Sunday, May 31, 2020

Trans Iowa Stories: Here I Am Again On My Own

I've spent a LOT of time alone out in rural Iowa.
"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!

This deal was always about relationships with people and having fun. Part of the 'fun', for me at least, was being alone. Getting away from it all is something I have to do more so than most folks. I admire any of you that can navigate living in big, metropolitan areas, because there is no way I'd make it living in places like that. In fact, I try to avoid such places. That's me. I don't take anything away from anyone else that digs being in the big city life. If you get on with that, like I said, I admire your abilities to do so.

Anyway, the point is that I relished being alone in "The Truck With No Name" doing recon and adventuring out in the rural areas of Iowa. Trans Iowa v8 probably was one of the most remote, unexplored bits of Iowa countryside I ever experienced, besides some bits of T.I.v11's course recon which no one else but Jeremy Fry experienced with me. That'll be spoken of here in upcoming "Trans Iowa Stories".

Of course, I didn't really have a choice in the matter, since David Pals had quit being the co-director, and I was determined to do this all in my way, which meant that recon and route planning were on my shoulders. I guess this made me take stock in a lot of things in my life. This time alone- hours upon hours of it- left me no choice but to think about many things in my life. Things outside of Trans Iowa, like my family, my website work, and my job as a mechanic at a bicycle shop. I did a LOT of deep thinking and what is more, I never listened to music or the radio. I watched nature as the miles rolled by, and I saw a lot of things. This led to one strange practice of mine which was in regard to how I verified a "good route".

I have given special significance to birds of prey if I see them during recon. This eagle was seen during recon for T.I.v12.
I usually mapped out a route at home using various sources like the "Iowa Sportsman's Atlas", Google Earth, and the county PDF files on the State of Iowa's Department of Transportation site. But nothing really tells you about how a course flows, how a rider might see it, or how scenic the route is unless you get out there and either ride it on a bike or drive it. Of course, the possibilities for changing a route present themselves as well. You might, for instance, see a better road choice and go with that, but a map may not show you any reasons to make that sort of change.

Sometimes as I rode along I found myself second guessing my choices, and with no one else in the truck to bounce any ideas off of, I was left to wonder. Now I have to kind of take you back to my youth for a minute to help explain what helped me in route finding over the years.

See, when I grew up, it was during the height of the use of  the chemical DDT. They used it to get rid of mosquitoes, and as a general insecticide on farms, but it was found to be environmentally dangerous to birds of prey and humans. So eventually it was banned. That's when I started seeing hawks again. Then Bald Eagles, which I never saw as a youth, started appearing while I was in my 20's. Now they are a fairly common site in Iowa, but that didn't used to be the case.

So I always took it as a good omen, a sign I was doing things right, when I saw a hawk soaring, and especially if I saw an Eagle on the proposed route. Many times, in fact I cannot recall a time this didn't pan out, the direction a hawk was flying almost always coincided with my course choices. It was as if I was getting a 'second opinion' on what I was doing. Crazy? Well......many of you will think so. I found it to be of great comfort and it seemed to work out in the end. Make of that what you will. I have my deep beliefs on the matter and I am not changing them. The point is, that is what I did, and maybe it was just too much time alone, but hawks and Eagles were a welcomed sight on those recon trips for T.I.v8 and others where I saw these birds.

From the T.I.v8 course.
It was likely during the recon for T.I.v8 where I was solidifying my plans for getting out of the website "Twentynine Inches" and plotting my escape from Trans Iowa with T.I.v10 as the endgame there. It would be 2012 when T.I.v8 would be run, and by the end of 2014 I was looking for freedom from the tyranny of all these stressors in my life, and those two things were at the top of my list.

I guess the previous Trans Iowas were to blame. From T.I.v3 and v4 to the craziness of v6 and the messy T.I.v7 cue sheet/bridge out debacle which culminated in a very personal trial with two friends. Only T.I.v5 went without much issue. I guess I figured most any Trans Iowa would be leading my emotions through a painful knothole. I didn't know how many more I could take. But I figured getting through to ten of these events would be a goal to shoot for. So, if that was the case, why not make 2014 a really big year and retire from TNI too. Sounded like a plan to me.

And I would be able to get three more chances to get Trans Iowa 'right"- v8, v9, and v10. I figured that if I couldn't get it right by then, well I'd quit anyway. But that wasn't an option, really. I mean, I was going to get it right. That's just how it was going to be. Besides having all this time alone planning Trans Iowa v8, I was also constantly bearing down on myself. I was going to do this! It was a LOT of self-induced pressure.

Next: The Story Behind "300 Miles Of Gravel".

Saturday, May 30, 2020

When It Rains, It Pours

The new logo on the store front.
You've probably heard the news about bicycles. How during the shutdown/quarantine/stay at home orders/social distancing phase of this year, there was a boom in sales at the bike businesses. Shops were slammed, bikes sold at twice the rate they had in any other March/April/May, and now bike shop's shelves and racks are bare.

It's true. It's no joke. It is probably worse than you realize it is. I've seen shop mechanics on a forum I follow saying their stores are going to stop selling tubes over the counter because they need them for tune-ups. That's right- inner tubes are harder to get now. That's not even the tip of the ice berg. All kinds of stuff is unavailable, or in very limited supply now. Examples include kid's trailers, mirrors, and handle bar tape- like hen's teeth. Hard to get and what you can get is maybe one- maybe two choices- if you are lucky.

Why? Well, it's not easy to pinpoint, but the biggest factor is that sales for the first quarter of 2020 went off the charts, and probably because of the pandemic, so no one was ready for this. Added in to that is the fact that several Chinese factories were closed longer than just for the Chinese New Year, and well.....things got worse.

I see some poo-pooing the idea about the factories shutting down, and they are saying things related to that are well in hand, but there is no denying that things got started off on the wrong foot, then the pandemic jump started sales to these crazy levels and we are. How it happened is, perhaps, less important than where it is going to lead us.

People want to know how we're going to "keep all these new riders". Ah.......well, that one is easy. We aren't. It's an easy question to answer because of two reasons- One: Once things are relaxed in terms of restrictions on movements and gatherings, people will, are going to, and already have returned to driving cars everywhere. It's happened here in Iowa where I live already. Those cars are taking them to places they could not go to for three months. You bars. There is one I pass on my commute home and the first day they could be open, at 4:30pm, the place was bonkers. Packed. You couldn't get another car on the property, and cars were lined up down the street for two blocks.

And no one had ridden a bicycle there.

Two: There are no safe places to ride, just like there weren't at the beginning of 2020. If you don't provide safe infrastructure, and get it in place, like.........yesterday, well, then you've lost a lot of the new riders. When the social distancing was at its height, in April, I could ride down the highway in town and not fear getting hit. Cars were a scarcity. Now? Pfffft! I would get killed. There is no way a new cyclist can ride on the side street, the main drags, or get to bike paths that we have without dealing with the average driver, who, by the way, is as entitled and distracted as ever.

And bike shops, well.....who knows? We will either still be getting slammed with repairs all Summer, or the tide will go out to sea and we will be left twiddling spanners as we will have no bikes to sell. Or....maybe.....Things will get back to a more normal rhythm. Suppliers will catch up, and business will settle into a post-pandemic hangover. I'm betting on the latter. The demand front loaded in 2020 and the rest of the year will be slower.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Friday News And Views

THIS is gravel riding? From Cannondale marketing imagery.
Cannondale Says Your Gravel Bike Is Really A MTB Rig: (With Motorized Content)

By this time you've all heard the news about the new 2021 Topstone models. I won't get into too much about specifics other than a note about the continuance of that wonky geometry for the Carbon Topstone.

No, what really stood out above all the Neo this, connected app that, were these marketing images Cannondale distributed to the media. Out of the 12 or so "lifestyle" images, maybe four could be on actual gravel roads. The rest were all right out of a page from your typical MTB marketing plans.

So, besides the fact that the biggest tire you can put on any of these is a 650B X 47mm, (on non-HPC versions), and that the suspension travel is a 1992 inspired 30mm, aren't these really mountain bikes with drop bars? Again- I'll ask the question- Where are all the 70-sish degree head angle, rigid hard tail, flat bar MTB's? I mean, if you are going to go single tracking, ya know?

Man! Somebody has to make an El Mariachi-like hard tail again. It'd be five times the bike these Topstones are, especially at what these marketers are saying these bikes are supposedly for, at a third of the price of these Topstones. Cheapest non-motorized one is $3750.00 from what I saw on the release. Then there are the motorized ones. Going up....... Those are nearly 6G and up. And get this- they showed these as if they were MTB's as well. 

I don't know where to start. 28 hole rims on an electrified bike? How about a 59mm bottom bracket drop on an XL? (I get it- they have suspension, but really?) Limited tire clearances? (700 X 37 max or 650 B X 42 max on electrified Topstone Neo) Pffft! I just don't know......

It's an odd marketing campaign for a weird bike, in my opinion.

Throwin' it back to 2009. Best DK200 logo EVER.
Another Virtual Experience 

The DK events are postponed to the weekend of September 12th, 2020, but if you are jonesing for some DK action this week, 'cause this would have been the week, then you can get on yer virtual horse tomorrow and ride, or upload a GPS file of your ride which would have been your race distance, (socially distanced, natch!) and share in the virtual joy with others.

The DK team has been doing some virtual stuff since Wednesday and that was all sent out to the folks that are signed up, so if you are one of them, then y'all know what I am talkin' about already.

It's a good way to keep the DK spirit alive, but with things getting relaxed all over the place now, some smaller events are now filling the need of many who are itching for some dusty competition. The 'anti-DK 200' event, The Sterile Iowan, is going off unhindered, unmasked, and unashamed this weekend near Iowa Falls. I'm sure others are getting their gravelly goodness on very soon at some other smaller events.

These are weird times and weird things are going on all over. I'm not sure about any of it, to be honest. Time will suss out all, that I am sure of that much. As for me..... I'm still on the solo train. Virtual stuff? Not so much.

A US made Schwinn? It's coming....
 Detroit Bikes To Build New Schwinn Collegiate Bikes for 125th Anniversary of Marque. 

Back when I started in the bicycle biz and probably up through 2010, many people still thought Schwinn was made in the USA. Well, Walmart, et al, made sure folks got that nasty idea outta their heads. But now, a Walmart exclusive Collegiate model will be sold for Schwinn's 125th anniversary, and it will be built by Detroit Bikes in the USA. Just in time to confuse the whole situation once again.

While that sounds cool and all, take a really close look at this bike. 1 X 7 drive train, lower end rear derailleur, and side pull calipers? This cannot be much more than a $350.00 price range bike, in terms of what is available in a comparable type bicycle elsewhere. That is, unless they get you on the collectable/limited edition front. Assuming a CrMo frame too. If this is a mild steel alloy frame and fork, well then.... That's different. I'd take even more off that $350.00 figure.

I've no idea what sort of numbers production will be for this, nor what price this will be. I don't see anything in this article on it. There is some yearly production goal for all of Detroit Bikes customers, stated in the article, which is set at 20,000 mark for 2021. So, I'm betting these Collegiates will only amount to a very small number of that overall total production goal.

Note: Image of the Collegiate is a stock media image posted all around the internet. No idea on source, but I'm guessing it is Pacific Cycles. 

 Riding Gravel Radio Ranch Episode #45:

The episodes keep rolling out. Of all the goals I set for myself for 2020, this is one I can truthfully say now that I have accomplished. That goal would be to get more podcasts produced and on a more regular basis. Here's a link to the latest one.

With this episode we have now done as many podcasts in 2020 as we put out in 2018 and 2019 combined. And to think we didn't get started this year until March! We are getting episodes out more or less weekly and there are no signs of slowing down anytime soon. So, with almost a half of the year done, I think I can safely check that goal off the list.

Now my goal is to get you, the listeners, more engaged. Please send me ideas, questions, and comments to and I will try to get those ideas, comments, and questions into circulation via the podcast. Hearing about things that riders want to hear about will help diversify the subject matter and help us keep content fresher and more interesting. As an example, we will be doing the "Single Speed Nerd-Out" podcast next, which was a suggestion for a topic that a rider e-mailed me about. It's going to happen. See how that works?

Have a great weekend! 

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Country Views: Rain Delay

It started out pretty hot and beautiful out.
I got out Wednesday afternoon with, what I thought was, a good amount of time before it was supposedly going to rain. I figured I had time to at least ride up Burton Avenue, which changes to Killdeer at the county line, and then to Ivanhoe Road and back across Highway 63 to maybe come back on Schenk Road so I could see all the cool old barns.

That was the plan anyway. You know what they say about 'the best laid plans', right? Well, these plans didn't go totally off the rails, but they were merely delayed. I'm going to get this route done but it didn't happen Wednesday. I decided to do this abbreviated ride on the Stormchaser with the 700c X 50mm tires set at just a hair under 30psi. Heavenly ride quality! If I were going to get to keep this demo bike, I would definitely be running big, puffy 700c tires at lowered pressures. Of all the wheels I ran with from 700c X 42mm and 650B X 47mm tires, these 700c X 50mm tires pull what I think is the best out of the Stormchaser.

Hey there! Some color in the ditches other than yellow and green are starting to appear.
Going up! Burton Avenue is a mostly up road going North.
Once I escaped out of town I found the gravel to be fast, with a deeper loose patch here and there. I also felt, for the first time this year, the Sun's energy being reflected off the road. Baking...... My nemesis for getting long rides done is heat. I throttled it back a touch, as riding a single speed on a mostly climbing road in this sort of heat can wither me. Especially after so many months off from this sort of weather.

Spot light on.....
Hmm..... Clouding up as I crossed into Bremer County.
The heat didn't get me after all. In fact, it wasn't bad after a while and I found myself plugging along upward without much issue. But then I noticed it felt cooler, and then, within a few miles of riding, it clouded up significantly.'ll be okay! That's what I thought. I figured, you know, it would take a few hours for the clouds to build in and then maybe it would start raining, but I'd be home before that.

I got up to Ivanhoe Road, which I found was marked "Ivanhoe Street" at the intersection of Killdeer, and turned East. Hmm.... The wind was up now out of the Southeast. I remarked to myself that it was going to be a bit more of a challenge getting home, but at least it would be mostly down hill, and the part where I was looking forward to turning West on Airline Highway was going to be fast!

As I approached Highway 63 I felt them. Rain drops!

 Add caption
Dang it! The skies looked pretty heavy at this point and it was all coming up from the Southeast to greet me. Would there be thunder and lightning? I figured I'd better stop once I crossed the highway to assess the situation via my smart phone.

I pulled up my weather app, started the past radar soundings loop, and then.... Nothing, nothing, nothing, BAM! A line of heavy rain pops up outta nowhere and it was lining up to look like a soaker for me. No need to risk getting hit by lightning, and no need to push through a rain, so I texted Mrs. Guitar Ted and rode the paved way into Denver from the North.

The end of this ride wasn't a whole lot of fun.
As I pedaled South I saw two cyclists in the distance heading toward me. Two youngsters, riding cruiser style bikes, heading off into the rain. Ah! Youth! I was reminded of a not-so-nice thing my Dad used to say, but I won't burden any of you with that here. Suffice it to say that it had to do with lack of knowledge.

Anyway, it started raining in earnest as I approached the town, The Casey's convenience store I said I'd meet her at was on the opposite end of town, about a half mile away from the old city, where the four lane bypasses Denver on the South side. I had a ways to go!

I considered waiting it out under a canopy somewhere, but ya know, once you get wet, you cannot get any wetter. I just rode on. Besides, in these socially distanced times, I don't need to have any interactions with someone who is very fearful and thinks this "outsider" is leaving the worst virus ever behind to infect them with somehow or another. Nope! So, I just kept on keeping on, never coming within 20 yards or less of anyone in that village.

It's weird to think this way, but this has become what the situation is now. People are either super-freaked out or don't give a damn and figure you are being stupid. I'm not engaging on that battleground where there will be no winner. Nope! No interactions, no problems. I sat on the very furthest edge of the property, in the misting rain, and waited for my ride.

And when Mrs. Guitar Ted showed up, I racked up the Stormchaser and hopped in for the ride home. I'll be back again to finish that ride off........

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

When Is Wide Too Wide?

The Noble Bikes GX5 with 700c X 47mm Teravail Cannonballs.
Last week I got these Teravail tires to check out for Riding Gravel reviews which will be trotted out over the next several weeks. (Note- I did not pay for these tires, Teravail isn't paying me to write about them. In fact, they didn't know I was going to write this post, as an example)

So, a couple pairs of these are 700c X 47mm. Yes- forty-seven millimeters. In case that doesn't impress you in some way- that's a really wide gravel tire. So wide that Teravail themselves warn you in their own marketing that they may not even fit your bike.

Regular readers also might remember that I mentioned these tires in the Last FN&V post. I said it may be that more bikes are coming that will fit these size of gravel tires. But what about now? That is a tire size that is kind of a 'no-man's land' in terms of fitment. Generally speaking, there were road and road-ish tires going up to around 700 X 42mm in the past, then you had a few outliers, like the old Continental Goliath, or that voluminous touring tire they made in the 90's, but past 42mm, there usually were no tires listed in distributor's catalogs for 700c.

There is a good reason for that. It doesn't have much to do with tires, but it has everything to do with clearances. Drive train clearances especially. There were two established standards, mostly promoted to the factories by Shimano, so they could eventually standardize the drive train business into 'road' and 'mountain' categories. Road standards allow for a certain chain line, which then pretty much dictates tire clearances in the end. Mountain allows more room, so it has a wider spindle length and crank arms that provide a wider chain line, amongst other things. This is a bit of oversimplification, but the point remains. Everything else follows the chain line and is defined by 'road' and 'mountain'. Note- there is no category for 'gravel'. Well....maybe not. (See GRX)

A close up of the 700 X 47mm Cannonball. It looks like a rasp!
So, stuffing a big tire, a chain stay, and a chain ring, plus allowing for clearance for spinning crank arms, and don't forget a drive train that is in line, (chain line), and all that together......whew! That is truly complicated stuff, and to make a change in any one of those things affects all the others. That's why when 29"ers came around companies were saying 'no way!', because making room for a big tire and a drive train plus all that other stuff- even though it could be MTB stuff- was throwing a huge wrench into the standardization pool. Remember- it took years to get parts that were 29"er friendly. This is why.

All that to say that this 700c X 47mm deal, or even Donnelly's 700c X 50mm MSO, is a weird size for a gravel tire because the limits of the road standard are being sorely tested. You might be thinking, "Well, why not use MTB standard design then!". Great idea, excepting that you have things like "Q" factor, no drive train parts which are drop bar/MTB specific, and now we have GRX.

Ah! The GRX thing! Is this Shimano's sneaky way to circumvent changing road bike standards by creating an entirely new one, outside the box of the traditionalist roadies? And when is something like a 47mm or 50mm tire appropriate for many/most riders? Isn't that just too much tire? Are we turning 'gravel' into 'drop bar mtb'? And at what point do we start seeing that the closer to 70° head angle, fully rigid hard tail bike is sorely absent from our "general purpose" off-roading options?

Add to that inner rim widths and what about these crazy wide handle bars? The cycling industry seems to be on a 'make everything wider' kick the past decade or so, and they show no signs of stopping.....yet. At some point, the pendulum of fashion and "expertise" may change and we will swing back to narrower stuff. Just wait and see.

Although, I highly doubt we go back to 17mm outer rim width roadie rims, like my Sun Mistrals, anytime soon.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Well, That Was A Typical One!

Not the kind of radar images I like to see, but pretty typical for this time of year.
The weekend was wet and rainy off and on. Most of it, at any rate. It really was pretty typical for Memorial Day Weekend in Iowa. I have no 'weather data' to back this up, but I have my memories, and I seem to recall that it rains more often than not around the end of  May here.

Years ago, long before bicycles changed my life, I used to go fishing on this weekend. We'd leave on Memorial Day for a week. The destination was Northwest of Hayward, Wisconsin to a place called Middle Eau Claire Lake. There were sunny years, but there were a lot of rainy ones as well. It's just what happens around here at the end of May. I remember those times due to that momentous occasion every year which was that fishing trip. Kind of sticks out in my mind a bit. And YES- There are a LOT of 'fish stories'. Anyway.....

So, the Sun had been pretty absent all last week here. I mean- zero Sun. It was as if it were November or something. Then on Saturday, for about four hours, the Sun appeared. That's when I got all those shots on yesterday's post. Then it clouded over, rained again- of course- and as of this writing on Memorial Day, as I sit here, it is cloudy once again, with the threat of rain all day off and on.

I had a big ride planned on Saturday with a friend but we cancelled it Friday evening after weather reports came out showing thunderstorms would be prevalent for most of the morning. Bummer, but at least my little 'mission' to gather images on Saturday afternoon went off without a hitch. I actually was on the Ti Muk 2 as some of what I wanted to short cut across was grassy territory, torn up by construction, or through alleys. The right call was a fat bike.

Looking back toward HWY 63 and the bike path.
At one point I had to traverse a section where there was a ton of shredded under brush resulting in lots of wood chips, debris, and mud. Low geared it through that, and since I had a Rohloff drive train, I did not have any concerns about any of the shredded sticks getting caught in a derailleur. My only worry was potentially driving a stick through a side wall, but I took it slow and easy. Nothing of the sort happened.

NOTE: I just looked outside and the SUN IS SHINING!

Anyway.... Back to the Ti Muk 2. I sometimes wonder what it is about this bike, but after pushing through all that torn up wood, mud, grassy sections, up and down hills, and around to four different cemeteries, I look at my fitness watch and it shows I barely did any work. That's not the first time I've noticed that. I know I exerted myself, and yeah, the Ti Muk 2 is easy to ride, but I find it kind of amazing that if I ride a single speed- any single speed- I can be relaxed and feel good, but the dang techno-watch says I've worked my rear end off. I actually proved that out by riding the singled out BMC Orange Crush #49 Sunday. It's just weird, or the Ti Muk 2 is a magical beast. One or the other.

It's too bad that I don't have power meters, just to see what is going on there. But yeah- just imagine what that would cost! I mean, with all the bicycles I have, there is just no way that is going to be happening. I might be able to draw some real conclusions as to why I'm seeing this on this Apple watch dealio I have on my wrist. Technology.........Pffffft! It's enough to drive ya nuts some days. I'm probably better off just riding and enjoying it, rather than trying to dig into data and never looking up.

But that's pretty typical of these days too, isn't it?

Monday, May 25, 2020

Memorial Day

Today is the day we recognize the sacrifices those who fought and died for this country made for us. So, I thought it would be good to make a post dedicated to the remembrance to those who gave all in the line of duty.

These are shots I took in four of Waterloo, Iowa's local cemeteries on Saturday. My hope is that in some small way they can help you to consider the men and women who died to make sure this country survived and provided us the lives we have today.

Dedicated to Francis Odbert and Jerry Stevenson


Sunday, May 24, 2020

Trans Iowa Stories:"I'll Kill Ya!"

The third, and final, Trans Iowa v8 header art concept that was used on the site. Courtesy of Jeff Kerkove.
 "Trans Iowa Stories" is an every Sunday post which helps tell the stories behind the event. You can check out other posts about this subject by going back to earlier Sunday posts on this blog. Thanks and enjoy!

The events of the next Trans Iowa in the line of this story were all etched into my memory as if it were the first time I'd done it. In a way, it was the first time. I hadn't done all of the work to put on the event in five years. Now, I was on my own. Back in 2014 as I recapped Trans Iowa's history for this blog, I wrote the following, which should serve as a good recap of where I left off in the telling of the events surrounding version seven of Trans Iowa:

 "It was over. Trans Iowa V7 was done, but I had a "Dirt Rag" story to write, sponsors to thank, and some emotionally charged situations going on that seemed to put the endurance factor of Trans Iowa v7 on much longer than I imagined. There was the tension between David and I, my buddy MG was ticked off, and I had just about reached my limits in terms of being able to take any more. There was only one thing that fueled my desire to do another Trans Iowa- that was my complete and utter determination to put on a flawless Trans Iowa. Before the event was even done, I had silently vowed to myself that I would take Trans Iowa on and dominate the logistical and promotional parts of the event and show how it really could be done. I knew it could be way better."

It was also true that I had said after Trans Iowa v3 that I'd never do the event again alone. However; I never dreamed I'd end up in the situation I did at the time of v7. That pretty much lit a fire within me and I can say honestly I haven't been that motivated to do anything since. 

Lots of things needed attention, most of those having to do with recon of the route and cue sheets. One of the things I changed was that whatever the route was to be, that route would have a draft of cues for it well ahead of the event. In fact, they would be independently verified. The original plan was to have whomever was to verify the cues do it alone by my draft of the cues. That way any issues found would be natural, so to speak. I wouldn't be there to influence the outcome, and people would know the route was legit. However; my two volunteers that stepped up to do this, Wally and George, insisted I come along, since any issues could be sussed out easily if I was there, and it would save time and money. I acquiesced and in March of 2012, I joined them in Grinnell for the first "Checking Crew" ride. Here's what I wrote at the time leading up to the recon:

 "This year, besides having all the cues drafted far in advance, the cues will actually be double checked by a third party. This will happen this weekend when I will play tag along with the Checking Crew. My role will be to see if any clarifications are necessary and to take notes of any criticisms. By doing this extra step, it is my hope that the cues will reflect with accuracy where and when to turn out there."

I didn't really know Wally well yet, but I liked him as we got to know each other over the months going into T.I.v7 and afterward. George I knew even less. I had only met him once, at T.I.v7, and that briefly. I hadn't communicated with him outside of that. What I learned later, but didn't know that day in March of 2012, was that Wally and George had been life-long friends. They knew each other so well one could finish the other's sentences. Brothers from other mothers, for sure, and they have a rich, long history of events that they have shared over the years. But again- I hadn't learned that yet. 

So, as we tooled along in George's Ford 4X4, Bouncing down the gravel roads, we got to talking. Now, if you don't know me, I like to talk. I can spin a yarn, and I enjoy hearing them too. Well, at one point I was telling a story about something or another that I had done when George, who had been pretty quiet up to this point, piped up and said, "You know what I would have done if you'd done that to me?"

I responded and asked what that might be. 

George then snapped around, with a wild look, his eyes bulging and his face was tense, and he growled, "I'd a fu#@in killed ya!"

Pregnant pause.......for effect.....

A rider by the fire at Wally and George's Checkpoint Bravo during T.I.v8
Then Wally busted out laughing! The look on my face must have been priceless. I had no idea if George was serious or no, but his tone, and his overall countenance was very convincing! See, George had grown up in Chicago. He had that certain 'moxy', that inner city swagger thing. And Wally knew exactly where he was going with that the minute George opened up his trap. Man! Was that a funny thing right there.   

And for the rest of the day, that phrase, or variations thereof,  was repeated at various times in connection with various things, and my sides hurt from laughing so much. That recon was so much fun, and Wally and George were such great guys, not to mention such a good sounding board for my course ideas and cues, that they instantly became an indispensable resource to Trans Iowa. Not to mention, really good friends too. That was an unforgettable day. It wasn't the last one either.

The course checking was a great idea, and having the cues reviewed by two individuals with no horse in the race, (sorry for the pun), made for some raw, unfiltered critique that I was able to put to good use. Then, as if that weren't enough, I had Jeremy Fry and Steve Fuller use the revamped cues after the first vetting as they scouted the course for imagery opportunities. So, not only was T.I.v8 vetted out once, but twice by independent teams. I was out to make sure these cues were so spot-on that they could not be faulted.

Trans Iowa v8 saw Wally and George running the Checkpoint Bravo (#2) and they, once again, proved to have one of the coolest checkpoints ever seen in Trans Iowa's history. John Gorilla famously said later that there should have been a time limit on how long you could have stayed at that checkpoint! Keep in mind, this was literally about as far out in the sticks in Iowa as you could get. So, the little oasis of fun, fire, and liquor was a standout after miles and miles of nothing.  Recently, George related a little story about the Checkpoint Bravo experience:

Riders leaving Checkpoint Bravo, by Wally Kilburg
"Wally and I were at the beginning of the race and drove around checking on riders in the morning and hitting Ckeckpoint 1. (Dubbed Checkpoint Alpha that year) When we decided to head out to Ckeckpoint 2 (Bravo) we hit a store and bought some supplies and a couple of DuraFlame logs to help take the night’s chill away. We made our way out there and began setting up. The EZUP was the first thing followed by our chairs, coolers, generator/lights, music, and getting the fire pit ready. In the middle of all this we were approached by a couple of locals who lived a hundred yards or so up the road. My first thought was “I hope we don’t have any trouble!” But it turns out they just were curious about what we were doing. I don’t think they had ever seen, or had anybody setting up “camp", on their corner before.

We had a very friendly chat with them explaining what was going on. They were amazed that a bicycle race would be coming through this area with it being in the middle of nowhere. But they did think it was pretty cool and hoped we and the riders would have a good time. They were extremely nice and friendly and even offered to share their dinner with us and told us to stop by and warm up if we got cold. We thanked them for the offers and understanding that we meant no harm while invading their little corner of Iowa. I’m not 100% sure but I think one of them stopped over when we had a flurry of riders come through.

George went on to share with me the following about the riders getting too comfortable there at Checkpoint Bravo: 

"As a side note, you may remember that we had to chase several riders out of the checkpoint so they would continue the race. Some got very comfortable taking over our chairs and warming up by the fire as we handed out Cue sheets and offered encouragement. A few of the riders never left. I think it was close to 1AM by the time they were all picked up. LOL! Even MG who ran Ckeckpoint 3, (The secret Checkpoint "Charlie" that year, along with Jeremy Fry) if I recall correctly, hung around until the last possible moment. Good times!"

The other thing that came out of this version of Trans Iowa was Wally's imagery, and his desire to step into being a photographer for his main vocation. I cannot say whether Trans Iowa helped push him over the edge to do that with his life, but I am sure it was an influence. However that played out, I do know that because of Wally and George, Trans Iowa's imagery for posterity was enriched greatly. It all started with that ride to verify cues for v8.  

Next: Here I Am Again On My Own 

Saturday, May 23, 2020

New Skid Lid

Got me a new hat the other day.
There is one thing that I have always had to compromise on, and that would be my helmet fit. I've never really found one I could afford that actually fit my head. Not there weren't helmets out there that couldn't fit me. There was N.Y. Roll's POC helmet I tried once that fit me pretty well. Kind of, any way. I checked into the price and about fell outta my chair. It didn't fit that well! 

Obviously, if you've been around here long, you know I wear a cycling helmet. Usually I prefer Bell helmets, as they were always the ones that fit me best, and I could actually afford them. I'm not saying what you think here though. When I say, "fit me best", I'm saying that I had to modify them the least.

See, I always had to modify my cycling helmets to fit me. I rarely ever was able to keep the pads in a helmet. Those always just got ripped out and tossed the moment I got a new helmet. I needed all the room I could get, and pads were taking up space. Then the bits of Velcro they use to hold pads in place had to be carefully removed, and sometimes I even had to resort to removing some structure to get the helmet to fit. With a Bell helmet, I generally did not have to do that last thing. So, that's why Bell helmets were always my jam in headgear. But they still didn't sit on my head right, and I can, and often did, get headaches, hot spots, and marks on my head from wearing a cycling helmet.

Trust me- there were days I figured I'd finally just never be able to wear a helmet again. There were times I'd get very frustrated and want to just throw all my helmets in a bin and never look back. But I knew the gas I would get for doing that, so I never went through with that plan.

Then the Bontrager guy said they had a new helmet coming out, asked me what size I was in headgear, and I know that measurement intimately. 63cm, or hat size 7 7/8ths. Long and narrow skull. The Bontrager guy didn't bat an eyelash. The helmet would be coming soon for me to check out and write a review on. I was not hopeful. I mean, I'd heard this line before. There was that time the Lazer helmet guy 'promised' me the helmet would be no problem for me. I couldn't stand it on my head for more than a few minutes. It was no where near fitting me, much less 'no problem'. So yeah, bring it on, Bontrager. 

But you know what? That darn helmet did fit! And it didn't just barely fit either. I actually am not maxing out this thing! Wow! So this is how y'all feel with your helmets on! I never knew.....

Read my 'Quick Review' of the Starvos WaveCel helmet here.

 Note: Bontrager sent over the Starvos WaveCel Helmet at no charge to Riding Gravel for test and review. We were not paid, nor bribed for this review and we always strive to give our honest thoughts and views throughout.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Friday News And Views

Surly ECR in "Blacktacular"
Okay, So I Have This Idea....

The Problem: Old MTB I hardly ride anymore, put up for sale, no interest seen. Solution: Re-purpose most of the parts into a new bike. Side Effect: New bike takes place of another in the stable and I have a prospective owner for that bike already. Result: One new bike I'll use and two bikes eliminated from taking up valuable space in The Lab.

Are you with me so far? Now for the details.

The old Singular Buzzard is sitting in the Lab unloved and unridden. It's been this way for several years. Last year I put it on my Garage Sale Page, with zero interest. So, I had a 'light bulb' moment Wednesday. How about a 29+ bike? See, the idea came up when I was speaking with the Teravail guy about possibly reviewing some of their tires. He suggested the Coronado. and when I checked on sizes, well, the only tire in that range I could have possibly tried was a fat bike version of the Coronado, but I noticed that they had "plus bike" versions as well. Trouble is, I don't have a good plus bike to try a Coronado on. (Note- More about Teravail Tires coming later in the post)

Then Wednesday I saw a review of the Coronado with those tires mounted to a Krampus. I liked what I saw, but a Krampus? Nah! I pretty much have that bike now and never use it. But what about a Surly ECR? Those are plus bike tire compatible! Off to the Surly Bikes site to investigate. I look at the current ECR offerings, and I see the "Blacktacular" frame set. I could go with one of those, and my current Velocity Dually rimmed wheel set with the big Coronado tires. Hmm...... Maybe single speed too. Hmm...... Then I see the ECR takes an 1 1/8th head set. I have one of those. Hmm....... The head set in the Buzzard could be the same one I need for the T-6 Standard Rando build..... This is getting interesting. 

So, what bike does an ECR replace? Well, it would essentially be a better, more versatile replacement for my ill-fitting and limited 1X1. AND- I have a person to pass that bike on to that has already indicated interest. I then only have to sell a Buzzard frame and the fork with it, and hopefully that would be enticing enough to someone to get it out of my Lab. See? New bike, minus two bikes = a happier Guitar Ted.

I'm liking this plan.

Hutchinson Touareg tires.
New Shoes In For Testing: 

 The Hutchinson Touareg tires showed up earlier this week and I have mounted one set so far and tried them out. Here's a very, very initial impression on the 700c X 45 tires.

Initially I didn't think these were going to be 45mm wide, but right after mounting them, they were very nearly 45mm wide on Shimano GRX wheels, (not the widest internal measurement wheels by any stretch), and so I am comfortable in saying they are probably going to stretch out to be what they say. That's important to note, because many bikes will not be a good fit for these tires since they are that wide in reality. Note- There is a 40mm version of this tire as well.

The profile is very rounded- a definite "C" shape. The tread reminds me of a cross between a Donnelly MSO and a Michelin Power Gravel tread pattern. Lots of tightly packed, arrow-ish shaped, low center blocks (MSO) and then stepped rows of higher, tiny , tightly packed side tread (Power Gravel). Yes- they fling small stones a bit.

Feels fast on my super deteriorated gravel, smooth dirt, asphalt test track. Gotta get out on gravel on these soon, but I don't know for sure with this being a holiday weekend when that might be. AND it is supposed to be rainy most of the weekend. Ya know......Memorial Day Weekend? (I think that means "Rainy Weekend" in some foreign language)

More soon.........

 More New Shoes For Testing:

Yep! I'm going to be pretty busy in the coming weeks. Teravail, who saw my recent Rutland review on Riding Gravel, contacted me and asked me why I had issues with their original models. Thus started a conversation and that resulted in their informing me that they changed their tires since I had last tried them, (previous to the Rutland review).

We decided that I should give the fully armored versions of the Cannonball a whirl again. And I am also taking a look at the Rutland in the "Light and Supple" casing for contrast. Then I am going to get on their Ehline tire and put those to test on the Fargo as a gravel/bike packing option.

The 700 X 47mm size is intriguing. Of course, there are a few 700 X 45mm options out there. The WTB Riddler and the above mentioned Hutchinson Touaregs are examples that come to mind. But a 700 X 47mm tire is odd. I haven't heard of that size until I ran across this with Teravail. I find it interesting because, as of now, there are not many gravel bikes that can handle a tire that wide and voluminous. But it also tells me there will be more. Tire manufacturers don't make a tire size on spec that someone might like it. No, they make tires for perceived needs now and in the near future, or even better- for production bikes, otherwise known as "OE spec". (Original Equipment spec)

A company that scores an OE contract to make components for a bicycle has guaranteed sales. Making tires for the aftermarket means what? Maybe. You might sell a bunch, or you might not. This is why when you see an online forum ranting for, say, White side wall 650B X 55mm studded tires that weigh 700 grams each, well you probably will never see them getting made. No matter how much sense that might make to you, or 100 people online.

This is why when I see something out of the ordinary getting made, my ears prick up. There is something going on I need to pay attention to. And 700 X 47mm is one of those things.

That's it for this week. I hope all you US readers have a safe, happy, and adventurous Memorial Day Weekend.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Country Views: Test Session With The Wind

A little handle bar 'attitude adjustment' stop.
Wednesday I got out on the gravel for a 2.5hr test session on the set up for the Single Speed Century attempt. It was supposed to have been partly cloudy and warmer, but not so much. Sheesh! The weather people are sure not scoring high on the accuracy around here of late, I'll tell ya that much! In fact, it wasn't supposed to rain, but it sure looked like it could have at any minute during my entire ride.

And then there is the wind. It was listed at 13mph from the East on the weather app. I call B.S. on that! More like a 15-20 mph wind out of the Southeast, from where I was sat for a while, which was pretty much directly into it for several miles. Okay.....okay! It maybe was a little heavier wind, and not 20mph, but I'm not buying this measly 13mph figure. I worked hard into that wind.

And yes, I went east, but down a road I typically only do in early Spring, or sometimes during Winter. Not sure why I have done it that way, but Newell Street is a pretty cool Eastward road and I should do rides off of it more often than I do. There are a few roads I need to 'bag' out that way anyway to get all the Black Hawk County gravel roads under my belt this year.

So, I ended up turning on a road I have done on this 'route' I do many times before, North Pilot Grove Road. Then I ended up turning onto Airline Highway, because, well, ya gotta go by St. Francis Catholic Church! I had to get another image at the cemetery gate, as the last time I rode gravel on the Pofahl was a on route that went by this church on a late Fall ride.

St. Francis Catholic Church

Bonus: Now going West I had a big push from the wind. Actually I did going North as well. This is why I felt the wind was a lot stronger than the app said, because I was literally outrunning my gear most of the way back going North or West. Had I been on a geared bike I could have been flying.

It really looked like it could rain at any minute.
An interesting erratic alongside Crane Creek Road. It's engraved with a name and date!
I've gone down Crane Creek Road several times and this big glacial erratic sits in the west ditch at one point on that road. I've seen it before, but this time the growing vegetation was dead, and underneath it could be seen that the big rock had been engraved with a name and year. It looked vaguely something like "THILTGES 187?", I couldn't make out the last digit in the year as I rolled by. Maybe I will stop next time and investigate that further. Whatever it says, it is unusual, and I would like to find out the story on that someday.

I ended up coming to some conclusions after this test session. I found out that the saddle on the Pofahl can likely stay. It is no more or less comfortable than my WTB saddle, so I see no need to swap it out. I tweaked the bar position, and now I am really happy with that. I still haven't decided on whether or not I'll take a Chaff Bag. I probably will. They are just so handy. I may go against the cue sheet holder. The route has only three small-ish pages. I can manage if I stuff them into a Chaff Bag. It's not like I am racing or anything. A little slower solution to read the cues by is no big deal for this ride. Besides, I'm riding a single speed. "Fast" will not be part of the vocabulary for this ride, that is, unless I get a mighty tail wind like I did yesterday.

More Soon........

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Testing For The Single Speed Century: Part 3

Picture from last week. Riding happening today.
Okay, another update here on my 'event' coming up, the Single Speed Century. This bike, the Pofahl Signature Custom, is going on this voyage. I am going out on it for a shake down ride today to determine what I might need to change on it.

I did ride it to work and back last weekend, so I already have probably about 30 miles into it the way it is already with that commute and the neighborhood cruises I've done on it so far. I've been playing with tire pressures, mostly, and I arrived at 30psi rear/28psi front as feeling the best so far. Today's ride will help dial that in better for gravel riding.

The stem is going to stay, for the time being. Here's the thing about this bike- It was never meant to be a drop bar bike. Nope! This bike was conceived in late 2006 and was based upon my 2003 Karate Monkey, also not a drop bar bike. This bike was supposed to have a custom titanium bull moose style bar made for it. However; the builder contracted to make the handle bar cheesed out on Ben Witt and I in his promise to make it. Ben was helping me design this bike, by the way, and was running Milltown Cycles at that time. Anyway, this guy just completely ignored us and when we gave up and went a different direction, about two months later, hey! This builder shows a bar almost identical to Ben's concept. And before you ask me- No, I am not outing who it was. It does no one any good now to dredge all that back up. I just tell that story as a cautionary tale for anyone thinking about custom builds and to explain why there never was a bull moose style bar on the Pofahl.

So, a shorty stem is pretty much a necessity if you want to use a drop bar on this bike. Back in the day, no one had such stems unless they were those bricks DH riders used. I didn't want to do that, and I thought I needed a higher position, so a steep riser stem was on this bike for years. This current stem was a placeholder, but after giving it a whirl, ya know......I like it. It kind of works, so I'm rolling with it.

So, the stem is a 'go' and the only other part I'm iffy on is the saddle. I used to love these Bontrager Inform saddles and had several on my bikes ten years ago or more. This white one is the only surviving one of the lot. It's......okay, but I think I need a few hours on a gravel road to decide for sure. Once that has been done, I'll either throw on a WTB saddle I have here or I'll just stick with the Bontrager one. We'll see......

I'm trying to travel pretty light, so three, maybe four water bottles. Gotta fit my cue sheet holder, a GPS computer mount, and maybe one Chaff Bag. But that's all. Stops are at 30-40 mile intervals, so I have resources to use out there and I don't have to pack 100% of my water and food. The date will be set in stone soon. Stay tuned..............

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

A Year With The Ti Muk 2

The Ti Muk 2 as seen on a gravel ride in 2019.
Well, as of last weekend I've had the Ti Muk 2 for a year. This bike, which was an incredible gift made possible by my brother MG and Sam, plus many generous people who donated their money toward this purchase, has been a huge blessing to me over the past year. I will never forget the generosity of all of these people, and I am always reminded of how grateful I am every time I throw a leg over that bike's top tube. 

So, I thought it would be a responsible thing, and perhaps an interesting thing for some of you out there, for me to report back on my first year on this amazing bicycle.

The heart of this bike is the titanium frame, made by Salsa Cycles, and which features their Alternator drop outs. These could be swapped for specific uses, like single speed, or, as in this case, for an internal geared hub. The hub is the legendary Rohloff Speedhub with 14 internal gears, evenly spaced, for a wide gearing range. This results in a single chain, cog, and chain ring externally for simple maintenance and maximum durability. It also makes for nothing dangling off the bike to get ripped away in thick underbrush, or on rocks, etc. You can read the specifics on the original spec I got the bike in here. There also you can see the fine folks names who made this happen. For the current spec, go to this post.

The past year has been pretty amazing with the Ti Muk 2. I had a learning curve with how to ride a Rohloff and how to maintain it as well. I managed to get the bike out in all sorts of weather, conditions, and terrain types. I can honestly say that my assessment that this sort of bike is the perfect incarnation of a fat bike still stands after a year's experience on this bike. Sure, it has its limitations. But overall, this bike handles more than I thought it could and is better at everything I used the original Ti Muk for.

The Ti Muk as seen last Sunday on its one year anniversary ride.
There are times when the wheels and tires just aren't quite enough to float me, or to tackle big, deep snow. But then there is the Blacborow DS for that. Otherwise this is the fat bike I use for everything else. The best thing about it, other than that it has the Rohloff, is the wheels. The combination of carbon Whiskey hoops and tubeless Terrene Cake Eaters is so good. These wheels spin up really easily. The Cake Eaters roll pretty well on pavement, for fat bike tires, do real well on gravel, and all the fat bike stuff as well. As an example, yesterday I had mud patches to negotiate. Deep ones. The Cake Eaters walked me right through.

The other thing I added after getting this bike, which I have found to be really useful, is the Alternator Rack. With the addition of a dry bag and two bungee cords, I have a makeshift 'trunk' capable of carrying all manner of cargo. Just yesterday I hauled four foldable tubeless tires home that way. I have also used the bag and bungee system for clothing, food, and running errands. Of course, the Bike Bag Dude bags are another super useful addition to this rig as well.

The generator lighting system, a SON front hub, SON rear light, and a Busch and Mueller head lamp, work all the time I am moving and even sometimes when I don't. Of course, when I've ridden, the standby capacitor gets charged, and when you stop it drains to keep the lights on. They stay on at full blaze for about eight minutes, by my not so accurate timing of it yesterday. That'll get you by at a traffic stop though, so that is pretty cool. (You can see my tail light lit up at the left here as I was taking this image.) Those lights work great at night for seeing where I am going too, and not having to think about lighting is a really nice thing. I highly recommend dynamo hub lighting for commuters or anyone that rides at night.

The Ti Muk 2 does not do everything super well though. In fact, my old Ti Muk rode slightly smoother, but that was due to it having the super-plush On One Fatty Fork which was carbon and an 1 1/8th steer tube. The Ti Muk 2 has the Advocate Cycles Watchman aluminum fork with a tapered steer tube which is not as smooth. I've mentioned it before, but a Salsa Cycles Kingpin Deluxe Fork would be a worthy upgrade to the Ti Muk 2, and that fork would expand the carrying capabilities of the bike with the addition of a dynamo route for the hub dynamo I have. But........five hundred bucks! Ouch. I can live with what I've got now for that. Maybe someday I'll throw on one of those Redshift Sports stems and that'll be that.

The only other nit I have is that my rear fender hack is not quite long enough. I must modify it to keep my backside really clean all the time. But other than this, the Ti Muk 2 has become one of my favorite bikes. I'm really grateful, and really excited to have it. It has pretty much become my mountain bike, snow/mud bike, bad weather commuter, and Winter time gravel bike. It is an amazing piece of machinery. It's so good that I am really close to saying I wouldn't change a thing about this bike. And if you know me, that's really saying something. 

The immediate future for this bike includes use in the Fat Bike Century and maybe- just maybe - a Sub24 overnighter.

Thanks again to all of you who had a hand in bringing this bicycle to me.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Country Views: Not Much To Say

Saturday was a glorious day here, if you take the first two thirds of it. The last third got grey, blustery, and a bit of rain was spitting here and there. Of course, I went out then!

Now to be fair, I had chores around the house. I had a recycling run, which actually also was a bike ride, and made use of my Big Dummy. Then that darn grass keeps growing, so I mowed. Then it was a bit of further yard work, ending with a late lunch, and a bit of repose to allow the internals to acclimate to the food load. After that, it was riding time.

The winds were out of the Southeast, so I decided to go on ahead and head right into them. Same ol' roads as I've done a million times before, so there isn't much to say about the views other than that things are greening up nicely and the fields are all showing corn sprouts that have been planted with corn. There still are a few fields laying untouched and I imagine those will be getting beans, perhaps, soon. Maybe. I'm not an expert at farming, so don't take my word for it!

We had rain, and it was a pretty hard rain, earlier in the week. That seems to have turned the roads to smooth, dirt two-track, or it had allowed the gravel to wash away, because the roads were clear and fast. Well, for the most part. There were some chunky sections here and there. That was okay, as I tried something different in regard to the bike I was riding which seemed to be quite effective.

The Stormchaser fitted with 700c X 50 Donnelly MSO tires.
I put on those 700c X 50mm Donnelly MSO tires I've had around here, and I decided to try to go lower on the air pressures for grins. So, I had about 28psi in the front and 30psi in the rear. Which means nothing to you out there because you don't weigh what I do. Anyway, that's lower than I normally go. I was greeted with a super smooth, super damped ride quality which was pretty nice. Combine that with the Class 5 VRS rear end? Wow.... And that brute of a fork was tamed too. That tire volume did the trick. I don't think I could get away with anything this smooth feeling at anything less than the 50mm of tire width here.

A ditch flower other than a dandelion.
Not that dandelions are bad, they just dominate the ditches early in the season.
Sheesh! That wind! It made me work pretty hard going South and East. I decided to clip my ride time to the two hour mark on this day, since I had already done a bit of riding and work earlier in the day. I was happy to turn North and get that nice assist when I did!

My left laces were misbehaving!
Heading back with the wind under darkening skies.
Of course, it didn't take long to get back with that nice push from behind. I was outrunning the gear I had most of the way back, with the obvious exception of steeper grades. Even those were super easy. It was probably a good thing I was eating up miles at this point as the skies kept growing heavier with clouds. I didn't think it was supposed to rain until later, but in Iowa, you never know!

I wound my way back through busier city streets than I've seen in a while. The state has lifted many restrictions now and traffic is picking up once again. In some ways, it's nice to see some return to 'normalcy', but in other ways I was really kind of getting to like the dampened traffic counts and mostly empty side streets. Now I have to start remembering that cars are everywhere again and the streets are not going to be very safe anymore.

At least nothing much has changed out in the country. I don't have to really worry about cars and trucks much. Of course, you still have to keep an eye out for possibilities of traffic, but generally speaking, no one is out to get you in the country. Not like it seems to be in town.

The tire experiment worked well on the Stormchaser. I think if this were my bike, these tires, or something else as big as these, would be what would live on there. That stiff front fork needs something to give the rider relief, and a big, comfy tire seems to be just enough to make the bike ride well. I suppose a suspension stem would be okay if you ran skinnier tires, but I'd likely just keep the bigger skins on here if it we up to me.