Sunday, February 23, 2020

Trans Iowa Stories: New Things - Part 2

This view is completely familiar now, but in '09 it was new and exciting.
"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!"

After a Summer of planning a new route in a new area, it was Fall and time to do recon. I had been pushing for an earlier date to get this done since we had been burned a few times by waiting too long and having Winter hit. So, this recon happened in late October, but even the best laid plans can go awry. That will be explained in a bit here.

I still remember being pumped about this route. I cannot speak for David, but I found a renewed energy after we had settled in on Grinnell and this energy was amped up even further by what we saw during the recon. Maybe I got a little too excited, because all the "highs" I was experiencing over this edition of Trans Iowa ended up being translated into many ideas which I ran with. I did these things without really consulting anyone, and in fact, looking back it is a bit embarrassing. This was not at all the direction I wanted Trans Iowa to go into, and I'm pretty certain it was not what David had envisaged either.

Things like the "acronym" crazy ideas I had were pointing more towards bigger production and slicker marketing. All the while we were still limiting the field to 75 riders, so it was a bit incongruous. The basic formula was retained- a short lead out to the first checkpoint, then a second and third checkpoints would fall at intervals across the course of about 80-ish miles. Convenience stores would be near each checkpoint, but we were careful not to choose sites where the checkpoint would interfere with normal business. New was a "no-tell" policy on the whereabouts of Checkpoints 2 and 3. We even kept the volunteers in the dark so as to short-circuit any bribing or "arm-twisting" for information. This became an issue with this event, as we will see.

From the late October recon of T.I.v6
We had a TON of sponsorship for this version of Trans Iowa as well. Coming off a year where sponsorship was basic and nearly non-existent, this was a stunning turn of events. This excited me even more and I was posting sponsorship news like crazy. Oakley, Revelate bags, Banjo Brothers, and more were onboard for this deal. Gravel cycling had caught the imagination of forward looking companies and marketing departments. Salsa Cycles, of course, was also a sponsor of T.I.v6. They were in the throes of putting together the first "gravel specific race bike", and they used events like Trans Iowa to do their "in the field" testing. Revelate Bags actually sent us prizing based upon the T.I.v5 web banner which depicted the calf I saw during T.I.v4 and which Jeff Kerkove used in his design. That featured "blood splattering" on the calf. Eric, the proprietor of Revelate, was so impressed that a gravel event would use such imagery that he told us that he just had to sponsor us!

With myself heading up all the goofy marketing, hoopla, receiving prizing, and doing all the communications, it left David out of the loop. This ended up causing a bit of a ruffle leading up to the start of T.I.v6. It was another one of those things that almost derailed Trans Iowa, but was a thing narrowly averted.

David did much of "his part" of recon by bicycle. Image by David Pals
With recon cut short by another severe Winter which lasted right into March, getting the route verified got pushed back. I was rather anxious about it and was putting pressure on to get everything lined up and completed for this edition of Trans Iowa. We had so many things lined up- a pre-race meeting at the Grinnell Steakhouse, discounted meals and motel rooms, a ride for non-competitors, and the big finale planned for the barn West of Grinnell. I had a lot of well known (in gravel riding circles at the time) competitors showing up. Even Jay Petervary and his wife, Traci, were showing up on a tandem, a first for Trans Iowa. To say that I felt pressure to get this thing sewn up and ready to put on was a great understatement.

I got a LOT of crazy gifts for v6 registration. David got nothing. It was unfair.
To boot, all the craziness of registration, the gifts and all the attention was on me. I, of course, enjoyed it and figured it was small recompense for my risk taking and efforts. But in the process, David, who lived an hour and a half away, got none of the benefits and a lot of the hassles. He was tasked with cue sheet production, and as I know, that is no fun at all and a very tedious task. Added to your daily job stress and family life, well, it can be quite a load to bear.

This all came to a head about two weeks out from the event. I was pressuring David about cues, and he responded in an angry e-mail saying he was quitting Trans Iowa and that he wasn't going to do the cue sheets. It was crisis management time for me, and I had to put away my emotions for the time being to help preserve Trans Iowa.

Sure, David could have communicated his displeasure long before it came to a head. Sure, I could have been a lot more sensitive to the situation he was in regarding Trans Iowa. We both had parts to play in the troubles, but that could all be navigated later. Maybe... At the moment, in 2010 only two weeks out from Trans Iowa, all I cared about was salvaging the event, no matter what. I smoothed things over as best I could, and David calmed himself down and put away his issues for the time being, and cues got done.

But you have no idea how close it came to all unraveling right there.

Next: Thunder And Lightning: Part 1

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Iowa Gravel Expo Pop-Up Series Reviewed

Session #1 Jen Reed presents the event, "Turds of Misery"
With last Wednesday's final pop-up for the Gravel Expo, it is time to assess how it went, and to look toward the future. When N.Y. Roll and I started this deal we were amazed by the interest and demand for knowledge and for the community to gather during the 'down time" of Winter. We went from a single event on a single evening to a two session event on a single day to this pop-up series. All within three years.  The changes made the dynamic different, and I think we learned a lot along the way. But before I get to the lessons learned and what the future of the event may look like, it is time to review the just completed series.

With the change in venue and format, we did not really have a clear idea on what to expect. So, N.Y. Roll and I were pleasantly surprised to see a nice gathering of folks for the first session. We had people from the Des Moines area and our presenter, Jen Reed, from the Bettendorf, Iowa area talking about the "Turds of Misery" event. (Yes- that is the event's name) My presentation afterward then finished up our first evening. N.Y. Roll and I were pleased with how things went and we noted several folks from the local area, (and a local bike shop employee or two), that were in attendance. A good start then.

Session #2 was marked by a Winter Weather Advisory and it was snowing pretty good right at the time of the second session. This damped the attendance a bit, but we still had a nice gathering to see Dangerous Dan's presentation for the Sterile Iowan event. N.Y. Roll then presented the "How To Choose an Event and to Train For It" talk. This was all well received by those that could make it.

Dangerous Dan at session #2
By this time we were getting feedback that we should have put these pop-up series on during the weekends when people weren't having work obligations and whatnot. Yes. We get that, but here is "our reality" when it comes to venues, business support, and being able to do this.

First thing to understand is that we have zero for a budget. We also charge no attendance fees. We are not paying anyone for appearances. N.Y. Roll and I put in all the behind the scenes work for nothing. Do you understand now that we have no money? That's the first part of the puzzle to get here.

Next is that since we cannot pay for a room, we have to provide the venue owner/manager a benefit. In the previous case of the IGE, (Iowa Gravel Expo), we were bringing in a fairly decent number of people, (80+) to a restaurant which would not have gotten those patrons otherwise. Beer and food was "seeded" by N.Y. Roll's bankrolling the event with beverage and food purchases which then were offered for free to the crowd. (Yes- we lost money the first time)

For the Pop-Up Series we went to Second State Brewing, who wanted to bolster mid-week business. We brought more people than they normally would have had on Wednesday evening for four weeks during their slowest time of the year. The IGE was a benefit monetarily to Second State Brewing. Weekends are different for them. They did not need our help for the weekends. So, with that all said, do you understand why we did Wednesdays now?

Session #3 saw Dan Roberts of the Snaggy Ridge 105 presenting.
I apologize for the economic banter and bluntness, but I feel that many folks don't understand what you have to do to get a space and to make something seemingly so simple actually happen. You come to a Pop-Up Series event and just walk right in, sit down, and consume our content and maybe have a beer or two. Big deal? Yes, a very big deal. In fact, I just described above the "deal" we brokered to get the space. Would you be able to pull that off? Get it done so you could have folks on a weekend? Right......

Let N.Y. Roll or I know your plan for that when/if you care to share it. We're all ears here, but the bottom line is that this isn't easy. By the way, thanks to N.Y. Roll, Nick of Second State Brewing, and his staff there for making this happen for us. I think we pulled our end of the deal off well, and judging by the smiles at Second State I noted, I think it is safe to say they thought it worked for them as well. So, yeah......"have it on a weekend!", we hear ya. But that wasn't a possibility, and I hope people that read this understand now why.

Now with that out of the way, the third session had better weather and maybe was our best attended session of the four. This one saw a presentation from a local fat bike race and from Dan Roberts, of the Snaggy Ridge 105, a gravel race out of Tipton, Iowa. After that we had a presentation from N.Y. Roll on his ultra-distance experience in the BC Epic event last Summer in Canada. He brought in one of his bikes all set up as he might have had it for that long bike-packing event, and talked about his reasons for his choices.

Todd Young presents his event, ICGravel, which happens near Iowa city, Iowa
The 4th session was where we saw a gathering nearly as big as session #3's, which, honestly, I was super surprised by. The reason is that locally the CVAST soft trails group decided to have their event the same evening, (despite our picking that date first and publicizing it), so I expected a worse turn out than the weather affected session #2. However; that wasn't that case, and we also had out of town representation again. This time from Iowa Falls and Alden, Iowa.

The event featured this time was ICGravel and Todd Young came up to present on behalf of that event. After Todd's excellent presentation, I got to talk about what it takes to put on a gravel event, and judging by the responses, it went over quite well. With that our four session pop-up series was a wrap. So, now it is time to take stock, assess our efforts, and look toward the future a bit.

N.Y. Roll and I have already been batting around a lot of ideas. Here's the thing- again, sorry- but we do not have a pool of money to work with. We will, if we do this again, be pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps unless we get backing from an unforeseen source. So, bearing that in mind, our ideas have to be based in that reality.

I think the dynamic of the pop-up series model is a good one, and one we'd likely stick to again. A bigger, one-off event takes a LOT more logistical and financial horsepower. Plus, each presenter gets lost in the haze of the "everything going on", which is not what we intend. We want to spotlight Iowa gravel events. The pop-up idea did just that. Plus, people can pick and choose what they want to come and hear about.

N.Y. Roll and his bikepacking rig at session #3.
So, the pop-up idea works best for that, and we will likely stick to that format. With that in mind, does it make sense to move the pop-up series to different locations? Obviously, getting venues becomes much more complicated, but this is an intriguing idea and one we will be looking at.

The IGE has been, since its inception, all about Iowa gravel events. But, every time N.Y. Roll and I talk about this, the idea of bikes and associated gear comes up. Could the Iowa Gravel Expo be like the Iowa Bicycle Expo, or even be a part of that? I think so, but N.Y. Roll and I also both believe that the event presentations and the gathering of the riders is more important, and that by mixing that in with what the Iowa Bicycle Expo is about, we feel it would dilute the product. It would become just another booth on the showroom floor. So, we never get beyond the talking stages on that idea. But that doesn't mean we couldn't show some bikes and gear at a pop-up, let's say. In the end, it isn't really that high on our "to-do list".

Speaking of venues again- We have also thought about moving the IGE to a warmer time of year and doing it outdoors. If that idea were to be pursued, it may open up a lot of venue choices and other possibilities. So, we're toying around with that too.

In the end, we feel we were successful this year. The changes made were positive and still have potential. So, if we stuck to the basic formula from 2020 and went for that again in 2021, (Second State Brewing willing), I have no problem with that. But we have a long time to work on next year, if we do it again.

Thanks To The Iowa Gravel Expo Series Sponsors: Andy's Bike Shop, Riding Gravel, Second State Brewing, N.Y. Roll, and Guitar Ted Productions.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Friday News And Views

Early "Slop Season" road from 2018
Entering The Slop Season:

Well, we're just about to the end of February and that means that "Slop Season" is just around the corner. "What is that?", you might ask. Well, it is when the roads are in the process of thawing out and the frost draws up out of the ground. This makes the roads soft, wet, muddy, and therefore, sloppy. Slop Season. Get it?

This is a hard time in the cycling season for many folks. Traditionally, roadie season cycling was about the only game in town, but with deaths, injuries, and too many close calls to name, most of us aren't going out for road rides these days. Not with distracted drivers and just plain bad, lazy drivers out on the roads. I know we like to blame electronic devices for much of the mayhem that affects us cyclists, but I'm here to tell you that just plain old bad driving skills and poor decisions are killing more than we care to admit.


The point is, the trails for off road are not suitable to ride on, road cycling is too dangerous, and gravel roads are there , but you'd better be prepared for some gooey-going.  When Winter fades and Spring edges in, the gravel roads can be pretty bad. This is when I bust out the wider tires and fenders. Remember those? British folk call 'em mudguards. That's actually exactly what they are during "Slop Season" here.

I also will ride single speeds. In fact, the old "Orange Crush" BMC is set up specifically to tackle "Slop Season" this year with a single speed set up and mudguards. Derailleur drive trains can get destroyed in the slop or the rear derailleur can be completely ripped off your bike! Single speeds get around all that, plus they are easier to maintain. But yeah....I'll also still run a fully geared bike. The BMC MCD with full mudguards will be fitted with the fatter 650B tires which allow for a bit less of a "pizza cutter" effect on the softer roads.

I'm sure Winter will make a final appearance or maybe two, but Slop Season is nigh, and there is no stopping it.

A nod to the grassroots gravel events. Where gravel gets its "realness" from.
 A Good Word;

You know I've banged on about how the entire gravel scene is basically a grassroots scene, built by the populace, not by the marketing machine. But we're becoming victims of our own, homegrown success. Now the slick, fancy messages from the traditional cycling media and the former roadie Pros turned gravel grinders have been making a raucous noise about how this is "the new thing", when in fact, it most certainly is not "the new thing", and especially not because they say it is so. There's this thing called "history". They might want to look into that.

Anyway, I welcome them regardless. I welcome them to what we've been doing for about a decade and a half now. Hope they have fun. But enough about what I think. I'm not the only one seeing this. A gravel rider and friend of mine from South Dakota, Craig Groseth, has similar thoughts, only maybe his are more concisely and clearly laid out than my ramblings are. If you care to check out what he has written, click HERE.

I met Craig while grinding away in central Nebraska at Odin's Revenge. Woo! That was some kinda tough right there, and I do miss that event, and seeing Craig also. I guess they have a new event out that way which is set to take in some of that Odin's area. I just cannot get out there this year due to the new job, but it looks tasty.

Anyway, Craig is a great guy and I just wanted to point out another take on the scene. Thank you, Craig!

Specialized CG-R seat post
 Seat Post Shoot-Out:

Several years ago MG and I ran a seat post shoot-out on the old "Gravel Grinder News" site. We had that Ergon/Canyon leaf spring deal, a Niner RDO post, and I think something titanium was thrown in the mix as well. Anyway.....

Now we have the Kinekt suspension post, the new Redshift Sports ShockStop post, and the old Cane Creek Thudbuster suspension post. I'm going to pit my experiences with these posts against some fully rigid offerings like the new PRO Discover Carbon post with Dyneema, and this guy here......a Specialized CG-R. 

I've wanted to get my hands on one of these posts for years. It has been around since at least 2012, as near as I can tell, and I remember trying to get one for our old shoot-out. Unfortunately it never materialized. But here is a used one I got my hands on, and I am going to check it out. It gets great reviews, from what I can see, but there are a few things that are nits on this post as well. One being the 25mm of setback. Not everyone is going to get along with that! Some also allude to the post's shaft being where all the comfort comes from and not so much from the funky head design, but I will try to see if I can figure out what is going on with this particular post, along with the others as well.

That's all for this week! Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Deep Dive; Down The Rabbit Hole Of Tire Nomenclature

In the late 19th Century, it was all about diameter.
Okay! Today you had better be prepared to get your "nerd' on, because we're taking a deep dive into why tires have the designations that they do. Some of what I am going to share is knowledge I picked up along my journey as a bicycle mechanic. But I am going to credit a few folks right up front here. Thank you to Wes Williams, Clayton Wangbichler of WTB, and the inimitable Sheldon Brown (RIP) and his website.

I'm going to breeze through a LOT of technicalities here and focus only on a few salient points, so please bear this in mind. 

Wheels. That was what it all was about back in the late 19th Century. Wheels determined how fast or slow you could go, and this was figured out based upon a formula which required the measurement of the overall diameter of said wheel. Keep in mind that "tires' were nothing more than a steel strip over wood, or maybe a wired on rubber tube later on.  Pneumatic tires came around right around the turn of the century, but this wouldn't get sorted out until the 20th Century as tires you and I might recognize today. The point is, tires added little, if anything, to overall diameter.

Along with this tire/wheel thing, we had other factors which eventually lead to the "Safety Bike". Now wheels were not driven "directly", but by means of a crankset, chain, rear cog, and the rear wheel. This complicated things for the early wheelman, as it made figuring out your wheel development, or how far your wheel traveled with one revolution, much more of a chore. However; rear wheel diameter was still important to know so one could figure this out. Pnuematic tires also complicated things because they added to the overall wheel diameter. Now throw in bigger, or smaller volume of tires. Generally speaking, wider tires are going to add more diameter to a fixed diameter of wheel/rim. This radically changed gear development, so something had to be done to tame this cacophony of innovation and confusing tire/wheel sizes. This didn't happen for several years, thanks to two World Wars, innovations in automobiles and airplanes, and the ups and downs of economies. But eventually, it happened.

We pretty much have the French to thank for our predicament today. They helped develop a system of codification for wheels. Because the bicycle wheel was a worldwide phenomenon, we ended up with a mixed bag of Imperial and Metric measures for wheels. This really makes things hard, but we will stick to the metric side of things here.

The French made some wheels standardized around the 650mm diameter, but keep in mind, that's overall diameter. They way it was supposed to work was that if you had a skinny, low volume tire, you'd need a larger diameter rim to make the tire/rim combination equal 650mm. This was designated as 650A. Medium sized tires, with larger volume, required a smaller diameter rim, and thus the 650B designation. The largest volume tires went on even smaller rims, and these were designated 650C.

650B really doesn't tell us what size tires we are looking at anymore like it used to.
Copy and paste for 700 sized wheels. They were supposed to be 700mm overall diameter and rims varied in diameter depending upon tire volume. You now know that the "c" in 700c meant- originally- that a pretty good sized tire was supposed to be on there. But none of this applies in 2020. Obviously. That "c" in 700c is pretty much meaningless. You know this because a 29"er tire and a 700 X 44mm tire can both go on the same rim, but both result in vastly different diameters.

And of course, figuring out wheel/gear development is an arcane practice which few engage in anymore anyway. We keep saying "700c" because we need to call it something and traditions die hard. But now you know a little bit of that story. Now I want to address another letter "c".

That being the "c" people sometimes drop behind the millimeter measurement of a tire's width. Example: 700 X 44c. What is that? If we are measuring in millimeters, is the "c" for centimeters? Obviously that cannot be the case, although a 44cm wide tire would be rad on snow! No, here's what the deal is, as I have come to find out. Thanks to WTB's Clayton Wangbichler for the following.

Rims weren't always how we know them today. There were hookless rims, (Schwinn was famous for these), and there were a type of hooked bead rim called "crochet style". The "c" behind the tire designation for width would often have an upper case "C" to designate that the tire was designed for the crochet style rim bead. So, "44C" would be an example of how many companies would have designated such a thing. Eventually this important designation became meaningless as all rims became more or less standardized, and the "C" became "c", because.........tradition and marketing. It doesn't tell us anything.

In fact, Clayton from WTB told me that WTB has dropped the "c" on 700 and the "c" or "mm" from the width too. (Note the image above) So, there ya go. I've always wondered what the heck the 'c" was for on the width measurement, and now I know it doesn't really mean anything. It's just a mannerism, a vestige of days gone by. Not that you or anyone else should follow suit with WTB and stop using that, but, as Clayton told me, "We've all offended", and I think what he means is that we all were just doing what we had been seeing and not really asking "why?'. I think, given the history, it maybe will bring about a clearer way for talking about tires in the future. Not that we've gotten away from some other confusing bits. Like mixing metric and Imperial measurements!

For a bit of a visual presentation on the "A", "B", "C" French thing, here is a link to a GCN video which does a great job of explaining it.

Once again, a big thanks to all of you folks for reading.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The Last Pop-Up Is Tonight!

This is N.Y. Roll. He's gonna let me talk this time!
Iowa Gravel Expo Pop-Up Series #4 Tonight!

Tonight will mark the end of the 2020 Iowa Gravel Expo series we've been putting on since mid-January every other week. This is being held at Second State Brewing in Cedar Falls, Iowa at 6:30pm - 7:30pm-ish. The topic of this session will be "How To Start And Organize A Gravel Event". 

The series has been successful so far and we hope that we get a few folks tonight despite a competing event which scheduled on the same evening after we did. It's one of those things though- there's always something else going on. 

Anyway, I thought maybe it might be a good idea to do a bit of a mini-series on this blog about how I approached putting on the gravel events I have done in the past. So, that's something I'll probably tackle coming up in March. It'll be brief, nothing huge.

To my way of thinking, in general, there are really not many bullet points to putting on an event. Details can get you into the weeds, so as a person that puts on events, you always have to keep your eyes up and on the big picture. Generally this always should go back to your core ideals and goals. So, if you are all about a loose, fun, simple, and a more organic feel for an event, then chip timing and blow-up finish line arches are probably something you want to steer clear of. If, however; you are all about ultra-competitive, high-performance, traditional racing, then you have to have those amenities I mentioned. But everything you consider has to be consistent with your vision for the event. That's just one example of this sort of decision making I give you there.

And timing and finish line hoopla is not necessarily exclusive to a loose, organic feel, so don't go reading into my examples here. I'm just trying to illustrate a point. In the end, "you do you" when it comes to an event. The worst thing one can do is try to appeal to people they do not understand. (That is- unless you are willing to bring on people that do understand the groups you want to see attending, and have THEM run the event, which isn't always possible.) Do an event that appeals to you. What would you like to see? Do that.

Of course there is a LOT more to it, but I think people forget about how their visions of things probably will appeal to a lot of folks out there. You don't have to try to appeal to things you don't understand. It's your event. Of course there will be people that don't like it, that will criticize it, and even make fun of it. That's okay. They shouldn't be coming to your event and now you know who they are. That's all. That's all you should take away from that sort of thing. The ones that do come already pretty much agree with what you have going down. Worry about their experiences. 

Anyway, more to come on this, and if you are around, head over to Second State Brewing in Cedar Falls. I'd be happy to see you!  

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

WW4M: Topeak Joe Blow Sport Floor Pump

For a purchase that was meant to just "get me by" on a vacation.....
This is another "WW4M" post. That means "What Works For Me" and it may not work for you. So, take that with the following words into consideration.....

Probably about 2007, I think it was, I was on a vacation with my family to see my in-laws in El Paso Texas. That trip included my first with mountain bikes to that area. I was doing reviews for "Twenty Nine Inches", and I could ride "real" mountains down there, only 17 miles away from my relative's home. It was a perfect combination of "work and play" from my perspective.

So, besides trying to coordinate getting everyone packed up and ready for the two day drive down, I also had to get my gear together to support myself down there. I would be riding alone, so I was concerned about water, food, and even first aid should I have a mishap out there in the desert. To say I had a lot going on would be an understatement.

The trip went well, and when I had time to unpack down there, I realized I had forgotten my floor pump, an old, barely functional Blackburn one. Well, I had to have a floor pump. So, my brother in law suggested I go see Crazy cat Cyclery in El Paso. I found the shop, and told my wife I'd only be inthere a minute. I ran in, asked the clerk for a "decent floor pump", and he handed me this mustard colored Topeak job which went for about $25.00. "Perfect! I can make that work for the short time I'm here", I thought to myself. 

The rest of that trip was uneventful, I got my test riding in the mountains done, and when it came time to leave, I offered to leave the pump with my brother in law, as he was talking about maybe getting back into cycling. I thought, ya know, it was a cheap pump and I need one better than this anyway. However, my brother in law insisted I take it home, so I did.

Battered and beaten, but still pumping after all these years.
And that pump has been used, abused, and it still is kicking. I just cannot kill this thing. What is equally as amazing as this pump's long term performance is the fact that I have never had to install a single replacement part yet. No gaskets, no seals, no hoses. Nothing.

I've taken this pump on more El Paso trips, vacations, trips for races, and trips for testing gear. It's been down in the Lab pumping up tubeless tire set ups, fat bike tires, and I've used it to pump up my car and truck tires on numerous occasions.

One day I heard a weird hissing noise coming from the pump and I thought, well......this is it. This pump is finally done. However; after a short time of inspection I found the cause. A loose fitting, and once I tightened it, I was all good to go again. That's the only issue I've ever had with this pump.

Now you gotta figure that after having this pump for 13 years that the thought that this was just a purchase to get me by for a week was selling this pump short. I mean, it was 25 bucks! I've probably pumped up well over a thousand tires with this thing in that time. Maybe a couple thousand. I don't know, but I do know that for all the times I've knocked this thing around, and for a total lack of maintenance, I am pretty sure I got my money's worth. This thing has done all my tire testing work, since I use the gauge as a relative measure for my reviews, and I have done a boatload of tire reviews. So, if you ask me if this pump was worth it?.......

Yep. Pretty sure about that!

Anyway, I see no reason that this pump won't go a handful more years at the least. I do mix it up, as far as usage, with that new fangled Silca  pump I got about a year ago or so. That will help extend the life of this pump. But even so, I would expect this pump to be around a long time here. By the way, they do make replacement parts for the high wear parts on this pump, and I have the rebuild kit, because I figured I'd need it sooner or later. But that may be a long time from now!

Also a testament to the design- Topeak still makes this model floor pump. It's about $50.00 now, but ya gotta figure that if Topeak is using similar design, that $50.00 investment will last you well over ten years. That's a LOT of tire pumping. I should know.

Note: I bought the Topeak Joe Blow sport pump with my own money. I was not paid nor bribed for this review and I strive to give my honest thoughts and views throughout.

Monday, February 17, 2020

A Little Update On Bouncy Bits

I put some more time on the Redshift Sports ShockStop post.
Well, the temperatures rose to a level where I could get out for a bit and cruise around on various surfaces to test out the Redshift Sports ShockStop Seat Post. While I didn't have time to do a gravel ride, I did find a lot of potholes, dirt, mud, snow, and paved hills to work the post over, right here in town.

In fact, the varied conditions were more than what I would have found out in the country. The pot holes alone were bigger than anything out there, for sure. The packed snow? Probably non-existent out there. So, it wasn't like I was bummed. Besides, it was a bike ride, ya know?

The packed snow was especially fun. The WTB Raddler 44mm tires were really good here. The post helps in keeping traction too. Odd to think that could be the case, but other sprung seat posts have done this for me as well. The pot holes were no big deal. Generally a sharp hit to the bum, but the ShockStop post, if you set it up right, soaks it all up.

There was one question I wanted answered about this post and that was how it handles climbing in the saddle. High cadence, medium cadence, and low, grunting pushing was all tried on a longer paved climb averaging 8%-10%. I have to say, I was impressed here as well. No excessive bobbing at all. Of course, there was some movement, you are not going to get away from that. But nothing took away from my climbing. Curiously, the more forward I sat on the saddle the less bob I experienced. Again- some movement is acceptable- for me. If you cannot deal with any movement, well then a suspension seat post isn't for you.

The longer stem is perfect now. Positioning is much better. I may lower the stem a bit later into Spring. The stiffer spring choice is okay. I have to wait until I get out on some rough gravel to see about that before making a final judgment. More soon......

NOTE: Redshift Sports sent the Shock Stop Seat Post at no charge for test and review on I was not paid, nor bribed for this post and I always strive to give my honest thoughts and views throughout

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Trans Iowa Stories: History Rediscovered

A downlaoded screen shot printed on typing paper of the original Trans Iowa site header
"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!

We are going to go backward a bit today with today's chapter in the "Trans Iowa Stories". All the way back to the beginnings of the event. But first, a little background for context here.

As Trans Iowa developed and moved from year to year, I would find a binder, or heavy duty folder, and download all records, extra cues from recon, maps, drafts, waivers, and whatever else from a particular Trans Iowa into that binder or folder and put it on a shelf, or in a drawer, or wherever I could find space. After about four or five of these deals, I realized that these were historically important. At least to anyone like myself that cared about Trans Iowa. So, I made a concerted effort to find nicer binders and folders where necessary, (Trans Iowa v1 in particular), and then I put these things back on the shelf. I rarely ever looked back at the old stuff, so sometimes these folders and binders would get separated, one from the other.

As it happened, about two years ago, after the last Trans Iowa, I went looking for all the binders to account for them. I was only able to locate binders for v8-v14. The earlier ones seemed to be MIA. I figured that they had to be somewhere in the swirling vortex of detritus called Guitar Ted Productions. But where?

Well, a few weeks back I discovered the whereabouts of these documents. They had been put into a tub which was sitting out in my damp, leaky garage! Fortunately everything was dry, but you can bet this stuff came back inside that very day that I found it all. And by "all", I mean all of it. Versions 1-7 were in that tub. Awesome!

So, amongst the treasures of roster sheets, notes, maps, and cues, I found the first Trans Iowa book which had a complete downloaded hard copy of the v1 webpages, screen shot three days before the event! Note the "ticker" under the header which was counting down the time to the event. Then also, you can see when the last "news" entry was put up on April 16th, 2005. In fact, there are three or four pages worth of things which are all about the first Trans Iowa. It's fascinating reading, from my perspective, because all that stuff was straight out of Jeff Kerkove's mind. I had zero to do with how any of that was written then. The v2 and subsequent Trans Iowas were all my baby in that regard.

So, look closely at that header. What does that remind you of? Something straight out of 2020 perhaps? We had a "presenting sponsor", and speaking of sponsors, there were a full line up of "heavy hitters". These were no slouch sponsors! Tifosi eyewear, Ergon, Giant Bicycles, and more. But again, that was all due to Jeff's endurance racing/solo 24hr successes. It had nothing at all to do with gravel racing. 

I'll get into the whole sponsorship deal in future "Trans Iowa Stories", but for now, I just wanted to share this "find" that I had forgotten all about. Whether it was Jeff or myself that had the presence of mind to screen shot all this and print it later, I don't recall, but it is literally a snap-shot of a point in history that otherwise would be lost to the mists of time.

Next: New Things Part 2

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Updates On G-Ted Productions Rides

New GTDRI header
I thought I'd take the opportunity to update you all on a couple of rides I help produce here and the details surrounding them. First up will be some chit-chat about the C.O.G.100 coming up at the end of next month (already!)

N.Y.Roll and I have finalized t-shirts sales and will be sending off the order to Bike Rags now. That's it for sales of the C.O.G 100 shirts, but we will have a very small, limited size availability on the "Real American Gravel" shirts at Peace Tree the evening before the event.

Next up, we have ordered race numbers, and they will be the same ol' boring ones you know and are used to from me. I may customize them depending upon when I get my hands on them. The order is in, so if I get these in the next week or so, the possibilities that I will do "something" is higher. Stay tuned on that.......

Of course, Spring is on the doorstep and that means N.Y. Roll and I will be finalizing the route choice. As stated before, we have a couple of spots we are concerned with, and so if those check out, we will be then sending along our master files for the cues to our printer and getting that squared away. The cues will be the same format and size as last year. If you are familiar with cues from the last few Trans Iowa events, they will be similar to that.

We have secured permission to use the parking lot at the North end of Ahrens Park off Penrose Street in the far Northeast corner of Grinnell. This will serve as our launch point for the event, and will be near the actual finish line, which has a bike path leading over to the parking lot for rider's convenience. We will be giving further details at our Pre-race Meeting which will occur just before the event. NOTE: We are hoping riders will also enjoy some fellowship afterward at Peace Tree Tap Room in downtown Grinnell after the event. Plus, there are several great restaurants in the area within walking distance of Peace Tree.

So.... Barring any weirdness we should be good to go. The hats, shirts, race plates, and cue sheets are all yet to be delivered as finished products, but I expect no problems there. Stay tuned for finer details in a week or two as the event draws nearer.

Now, as for the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational, I have a new header! (Wooo!) It was a complete mistake, and I modified it in a photo manipulation program a bit, but it follows with many of my other renderings for this event. Vague, out of focus, and "hot and on fire" looking. Basically, this is a rendition of what your mind and body will feel like during the ride. (HA!) Seriously though, it likely will be very hot and humid that time of year.

Other than the new header, I got nuttin'. I will only reiterate that I will be doing recon missions along my proposed route as soon as I can get out there. I'm kind of excited about exploring a new-to-me area. I'll be posting about my adventures in recon as they happen, so that should be some fun.

I shouldn't say I don't have anything new to share, because I do have some thoughts on the route and the "feel" for this year's GTDRI. In the past, I used to have a stopping point on the route, typically a place where we could eat at around the noon hour. We'd kick back, relax, and then knock out the rest of the route. That's been missing the last several years due to the remote nature of "hunting Level B Roads" which kept us out in the Styx and not going through any real towns. This is what bit us last year and why, when only about 20 miles out from the finish, the entire group sat around a convenience store in Brooklyn for a long while recuperating from 80 miles of heat, rain, and hills.

We will be going through several smaller villages and towns this year. I will be hoping to find that spot where we can kick back and relax a bit, but N.Y. Roll has been dousing my enthusiasm for this to happen saying all my choices for the route go through towns with nothing in them. I think he has a dim view of what is reality out there. We'll see who is right this Spring when I get out and do my recon.

Finally, a bit of an update on the t-shirt idea I broached here last Friday. Several of you readers were kind enough to respond and I have your responses tabulated. I'm going to let this roll for about another week with some reminders here and there, but initial numbers are not encouraging for the t-shirt........yet. We will see. I think that there is a good chance I'll do stickers though. So, plan on that at the least.

That should wrap up things for now on events and other stuff going on around here. Thanks!

Friday, February 14, 2020

Friday News And Views

Walton Heirs Move Rapha From Portland To Bentonville:

News dropped on Wednesday that cycling apparel company, Rapha, based in the UK, was moving its Portland, Oregon based US operations to Bentonville, Arkansas. The move is believed to be motivated by the Walton brothers, heirs of the WalMart fortune, who own the parent company of Rapha.

It has been widely reported that the Walton heirs are cycling fans and that they have built up the Bentonville area into a destination spot for mountain bikers, and now are bringing assets that will attract road and gravel cyclists to the area as well. Related to the Rapha move is the relocation of Allied Cycles, also owned by a company which is owned itself by the Waltons. Allied, in case you weren't aware, makes high end US carbon road and gravel bikes. The Waltons are also involved in the WalMart brand, Viathon, which is also selling higher end carbon road and mountain bikes via WalMart outlets and online.

To say that the Walton heirs have transformed the Bentonville area into an attractive place for cycling companies to relocate is a mild understatement. There are rumblings of other cycling companies wanting to come to this area as well. Lower housing costs for employees, lower cost of living, and centralized shipping are reasons stated for this, but you have to figure that the investments made by the Walton heirs are the key here.

Keep in mind that Life Time events' new Big Sugar gravel event is based out of this area, and that the recent USAC-Gravel pow-wow was held in the town as well. The Walton money is central to all this activity. Question: What happens when the money dries up? Well, nobody knows you when you are down and out, right Portland?

The Robert Axle Project "Drive Thru" chain management tool
Gizmo Alert: Robert Axle Project's Drive Thru:

You may have heard of the Robert Axle Project, (no! it isn't a band!), and if you have, you know that they do axles, (duh!), and through axles of various thread pitches and lengths are their game. Well, they just came out with this new gizmo called a "Drive Thru". It's kind of like the Pedros Chain Keeper, only for through axles, and a lot better made too.

This particular one will work on my gravel bikes with the 12mm X 1.0 thread pitch through axle standard. They have these in 1.5 and 1.75 thread pitches as well. There is no reason these wouldn't work for mountain and road bikes as well.

Here's the thing- The obvious use is for when you are cleaning your bike and don't want the chain slapping all around your chain stay. But there are other reasons to have this too. Transporting your bike without wheels? Or how about while you are doing rear tire swaps, or maintenance on the drive train and don't want to get chain cleaning/lube spooge on your tires? I'm sure you can come up with other ideas here.

The Drive Thru has a wheel and it does rotate, and it can slide back and forth on the axle. So, you could check shifting without the rear wheel in the bike, or fool around with your front derailleur without a rear wheel. It's made from aluminum and a sort of plastic, maybe nylon reinforced? Not sure because the site doesn't tell us. But it is another level above a Pedros Chain Keeper and obviously, that tool is for a quick release anyway. Yes, it costs $35.00, but it is something you'll have around for years and something you probably will find really useful.

Note: The Robert Axle Project sent over the Drive Thru for test and review to at no charge. I was not bribed nor paid for this review and I will always strive to give my honest thoughts and opinions throughout. 

Too chunky for the UCI?  Image from the T.I.v9 course
 The UCI Sets Guidelines For Gravel Road Sectors In Pro Events: 

Recently, "Velo News" ran this article which tells how the UCI, (Pro Cycling's governing arm) is going to set guidelines for the inclusion of gravel sectors in Pro level road events.

You can go read the details, but essentially what this means is that the UCI can summarily veto any gravel sector in an event that they deem as being unsafe or that hinders spectators and follow cars from being used. They have also informed promoters that they will even go so far as to not register events as sanctioned on their calendar if the protocols are not followed.

I'm going to make a few observations. First- this is a good hint at what would happen should there ever be a Pro level gravel series in the U.S.A. run by USAC. Secondly, I bet there are a LOT of people that won't see any issues with the directives, especially the ones that talk about rider safety. But here's the thing- what is "safe" in their domain? Hard to say from what we can read here, but I'm betting this would be a very arbitrary, subjectively applied rule. I mean, what are they going to do? Measure gravel with a gauge to insure the correct grind? This would be an impossible task, by the way, since gravel conditions can, and often do, change by the mile. Look at my image here. It's from the course of Trans Iowa v9.

This image shows a section of about a mile, mile and a half, where the depth, size of rock, and roughness of those stones was exemplary. Just about the chunkiest gravel I've ever seen on a road, with the exception of a mile of fist sized rocks strewn across about a mile plus of the original Dirty Kanza course in 2006. The riders did this section, and no one was injured. But how would the UCI see that? I'm betting they wouldn't accept it. Too hard. 

But again, I don't know for sure. I'm spit-ballin' here, but my point is that the sanitization of sectors of gravel, or the outright elimination of them, since it will be such a pain to include them, in Pro Tour events is going to happen. First of all, the whole "follow car" thing is such a backwards deal. We ride bicycles to get away from cars, but here are about 20 of them, plus motos, screaming around the course. It's an anathema for gravel cycling folk here. We don't want that. It's not the vibe we all went for when we decided to start riding gravel events. Self-support means you don't have to have that garbage out there. Those rolling trains of machinery are not necessary.

I could go on, but this points out, to me at least, one of the main reasons why the UCI can buzz off. They don't get it, and I, for one, don't care about seeing Pro level gravel racing under their stranglehold. It would instantly become exactly what gravel cycling is not.

But.......there already is a Gravel Worlds!
 But Wait! There's More Craziness!

Thursday a story broke that the founder of the Eroica events, rides that feature vintage road bikes, riders wearing vintage apparel, and often ridden on unimproved roads, wants to instigate a "Gravel Worlds". Apparently, the Eroica founder, Giancarlo Brocci, approached the UCI with his ideas in January this year.

Mr. Brocci's ideas are pretty interesting and very non-traditional from a UCI perspective, so I do not know how far they will get towards putting on this event. Eroica events have some pretty strict rules regarding the types of bikes and apparel to be worn, but obviously those would not be in play for this "Gravel Worlds" idea Mr. Brocci proposes. What is in play is almost unbelievable. Mr. Brocci suggests a minimum body fat rating for riders so they cannot go below a level which would promote doing unhealthy things. He also advocates drinking in moderation for the participants. He even goes as far as saying he wants to ban computers and power meters. (!!) But some of his ideals seem very in tune with the core U.S. gravel scene.

Things like self-supported racing, a keen eye towards banning cheaters, no doping, and his Gravel Worlds would be at least 300K and start at night. (Now that's my kind of thinking right there!) So, who knows? I feel like this man has his heart in the right place, but I also feel like his take on things is 180° opposite of the UCI's, and with current established Euro promoters. I could be all wrong, but I just don't see it happening with these two groups.

But again, a very interesting development and as I said earlier- 2020 seems to be starting up hot as the year "gravel" reaches the top levels of sport in cycling. Yeah..... Just as with 29"ers, I never saw this coming. I find the whole thing surreal. (Is it April 1st?)

Okay, that's it for this week! Get out and ride those bikes and thanks for reading!

Thursday, February 13, 2020

So......Is This About It?

A bit of a "last chance cruise" Wednesday
Weather here is a crap shoot. Winter weather is worse, and the fickle nature of it here can be frustrating at times. That said, this has been a "better than average" fat biking season for me. Not "the best", but top three? Probably.

That looks to be changing really soon, as we reach the mid-point of February. We have a really, really cold day today, and worse for tonight, but then things are to take a dramatic upturn and this snow won't make it through that. Not when daily temperatures are going on into the upper 30's/low 40's everyday.

So, I figured I'd better drag myself out again to do the business on post-holed trails and wherever I could ride to, you know, get my fat bike on for maybe the last time this Winter. Now, of course I could go ride today, but negative wind chills? Nope. Not gonna do it. Friday.....yeah. I may squeeze another ride out, but then it is on with Spring-like, "transition season" type weather.

I'll probably ride the Blackborow DS Friday, if I get out. That will likely be the last ride on it for quite some time. Gravel is going to take over very, very soon, and I am starting to pile up many things that need attention for review. That means more gravel travel. Tires, pedals, drive train bits, a seat post or two, lube, and shoes. More probably coming than I know about now. I'm going to be riding a lot, hopefully.

That will dove tail in perfectly with my exploration of the GTDRI route, future "Rocket's Rides", and my plans to ride in several nearby areas this year. I hope to get out toward Strawberry Point, do a century ride over toward Iowa Falls and back, and spend more time in Tama County too. But first, we have the trailing ends of Winter to deal with. That's not quite over with just yet.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

WW4M: redshift Sports ShockStop Stems

The Redshift Sports ShockStop Stem
This is another "WW4M" post. That means "What Works For Me" and it may not work for you. So, take that with the following words into consideration.....

Many of you that have frequented the blog may know that I reviewed a Redshift Sports ShockStop stem for in 2017.  Actually, if you want all the lowdown on this stem, read this review. It was the one where I talked about all the techy stuff.

So, I've had that stem, which Redshift let me keep, by the way, in continuous use since then. I'm pretty convinced that the construction, design, and durability of this stem is very good. People ask me about the elastomeric springs, if they get softer with time, or are they affected by weather, or if they get stiffer with age, and on and on. The answer is that this stem feels as good now as it did nearly three years ago. Only one problem with it on the main bike I use it on......

It was a tic too short.

I've been using it on the Black Mountain Cycles MCD over the second half of the time I've had this stem and the fit needs to be tweaked a hair. I did some pretty detailed calculations when I set that bike up, and for a while, I was good, but the longer, lower Noble Bikes GX5 has altered my feelings about my fit and now I'm transferring a bit of what I've learned there over to the MCD. This stem is a 100mm one vs the 90mm one I had.

Now for a bit of transparency: Redshift provided me with this stem and did not charge me for it. That said I am not being paid, nor bribed here. In fact, I would have gladly paid for it. I even asked for a price from them, so now you know.

Everything that matters is hidden inside.
Here's why I'd buy one of these stems: They do what they claim to, are durable, and most importantly, they look normal. In fact, most people that see my bike have no clue I am using a shock absorbing stem. Add to that the fact that I can transfer the component from bike to bike, and well, you can easily understand how different and elegant this solution is. I don't have a funky weird looking fork, I don't have a proprietary spring system, and I don't have the weight and complexity of a suspension fork.

Also, the thing with this is that it sucks up the stuff you need to have dealt with- higher frequency vibrations. Gravel can cause a lot of the sort of rattling that this stem can damp out. Oh, and did I mention that the stem comes with five different durometer elastomers to fine tune the ride with? Yep. Want it soft and compliant, or stiffer and have it give only over really harsh stuff? Well, you can get both and in between too. You can set it up to account for a handlebar bag, or you can have 'sag" or no sag, or whatever. It is easy to tune with the provided elastomeric springs which are color-coded and marked with a numeral which coincides with a chart in the instructions. That shows you how to swap elastomers and how to install the stem as well.

And like I say, it's nearly invisible and seems to be a really long term part that needs little to no maintenance. I have to check the fasteners from time to time, like you would any stem, (or you should be if you aren't), so nothing special here to have to consider in terms of feeding and care. There is one downside, and of course, that is weight. Given that almost anything else you do will also add weight, complexity, and if it doesn't add those two, it will add cost. The ShockStop Stem costs $149.99 retail. So, it is a bargain in the vibration damping world that actually works.

If you didn't know, you'd be hard pressed to tell I have a suspension device on this bike.
On gravel this thing is working over the chunky rock the entire time. the ShockStop will even take the edge off potholes and soak up depressions in the surface. Essentially, I have become accustomed to this stem and it just has become something I don't want to ride without all the time. Some of the time? yeah, I still can ride a "direct" stem, but more and more I am riding the ShockStop. It works for me, and I get it, it may not work for you.

My initial misgivings about this thing were that it was going to do what every stem with a pivot does- they get sloppy and loose. But this stem shows zero inclinations of getting loose. It feels solid. You can get out of the saddle, rock the bars, and it feels completely natural. So, I'm sold on it. That's why I got another one, and teh one i took off I'll likely put on my Fargo, because it will fit there.

NOTE: Once again, I did not pay for this second ShockStop Stem and I was not sent the thing to write about it, so I am not being compensated for this. I just am passing along my experiences on a component I feel would be beneficial to many gravel riders.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Winter Views: Clearing Up

What the what?!! There were a bunch of scrub trees felled into the path here.
Monday was another frigid edition of Winter here, so riding in the country did not happen. I did bust out the ol' Ti Muk 2 though, and I decided to head over towards the West and see some of the bike trail and assess my new route choices to where I'll be working in the Spring.

The beginning of the route is much like the past 17 plus years. I head out across a grassy field, now covered in ice and snow, of course, and then drop down a little embankment to the Sergeant Road Trail's end on its Northern terminus. This is right where University Avenue crosses the bike trail. When I reached the upper part of the drop in, I stopped short because a bunch of scrub trees had been felled across the path, such as it is.

So, I dismounted and huffed, and puffed, and I drug a couple trees off the path and out of the way. I suppose things will be in a constant state of flux down there in 2020 since this is where the University Avenue rebuilding project comes next. There is supposedly some plan for connecting the bicycle infrastructure planned for University with the Sergeant Road Trail, so I imagine them clearing out the scrub trees is just the beginnings of that project. It will probably interrupt my passage through that way for about a year or two.

Oh well! Such is the price we pay for "progress". I'd be fine if they dumped everyone that wanted to come down to Sergeant Road Trail on a bit of dirt single track, but that's just me! I'm sure that there will be some sort of cement pathway put in at some point instead. In the meantime I'll probably have to go through a part of downtown Waterloo to get West.

Those two large evergreen trees used to be bushes either side of a building entryway in the 1960's!

The area between University and the Expressway to the North used to be an industrialized area back when I was a kid. There was a coal company in this space and a casket company. The casket company building used to have these two evergreen shrubs on either side of the stairs leading to the entry of the building facing West, and now these have grown into trees in their own right. It appears as though these sentinels of days gone by are also going to be mowed down in an effort to make the area accessible to construction equipment. I doubt many in Waterloo or Cedar Falls even remember this history, but anyway.......

One positive in all this- vehicular traffic sure makes mincemeat of post-holes! 

I ended up poking around for a while until it was about lunch time and then I went on back home after cruising some more alleyway connectors to make my way over toward Cedar Falls. I plan on making the route as much off-pavement as I possibly can, so I will be away from traffic and have more fun!

It looks like we're in for one more week of "real Winter" weather and then they are forecasting a break in things. Hmm...... Transitional season is about to come. We're already a third of the way through February, so it won't be long now!

Monday, February 10, 2020

A Silca Pump And Second Chances

The shop where I purchased this pump ended up being my first bike shop gig.
Winter means more time on my hands to get into projects that have been on the back-burner so cold that I almost forget about them. One of those projects has to do with the repair/restoration of an old Silca floor pump that I own.

This floor pump was sold at a bicycle shop that once existed in downtown Cedar Falls, Iowa, and was where I was doing my trading at the time. This would have been in the very early 1990's and back in the days when I was a jeweler. Yep! A suit wearing, diamond slinging, gold fabricating bench jeweler and salesperson.

I had purchased a Klein Attitude in 1992 and the shop owner, Tom, said I needed a floor pump. Okay then, which one? And of course, Tom being Tom, a guy that was all into the cycling tradition and anything Italian, pointed at a row of colorful Silca floor pumps and said, "One of those will do!" And of course, he said the coolest one was the celeste colored one because that was the color of Bianchi bikes, and...........

To be honest, his enthusiasm for old road bike history, while mildly interesting, was loosing me. I got the celeste colored one because he said it was 'cool'. Really. That was the only reason. I liked Tom and figured, why not? They all will get the same job done, and whatever color the pump was did not really matter to me.

So......that's the back story on how I got this pump. 

It worked really well, by the way. A great pump, but for one small, super-irritating trait. It would fall over at the least provocation at the most inconvenient times. Once, while in my "Lab", I was trying to pump something up and was getting frustrated with the short hose and the thing tipped over and...... What came next, I'm not proud of, but I grabbed that pump and launched it across the room in a fit of rage. Well, it landed in such a way that it damaged the gauge and it wouldn't work. Boy! Did I feel stupid! Now I couldn't get anything done and I had a busted pump.

The old gauge in the foreground and the pump in pieces on my bench. 
This all would have happened between my first shop gig, (ironically with Tom), and the next one. I decided to keep the old pump despite it not working because it came from a time that ended up drawing me into the bicycle business. Good thing I did, because once I got back into the bicycle business again I found out Silca had replacement parts for this pump. Basically, it could be rebuilt and used, rebuilt and used, on and on for the rest of my life. This was cool!

So, I got a new gauge, and at the time, since I was working in a shop, I didn't bother with the small parts since that shop stocked them. Now that I am in between jobs, I'll have to wait a bit, but I was able to start the restoration process and install the new gauge in the meantime. The nice thing about a product like this Silca pump is that it was designed to be serviced and it was designed with high quality parts and pieces. Originally they had hardly any plastic parts, being made mostly with steel and brass where it matters. I was told once as a little shaver that this was the difference between the European philosophy on things and the American one. Euros buy for a lifetime, Americans buy to save money. Hmm.....just what I was told then, and I have no idea if that holds any validity, but it does line up with this Silca pump's design, and it was made in Italy, so.....maybe. 

The brass bits were soaked in Muc-Off Bio-Degreaser and scrubbed with a wire brush.

I scrubbed the base with Muc-Off MO-94 and this stiff bristled pink brush.
Years of grime, gunk, and dirt were needed to be removed, so I employed a system of Muc-Off products and brushes to scrub the components with. It worked great. I ended the process with a rinse of Muc-Off MO-94, then a wipe down with a terry cloth rag. The parts and pieces were now good to be re-assembled and the new gauge was installed with a bit of plumbers tape on the threads.

The real deal.
Once I had that done and buttoned back up, I turned my attention to the pump shaft, seals, and bits which were in need of replacement. Over time, the pump lost its sealing capabilities and so I knew that internal parts were going to need to be ordered. First thing was to get inside and have a look at what was wrong. Many of these pumps feature leather cups that seal against the inner walls of the steel barrel allowing for air to be pushed into your tire. These can dry out and shrink causing the loss of any pressure generating capabilities. I figured that probably would be the only bit I needed, but when I got in there, I found something else.

Rats! A bad nylon spacer and a worn out piece of rubber instead of the good old leather.
Yeah....I had the version with the nylon spacer and rubber gasket. The spacer had cracked, and the rubber was worn too much to seal the plunger anymore.

Fortunately, Silca still offers the proper leather and washer parts that the plunger originally was designed to have and with which I can retrofit to this pump. That will be a better deal than this set up and easier to maintain.

Once that was discovered I went ahead and cleaned up the barrel of the pump with Muc-Off Silicone spray which cleans and leaves the painted surface looking shiny and "newer" than it did. It will never look "new" again since the paint has changed to a bit of a greener hue over time. That's just cool patina there, so I am not bothered by that. The main thing here is that my decal, which is not clear coated over, is still intact, so I have that nice older "Silca" brand proudly displayed on the barrel in great shape.

Once I get the bits for the plunger I'll reassemble the pump and it should be good to go for several years of use. Since the base of this pump is so minimal, and it is prone to falling over, one would think, "why bother fixing it?" Well, while it is true that the pump's base is not stable, it was made that way for a reason, which I did not know about until recently. See, apparently it was designed this way so the pump could stow away in a bag easily, making it portable, and thus it was meant to be taken to destinations where a ride might begin. Say, a race, or tour, or whatever.

So, with that in mind, I decided that once I get this one back up and running it is going in the "Truck With No Name" in a bag to protect it and it isn't coming out. That way it will be there whenever I go somewhere to ride so I can top off my tires. I'll follow up on this once I get everything to finish the job with, which, by the way, will include a new hose and pump head, since I stole those bits off this pump years ago!