Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Why Bike Shops Should Embrace The "BSO's"

How you handle servicing these could make "The Pie" smaller or larger.
NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

With all that has been going on in 2020, we know one thing as cyclists: There are a LOT more of us now than there were a year ago. Many of these "new" folks bought their new bicycles at a 'big box' retailer. You know the story, "Those aren't 'real bikes', they are Bike Shaped Objects"? That one type of bike that gets snickered at when you see some poor, unfortunate individual pedal by you with tires at half mast and a chain that sounds like a thousand mouse chorus? Yeah......those bikes. 

Well, I won't get into all the negativity that surrounds these "BSO's", but I will point out that during this pandemic that a LOT of those bikes flooded the market and are out on the streets and bike trails right now as you read this. They are, more often than not, being piloted by new-to-cycling folks that may or may not stick with this now that we are in the "Opening Up" phase of 2020. There are many influences that may be detrimental to their staying on as cyclists, not least of which is how they get treated on the bike paths, trails, and streets. But I want to focus on bike shops and how "BSO's" are often times disregarded as junk and the owners are many times looked down upon. I'm thinking about how that is often not congruent with the stated end goal which we hear from cycling advocates these days.

Heck, many shops won't even work on these things. First off, that is a huge turn off to folks wanting to become part of cycling. While it can be risky, expensive, and maybe not the greatest idea to fix such contraptions, you, as a service provider, really have to take a step back and disengage from your everyday bike nerd mentality and see things from these folks perspective.

Gentle handling of the situation goes without saying, or- you would think so- but I know of several stories concerning customers who were made to feel "less than" and stupid for even considering fixing such bikes. And of course, being rejected is everyone's dream experience in a bike shop, right? 

During my first bike shop gig, my boss, a man named Tom, made an observation to me as I was learning the ropes. He said something to the effect of, "I like working on Huffys because as a mechanic, I can make more of a difference on a bike like that than one equipped with Dura Ace". You know, he is right. Many times what appears to be 'not worth the bother' just might make some kid thrilled and a parent happy. Or you might be able to get that person that cannot get a driver's license- for whatever reason- going on their way better than ever before.

Tom also said this:"You may not think much of that bike, but you should work on it like you would have to ride it." And that informed me greatly. I want those 'BSO' owners to feel okay riding their bikes, not ashamed, not fearful that it's going to 'kill them', or whatever other fear tactic they might get at some shops.

Of course, there are issues like money and there are dangerous circumstances and components which may need to be addressed as you go along. Cross those bridges when you get to them, but don't reject these people and their bicycles out of hand. Because, maybe you don't realize it as a shop employee, mechanic, or as an enthusiast, but you just might be with your attitude.

Embrace these new folks to cycling and help lift them up. Gently! If they don't have a helmet, are riding in street clothes, and have a what you'd consider a BSO, don't scoff and reprimand them, because, you know, that's just what they are looking for- some smarty-pants to make them feel bad. Get it? I could go on, but you probably get the picture......

Or you don't, and there goes another "Piece of the Pie", wishing they had a new SUV instead of trying to hang with us snooty cyclists and boorish shop rats.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Country Views: Test Ride

Not bad out on Saturday.
Saturday I had to get out to do some review/test ride work for RidingGravel.com. This time it was for the third of the big tire sets I have gotten in as a way to see what might work for people doing gravel rides on mountain bike based rigs like Fargos, Cutthroats, hard tails, and the like.

The things is, you don't need a "gravel bike" to gravel bike. 

Mountain bikes, maybe even some dual suspension ones, make gravel biking fun, but there may be a few things one might want to tweak out for a better experience. Things like, you know.......tires. 

Tires make the biggest difference, more so than anything else you can do to a bicycle, for whatever it is you are trying to do on a bicycle. Contact points would be the second best upgrade point, then wheels, and after that, everything else you do is gravy. So, if you have an MTB, and you want to ride gravel and have a "do-it-all" tire, well, that is kind of the point to my articles on these tires. Obviously it also makes a big difference where you ride, so you know- Mountains, Plains, Woods, etc. You'll need to tailor your choices accordingly. That's why I got in three really different tires. There is the semi-slick, the aggressive/wide tire and the typical MTB choice in the bunch.

So, I am down to the third set of tires in the review and I needed to get going with some actual gravel riding after doing some other surfaces with these tires previous to Saturday.  I decided to head out Northeast of Waterloo for a short test ride and found that conditions were too good for what I was trying to figure out. Oh well..... I did find some good bits though, and a slog through two miles of deeply graveled shoulder along a county blacktop eventually got me what I wanted.

Giant Hogsweed or Wild Parsnip? Either one = BAD! Don't touch this stuff! (Turns out it is Wild Elderberry- Thanks Tony!)
I've been neglecting the soybean fields in my pictures. My apologies!
There wasn't much wind to speak of, but what there was came from the Northwest. The roads were about as perfect for smoothness and speed that you could ask for. Looks like Black Hawk County has held back on dumping fresh gravel of late. I expect freshies soon!

From a high point on Big Rock Road.

Prairie Rose? Swamp Rose? Seen along Sage Road.
I had to stop at one point to get some images of a rose along the side of the road. I see these flowers occasionally on rides, but they are not super common. I notice similar, but often times larger, pink flowers when I ride in Kansas. They seem to be a lot more common as a roadside flower down there. Perhaps our uses of chemicals in farming in Iowa aren't nice for these flowers as in Kansas most of the land I've ridden by is pastureland.

The "wild rose" is the state flower of Iowa. Apparently due to its being part of a decorative gift of a tea service given by the Iowa legislature for the late 19th Century battleship Iowa, and for its noted hardiness, the legislature was prompted  to make the Wild Rose the state flower in 1897. So, I had to stop and pay my respects to this delicate little blossom.

You just never know when you will run across a bit of history on your gravel rides!

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Trans Iowa Stories: The Emotional Roller Coaster Ride

A tractor caught by T.I.v8 photographer Steve Fuller
 "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!

Continuing on with more stories from Trans Iowa v8.....

There I was, a swirling mass of chaos inside a single cab, standard box 2003 Toyota Tundra 2 wheel drive truck with highway tires on it. I had wrappers, energy drink cans, cue sheets, roster on a clipboard, maps, and who knows what-all inside there. Driving East now on a road one mile South of the actual course so I could miss a Level B road and get back on the T.I.v8 course again.

The cell phone rings. I pick up and it is a rider telling me he is done. He no sooner gives me his name and race number when I look up from my roster sheet as the truck is about to go over a small hill crest. What I saw caused all hell to break loose.

I threw down the phone and grabbed the wheel with both hands, let off the gas to let the truck settle when it hit the road with all its weight, having been slightly unloaded by the cresting of that hill at 40mph or so. You see......I was about to dive head long into a muddy Level B Road! 

It was unmarked, so I was unaware of its presence, and it was totally sketch! I gently squeezed the throttle to keep my momentum up,but it was so greasy that the back of the truck started coming around on the left side. I stuck the throttle to the floor. It worked! I saved the truck from coming all the way around, but the back end just stayed hung out! I was spewing mud a mile into the late April sky like some mad moto crosser, like a sprint car racer at nearby Knoxville, but I was still going straight down the road!

I was amazed! I held it down to the mat and stayed the course. I had about a half a mile to a steep rise to a paved county blacktop crossing. But I had to get there first! I knew instinctively that at some point this power slide, this crazy dirt tracking move, was going to end when the truck would get a different grip and send the back end around the other way. Fishtailing, some would call it, and if I wasn't on the mark, I could still end up losing this ride in the ditch. But I was ready!

The back end started to move and I instantly let off the throttle full and counter steered the opposite way. Whew! Caught it just in time! Gently back into the throttle now.  Keep it straight! Now what about that sharp rise and road crossing? Well..........

My only chance was to keep the power on so I could get up the rise with the good amount of speed and momentum I had built up. But there was cross traffic! I ended up going across right behind and right in front of crossing vehicles, but no harm, no foul! I made it!

Riders cresting a chunky gravel covered hill on the T.I.v8 course. Image by Steve Fuller
That wasn't the only excitement I would have going into the afternoon and night of T.I.v8. There was all the leap-frogging I ended up doing trying to stay ahead of the Braun Brothers as they attempted, I assume, to break the 24hr mark for a Trans Iowa. I had to mark corners in a few spots and it seemed that I could not keep ahead of the ever dwindling group they had been a part of since the start of the event. It was making me crazy and frantic until I reached Checkpoint Bravo and Wally and George. Fortunately they were set up already and had things well in hand. That was a major relief right there!

I had a beer or two while chatting with the guys there, but it wasn't long before the Braun group arrived, so I had to bug out once again to keep ahead of things. Those guys made the checkpoint way ahead of my estimates, so I was a bit rattled by that. Then, I got a phone call from Charlie! He was off course and was calling to see if I could get him directions back onto the course. He had wandered off further South than he should have and was in a small town about ten miles off the T.I.v8 route. I started to give him the directions, but he stopped me and had me tell a local he had corralled to talk to me. Apparently, Charlie wanted a local to make sure my directions would be verified. It ended up that we had to basically give him road by road directions to get him back on line. It was one of those annoying, worrying things that arose, but I figured that Charlie would either drop out at CP#2 or miss the time cut. I mentioned this to MG and maybe the CP#2 crew of Wally and George to make them aware of the situation. Then I moved on to hang out at the "secret checkpoint" that year and thought all was well.

Corey Godfrey and Mike Johnson work on a flat tire while Mark Johnson rummages through a pack during T.I.v8. Image by Steve Fuller
 However; Charlie came back to haunt me in a big way. MG and Jeremy Fry were at the secret checkpoint, which served two purposes during T.I.v8. An observation point to keep tabs on riders, and as a 'convenience store stop' since there was no convenience store stop anywhere on course since long before CP#2. MG was telling me who was passing through, and when he was telling me certain riders had shown up who were behind Charlie Farrow, like far behind him most of the day, I started to ask questions. Where is Charlie?

I went back and confirmed with Wally and George that Charlie had left their checkpoint, and what time that was. Fortunately for me, I had very competent volunteers! Well, it didn't take a genius in math calculations to figure it out. Hopefully Charlie was somewhere between Checkpoint Bravo and the secret checkpoint. But knowing Charlie, it could be something else. Maybe Charlie was lost, sleeping in some ditch, or....... My mind wandered off to about six evil conclusions, none of which I wanted to consider.

I remember having a conversation with MG about Charlie and what we should do. By this point, I was over one hundred miles away at the Northernmost point of the course, in the middle of the night, tired, and drained. I was contemplating having to go look for Charlie when Matt asked if I wanted him to backtrack the course to look for him. I was sooooo relieved! MG then told me he would let me know if he saw any evidence of his passing through at any point. But it was dark, MG was tired as well, and...... there was that chance that Charlie could have gone off course again. If that was the case, who knows how long it might take to find him? 

Charles Parsons (R) and Corey Godfrey followed by three unidentified riders during T.I.v8. Image by Steve Fuller
 So, while I did not have to go back and look for Charlie, I was worried sick about him. It didn't take long to get word back, but those were some excruciating minutes for me in my truck all alone in the darkness of rural Iowa, wondering what happened, and having an imagination running wild. But MG called me back. Charlie was collected and all would be well. Wow! What an emotional roller coaster!

And then I ran off the last few cues, turned into the finish area, and parked my truck. At this moment, I knew. I realized that I had done what I had set out to do while riding the last miles of Trans Iowa v7 in David's Honda Element. I had put on the best Trans Iowa I knew how. Of course, it was about 3:00am in the morning and I had 11 hours to close out the deal. Anything could happen yet, but somehow.......I knew it. I had done it!

There was no one I could share this with. There were a few cars there in the area- Steve Fuller's truck was sitting there amongst a few other anxious wives and girlfriend's vehicles.  Support folks, waiting there to see their person finish Trans Iowa, but no one was awake. I was alone with my thoughts. I wanted to shout. I wanted to jump up and down. I wanted to share the moment, but no one was there.....

So, I threw down the tail gate, cracked open my last beer, and just savored the moment. It is one of those moments in my life that I regret not being able to share with anyone else as it happened, but I won't ever forget it. Maybe it was meant to be that I alone got to experience that moment, I don't know, but that's how it happened. It would not be the last time something like this happened during a Trans Iowa either.

Next: Flaming Out

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Fat Bike Century: Update

Stripped down a bit. Getting ready.
With the Fat Bike Century next up on the schedule of 'events' for 2020, I had to buckle down and start getting the rig ready to go. The Ti Muk 2 was still pretty much set up in Commuter/Winter mode. I needed to convert the set up to one more in line with the mission of covering 100 miles of gravel.

Of course, getting this thing all muddy over Father's Day weekend was not a big help in achieving the goal. There was a LOT of dried on mud and the chain was a mess. Thankfully a Rohloff drive train meant no damage or extra cleaning was required for the most important part of the drive train. It pretty much makes this as easy as keeping care of a single speed drive train.

I removed a lot of dried on mud, and I still have a ways to go before I can say I'm satisfied there, but I made a big dent in the cleaning area. The chain cleaned up well, so I lubed it with DuMonde Tech, and ran through the gears in the hub, just because.

The main frame bag came off, a Tangle Bag went on, and I kitted out the set up with a spare fat bike tube, pump, and tools. Two stainless steel water bottle cages were fitted, and I removed the down tube splash guard. A small concession to being more aero! Ha! I'm going to use the Showers Pass Ranger hip pack for my extra clothing and nutrition needs. That bag is here on test for RidingGravel.com. I figure a century ride should be a good test.

I have to put a GPS mount for my Lezyne Super GPS on there, and figure out a couple of extra lights, but that will amount to an extra tail light and a blinker up front as I have the generator hub running a rear tail light and front light 24-7 already. So beyond that, I think I need to top off the sealant and that should do it.

Meanwhile I am going to draw up a couple of routes and pick one based on the wind the day I leave on this adventure. Which, by the way, will not be this weekend. I have more Riding Gravel stuff to get to first. So, stay tuned. The Fat Bike Century is coming sooner than later......

Friday, June 26, 2020

Friday News And Views

Wolf Tooth "Supple Bar Tape"
Wolf Tooth Debuts "Supple Bar Tape":

Handle bar tape isn't a very sexy topic when it comes to cycling. You know.....it's just bar tape, right? Well.....no. Bar tape can make or break a ride, and cheapo bar tape is about as bad as having no bar tape. You may as well wrap your bars with duct tape. Wait! Don't do that! I know from experience that is a horrible idea.

No, you should use a quality bar tape and then - most definitely- HAVE SOMEONE WHO KNOWS HOW TO WRAP TAPE DO THE INSTALLATION!!

The #1 fail of most bar tape is poor installation. Many shop rats don't know how to do it either. Wrapping bar tape is a skill that not many have, and so, find a professional who has a good reputation for wrapping tape, because no matter if you spend 10 bucks or fifty, if you fail on the wrap job, it won't matter.

Anyway.....off the soap box now! 

Back to this Wolf Tooth stuff. It is a silicone foam tape that is FIVE millimeters thick. FIVE! That's crazy thick, plus the tape width is 40mm. So, this is pretty thick stuff and it will require a REALLY knowledgeable, experienced wrapper to install it well. If you get that far, you'll have what amounts to double wrapped bars so the vibration damping effects should be really good. Wolf Tooth claims this stuff is washable, works in extreme heat and cold, and will give you the best comfort over rough terrain.

It is available only in black for now, but they expect to have other colors in the future. MSRP is $39.99. Note: I do not have this tape, nor any connection to Wolf Tooth Components. I just thought this was a cool product and wanted to pass along the info.

Apidura's Expedition Downtube Pack
 Interesting Product Alert: Apidura Downtube Pack:

I came across an interesting product for storage so I thought I'd share here. Some of you have bikes that don't have those nice, under-the-downtube mounts for a water bottle cage. Well, this pack from Apidura might be the ticket for you.

It is capable of holding a water bottle, or you could pack in a tool caddy, or other gear which is heavy so you could get your weight lower. That tends to make a bike handle a bit better.

Apidura does not recommend this for tubing under 30mm in diameter, so some skinny tubed steel bikes won't be a good match here. Similarly, many rigid forks also will not be a recommended application for this product. But I bet you could mount this to a suspension fork lower.

Anyway, the thing is waterproof, features a single, wide Velcro attachment, and retails for $67.00. The top has a compression closure, and should keep the grit and moisture out. It might also be a great option for those riders smaller in stature that cannot run a top tube bag, like a Tangle Bag, and water bottles. You can check out the Apidura Expedition Downtube Pack here. Note: I do not have this bag, nor any connection to Apidura. I just thought this was a cool product and wanted to pass along the info. 

Mass start events still not a good idea? Things maybe will go solo? Who knows?
 Evidence Mounts Against Any Mass Start Events For 2020:

As Fall approaches and we get into September, there are a lot of postponed gravel events which were rescheduled from when the onset of the pandemic and social distancing measures started. While we have recently seen many states in the US relax restrictions, we also have noted a spike in Coronavirus cases over the past week or so.

Adding to this are the many events which are cancelling for 2020 altogether. Events like the Boston Marathon, the New York Marathon, various triathlon events, and more. Yes, some major league sporting events still think they will be getting on the field, but the jury is still out on that front. As teams gather for pre-season practices and work-outs, the coronavirus cases have piled up. Any reasonable person would conclude that when the games start, there will be a further uptick in cases amongst players and then what?

I understand that sports are a 'big deal' to us culturally, but more importantly- these sports on major league levels are losing their shirts monetarily if players do not take the fields and courts. It is not a good barometer of how cycling events can take place to compare themselves to Major League Baseball, or the NFL, for instance. Those entities are dealing with economies that outrank many countries entire economic worth in the world. Cycling does not have that sort of need for sacrificial human performances.

It is my humble opinion then that no mass start cycling events take place during the remainder of 2020. If you can figure out how to keep your smaller field separated, then I see no issues running an event of, say 100 folks or less. But even better yet, promoting individual challenges, as many gravel events have done, is more preferable.

You can call me alarmist if you want, or say I've got my head stuck in the sand, but the numbers and case information doesn't lie. The COVID-19 virus has no cure and no vaccine. It is highly dangerous, highly contagious, and can cause permanent damage and death. Those are hard facts. Take your risks accordingly.....

Sorry to end on such a bummer note this week, but this is serious business and there is no "going back to the way things were". Stay healthy! Have a great weekend.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Country Views: Knee High Corn

The river is high!
Wednesday started out beautifully. It was cool, for July, and not very humid. The Sun was riding high in the sky, and the wind wasn't too bad either. To add to that, I was weary of The World. My soul was spent and I couldn't look at all the ugliness anymore. So, it was time to get outta the city and into the country. I was hoping to get recharged a bit.

I'm not one that can handle a lot of stressful stuff, and I've already mentioned that big city life isn't for me. Heck, even where I live is almost more than I can handle many days. Again- I admire anyone that can deal with big urban areas and even more so if you can handle what is happening these days with grace. I'm overwhelmed by it all. I needed to unplug for a bit. So, I figured why not bag some more roads in my quest to ride every gravel road in Black Hawk County? I stared at a map to get things burned into my brain, and by 10:00am I was on my bike and gone.

I decided to use the Black Mountain Cycles MCD since it was the bike set up with the Teravail Rutland 700c X 47mm tires I am testing for RidingGravel.com. The route I had intended on using took me along the Cedar River via bike paths. Since we had over 4" of rain the other day, everything is getting flooded if it lies low enough, or if it is a waterway. I didn't know the lay of the land where I was heading, so I knew there was a possibility for me to have to truncate my route. It almost happened going out on the bike path! The river was so high that many bridge under-passes were blocked, but fortunately I got through other ways. That was good and eventually I found myself on the outskirts of Evansdale, Iowa looking for a turn-off from the old four lane Highway 20 route.

This is a shoulder, or a gravel road with a pesky paved side path, depending upon your outlook. 
A new-to-me gravel road named Conrad Road. It probably is going to end up getting paved soon.
The first thing I needed to do was find my way to Conrad Road, which is a little over a mile long. It is just Northeast of Evansdale and when I reached it, I saw that there are signs this road is getting paved soon. There were bright, shiny fire hydrants at regular intervals in the South ditch, which tells me that this strip of land between Conrad Road and the old highway is getting developed into housing soon. Bummer! There are already some residents living out there. I cannot imagine that trading their peaceful rural existence for pavement and housing crammed into small lots is going to be an "improvement", but what-ev's. Follow the money. It is all about land developers and property taxes these days. Damn the rich farmland, Nature, and Peacefulness to hell, I guess. Sad!

The corn will be replaced with those roofs in the distance and a lot of pavement soon, I'm betting.
Barns for Jason #1
Conrad Road petered out on a paved road which I was obliged to ride on the shoulder of to Osage Road and then Eastward. This was all new to me. I recall years ago, before Osage Road was paved from the West out to this intersection, that it was gravel, and I got caught out on it riding a road bike. I ended up pinch-flatting that day. Once I reached this intersection with the North-South blacktop I remember being soooo relieved! Ha! Now I avoid pavement at all costs and relish the chance to see any gravel road I can by bicycle. How things have changed for me over the years!

Barns for Jason #2
Barns for Jason #3
Osage Road was pretty fast! The gravel had been beaten down to a point that it totally reminded me of Southeastern Minnesota roads. Sandy-ish and gritty. The hills were really gentle too, and I had a decent tailwind. Of course, I felt like a hero going East. That lasted until I had to turn South where Osage Road went back to pavement just before that road ran Eastward out of Black Hawk County and to the town of Jesup.

I did note that the corn was knee-high or taller out this way already. Pretty incredible when I think about how corn just South of town was barely canopied last weekend. Of course, it is entirely possible that corn is also knee-high by now. This hybrid, genetically modified corn grows so fast it is unbelievable.

Barns for Jason #4- The Old and The New
Barns for Jason #5
Once I reached the end of Osage Road, it was South on South Holgate Road to Dubuque Road where the next gravel south was offset from Holgate to the West just a bit and called Garling Road instead. I have to say that Black Hawk County might possibly have the most complicated naming scheme for roads of any county in the State of Iowa. Many are named after notable pioneers of the area, so they have historical significance, but keeping these all straight if you are an emergency responder must be difficult.

For instance, Garling Road dumps you out on an East-West gravel road alternately called Birdland Drive and Young Road. It's marked "Young Road" on the signage out in the country, but maps carry both names. I have no idea what the story is on that. At any rate, I went East to where the gravel truncates and turns to pavement a couple miles outside of Jesup, Iowa, and then I doubled back for the final gravel run-in to the city.

Wild day lilies are starting to pop in the ditches now.
A fat cow wades in some flooded pasture alongside Young Road.
Of course, there are all kinds of truncated roads and stubs of roads out here that I'll have to come back and tediously go back and forth over to get them "bagged" on my quest to ride all the gravel in the county. So, I'll be back out this way again soon, I hope. It actually is a decent little loop, and it isn't all that difficult to get out this way in reality.

Barns for Jason #'s 6,7, and 8.
Leaning against a gated Level C road looking West up Young Road
By the time I was heading back West, the wind had come up and the clouds with it. There was rain brewing, and I knew that the forecast had said that around 2:00pm it was supposed to be kicking in. That's the big reason why I couldn't be messing around bagging bits of road Wednesday. I just headed as fast as I could against that wind back towards the city.

I'll be back out this way again soon. Stay tuned......

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Update On Upcoming "Events"

Next up on the "events schedule" will be the Fat Bike Century.
As many of you know I had most everything I had planned on doing back in January cancelled or postponed, you know- like everyone else has. Social distancing is probably still your best bet against getting this virus thing, so I have opted to do solo, or nearly solo, 'events' which I have devised for my own pleasure and/or pain.

The first one was successful with the Single Speed Century happening almost a month ago already. Next up for me will be the Fat Bike Century. I suppose it really should be called the Fat Bike Century v2, since I've already done one several years ago with Tony, my friend from the area here who joined me on that excursion.

I did that on the old Ti Muk, and this time it will happen on the Ti Muk 2, of course. It's pretty much ready to roll with the exception that I probably should add some sealant. It's been a long time since I last added any. But that should happen today and I'll get the rig cleaned up. I've only got to remove the big frame bag, add a couple water bottle cages, and that should do it.

The next 100 miler I want to do is my ride of this year's proposed Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational route. I might have one companion for this, and I might not. Depends. The thing is, it for sure cannot be the 20 something numbers of people that it has been the last few years. Not with the COVID-19 thing still wreaking havoc around the country. So while some folks may think it is weak, I don't care. It's a stupid bike ride. No need to take chances with something I have zero control over that could just as easily result in someone getting permanently damaged or dead.

Likely rig for the solo GTDRI
 The route goes through several small villages and towns, so I think I can do this without carrying a ton of stuff. That puts the ride in the capabilities of the MCD. I'll likely throw on some light wheels, cushy tires, and go. I cannot remember the exact mileage I planned, seems 114 is about what I was thinking.

Some of that I am cutting out since this will be a solo route and there is no need to do Petrie Road again for the umpteenth time if I am not showing it to new folks to the road. So, that bit will get cut out and I'll straighten the route out Southward which should bring things down to under 110 miles. (And yes- that is a hint in the direction this is going in.)

 Since I'm not promoting these rides as group rides this year I am not giving out any dates as to when they are happening. That's just how I want things because I would hate it if someone got sick after coming to one of these last two 'events' I am doing. Sorry......not sorry. So, don't ask me when any of this is happening because I won't say. Even my wife won't know probably until the day before I go. Y'all will find out when I roll out a ride report. Some have asked me to say when I am doing things so they can ride at the same time where they are. Ah.......no. Not risking having someone just show up here. Plan a century ride soon and just do your thing. I am doing mine.

In the meantime I am gathering supplies and making a list to check over. Then it will be a matter of watching the weather for a good window to roll out in one of these two routes I have in mind.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

A Further Commentary On The Cummins/DK Story

 NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....
Halfway into 2020 and it would seem that the world at large has been disrupted to the point of being unrecognizable when compared to a year ago. At least in the "First World". Then throw in what is going on in the US with regard to racial issues and economic issues and it seems like everything is in upheaval. In our little corner of things, over here in the gravel cycling community, we have not been left untouched.

Postponements and cancellations have meant that many gatherings of folks for socialization and fun that have been looked forward to, have instead become points of discouragement. Plans have been changed, and we do not deal well with changes, as I have predicted. Throw in a racially charged issue, a corporate entity, and an individual who is held in high regard in the gravel community who made a mistake, and the dumpster fires which have resulted only serve to point out larger issues within our society.

So, let us stop a second here. taking in the landscape from a wide lens view. We know that society at large, and for sure in the US, is itching to 'go back to normal mode' and not have to worry about disease, protocols, shut-downs of entertainment, and loss of income. I get that. It is a huge disruption to 'life as it should be'. But here is the thing- we have got a long ways to go before this is all over. People are weary of it, and I understand the impatience. However, that is not why I bring that up. I point this out because this is the foundation for everything else that is bubbling up around us.

Secondly, it is not debatable that racial issues in this country need to be dealt with. We are in a time of social upheaval, introspection, challenging thoughts, and revealing of closed minds. Whatever side you are on in that debate does not lessen the fact that all this change is long overdue. So, there is that foundation for all of this as well.

Now, in regard to specifics, keeping in mind all of the above, we have a person- Jim Cummins- who represents something in the gravel community. How you define that persona may differ, but when you see comments like "The DK200 is nothing without Jim", and you see that over and over, well-  There are thoughts, feelings, and expectations connected to that persona that go well beyond anything having to do with the man himself. Call it 'celebrity', or 'fame', or 'cult figure' even. That part of the debate is a real thing. Many people that think these thoughts do not even really know the man, Jim Cummins, at all. They just feel he represents the Dirty Kanza 200. In fact, I'd go as far to say that the event and the persona are so intertwined as to be inseparable. That's true for many people, I am sure, judging from commentary I have seen over the past 72 hours on social media.

Taking that into consideration, along with the state of society now, we have the third part of this issue- The Corporate Entity. As you most likely know, Jim Cummins, and the rest of the DK Promotions team, sold the event to Life Time Fitness in the Fall of 2018. At that point, Life Time, realizing that Jim Cummins was "The Face" of the DK200, retained him, and that was a smart decision. Keep in mind though that now Life Time is "The Boss". They now have the ultimate say in things concerning DK and its doings. As a private entity, they have to be aware, and be concerned about how they are ultimately being portrayed by their employees. This includes, but is not limited to, actions observed on their employee's private social media encounters. It is not uncommon for folks to get fired from jobs for things that they share on their personal social media platforms. I can think of several times where individuals have posted negative thoughts pertaining to cyclists and where the cycling community has swarmed that persons employer with calls to have that individual fired. This isn't limited to cycling folks either.

Think about celebrities of any stripe. We get bent out of shape many times for things that they share on social media which sometimes has detrimental effects with their employer. I would argue that the more well known you are, the more intense this facet of our society gets. For instance, if my next door neighbor, a plumber, speaks out about a sensitive issue, maybe his small circle of friends on social media are affected. Now, if his boss, the owner of a large plumbing concern in the area says the same thing, there will be a much bigger outcry from the citizens of the area. If this were a national chain of plumbing concerns, and the CEO of said corporation makes the same statements, then it becomes a national issue. See what I mean?

Jim Cummins stands among the few race/event directors that has a fairly well known status nationwide amongst cyclists and sports people. If you say his name amongst a group of cycling nerds, chances are they know you are talking about the Dirty Kanza 200. That's why Jim is not just an ordinary person in matters of social commentary. Many have decried his firing as unfair because he was "only expressing his personal opinion", which many say Life Time had no business dealing with. Well, if you are one of those people, all of the above explanation I have offered is completely lost on you, or you are ignoring the elephant in the room on purpose, and why would you do that?

Probably because of selfish desires to see that a beloved event never changes. To have all these things ripped out from under us in a single year, less than a year, and to have your favorite event be forever changed as well? Yeah, I'd be bitterly disappointed too. But if you want to place blame for that, focusing your ire on Life Time Fitness is a misplaced effort.

Life Time is an entity that is trying to make its events welcoming to everybody. The comment made by Jim Cummins on his post was not seen as something that would make people of color feel welcomed, and Jim is the 'face', the de-facto heart of the DK200, as evidenced by the very fans of his stature and celebrity who now are saying they will never attend the DK again. Life Time cannot tell you what to think. Life Time cannot cause racism, or any other social issue, to go away. That isn't what this is about. What it is about is how Life Time has a right to control how their customers are welcomed. Remember, they bought the DK200 long before any of this happened, and Jim Cummins was their employee.

And the bottom line here is that it is done. There is no going back, and what is more, the name of the event will likely change as a result of all of this. Many people will not deal with this change well. That's a fact, and to a point, understandable. What isn't acceptable is how people on both sides of the issue are vilifying others and being completely irrational when it comes to how they are dealing with the end of the DK200's run with Jim Cummins.

And speaking of 'the end', you should understand that his time with the event was drawing to a close. To think that Jim Cummins was going to be a part of, the face of, and the reason many wanted to go to the DK200, forever, or for much longer, is unreasonable. I happen to know something about that, actually, but all I can say is that one way or the other, Jim was going to be gone. That it had to end the way that it has is very sad, upsetting, and not how many of us envisioned it to be like. But it is over.