post was titled "Country Views: Learning To Fly", published on July 23rd, 2020.  

And that wraps up my look at posts that pulled the biggest numbers and best responses in 2020.   

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Bikes Of 2020: Salsa Cycles Fargo Gen I

  It's THAT time of year again when I have my year-end reviews. This series will cover my bikes I used during 2020, any changes made, and why I still like each one- or don't! Thanks for reading!

You blog readers could have guessed this, right? I think it has made the list every year I've done this list. And you all know I love this bike and probably y'all know why too. There isn't much left to be said about it after all these years. So, if you are new here and don't understand, I apologize. Just shoot me a comment and I'll answer, but I feel like writing more about this bike is beating a dead horse now after 12 years of owning it.

I will talk about future plans as they relate to maintenance and I should mention a couple changes too. First and most obviously I have mounted these new-ish Surly Extraterrestrial 29" X 2.5" tires. I traded for these with Andy who had them to mount to a Karate Monkey he ended up selling before he got them used. I also switched up wheels and I have these Shimano hubbed, Duster rimmed wheels which were off of my old Sawyer, actually. The Extraterrestrials mounted up well to these tubeless and I expect that they shouldn't give me any troubles at all. They are on the heavy side though. 

Another change I made was to use this Salsa Regulator Ti post with a Brooks C-17 saddle. This combination is really smooth. Combined with the tires I have smoothed out the ride of this bike a great deal. I also put a Redshift Sports ShockStop stem on there for a while but I have a rigid stem back on it for the time being. I fitted the Becker Bags frame bag made for this bike and the J-Pak proto gravel top tube bag. There is also a Bar Yak system cue sheet holder deal on there for my analog route finding. 

I had threatened to upgrade the drive train but with COVID-19 shortages on cassettes and chain rings, not to mention chains, I decided to just keep running this set up into the ground for now. Eventually I hope to replace the aging Deore crank set with the original XT Hollotech triple and a Chris King bottom bracket along with a new 9 speed cassette. 

But that's pretty much it. Dreaming big, I would go with a new set of wheels here, but probably not yet. So, that covers this old girl and you can expect to see it again real soon.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Rear View '20: In Images

 The 12 best images from the blog for 2020 as chosen by me, Guitar Ted. All decisions are final! (HA!) Not that this is a contest, but I have my opinion which may or may not align with yours. Here they are listed in order from January onward and a couple may have some commentary to go with them. Enjoy! 

An extra-long riding season which was carried over from 2019 resulted in this image from January  

February: Winter eventually came. This is from the old Sergeant Road bike trail which passed under that bridge on the right. All gone now.

March: On Leap Day I took Mrs. Guitar Ted to Decorah where I interviewed Marty Larson for the RGRR podcast. The last trip out of town for quite a while!

April: Pandemic induced lock-downs and social distancing. Getting away from the madness here in the Green Belt.

May: I had a great time testing this Salsa Cycles Stormchaser single speed bike. Here seen on Petrie Road.

June: More Petrie Road with the Fargo. Testing tires for Riding Gravel.

July: Petrie Road again! This from the "Learning To Fly" post.

August: Prairie Sunflowers in a ditch on Airline Highway.

September: Sunrise on Ford Road

October: Nesbit Road near Dunkerton, Iowa.

November: This farm flies this flag near Hudson, Iowa 24-7

December: A dramatic Sunset. Image taken about a block from G-Ted Headquarters.

Notes: I suppose I could have bombarded this 'Best Of' post with an image of a gravel road twelve times, but I tried to resist that as much as I could here. I also tried to stay away from all the "Quest" images that I could. Y'all know I rode a ton of gravel this year, but there were other worthwhile things I did and great images resulted. 

I also noted that most of the year was fairly lame in terms of quality imagery. There were a couple months where it was very difficult to choose an image because there were more than a few good ones. June and October come to mind, but other months there was really only the one I chose for this 'Best Of' effort. (January and December) I guess that means I need to step up my game in 2020.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Trans Iowa Stories: Fruitless Searching- Part 1

The T.I.v11 site header. I designed this one as well.
 "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 renewed vigor and excitement for another Trans Iowa I dove in head first and started route designing for the all-new course. I wanted to take Trans Iowa into a completely new area this time and the obvious direction to go was East. We'd been over into the Marengo/Williamsburg/Washington Iowa area once for T.I.v5, but it had been a long enough time that going that direction again would seem pretty new. There are, however; several barriers to getting East from Grinnell. 

A cursory look at an Iowa map will show you several reasons why this route direction from Grinnell is hard to do. Rivers, major highways, and major population centers make doing a remote, gravel only route very difficult. To make one worthy of a Trans Iowa? Next to impossible. Perhaps my 'standards' were set too high? Perhaps, but I also had been in this area on gravel before- both on my own rides and in events- so I feel as though I had a handle on what the area had to offer. 

While there was much intriguing terrain, it was broken up into areas inaccessible without use of major highways, county blacktops, or it was cut off by what I liked to call 'mismatched road crossings'. This is when you have a paved road cutting across your route, and the main direction of gravel roads, being at a 90° angle to this paved road, have an offset crossing of the paved road, forcing a short distance on said paved road to 'connect' the gravel route. This most often occurred at major highway crossings, which was not an option for me. Obviously, limited access highways such as I-380 and I-80 presented their own obstacles to passage on gravel. 

This forced me to look Southeastward more, and as I did, I found a way to make things work. Keeping in mind that I had to utilize convenience stores as resupply points at intervals that made sense, this wasn't easy. Southern Iowa is not as well populated, nor does it have larger towns, as the rest of the State seems to have. This eliminated even more choices. But, even so, I was excited to find some promising routes on paper, at least. All we had to do was verify them and off we would go. Simple, right?

Well, a recurring theme with me is "maps are not 100% reliable". GPS data for rural Iowa is a complete joke, so we won't even get into that, and the only way that you can verify a route exists on gravel is to actually go drive/ride it yourself. So, Jeremy Fry, now my right-hand man for Trans Iowa recon and cue sheet productions, rode along with me one fine Fall day in 2014 and we headed off to Southeast Iowa with a route in hand. It didn't take long to find out the maps were incorrect.....again. This ended up becoming the theme for this particular recon trip. 

We decided to leave that right where we found it!
We had identified a likely spot for the first checkpoint. Once again, utilizing the David Pals idea of making the first set of cues a short run to a checkpoint, and then giving riders a new set to head off on a second, much longer leg of the course. In this way, we were thinking we would be preventing riders from 'game-planning' the first big chunk of Trans Iowa, since previous to v5 we were running the first set of cues up to 180-ish miles into the event. So, here we had a small village with what looked to be a great gravel road entry to it from the South. It was on a trajectory which came off 'The Grid' and veered Northeastward into the town, probably following an ancient rail way line or trail from another era. Who knows? But at any rate, we took the slight left-hander and headed off on a rather rustic looking two-track road. We were excited. 

That is until we were about 3/4's of a mile in and found that an old bridge had been removed so long ago that trees about two to three stories high had been growing up through the old barriers put up to block off the roadway. It was plain to see that this road had been truncated for years. maybe decades. Yet the very latest State DOT maps showed this road as going through. See what I mean about maps now? 

Jeremy and I decided that if nothing else, this was a prime chance to relieve ourselves of our morning coffee intake which we had picked up at an excellent breakfast joint in Grinnell earlier. As we did 'our business', we noted a lap top computer sitting on the guard rail, as if someone had just been there, only it had obviously been shot through with bullets from a hand gun. 


We didn't want to know any more about that! So we hastened our way out of that area and as we put that weird sight behind us, we forged ahead on the proposed route South and East. 

Next: Fruitless Searching- Part 2

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Rear View 2020; Looking Ahead


As the retrospective series has now ended, I will take a moment or two to try to envision my plans for the blog and for cycling into 2021. Realizing that nothing is guaranteed, (see pre-March plans vs post-March plans for....well, anyone!), I will lay out what I am thinking now for the coming months. 

Now, as I have closed up the book on "The Quest" and have that goal accomplished, I can now focus on some other goals. But first, a word or three about the blog and my plans here. .........

First of all, I don't plan on posting any less or with much different material than in 2020, but there are a couple of things I need to let you know that might shift the direction of things a bit here in the coming months. First off, I am no longer doing any event directing at all. None. Nada. I've retired from that. So that means you won't be getting recon posts or post-event posts as I would have done in years prior to this. This extends to Geezer Rides and Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitationals which I will no longer be organizing. But there will be some ride reports. More on that in a bit here. 

I also will be cutting way back on events I attend. Well, at least that I plan on riding in. There are two I would entertain coming to now and those would be the Gent's Race, (if it happens) and Gravel Worlds. But other than those two events, I don't see myself riding where I have to pin a number on. I may be talked into a volunteering position for someone else's event, but beyond that, I am going to move my efforts heavily toward solo riding, or maybe with one or two other folks. 

Which brings me to my previous hint about ride reports. (Some of this was written about in this post) There will be, (hopefully) plenty of those. Looking at what I'd like to do I think I need to get that long-put off fat bike century done. I also would like to accomplish finishing a couple of routes I drew up over the past couple of years that I wasn't able to complete for one reason or another. Two of those being old Guitar Ted Death Ride routes. Speaking of which, that 'event' will go back to its roots as a solo adventure I do. I'm not going to paint this as anything other then a ride I'm going out on and there will be no 'big deal' made about it until I post the ride report afterward. Kind of like my "Ride To Indy" post, if you must know. 

Then I hope to be doing new routes. I have one that I've threatened to do for the past two years now that just has to get done. A "Tour of Tama County" is another one I'd like to make up and do. There are a couple places I want to revisit and make a part of a route that I did during "The Quest" as well. Speaking of that....

I don't want to commit to riding every gravel road in another county for 2021 because it would require tons of travel. Black Hawk County is one thing when I can ride right from my front door and get to most of it. Another county? Yeah.......lots of windshield time and that's a big commitment I'm not willing to make just yet. 2021 is going to (hopefully) be the year we come back out of this pandemic, and if we do, then maybe I can think more of doing something like riding every gravel road in another county. 

But doing that, riding every gravel and dirt road in any county, pretty much has to be done at the exclusion of everything else concerning riding. Really? That's not a very fun or realistic plan. I know from having done the Black Hawk County quest that it can kind of take over your life and that's not a good thing. I'd rather do quality routes in different counties myself, and that's my current plan.

So, as you can see, I should have plenty of riding reports here, which seem to be pretty popular judging from the numbers I get. I also will continue doing newsy posts when applicable, the usual "Friday News and Views", the Sunday series detailing the untold stories of Trans Iowa, and answering questions when they pop up, as usual here. The Trans Iowa stuff should end at some point later into 2021 and then I will entertain the thought of doing that series on the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational which I mentioned earlier in the month here. 

But, you just never know where Life will take you, so while I do plan on these things, if any lessons from 2020 stick, it should be that if our plans come to fruition, we should be thankful for that because they very well may take a sudden turn. 

Next: Coming up, I list the Top Ten Posts of 2020, and on December 31st I have a special post planned which sums up 2020 for me.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Friday News And Views

So, even though it is a holiday, there has been a bit too much going on to 'let slide by' without noting it on the blog. So, here's a special "Christmas Edition" of the FN&V for you all to ponder while you put off that dreaded Face-Time call with the relatives annoying kids. (Just kidding, I know that you simply ADORE them! Ha!)

And while we're here, I may as well pass along that 2020 looks to be on track for the year I posted the most on this blog with 388 being the current record. This post is probably going to push me past that total, but this wasn't something I had planned on doing. It just turned out that way. 

I wouldn't expect there to be as many next year, but I have to admit, I kind of have a personal competition with myself when it comes to blog posting. That said, I also suspect that I'll never quite get this many posts in a year again. I say that for several reasons, but also- They say "Never Say Never- Never Say Always". 

So there is that. Finally, if you didn't get what you wanted for Christmas, I'll mention the G-Ted merch link, which I have posted about previously, is HERE.

Enjoy this bonus post of the "FN&V", the last of 2020. 

2021 Checkpoint SL-5 (Image courtesy of Trek Bikes)
Velo News Gives Checkpoint "Bike of the Year" Status: 

A gravel bike gets "Velo News" "BOTY" award? (!!) 

Yep! Gravel bikes have jumped the shark, as they say. Well, you all knew that. But what I find funny is that these cycling news media moguls stuck with picking road racing bikes for so many years. It took until 2020 to choose a gravel bike for your largely meaningless "BOTY" award? Awesome! That's fantastic. (It should be noted that "Velo News" did choose some "Best Gravel Bikes Of The Year" in 2016 here)

I mean, in all my years doing bicycle retail, no one has ever told me that they bought a bike because someone at a magazine said it was the "BOTY". Never. Not once. So, I don't see the point, really, but it's cool. They like the Checkpoint and it is a great execution in gravel bike design. I've always thought so.  

The other thing that is kind of silly about this all is that they waited until almost 2021 to say a model you can't get anymore is the "BOTY" because Trek moved on to its 2021 models. They always choose these "BOTY" awards after a model year. It doesn't make sense to push a bike as being all that and a bag-o-chips if you cannot get 'that exact model' anymore. Well, at least in this case, with the Trek Checkpoint it's mostly just color changes. 

Silly idea, "Velo News", but I like the Checkpoint, so I thought it was interesting. 

Canyon bike image courtesy of Canyon bikes

Bike Companies Start To Refuse Shipments Into The UK: 

Weird trade and country affiliation nonsense (BREXIT) is causing some bicycle companies to start announcing the cessation of sales into the UK. While this isn't anything that affects me in the USA directly, (at least I don't think it does), I find it alarming and odd. 

Details are rather vague, but it would appear that direct to consumer brands are seeing sales into the UK as being too much of an uncertainty now due to the unknowns of the trade situations. How that goes for these brands and residents of the UK going forward is something I don't know. Canyon, at least as reported in this news article, say the cessation of sales is temporary until they can figure out what is happening. A German brand called Rose has not indicated it will come back to the UK with sales.

I do know that supplies for 2021 (for sure) and possibly beyond are going to be tight. Throwing trade uncertainties on top of an already difficult situation is fodder for trouble. It is not known at this time if other brands will be following suit, or if raw materials imports to UK manufacturers might affect products coming out of the UK. Things like Hope components coming to the USA might be impacted if so.

The Challenge Tire Getaway 700c X 40mm.

A Bit Of An Update On The Challenge Tires Getaway Tire:

While it is true that we had some 40+ degree days of late, they all were marked by winds which were heinous to the point of being dangerous to ride in. That's not good for evaluating products. So, instead I decided to stick to wind breaks and urban stretches of unpaved loveliness. We have a lot of that around here as well. 

So, one of the first tires I ever reviewed for gravel specific use was from Challenge Tire. The "Gravel Grinder" model, and they still offer it. That model name was similar to my gravel site's name, "Gravel Grinder News", back before I joined up with Riding Gravel. I actually had a handshake deal with Challenge Tires not to pursue legal action in regard to the name "Gravel Grinder". I thought that was rare and unusual. Anyway.....back on track!

The Getaway is the newest tire from Challenge Tire for gravel travel. It is a true 700 X 40mm wide and it is tubeless. So far? Well, first off- It is one of the most difficult tires to mount I have ever worked with. Had Challenge Tire not sent along a tire mounting tool, I doubt I would have gotten these things on. We're talking tight! Of course, that meant that they aired up perfectly with my poor functioning Bontrager Charger pump with little problem. 

These tires are a bit more 'peaked' in profile, but they have this supple, soft casing, so with that, and whatever Challenge is doing with the rubber compound, lends this tire more grip than you'd expect and a very fast roll. I'll have to see how they do out in the country, but so far, so good! I also will have to swap to a different wheel set and see how much, if any, the Getaway stretches. Perhaps it will be easier to mount the next time. I suspect it will be.

 Note: Challenge Tires sent over the Getaway tires, Smart Bead Seating Tool, and Smart Sealant for test and review to Riding Gravel at no charge. We were not paid, nor bribed for this review and we strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout. 

That's a wrap for this special Christmas Edition of the FN&V. Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from Guitar Ted Productions!

With all the best to you and yours this Holiday Season! 

Thank you all for checking in and reading the blog. I appreciate each and every one of you. Here's hoping you all are having a safe, enjoyable, and memorable Christmas or that you are doing something fun today if you don't celebrate this holiday. 

Regular posting will continue tomorrow. See ya then! 


Thursday, December 24, 2020

Bikes Of 2020: 2007 Pofahl Signature Custom

 It's THAT time of year again when I have my year-end reviews. This series will cover my bikes I used during 2020, any changes made, and why I still like each one- or don't! Thanks for reading!

The Pofahl brand is not a well known one outside of Southern Minnesota, but it should be. Mike Pofahl has built many custom bikes since the 80's and also did some contract work for some parts in the past. I became aware of Mike's proficiency at joining steel tubing through my friend Ben Witt, who had come across some of Mike's work since they are both from  the same area. The connection with me started when I met Ben and told him I had been doodling up some ideas for a 29"er that I thought would be cool. Ben had a BikeCad design software set up on his computer and he offered to look at the design. After seeing what I had in mind he suggested that we get this made and have Mike Pofahl do the brazing. So, that's how this bike came together. 

Of course, this was all before the Fargo Gen 1. Had I known to think the way most of us adventurers do now, I would have insisted on fork mounts for water bottles, but alas! I wasn't very smart, so I had to use a seat post mount for a third cage. I asked about slipping a cage on top of the laterals but I was told there wasn't enough room, so...... 

Yeah, so there ya go. The story behind the Pofahl. It has been a great bike, despite my crackpot design, and I have done some of my longest rides on this rig. This would also have been the bike I was falling asleep on going down hills at the last Good Life Gravel Adventure, which became Gravel Worlds the following year. So, good times have been had on this one. 

I recently switched out my old I-9 wheels to these slightly newer I-9 wheels and added the awesome Vittoria Terreno XC tires. I also stuck that shorty stem on there which ended up being something I really liked. Otherwise this bike has been pretty much the same for years. It has the distinction of using some old parts from my MTB history. There's the original Syncros 27.0mm seat post which came off my 1992 Klein Attitude. the 180mm Race Face cranks were originally on my 1996 Diamondback V-Link Pro dual suspension bike. 

I might change the stem to one slightly longer than this one is, but otherwise I think the Pofahl is looking good. It's a one-off and since it was my design, well.......I'm not going to be getting rid of it.

Rear View 2020: The Fourth Quarter

The Quest took up almost all my riding for the last quarter of 2020.
 Hello Readers! Once again I am doing the annual retrospective on what went down over the year of 2020. This is the last post and will cover the Fourth quarter and the previous three quarters have been posted already for a total of four, one each week of December on Thursdays. This is the fourth "Rear View" post of the series. 

October kicked off with my announcement that I was not going to continue on with cataloging gravel events anymore. The chaos induced by the pandemic caused everything to be in flux and one man trying to ride herd on 500+ events was not a tenable situation going forward. Besides, the whole situation previous to the pandemic in relation to taking care of the calendar was time consuming and did not reflect in any perceived benefits to either the site or myself. So, that's that. I kind of hated to call an end to something I started in 2008, but it wasn't a realistic expectation for me to carry it on either. 

The Fall saw my rides to complete "The Quest" ramp up considerably. The days were windy, dry, and the routes got more convoluted and weird. The need to get roads done dwindled down to a point that by December I had a minimal amount of roads to cover. Finally, on the last nice day of 2020, where the temperatures reached about 60°, I completed 'The Quest", and that was on December 10th.

On a personal level I was attending my son's final high school football games. The away games were all at the same stadium in Cedar Rapids with the exception of the final game which was at Drake Stadium in Des Moines. Attendance was strictly relegated by the schools, so it was a weird experience. The West Wahawks won a play-off game and were awarded a special banner to be hung in the school gymnasium and a trophy for the trophy case. My son was proud of his accomplishments on the field and it was kind of rewarding to be a small part of that.  

One other notable thing I did was that I volunteered for the Spotted Horse gravel race in October. This marked the first time I had driven out of town for anything other than football games since the last day of February. It also marked the first time I had personal contact with anyone outside of my family and employer since mid-March. In fact, I got three hugs. It was.......weird, wonderful, and risky. I actually felt a touch guilty about it all. Still do......

Work was another thing that dwindled down to nearly nothing by December. Since new complete bikes were as rare as hen's teeth, only repairs were keeping me working and those dried up, which wasn't a surprise. The Winter would be a sparse, low-key affair for me going forward due to this. Of course, this gave me more opportunities to finish up "The Quest". So it wasn't a total loss. 

And that's a wrap on the year. Once again, I want to extend my deepest thanks and appreciation to all those who have come here to read this blog. Either on a daily basis, occasionally, or even rarely. All of you matter and I am honored and privileged to have you all as my audience. 

As 2020 draws to a close, and after 15 years of blogging, I am still amazed that anyone even ventures to read my writings. I still am energized to write stories and convey thoughts and opinions. I hope to continue sharing my experiences in words and images for a long time into the future. But I realize the future is not guaranteed. This year has brought that thought into sharper focus more than ever. 

Next: A look at the images of the year, a Top Ten Most Read Posts article, and a look into the future of the blog and my exploits for 2020.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

What Are These Bikes Now?

The bike with an identity crisis- What is this really?
NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

It used to be that things seemed so much easier. They probably weren't, but it just seems that back in the day, you had 'road bikes' and 'mountain bikes' and that was about it. Now we have a zillion different niche bike categories and names all over the place. No wonder we all get confused and hung up on this. 

The thing is, humans like to categorize stuff, put that stuff in neat boxes so we can 'know' what that stuff is, and we don't have to spend time and energy thinking about what 'that' is because it goes here, in this box. Don't you go using what's in that box for that thing you are doing, because it wasn't put in that box so you could go do that thing. I generalize, but this goes for a lot of what we discuss, (argue about?), on the digital communications devices we have these daze. (Because 75% of what you'd type on a keyboard/touch screen you'd never say to someone's face!) 

Anywho..... I was thinking about this when I was writing up my "Bikes of 2020" post on my Black Mountain Cycles "Monster Cross" rig. So, let's start there, with that name. It's an interesting concept from the 2000's.

This category of bike made sense back before 'Gravel®' became a thing. Drop bars, (natch) and tires bigger than cyclo-cross (33mm) but smaller than MTB (2.0"). Makes sense, right? Bigger than 'cross bike's tires = monstercross. Smaller than MTB because, well, that just becomes a drop bar mountain bike, right? This illustrates where Gravel® ended up muddying up the waters. Now there are no guidelines. 

Any drop bar bike, (and now some are saying flat bar as well). with bigger than cyclo-cross tires (33mm) is now a Gravel® Bike and even drop bar bikes with 2.0"+ tires, what used to be the line at which demarcated MTB, is still considered Gravel®. What is more, usage is now a blurred line with regard to what is what. 

Look at any current marketing for drop bar Gravel®. Almost always the setting is a fire road, or even single track, out West somewhere, with guys (almost exclusively, but not always) catching air off some boost or lip in the 'road', which almost never has any Gravel® on it. They say 'that is Gravel®. Really? Why does it look more and more like rigid MTB from the 1990's? Weird! Substitute in a 1990 era MTB into the picture and the marketing is identical. And what about "Monstercross"? Where did that go? And where is the actual Gravel® here? Why does no one in marketing look at roads that, you know, are actually gravel. And quit thinking that your imagery sucks unless you have mountains in them. Clue: Most people do not live anywhere near mountains. Really! I know that may surprise many of you marketers. But besides this, why didn't we stick with "Monstercross" for all of this? It actually makes more sense than calling these bikes Gravel® Bikes.

But things are more complex these days. I get that. Any bike can be used on Gravel®, so long as you understand the limitations of said bike. Anything not paved is "Gravel®" in terms of usage so long as the terrain doesn't call out for specialized equipment, like fat bike snow or mud conditions, or full-on MTB trail conditions, Down Hill courses, etc. What's in a name these days anyway? What, if anything, does a name like Gravel® for a bike style tell us now? 

Clue: There's Money® in it, that's what.

Bikes Of 2020: Black Mountain Cycles "Monstercross"

  It's THAT time of year again when I have my year-end reviews. This series will cover my bikes I used during 2020, any changes made, and why I still like each one- or don't! Thanks for reading!

Another staple of the fleet here which will celebrate its 10th year here at G-Ted Productions in 2021. The Black Mountain Cycles "Monstercross" model was purchased as a frame/fork and first assembled as a single speed in 2011.

 I never called it a "Monstercross" bike as I never really liked that term. To me this was going to be a gravel bike, much in the same vein as the Surly Cross Check had become the de-facto gravel bike of choice by 2010.  Going to any gravel event ten years ago meant that you'd be seeing a ton of Cross Checks. I did not choose a Cross Check due to one or two idiosyncrasies that bike has which the Monstercross model addressed for me. 

So, the bike became known here as the "Orange Crush" or "#49", as it was the 49th Black Mountain Cycles bike made, according to serial numbers. I eventually set it up with gears, a front rack, a bag, and fenders. Now it looks more like a rando bike than a gravel bike!

In 2019 I switched this bike back to single speed mode and I installed an ancient set of Sugino 180mm cranks. I love it in this mode, but for whatever reason, I had a left crank arm come loose and as of this writing I am not entirely sure I have that rectified. Worse case scenario, (likely scenario more like it) will be that I have to find another 180mm arm set to replace the current crank. I could go 175mm, but with the high bottom bracket that the first generation Monstercross bikes had, I like 180mm far better. The jury is still out on whether or not I need to replace this crank set, but if any changes are made, that would be the one I would make. 

Another plan I have is to get a real single speed quick release hub laced up for this bike and maybe a front dynamo hub for a light. I could see this being the ultimate bad weather, go anywhere bike for me if I can manage that. Stay tuned......

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Brown Season: Fat Bike Saturday

Squiggles courtesy of an Emerald Ash Borer, which killed this ash tree.
December weather has been pretty darn great here, but as we get closer to January, what constitutes 'great' in terms of weather is really not all that conducive to being out in the open on gravel roads. So, despite it being in the upper 20's with little wind, that was too brutal for me since the air was 'wet' and when it gets like that it sucks the heat right out of your very being. People who live along the coasts know exactly what I mean by that.

So, I've taken some time off gravel and have been riding city paths, alleys, and finding dirt single track within the urban area. Saturday I decided to go check out the progress on University Avenue's renovations and then check out Casey's Trail. First, a little observation I've made about this renovation of University Avenue as it relates to the Sergeant Road bike path. 

Before any renovations were done, and the old overpass and old bike path were there, the biggest issues I had, (and I suppose anyone else that walked/biked through there as well), was that due to the truncated Falls Avenue, removal of storm sewers for that old street, and with no provisions made for run-off water whatsoever, this area would become nearly unusable for much of the Winter and Spring. Nearly....but still passable. In the future?

Well, I was hopeful that this issue would be addressed with the new renovations being implemented with the new bike paths coming through on University Avenue and the making of a new underpass tunnel at the University Avenue intersection of the Sergeant Road bike trail, but..... Not surprisingly the engineers on this project did absolutely nothing to address this need. In fact, in my estimation, things will be worse than ever! 

On one side you have the HWY 218/27 expressway which is elevated above the bike path. On the other side they actually elevated the open area between the path and University Avenue. This will have the effect of creating a valley, or more like a canyon, and with less places for water to sit, that will really make for some awesome deep flooding of that section of the Sergeant Road bike trail. Then consider the tunnel. It also is at a low point, has zero drainage, and they are installing a parking area (wasn't there before) and a ramp from the elevated part of University, (wasn't there before), which will feed run-off water right you-know-where. 

From the University Avenue Project site

 This looks like an upgrade, but in reality, it likely will be far worse than ever without some way of getting run-off water out of there. Since the bike trail is effectively the lowest point through that area, I see no other alternative than failure for this project. Here's my analysis:

  1. As you can see at arrow #1 above, the old Sergeant Road bike trail came down along that fence line and just to the left, as you look there, the embankment going up to the expressway to the far upper left starts on the left side of that fence and that embankment is steep. The new path will exit where #2 arrow is pointing and curve alongside that same fence line continuing out of this image's viewpoint to the lower left. All along this there are no provisions for run-off water from either the expressway or what is now elevated to the same elevation as University Avenue just out of view below the image. 
  2. The second arrow points to the exit on the North side of the tunnel. As you can plainly see, it is at the lowest point of all the surrounding land. Where will snow melt and rain water drain off to? 
  3. The third arrow points to the new access road off University Avenue and the small parking area for access to the trail, which never existed before. Assuming this will be paved, where does all the new run-off created go? Note: The entrance to the tunnel under University is lower than the parking area. There also is a ramp running down to this tunnel entrance from below this image out of view which will further exacerbate run-off issues on the South side.

 I invite any locals to go look at this and if you see something I am missing, please let me know, but to my eyes, this looks bad.

Now, with that observation out of the way, I went on with my riding to Casey's Trail and I was wanting to see how it was fairing, as it is a little used trail and newer than most in the area. 

This stick is why I like single speed bikes, or bikes like my Rohloff equipped Ti Muk 2 for single track around here.

As it turned out, the trail was in excellent shape. I was a bit surprised by this, and I took advantage of the conditions to ride it on my Ti Muk 2. The Fall/Winter riding around here can be tricky with how many sticks and small branches get blown down onto the trail surface. In Spring and Summer this debris gets cleared away by other riders and trail maintainers, but at this time of year, both those benefits tend to be gone. So, instead of risking a derailleur equipped bike's rear mech to possible rippage, I tend to use a single speed device. Or I use my Rohloff equipped Ti Muk 2, as there are no dangly bits to get caught up in any woody mayhem. 

This particular ride showed me why I am right in doing so this time of the year. What could have been an expensive situation requiring walking long distances was rendered a simple annoyance. I simply stopped and removed the offending bit and continued on my merry way. 

This turned out to be a good ride, but it doesn't replace the gravel travel experience for me. I am still going to try to get out there when the conditions are conducive for a reasonably comfortable ride without freezing my bits off. I'm sure there won't be many chances for that until Spring, but I'm going to take what  I can get there.

Bikes Of 2020: The Black Mountain Cycles MCD

Here is the BMC MCD with the Spinergy wheels mounted.
 It's THAT time of year again when I have my year-end reviews. This series will cover my bikes I used during 2020, any changes made, and why I still like each one- or don't! Thanks for reading!

Black Mountain Cycles MCD: This bike has been around now a couple of years plus and has been a big part of my riding since it has gotten here. In fact, it seems that a lot of the people that come here also are interested in this bike because my post "One Year Review: Black Mountain Cycles MCD" keeps getting hits consistently. That post I wrote in the Summer of 2019, so has anything changed since then? 

Well, not really. I did put the Redshift Sports ShockStop seat post on it, but that has since been swapped out to the original Whisky Parts Co. carbon post. I had been running when I built up the bike. I also swapped out the Spinergy wheels I had been using on the bike a lot during 2019 to the original Irwin Cycling wheels I started out with. I also got a Shimano GRX rear derailleur at the end of 2019 and installed it. This made the drive train a lot more stable and quiet. 

Besides those minor swaps and some wheels I used on the bike to get them reviewed, along with various tires, the bike is basically what it has been. It still handles well and I like the way it fits. I am considering lowering the stem and maybe lengthening it a touch, but that is just tweaking, nothing major going on here that needs 'fixing'. 

Basically the future for this pink MCD is to just to do basic maintenance and keep on truckin'. I'm toying with getting a new saddle on it, probably another WTB Volt or a Silverado, but this bike should remain as is for the foreseeable future.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Cold Days-Slow Days

I got some new Challenge Tires treads to review.
 It's late December and as usual, things are slow and low around the G-Ted Headquarters. Not much going on, that's for sure! This has been a really tough time of the year for me for a long time. Maybe a few of you out there have a hard time dealing with this particular season of the year? If so, I maybe can empathize with you there.

The Holiday Season is something many people really gear up for and go all-out with social gatherings, decorations, traditions, and the obvious religious ceremonies and whatnot. Well, not me. I'm really glad just to get through this time of year without anything dragging me down. Fortunately, I've been pretty blessed that way over the last several years. Anyway.... nuff said about that!

 So, what else? The weather is rough, not really great for gravel travel, so I've been sticking around closer to home of late doing some testing and looking for those days that pop up above freezing without a ton of wind to get out and do something in the country. As long as the roads are clear, I'll do that. However; that hasn't been possible until this past weekend and maybe today. 

This usually means that I start in maintenance and modifying of the bike fleet for the next season. Review work generally slows way down for me at this time of year, although I did get in a set of Challenge Tires recently. Their newest model, the Getaway, is typical of the brand with their handmade construction, but these are true tubeless tires. I've got these on my Noble GX5 here and I hope to be able to get out and do some gravel riding soon. 

But outside of that rare occasion for this time of year, and maybe some rambles in the woods on my fat bikes, I will be hunkered down in the Lab doing projects during the darkened and frozen times we have to look forward to. It doesn't look like we'll be getting enough snow to have decent fat biking for a while yet, so unless we go the other way and have some unusual warmth, these in between times will be hard to get motivated for. I like it to be one way or the other- Really snowy or really warm (for this time of year) This in between stuff is for the birds.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Trans Iowa Stories: So, You're Saying There's A Chance?

 "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! 

There are certain mysteries in Life which one may not quite ever understand. Sometimes as individuals we strive for a purpose or a thing- some goal we think we desperately need and want to attain to, and when we get the goal accomplished, maybe it isn't all it is cracked up to be. Or maybe it is something else. I'm not really sure in regard to Trans Iowa what it was that left me with a small flame that was still flickering inside me for this adventure. A bit of desire was there, certainly. I don't know that this was enough to knock me off my seat to do another Trans Iowa though. took more than just that. 

After Trans Iowa v10 I had mentioned to my wife, Phyllis, that this was the end of the line. She was not convinced, to put it bluntly. But I was going to honor my commitment to my decision as long as there was a chance that she believed that it could be the last one. And for a brief time, I really believed this. But that didn't last long. Eventually, thoughts crept in and feelings welled up and, well, people started bugging me about putting on the next one. Not in a bad way, mind you. No, these were very moving pleas to keep on keepin' on. Like this snippet of an email I received in May after Trans Iowa v10 was over: 

Saturday, December 19, 2020

The Six String Side: Reeves Electro 2 N 2 Face

Reeves Electro 2 N 2 Face pedal.
 When I started this blog over fifteen years ago, I stated that it was a "Bicycle and guitar oriented elixir....". Well, the "guitar" part sort of got pushed out by the bicycle stuff, but I've always been playing. Recently I purchased a very unusual effects pedal and thought I'd share......

I used to be a jeweler. You may not know this, but it was something I enjoyed and did for over 10 years. I didn't 'just' sell shiny objects either. I designed them, repaired them, graded them, and constructed the stuff from raw materials. I set stones and appraised stones. I have held diamonds worth more than your house and I have seen rare items which not many are aware of because I was a jeweler. So, I came to an awareness and have since appreciated fine beauty and a high level of craftsmanship. 

I say all the above not to brag, but to show you why I bought this particular effects pedal based off the classic 'Fuzz Face' design first made in the 60's and popularized by the likes of Jimi Hendrix and other famous guitarists too numerous to mention. Fuzz Face circuits are one of the most copied and produced circuits for guitar effects pedals. There is not anything special about that part of this. However; the execution of the design here is exceptional. 

You have to use quality components. Probably the most fussed over tidbits of this simple circuit are the transistors used to produce the 'fuzzy' effect guitarists are after. Then the accompanying resistors, capacitors, and potentiometers must compliment the circuit and not detract from the desired effect. It may come as a surprise, but 'high fidelity' isn't a concern. It's complicated.......

Anyway, then you have to assemble said components into an attractive package to get the guitarist interested in a fuzz circuit to 'bite on the bait' and you can then sell the effect. The most commonly used ruse is to come up with a clever name and an enclosure that catches the eye. Doing super-neat, highly detailed interior circuit design is usually not done, because, well......who cares what the inside looks like? 

I guess some folks do, because Reeves Electro has been slammed with orders since going all-in on pedal manufacturing in March of 2020 due to Mr. Reeves regular job being impacted by the pandemic and related shut-downs. As a for instance, my order went in when the wait list was up to 70 days. 

Not just a bundle of electronic components.

Markus Reeves is the sole employee of Reeves Electro and therefore has to do every process required to make his line of drive pedals. He drills the enclosures, acid etches the designs in, then he hand forms the leads of the components and arranges them into a design that not only works electronically, but is pleasing to the eye. He then packages and ships them off to waiting customers. To give you somewhat of an idea of how much effort goes into each pedal, here is a YouTube clip from Markus detailing just the acid-etching process he uses on the enclosures.

So, getting back to why I bought this pedal. It's really the insides that tipped the scales. As a former jeweler and designer, this spoke to me and I understand just how difficult it is to make something look this sleek and simple. 

Just try to solder small electronic bits this precisely and with such beauty. I dare you!

 The intricacy and level of thought and design that went into this effect pedal is above category. Add in the soldering quality and this pedal is over the top. And sounds incredible to boot. What is absolutely insane in regard to all of this is that Reeves Electro sells this pedal for a base price of $235.00 (as of this writing). Custom options can take the price higher, and I added a custom color interior in Copper.   

This is an amazing device and I am stoked to add this to the effects pedal board I have.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Friday News And Views

A Maersk container ship. Image courtesy of Maersk.
Bicycle Part Shortages Predicted To Persist Through '21:

Multiple industry sources are predicting bicycle and bicycle parts shortages throughout 2021. This means that what you currently are seeing at bicycle shops isn't going to get better, and in fact, it may get worse. Multiple reasons are given, but one of the major problems is due to the bottlenecks in shipping. 

Many of you may not realize this, but 90% or more of what you use for cycling comes to you via a ship. Usually this is a "container ship" like the one shown here. Containers are filled, (which can be an issue for smaller companies because partially filled containers don't get shipped), these are then loaded onto a container ship which doesn't leave dock until it is full, then it sails across the seas, (can take up to two months), and then it must get unloaded, the containers are inspected by customs, released, trucked to warehouses, and finally goods are shipped to regional warehouses, and then to distributors, and finally (!!) to bike shops or online vendors. 

What has happened is that pandemic protocols are affecting labor and thus disrupting the system. Furthermore, as we know, demand has doubled or more. This has caused a lot of pressure on shipping lanes. Not just in bicycles, mind you, but with everything. The sudden increases are at such a high level that I have been told that over 100 container ships are sitting outside of Los Angeles harbor waiting their turn to get unloaded right at this very minute, and it has been that way for months. Added to that are docks in the Far East with stacks of containers waiting for a ship to return, and in some cases, factories have no containers at all! 

What does this all mean for us? Well, for one thing, you should baby that drive train, milking it for all it is worth because cassettes and chains, not to mention chain rings, will be hard to get in 2021. Tires will be hard to get as well. Oh, and expect prices to climb a LOT higher as demand outstrips supplies. 

I expect that as a COVID-19 vaccine gets distributed amongst the population, that many will feel the need to do events, and these events will increase demand on parts even further due to high wear and tear, or people just thinking they need to have brand new everything before an event. I'm telling you right now- that's a pipe dream next year. 

And new bikes? Ha! I've heard from several dealers that they have had to pre-order 2021 inventory and if they really get it, (not guaranteed), that will be your choice. Many are pre-selling orders they have placed and I expect shop floors will be pretty sparse, if not empty, most of next year. Oh, and don't expect to get a deal either. High demand = full boat pricing. Got a used rig? Next year is the year to ditch it. Just don't expect to be able to get a replacement. 

Gravel Worlds Updates Website- Offers New Category:

Last weekend the Pirate Cycling League unveiled a new website update for their Gravel Worlds event. They also have announced a new, ultra-distance event category called "The Long Voyage", a self-supported, 300 mile distance which should be completed within 30 hours. (Sound familiar?)

Besides this, the site has added a history page telling the back story of the Gravel Worlds event. I've shared with you readers much of this backstory here in the past, so you may already know this. If you don't know the background on Gravel Worlds, you should check this out. It's important because, really- Gravel Worlds is one of the last of the first. Let me explain.....

Back in 2005 Trans Iowa started. and we hosted a few folks from the Lincoln area who were already riding gravel, but this whole idea of putting an event on gravel was new. They got inspired by Trans Iowa and further by the DK200 in 2006 and in 2008 they put on "The Good Life Gravel Adventure" and started their own history. Many other events came about in those early days that were 'big deals', the most notable being the Almanzo 100 in 2007. However; of all the 'biggies', not many are around yet today. Barry-Roubaix and Gravel Worlds are the biggest ones left from those earliest days of Gravel.  

So, I love that Gravel Worlds has embraced this history now. They deserve to be successful and the event has evolved to be inclusive of all abilities possible and yet it still retains much of the flavor of the early gravel events. So, if you are one of those folks that thinks gravel events are all commercialized and have lost their grassroots feel, then Gravel Worlds is for you. 

And don't listen to any of the current nonsense that claims that gravel riding/racing is "something new within the last several years". Or you could just interpret any messaging of that sort to mean, "We've never really looked into the history of modern gravel events, so we are just spouting off to make ourselves look like we know what we're talking about". Because......obviously- they have no clue if that's what they are saying. Whatever.... Go check out Gravel Worlds! It's The Real Deal. (And Gravel Worlds should use that tag-line)  

The Ventum GS1 gravel bike. (Image courtesy of Ventum's site)
"Have You Seen This...?":

N.Y. Roll texted me last weekend to ask if I had seen a brand of gravel bike called "Ventom" . I replied, "No". He sends a link. I checked it out later. 

Hmm......Where have I seen that before?, I thought to myself. Because this whole frame and fork doesn't look all that unique or different to my eyes. And in fact, it isn't very unique at all. 

The Viathon from Walmart is very similar, so is the Rondo Ruut, the Ibis Hakka MX, Santa Cruz's Stigmata, and a whole host of carbon fiber niche branded bikes. Geometry is nearly identical across all of these, suggesting that (a) there is a LOT of copy-catting going on and (b) perhaps many of these frames are being chosen by these brands from a catalog at a Far East factory. 

Interestingly, the Ventum direct-to-consumer model bases its appeal in coming from the triathlon market and has testimonials from some former Pro road racers and a well known cycling media/DK200 racer. So, once again, just as with the former/current road race bike sales model, we are basing our opinions of 'worth' on racing? (Which is okay if you are are racing) I don't know that most gravel bicycle riders are racing, or that they should be racing. Maybe having fun is better than racing? Maybe.... 

Look, this is a great bike, (maybe) if you want to own a mean, nasty, flat out race machine, which, you know, is good at one thing. But this model strikes me as not a bike for the masses, not a very original design, and it is hard to see the value in their $2,000.00+ asking price for the frame/fork when, as an example, the aforementioned Viathon frame/fork is sub-$700.00 on sale now. Even at full-boat pricing the Viathon is about a grand less. And ithe Viathon was an 'okay' bike, again, if you wanted a racy rig. Now, the Ventum GS1 may very well be a better value, but it is very difficult to see it if so due to the vast similarities across so many other frames/forks like it.

In my opinion, these bikes like the Ventum are not displaying a big enough difference from other very similar looking frames/forks and with no face-to-face support after the sale, it would seem like a less than a good way to make it in the crowded market of gravel bikes. But then again, it is a seller's market now. This is also indicative of what the industry is doing to an excellent idea again- That is, the industry is homogenizing an aspect of cycling around racing. 

This is another subject for another day, and I aim to get to it, but suffice it to say that for now, this entry into the gravel bike market is not what it should be all about for cyclists of all types who would benefit more from an all-around type road bike that I have been banging on about here for over a decade. 

Despite the model, the shirt looks pretty good here!
The "G-Ted Logo" Shirt Review:

A couple weeks ago I announced on here that I had "G-Ted Logo" merch available via Redbubble on a page benefiting my daughter. I mentioned that each sale would have a portion of the money going to her. I receive no compensation whatsoever from this. So, this does not benefit me in the least, unless you get one of these and wear it and get someone new to read the blog. Okay? There is that.....

Anyway, I said I was getting a shirt, paid for with my own money, by the way, and that I would give y'all a bit of a review of it. Well, I've had it for over a week now and I must say, it is impressive. As impressive as a t-shirt can be, which is to say, nothing all that spectacular. 

I mean, let's face it, a t-shirt either does its job or it does not. This one does, and it better! I bought the "Premium" t-shirt model and it came out to around $34.00 with shipping and whatever else they nail you for on Redbubble. So, yeah, a very expensive t-shirt. But it shows. It's got some flat-lock stitching, the fabric is smooth and supple, and it fits very well. I got an XL sized one and I would say the fit was on the slightly generous side. Which means it is very comfortable to wear. 

The graphic is done in a very thick, almost rubbery feeling print and went through the wash and drier cycle with zero effects upon it. The graphic is pretty bold and BIG, but that's how I designed it. Oh, and as you all know, this is the graphic I have used over the years here quite a bit on the blog, so most of you probably recognize it, but there is a short story behind it, and it goes back to my job in the 80's.

I was a jewelry designer, and during certain times I also would be tasked to do art for the shop, advertisements, art for our shop logos, proposed logos for spin-off companies, and even logos for other businesses. Locals may remember the "North Bank Restaurant" or the Waterloo Greyhound Park, well I helped design those logos for those businesses. (Long gone, but maybe someone out there recalls those) 

Anywho..... I was asked to come up with ideas for a spin-off company my boss at the time was going to launch and I did a ton of sketches, some which were basically goofing off, sort of exercises in getting ideas. So, during this I came up with a cube with a skull on it that had smoke coming out of the skull's orifices. That eventually morphed into the cube idea without the skull, and with the addition of the "G-Ted" logo, I was kind of going for that 'microphone ID box thingie deal that you see on reporter's microphones on T.V. Well, this was all sketched up and then I think Jeff Kerkove eventually saw it, digitized it, cleaned it up for me, and there ya go! 

That's the tale in brief. Now you know! If you are so inclined to want your own t-shirt, hoodie, stickers, or a pin with this "G-Ted" logo, go to the Redbubble page for this merch HERE.  

And that's a wrap! Have a safe, awesome weekend! Thanks for reading!