Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Project Gravel Bus: The Arrival

I mentioned a few days back in the last "Project Gravel Bus" update that this frame and fork should be arriving soon. That ended up being Monday. It's here! I am pretty happy with the outcome as well. Obviously, it will be a bit before I get this built up and rideable, but in the meantime, I wanted to give you all my first impressions.

The Color: I have been making fun of the choice to describe this yellow colored frame and fork made by Twin Six by dubbing the project and bike, "The Gravel Bus". But, I had never laid eyes on an actual frame and you know, I could have been way off on the color, which would have been a bit embarrassing. However; once the wrappings had been removed, and I sat the frame on the counter, both Andy and I said, "That's definitely School Bus Yellow!", almost in unison. So, there is no doubt in my mind that I have dubbed this bike correctly, for myself. If you want to call your Twin Six Standard Rando v2 which is the same color as this, "Saffron", well - you be you! Call yours whatever ya like, this one is "The Gravel Bus" without any doubt now.

The name will be, for somewhat obvious reasons, ironic since this is a one passenger 'bus' with one gear. But it will be plying the very same roads that our rural school buses run, and I think that ties in with the color and name well enough. This also dictates the accessory color as either black or something close to school bus yellow. No purple ano here, as one poster on Instagram suggested on an image I posted there.

On the down tube above the bottom bracket.
The Frame: I remember when I reviewed the first Standard Rando five years ago that many readers wanted to know, "What steel is that made from?" Well, when I asked Twin Six about that I got radio silence. I never did find out anything specific about the frame's steel butting, tubing diameters, or other esoteric details one might want to go down a rabbit hole on if they are a "cork sniffer" of steel frames.

So, it came as no surprise at all to me when I pulled off the wrappings and looked at the traditional place where you'd find a frame sticker that there was some cleverly worded scribing rendered in a nice font that, among other things, said "Built From T6 STANDARD Steel Tubing. Meets RIDE & SMILE spec." Yep.......typical Twin Six right there! I love it! Take that you frame tubing snobs!

But seriously, this tubing, in all likelihood, is double butted and it is swaged and slightly manipulated in various areas. The bottom bracket shell is reinforced, and there are some nice, but not spectacular, welds going on here. That bottom bracket is a PF30 bore, and I know some of you are rolling your eyes at that, but this allows me to use the Wheels Manufacturing PF30 Eccentric insert for a single speed tensioning system. Going geared? Just get the same company's thread together PF30 bottom bracket.

That 44mm head tube is also reinforced. Note the pump peg. (Hooray!)
 The head tube is fairly tall and the seat tube is long on this frame as Twin Six goes for a traditional, "level" top tube look with clean lines. I certainly will not have a lot of seat post exposed on this build! I already measured that out and verified that. I will be using a Shimano PRO Carbon post on this, by the way.

I've mentioned the frame geometry several times here, but in case you are new- The head angle is 72° and the bottom bracket drop is 75mm. Chain stays are 435mm, and the fork offset is 45mm. All pretty "in the ball park" numbers for me. Maybe not for you, but I like it.

Tire clearance is listed as 700 X 43mm and 650B X 48mm max. I have seen 650B X 47mm+ in this bike, (Andy of Andy's Bike Shop has a black one with 650's), and the clearances are good. I suspect I won't get anything larger than a true 45mm in this in 700c, but I am okay with that. I have other, 'big clearance' bikes from which to choose.

The frame also has rack mounts, which I'll likely never make use of, but who knows? The frame can also take full coverage fenders as well. Again- something I'll likely not do, but the mounts are there none the less. There is a pump peg! Love that! Also, on this size 57cm, Twin Six has added an additional water cage mount to the underside and one on the upper end of the down tube, inside the main triangle, for a total of four bottle mounts on the frame. That's double the amount that the original T-6 Standard Rando had.

The painted to match, full carbon constructed fork.
The Fork: As I have stated earlier, I could have gone with the steel fork, but I opted for the carbon fork, which is stem to stern carbon- No aluminum steer tube here!

I did this to save weight, not giving up anything to ride quality, according to insiders at T-6. I was a bit worried that the steel fork would have been better riding, but they did change that to a tapered steer tube steel fork, and that generally makes the fork far stiffer. I think a lot of people forget how much the steer tube is what is forgiving toward the rider on choppy terrain when discussing smooth riding, straight steer tube forks. That taper in the steer tube really stiffens a fork up.

So, despite the fact that the fork legs on the carbon fork are massive, I feel the insider at T-6 was correct, it wouldn't matter, in terms of ride quality, which fork I got. Steel rode just about as harshly as carbon, is what I was told. May as well opt for weight savings and choose the carbon fork, is what I thought. So that's why I opted for the carbon fork.

When the fork came out of the box, I handed it to Andy and he just said, "oh my!" and his look of envy was apparent. Yes, the carbon fork saves a fair amount of weight. Typically, in my estimation having swapped a bunch of forks out in my day, you'll save about 500 grams or so going with a carbon fork over the same geometry steel one. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but that's a ball park figure only. We never weighed the steel fork.

The nice thing here is you get the Triple Boss mounts on each leg, and interestingly, they are canted slightly back toward the rider. Not dramatically so, but it is noticeable. Of course, I'll use this for two more water bottle cages. That will bring up the possible total for water carrying capacity to six bottles of water versus two on the old T-6 Standard Rando.

There are the through axles here as well, and like the one on the frame, the fork is a 'through-bolt', technically speaking, with a hex head wrench compatibility for installation and removal. You can also mount fenders to the carbon fork if you so desire. Finally, the brake hose is partially internally routed through the fork crown and exiting on the inside of the left fork leg.

The whole kit-and-caboodle. Plus a bonus pair of bottles, some Molten Chain Wax, and two bar ends. (I have no idea what that's about!)
So, that's about it. However; if you have questions feel free to hit me up. Or go to Twin Six's Standard Rando page here.

Miscellaneous: When I opened the box I found two Twin Six "Category 6" bottles and a Park Tool tensionometer box which looked a bit beaten up. I'm a mechanic, remember that, so my first impression was "Why is there a tensionometer in here? I never thought this might just be a box, and what was inside could be totally unrelated to tools. Well, what was inside was a bag of Molten Chain Wax and two, beat-to-hell Titec stubby bar ends. Yeah.....bar ends! I've no idea what's up with the bar ends. But I can somewhat see the chain wax as I do a lot of testing of lubes for gravel travel. Maybe that's a hint for a check on the Molten Chain Wax? Most likely.

If you are sharp-eyed you'll also see a Surly cog spacer kit for single speed and that blue and white box, which is a box of handle bar tape from Marque Cycling. These are things I have gathered ahead of time. The spacer kit is something Andy was going to use and the bar tape I received on trial. Something new Marque Cycling has out, in black, of course. The rest of the parts are back at the Lab already.

Stay tuned for more soon.......

Monday, July 06, 2020

Country Views: On The 4th

It was a right firecracker of a day to be riding!
Well, I managed to get in my usual 4th of July ride in. I try to do that because it is my way to celebrate my freedom to live and move about in this country.

I know many are now focusing on the bad parts of the USA's history and social culture. Ya know what? We aren't perfect. No one said we were. I agree we have a lot of work to do, but all this negativity about certain aspects of our society isn't unifying us toward any solutions and is pretty much divisive. So, I don't buy into either side of it. Until I see positivity and a willingness to forgive and forge new realities, I believe nothing will change. As I look at the world I live in backward from 2020, yeah..... I'm not seeing any unifying actions. I don't see much love. So, I was a bit saddened as I rode this past weekend, but I know this country is the best bet in the world and somehow we will find a way.

In the meantime, I ride. Because that's all I got now. 2020 has pretty much sucked the life out of most things socially. I work, write, and ride. That's about it. I don't see many people. We aren't going out. So, riding is even more of a priority than ever these days. I'm thankful just to get outside and be able to ride. I'm thankful I can be healthy enough to do that.

So, on the 4th, I got out despite the fact that it was hot and dry, (for around here), and I wasn't complaining because I was so happy to just be able to pedal. The first sight I saw after leaving the pavement made me smile so big, despite the fact that it is a sight I've seen so many times. That didn't matter. These times have put things in a different light for me. Don't know about you out there reading this, but for me- yeah, this is a bigger deal than ever now.

These look like detassling machines, but not sure. All in a row at a storage facility South of Waterloo. 
This section of Ansborough Avenue is always good for day lilies when they are in bloom.
So, yeah- 2020 has been super weird. Check out the weather on the 4th. Dry-ish at only 40+ % humidity when we typically would be at high 60's to low 70's for that. The winds were out of the East/Northeast. SUPER odd for this time of year, which generally has Southwesterly winds almost all the time. Even the clouds were heading West. It's almost as if the world was going backward.

Got chased a bit by this, and another dog here. Friendly-ish, so no worries.
I cannot even remember taking this image! Nice barn and little American flags up the driveway.
I headed South and then East for a ways. I wanted to limit my time out there to around two hours on this hot day. I didn't want to overdo it and get myself knocked down for the count. I know I'm not quite trained up enough for a big ride on a hot day yet. Gotta work on that. Baby steps and all.....

The corn South of town is nearly big enough to be tassling out already.
We used to hope that the corn would be 'knee high by the 4th of July' when I was young. Corn was still planted 'on square' back then. Meaning that each seed hill was equidistant from all others in their row and adjacent rows as well. This allowed the cultivators to run at 90° from each pass and at 45° angles each way across the field. I recall looking at these rows as a small child from the window of a speeding 1966 Dodge Coronet. Seeing bare ground at different angles was mesmerizing, in an odd way. I'll never forget that.....

But obviously corn planting is completely different these days. And the hybrids are so vigorous that if the corn isn't 'man high' by the 4th, well, then it is a bad year. Heck, man-high is minimum height nowadays. Seven to eight feet high by the 4th is not unheard of anymore around these parts.

Rest stop. A tractor is approaching with a round baler machine in tow.
Some stunted corn in the foreground, but you can see how tall the corn is against my bike here.
I was truckin' along at a pretty good clip until I got about an hour and a half into the ride. Then I was feeling the heat. I had a slight headache going, and I backed the pace down, stopped a couple times, and just tried to chill out on the work a bit.

The roads were about 75% chunky gravel and the other 25% was really broken down, gritty gravel over hard base. I also came across a stretch of honest-to-goodness "moon dust" gravel where the limestone had been pulverized to a fine, deep powder. I think we could use a little rain again.

I saw a few of these pale white blossoms but I haven't identified them yet.

Freshly cut alfalfa hay. I love the smell of that!
Well, it was a good day out. I got right proper tired, avoided a bonk, and got home to enjoy some relaxation with the family. Not going out for anything now. Sticking around and later when it got dark all hell broke loose with the fireworks people were shooting off. That's another thing I'm not a fan of.

Oh well! It is how things are these days. I hope things change for the better in the future, but for now, I have my freedom, my health, and my bicycles, and I intend to make use of all of that. I hope you all had a great 4th of July.

Sunday, July 05, 2020

Trans Iowa Stories: Flaming Out

The Braun Brothers and Charly Tri break away after 100 miles into T.I.v8
 "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!

Sub 24. It was the mythical goal silently talked about amongst the stronger racers that were involved in Trans Iowa. The ability to do the event in such a short amount of time was, to me, also a motivation. Not that I was going to try it, but I was always aware of that being a goal for the fast guys, so I tried to make it hard to accomplish. 

How this idea ever got legs, well, I will never know. I suppose that Ira Ryan doing the first loop course in 25 hours flat was, perhaps, where it all started. At any rate, the first I ever was aware of it was when Joe Meiser won T.I.v5 in a little under 25 hours and told me he would come back to take back the quickest Trans Iowa time if anyone ever beat his time. Note- that happened, but Joe never came back. Family life and whatnot, I heard. Anyway.....

I never would have pegged Trans Iowa v8 as being a version that would have seen a serious threat to the 'sub-24 barrier', but then the Braun Brothers had other ideas, I guess, because they pushed the pace to a ridiculous level during T.I.v8. The course may have baited them into it, or maybe they had a strategy, I never did know, but after 100 miles, they set sail and tore up the road.
MG playing on a scooter at the "Secret Checkpoint" during T.I.v8

The course that year led to a small village with a convenience store at right about the century mark. Most all riders stopped here, as I had strictly warned them that convenience store opportunities were slim that year. Well, I'm not sure if the Braun Brothers stopped or not, but if they did, they didn't stay long, because they and Charly Tri, a Minnesota rider, were up the road alone after the 100 mile mark with no one else in sight. This coincided with what ended up being the flattest part of Trans Iowa that year, so they dieseled along at an amazing pace. There wasn't much wind later into Saturday either, so even that wasn't going to be an issue plus, the weather and roads were tranquil. It all added up to a record early arrival to the the second checkpoint.

By the time the three had reached Checkpoint Bravo, they were back into some heavy hills, and there would be no let up for the rest of the event. In fact, they got worse the closer they got to Grinnell. But, of course, no one knew that. So it was that Charly Tri, trying to keep pace with the Brauns, ended up having a total body shutdown after leaving the second checkpoint. He ended up limping back and calling it in there. This left Travis and Matt Braun alone up front.

Now about this time I was thinking this sub-24 hour Trans Iowa thing might actually go down. The Braun Brothers showed no weakness, and they rolled into the secret checkpoint well ahead of the time they needed to make it there by to stay on track for that miracle time. Amazingly, they appeared fresh and light on their feet. One of the brothers even stooped down to fix a young girl's bike there! This was one of the most touching, amazing shows of caring I ever saw. I mean, where else would the leader of a difficult bicycle race take the time to adjust a child's bicycle for them? 

The co-leader of Trans Iowa v8- fixing a kid's bike while the event was in full swing? Yep! One of the most amazing things I ever saw at a Trans Iowa.
 And think about that- The leaders of Trans Iowa, so confident and calm that they felt they could take care of a kid's bike, and still win the event! I just am still completely blown away by that moment. Things like that made me very proud of what Trans Iowa was. It still does. This is something I'll never forget about the event.

I was hoping the Braun Brothers would prevail, but secretly I was also hoping they would not break that sub-24 hour barrier. Why? Maybe my pride in designing tough courses was at stake. Maybe I would see it as my work being 'lame' and it was too easy? Not sure, but I was doing calculations like some mad scientist trying to figure out when the Braun's would cruise into Grinnell. At Checkpoint Charlie, it still looked like it would be an easy feat for them to accomplish a sub-24 Trans Iowa.

The next stop up the road would be in a small college town and I found a spot where I could sit and observe any Trans Iowa riders going down a bike path into this town without the riders knowing I was there. Perfect! I wrestled with more math, and determined that at the rate the Braun Brothers were going, I should be seeing them before much longer. A need to relieve myself could wait. They'd be there and then I could go find a restroom. It was dark now, and getting colder......

One of the Braun Brothers at the last convenience store on the T.I.v8 route.
And I waited....... Man! I really gotta go, but they should be here any minute! So I tried waiting longer, and the time went by I thought that they should have gone by, and...... Man! I REALLY gotta pee! 

I furtively looked around for a place to discreetly relieve myself. I ended up in a nearby construction firm's parking lot and found my nirvana. Then it was back on watch! Just one more example of the weird situations I got myself into putting on Trans Iowa over the years.

Anyway, the Braun's were slowing down. Not to be wondered at either. But even at their slower pace, they had so much 'time in the bank' to withdraw from that a sub-24 was still in the cards, even at this late point into the event. They reached the last convenience store on the route, 90 miles out, at around 11:30pm on Saturday evening. They had until 2:00pm Sunday to finish. It was a slam dunk they would win. I could see no other outcome.

Then, at nearly 2:00am, with over eleven hours left in the event, the phone buzzed to life. It was one of the Braun's. They were disoriented. They had been off course several times. "....yeah, we're done. Just not feeling it." They reported that they were in a ditch just North of I-80, delirious. Someone was coming to get them. I asked them two or maybe three times if they were sure they were done. Yes, came the answer. With a mere 57 miles to go, they were out. Flamed out.

It was a stunning turn of events, and I don't think I have ever heard of anything like it since. The event now was completely changed. There would be no sub-24 Trans Iowa, as the next chasers, Eric Brunt and Troy Krause, were not on pace to get into Grinnell in under 24 hours from the start. Things swung a totally different direction, and the end game of Trans Iowa v8 would be very different than I thought it would be. In fact, it was weirder than I ever could have dreamed.

Next; Broken Bikes and Broken Fellowship

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Happy 4th of July!

From the desk of Guitar Ted Productions- Happy 4th y'all!

Happy 4th of July!

From Guitar Ted Productions to all you USA folks, I hope that you have a safe and happy 4th of July.

Especially in these times where we are socially distancing, it is important to take some time to reach out to friends and family during this weekend. Many will be doing things alone or with immediate family only, so take a moment to text or message an important person to you over this holiday. Or two.... Or three.....

I'll be out riding. I hope to have a "Country Views" post up Monday. In the meantime, enjoy the weekend and look for another "Trans Iowa Stories" post tomorrow.

Guitar Ted

Friday, July 03, 2020

Friday News And Views

New Spinergy GXX gravel wheels
Spinergy Launches New Carbon GXX Gravel Wheels:

Last year I got to test out a set of Spinergy GX gravel wheels with the company's famous PBO fiber spokes. The wheels presented a different take on spokes which, in my view, do have a positive effect on ride quality for the gravel rider.

The one knock on the Spinergy offerings, in my view, was that their carbon rimmed model featured a now-too-skinny inner rim width. Well, now Spinergy has introduced a wheel set which addresses this shortcoming and more with the Carbon GXX wheels.

The new GXX features a trendy 24mm inner rim dimension and a foam-filled carbon rim construction, which Spinergy claims is more adept at absorbing gravel road induced vibrations than a typical carbon gravel rim would. Claimed weight is around 1500gms and the MSRP on the GXX wheel set is marked at $999.00USD.

The aluminum version which I tested actually weighs slightly less, so I suppose the benefit here would be that foam-filled carbon rim damping claim. Same PBO spokes, so no change there. The hubs are now Center Lock, but otherwise the same. It would be interesting to compare and contrast the new GXX with the GX wheels. I happen to still have those GX wheels around as long-term test mules, so it could be a possibility.

No- It isn't 2000 calling. These are making a come-back in 2020!
Shimano Announces Retro-RAGBRAI Footwear Comeback:

If you could suddenly transport yourself back about 20 years to late July in Iowa and find yourself on RAGBRAI, you would have noticed a bunch of the folks you were riding with were using a new cycling specific sandal from Shimano.

Back in the day, I remember a Shimano shoe representative telling us that Shimano almost killed off the sandal because the only place it ever really sold was in the Mid-West. Outside of RAGBRAI, it was dead to the world, for the most part, according to this man, and I've heard similar tales since. Eventually, Shimano did discontinue these and introduced another model in its place which featured three straps and that was immediately panned by the folks who had purchased the originals.

Many went as far as patching up their old Shimano sandals with shoe-goo and pieces of glued on rubber on the soles until they were rotting away. I recall several cyclists locally that swore by the things and were heartbroken when they finally had to give them up. But, as they say, "That was That", and time marched on. I figured these things were simply a footnote of the past. But oh no! I was sooooo wrong!

Apparently, according to the Shimano press release, a pair surfaced recently in Vietnam, of all places, and they were in supposed "mint" condition. (Odd word that- "mint"- to describe an object in pristine condition) Anyway, supposedly these odd sandals fetched the princely sum of $900.00 at auction, prompting Shimano to take a closer look. Apparently, Shimano feels it is worthwhile to issue a reproduction of the sandal for sale coming available in late October of this year. Available in sizes 38-48, the retro-tastic sandals are to retail for $130.00, but will be available only once in a limited run.

The Tweet sent out by Sea Otter announcing the cancellation of the 2020 event.
 Sea Otter Cancels for 2020:

Sea Otter, which had been postponed until September of 2020 from its original April date, has now completely called off any event for 2020. Well.....at least in the real world. 

They did announce a "Sea Otter Play" digital based event where virtual trade show booths will be shared and event challenges folks can do on their own where they live are going to be issued. Part of the ride challenges will be a fundraiser for COVID-19 relief efforts.

The "Sea Otter Play" event will happen virtually online in September.

Comments: Not at all surprised by this what with the uptick in cases this Summer. But what I take away from this announcement is two things. First- Does holding virtual trade shows work? Let's say there is some measure of success to be tangibly felt in terms of impact and dollars from holding a virtual show. If that turns out to be the case, what becomes of having live events like trade shows in the future? There is a lot of upside, in terms of cost savings, to the industry to have a show be virtual and not 'in-person' where travel expenses, shipping, and booth production costs could possibly be eliminated. Of course, there is the intangible, personal face-to-face thing, which is hard to deny, but.....

It's an intriguing idea, and considering how this pandemic is radicalizing our world, I don't think this idea is all that far fetched.

Secondly- If Sea Otter, a big social gathering and racing scene, is cancelling, what do you do if you are one of those bigger gravel events, like the soon-to-be renamed DK200? My take is- and especially for the DK200- is to just call it all off. I see no reason at all to risk having COVID-19 shared amongst unwitting riders who then take it home to who knows who. Small, locally generated gatherings? Maybe. I'd say under 100, have no pre-event gatherings or post-event gatherings and provide staggered start time options. But you know, do what ya gotta do folks. I'm just a guy in Iowa......

I've cancelled anything for 2020. I'm almost of the mind that someone on Twitter said they were considering. That being to never again go to any gravel event that decides to go ahead with a 2020 event. In cases like the old DK200, it is unconscionable to think you can have upwards of 2000 plus folks (if they would come anyway) in Emporia, Kansas and expose those citizens to whatever possibilities of COVID-19 all these folks bring with them. I think that is reckless thinking to feel that any event on that scale, or even a tenth of that scale, could get away with that idea without causing some issues.

That's all for this week. Have a safe and happy 4th of July weekend- if you are coming here from the US. otherwise, keep the rubber side down and get in a ride or three!

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Single Speed Nerd-Out: #1

Long-time single speeder here. Time to "nerd-out" (Karate Monkey circa 2007)
A while back we did a Riding Gravel Radio Ranch podcast which we dubbed the "Single Speed Nerd-Out". You can check out that link if you want to. However; this is going to become a semi-regular feature here on G-Ted Productions because (a) I like single speeds and (b) YOU have questions.

Yesterday I received a slew of questions from one reader, and as I often do, I make a post about these questions and answer them in the post. I do this to bring the answers out to many, not just a few, because I know if one of you ask, there's probably ten others wondering the same thing. (Note: Questions edited lightly for clarity) So, here we go......

Question #1: "Surly officially says their SS cogs are compatible with 6- to 9-speed 3/32" chains. Would a 10, 11, or 12 speed chain work with their cogs?"

Answer: Nope! Well.....maybe the ten speed would, but the thing is, the space between the inner plates gets narrower with each incremental rise in cassette cog count compatibility. So- the length of each link remains constant on 3/32nds chain. It is the distance between the inner plates that gets less and less as you add more gears. Take a quick look at any single speed specific 3/32nds chain. Theoretically, the length of each link would interface with any rear cassette cog. The thing is though, the width between the side plates of that chain is so wide it wouldn't drop down between cassette cogs on an 11 speed cassette.  So, if the Surly cog is spec'ed to fit up to a 9 speed chain, you should respect that and not use 10, 11, or 12 speed chains with those cogs because the inner plate dimension would be too narrow to fit over the Surly cog's teeth.

Question: "I have the Surly spacer kit on a 10 speed freehub. Would an additional spacer need to be purchased to use the kit on an 11 speed freehub?"

Answer: No. Your Surly cog, or any single speed cog with a wide base- (Don't use those stamped steel, el-cheapo single speed cogs, or a single cassette cog for single speeding) - those type of wide-based cogs will take up a fair amount of cassette free hub body space, and in all likelihood, you'll end up with an extra spacer or two.

Question: "And then there's the narrow wide chainring. Any limitations on what chain you can use on those?"

Answer: No, not really. The 'narrow-wide' idea was made to interface with 11 speed chain, which as we know from above, has a narrower inner plate dimension than 10 speed chains, 9 speed, and so on. So, I have tested this with an old bit of 7 speed chain and the interface is fine. Sure- there is some slop side to side, but we don't care about chain retention with a single speed. That business is all about 1X drive trains. So, use that narrow-wide chain ring as a single speed ring all you want with a 9 or 8 speed chain for a great single speed set up. 

Question: "Some folks will use a bmx chain on 3/32" chainrings and cogs. Some claim 10/11/12 speed chains are too narrow and weak. Others say that's not true.What is up with that?"

Answer: The strength of modern 11 and 12 speed chains has been fine, in terms of 1X and 2X systems with shifting requirements that they are designed for. Of course, we already have discussed how they don't work the best for standard single speed aftermarket cogs. But, lets say they would, for arguments sake. In my opinion, for most folks, those chains would likely be okay, but yes- There isn't as much material there and heavy handed single speed mashers probably would break more 11/12 speed chains than not. But here's the thing- we don't have to use those chains

Setting up a single speed drive train should be done with regard to how you expect to use the bike. Is this an 'around town cruiser', or is it going to be used on Tour Divide? This will inform your drive train choices. Another thing a lot of people haven't looked into is chain strength measurements. I know that Wipperman has tensile strengths listed on some of their track chains and single speed chains. You can get a real burly chain from them- probably overkill for almost anyone, and never have to worry about chain breakage. But.....they are really heavy! 

This is why a lot of riders think they want to use 11 and 12 speed chains, or chains with the window cut-outs, or other silly ideas like hollow pins, etc. Just don't! The amount of grams you save is not worth the increase in risk of failures. Why do that to yourself when a good, solid, cheap PC830 will do the job all day and into next week? I don't use chains because they are light, I use them because I have had really great reliability, and long life from them. Save weight elsewhere, but don't do it with a chain on a single speed. (Bonus tip- never use aluminum chain ring bolts on a SS rig. That's really dumb.) That said, I've had really great success using 9 speed chains too, so just be aware of expectations and don't try to save weight with silly chains.

And that's a wrap for SSN-O #1.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Project Gravel Bus: Update

Parts, parts, and parts.....
Welcome to another boring edition of "Project Gravel Bus"! I hope that you find this nerdy, parts-focused post somewhat enjoyable. Here's the latest stuff I have accumulated for the upcoming build of the Twin Six Standard Rando v2 in "Saffron" (yeah.....right!), or in my world- "Project Gravel Bus".

As with any bike build, you are not really doing anything effective until you get the frame and fork connected with a headset. My choice was to pull this Cane Creek "Forty" headset from the parts bin. By the way, everyone knows that it should be spelled "fourty", not forty. But our language is a jacked-up mish-mash of stolen, borrowed, and made-up marketing hoo-hah mixed in with slang and whatever the "cool kidz" are saying these daze. So......excuse me....back on track now!

Ah......yeah. Next up are brakes because "stopping is a good thing". My choice in stoppers is from TRP and I will be using their Spyre brakes adapted for the flat mount up front matched with a 'real' flat mount brake out back along with their adapter for 140-160mm rotor in the back. Whew! Adapters! Why?! I don't know. Maybe because it's a deal where One Caliper rules them all and the Nine Adapters, sometimes referred to as the "Black Frustrators", run roughshod over our idea of what "Standards" should be. But don't ask me! I'm no "Bike Wizard" with a magic horse.

And shown here also is the mighty bag of doom and destruction from the Bike Bag Dude dubbed the Garage Top Tube Bag. The Bike Bag Dude is a wizard of the night and can conjure up baggage spells to sooth whatever carrying needs ail ya. To battle!

I also have things not shown. Not that I am being secretive, just too lazy to bring them home from the shop, or upstairs from the Lab to photograph. . These include my eccentric bottom bracket insert for PF30 from Wheels Manufacturing. The Surly Single Speed Spacer Kit is there as well. In the Lab lurks a carbon wheel set from Irwin Wheels dubbed the Aon GX-35, and my stem, seat post, saddle, and cables and housing. All very exciting things which I know you all really want to see and read about. I know...... Maybe someday! (<===HA!)

So, as you can see, there is only one major missing component, really, and that is the Twin Six Standard Rando v2 in "School Bus Yellow". (My color naming description) I hear it is coming soon, maybe even tomorrow? We will see. Late June/early July is what I was told, so we are in that window. Once it hits the floor at Andy's Bike Shop the dust will get stirred up, I'll chant a few spells of bike building wizardry, and hopefully all will settle into a beautiful new single speed gravel sled.

Stay tuned......

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Why Bike Shops Should Embrace The "BSO's"

How you handle servicing these could make "The Pie" smaller or larger.
NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

With all that has been going on in 2020, we know one thing as cyclists: There are a LOT more of us now than there were a year ago. Many of these "new" folks bought their new bicycles at a 'big box' retailer. You know the story, "Those aren't 'real bikes', they are Bike Shaped Objects"? That one type of bike that gets snickered at when you see some poor, unfortunate individual pedal by you with tires at half mast and a chain that sounds like a thousand mouse chorus? Yeah......those bikes. 

Well, I won't get into all the negativity that surrounds these "BSO's", but I will point out that during this pandemic that a LOT of those bikes flooded the market and are out on the streets and bike trails right now as you read this. They are, more often than not, being piloted by new-to-cycling folks that may or may not stick with this now that we are in the "Opening Up" phase of 2020. There are many influences that may be detrimental to their staying on as cyclists, not least of which is how they get treated on the bike paths, trails, and streets. But I want to focus on bike shops and how "BSO's" are often times disregarded as junk and the owners are many times looked down upon. I'm thinking about how that is often not congruent with the stated end goal which we hear from cycling advocates these days.

Heck, many shops won't even work on these things. First off, that is a huge turn off to folks wanting to become part of cycling. While it can be risky, expensive, and maybe not the greatest idea to fix such contraptions, you, as a service provider, really have to take a step back and disengage from your everyday bike nerd mentality and see things from these folks perspective.

Gentle handling of the situation goes without saying, or- you would think so- but I know of several stories concerning customers who were made to feel "less than" and stupid for even considering fixing such bikes. And of course, being rejected is everyone's dream experience in a bike shop, right? 

During my first bike shop gig, my boss, a man named Tom, made an observation to me as I was learning the ropes. He said something to the effect of, "I like working on Huffys because as a mechanic, I can make more of a difference on a bike like that than one equipped with Dura Ace". You know, he is right. Many times what appears to be 'not worth the bother' just might make some kid thrilled and a parent happy. Or you might be able to get that person that cannot get a driver's license- for whatever reason- going on their way better than ever before.

Tom also said this:"You may not think much of that bike, but you should work on it like you would have to ride it." And that informed me greatly. I want those 'BSO' owners to feel okay riding their bikes, not ashamed, not fearful that it's going to 'kill them', or whatever other fear tactic they might get at some shops.

Of course, there are issues like money and there are dangerous circumstances and components which may need to be addressed as you go along. Cross those bridges when you get to them, but don't reject these people and their bicycles out of hand. Because, maybe you don't realize it as a shop employee, mechanic, or as an enthusiast, but you just might be with your attitude.

Embrace these new folks to cycling and help lift them up. Gently! If they don't have a helmet, are riding in street clothes, and have a what you'd consider a BSO, don't scoff and reprimand them, because, you know, that's just what they are looking for- some smarty-pants to make them feel bad. Get it? I could go on, but you probably get the picture......

Or you don't, and there goes another "Piece of the Pie", wishing they had a new SUV instead of trying to hang with us snooty cyclists and boorish shop rats.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Country Views: Test Ride

Not bad out on Saturday.
Saturday I had to get out to do some review/test ride work for RidingGravel.com. This time it was for the third of the big tire sets I have gotten in as a way to see what might work for people doing gravel rides on mountain bike based rigs like Fargos, Cutthroats, hard tails, and the like.

The things is, you don't need a "gravel bike" to gravel bike. 

Mountain bikes, maybe even some dual suspension ones, make gravel biking fun, but there may be a few things one might want to tweak out for a better experience. Things like, you know.......tires. 

Tires make the biggest difference, more so than anything else you can do to a bicycle, for whatever it is you are trying to do on a bicycle. Contact points would be the second best upgrade point, then wheels, and after that, everything else you do is gravy. So, if you have an MTB, and you want to ride gravel and have a "do-it-all" tire, well, that is kind of the point to my articles on these tires. Obviously it also makes a big difference where you ride, so you know- Mountains, Plains, Woods, etc. You'll need to tailor your choices accordingly. That's why I got in three really different tires. There is the semi-slick, the aggressive/wide tire and the typical MTB choice in the bunch.

So, I am down to the third set of tires in the review and I needed to get going with some actual gravel riding after doing some other surfaces with these tires previous to Saturday.  I decided to head out Northeast of Waterloo for a short test ride and found that conditions were too good for what I was trying to figure out. Oh well..... I did find some good bits though, and a slog through two miles of deeply graveled shoulder along a county blacktop eventually got me what I wanted.

Giant Hogsweed or Wild Parsnip? Either one = BAD! Don't touch this stuff! (Turns out it is Wild Elderberry- Thanks Tony!)
I've been neglecting the soybean fields in my pictures. My apologies!
There wasn't much wind to speak of, but what there was came from the Northwest. The roads were about as perfect for smoothness and speed that you could ask for. Looks like Black Hawk County has held back on dumping fresh gravel of late. I expect freshies soon!

From a high point on Big Rock Road.

Prairie Rose? Swamp Rose? Seen along Sage Road.
I had to stop at one point to get some images of a rose along the side of the road. I see these flowers occasionally on rides, but they are not super common. I notice similar, but often times larger, pink flowers when I ride in Kansas. They seem to be a lot more common as a roadside flower down there. Perhaps our uses of chemicals in farming in Iowa aren't nice for these flowers as in Kansas most of the land I've ridden by is pastureland.

The "wild rose" is the state flower of Iowa. Apparently due to its being part of a decorative gift of a tea service given by the Iowa legislature for the late 19th Century battleship Iowa, and for its noted hardiness, the legislature was prompted  to make the Wild Rose the state flower in 1897. So, I had to stop and pay my respects to this delicate little blossom.

You just never know when you will run across a bit of history on your gravel rides!

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Trans Iowa Stories: The Emotional Roller Coaster Ride

A tractor caught by T.I.v8 photographer Steve Fuller
 "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!

Continuing on with more stories from Trans Iowa v8.....

There I was, a swirling mass of chaos inside a single cab, standard box 2003 Toyota Tundra 2 wheel drive truck with highway tires on it. I had wrappers, energy drink cans, cue sheets, roster on a clipboard, maps, and who knows what-all inside there. Driving East now on a road one mile South of the actual course so I could miss a Level B road and get back on the T.I.v8 course again.

The cell phone rings. I pick up and it is a rider telling me he is done. He no sooner gives me his name and race number when I look up from my roster sheet as the truck is about to go over a small hill crest. What I saw caused all hell to break loose.

I threw down the phone and grabbed the wheel with both hands, let off the gas to let the truck settle when it hit the road with all its weight, having been slightly unloaded by the cresting of that hill at 40mph or so. You see......I was about to dive head long into a muddy Level B Road! 

It was unmarked, so I was unaware of its presence, and it was totally sketch! I gently squeezed the throttle to keep my momentum up,but it was so greasy that the back of the truck started coming around on the left side. I stuck the throttle to the floor. It worked! I saved the truck from coming all the way around, but the back end just stayed hung out! I was spewing mud a mile into the late April sky like some mad moto crosser, like a sprint car racer at nearby Knoxville, but I was still going straight down the road!

I was amazed! I held it down to the mat and stayed the course. I had about a half a mile to a steep rise to a paved county blacktop crossing. But I had to get there first! I knew instinctively that at some point this power slide, this crazy dirt tracking move, was going to end when the truck would get a different grip and send the back end around the other way. Fishtailing, some would call it, and if I wasn't on the mark, I could still end up losing this ride in the ditch. But I was ready!

The back end started to move and I instantly let off the throttle full and counter steered the opposite way. Whew! Caught it just in time! Gently back into the throttle now.  Keep it straight! Now what about that sharp rise and road crossing? Well..........

My only chance was to keep the power on so I could get up the rise with the good amount of speed and momentum I had built up. But there was cross traffic! I ended up going across right behind and right in front of crossing vehicles, but no harm, no foul! I made it!

Riders cresting a chunky gravel covered hill on the T.I.v8 course. Image by Steve Fuller
That wasn't the only excitement I would have going into the afternoon and night of T.I.v8. There was all the leap-frogging I ended up doing trying to stay ahead of the Braun Brothers as they attempted, I assume, to break the 24hr mark for a Trans Iowa. I had to mark corners in a few spots and it seemed that I could not keep ahead of the ever dwindling group they had been a part of since the start of the event. It was making me crazy and frantic until I reached Checkpoint Bravo and Wally and George. Fortunately they were set up already and had things well in hand. That was a major relief right there!

I had a beer or two while chatting with the guys there, but it wasn't long before the Braun group arrived, so I had to bug out once again to keep ahead of things. Those guys made the checkpoint way ahead of my estimates, so I was a bit rattled by that. Then, I got a phone call from Charlie! He was off course and was calling to see if I could get him directions back onto the course. He had wandered off further South than he should have and was in a small town about ten miles off the T.I.v8 route. I started to give him the directions, but he stopped me and had me tell a local he had corralled to talk to me. Apparently, Charlie wanted a local to make sure my directions would be verified. It ended up that we had to basically give him road by road directions to get him back on line. It was one of those annoying, worrying things that arose, but I figured that Charlie would either drop out at CP#2 or miss the time cut. I mentioned this to MG and maybe the CP#2 crew of Wally and George to make them aware of the situation. Then I moved on to hang out at the "secret checkpoint" that year and thought all was well.

Corey Godfrey and Mike Johnson work on a flat tire while Mark Johnson rummages through a pack during T.I.v8. Image by Steve Fuller
 However; Charlie came back to haunt me in a big way. MG and Jeremy Fry were at the secret checkpoint, which served two purposes during T.I.v8. An observation point to keep tabs on riders, and as a 'convenience store stop' since there was no convenience store stop anywhere on course since long before CP#2. MG was telling me who was passing through, and when he was telling me certain riders had shown up who were behind Charlie Farrow, like far behind him most of the day, I started to ask questions. Where is Charlie?

I went back and confirmed with Wally and George that Charlie had left their checkpoint, and what time that was. Fortunately for me, I had very competent volunteers! Well, it didn't take a genius in math calculations to figure it out. Hopefully Charlie was somewhere between Checkpoint Bravo and the secret checkpoint. But knowing Charlie, it could be something else. Maybe Charlie was lost, sleeping in some ditch, or....... My mind wandered off to about six evil conclusions, none of which I wanted to consider.

I remember having a conversation with MG about Charlie and what we should do. By this point, I was over one hundred miles away at the Northernmost point of the course, in the middle of the night, tired, and drained. I was contemplating having to go look for Charlie when Matt asked if I wanted him to backtrack the course to look for him. I was sooooo relieved! MG then told me he would let me know if he saw any evidence of his passing through at any point. But it was dark, MG was tired as well, and...... there was that chance that Charlie could have gone off course again. If that was the case, who knows how long it might take to find him? 

Charles Parsons (R) and Corey Godfrey followed by three unidentified riders during T.I.v8. Image by Steve Fuller
 So, while I did not have to go back and look for Charlie, I was worried sick about him. It didn't take long to get word back, but those were some excruciating minutes for me in my truck all alone in the darkness of rural Iowa, wondering what happened, and having an imagination running wild. But MG called me back. Charlie was collected and all would be well. Wow! What an emotional roller coaster!

And then I ran off the last few cues, turned into the finish area, and parked my truck. At this moment, I knew. I realized that I had done what I had set out to do while riding the last miles of Trans Iowa v7 in David's Honda Element. I had put on the best Trans Iowa I knew how. Of course, it was about 3:00am in the morning and I had 11 hours to close out the deal. Anything could happen yet, but somehow.......I knew it. I had done it!

There was no one I could share this with. There were a few cars there in the area- Steve Fuller's truck was sitting there amongst a few other anxious wives and girlfriend's vehicles.  Support folks, waiting there to see their person finish Trans Iowa, but no one was awake. I was alone with my thoughts. I wanted to shout. I wanted to jump up and down. I wanted to share the moment, but no one was there.....

So, I threw down the tail gate, cracked open my last beer, and just savored the moment. It is one of those moments in my life that I regret not being able to share with anyone else as it happened, but I won't ever forget it. Maybe it was meant to be that I alone got to experience that moment, I don't know, but that's how it happened. It would not be the last time something like this happened during a Trans Iowa either.

Next: Flaming Out

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Fat Bike Century: Update

Stripped down a bit. Getting ready.
With the Fat Bike Century next up on the schedule of 'events' for 2020, I had to buckle down and start getting the rig ready to go. The Ti Muk 2 was still pretty much set up in Commuter/Winter mode. I needed to convert the set up to one more in line with the mission of covering 100 miles of gravel.

Of course, getting this thing all muddy over Father's Day weekend was not a big help in achieving the goal. There was a LOT of dried on mud and the chain was a mess. Thankfully a Rohloff drive train meant no damage or extra cleaning was required for the most important part of the drive train. It pretty much makes this as easy as keeping care of a single speed drive train.

I removed a lot of dried on mud, and I still have a ways to go before I can say I'm satisfied there, but I made a big dent in the cleaning area. The chain cleaned up well, so I lubed it with DuMonde Tech, and ran through the gears in the hub, just because.

The main frame bag came off, a Tangle Bag went on, and I kitted out the set up with a spare fat bike tube, pump, and tools. Two stainless steel water bottle cages were fitted, and I removed the down tube splash guard. A small concession to being more aero! Ha! I'm going to use the Showers Pass Ranger hip pack for my extra clothing and nutrition needs. That bag is here on test for RidingGravel.com. I figure a century ride should be a good test.

I have to put a GPS mount for my Lezyne Super GPS on there, and figure out a couple of extra lights, but that will amount to an extra tail light and a blinker up front as I have the generator hub running a rear tail light and front light 24-7 already. So beyond that, I think I need to top off the sealant and that should do it.

Meanwhile I am going to draw up a couple of routes and pick one based on the wind the day I leave on this adventure. Which, by the way, will not be this weekend. I have more Riding Gravel stuff to get to first. So, stay tuned. The Fat Bike Century is coming sooner than later......

Friday, June 26, 2020

Friday News And Views

Wolf Tooth "Supple Bar Tape"
Wolf Tooth Debuts "Supple Bar Tape":

Handle bar tape isn't a very sexy topic when it comes to cycling. You know.....it's just bar tape, right? Well.....no. Bar tape can make or break a ride, and cheapo bar tape is about as bad as having no bar tape. You may as well wrap your bars with duct tape. Wait! Don't do that! I know from experience that is a horrible idea.

No, you should use a quality bar tape and then - most definitely- HAVE SOMEONE WHO KNOWS HOW TO WRAP TAPE DO THE INSTALLATION!!

The #1 fail of most bar tape is poor installation. Many shop rats don't know how to do it either. Wrapping bar tape is a skill that not many have, and so, find a professional who has a good reputation for wrapping tape, because no matter if you spend 10 bucks or fifty, if you fail on the wrap job, it won't matter.

Anyway.....off the soap box now! 

Back to this Wolf Tooth stuff. It is a silicone foam tape that is FIVE millimeters thick. FIVE! That's crazy thick, plus the tape width is 40mm. So, this is pretty thick stuff and it will require a REALLY knowledgeable, experienced wrapper to install it well. If you get that far, you'll have what amounts to double wrapped bars so the vibration damping effects should be really good. Wolf Tooth claims this stuff is washable, works in extreme heat and cold, and will give you the best comfort over rough terrain.

It is available only in black for now, but they expect to have other colors in the future. MSRP is $39.99. Note: I do not have this tape, nor any connection to Wolf Tooth Components. I just thought this was a cool product and wanted to pass along the info.

Apidura's Expedition Downtube Pack
 Interesting Product Alert: Apidura Downtube Pack:

I came across an interesting product for storage so I thought I'd share here. Some of you have bikes that don't have those nice, under-the-downtube mounts for a water bottle cage. Well, this pack from Apidura might be the ticket for you.

It is capable of holding a water bottle, or you could pack in a tool caddy, or other gear which is heavy so you could get your weight lower. That tends to make a bike handle a bit better.

Apidura does not recommend this for tubing under 30mm in diameter, so some skinny tubed steel bikes won't be a good match here. Similarly, many rigid forks also will not be a recommended application for this product. But I bet you could mount this to a suspension fork lower.

Anyway, the thing is waterproof, features a single, wide Velcro attachment, and retails for $67.00. The top has a compression closure, and should keep the grit and moisture out. It might also be a great option for those riders smaller in stature that cannot run a top tube bag, like a Tangle Bag, and water bottles. You can check out the Apidura Expedition Downtube Pack here. Note: I do not have this bag, nor any connection to Apidura. I just thought this was a cool product and wanted to pass along the info. 

Mass start events still not a good idea? Things maybe will go solo? Who knows?
 Evidence Mounts Against Any Mass Start Events For 2020:

As Fall approaches and we get into September, there are a lot of postponed gravel events which were rescheduled from when the onset of the pandemic and social distancing measures started. While we have recently seen many states in the US relax restrictions, we also have noted a spike in Coronavirus cases over the past week or so.

Adding to this are the many events which are cancelling for 2020 altogether. Events like the Boston Marathon, the New York Marathon, various triathlon events, and more. Yes, some major league sporting events still think they will be getting on the field, but the jury is still out on that front. As teams gather for pre-season practices and work-outs, the coronavirus cases have piled up. Any reasonable person would conclude that when the games start, there will be a further uptick in cases amongst players and then what?

I understand that sports are a 'big deal' to us culturally, but more importantly- these sports on major league levels are losing their shirts monetarily if players do not take the fields and courts. It is not a good barometer of how cycling events can take place to compare themselves to Major League Baseball, or the NFL, for instance. Those entities are dealing with economies that outrank many countries entire economic worth in the world. Cycling does not have that sort of need for sacrificial human performances.

It is my humble opinion then that no mass start cycling events take place during the remainder of 2020. If you can figure out how to keep your smaller field separated, then I see no issues running an event of, say 100 folks or less. But even better yet, promoting individual challenges, as many gravel events have done, is more preferable.

You can call me alarmist if you want, or say I've got my head stuck in the sand, but the numbers and case information doesn't lie. The COVID-19 virus has no cure and no vaccine. It is highly dangerous, highly contagious, and can cause permanent damage and death. Those are hard facts. Take your risks accordingly.....

Sorry to end on such a bummer note this week, but this is serious business and there is no "going back to the way things were". Stay healthy! Have a great weekend.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Country Views: Knee High Corn

The river is high!
Wednesday started out beautifully. It was cool, for July, and not very humid. The Sun was riding high in the sky, and the wind wasn't too bad either. To add to that, I was weary of The World. My soul was spent and I couldn't look at all the ugliness anymore. So, it was time to get outta the city and into the country. I was hoping to get recharged a bit.

I'm not one that can handle a lot of stressful stuff, and I've already mentioned that big city life isn't for me. Heck, even where I live is almost more than I can handle many days. Again- I admire anyone that can deal with big urban areas and even more so if you can handle what is happening these days with grace. I'm overwhelmed by it all. I needed to unplug for a bit. So, I figured why not bag some more roads in my quest to ride every gravel road in Black Hawk County? I stared at a map to get things burned into my brain, and by 10:00am I was on my bike and gone.

I decided to use the Black Mountain Cycles MCD since it was the bike set up with the Teravail Rutland 700c X 47mm tires I am testing for RidingGravel.com. The route I had intended on using took me along the Cedar River via bike paths. Since we had over 4" of rain the other day, everything is getting flooded if it lies low enough, or if it is a waterway. I didn't know the lay of the land where I was heading, so I knew there was a possibility for me to have to truncate my route. It almost happened going out on the bike path! The river was so high that many bridge under-passes were blocked, but fortunately I got through other ways. That was good and eventually I found myself on the outskirts of Evansdale, Iowa looking for a turn-off from the old four lane Highway 20 route.

This is a shoulder, or a gravel road with a pesky paved side path, depending upon your outlook. 
A new-to-me gravel road named Conrad Road. It probably is going to end up getting paved soon.
The first thing I needed to do was find my way to Conrad Road, which is a little over a mile long. It is just Northeast of Evansdale and when I reached it, I saw that there are signs this road is getting paved soon. There were bright, shiny fire hydrants at regular intervals in the South ditch, which tells me that this strip of land between Conrad Road and the old highway is getting developed into housing soon. Bummer! There are already some residents living out there. I cannot imagine that trading their peaceful rural existence for pavement and housing crammed into small lots is going to be an "improvement", but what-ev's. Follow the money. It is all about land developers and property taxes these days. Damn the rich farmland, Nature, and Peacefulness to hell, I guess. Sad!

The corn will be replaced with those roofs in the distance and a lot of pavement soon, I'm betting.
Barns for Jason #1
Conrad Road petered out on a paved road which I was obliged to ride on the shoulder of to Osage Road and then Eastward. This was all new to me. I recall years ago, before Osage Road was paved from the West out to this intersection, that it was gravel, and I got caught out on it riding a road bike. I ended up pinch-flatting that day. Once I reached this intersection with the North-South blacktop I remember being soooo relieved! Ha! Now I avoid pavement at all costs and relish the chance to see any gravel road I can by bicycle. How things have changed for me over the years!

Barns for Jason #2
Barns for Jason #3
Osage Road was pretty fast! The gravel had been beaten down to a point that it totally reminded me of Southeastern Minnesota roads. Sandy-ish and gritty. The hills were really gentle too, and I had a decent tailwind. Of course, I felt like a hero going East. That lasted until I had to turn South where Osage Road went back to pavement just before that road ran Eastward out of Black Hawk County and to the town of Jesup.

I did note that the corn was knee-high or taller out this way already. Pretty incredible when I think about how corn just South of town was barely canopied last weekend. Of course, it is entirely possible that corn is also knee-high by now. This hybrid, genetically modified corn grows so fast it is unbelievable.

Barns for Jason #4- The Old and The New
Barns for Jason #5
Once I reached the end of Osage Road, it was South on South Holgate Road to Dubuque Road where the next gravel south was offset from Holgate to the West just a bit and called Garling Road instead. I have to say that Black Hawk County might possibly have the most complicated naming scheme for roads of any county in the State of Iowa. Many are named after notable pioneers of the area, so they have historical significance, but keeping these all straight if you are an emergency responder must be difficult.

For instance, Garling Road dumps you out on an East-West gravel road alternately called Birdland Drive and Young Road. It's marked "Young Road" on the signage out in the country, but maps carry both names. I have no idea what the story is on that. At any rate, I went East to where the gravel truncates and turns to pavement a couple miles outside of Jesup, Iowa, and then I doubled back for the final gravel run-in to the city.

Wild day lilies are starting to pop in the ditches now.
A fat cow wades in some flooded pasture alongside Young Road.
Of course, there are all kinds of truncated roads and stubs of roads out here that I'll have to come back and tediously go back and forth over to get them "bagged" on my quest to ride all the gravel in the county. So, I'll be back out this way again soon, I hope. It actually is a decent little loop, and it isn't all that difficult to get out this way in reality.

Barns for Jason #'s 6,7, and 8.
Leaning against a gated Level C road looking West up Young Road
By the time I was heading back West, the wind had come up and the clouds with it. There was rain brewing, and I knew that the forecast had said that around 2:00pm it was supposed to be kicking in. That's the big reason why I couldn't be messing around bagging bits of road Wednesday. I just headed as fast as I could against that wind back towards the city.

I'll be back out this way again soon. Stay tuned......