Friday, January 31, 2020

Friday News And Views

The new Surly Ogre color- Slate Blue
Surly Offers New Ogre Color:

Surly Bikes used to be this irreverent, devil-may-care company that put out bikes no one thought they wanted until Surly made them. That ship has sailed and now Surly promotes themselves as the "customizable brand". The bike you get and pimp out to make it your own thing, which Surly riders over the years have certainly done. But this brand isn't the only one that happens with. Anyway...... Moving on!

I generally don't get too excited about Surly's ever changing color palette. The bikes don't change, much, if at all, and when Surly has brought out bikes of late, (Midnight Special, Bridge Club), they are kind of.......meh! Not the "what the hell.....I want that!" kind of bike they used to be known for bringing to the table. The last bike I recall hitting me that way from Surly would be the Krampus, maybe the Ice Cream truck. Anyway......Moving On!

So, why bother with showing this Ogre. Well, I have always found the Ogre to be a very intriguing bike. I like to think of it as the bike that resulted when an original Fargo Gen I got together with an original Gen I Karate Monkey, and bam! It's the Ogre! The Ogre has a lot of things those two earlier bikes have that I find attractive, all in one bike.

Things like non-suspension corrected geometry, single speed-able, big tire clearances, and a host of what Surly calls "barnacles" with which to mount things off of. If I had to replace my Gen I Fargo, this bike would be on my radar for sure. Plus, I have a soft spot for any bike that is light blue in color. Fortunately, I don't have to replace that bike, but if something along those lines is what you are after, I think the Ogre would make a fine, "do anything" bike.

 Secrets Revealed:

In this business I am in with, I get news before it is supposed to be released all the time. You can bet that at any given moment I probably am sitting on something, or three things, that will be known in the near future by everyone. Two of such things are being revealed this morning.

So, here's another secret. Maybe some of you have figured this out by now. I generally write these posts ahead of time and schedule them to appear shortly after midnight Mountain Standard Time. Why MST? Well, why not? I know I live in the Central Standard Time Zone, but MST doesn't get enough love, so ya know.....that's when I schedule them. I don't know, really, it's just how it ended up.

At any rate, the companies with "embargoes" on stories typically select a release time world-wide based upon where their headquarters are at. One story comes out based upon CST and the other based upon PST. ( MST! I'm telling ya, it doesn't get any respect.) Anyway, if you see either story, you'll figure it out.

I'll have my say on one of the two things tomorrow and the other on Monday. Stay tuned......

Redshift Sports Shock Stop seat post.
 Redshift Sports Takes The Covers Off New Seat Post:

Speaking of secrets, this is one I have literally been "sitting on"! The Redshift Sports Shock stop seat post really is not all that secret, actually. They ran a Kickstarter fund raiser to fund the productions, and several folks already have theirs. But publicly, Redshift asked reviewers to withhold their reviews until now. Note- Redshift Sports sent this post to me to review for Riding Gravel. I did not buy this post.

I've been using this post since late November on my Ti Muk 2, and now on my pink BMC MCD gravel bike, and in short- It's a winner. This post will be a big hit for a lot of cyclists.

Sharp eyed readers may have spotted this post on my rigs over the past months, but I haven't called it out in images. Long time readers may also recall another shock absorbing seat post I ran on my old Mukluk titanium bike, which featured parallel coil springs. While that model worked quite nicely for me, that particular company changed the design, and when they did, the post was not at all functional for a guy my size and weight. I was blowing through the travel on that post at the slightest provocation by a bump and that using the maximum pre-load with the maximum weight rated springs installed. Their previous model did not require that, and subsequently this company has redesigned their post for big fellas. Unfortunately, they did not get back to me with that for my opinions. And now, they may as well not bother. This Redshift post blows that design away, in my opinion.

Why? Because this design is simpler and easier to use. With the previous company's design, I had to disassemble the linkage partially to swap out one or both springs with one of several choices to adjust for load bearing, and then pre-load was done with a knob, externally, which was nice, actually. The extra springs did not come with the post, so if you needed to swap out springs, it was a long, drawn out affair with a need to order in springs. This Redshift Sports Shock Stop post comes with everything you need. The design only utilizes a single coil spring up to a certain weight rider. If you are over that weight, you only need to add an additional spring which comes with the post. These are easily installed by removing a cap on the bottom of the post. (Think hybrid bike suspension seat post, if you have dealt with those before) Then pre-load is simply a twist of that same cap using a graduated scale to judge against, and you are set. Just install the post and ride.

I'll have more on this post in the reviews forthcoming on where three of us have had this post for awhile now. Stay tuned... (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)

Image courtesy of Salsa Cycles
 New Wide Cowchippers:

Salsa Cycles announced on Wednesday some new widths on their popular Cowchipper bar. Previously the widest offered was 46cm, measured at the "hoods" of the bar.

Now those in search of the rangiest bars with the most comfortable drops can go anywhere from 48cm, 52cm, or 54cm in width. Again- this is measured at the point the brake lever hoods would be, so the flared drop portion would be even wider. Pay attention here, because you may not be able to exit your home if you get these really wide bars with your bike!

Salsa isn't the only company offering really wide bars now, and the trend is coming from mountain biking where short, stubby stems and really wide bars are the norm. There is also a trend for longer front/center gravel bikes, just as with mountain bikes, matched with shorter stems. (See the Evil Bikes, or Knolly Bikes gravel rigs as examples)

Does this portend a new rig from Salsa? The venerable Fargo is an aging platform, and in recent years, it has gotten more "mountain bike-ish" with the longer forks to accommodate suspension and multiple tire/wheel sizes for bike packing options. A new handle bar may point to a ground-up redesign of the Fargo which is due for a make-over anyway.

Okay, that's a wrap on the FN&V. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 30, 2020

It Still Can Be Super

Today I'm starting out with a slight variation on the standard G-Ted Disclaimer: NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" , and philosophical meanderings, will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

"And when I'm old and I've had my fun, I'll sell my inventions so that everyone can be superheroes. Everyone can be super! And when everyone's super...(muwahahahah!) one will be." - Syndrome in "The Incredibles"

I often am reminded of this quote from the Pixar movie when I read things about technology. Recently, the Grammys were handed out. Billie Eilish won a boatload of hardware for her latest album which was recorded in a bedroom on software and with equipment anyone can buy. 20 years ago you could not have begun to imagine such a thing. Studio equipment, and studio rental fees, were astronomically expensive and only by the backing of a record company could any artist hope to get recorded. Now "anyone can be recorded". Does that mean nothing is special anymore?

You can look at photography, art, and even news stories. All areas have been "democratized' to the point that much of the impact that photos, art, and news had "back in the day" has been lessened to a degree. So, what has all this got to do with cycling? 

Technology has brought people's accomplishments, that used to be amazing, down to "everyday happenings". This is our perception now. The accomplishments haven't changed, but our awareness of them, and the frequency of our awareness of them, has made them seem ordinary. Knowing that things can be done sometimes makes them repeatable on a larger scale by more people. This gets driven into social media channels until it becomes "just more noise". Take any ultra-event as an example.

I'm not sure what the point of all this is, if I am honest with you. It is something I struggle with though. I see, on social media, someone finishing, what I know is a technically, mentally, and physically challenging event, and I have to really try to not be the guy that says, "Oh....that's nice. Congratulations and all....", with no real feeling of wonderment and joy for the person. Because I know how hard it is to do those things. I know how I'd feel if I accomplished those things in cycling. Or at least I have an inkling of how I'd feel. I know it is a wonderment and a joy for that person who is finishing whatever event it is they have done.
Standing here watching- you cannot help but "feel it". DK200 finish line 2016

I blame technology and spending too much time on it. Because I also know that when I am out in the World- either participating in these events, or as a spectator at these events - that wonderment and joy is easily felt. No matter how many people are accomplishing something. How do I know that? I know that from spending hours at the Dirty Kanza 200 finish line. I've done that several times. Just standing there and watching. I find it heartening, uplifting, and  yes- joyous. I don't know the vast majority of finishers. It doesn't matter. There is something about being in the moment that is special.

I suppose it was the reason I got into promoting an ultra-distance gravel event as well. It was hanging around all those people at Trans Iowa v1 that really turned me on to having the desire to recreate that again and again. The awe inspiring people that took part in that event were super. They, and the ones that followed them afterward, were why I did what I did. They were, and still are, some of the reasons I ride in these crazy deals I have trouble finishing.

So, the point is - if there is one in this post - is that while more and more people can be "super", it still is special. It still is meaningful. It matters. But only if you engage. Go cycling, get out there. It doesn't have to be an event. It doesn't have to be splashed all over social media. Share these times with friends, or savor them alone. But the only way to beat being cheated out of the joy and wonderment that achievements in cycling- or anything, I guess- is to enjoy them in a real, face-to-face community. There is something magical about that. Something technology cannot replicate, no matter how hard the purveyors of it try to convince us that it can.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Dirt Rag Reaches The End Of The Trail

"Dirt Rag" gave me my first break and published me, making me a "pro", I suppose.
 Dirt Rag Reaches The End Of The Trail:

Wednesday night news broke on Twitter that the venerable mountain bike publication, "Dirt Rag", was shuttering operations after a 30 year run.

It is hard to explain to young people what the impact of this publication upon mountain bikers was back in the 90's. So......I won't even try. You had to be there. This publication kicked butt then. Later on they kind of cruised and when all the other magazines went away, or to digital, "Dirt Rag" carried on. The 25th anniversary edition rocked, and in a way, it was an early requiem, a send off that we didn't know was a send off.

Subsequent years found the "Rag" floundering. Advertisers left, the page numbers dwindled, articles became bland and lacked the verve, irreverence, and vigor that the publication was marked for in years past. You could kind of feel that the wheels were coming off in the last couple of years. Changes in editors and style couldn't bring it back. It was just time, I guess, to end it.

The magazine meant a lot to me. They gave me a chance to write a feature story, and not just once, but twice. They talked about gravel grinding ten years ago, back when no other major cycling publication would give gravel a mention. The publication championed 29"ers starting in 1999! You could count on the "Rag" doing justice to any new trend, no matter how bizarre or off track. And you know what? They were right on more times than not.

I've had the pleasure of knowing several former "Dirt Rag" employees, writers, and editors. I've met Maurice Tierney, the founder who is a member of the Mountain Bike Hall Of Fame. The whole line of the members of that publication were committed and bled the passion for cycling into the pages of "Dirt Rag". Loosing this publication marks the end of an era.

Thanks for the ride, "Dirt Rag", it still is a Great Big World, and we all should still keep on riding on it.

Gravel Grinder News: Gravel Worlds Offers Entry To Financially Challenged Riders

Following is the press release from Gravel Worlds:

Lincoln, Neb. (January 30, 2020) — The Pirate Cycling League announced it will offer free entry for participants that are unable to afford the entry fee for the Gravel Worlds 2020, presented by Lauf Cycling. Cyclists wanting to participate in the event, but who face an economic barrier to participation can apply for a free entry. Gravel Worlds takes place August 22, 2020, with the start and finish in Lincoln, Nebraska.
According to Gravel Worlds Founder and Co-Director, Corey Godfrey, the event has always focused on being welcoming to all participants regardless of age, ability or economic status.
“We’re always focused on making Gravel Worlds an inclusive event for all,” Godfrey said. “The event was created to allow anyone and everyone an opportunity to ride together and enjoy the beautiful rolling gravel roads on the Great Plains of Nebraska.
“Some race, some ride, but we all share the same road. We try to limit barriers to participation and understand a financial barrier may prevent some from joining. If you have a financial barrier to participating in Gravel Worlds, please reach out to us. We want you here and can help.”
Gravel Worlds 2020 will be the eleventh year for the event, which has grown substantially since its start in 2010. Last year, Gravel Worlds had about 700 participants, and Godfrey said the goal is 1,000 riders in 2020.
“We didn’t charge an entry fee for the first six years of the event and only began to do so when the growth and increasing expenses necessitated it,” Godfrey said. “The current growth of gravel events was built upon less barriers to participation, including entry fees. We understand cycling can be an expensive sport and want to ensure our event doesn’t price someone out of participation.  
“If someone can’t truly afford the entry fee, we don’t want money to prevent them from joining us. We’ll evaluate each situation and offer free entries for those that need it. The idea has been supported by numerous members of the gravel tribe including former category winners who have offered to pay for others. That’s true community.”
Godfrey said registration is open and encourage participants to reach out to him via email or social media regarding the event and the free entry application. Learn more or register at and the event website.

Winter Views: Finding The Limits - Part 2

The Sun is sorely missed during these times.
Monday I got out again on the Blackborow DS. The weather has been warm-ish for January, with Monday's temps in the upper 20's F. This sometimes makes for poor fat bike riding, but the consistency of this snow is quite good, actually. I believe it is because the storms which dumped it on us were Pacific based and not coming from Alberta via the Arctic. That snow sucks! very dry and powdery stuff that makes fat biking almost impossible.

This snow sticks together better when it is compacted, so any vehicle that has been out on it before you go on a fat bike makes for great riding tracks. Monday's ride was along the Sergeant Road corridor on a combination of snow machine tracks and truck tracks.

I managed to stick to the thin, white tracks most of the time, anyway, but more than that, the consistency of this snow has allowed me to do some surprising, to me, things. Stuff that isn't on the menu with "that other kind of snow". Like when I pulled a wheelie coming up a small embankment. That was not possible on snow like we've had for the last several years which acted more like sand than snow.

I also was able to traverse some deeper sections and a place where a bunch of that dirty, plowed up snow-gunk had collected which usually stops me dead in my tracks. It's the snow. Traction is higher, and stability is better in this kind of snow. I wish we'd get this stuff every Winter, but my feeling is that this is an outlier year. We'll see.....

Moved the heavy stuff to a more centralized, and lower, position.
I also had made a slight change to my bike before heading out. It may have, or may not have had any effect, but I like it better regardless. I got rid of the seat pack which had been holding my spare tubes and tools. I had a Salsa Anything Dry Bag and lashed that with the gear inside to my down tube.

Now days, you'd be able to use an Anything Cage for this, but my bike does not have the triple bosses for the Anything Cage, so I went with this for the time being.

I may see about modifying something or getting a Wolf Tooth B-Rad mount to accommodate what I want to do here. At any rate, the Anything Cages on the fork blades are coming off and water bottle mounts will go in their places. I've not got a lot of use for those big cargo cages now, and water is important.

I did not want to put the 4lbs plus on one of the fork legs either. That would have played havoc with my handling, and I don't need that. So, on the down tube it went. Yeah, two fat bike tubes, a pump, tools, and a rag weigh that much. It's pretty crazy, and why going tubeless is so popular on fat bikes. Your component weights are so heavy that going tubeless actually saves weight in the case of fat bikes. Not to mention the reduction in rolling resistance. Someday I'll upgrade the wheels on the Blackborow DS. But until then, I have to run tubes. I'm not going to mess with any "garage fixes" to my wheels to make them tubeless. Plus, I'd need tires anyway. Too expensive for me now.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Concept Bike Revisited; Part 3

The Lynskey GR300 has the geometry, but misses on the details.
Last time I wrote about the "Concept Bike" ideas, I contrasted what I thought was going to make for a good gravel bike with what we can get today. This time I am going to write about materials, and also details, which I have preferences for in regard to what I deem as the "perfect all-roads bike". Keeping in mind that what you think may be radically different, I will proceed.

The geometry has to be right, and if it is, then I look at what the bike is made out of. I've been around the gravel riding thing for a long time and I have seen failures, heard about more, and I have ridden a lot of different bikes. In my opinion, titanium is where it is at for a gravel bike. Carbon is sexy, light, and can be made to ride well, but it also can be fragile in severe conditions. Finishes get scoured off by gritty mud, layers of carbon get ground through, and then what? Uggh..... 

Yes, I understand that titanium can break, get worn through by gritty mud, and suffer damage, but if it does, it can be repaired by a good welder/frame maker. Carbon can be repaired, but not always. Plus, it is very difficult to recycle if it fails. Titanium can be recycled easier if need be. But would it ever need to be? Carbon, depending upon the damage, is not always repairable. It's my opinion, but titanium feels like it is a longer term investment. And if I had my druthers, that's what I'd get. "So.....what titanium frame would you get?", you might ask. Well, there are a few I'd consider, but let's look at the Lynskey GR300.

The GR300 is U.S. made, high quality, well designed, and has the right geometry. However; there are "missing" bits. It has fender and rack mounts, but only the three traditional mounts for bottles. Yeah.....none on the fork. That could be remedied, by getting a different fork, but then you have to match the geometry, and it isn't as easy as it sounds. Plus, their fork is an unknown quantity which may or may not ride the way I want it to. So, now with that looked at, let's pick on another Ti bike example........

The Twin Six Ti Standard Rando
Another bike I could lay my hands on is the Twin Six Ti Standard Rando. I once owned the steel version of this bike, and so it has the geometry nearly locked down. A little steep in the head angle, but really, a good bike on Iowa gravel.

As you can see, it also sports an extra water bottle mount, but still no fork mounted bottles. Dang it! Anyway, I could make this work, but......

There is always a "but", right?

The Standard Rando has limited 700c tire clearances. You'd be hard pressed to stick a 42-43mm tire in that thing and say you had "mud clearances". The deeper bottom bracket height, (75mm), would be a bit of an issue at times with 650B x 47mm tires, as I know from having done that with the steel version of this bike. And, of course, it sports a Whiskey carbon fork, which again- I don't know that I'd like that. Oh, and this bike has one death knell in spec- quick release axle standard. Boo! If it had through axles, well then.....maybe.

But of all the bikes out now for gravel, I really like the more level top tube of the Twin Six. It just looks "right", but I am old-school. And yes- there is a Standard Rando XC, but it is 1X only. Boo again. Take the through axles that bike has, the wider tire clearances it has, and mix that with this Ti Standard Rando so I could have big tires and 2X? Sold! 

The Knolly Bikes Cache Ti
Okay, one more. The Knolly Bikes Cache Ti. It has the geo nailed. It's spot on. So, what's wrong with it? Well, water bottle capacity suffers due to the extreme sloping top tube. You get the traditional three bottle mounts. That's it. 

I'm also not a huge fan of a gravel bike that looks like a hard tail mountain frame with drop bars and anemic looking tires. It's that severely sloping top tube that puts me off there. Call me crazy, or vain, or both, but I am not excited by that. Even the fact that my pink BMC is somewhat like that bugs me. 

Carbon fork, of course, and while Knolly preaches compliance, well, I don't know anything about this fork. But let's say they have a good, nicely riding fork. Well, the price you pay here is steep. Like over 3G steep. That's frame and fork only. That's well within the range of custom frame pricing. I'm not going to compromise on anything if I'm spending that much, so yes- their lack of water bottle mounts is unacceptable. That and the unknown fork, and the weirdly sloping top tube.....well, I cannot go there without more knowledge and a blessing of unforeseen magnitude in cash anyway.

Yeah, so in the meantime.........

So, as you can see, it isn't easy. You can find titanium bikes, but at a reasonable cost and with everything I want? I think we are in custom bike frame territory here folks. And if that is the case, then titanium is going to be too rich for this poor bike mechanic. Steel is what I'd have to go with then, and ya know, that ain't all bad...... 

Next: The final look at this idea, what it would take now to make me happy, and some possible solutions. 

Monday, January 27, 2020

Spiffing Things Up

This Pro Dyneema post has one of the easiest to use seat clamps I've laid hands on.
Technology, and specifically materials technology, is a crazy field, as we all can attest to. I mean, once upon a time aluminum rims were unheard of. Then we got heat treated aluminum rims, and well, now those are just.....whatever. Carbon rims are where it is at now, and we all know how those have improved. Even just in the last several years. It's materials technology folks. Crazy, like I said.

Well, there is a new (ish) game in town for carbon fiber. It is called Dyneema. It is claimed to be the world's strongest fiber. It makes ropes better, protects police from stab and gunshot wounds, and is used in aerospace applications. Now Shimano has it and is using it in seat posts and handle bars.

Shimano sent me a PRO Dyneema post in the 27.2mm size to use on one of my gravel bikes in a review for Note- I was not paid for this blog-post, and Shimano/Pro did not request that I do this. I did not purchase the seat post. I decided to put it on the Noble Bikes GX5 which already has a few PRO components, also being reviewed for Riding Gravel. Unfortunately, I cannot say a whole lot about this stuff yet, because, well......Winter. When things get back to a more ridable state, I'll be out on this stuff.

So......Dyneema? Yeah, supposedly it can be used as "hybridization" material with carbon fiber, making it more impact resistant, and possibly even lighter. (See the science discussed here) So, bicycles would seem to be a great application for this hybridized Carbon/Dyneema material. The bicycle industry is not only interested in light weight and strength, but vibration reduction as well. So, Dyneema supposedly helps here. This post from PRO, as an example, can be made lightweight, (my example weighed in at 218 grams), but it can be made to have thicker walls which then can be allowed to flex more without damage or breaking. In fact, this post has a claimed 10mm of deflection with the rider onboard.

That deflection translates to rider comfort and less vibrations. We've run tests at in the past using several different seat posts to determine which were best at deflecting and therefore, rider comfort. Others have done this as well. It's a pretty universally acceptable way to make the road smoother. In fact, it is why I run Salsa Regulator Titanium posts on three of my bikes

Now, all that is cool, but one of my pet peeves, when it comes to saddles and seat posts, is installing a seat on a seat post. Most of the time this task can be a curse word fest and in some cases you have to disassemble the entire seat post clamp just to install a saddle. Well, this PRO post is the polar opposite of that. In fact, I would go so far as to say that seat installation was easy with this post. I don't say that lightly either.

Anyway, I have only been able to cruise the snow/ice free zone in front of Guitar Ted Productions' headquarters and while that isn't much to go on, I can say things look promising here. (We have some pretty crappy pavement out front here) That and the fact that this carbon post flexes and is claimed to be stronger, well, that goes a long way with me. I've broken a carbon post before, and while I escaped injury, I do not want to tempt fate twice. (Thus the Ti Regulators and aluminum posts on most of my bikes)

All dressed up, too much snow to go.
So, the GX5 is all spiffed up and I have no where to go with it just yet. I'll probably be checking out the gravel on a fat bike soon, but I saw some images on social media which made the roads look pretty snowy. It'll be a while before I get to put much time on this post and see what the deal is for sure. Look for a review to appear on Riding Gravel in the future. Hopefully sooner than later. I'm ready to go!

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Trans Iowa Stories: More Quick Tales From v5

Jeremy Fry, who finished v5, at the Traer checkpoint. Image by Paul Buchanan
"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!

The Traer Checkpoint was the sight of more than just Charlie Farrow's amazing comeback from the dead. It was also the scene where much of the character and grit of many of the finishers was shown. Riders like Jeremy Fry, who made it there and ended up finishing his first attempt at Trans Iowa. Jeremy nearly had to be carried off at the finish, he was so spent. Others didn't fare so well. Riders like Corey, "Cornbread" Godfrey, one of the five who made the truncated finish of T.I.v4, had to "pull the plug", as we used to say, at CP#3.

All of this was stuff David and I would have missed had it not been for Paul Buchanan who hung around and snapped off several shots and told the stories to us later. Paul also related how that the convenience store had closed up before many riders got there. Some were able to resupply at a local bar, but we got the message. It was going to be tough going forward to route the course to find 24hr stores, or to time the route such that riders would be through before closing or arrive after opening times.

Like I said before, this was a Trans Iowa of "one-offs", and one of those was a planned overnight sleeping period for David and I. See, the course went very near to where David lived in Marengo, only about 12 miles away to the West, so after we had made it through the "last town out" on the route, and had checked out some convenience stores, we headed over to his home to catch a few "z's", but this plan ended up being foiled by a few phone calls.

Cornbread ended his v5 ride in Traer. Image by Paul Buchanan

I had just settled into the bed when my phone lit up. I had to leave it on, of course, in case something like a DNF got called in, or if there were issues beyond that. Well, I answered expecting to hear a rider telling me they were done, but it wasn't a rider. It was a rider's wife, wondering where her man was, because I hadn't said his name on "Trans Iowa Radio". Gah! After doing a bit of explaining and "hand holding", I got her off the phone and tried to calm down and get some shut-eye. Then the phone rang again.

This time it was a rider. Only it wasn't a DNF. It was the slow, steady, sonorous voice of Joe Meiser, one of the leaders in the event. He had a question about the cue sheets, because he was confused. This was always a delicate issue from my standpoint. I knew the route, of course, but I couldn't tell them where to go either. They had to figure it out. Once I had Joe confirm he had the correct cues, I had to tell him that he may have missed a corner, but that they were going to have to look themselves. Joe then kind of had a light bulb moment, I think, because he seemed satisfied that he understood what to do, and then I was back to trying to get some shut eye, only I couldn't.

It didn't matter because not long after Joe's call it was the checkpoint #3 guys calling in at 2:22am in the morning to report their findings. The only memorable thing I found out there was that Charlie Farrow had made it through the checkpoint. Then David got up, and well, we just decided we needed to go. David managed a complete hour of shut-eye. Me? I don't think I caught three winks. The whole "sleeping" plan was a big fail!

So, David and I high-tailed it over to Williamsburg, and the ending of T.I.v5. Now, this was in David's part of the recon. I actually had not seen the finish line until that night. Well........morning, that is! Anyway, it was at the end of a little dirt road section coming into a North end residential area of Williamsburg. We arbitrarily made a mailbox at the end of someone's driveway the "finish line"! It was still dark, because we were thinking the leaders may show up around 4:00am, or shortly after, at the speeds that Meiser, Ek, and Pramann were going.

From L-R: David Pals, Ken Yokanovich, (a volunteer), Meiser, Pramann, and Ek- Image by P. Buchanan
Well, we hadn't figured in the extra time on their missed turn, and they lost about an hour, they figured. Meiser ended up powering in at right at 25 hours with Ek and Pramann hand in hand for second. A gentleman's agreement to allow Meiser the win was struck up because he had pulled the group most of the night.

Anyway, that whole deal with the finishers and immediately afterward is somewhat of a haze to me. I was really out of sorts for a while there in the morning, and there were things that happened I cannot recall. I kind of remember being freaked out about possibly waking up residents and a few shadowy memories of the first few riders coming in, but my memories don't really pick up until later in the morning when I must have gotten my second wind. Things were pretty clear from around 10:00am onward.

I regret not remembering the finish of Meiser, Ek, and Pramann well because it was a really special one. The story goes that the three were trading compliments, memories of the ride, and the bond those three had formed was palpable in the air, so they say. There were maybe some tears shed, and soft clapping, and had to be there. I was, but I was so fatigued and beyond delirious at that point with lack of sleep that my experience of that moment has been lost. The price I paid to put on the event at times was like that, I guess.

Next Week: The Finish Line Agreement

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Winter Views: Finding The Limits

A half frozen Cedar River
Last week over the course of a few days it warmed up about 50 degrees. So we went from fat biking conditions that ranged from "you shouldn't be out riding", to "this is about as good as it ever gets", to "mashed potatoes".

Figures. You almost have to skip work or school to get in on the good stuff anymore, because if you don't, the next day will be almost unbearably cold or so warm it goes all to mush.

But ya gotta take what ya get, and even though it was 30°F and spitting some form of crystalline water in the air, I decided another go-round on the Blackborow DS was in order. This time I was in search of local bushwhacking opportunities. Especially snow machine tracks. Those "sled-necks" go where they ought not to go many times, and this provides me with opportunities on the fat bike.

The first good one I came across turned out to not have been made by a snow machine, but by some yahoo in a 4X4, I assumed. Anyway, it cut across the old Edison School grounds right where I was hoping to cross to connect two sections of alleyway. Perfect! It was compacted just enough I made it without dabbing, although following the "monorail" of one tire track is tricky in the low-contrast light. See, we had a Winter storm upon us, so everything was grey/white. Hard to see things in that sort of light, but I managed.

Traversing snow machine tracks is what I like to try to do. #RideNotGroomed

I ended up going around Cattle Congress and through Exchange Park where I found a nice snow machine track that got me across most of the park from West to East. Then I climbed up on top of the dike and managed to traverse all of that with only one dismount, where there were either no tracks or a lone snow machine track on the East end.

Then it was piecing together some of Waterloo's fine bicycle infrastructure down town, which, by the way, gets plowed. Even though it doesn't "go anywhere", they plow it. Odd, but I used it just because they made the effort. That done, I went on home via the usual neighborhood sidewalk fun, where some folks do not shovel. That and you get to try to clear the snow plow berms that cut across the way at intersections.

Despite that this this path does not really taking you anywhere of import, Waterloo still plows and maintains it during Winter.

This, to my way of thinking, is what fat bikes are really for. Now, not to poo-poo on anyone's fun where they get to ride "groomed trails", but that, in my mind, is making things far too easy. It doesn't take a whole lot of thinking, skill, or experience (beyond typical mountain biking) to ride a nice, groomed trail. Typically those are pretty wide and firm. Drop your air pressure a bit, wear the correct clothing, and it really isn't that far removed from single track riding in the Summer. And that is the point of riding on groomed trails. I get that. However; that is not the experience I am after.

Plus, groomed trails rely on specific areas and people dedicated to doing that grooming. This means you are tying your horse to a very strict set of circumstances to be able to ride. It's already hard enough to get out during the snowy times, why make it any worse? In my opinion, this is the case with groomed trails here. Maybe not where you are from, but here, yes. That's because our Winters typically suck. I mean, it was 30+ degrees when I did this ride. That shuts our groomed system down. Too much possibility for damage. Well, I am not about to wait around for the "primo conditions". Gotta ride!

And in my opinion, what I am doing forces me to learn things like weight shifting for travel in looser snow, how to turn in deep snow, how to use tire pressure to its best advantages, and it puts my body through the wringer, especially the heart. I am really working hard in places. This all ends up helping me on single track and gravel, believe it or not, and I need to have good handling skills and balance skills on gravel.

Now, I do not condemn those who ride groomed trails. It just isn't my bag, and where I live, waiting for that sort of deal means perfect conditions and/or hauling my fat bike somewhere. The way I do it, I can ride straight from my house. You do you. This is just how I do things. I like pushing my limits, and riding the fat bike in "worst case scenarios" is what does it for me.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Friday News And Views

59 Trips Around The Sun:

Well, I made it. Another year was marked yesterday. I make a silly deal out of my birthday every year, because, really, it's just another day, but we do "mark time", don't we? So, yeah..... Very blessed to be here and to have had the life I've had so far. I'm very much looking forward to what is to come, despite the assurances of sorrow and heart-ache being alive will bring.

I say this many times here, but at the risk of sounding cliche'....

Thank you so much for reading the blog. It means a lot to me, and this has become a big part of my life, obviously. What started out as a silly stab at writing, on the insistence of Jeff Kerkove back in 2005, has become a daily routine for me that I thoroughly enjoy doing. I guess I'd better enjoy it for all the time I put into it!

But anyway, thank you. Thank you all who sent greetings and well wishes on Facebook and text yesterday. I read each and every one and appreciated them all. Too kind, you all are. Too kind!

This years C.O.G.100 hat.
 C.O.G.100 News:

First of all, we sold out entries! Thanks to all who entered this year's event. We had initially set 75 as the limit, sold that out, added ten more, and sold those as well. N.Y.Roll and I appreciate the commitment to our event.

So, with that done we sent in the orders for the hats. Due to a weird requirement where getting 100 patches for the hats cost less than getting 90, we will have a very limited number of patches available. How we are going to deal with the ten or so extras we haven't decided on yet. If you really gotta have one, let me know and what that's worth to you. Maybe we can make it happen.

Secondly, the t-shirt offer stands till February 29th, (it's a leap year, ya know), so take a look HERE and order from that page. We will push go on the order March 1st and then that's it. No more will be made ever again.

Remember, all the artwork is by yours truly and is completely original. Very unique, and so you won't be seeing this on every street corner. The proceeds help to pay for the shirts and that's about it. We are probably going to break even this year, if we're lucky, as last year we ended up doing that as well after expenses were accounted for. So, we're not making a living, or even beer money on this deal. Just so you know.....

A Tweet from "Elizabeth @eGrindcore", a Nebraska native, on Wednesday.
 Media Hop On The Gravel Bandwagon: 

What was it with this week and media concerning gravel riding and racing? Must have been the "gravel summits" I mentioned in my post on Tuesday. Anyway, suddenly all the endemic cycling publications are falling all over themselves to get out some sort of "whatever will gravel do once it grows up" posts.

"Cyclingtips" had one by Neil Shirley, and so did "Velo News" in an article about power and the winner of Gravel Worlds last year. There were others as well. I got a laugh when I read the Tweet I have posted here. Yeah....."seven years behind the times" is about right.

Anyway, "Welcome late-comers".  We're not so goofy, or stupid as you once thought, eh? I'll say it again though, these endemic outlets haven't changed their tune, really. They still are trying to bend the narrative toward "professional level competitive racing". It's all wrong. They just do not understand how exclusive and "old" that narrative is. Times have changed, but the old media dogs that cut their teeth on the Pro racing scene haven't changed their colors, or learned new tricks, as they ought to have by now. It's a shame, really.

Even the Pro roadies they quote keep saying they like gravel events because of the relaxed, laid back, all-inclusive, fun nature of it, then in the next sentence you read something about doping controls and who will come "out of the gravel scene" to contest some Old World road event. It's tone deaf as all get out. But I also know some of these writers get it. They've done gravel events, so the disconnect is even more baffling.

Then I see the UCI is considering a true Pro level World Championships with doping controls, rules, and regulations. There is only one way that gets off the ground and that is with the same teams, athletes, and infrastructure they have now. Everyone that is outside Pro level racing is outside of it for a reason. Again- I don't see it working, at least not in the U.S.A., and that's where the action is on gravel anyway.

That's it for this week. Get out and ride if ya can!

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Iowa Gravel Expo Pop Up Series Report #2

Dangerous Dan presenting the Sterile Iowan event for those in attendance.
Well, Wednesday we put on #2 of the 4 Iowa Gravel Expo Pop Up Series events at Second State Brewing. Unfortunately, it was snowing most of the afternoon, and with a lot of cancellations, we were a bit down on attendance. Still, we had about 10-12 folks in the back of the brewery and they got an awesome presentation from Dangerous Dan from the Sterile Iowan event.

Then N.Y. Roll got up and gave about a half an hour presentation to the gathered folk on how to decide upon, and prepare for your gravel events this coming season. It was short and sweet, but very informative and fun.

We are halfway through the Pop Up Series now and we have two more events at Second State Brewing to go. Those will be happening on February 5th and February 19th, (both Wednesdays) at 6:30pm in the brewing room of Second State Brewing. The next one will feature two race directors, (Snaggy Ridge and Lake McBride Fat Bike Classic) and N.Y. Roll will go over his BC Epic run from last year. Don't miss it!

Thank You: Thanks to our sponsors, Second State Brewing and Andy's Bike Shop.

Got A Minute For A Blackborow DS Ride

The Blackborow DS gets least once in snow!
The changeling weather has swung to the really snowy, really cold side, then out again. Good thing I squeezed in a ride on the Blackborow DS again. This silly weather almost went all the way through January with little to no reason to break this Forest Service Green beauty out again. (And this is a weird name for this color. I just wanted to point that out)

Anyway, with the oddball Winters of late, owning this bike seems, well.......useless. If there is one thing that grinds in the background of my mental state it is when I have something I know is good but never gets used. That's especially true of my bicycles. The Blackborow is so good that it is a darn shame to see it just wasting away in the overflow of the Lab all year.

Then something happens and I get a chance to try it out in proper conditions. So, we had about ab 8" total of snow on the ground on MLK Day. I took the DS out and was able to pedal through a few sections where the snow had not been trodden down, plowed, or tracked in. This without any concern for tire pressure, which was too high, to be honest. That's how good this bike is. And it, once again, sold itself to me on keeping it. Here's a bit of background on why.

See, when I got the Snow Dog, the original 2011 Salsa Cycles Mukluk, (which I still have, by the way), I was thrilled to be able to do a LOT of things my previous "fat bike", a 2010 Soul Cycles Dillinger 29" X 2.4" tire bike, could not do. didn't take me long to find out I wanted more. More flotation, to be exact.

This was before "ride groomed" was a thing, by the way. You went out and hunted down snow machine trails and rode in their tracks, is what you did then. Punching through was a regular occurrence, and I knew that with "more" I could do "more" stuff. But in 2012, you had no options. So, I waited out the development cycle, and in 2014, in November, I purchased a Salsa Cycles Blackborow DS. The 4.8" tires on 100mm rims solved my problems with flotation, but then the climate went whacko and Winters have, more often than not, been on the poor side for fat biking. At least around here they have.

I've only changed handlebars on this bike since I got it.
But when things are right, the Blackborow DS is the perfect fat bike for bushwhacking snowy sections, following snow machine trails, and for urban hooliganism down alleyways and sidewalks which are un-shoveled. I don't have to go far from home to get a lot of fun in, and the Blackborow DS is so simple that there really is not much that can go wrong here.

Simplicity means I rarely if ever have to do anything to this bike. Maintenance is a snap. A quick wipe down, maybe lube the chain, that's it. The brakes are Avid BB-7's and are super quiet, low maintenance, and obviously won't ever have issues like a hydraulic brake can.

So, in one sense, owning this bike is really easy, and it won't decay, or anything like that, just because it sits for a majority of the year. I suppose I should look at it as though this is a special circumstances tool. A thing brought out when the need arises, and you are glad you had that thing, because it solves a lot of problems when the times call for this tool. And that's a good description of what this bike is for me.

As I rode it Monday I was thinking about that long tailed version of this bike that Salsa sells now. Many have said, "You should try one! It rides like a regular fat bike.", and for them, yeah, maybe it does. But when I was traversing that icy section, and my tire was slipping just a bit, and I could ease back my weight, and smooth out my pedal stroke "just so", well at that moment I'm thinking, "Yeah, I bet the long tailed version would just spin out here." Those newer ones are like a pick-up truck with nothing in the bed. I find it hard to believe that my bike wouldn't be the better of the two versions in these conditions. Then I pop over a snow plowed berm, and think, "Yeah. Let's see your long tail pop over that." And then there is the whole dinglespeed thing. Well, you get the picture.

So, I figured out, again, that I am holding onto this bike. Well........unless a titanium version comes along. Then I might jump ship. But I bet that would have to be a custom bike, and I am not motivated that much at this time. So, yeah...... I'm glad to own this bike, and even happier I got to use it at least once this Winter in conditions that warranted owning it.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Concept Bike Revisited; Part 2

Last week I re-introduced my decade old idea and quest for the "perfect all roads" bike. (click here to see that post) Remembering that in 2010 there were no gravel bikes being marketed as such, (hard to believe now, innit?) we now have to adjust our viewpoint due to the current situation. So, let's see how far off I was from things which I spec'ed in 2010. This will be focused primarily on geometry.

A quick refresher for you non-clicker types that may not have seen, or remembered, last week's post then before we continue. This also will serve as a good quick reference anyway.

  • Head angle 71.5° (I said 72° might be okay)
  • 73° seat tube angle.
  • Bottom bracket drop in the 75-80mm range.
  • Moderate length chain stays.
  • Room for 42mm tires.
I need to address the fourth point because I wasn't very specific. I can say that we were thinking around 430mm there. So that's "shorter than a touring bike's chain stays" and definitely not as short as a cyclo cross bike's. Also, as a note on the tire clearance, that assumes plenty of mud clearance as well. In dry conditions, this ideal frame could run 45mm tires too, but my ideal, all-around tire width was thought to be a 42mm tire at that time. Keep in mind that there were no gravel specific tires at this point in history either. Yes- A lot has changed in a decade!

Now let's take a close look at a "modern" gravel bike. My Noble Bikes GX5 will be our subject here. It has a carbon fiber frame, internal cable routing, disc brakes in the flat mount style, and basically could be thought of as a prototypical gravel bike circa 2020.

The current state of the Noble Bikes GX5
So, if we consider the geometry here, things are not far off from my list of desires. Here is the geometry of the Noble Bikes GX5 from their site. This is for the 58cm size, by the way.
  • Head Tube Angle: 71.5°
  • Fork Offset: 52mm
  • Seat Tube Angle: 72.5°
  • Bottom Bracket Drop: 72.5mm
  • Chain Stay Length: 440mm
  • Tire Clearance: 40mm recommended*
Okay, so I'll contrast and compare starting from the top of the list. So, first is the head tube angle which is dead on what I was wanting here. The fork offset actually is a tick longer, which leads to a slightly quicker handling bike. That's maybe counter-intuitive to you, but that's how offset works given other parameters stay the same. Longer offset = quicker handling. Shorter is the reverse.

The seat tube angle is a half a degree slacker on the GX5. Note that the rest of the size range has 73° seat tube angles. Pretty close here. But now we come to bottom bracket drop and something which we could not consider in 2010 affects this a bit. That being wide 650B tires for gravel travel.

Fatter 650B tires allow for a different ride characteristic and performance.
These tires allowed for a wider, more voluminous tire to be fitted to a bike that might otherwise not be able to handle a 47mm-50mm tire in 700c. The slightly smaller diameter meant that your bottom bracket would end up being closer to the ground though. This could be a problem. It all depends on your bike and its bottom bracket drop.

So, as an example, I had a Twin Six Standard Rando for a while. This bike has a 75mm bottom bracket drop. Right in the range I wanted for this "concept bike". The Standard Rando worked well with 650B tires and wheels, but I would clip a pedal now and again running the 47mm width tires. How close was it? With 172.5mm crank arms I could dip my heel in my size 46 shoes and drag my heel off the tops of the rocks on the road. Any lower in bottom bracket height and I'd be in trouble with 650B X 47mm tires.

So, I've modified my bottom bracket height requirements for a bike that would run dual wheel sizes. Now if you weren't ever going to run 650B wheels and tires, then dip that bottom bracket lower. It'll be fine. Same thing with bigger tires. If you'd never run anything smaller than a 700c X 45mm, then the bottom bracket could be made to be lower as well.

Note also that Noble Bikes GX5's in smaller than 58cm sizes are running 75mm bottom bracket drop. So, this bike would be a candidate for 650B wheels, but........ What about tire clearances? 

The Noble Bikes GX5 with 650B wheels and tires mounted.
 *Well, Noble listed the GX5 as being good for only a 700c X 40mm tire. That said, this is based upon a very conservative industry standard. Noble cannot recommend anything larger per this requirement, but that doesn't mean bigger tires won't fit. 700 X 42's will work fine, and you can even shoehorn in a 650B X 47mm wheel and tire. There is not a ton of clearance with 650B X 47 on this bike though, so no wetter or muddy gravel or dirt.

Finally, the chain stays on the GX5 are 440mm long, and 10mm longer than I figured necessary. Okay, I will admit that the GX5 is a really stable, really smooth riding bike, and no doubt, that extra chain stay length probably lends a bit to the tire clearances, but it is longer. Could this be done in a 430mm length? Probably, but perhaps at the expense of comfort. Maybe a compromise of 435mm? Maybe. I think a steel bike could be 430mm chain stay length, so I will allow that the carbon construction here perhaps is the main limitation. To get a shorter stay, you'd probably see that dropped drive side chain stay, like so many other carbon bikes have.

Now with that done, the next post will cover frame materials and things like water bottle bosses, fender mounts, and smaller details. Then I'll get on to my final vision for the concept bike. Stay tuned.......

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Gravel Grinder News; Pow-Wows And The Future Of Gravel Events

Part of a problem or part of a solution?
Gravel Pow-Wows Portend A Changing Future For Events On Gravel:

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

I've mentioned here previously that there would be a meeting between officials from USAC and the gravel promoter community in Bentonville, Arkansas this month. Apparently, that meeting has happened according to this report in "Velo News".

The outcome of this meeting is seemingly that the status quo will remain for the time being, but make no mistake, as I've been saying for several years now- USAC wants in on this scene because they are bleeding membership and loosing money because of it. (Although USAC claims membership/license sales are "flat" now, they had been reporting substantial losses a few years ago.)While it may be incorrect to say that the organization is on the ropes, it is not far fetched to say that it cannot keep its status in the cycling community without getting involved in gravel events and promotions. The organization has become irrelevant and the abdication of several top athletes from road racing to gravel events is just one of many ills that USAC faces.

Obviously, from reading the article alone, you can feel that USAC has a "previous reputation" which it will have to address before it can move forward. Many in the gravel community have passionate, negative feelings about any sanctioning organizations, not just against USAC. Gravel riding and the events which fall under its banner were created and grown by individuals and groups which followed their own patterns. The sheer variety of events means that individualism and freedom from conformity is at the center of what makes gravel riding attractive to many people. It also makes conformity under an organization's license or sanctions, if you will, a  rather difficult task.

But that said, I notice a large response in the community to the false pretense that USAC "makes things easier" for promoters. Generally insurance is central to this theme. This is patently false. (Ask me how I know) Insurance for events is easily obtained through other means than USAC. Then the question remains- "What other benefit does USAC provide beyond insurance for events?". And perhaps more importantly- "What benefits USAC from becoming involved in gravel cycling besides selling insurance?" That, to my mind, is a far more important answer to get here than anything else asked.

As of now, we do not have a solid answer to that question, and neither does USAC. But rest assured, they do not want to just be an insurance provider. That much is obvious.

Evidence of  another "Gravel Pow-Wow" from this Tweet from Yuri Hauswald
Another meet-up also happened recently in Arizona, according to a Tweet by Gu Energy athlete Yuri Hauswald. This apparently happened with promoters, industry folk, and "influencers". What was going on there is not well publicized.

This activity all points to the cycling industry's malaise in terms of mountain biking and pure paved road cycling arenas where participation numbers are flat to declining. The only bright spot now is in the gravel sector, and this industry is always hip to cashing in on any trends, (29"ers, 27.5", enduro, e-bike), so why should "gravel" escape the focus of the folks trying to scrape a living out of the scene?

The talk of "growing" anything always revolves around the generating of cash. That always means some folks are going to get left off the train. This ends up with the bike industry creating another niche down the road and the whole cycle starts over again. Only this time I think things are different, and I will use the example of 29" wheeled mountain bikes to help illustrate what I mean.

29"ers were definitely not what the bicycle industry was wanting, or thought it needed.The push for the big wheelers was totally started at a grassroots level by very passionate people, (Wes Williams, Bob Poor, Gary Fisher, Mark Slate, etc.), and some of those folks just so happened to have industry ties to help it get off the ground. Then once the parts existed, the average guys and gals took it from there until the bicycle industry had to do something. Trek/Gary Fisher bet early and often, almost losing their shirts on the whole thing, but once the nut turned there was no going back. By 2007 it was fairly obvious that 29"ers were trending hard at a grassroots level to the point that 26 inch wheeled bikes were in a sales decline. Companies scrambled to hop on the bandwagon until by 2011 most all companies had jumped in.

Now, there were other trends that the industry foisted upon the market- fat bikes, 650B MTB, and aero road bikes, but none of these had the effect that 29"ers had. Meanwhile, the industry left R&D for 29"ers for several years to flounder, thinking 29"ers were "past news". Well, sales persisted, and so by 2015, you see a redoubled effort to bring 29" wheels to enduro and even down hill, which was heresy only five years previous. But 29"ers stuck because the market dictated it, not the brands. 

So what? How does this relate to gravel riding? Well, just as with 29"ers, the gravel scene grew out of a grassroots style change and was definitely not driven by Pro racing, USAC, or the bicycle industry. In fact, media, industry punters, and Pro racers derided gravel events as "not real racing" ten years ago. They said we didn't need "gravel bikes", and they laughed at the scene as being a bunch of dorky Mid-Westerners out for a good time. But now? Now that the Pro road racing ranks are jumping ship for gravel events, and USAC license sales have tanked, well "now we need to look into this". 

My, my! How the tune has changed! Well, not 100%. USAC and even some paid marketing writers masquerading as "media" experts are saying the scene is made up of "hobbyist promoters". As if competition is only "real" if professionally administered. And that is why the whole scene got started in the first place. That whiff of arrogance and pride that emanates from behind the "friendly gestures and fake expert reports by ill-informed "marketing companies" are what make the stench of having "sanctioned gravel events" so unappealing now. At least to me. And this is why the grassroots foundation of gravel riding isn't going to fade away.

It also has to be noted here that USAC and endemic media are only speaking with the "most important/biggest events" as deemed by........? Well, I suppose themselves. This is dangerous, because the narrative for the entire gravel scene cannot be dictated, or even known, by a very few promoters of the "most prestigious gravel events". This "representation" of the gravel scene by such a small subset of the events held every year is not a bellwether for all events. So, again: The sheer variety of events means that individualism and freedom from conformity is at the center of what makes gravel riding attractive to many people. It also makes conformity under an organization's license or sanctions, if you will, a  rather difficult task.

Just as with 29"ers, the gravel scene is genuine movement not motivated by profits, having a standing in the World at Large, or by competition itself. We have competitions, to be sure, and they are very real, but competition is not our idol where we kneel down to worship. And that is baffling to many who don't understand the gravel scene in the first place. Get that straightened out and I think only then will any sort of deal with USAC or any other organization have even a sniff of success.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Marky-Mark Maintenance

Looking a bit more like Winter here these days.
Well, Winter finally stuck around long enough that fat biking makes sense and the wet spots are frozen, making fat bike travel ideal. The level of snow is still on the meager side. We could do with more for good fat biking, but hey! We'll take it. the way things have been going this is almost more than we could hope for.

Wednesday last week N.Y. Roll and I went out on a mission. That mission was to make Marky-Mark somewhat traverse-able. there were about five points where dead falls had made things where you had to dismount to get over them. I had already been there and done a bit of clean-up through a re-route that had been neglected. That happened about a month ago or so.

It was colder, but not crazy cold. 19°F when I started out with no wind to speak of at all. However; it was spitting something. Freezing rain? Freezing fog? Not sure, but whatever it was had coated the street and I knew it was going to be dangerous to ride on the pavement. Car drivers would be getting out of control on this stuff. So, I ducked off onto the nearest straight through alley I could find and the snow was perfect. Packed but it had traction. I noted an accident on one corner as I crossed a street. N.Y. Roll told me later he almost got taken out by a car out of control on his way over to the Green Belt.

The whatever it was falling from the air ended up turning into snow, then it disappeared. I got into the Green Belt, met up with N.Y. Roll, and then I followed him to the first dead fall on the East side. I had brought my "battle hatchet" with me. It is a funny tool that came out of a fire kit on a light aircraft from France. (Long story) Anyway, it has a weird, frightening shape and a red and yellow striped handle. We started hacking away and actually got about 3/4's of the way through this 12'-15" round log. It was hard work. We really should have had an axe. A nice long handled, heavy axe.

CAUTION! Men at work!
Then we came to our senses. N.Y. Roll grabbed a 7-8 foot long branch and tried levering the log. I looked and remembering my 7th grade physics, I motioned that we should find another shorter piece of wood to act as a fulcrum. With this crude, simple machine the two of us levered the 25' long tree trunk off the tread of the trail Success!

The rest of the trail is navigable and passable by skilled riders adept at hopping logs. Probably when Spring comes I'll have to get someone with a bigger saw or axe to chop out about two other dead falls. But beyond this, the old Marky-Mark is doing just fine after 23 years. Can't ask for much more than that.