Thursday, April 30, 2020

Seat Post Testing: Final Thoughts And Observations

L-R: The PRO Carbon post, Whiskey Carbon post, Specialized C-GR
Over the past month, month and a half, I have been trading off rides on various vibration absorbing seat posts. I'll admit right up front that this article is all about my subjective opinions and that these observations are not scientifically arrived at. So, boo-hoo if you are looking for numbers and data to crunch here because I'm not going to go into that realm. Not that science is bad, I just cannot afford it. So, you get my considered opinions. If that matters to you, great, if not......well, see ya next time. 

The posts I used included the Specialized C-GR, the Whiskey Parts No. 7 seat post, the PRO Carbon post, the PRO Aluminum post, and the vaunted Redshift Sports ShockStop suspension seat post.

So, let me get the obvious out of the way right up front: Nothing was as comfortable to ride as the Redshift post. Not even close. Secondly- nothing else was nearly as heavy as the Redshift post. To get that level of isolation from vibrations, that comes at a monetary and weight compromise, versus something like the Whiskey No. 7 Carbon Post, which is light and costs under a hundred bucks. But obviously, that Whiskey post, or the others I mentioned, don't have anywhere near that level of smooth.

So, with the Redshift post being the outlier, what post would I go with out of the others? The PRO Carbon post, with the Dyneema fabric, is really light at about 215 grams or so. The C-GR is supposedly pretty cushy too, and that Whiskey post is the least expensive of the lot and has a smooth ride to boot. They are all at about the same level of comfort here, but that said, there are some clear distinctions.

The C-GR is clearly the best feeling post, in terms of what you don't feel. That isn't to say that its claims of 'travel' are there. I didn't feel it being any smoother than the Whiskey post, as an example. However; it does mute a lot of vibrations. In that area, it was the best of the lot of rigid posts. (I classify it as rigid since I don't get any sensation the C-GR actually has any travel) The bad thing? Set back, which the C-GR has a LOT of. If you don't like a lot of set back- don't even look at this post.

The PRO Carbon was probably the next best at vibration absorbing. It supposedly has deflection as well, but the C-GR and this post have similar feeling bump absorbing capabilities. The C-GR just mutes a bit different frequencies, and I thought it edged out the PRO, but barely. Obviously, this post has a reasonable set back, a very usable saddle fore/aft range, and it has the easiest to use clamp of the lot by far.
The PRO Carbon post here.

The Whiskey Post has probably the most deflection here, so if bumps are more of an issue, this post is by far the winner. It does okay in terms of vibration damping, but it doesn't surpass or even attain to the C-GR or the Pro Carbon. It weighs a bit more than the C-GR and is quite a bit heavier than the featherweight PRO Carbon post at 273 grams. As mentioned, this post costs the least amount, by far.

The PRO Aluminum post was the control here, and it does what the majority of good aluminum posts do. By the way, I have three titanium Salsa Cycles Regulator posts as well. That post is the heaviest of the rigid posts here and has about the same deflection as most of these. It is probably the toughest post of all here. So, I'll throw that out as well. (For a bit more detail on the Ti Regulator, here is a post I wrote about it)

All these posts have clear, winning attributes, it just depends on what you expect out of a post. Here is my breakdown;
  • Specialized C-GR: Best at vibration damping. Bad at positioning unless you like set back, expensive.
  • PRO Carbon, Almost as good at vibration damping as the C-GR, reasonable set back, best clamp, lightest, but EXPENSIVE. 
  • Whiskey No. 7: Great bump eater, reasonably light, CHEAP, but a tad heavy. TONS of value for a gravel bike here. 
  • Salsa Cycles Regulator Ti. HEAVY, TOUGH, EXPENSIVE. Probably will not break. Good ride feel. 
Winner for me? Whiskey No. 7. It does all the things reasonably well and doesn't break your wallet into tiny pieces forever. But a 'money-no-object' winner would be the PRO Carbon post for sure. Finally, the Ti Regulator is probably going to outlast me, is cool looking, and rides well enough. If carbon is out of the question, then that would be my choice. I cannot recommend the C-GR to many people. That massive set back is just too extreme.

But oh! That Redshift post is sooooo smoove! Damn the weight. That's my long distance winner everyday.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Tubeless 101: Part 4

Tubeless set ups are not as straightforward as you'd hope.
With this post I am going to end the series on basic bicycle tubeless tire knowledge I use for setting up gravel road tubeless tires/wheels. Some of these tips cross over to mountain bikes and fat bikes, but be aware that things like single wall rims (fat bikes) and "cush core inserts", (mountain bikes) require certain tips and tricks outside of the parameters of my series. For most "basic" needs though, these tips and tricks should suffice. Part One is here, Part Two is here, and Part Three is here. Go back and see these previous posts before asking any questions. Thanks. And......if you haven't already had this drilled into you enough already......

 Tubeless tires are not for everyone, nor do you need tubeless tires in many cases. And also: Tubeless tire set ups are not only more technical and maintenance intensive, but more expensive as well.

Now here's the kicker: Not all tubeless tires fit the rims they are designated to fit, and there is (almost) no way of knowing based upon manufacturers recommendations. 

That's right folks. You may buy a 700c tubeless ready tire, you may have a 700c tubeless ready wheel set, and those tires may not work on those rims. Sound wacky? It totally is, and this has been how things have worked since tubeless tires for bicycles came about. So, how does one navigate the 'wild, wild West' of the tubeless tire/rim world? 

By trial and error- that's how. So, not only does all this tubeless tire stuff cause MORE maintenance, and COST MORE, it may not even work!  Admittedly, this is rarer than it used to be, but it still happens. Reasons are several, but the main ones are:
  • Differences In Wheel Bead Seat Diameter vs Tire Bead Diameter: Tires and rims only have to be off fractional amounts between the two to make things miserable. Stan's rims have their own diameter (slightly larger) and Hutchinson/Vittoria/Mavic/Michelin tires have more UST based diameters (slightly smaller) for tires. Never the twain shall meet. While those are the most glaring offenders, there are others as well. There is almost no information out there at a retail level to protect you from making the mistakes that could cause you a nightmare. 
  • Super-Light Tire Sidewall Construction Leading To Casing Leakage: You may get past the first hurdle only to find that the tires you chose leak sealant through the sidewalls of the casing. This is most notable as a shiny appearance to the tires, and in worst case scenarios, the tire will actually bubble sealant right through the pores of the casing. Sometimes a dosage of more sealant will cure this- but sometimes leaks keep popping up. Beware of tires sporting lightweight claims, XC racing tires for MTB, and certain brands which have histories of doing this. 
  • Tire Tread/Casing Separation: This is a lot less common today than it used to be, but we are still seeing this. Maxxis and Kenda tires have been noted for this in the past. It also will happen more commonly where people use folding bead, non-tubeless tires as tubeless. It usually occurs after you've had the tires a while. The issue is caused by sealant incompatible casing materials which sometimes sneak into a brand's tire casings (or are naturally used in non-tubeless folding bead tires never meant for tubeless set ups) via their factories. If a company changes a factory in the Far East, for whatever reason, this might start happening where it didn't before. Consumers have no way of seeing this coming. 
Use all the resources at your disposal before you jump and buy in.
So, what do you do? Well, as I said, things are not as bad as they were ten years ago, but things are not as straightforward as you'd hope they would be. If you are sitting on the fence yet, here are some recommendations that will help you navigate this minefield more successfully.
  • Use A System: If you have tubeless ready wheels, try to stick with tires from the same manufacturer if they are available. For instance, many bikes come with WTB rims. WTB makes really great tubeless ready tires. Matching the tires to the rims almost always makes for a great tubeless set up. Specialized, Bontrager/Trek, and Giant all have OE spec tubeless ready wheels on many of their bikes and tires to go with them too. 
  • Use Your Local Bike Shop's Knowledge: Got a wrench in your area that knows his stuff and has been around a while? Talk to them and get the knowledge that a guy/gal has that has worked with a lot more tires and wheels than you'll likely ever see in your lifetime. Then, after you gain some hard won knowledge from them, buy something from that shop
  • Research Your Choices: The forums, review sites, and Facebook can be a resource, but extreme caution is advised. Look for trends in commentary, and try to find consistency in comments and advice. Be careful of just wanting your choices to be validated. Cross check with your local bike shop knowledge, and if it is not a systemic approach, double your caution. 
So, let's say you have a tire and the wheels are all prepped properly. Now about mounting those things successfully. You'll know if you are going to have a successful tubeless set up pretty much right away if (a) your tires go on really hard by hand, or (b) if you have to use a tire lever to get that last bit of bead on inside the rim well. Chances are that if this is what you experience, and after you inject some sealant into the tire through the valve stem, that tire will pump up with any old crappy floor pump.

I've used this slightly modded Bontrager Charger pump several times for tubeless set ups.
In fact, I use a Bontrager Charger pump that was headed for the bin after being warranted as my litmus test. If I can pump up a tire tubeless on a rim with that poor old thing, then anyone can do it. I only modded the pump with a Silca pump head, but otherwise it is its bad, broken down self.

If you cannot move quite enough air to create a seal with a floor pump, then a small air compressor will usually do the trick. A short blast of air through a valve with the core removed generally will push the sidewalls out quickly enough to create a seal. I air up the tire- never higher than 40 psi to seat beads - and then slip the core back in, tighten it, then I finish off pumping up the tire.

If either one of those two things does not happen, I am sorry- but this is 2020. If tactics #1 and #2 fail- then that combination is a failure. Flat out. We should not have to bounce, strap, or do any sort of 'trick' outside of the first two things I have described here to get tires to set up anymore. Conversely, if you cannot even get to this point because the tire won't go on? Major Fail. Plain and simple. You need to try a different combination.

By the way, if your tire blows off the rim, that tire is instantaneously no good. Never try that tire tubeless again. It is unsafe. Period.

Now lets say you get that tire set up. You are not done yet. Take the wheel into your hand, lay the wheel/tire down on its side. Now pick up one end about four inches off the ground. Pivot the opposite end up, then drop it. Turn the tire about three degrees, pick up the other end and drop it. Repeat this process for three revolutions of the wheel, then flip the wheel and repeat. Then- if you can- go ride the wheel in a bike for about 15-20 minutes. This should distribute the sealant around the tire's innards enough to seal the casing and the tire should stay sealed now for a reasonable amount of time.

If you see trouble after this, most often it is related to the valve, valve core, or possibly a porous sidewall. Go back and start over.

Did I mention tubeless tires for bikes are more technical, more expensive, and not as easy as tubed systems?


Tuesday, April 28, 2020

A Tale Of Two New Frame Sets

The new Twin Six Standard Rando v2 in Saffron.
This past week a couple new frames were introduced in steel. That's weird and really awesome. I am happy to have this happening in 2020. Carbon and aluminum stuff comes out all the time. Big whoop! But steel stuff isn't as common, (unless your company is run by QBP), and two steel frame intros in the space of one week? That's crazy.

I thought it might be fun to check these two introductions out and cross-compare the two to see which, if any of them, are in the wheelhouse of what I'd call a 'good gravel bike'.

The first frame under the microscope will be the new Ritchey Outback v2. It is redesigned for adventure and features a new Ritchey Adventure fork in carbon with the requisite 'three-pack' bosses made famous by Salsa Cycles. The frame has the integrated cup head set style and a straight steer tube. The fork features an integrated crown race as well. Through axles front and rear, of course, as well as the now standard flat mount disc brake caliper mounting points on the chain stay and fork leg. The frame holds two water bottles in my size within the front triangle. It has rack and fender mounts as well.

The geometry chart tells us that the Outback has a relatively shallow bottom bracket drop in my size at 68mm. The head angle is a nice 71° though, but the chain stays are long at 453mm. Tire clearances are listed as 650B X 2" and 700c X 48mm. That's pretty generous.

Next up we have the Twin Six Standard Rando v2. This is pretty much a tweak on the first Standard Rando with the major differences being a new through axles and flat mount disc brake caliper mounts. The original Standard Rando also had a straight 1 1/8th head tube/fork steer tube arrangement, but the new one has a 44mm head tube which will accept a tapered steer tube. A more traditional pressed cup head set is also retained. While the Standard Rando features a steel fork, a carbon version, painted to match, is available as an upgrade.

The new Ritchey Outback v2 frame set in "Guac y Crema".
Water bottle capacity has been expanded on the T-6 with three bottle mounts on the internal side of the front triangle, and the appearance of the 'three-pack bosses' again on the steel fork. Plus, the T-6 has an under the down tube water bottle boss set as well. (I don't know that the carbon upgrade fork has those triple bosses, by the way.) UPDATE: It appears from a T-6 Instagram post that the carbon fork does indeed have the three-pack bosses.

The geometry of the Standard Rando has not changed since the first one came out. 72° head tube angle, 75mm bottom bracket drop, and 435mm chain stay lengths here. Tire clearance is 700 X 43mm or 650B X 48mm tires here, so not quite as generous as the Ritchey. However; the T-6 can be ordered with painted-to-match fenders. Rack mounts exist, of course. It also can be set up as a single speed with the appropriate bottom bracket.

Comparison: Tom Ritchey has his ideas of 'what works' based upon his riding style and where he rides. It shows in all the bikes with his name on the downtube. Typically his skinnier tire, off-road going bikes feature high bottom brackets, and the Outback follows suit. The bike strikes me as more of a touring bike, but the lighter gauge tubing would reflect a nicer ride quality than a typical touring bike might have. The integrated head set is okay until it isn't. Of course, you are stuck with the included Ritchey headset as well. Not necessarily a bad thing as long as Ritchey keeps making parts. The fork 'matchy-matches' the head set, so again- you are most likely stuck with that choice as well. Hopefully the carbon lay-up for the fork is forgiving. Gotta hand it to the Outback on tire clearances though.

The T-6 has a LOT lower bottom bracket, a touch steeper head angle, and shorter stays at 435mm vs Ritchey's long 453mm ones. Yes- the T-6 limits your 700c tire size to a 43mm, but that should be okay, as long as it plays out to be that for clearances. The original T-6 Standard Rando also claimed that for clearance, but it really was more like a 40mm limit in reality. If the new one has 43mm with a little room to spare? I'm okay with that.

For an adventure bike to limit you to four water bottles is a bit.....weird. Maybe Tom Ritchey doesn't need much water. (NOTE- I have  since found out, via a comment and some more research, that the Outback has a mount under the down tube, although their spec page doesn't list this fact) I don't know, but the T-6 has room, (in my size) for six bottles of water. I'd need all six on a longer ride in Summer. The Outback could be your bike packing rig/touring bike, and the T-6 would be a much more adept light, longer distance gravel sled. Oh yeah....speaking of sleds. That Outback frame and fork probably is lighter than the Twin Six's frame and steel fork. I had an original T-6 SR, and it was definitely NOT light. If the new one is anything like the old one for tubing, know what to expect there. 

My old Standard Rando from Twin Six.
So, which one does it for me? Which frame set would be the better Iowa gravel traveler? There is no question in my mind. It is the Standard Rando. The Outback is probably the better 'mountain bike' of the two, but I already have a great drop bar mountain bike in the Fargo. And if you want to know, the Gen I Fargo beats the pants off that Outback in my opinion as well.

Anyway... The T-6 Standard Rando has that all important lower bottom bracket which brings a stable feel in loose gravel. A higher bottom bracket, like my Orange Crush #49 has, (which happens to be about exactly what the Outback's is, by the way), is total sketch on loose gravel down hills. That's why I don't go far afield with the BMC anymore. I'll take the new MCD, or another gravel bike with a lower BB first.

Yes....that lower BB gets you in the weeds with 650B wheels and tires. But I'm okay with that for as little as I'd run the smaller wheels. The old T-6 I had rode smoooooth! I would hope that this newer one would too, and with expanded capabilities in water carrying, it fits my way of riding better as well. The Outback curiously does not provide this option. Another interesting bit is that the fit numbers are almost identical for my size between the two contenders with the exception of stack height where the T-6 is slightly higher. A good thing, probably. I don't know though because the new Salsa Stormchaser is literally slammed and I am getting on with that just fine.

Go figure......

So, the search for the Tamland 2 replacement may end up being the new T-6 Standard Rando in the School Bus Yellow scheme. I know, I know...... They call it Saffron Yellow. Tell me that frame doesn't remind you of a school bus. It's totally school bus yellow. The other color is black. Blecch! Not happening here. Give me the "Don't Hit Me Yellow" over black any day.

Seriously though. This frame, at $700.00 is a steal if it is what I think it is. This may end up being the next test sled at the G-Ted Headquarters. Stay tuned.........

Monday, April 27, 2020

Country Views: Chance Meetings

Foulk Road- still in Waterloo here- This field had emergent plantings.
The last weekend in April. Used to be I was too busy to ride bicycles on this weekend, but now I have "time off" so I try to take advantage of my situation these days! Saturday it was supposed to be cloudy, but free of precipitation, so I went out "fore noon" and got onboard the Salsa Cycles Stormchaser single speed.

The plan originally was to go North, as that was where the winds were supposedly going to be blowing from, but when I got out I changed that up as the winds seemed to be more Northeasterly. Makes sense. It is the last weekend in April, after all...... (Past Trans Iowa riders will understand this)

It also seemed to be that the Sun was trying to shine, and that a cloudy day was not going to be happening. It was warmer too, so I rode without a coat for the first time in a long time. Just arm warmers this time, otherwise it was standard dress for Summer. I was a tiny bit chilled later when going into the wind, but otherwise the garb was perfect.

The way I ended up heading out of town was a way that N.Y. Roll seems to prefer when going Southeast of town. I went out on our excellent bike path system to Evansdale, then on to the CVNT, but just a short distance to Foulk Road. I decided to see how far South I could get on that and if I could make it out of the county, I'd loop back toward town on some other roads. I never look at maps much for these rides, by the way. I usually just ride by the seat of my pants for navigation. It's much more fun, and it makes you look at things, think things through, and learn. Unlike following a prompt for someone else's GPS track. Blah! That sounds dreadfully boring to do it that way to me, but to each their own.....

I didn't see any farming actually happening, but signs that it was were everywhere I went.
Foulk Road is pretty much flat for miles South of Waterloo, but eventually it does get hilly. 
The roads were decent going South on Foulk. No fresh gravel here, but the roads weren't devoid of chunk by any stretch of the imagination. Pretty "normal" conditions, actually. The skies were hazy, the light was odd to begin with. Almost dreamy. The wind was a mere breeze, but of course, it was mostly at my backside going South, so take that with a grain of salt!

Foulk Road is pretty flat until you get closer to Benton County. Then the rollers kick in. Nothing unusual here, just typical Iowa countryside. The gear on the Stormchaser wasn't too stiff for me to stay seated and climb everything I ran across here.

Barns For Jason #1
Once I got into a section of Foulk Road I'd never been on, I ran across several 'new-to-me' barns. So, this post will be a bit heavy on the 'Barns For Jason' content!

Another idle planting rig.
Barns For Jason #2
Barns For Jason #3
This section of Foulk Road has a LOT of smaller barns on it. It seemed for a while that I never had my camera put away. It also happened that by this point into the ride that the hills kicked in. So I was juggling speed, braking, a camera in one hand, and taking shots as I rolled by. Sometimes I was shooting completely blind backward over my shoulder. Other than a bit of leveling and cropping afterward, which I usually have to do anyway, they were perfect shots. Crazy!

Barns For Jason #4
Barns For Jason #5
Now, I have to admit that as I was going South I was sure that I was going to roll into Tama County at some point. I forgot that Benton County shares part of Southeastern Black Hawk's border. So, when I saw an offset in the road, I guessed rightly that I was going into another county, I just didn't know it was Benton County until I saw that I was on 11th Street. Tama County uses alphabet letters for their North/South gravel roads. So, here I was, in Benton County. Now to find my way out and loop back to Black Hawk County.

A blind shot I took looking back at Black Hawk County. The border is in the middle of the offset corner there.
Headed West now in Benton County. That's Hickory Hills on the horizon to the left of the gravel.
I found a Westward road after going South a mile into Benton County, but it dumped me out on a county blacktop and I had to go either right or left. I was not sure, so I busted out my iPhone, (I know.......cheating!) , I took a gander, and saw that I was a half a mile from a gravel road that would have been a difficult acquisition in my quest to ride every Black Hawk County gravel road by the end of the year. It is a one mile section of road right on the Southern county line. This is rare in Black Hawk County, as there are only maybe 2 1/4 miles of Southern gravel border roads, and really, that's it for any type of road. Why Black Hawk County has no Southern border roads is a mystery to me, but there aren't many, obviously, and now I had a perfect opportunity to bag about half of what there is. I was going for it!

Barns For Jason #6 - Just off Paydon Road in Tama County.
The road's name is Paydon Road, and it leads up to a "T" intersection at the corner of Hess Road (Black Hawk County) or X Avenue (Tama County). It also leads to what might be the highest point in the county on Hess Road just a little way North of that intersection. I stopped there and took a break, ate some food, and just soaked in the day.

From the highest point on my ride Saturday looking North up Hess Road.
Time to head back toward Waterloo, and into the wind. It wasn't bad, really. At least in the hours just after noon it wasn't. The roads weren't any different, really. Graveled, but not real bad. Climbing the rollers wasn't a big deal.

Barns For Jason #7
Hero gravel on Quarry Road
I was not expecting to have a lot of exciting times after I got back on Quarry Road and much more familiar territory. But as I approached Hammond Avenue, I described what appeared to be a cyclist coming down the hill I was approaching. It turned out to be a local mile-muncher, whose name is Tom and has like three Fargos, and a couple are single speeds. We stopped and chatted for a bit, then parted ways. Not long afterward, I was overtaken by a car. It slowed enough that the passenger was able to say, "Nice day for a ride!" It turned out to be Trans Iowa veteran and volunteer, Mike Johnson. I was flabbergasted!

Huge farm machine. Even huger bins!
So, with that surprise I was smiling ear to ear. I hit the rest of Quarry Westward and ran into some deep, really chunky gravel. It was not bad, but at the end of a ride, not ideal. Then I turned on Aker and wow! Heaven! Super hero gravel, fast, smooth, and fun. Only the last mile of Aker was covered in chunk. But by that point, I didn't care. It was an excellent ride.

I was thinking I'd return on the Sergeant Road bike trail, but it was such a nice day that all the odd cyclists were out and getting around them was a chore, so I peeled off at Martin Road, made my way over to some alleys, and wandered home somehow. Totaled out at about 3.45 hours for the ride. No idea on mileage. Anyway.... Good times. Chance meetings, clear skies, and light winds. I couldn't have asked for a better day out.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Trans Iowa Stories: Ends And Beginnings

"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!

Trans Iowa v7 was a pivotal one, and from where I sit, the major changes that occurred had to do with two things. Ironically, they were related to one seemingly simple thing- cue sheets. Obviously cue sheets were central to how Trans Iowa ran. Without a marked course, a GPS track, and since I made new courses for every Trans Iowa, the only way to run the riders around the "big-assed loop" was by cue sheets. Obviously, the task required to produce them was arduous, tedious, and time consuming. Without concise, correct cues, Trans Iowa would be an unmitigated failure. Of course, I took cue sheet production and the quality of those cues very personally. If they were late, not right, or if riders became lost or frustrated due to poor execution of the cues, I would take that upon myself as the worst thing for me personally. So, keeping all of that in mind, I will continue on with what caused the end of a partnership and nearly undid a friendship.

You may recall that as I told the story about T.I.v6 that David emailed me with a frustration over cue sheets and that this nearly derailed Trans Iowa that year. You'll also recall that I largely forgot about that going into T.I.v7. However; after a fantastic Fall and Summer spent off and on with David doing bicycles and recon, he pretty much went "radio silent mode" for December through March. I couldn't get a hold of him, my emails went unanswered, and I became worried about the cues again, since he was in charge of that.

Emily Broderson sent me this multi-part post card in sections that I had to assemble for T.I.v7 entry
I became increasingly frustrated with the situation to the point that I had determined in my mind that beyond T.I.v7 I was going to have to be the only one that would do cue sheets. In my view, no one else was taking this as seriously as I needed it to be taken. That was my pre-T.I.v7 view. What I did not know was that David had been putting in 12+ hour days at work, suffering threats of cutbacks and potential loss of his job, and trying to hold his family life together. Unfortunately, he wasn't communicating this with me at the time, so all I knew was that the cues weren't being done, and that this was unacceptable. From what I knew, it was my opinion that David was incompetent. Unfair viewpoint looking back on it now as it was, but those were my true feelings at the time.

  In the end, all I knew was that Trans Iowa had to be put on. Finally, David produced some cues and I was going to finish up the deed myself for T.I.v7. It wasn't a pretty exchange of e-mails to get to that point. However; it got worse. David, in an effort to get his part of the course done, just ran cues off a poorly formatted GPS mapping site which had multitudinous miscues and was totally unusable. It was probably due to his state of affairs at the time with work and such that this occurred. At any rate, it was obvious that he hadn't checked the cues against his part of the route plan.

I was deeply alarmed and angry. I cannot remember the details, but somehow we managed to get better directions for his part of the course, and Trans Iowa was, somehow, able to go on. That said, this poorly vetted section which David was in charge of came back to bite us. Plus there was another unforeseen snafu waiting in the weeds for us as well. But before we discovered that, I had the film crew of Jeff Frings and his wife to deal with and there was a situation that I found puzzling in regard to that.

Friday before T.I.v7 was foggy, wet, and dreary.
David had once again expressed displeasure in how he had sort of a backseat presence in terms of Trans Iowa. He didn't like that I had referred to him as "d.p." on my blog, and he wanted more of a "say" in things. I was a bit puzzled by this, because when Jeff Frings offered to do a short interview just before we left for the Pre-Race Meat-Up, I asked David to join in. He declined.

In the back of my mind in that moment I was flummoxed. How can you be a bigger part of Trans Iowa if you don't want to get out there and be "the face of it"? Getting on camera for the film was, as I saw it, the perfect opportunity for David to jump in. Also, in my mind, he was already a bigger part of the event behind the scenes. In my view, at that point, he maybe had too much of a part in the event, because I was under the impressions that he couldn't even produce cues that were decent. I was completely confused by David at that point.

Back to the film- Jeff Frings didn't want to intrude upon the natural state of affairs, rather wanting to capture things 'as they would normally be' for a Trans Iowa. So there was no script for David and I to follow. The impromptu interview before the Pre-Race Meat-Up was really the only chance to 'get a word in'  regarding the film. So, the result was that I got on the film, ended up being a major part of it, and David barely got any screen time at all. Trust me- it wasn't a plan going in. It was just how it was with David and he seemed to avoid the spotlight wherever possible.

Then there was the bridge out at Mile 7 on course the following day. Sheesh! That was a big surprise! Of course, it resulted in an off-course excursion for most of the T.I.v7 field, leading them up an unnecessary Level B road, and essentially put a lot of riders into arrears time-wise. Many missed Checkpoint #1 because of this. Included in that bunch was Jay Barre, who is the very disappointed fellow in white in the film "300 Miles Of Gravel". That scene "gets" me every time I see it. Now you can probably guess why that is. Anyway.....

I had photographer Steve Fuller drive the course previous to T.I.v7 and he had reported no issues. But I hadn't checked it. So afterward I instigated the policy wherein I drove to CP#1 the day before a Trans Iowa every year. Sometimes further, just so I would never again have to deal with THAT situation. And if that wasn't enough......

Morning dawns on Easter Sunday during T.I.v7. David and I were searching for two lost riders.
This happened to be another time when David insisted we try to get some overnight rest. So we had reconned far ahead of the riders and it was apparent by the cues in the latter half of T.I.v7, which happened to be the part David was responsible for, that there were many shortcomings. Once I realized this, it reinforced the feelings I had about taking complete control of the cues and recon. This was just too much for me to deal with again in the future. In the meantime, we went on with recon ahead of the riders until we went back to Grinnell, and finally we tried to get some sleep.

We met the riders coming in as we backtracked the course Easter morning of 2011.
Again, I don't know how much sleep I actually got in, but it wasn't much. I do remember getting a phone call while it was still dark out from an angry Matt Gersib who took me to task for poorly written cues, getting riders lost, and making their hard training efforts worthless by misleading them on some wild goose chase across Iowa that was unfinishable. Finally, Matt added that he and his riding partner were lost. Of course, I was deeply alarmed and took it very personally. I had failed Matt. So, I made David get out of bed and we were going to backtrack the T.I.v7 course to find Matt and his riding companion no matter what it took.

Reading cues backwards is hard enough. Reading cues backwards on little to no sleep is nigh unto impossible. Add in goofy miscues and it is no wonder that, at one point, my brain was so twisted around that I had to have David stop the car and I had to get out and clear my head. David insisted he knew which way to go, but I was so upset I wasn't going to trust anyone's judgement in the matter other than my own. So we stood there until I was satisfied I had it right, then we continued. David was fairly nonplussed by it all by outward appearances, but I am sure it made him angry looking back.

We forged on with less issues and after awhile, we were actually having a pretty good time. Occasionally we would stop and chat with incoming riders, and to a person the feeling was that it was an awesome event. However; I kept hearing tales of a broken down bridge where riders had to tightrope walk across some open decking on supporting timbers across a creek. Internally I was horrified. Someone could have easily fallen and gotten injured or worse in the dark. Apparently it was all due to another miscue on David's part of the course. Had I known this was in the course, I would have rerouted it out. But what was done was done.

David Pals, (back to camera) chatting with Eric Brunt (L) while John Williams attends to his bike.
We continued on route and everyone we passed by finished eventually. We came upon the final two riders, Matt Gersib and another guy, in North English. MG shot me a glance that could have killed. He was livid. Needless to say they did not finish either.

I was crestfallen. My friend was angry and had every right to be. But now it was off back to the finish line to see who would come in. I missed Dennis Grelk winning the event. The only other time that happened  that I missed seeing the winner come in was at T.I.v1. (On finish-able years, that is) I was sorely disappointed, but I do remember both David and I cheered when we received the news from the finish line.

Once Janna Vavra and Scott Bigelow came in, David wanted to leave immediately. There was only a few minutes left till the cut-off, and those two riders were the end of our concerns, so I get it. However; I wanted to hang out longer, but the tone in David's voice made me feel like we had to leave right away. So, I got a word in edgewise with Janna and a pic, then we had to scoot, because David said he had to be somewhere. I think now that he was just fed up with me, Trans Iowa, and all that was going down in his life and wanted it over. I'm spit ballin' there, but I bet that's not far off the mark. David brought me back to my truck, I got my stuff and he said goodbye and walked briskly back to his vehicle, started it, and drove away. It was the last time I'd see him for many years. No agreements to do anything again. No looking back, no commentary, he just sped away and never looked back.

Immediately I was furious with him and for several days my anger burned and I was searching for ways that maybe I could release him from his duties. I had the "Dirt Rag" feature article to wrap up right after T.I.v7, and then about mid-June, I got the proofs of the article back from then editor, Josh Patterson. I hadn't heard a thing from David since T.I.v7 ended.

Wally Kilburg and George Keslin ran CP#2 for v7. It was the start of something great.
But I had heard about him. His father, Darryl, often frequented the shop where I used to work, since he lived not far away. He told me about David's troubles with his job, and that things were rough for him. Well, I was softened toward him greatly by this news, but perplexed as to why he felt the need to solely bear his burdens. Still, I wasn't at a point where I could let him have the sort of responsibilities he used to have, but it was time to reach out. The proofs of the "Dirt Rag" feature were a good excuse to do just that.

So, I sent the article proof along with a question: "Are you still in to do another Trans Iowa?" David responded that "....yeah, I think my TI days are over." And to tell the truth, I was greatly relieved. Now I didn't have to delicately work around how I was going to have to be the only one in control, because now David had made the call himself to quit. While I was saddened to see our partnership end like that, I was unburdened and lighter in my spirit than before. 

It should also be said that David related that he was upset that post T.I.v7 only four individuals (including myself) had reached out to him after Trans Iowa v7 was over.  Once again, his dissatisfaction with being seen as not a part of the event worth being grateful for was expressed. But leaving that aside, while I was relieved that there would be no further tensions between he and I and Trans Iowa, I knew that his absence would be felt keenly. Not by anyone else, apparently, but by me? Yes.

And then there was Matt Gersib. That friendship reached the threadbare state when after T.I.v7 Matt went on a tear on my blog commenting about the event in a negative way. I had a lot of behind the scenes email and conversations with Matt, and eventually we got the fences mended to the point that Matt decided he would be a volunteer at T.I.v8 to monitor my corrections to the event.

I'll tell you what- that whole post-T.I.v7 thing undid me. Now I am so glad I made the effort to be Matt's friend, and I am really proud of how Trans Iowa changed because of the things I learned with David Pals. But at that time these things were some of the most difficult things I had ever had to deal with. Boy! Was I ever glad to have the events of Trans Iowa v7 behind me! 

Next A Fire In The Belly

Saturday, April 25, 2020

This Would Have Been The Weekend

The first time I ever stood in front of Bikes To You in Grinnell with a bike in '09. Image by D. Pals
Note: I wrote this part of the story up about the time when everything went to heck in a hand basket for 2020. So, yeah- Had I still been doing T.I., this would have been cancelled too. But read on for what the real point of this edition of the Trans Iowa story is really about. 

This would have been a day not all that long ago that I would have been bouncing down some rural gravel road running a silly event dubbed "Trans Iowa". In fact, I would have been in Grinnell, Iowa yesterday, most likely, and wouldn't have returned back to Grinnell until tomorrow sometime. In between would have been 300 plus miles of gravel, adventure, surprises, and camaraderie between old friends. There maybe would have been new friends made too, but I'll never know now, of course.

Sometimes people ask me if I miss it. I don't, really. I think about it often. Obviously, since I have been busy researching stories for the series that runs every Sunday on the blog. That series is called "Trans Iowa Stories", and through that work I have remembered a lot of things I had forgotten. I also had old memories sparked anew. Some good, some not so much. So, I have been well acquainted with my feelings about this old event for many months now.

So, maybe it is unfair to ask the question, "Do I miss Trans Iowa?" Because certainly there are things I do miss and things I do not miss at all. The negatives outweigh the positives at this point, so this is a good thing since I don't put on the event anymore. But that is not to say that the positives are not important to me. They are important beyond belief. But I am not going as far as making another Trans Iowa happen again to relive those things.

And the last time I stood at that spot with a bike (or three) The T.I.v14 start. Image by George Keslin
But that said, look at the image above here. See all those people? If you asked me, "What do you miss most about Trans Iowa?", it would be the people. Definitely. The best people I ever met were Trans Iowa participants, volunteers, or fans of the event. I became friends with many of them. That's what I miss most, and likely will be the thing I always will miss the most. I was blessed to know many of these folks even just a little bit that I had the chance to.  I am doubly blessed to still have a few of these wonderful people as friends to this day.

Speaking of the series earlier here, I would be remiss if I didn't promote tomorrow's epic "Trans Iowa Stories" post. It is about double the length and will be a marathon read, just like Trans Iowa was a marathon level gravel grinder. But this episode of "Trans Iowa Stories" is very important. It details the end of my partnership with co-director, David Pals and how my "brother from another mother", MG and I almost lost our friendship over what happened with T.I.v7. Fortunately, that never came to be, but I do know that T.I.v7 was the version that changed everything about Trans Iowa.

And it changed me.

Stay tuned.......

Friday, April 24, 2020

Friday News And Views

From v13. A view from MG's Forrester.
Thinking About Trans Iowa:

Lately the weather, the way the light is in the sky at morning and at night, and the sounds and smells have been reminding me of Trans Iowa. I guess that's something I'll never forget. I'm sure many Trans Iowa vets and folks that were there for more than a few versions of the event get what I am saying here.

Well, obviously this was the traditional weekend for the event, and it has been on my mind now for weeks. Not in the same way it used to be. No- this time it is more about nostalgia and old memories than worry, stress, and being busy finalizing details.

Last weekend I warned y'all that this weekend would be a big Trans Iowa related weekend for posts. I suppose this is part of that, but tomorrow and Sunday will be longer posts than usual about Trans Iowa. Saturday will feature a post about my current state of mind regarding the events of the past. Sunday will cover the tumultuous, behind the scenes stuff that went on with Trans Iowa v7.

Just another note on that version. It was the version featured in "300 Miles Of Gravel", a short documentary by Jeff Frings. I have not gone over that documentary in the retelling of the tale here, but I do plan on telling about some things behind the making of that film related to me and Trans Iowa that haven't been put down before in one post, or told at all. That will become part of the tales surrounding Trans Iowa v8, as it was at that event's pre-race meeting where the film was debuted.

The science behind wheels is pretty complicated.
Break Out The Pocket Protectors And Calculators!

Recently I have become aware of a couple of really deep science-driven YouTube videos on wheels and their inner workings. These are definitely NOT entertaining, by the way. They are hard to get through, but contain a lot of interesting bits that make you see how bicycle wheels actually work.

The first is a "tech document" in video form covering how spokes act when loaded and specifically what it is that causes aluminum rims to crack around spoke holes and fail. It was done by a gentleman named Bill Mould and is very well done, from an academic standpoint. It is horrible as entertainment, so don't say I didn't warn you. But, if you are curious, you can learn a lot from it. Here's the link. 

The other bit of geekery has to do with fluid dynamics and how air flows around wheels. The wheel company, Hunt, based in the UK, has been working on its own data and through various tests has been able to replicate numbers generated in wind tunnel testing using a "CFD" program digitally. There is also a YouTube video speaking to this, but again, please be aware that engineers, while smart, don't know a lot about communications and sound engineering. The following link is short, but the video production used a room microphone instead of a close up mic on the speaker, so you get a ton of "room ambiance" and detail gets lost in the wash. It doesn't help, (for these American ears) that the speaker has a distinct British accent which makes picking out some of what he is saying difficult. 

For example, whenever the speaker says "CFD" (Computational Fluid Dynamics), I thought it was British for "safety". Anyway- the link.  Check those YouTube vids out if you have some down time and want to learn more about wheels. 

Postponed to 2021
RAGBRAI Finally Succumbs To COVID - 19: 

The annual gathering of the tribe of cyclists who traverse across Iowa is now a line broken. COVID-19 was sure to cause RAGBRAI not to happen, but the "official word" had not been given until Monday the 20th. So, call it what you like- cancelled or postponed - it doesn't matter. The annual ritual is now done. Now it has been interrupted. It's been a weird year, and the loss of RAGBRAI this year will be something most Iowans have never experienced.

We talked about this at the bike shop. It seems hard to gauge what effect the loss of RAGBRAI this year will have. On one hand, traditional RAGBRAI riders are "ageing out" of the event. I noted less and less riders every year over the past several years were bringing in bikes for "RAGBRAI tune-ups". Added to that is the fracturing of the traditional riding base between those doing "Iowa's Ride", (also waiting on this to be cancelled, by the way) and those who were going to stick with RAGBRAI. There is no way of knowing what that would have done in a "normal" year.

What buoys us is that there is a bump in recreational cycling now with the social distancing rules and this makes cycling one of the only options for people to get outside currently. This has bumped up repairs and new bike sales a bit. Will that continue throughout Summer enough to offset the loss of RAGBRAI business? Hard to say now, but losing RAGBRAI for a year will definitely not be a good thing for the cycling industry.

Page 1

 What's In A Name?

Recently a petition promoted by Cyclocross Magazine  has been circulated around on social media calling for the name of the Dirty Kanza events to be changed due to the claims of it's derogatory and racist underpinnings, which the petition claimed were the unwittingly perpetuating this by the use of the name. 

A firestorm of support for the petition and a counter-storm of  support for the event arose which was, frankly, getting ugly and less about what was actually going on and more about....well, you'll see here. 

I have posted the response that Life Time made public on Monday evening, 4/20/20. In the open letter to the gravel community it is explained that the aforementioned petition on behalf of the Kaw Nation, (the Native American tribe which gave its old name "Kanza" to the state of Kansas, many businesses, and the event in question), was not made with the Kaw Nation's knowledge or blessing. However; Jim Cummins, one of the founders of the event, did actually contact the Kaw Nation, discussed the controversy, gave his explanation of the naming of the event, what the event was about, and what that all meant to him and thousands of others, and the Kaw Nation was impressed enough to co-sign the letter shown here today. 

One party took action on their own without consulting the supposed "offended party", made a statement attacking the other party, and caused a social media firestorm. The other side actually made the effort to contact the potentially offended party, be diplomatic, have a discussion, and come to a mutual understanding with the, as it turns out, not offended party. Now they stand together and have come away with a mutual respect of one another. I'm not going to discuss that further only to say I think it is obvious which party did things correctly and which one did not.  

Page 2
 You'll note the date of the face-to-face meeting with the Kaw Tribal Council members was in late February, by the way. I think that is significant in relation to the latest posts I've seen blowing up on social media in the last week, week and a half. Anyway.......

I will make a comment on this in the form of a personal story. Many of you readers here know that I was among the 34 riders at the first Dirty Kanza 200. When I signed up for the event I already had been privy to behind the scenes talks about this event, as Jim Cummins and his partner, Joel Dyke, were in communication with myself and Jeff Kerkove as they developed their ideas which eventually became the Dirty Kanza 200. One of the working names for the event was the Flint Hills 200. (You can find this reference on this very blog from 2005.) But when the event was announced publicly, the name was "Dirty Kanza 200 ". 

When I signed up for the event I was digging for any information that I could about the event, because I knew nothing about Kansas, the Flint Hills, or the name "Kanza". Here is a bit about what I had found out posted on this blog January 13th, 2006:

" 1. New Endurance Event Gets a Name!: The Kansas based endurance race spawned by the idea of Trans Iowa has been officially named. Called Dirty Kanza 200 Miler, it will be an unsupported endurance test over the very hilly Flint Hills region of Kansas. Named for the Native American tribe that inhabited the region, this event will take place on May 20th. Look for more details on this site soon."

 I knew about the Kanza tribe because of what Jim and Joel put out there about their event's name. So, I recall looking up information about the Kanza people. I learned a lot about them, and I came to know a small piece of their story. I can say that this built empathy and a new perspective about them and their plight over the centuries. I do know also that the "dirty" part of Dirty Kanza was about the gravel roads. Never did I once read, or believe the two things were conjoined in a way which was meant as a derogatory, racist comment. In fact, that would have been the furthest thing from my mind. Then someone suggested that it was, "in fact", racist. Trouble was, it wasn't someone that was connected to the Kaw Nation or that knew about Jim and Joel's history in the naming of this event.

I have a theory that when "someone is speaking for someone else". I'm not getting the true story, context, or the intangibles that can only come from the source. I knew where Jim and Joel were coming from, and I knew that the petition was driven by something other than a complaint of the Kaw Nation. (At least it was never connected to the Kaw Nation) Now that I have seen the letter, things make a ton more sense to me.

You can read the letter for yourself. Please, make up your own mind.

That's a wrap for this edition of FN&V. have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Kickstart My Heart

The Stormchaser is a 38 X 17T set up.
Recently I have found myself doing a lot more single speed biking, no doubt due to the Stormchaser landing here for review. I've been riding that quite a bit, of course, with a geared rig in between for good measure here and there. I also have a fitness watch, an Apple one, first gen model. A hand-me-down from Mrs. Guitar Ted. So, full disclosure: the watch may not be the greatest tracker of heart rate, or whatever metric is used to determine the fitness parameters on an Apple Watch. But it is a reference point, and I've noticed a few things about this and the Stormchaser single speed vs geared vs other single speed bikes in my stable.

I've noted that my exercise goal gets met a while after I get to Andy's Bike Shop to work with geared bike. I've noted that I nearly meet it, but usually exceed that goal if I ride the Stormchaser. One day I left a little early, so I decided to really loaf my way to work on the Stormchaser. Going slow, like really slow on a single speed geared like the Stormchaser is, doesn't work well. There is a certain speed you have to maintain, or your muscles will get so worked you will be in trouble before long. So, despite my 'slightly relaxed pace', a pace at which I felt perfectly calm, by the way, I ended up doing half again as much 'exercise', according to the Apple Watch, as I did when I was actually pushing the pace.

Weird. At least to me, it is. The one consistent thing I've noted is that I always do more 'work'- again, using the watch as a reference- on a single speed going to work than on any geared bike no matter how fast I try to go. Using my 'spinny' geared Surly 1X1 does it, and so does my single speed Black Mountain Cycles bike, and it just doesn't seem to matter.

the Orange Crush #49 is geared 44 X 18

 By the way, crank length doesn't seem to matter. The Stormchaser and the Surly are using 175mm arms, with the wheel diameters being fairly close. The Surly has what you may as well call 26+, and the Stormchaser is 700 X 42mm, and yes, that's ever so slightly larger, but they are remarkably close. The Orange Crush #49 has 180mm cranks and 700 X 40mm tires. It doesn't seem to matter what I ride, they all kickstart my heart, seemingly. Except for one outlier....

I rode the Surly on a casual, urban alley/pavement cruise the other day. I had a heckuva time getting my 'exercise' goal fulfilled. Did the exact same route the next day on the Black Mountain Cycles rig and I did almost twice as much 'work', according to the watch. Now I will say that the BMC is geared harder than the Surly, for sure. This actually made more sense to me than the results I got going to Andy's and back. Or maybe my heart rate should have been higher on the 'spinny' 1X1? Hmm...

Now, I do not have a heart rate monitor, no power meters, none of that stuff around here. So, I have no answers to help those questions that might be answered by using such devices. Maybe I should get something...... But then again, I'd probably just ride and think that stuff is too much bother. Like I do when I think about using the GPS computer I have. I cannot be arsed to wait for it to contact satellites and get itself going. Heck I could be five blocks down from the house before it decides it has detected movement, "do you want to record this ride?". Gah! Just let me ride fer cryin' out loud!


Not that any of this matters at all to any of you readers. I just am curious and am watching these things as the data gets compiled on the watch and seeing that single speeds are kicking my heart rate up more than a geared bike. I think that is my takeaway here. Your mileage may vary.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Tubeless 101: Part 3

If you are re-using a previously mounted tire, make sure the bead area is clean!
Tubeless 101: Part 3

If you missed Part 1 or Part 2, please go back and review those posts as these are meant to be a series.

Last time I went over how to dismount a tire, I gave some tips on sealant recovery, and in this post I will discuss preparations for mounting either a previously used tire or a new tire on a freshly prepped rim.

The first order of business is to make sure that everything necessary for good seals inside your system are clean, fresh, and in good shape. I recommend that anything that looks suspect be replaced regardless of its age. You may have had that tubeless tape for only a few months, but trust me, if it looks the least bit compromised, it is far easier to deal with it now, when you have everything apart, than when it fails you on that 50 mile ride out in the middle of nowhere. Never mind the frustration of having done all that work to mount a tire and then having to peel it back off because you didn't decide to replace the tape, or put in a new, fresh valve stem. Trying to 'get by' can get you in trouble. And in my experience, it isn't worth the risk.

Remember folks: Tubeless tires are not for everyone, nor do you need tubeless tires in many cases. And also: Tubeless tire set ups are not only more technical and maintenance intensive, but more expensive as well.

Still determined to go tubeless? Okay, moving on now.......

Cleaning up a previously used tubeless tire for remounting.
 Cleaning up the old tires is a must for good tubeless set up. So I would concentrate on the area of the bead of the tire. The part that is to seal onto the rim is a critical point and must be free of old, coagulated sealant, or you risk a failure or a lot tougher time re-seating the tire on the rim. How you accomplish this clean up is going to depend upon what sort of sealant you had in there.

Orange Seal makes a "skin", as does Muc-Off No Hassle Puncture Protection Sealant. My "home brew" does as well. In these cases, a peeling off of the old sealant seems to work fine, but it can be a tedious job. Generally speaking, you may as well just do the entire inner casing. Other sealants, like Stan's or Caffe Latex don't make a skin, but will leave a layer of sealant, or coagulate into "stanimals" which you can easily remove. To get all the remaining layers of sealant out. you can scrub with warm water and soap, or....... A certain energy drink that comes in a black can with a green "M" on it will take off the sealant. Just pour some in the tire casing, slosh it around, and dump out the remaining sludge, wipe down, and you should be good to go. Really. It works, and I've tried it, but you can do it the traditional way if you'd like.

The next bit you need to have perfectly clean is the rim well. That is if your tape is the least bit compromised. I use rubbing alcohol to clean off any skin oils or dirt. Then I start re-taping the rim starting opposite from the valve hole. I always, always do two rounds of tape. The risk of having the tape fail in a spoke hole drilling is just not worth trying to get away with one round of tape. By the way, many OE tape jobs are just one round, so if your bike came with pre-taped wheels, best to check that out.

I like to use tape that goes all the way to the rim bead wall. Covering where the bead of the tire sits will not only give you a better seal, but it will make the tire fit tighter too. Running tape slightly too narrow, or tape that you have to run on one side, then another because it is too narrow, is a bad idea and will cause a leakage leading to failure eventually. Conversely, using tape that is too wide is obviously a bad way to go as well. Any wrinkling should be kept to a bare minimum and taking care in laying down the tape will reap dividends down the line.

Muc-Off tape, Orange Seal valve, in a Shimano GRX rim.
One technique that does work well, but takes extra time, is to go ahead and mount a tire with a tube and air it up with the newly installed tubeless tape. The pressure of the tube and tire with air presses the tape into the rim well and gets a good seal on the rim. But not everyone has that kind of time.

Now the last bit which is important for the set up is probably one of the most overlooked bits. The valve stem and in particular, the valve core, are critical to get right or your tubeless set up will be problematic and prone to failure.

Valve stems come in a lot of variants. My favorites, as stated before, are made from chrome plated brass. These are sturdier and less likely to bend, or come unseated within the inner rim, which can cause leakage. In fact, I'm not a fan of having anything aluminum in the valve assembly. Generally speaking aluminum threading is weaker, the aluminum itself is prone to oxidation due to the sealant carriers in many sealants, and their bases many times are suspect, in my opinon, in comparison to brass valve stems. It is tempting to want to save weight and have pretty anodized flashes of color here, but I'm bot convinced this is such a great idea.

One more thing- Make sure you get the correct length valve stem. If you have a deeper profile rim, especially carbon rims which typically are aero and deeper, then you'll need a longer stem. If you have more typical aluminum rims which are not very deep in profile, then get shorter ones. Do not use a stem longer than you need because when you start using a pump it will act like a lever on the stem and a long stem may bend or break off, if it is aluminum. You can also compromise the inner seal at the base of the stem inside the rim by bending the stem too much in a pump head.

New valve core (top) and two bad ones.
Sometimes when remounting a tire I will replace the valve core. You can remove these and upon careful comparison with a new one you can easily determine if the rubber seal or plastic seal is compromised. Valve cores have direct contact with sealant and can corrode, the rubber and plastic can easily be deformed, broken down, and the brass bits can fail due to oxidation. In fact the middle core above has a frozen outer nut, so you can't even close the valve anymore. A cursory glance at these makes it seem that nothing is amiss, but I would not use the bottom two cores at all. Get a new one if you aren't sure. It's well worth it.

Standard Presta nut (center) and an aluminum nut (left) with a stepped nut on the right.
Presta valve nuts are even important. I like the stepped, brass/chrome plated ones because I can get a firmer grip on them for making the valve stem seal against the inner rim well. Regular nuts are hard to get a hold of. Aluminum ones are hard to get tight enough before they strip out sometimes, and that's why I don't like them.

Okay, got all that cleaned up, installed, and ready to go? Next time I'll cover the final details regarding mounting tires, introducing sealant, airing up and setting beads, and finally the tricks I use to seal up a new tubeless set up. NOTE: I sometimes actually have used, or am going to use, products and styles of doing things I don't necessarily agree with. The aluminum valve stem pictured above in the rim well is one of those things. I do this to prove to myself, and to test for review at times, products that are worthy or no, disregarding any preconceived notions I may have. So, eventually I get informed opinions, and not just guesses. Hopefully these posts are helpful. Stay tuned for the next one coming soon.