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!

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Trans Iowa Stories: New Things

A new header from Jeff Kerkove, a new venue, and back to April for the date.
"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!

If Trans Iowa v5 was a singular event, unlike the rest of the Trans Iowas, then v6 was the Trans Iowa that was the one with all the "new stuff". It was born out of the need to get a venue which we thought would be more amenable to having a cycling event which could benefit the community. We had a lot of good fortune over the almost decade and a half of putting on the event, in terms of acceptance, but for Williamsburg, we would have had a perfect run.

In fact, that was really the only bad thing about v5, the town. Almost everyone that lived there seemed to be dismissive of the event, and this made getting anything done as far as social amenities, or just basic needs, nearly impossible. David and I were not about to entertain navigating those unfriendly waters again. So, after a time, we began to discuss what we could do to find that town or city that would be friendly, or at the very least, helpful, to us and Trans Iowa.

It wasn't long into our discussions that David suggested we go and look around Grinnell. David's father, Darryl, had pastored a rural church at one time in the area, and David was somewhat familiar with the terrain surrounding Grinnell, and knew about some interesting features. Word got around we were looking at Grinnell, and Rob Versteegh, the Oakley rep, and a guy who was keenly familiar with the area, got a hold of us. He mentioned some possibilities. Told us to go check out Bikes To You, and made mention of a barn deal. We poked around Grinnell one time earlier, then we decided to head down again and pick the brain of the local bike shop owner, Craig Cooper, who ran Bikes To You.

I already had met Craig during RAGBRAI 2002 when we had to take refuge together in the cab of a truck to get out of a thundershower at an overnight stop somewhere on the route that year. I was crewing/mechanic help for a shop and Craig's Bikes To You was also a shop on the ride. So, when David and I stopped in to his shop on Broad Street on a Fall day in 2009, he was already acquainted with me, and we quickly jumped into what we were about and what we were looking for in a town to host the next Trans Iowa. I recall Craig rubbing his chin thoughtfully, then excusing himself to make a quick phone call to the Chamber of Commerce. He related that he felt they should know about this and that they "might be a good resource" for us.

Sheryl Parmely at T.I.v7's pre-race meeting.
Then an extraordinary thing happened which would impact Trans Iowa for the rest of its time as an active event. While Craig, David, and I were batting around ideas, a woman came in the shop. Craig smiled and welcomed her, introducing this person as Sheryl Parmely, of the Grinnell Chamber of Commerce. She politely said hello, and with paper and pencil at the ready, asked David and I, "Now what are you looking for?"

I was taken aback, but I reiterated what we had discussed, David chiming in with a few things, and Craig reminding us of a few other points. Sheryl busily scribbled down a list, asked for my contact email address, and excused herself with a wave and by saying that we'd be hearing from her soon........

Uh-huh.......right. Brilliant! That was all good, and gave me some hope, but I wasn't hanging my hat on getting anywhere just yet. I figured we'd have to wait to see how welcoming Grinnell was really going to be in the coming weeks. With that out of the way, David and I bid Craig farewell, we had some coffee at a shop there, and then I made my way home, 80 miles or so to Waterloo.

When I got home, I checked my email, and there was one from Sheryl Parmely of the Grinnell Chamber of Commerce! Not only that, she had a detailed list of businesses that might hold our pre-race meet-up, an offer for motel price reduction already bagged, and an offer that might result in coupons for riders to spend on meals in Grinnell! What?!! This was unreal! I was floored, to say the least. Could it all come true this easily? Was this all just smoke and mirrors? Remember, we had pulled up every stone in Williamsburg to no avail. I cannot stress how awesome I felt about Grinnell at that point.

The new vehicle for T.I.- "The Truck With No Name"- did its first T.I. duty for v6 recon.
And my relationship with Grinnell was almost like that till the end. I barely ever had to lift a finger if it involved the businesses, the city, or the Chamber of Commerce when it came to Trans Iowa dealings. It all started that day with Sheryl Parmely and Craig Cooper. I'll be forever grateful to these two individuals, and others, like Rob Versteegh, which made Grinnell the home of Trans Iowa for the remainder of its days.

This turn of events reinvigorated David and I. We were enthusiastically researching all sorts of things to make the event better. Then Rob contacted us and he had even more exciting news. Rob told us, as he had suggested earlier, we were cleared to be able to use the barn as a venue to start from or end the event. Wow! How cool would that be? Could this get any better? David and I were knocked out of our socks at the turn of events from the year before. The recent running of v5 seemed like a rinky-dink affair in comparison to what we might have going on here with Grinnell. Not that the v5 event itself was bad, it wasn't, but Trans Iowa would never be quite as "dirt bag" again as it was for the 2009 running of the event.

This was a stunning turn of events. In fact, Grinnell was the first town we looked at to move Trans Iowa to, and obviously we quit searching immediately after our first visit. It was a jackpot in terms of a venue for Trans Iowa. We "hit the lottery" on our first ticket, and we knew it. While some lip service was given to moving Trans Iowa in latter years, it never was a serious consideration. Grinnell Iowa was a slam dunk for a venue to hold a gravel cycling event out of, and it still is.

Next: History Rediscovered

Saturday, February 08, 2020

Winter Views: Post-Hole Hell

I thought the Sergeant Road Trail was bad with post-holes,.....

Funny thing about Winter thaws, they never last till Spring! That means things re-freeze. This is an important point in today's post about trail riding. I went out Monday of this past week, and while temperatures were above freezing during my ride, things had re-frozen from the crazy 50 degree temperatures of the day before that.

Apparently the unseasonably warm temperatures of the weekend brought out several seekers of outdoors bliss, as the Sergeant Road bike trail showed a lot of "post-holing". Now this is a term I wasn't familiar with until I started fat biking. Perhaps you don't quite know what I am talking about? Well, here following is a brief description......

"Post Hole"- The result of the actions of animals or humans when walking in soft, or slushy snow, which then re-freezes. This results in a pock-marked landscape which is difficult to impossible to traverse afterward.

Now, that image I have here may not look all that bad, but let me tell you, those frozen tracks are like little jackhammer hits. Not only that, but they want to misdirect your tires and handling is difficult. Consider also that this pretty much makes walking an ankle-twisting affair. Traction is compromised, and essentially, the trail surface is ruined for any recreational activity. But, ya know......that didn't matter at the time, right? Pretty thoughtless.

If it seems that I am a little bitter about this, well you'd be correct. I am. Not that there is anything we can do about it. But the Sergeant Road Bike Trail was a piece of cake compared to what I was about to ride in to.

Things had been snow covered or icy, but Monday they were peanut buttery wet.
The original goal was to recon the gravel South of town to get a read on how the roads were coming along. I did make it out there. The results? Wet, mucky, and getting worse with the above freezing temperatures. Going far would have been a bad idea. With that bit of info safely tucked away in my hat, I turned and figured, hey! Why not take the Green Belt Trail back? It would keep me out of the bitter Northwest wind which I would have been facing all the way back in on Sergeant Road Trail.

From the frying pan into the fire.
"Boy! Was getting out of the wind a good idea", I thought. It was a bitter blast. But once I experienced what was waiting for me on the Green Belt single track, well, I'd have rather frozen my face off. The post-holing was intense and far, far worse than on the Sergeant Road Bicycle Trail. There were times it was so bumpy I was crawling and I was knocked off my bike several times by the frozen craters.

Someone had snow shoes, (you can see the tracks on the left side of the image above), but their passage did not compact the snow enough to make any head way on. Super-high resistance riding with no good base to steer the front wheel. So, I spent most of the six-plus mile trip back on the worst post-holed trail I've had to ride in years. It was so bad I was cursing.

It took me an hour to arrive at my turn-around point on the gravel, and it took two hours to get back home from there. All because people had to get their outside on and devil-may-care. Slush or no- they walked all over everything. At one point I had to laugh because it was obvious that late on the day before, at peak heat when things were all but slush, someone obviously wearing trail running shoes had ran the last section of trail back to the trailhead at Ansborough Avenue. Their duck-footed, hard planted tracks pushed the slush aside, and penetrated down to the Earth, leaving huge craters on Monday which were devastatingly hard to ride through.

I was never so glad to reach pavement.

Friday, February 07, 2020

Friday News And Views

Proposed anniversary t-shirt design
Floating Ideas:

So, if you recall late last year I was pondering doing something along the lines of a t-shirt to celebrate 15 years of blogging, hi jinx, and tomfoolery here. Well, you can see here what I have in mind to offer.

It's just an idea. If I get enough feedback I will move forward on it. Of course, they will have a price and the more interest I get the cheaper they will be. I figure I'd need to see close to 40 folks bite on this, or otherwise I'll let it slide. I am not going to produce a small number of t-shirts and have them cost 20+ bucks a pop.

So, if that idea doesn't fly, I may just back waaay off and offer the logo as a sticker, which would obviously cost a LOT less money. If stickers are how I end up rolling, I will likely have a couple more designs made which reflect other things I've done here and sell the series of stickers in packs. Probably three designs: The "Cube", seen on the tee, a "Real.American. Gravel. sticker, and something marking the 14 year run of Trans Iowa- design yet to be determined- if I go that way.

So, at any rate, this is just for kicks. I'm not trying to make a bunch of money, and this would be a one-timer deal. I'll determine what to do finally by the end of March or so, because the anniversary happens in early May. Got a comment, advice, or question? Hit me up at or write a comment below.

Trying to understand the logic in HPC for gravel....
 Making Sense Of HPC's On Gravel:

As many of you know, I take a very critical stance when it comes to HPC's (Hybrid Powered Cycles) because many of the claims that people make for them are....well, hard to make any sense out of, or are just platitudes regurgitated from rote memory. I'd rather take a critical view and see what really holds up, and what is basically "marketing BS", for lack of a better term.

So, I try to seek out information with a critical eye, but an open mind. The Kinesis Range has just been introduced, so I thought, hey! This is a highly respected UK brand so let's see what they are saying about this bike for gravel.

First off, let me say that this rig has the geometry spot on. Well done there. It has a Fazua Drive system, and "up to 55K range". Hold on.....what? "Up to" a little more than 34 miles? And it depends upon your selected boost, and how often you use it.... Hmmm.... Keep this in mind.

Then I read that the assist disengages above the legal 15.5mph limit. So.....if I am cruising at 16mph, or faster, (not at all uncommon), I get.....nothing. Well, hold on! No, I get "something", because now I am pedaling a 33+ pound bicycle. That's what I get. Obviously, the point is to boost the climbs, and suffer the weight everywhere else. A full 10+ pounds over what any of my bikes weigh? No thanks. See, this makes no sense. And it costs a LOT more too. $4,300.00 plus, to be exact. Equivalent models in a true bicycle, fully human powered set up would weigh sub-20lbs for that money. 

Now what about maintenance? No one speaks about this factor. The drive mechanism for the motor is at the bottom bracket. What happens when I roach that with dust and mud and water? I imagine this will cost a lot more than your typical bottom bracket overhaul. Safe bet there. Not to mention battery maintenance, and eventual replacement/disposal fees. Controllers are also susceptible to failure in harsh environments as well.

So, I fail to see where the advantages are here. If I go slower, I get more assist, but less than a half an hour ride, most likely. Otherwise I am pedaling a behemoth of a bike at over 33lbs with higher maintenance costs and I have a battery to maintain. Forget about portaging that, plus attendant gear, across a mile of muddy Level B Road. Sorry, but the HPC gravel bikes are going to have to do a LOT better than that for north of four thousand bucks.

From the 2019 GTDRI
 Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational Update:

First of all, in case you didn't know, the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational is happening again on July 25th, which is a Saturday, of course, and the last day of RAGBRAI, because, well.......because! That's how I roll.

Anyway, we're going to do something a little different this time and go through several small villages instead of doing a ton of dirt roads. Oh! Don't you worry! There will be Level B Roads. Just not a whole lot of them.

That means a different course, and a course I've never used before. Yep! Brand new! It'll follow the Cedar Valley, roughly, to the Southeast, and back again on the opposite side of the Cedar River for a bit. I am figuring on around 110-120 miles at the moment, but that could change once recon starts.

I will be starting recon ASAP on this route and that may include some pretty long rides. That all fits in with my plan to do just that this year. At any rate, I want to go see this area because I've not ridden most of my proposed course. The course we did last year was really hard, given the weather and the amount of hills. I expect that this course will be somewhat easier. Not so many big hills, and more flat riding. But as for the weather, well.......That's out of my hands! 

Stay tuned for more updates.

This bike path probably doesn't qualify, but many in W'loo/Cedar Falls do.
Death Caused By Hit & Run Driver Locally: 

Sunday we awoke to the bad news that a cyclist had been killed by someone using a car on a local connector road between Cedar Falls and Waterloo called Green Hill Road.

This happened after the bicyclist got off work late at night and was commuting home. He was a car-free person, and was hit and killed then the driver left the scene. The rider was lit up like a Christmas tree, was very aware of commuting by bike issues, and took precautions when possible. (He was a customer at the shop I worked at) Where he was hit was along a four lane road after mid-night. This road had a bicycle path, but Cedar Falls does not clear its bike paths in Winter. 

I'm not going to get into details on the death, but I do want to say my piece on how this area, and the nation, does not look after its most vulnerable citizens as they travel. I know I'm preaching to the congregation in that most of you that read this will be understanding of my take. That said, we all need to be talking more about this. Too many people are dying, and since I commute by bicycle and walk a lot, it could be me someday. It could be you too. Also, I get the unpleasant irony between this and the item above, so let's just leave that be.

But the important point here is that the cyclist who was killed by the person driving a car was forced to ride in the street. Had the bike path been cleared, as many are in Waterloo, by the way, one would be led to believe that perhaps this all could have been avoided. But it is an issue wherever pedestrians and cyclists have to travel within this city. I'll keep my comments to Waterloo/Cedar Falls, but I know many of you have similar situations.

In fact, I had several "closer than I wanted" calls where another major throughway between the two cities had another four lane project going on. This was, and always has been, a very heavily used artery by walkers and cyclists. This past Summer, while work was being done to renovate the area, there were no provisions for pedestrians or cyclists to cross at two heavily trafficked intersections. I personally witnessed handicapped folks and other peds having to try to get across the road, Frogger style, with absolutely no mercy shown by drivers. It was, in a word, disgusting. And construction workers did nothing to help either. I could go on.....

Cedar Falls has been repeatedly asked to plow the major connector bicycle trail between Waterloo and their fine city, but they say "there is no money". Even offers of volunteer snow clearing have been rebuffed by the City. Now, perhaps, a husband, father, and contributor to the economy of this area who was mowed down by a careless driver and is dead could have been spared had the City found that money. One life. It was worth more than whatever it costs to clear that bike path, don't you think?

I do.......

That's all for this week. have a safe and enjoyable weekend.

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Gravel Grinder News Flash: The Heywood Ride Details

The Heywood Ride Website Goes Live: 

One of the most popular posts, according to my stats, on this blog is the Almanzo post which you can see here, which details all that has gone down in the story of the end of that event. The massive popularity of the Almanzo 100 is not to be denied.

If you've been keeping up, you may already know that the Heywood Ride is the event that basically is everything the Almanzo was, just under a new leadership and a new name. While it is true that The Heywood Ride may be in a location unfamiliar to most Almanzo fans, this is where Almanzo founder Chris Skogen left the Almanzo last year, then turned over the event to the Northfield organizers who are putting on the Heywood ride this year.

With a location just South of the Twin Cities, I expect that The Heywood Ride will be as popular as the formerly named event was. The date is also the traditional Almanzo date, the weekend after Mother's Day, so planning for attending the event, if it was on your radar, shouldn't be affected.

See the event site here:

Concept Bike Revisited; Part 4

It's hard to go custom when you can get something like this for such a reasonable price.
Note: This will be the last look at the Concept Bike Revisited series. You can follow backward by starting with the previous post here

Okay, I'm going to state the obvious here; Money is an object. Or to put it a better way- Money is a barrier. Last week I discussed several titanium bike choices, why that was desirable, and what were the shortcomings of each, in my opinion, for my needs. This week I am going to suggest a few steel framed alternatives that tic the "reasonably priced" alternatives to the titanium beauties listed last week.

Steel has several "titanium-like" qualities and, obviously, is a durable frame material for a bike that will see a lot of mud, grit, and poor conditions in general. I'll put up my 2008 Fargo as a proof of that concept. That bike has been put through the wringer so many times, yet it still is kicking it today in 2020. Steel. Is it "real" or just darn tough and decent? Whatever you want to think, I will take a steel rig any day and have the confidence that if I want to try to see if something is rideable, I won't be grinding through a chain stay with mud and grit. But that may just be me.

Now getting back to the "Concept Bike" thing. I have bikes already which have served me well and have come really close to what I would do in a custom bike anyway. Bikes like my Tamland, or the "Orange Crush" Black Mountain Cycles bike, or the Black Mountain Cycles MCD. Sure, none of those bikes are perfect, but to get even close to that, a steel frame which is customized for my tastes is going to cost in the neighborhood of $1500.00 and up. I could buy two Black Mountain Cycles MCD's and have change to spare. So, it has to be something worth spending the money on in the first place. 

The Twin Six Standard Rando 2.0: It could be a contender.
 The things that bug me the most when I look at bike geometry is head angle and bottom bracket height. I know that if these two critical measurements are off by too much that I will not like the bike. Take bottom bracket drop, for instance. That's the one thing about the original Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross frame that is not right for me. It is something in the high 60's of millimeters, as I recall. I believe it is 70mm on the current ones, as that was changed several years ago. 70? I could live with that. Less than that? No. It's just too squirrely going down a fast loose gravel descent for my tastes. Then there is head angle.

Many gravel bikes are running 72° head tube angles, and frankly, I think that's too steep. My MCD has that head angle. It's okay, but it could be better. In my opinion, anything steeper than a 72° isn't gravel geometry. In fact, I'd almost be willing to put 72° in that "not a gravel bike" category too. That's because I feel, and have always felt, the 71° head tube angle is where it should be at with a 50+ mm long fork offset.

So, where do you go to get this unicorn? Well, the aforementioned MCD is a great package despite the nearly too steep head angle and nearly too high bottom bracket. It makes up for those things with copious water bottle mounting choices, BIG tire clearances, and 2X drive train capabilities. Plus, it comes with a steel fork, which is another thing I'd "druther have" than a carbon fork. It is a frame and fork, which in my opinion is far too under-priced. And Mike Varley, of Black Mountain Cycles, after holding prices firm for many years, is actually bumping up that price finally. It's still a smoking deal.

Another possibility is the upcoming second version of the steel Standard Rando by Twin Six. Shown above, it looks like through axles are finally a thing. The old Standard Rando had a low, 75mm bottom bracket drop and a 72° head tube angle. I am expecting that things will be tweaked, but I have no clue where T-6 is taking this design. I'm keeping a close eye on this one.

Noble Bikes showed this steel frame/carbon fork bike two years ago at Sea Otter.
Now for a bike with its roots in the Raleigh Tamland which may be another choice. It is also a Noble Bikes design, like my carbon framed bike from Noble I have here now.

This one would feature Reynolds tubing, (if they hold true to the original prototype) and would have the lower bottom bracket (72.5mm drop) and slacker head angle, (71.5°) that my Tamland has. It was promised to come out last year, but it has not as yet. Will it ever? Who knows, but it would be a great choice, and not crazy expensive as a frame/fork. Oh, and even though the fork is carbon, if it is similar to what is on the carbon GX5 Noble makes, well I'd be fine with that. Yes, there are no fork mounts shown on the prototype. Perhaps those get added, but again- who knows? 

I should also mention that last week's titanium example from Knolly Bikes, the Cache, also comes in steel. It has bang on geometry, just like the titanium one, but the fork is an unknown, and the severely sloping top tube means only two water bottles in the main triangle. Still, it is an intriguing offering. I certainly could make that work, and it also is on the table as a choice.

Fimally. an odd-ball. The Otso Cycles Warrakin. This isn't steel, it is stainless steel. I know long time blog readers will remember I tested one of these a few years ago. It has the proper geometry in the "long" setting, it has huge tire clearances, is 2X compatible, and looks ace. It has three bottle mounts on the main frame, but their Lithic fork does not have bosses. Boo. I could make this work, but it is expensive. Nearly titanium money expensive. They also have the Waheela in steel with a slightly slacker head tube angle. And that costs less. Otherwise similar specs, it's just that its paint scheme is less than inspiring. (I know.....vanity.)

So, to wrap this up: Things have come along nicely since I dreamt this rig up ten years ago, and ya know.....I must have been prophetic or something, because the geometry is very close to what I was wanting back then on several bikes you can get now. It mitigates the need to go custom. Not that I wouldn't, but the choices are so good now, small variances can be forgiven. Of course, if I were to stick with my wacky under the chain stay caliper brake, then custom would be my only option. So, thankfully disc brakes, ride quality, geometry, and accessories are what they are for choices now. We're spoiled, really, and the gravel scene has expanded so much in ten years it is crazy.

Concepts ten years ago are reality today, for the most part. So stay tuned as a replacement frame and fork for the aging Tamland are sourced. What will it be? One of the beauties I have outlined in the series, or an as yet unknown?

Stay tuned.............

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Winter Views: A Bit Of A Thaw

The Black Mountain Cycles MCD set up with a few of the latest goodies.
Recently we had a bit of a thaw. It's typical for a "normal" Winter to have that happen. Nature's way of giving us all a bit of a break from the gray, cold, snowy mundanity of January.

I have still not dared go ride the gravel roads yet. I could, but the bundling up, the dangerous icy patches, and the "not much fun" of it all puts me off. I would rather spend my time fat biking, and that just around town. Once in a while I can be coaxed into doing some skinnier tire action. Not very often though.

Since the Raddler tires dropped and I can now discuss the Redshift ShockStop seat post, I decided that the streets and alleys had cleared enough to allow for some mild testing. I also took the opportunity to slap the 700c wheels back on the MCD, which I like better, to be honest. They just look right. The Raddlers have a bit more aggressive tread than the Riddlers they are based on, so I thought a bit of a neighborhood cruise on the still solid packed in snow would be okay.

I also tweaked the Redshift ShockStop seat post's preload a bit. Redshift says you should have a little sag, similar to a suspension fork or rear suspension set up, but I wasn't enamored of the "floaty feeling". There was too much movement for my tastes. So I cranked the pre-load all the way up, and then I took the bike for a bit of a ride.

The post was far more to my liking. It activates when I hit a big enough thing on the road surface, but it has minimal, if any movement when pedaling. Obviously with negative travel built in by using a sagged set up, well it's very difficult not to "bob" while pedaling. However; now I get a bit of a top out feeling. It's not bothersome, just there. I may back off the pre-load a hair to see how that suits me, or I may wait until actual gravel riding kicks in again. I will say that the stem and post feel more balanced. Oh! Yeah, I have the ShockStop stem on the bike as well.

I decided not to blow a gasket here and got out on the pavement.
The following day it was even warmer. I think it was in the mid-30's the entire day into Sunday when it got really warm. Anyway, I got out on the Blackborow DS again and decided to go explore the Riverview bike path where I found things barely rideable, but because no one and nothing had traveled the path since the snows, I was spiking my heart rate working so hard.

Finally I just decided it was time to back off. I had no reason to keep that up when three feet to my left was bare pavement where the street was. So I swallowed my pride, kept my heart rate in check, and trundled on down to the former (?) Cattle Congress grounds.

I say "former" because the sign on the gates, which had for decades announced the dates for the upcoming Cattle Congress, typically held in September, now advertised the "Black Hawk County Fair". Now this still is the National Cattle Congress too, it isn't "former", but I cannot say I've ever heard about the Black Hawk County Fair, and come to find out that's been going on since like, forever. Weird. I've lived here in this area since 1981 and I never thought there was a Black Hawk County fair. This is why I ride bicycles. I learn stuff I never knew! I probably was going by too fast in my car to notice there ever was a fair here other than Cattle Congress.

Then I looped around my former place of employment which is gone now, and came back home. A good two hours of occasional busting of trail and a whole lot of spinny-spinning in a way too low of a gear for pavement riding. But that's good stuff for me now. That sort of a ride will pay dividends once the gravel straightens out. Plus, it beats trainer riding any day for me. Rides to nowhere are not my cuppa tea.

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Iowa Gravel Expo Pop Up Series #3 Tomorrow!

Join us at Second State Brewing at 6:30pm tomorrow!
The Third of Four Pop-Up Sessions Is Tomorrow:

N.Y. Roll and I are putting on session #3 of the Iowa Gravel Expo Pop-Up Series tomorrow evening at Second State Brewing in Cedar Falls, Iowa at 6:30pm in Second State's back room. Come and join us fr some fun talk about gravel travel and more.

Gravel is great, but we are not limiting ourselves. In a timely presentation, we are expecting Nate Kullboom of the Lake McBride Fat Tire Classic event to come and present what is going on for that. Then we will also hear from Dan Roberts about the Snaggy Ridge 105 gravel event. Finally, we will have a little ultra-distance bikepacking chat with N.Y. roll as he discusses his experiences on last year's BC Epic 1000. Rumor has it he is bringing a full on bikepacking set up on his rig to show everyone.

The weather looks good for now, so plan on coming if you can. Admission is FREE and Second State has some great beers on tap if you want to indulge in that. This will be the second to last Pop-Up event in the series, so don't miss it if you are local.

Hope to see ya there.

Monday, February 03, 2020

Gravel Grinder News: Bouncey Stems And Rubber Bits

More rad Riddler> Yes! Meet the Raddler.
WTB Tires Introduces The Raddler: 

One of WTB's more popular gravel tires is the Riddler. It's got edge knobbies and little centralized "zits" down the middle, Generally speaking it rocks gravel and smoother, hard dirt. However; some folks were wanting something a bit more. Something that had a higher "rad" quotient. WTB thought about it. More? Radder? Wait!......

We'll call it the Raddler!

Or something like that, is how I imagine it went, maybe...... Anywho.....

The Raddler comes in 40mm and 44mm sizes in blackwall and skinwall. $59.99 no matter. Both 700c. Tubeless, of course. 

The tread is bulked up and features deeper lugs, bigger knobs, and a more aggressive look. WTB says it still rolls like the dickens. Well, I will be finding out, as I have a set of these to test for (Note- I did not pay for the tires. they are sent to for review. I was not paid to write this post and I always strive to give my honest thoughts and opinions throughout.

So, with that bit of business taken care of, I am excited to try these out. Actually, it is a good time to get a hold of a tire like this. Late Winter riding generally calls out for something with a bit of bite to the tread. Stay tuned for the lowdown coming soon.....

More boing for your bars.
Kinekt Announces Kickstarter For Suspension Stem:

Kinekt, or Body Float by Cirrus Cycles, the folks that brought you that parallelogram suspension seat post I have had in the past, now have a companion piece in a stem featuring similar design.

The stem features a coil sprung parallelogram which is tunable for rider weight and preferences with three springs, which are included in the package. The stem is available in 90mm, 105mm, and 120mm with a 7° rise or a 100 X 30° rise model. I couldn't find anywhere that said the stem in 7° could be flipped for a negative rise, like the Redshift Sports Shock Stop can be, but maybe I missed that. By the looks of the design, I'd guess the answer is that it wasn't intended to be run in a negative rise.

Early reactions to the stem are that it reminds people of the old Girvin/Soft Ride product from the 90's which also had a parallelogram design. That old design was susceptible to some pretty bad brake dive when hitting the binders hard. Hopefully Kinekt took that characteristic out of this new offering.

 Another New Riding Gravel Radio Ranch Podcast:

Whoa! Hold on to your britches, 'cause we recorded another Riding Gravel Radio Ranch podcast last Wednesday. I know, it's crazy times, but it is true. Not fake news here!

Ben and I discuss news and reviews on the site and then we dive into the big dust-up over talk that the UCI wants to get involved in maybe putting on a Gravel World Championships.

It's a pretty good show, and I think it should make for a good listen. Plus, afterward Ben asked me about doing something a bit different in terms of an audio offering. I won't say too much just yet because it still is in its nascent stages. But if all goes as we think, it should prove to be an interesting way to share more of my work, both from here and from Riding Gravel.

Okay, that's all for this edition. Thanks for reading!