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.


graveldoc said...

This is shocking and my prayers are for the gentleman's family. Since this is an election year, I hope cyclists in your area let their thoughts be known at town meetings and in their vote.

MuddyMatt said...

Hi Mark, I think what no-one really admits to (especially in marketing) is that gravel in the US is not the same as gravel in the UK - hence that Kinesis and it's trade off between battery size and range.

Over here the tarmac is generally horrible - pot holes, scabby surfaces and a general dis-repair. On the flipside, we don't have miles of US-style gravel roads, although you can find it in very remote areas. The point is, to use a gravel bike on its intended surface you have to go on a road trip or holiday.

What no-one admits is that most gravel riders in the UK are using gravel bikes as great commuter bikes - myself included. I can link short sections of off-road but the tracks are closer to singletrack than gravel in the main, and on 700x40 tyres on a rigid bike its not a great experience for more than a mile or so at a time.

Used as a commuter, gravel bikes are superb - much more comfortable over rough tarmac, stable handling, slightly more upright for visibility but still with a turn of speed. You don't need to worry so much about crashing pot holes either so it's easier to hold a line with (lots) of traffic bearing down on you.

Our marketing is about gravel and adventures and bike-packing - no-one has come up with a sexier story to compete with the promise of gravel. But our reality is a gravel bike is a great general purpose bike that lets you dream of those things instead!

In that context, the 34 mile range makes better sense - even on a long commute you'll be able to re-charge in the evening. And the speed limiter is mandated by UK law for e-bikes. In practice commuting, I struggle on my Topstone to average more than 15-16mph over a 15 mile each way commute anyway, so being limited to 15.5mph on an e-bike doesn't seem such a bad thing. A lot of commuters would be riding slower too.

You definitely won't be smashing out a century on one of these though without support! I agree with you; it can't live up to the gravel marketing and its an expensive fail too - but it does quietly succeed at it's real job.

Thanks, Matt

PS - I see people calling traditional bikes acoustic and e-bikes digital. But surely the opposite of digital is analogue??

MuddyMatt said...

Mark - I posted my last comment without reading beyond the Kinesis segment - sorry to hear of the hit and run and I share your thoughts on the matter. I didn't want to appear crass by seeming to ignore the far more important news about this incident. My best thoughts go to the rider and family.

Car-centric life reflects on us all, to our collective detriment.


Guitar Ted said...

@graveldoc - Appreciate the thoughts. Thank you.

@MuddyMatt - Thank you for your thoughts on the death of the rider here.

Concerning what you said about the Kinesis Range HPC - Yes, you have it right. These are, and this is for the US too, "General Purpose" bicycles. That's where I had motioned the naming should go years ago, but the industry latched on to the term "gravel" and won't let it go.

My thoughts, condensed down, are that THIS bike, the "GP" bicycle, is what most riders need. It will become the most versatile bike anyone can own, given an open mind and a chance.

Now in particular concerning the UK and this specific Kinesis bike- I can absolutely understand and agree with your point. That said, bicycles like these are being marketed to us here for what we are doing, and this sort of limited platform (speed/power) idea is not going to work for most riders in rural areas.

I've had event directors contacting me asking my opinions on how to accommodate racers with these electrified gravel racing bikes and it is a veritable can of worms. Provide drop spots for extra batteries? make riders choose when and when not to boost so logistics come into play? Have shorter courses just for these things? I don't know the answer, and then you get into cheating/modding. Bah! It's not going to end well.

And as far as calling regular bicycles "acoustic" I think it is a subtle way for riders of HPC's to make light of "old technology" and gain a false sense of superiority when thinking of HPC's as "digital". It's goofy. I pay no mind to that tripe.

Scott said...

There's another little "feature" you might have to deal with on many HPCs. Once you exceed the max pedal assist speed (16 mph in your example above) the rider may experience motor drag on any additional pedaling efforts. So imagine hitting a nice long flat section of gravel and getting to 16 mph. Not only will you now be pedaling a 33lb road bike, power from your legs will be sapped by motor drag. I don't know for a fact that the Fazua Drive has pedal drag but I know the Bosch motors do. I recently rented the Trek Powerfly HPC and I could definitely notice the motor drag once the e-assist turned off at 20mph.

Nebo said...

I would definitely purchase a t-shirt. Would prefer something besides black but I'm in regardless.

Guitar Ted said...

@Scott - I had not considered this until I saw a discussion of how some riders of MTB-HPC's use this "feature" as a way to slow down hill descent speeds. Basically "motor-braking". Interesting.

@Nebo - So noted. Again - If I can exceed the threshold to make each t-shirt cost a reasonable amount we will proceed. Thanks!

Michael Lemberger said...

I saw the news about Gerrick on BikeIowa's Facebook feed, and unfortunately, it's the usual gut punch. We're finally getting to the point here in Dane County where the DA is willing to prosecute for this sort of thing, but more often the traditional Oopsie-Daisy model of law enforcement applies where people on foot or on bicycles are concerned. These are just "accidents" after all, right?

The bit of good news is that we've made great strides in Madison toward maintaining non-motorized infrastructure using this argument: We spend money on facilities people actually use, so what's the point in abandoning it for 4-6 months out of the year? Do the people who use it go away in the winter? Hammering the safety angle was very effective. People will listen to arguments about safety far more readily than anything else like the environment or exercise. It's worked so well, the city even found money to clear major paths on weekends. Contact me offline if you want more specifics.

On a lighter note, I have so many t-shirts that I've come to love the space-saving advantage of stickers. I'd especially love more TI stickers.

S Sprague said...

GT, I'm in for a T-shirt! I like the cube as you posted. It's a good design and timeless. Thanks!

Guitar Ted said...

@ S Sprague - Noted! Thanks!

Guitar Ted said...

@Michael Lembereger - Thanks for that perspective. I am going to pass that along to a couple people in the CF fight for these issues.

And stickers are good! I'll see if I can't get that rolling.

KC said...

Got chills when you said he was a second shift commuter. Plenty of close calls when I used to do that.
Also, in for a shirt. Or sticker. Or whatever gets made. :)

Ari said...

T-shirts and stickers. TI stuff always. Ari

Rydn9ers said...

Sorry to hear about the hit and run, as you say far too many of these happen in our country, far too often.

If all your bicycles are 23 lbs or less, we ride different kinds of bicycles my friend. Ole Pugs with zero assist from anything other than tacos and beer tips the scale at 50 lbs when setup for longer gravel rides.

Guitar Ted said...

@Rydn9ers - Thanks for you thoughts. On my bikes- Only my "gravel" bikes weigh that little, but yeah.....I get it. Your pugs IS your gravel bike. Cheers!

Derek said...

+1 on shirt & stickers!