Friday, July 31, 2020

Friday News And Views

Pirate Cycling League Announces Virtual Gravel Worlds:

Donate. Ride. Submit.

That's what ya gotta do to participate in this new virtual challenge which the PCL has set up in lieu of holding Gravel Worlds this year, which has been cancelled due to the pandemic. let's see what this deal is about.....

Donate: From the Gravel Worlds website: "In order to participate in Gravel Worlds Virtual, you must donate at least $10 to the Randy Gibson Fund at the Lincoln Parks Foundation. The Lincoln Parks Foundation is a 501c3 non-profit; therefore, the donation will be tax deductible. Our event promotion team will not receive any of the money that is donated. All donations go directly to the non-profit, Lincoln Parks Foundation."

The Randy Gibson Fund is something set up to help pay for a special rest stop on a recreational trail in the Lincoln area to honor Randy Gibson, a very influential local cyclist, and a volunteer/graphic designer for many of the Gravel Worlds events in the past. It's a worthy cause and the outcome will honor the life and influence of Randy Gibson, who is dearly missed by many in the Lincoln cycling scene, not to mention his family. 

Ride: The PCL has several courses set up in the Lincoln area to use for the challenge. Riders are encouraged to do 150 mile, 75 mile, or 50K distances to be a part of this. From the website again: "After the donation, the participants have three distance options to choose from: 150 miles, 75 miles or the 50 km. Speed isn’t essential to participate. You just need to be able to complete the distance(s). Any course anywhere in the World will work. It doesn’t need to be on gravel. Just get out and ride! Create your own route and ride in your City!"

The PCL is offering this challenge through the month of August. Anyone anywhere in the World can participate. The only stipulations being that you must donate and you must complete the distance you choose. Riders can also do all three challenge distances, but each ride must be accompanied by a separate donation, so if you did all three rides, you must donate three different times at the 10 dollar minimum. Now you are two thirds of the way there! Finally.......


Submit: No.....this isn't about some weird dictatorship or oddball sexual practices. This only refers to getting your ride into the hopper at Gravel Worlds so you can be documented and be a part of a random raffle to win one of many prizes that the generous sponsors of Gravel Worlds has offered to be given away.

You must fill out the form showing you donated. Then, you can upload them a gpx file, you can take an image of your device showing the mileage completed, you can send the PCL a photo documentary of your challenge ride. You could maybe even send the PCL a handwritten manuscript including images of your journey. A pirate map? Why not! Just submit your ride details to the PCL via their website instructions.

I'll be joining in the fun, since Gravel Worlds was on my calendar of things to do in 2020. Stay tuned for my attempt to be documented here.

The Mason Cycles "In Search Of" model is very much like a Fargo.
Interesting Fargo Alternative From The UK:

There are not too many alternatives to a Salsa Cycles Fargo out there. Some bikes come close, (as we examined earlier here and here), but most aren't quite 'there' in one way or another. I have noted the company Mason Cycles in the past as an interesting company focused upon adventure, challenge, and fun. They use aluminum a lot, but steel is also in their vocabulary there, as well as titanium, at times. Their model dubbed the "In Search Of" looks very interesting if you are in mind to have a bike like a Fargo, but different than most would choose.

First off, the frame is top notch and made from Reynolds 853 steel. Sounds good already! They custom form it, (note the bend in the down tube, as an example) and top that off with their own 100mm suspension corrected carbon fiber fork with the requisite "adventure warts", of course. It also features those mounting points you'd expect to find on such an adventure bike as well. Multiple bottle mounts, and it is upgrade-able to a special dynamo lighting package Mason Cycles offers.

The obvious 'bendy downtube' is only one of the unique aesthetic features of the ISO. It also has a kind of splash guard/rack thing-a-ma-bob over the front wheel that Mason is rather proud of. They say it can carry up to 2kg of cargo. Cute...... Not sure it is of much use, but its there if you like it.

I'll say that, if you can get by the odd-duck looks, this is a pretty close alternative to a Fargo. It doesn't have any way to bail you out if you should experience a derailleur failure. (Yes- that really can happen. I've had to push a fellow Fargo rider that was on a pre-Alternator Fargo out of the woods on one occasion) That omission kind of seems like an oversight to me, but otherwise, this might be a cool rig. You don't hear much about these 'over here', so I thought I'd share what I've seen is a good choice in "Fargo-like" adventure bikes.

If you want to cosplay at a gravel event as The Joker, well then....Image courtesy of Shimano
 Shimano Shows New Color For The RX8 Gravel Shoe: 

Sometimes when I get a press release I say, "Wow!", and at other times I also say, "Wow!", followed by some 'other thoughts'.

I opened a recent Shimano press release and the 'wow' came out followed by, "are you kidding me?" Yeah.....those are some fancy, flashy slippers for cycling right there! And those colors! 

Now listen people- I like green and purple. A LOT! My favorite two colors ever right there. But on my shoes? Ah.........sheesh! I'm not so sure about that. Maybe if they were all one color or the other? Yes. Then I would be down with that. All purple or all green. But this mix?

Supposedly this is inspired by the Southwest's deserts and the blossoms on prickly pear cactus. Thus the name of the color, "Cactus Berry. I dunno..... They look more like The Joker's footwear to me, but I could be way off there. I'm thinking the 60's era, made for T.V., Cesar Romero Joker. Anyway....

That's all for this week. Have a great weekend and keep on keepin' on!

Friday News And Views

Pirate Cycling League Announces Virtual Gravel Worlds:

Donate. Ride. Submit.

That's what ya gotta do to participate in this new virtual challenge which the PCL has set up in lieu of holding Gravel Worlds this year, which has been cancelled due to the pandemic. let's see what this deal is about.....

Donate: From the Gravel Worlds website: "In order to participate in Gravel Worlds Virtual, you must donate at least $10 to the Randy Gibson Fund at the Lincoln Parks Foundation. The Lincoln Parks Foundation is a 501c3 non-profit; therefore, the donation will be tax deductible. Our event promotion team will not receive any of the money that is donated. All donations go directly to the non-profit, Lincoln Parks Foundation."

The Randy Gibson Fund is something set up to help pay for a special rest stop on a recreational trail in the Lincoln area to honor Randy Gibson, a very influential local cyclist, and a volunteer/graphic designer for many of the Gravel Worlds events in the past. It's a worthy cause and the outcome will honor the life and influence of Randy Gibson, who is dearly missed by many in the Lincoln cycling scene, not to mention his family. 

Ride: The PCL has several courses set up in the Lincoln area to use for the challenge. Riders are encouraged to do 150 mile, 75 mile, or 50K distances to be a part of this. From the website again: "After the donation, the participants have three distance options to choose from: 150 miles, 75 miles or the 50 km. Speed isn’t essential to participate. You just need to be able to complete the distance(s). Any course anywhere in the World will work. It doesn’t need to be on gravel. Just get out and ride! Create your own route and ride in your City!"

The PCL is offering this challenge through the month of August. Anyone anywhere in the World can participate. The only stipulations being that you must donate and you must complete the distance you choose. Riders can also do all three challenge distances, but each ride must be accompanied by a separate donation, so if you did all three rides, you must donate three different times at the 10 dollar minimum. Now you are two thirds of the way there! Finally.......


Submit: No.....this isn't about some weird dictatorship or oddball sexual practices. This only refers to getting your ride into the hopper at Gravel Worlds so you can be documented and be a part of a random raffle to win one of many prizes that the generous sponsors of Gravel Worlds has offered to be given away.

You must fill out the form showing you donated. Then, you can upload them a gpx file, you can take an image of your device showing the mileage completed, you can send the PCL a photo documentary of your challenge ride. You could maybe even send the PCL a handwritten manuscript including images of your journey. A pirate map? Why not! Just submit your ride details to the PCL via their website instructions.

I'll be joining in the fun, since Gravel Worlds was on my calendar of things to do in 2020. Stay tuned for my attempt to be documented here.

The Mason Cycles "In Search Of" model is very much like a Fargo.
Interesting Fargo Alternative From The UK:

There are not too many alternatives to a Salsa Cycles Fargo out there. Some bikes come close, (as we examined earlier here and here), but most aren't quite 'there' in one way or another. I have noted the company Mason Cycles in the past as an interesting company focused upon adventure, challenge, and fun. They use aluminum a lot, but steel is also in their vocabulary there, as well as titanium, at times. Their model dubbed the "In Search Of" looks very interesting if you are in mind to have a bike like a Fargo, but different than most would choose.

First off, the frame is top notch and made from Reynolds 853 steel. Sounds good already! They custom form it, (note the bend in the down tube, as an example) and top that off with their own 100mm suspension corrected carbon fiber fork with the requisite "adventure warts", of course. It also features those mounting points you'd expect to find on such an adventure bike as well. Multiple bottle mounts, and it is upgrade-able to a special dynamo lighting package Mason Cycles offers.

The obvious 'bendy downtube' is only one of the unique aesthetic features of the ISO. It also has a kind of splash guard/rack thing-a-ma-bob over the front wheel that Mason is rather proud of. They say it can carry up to 2kg of cargo. Cute...... Not sure it is of much use, but its there if you like it.

I'll say that, if you can get by the odd-duck looks, this is a pretty close alternative to a Fargo. It doesn't have any way to bail you out if you should experience a derailleur failure. (Yes- that really can happen. I've had to push a fellow Fargo rider that was on a pre-Alternator Fargo out of the woods on one occasion) That omission kind of seems like an oversight to me, but otherwise, this might be a cool rig. You don't hear much about these 'over here', so I thought I'd share what I've seen is a good choice in "Fargo-like" adventure bikes.

If you want to cosplay at a gravel event as The Joker, well then....Image courtesy of Shimano
 Shimano Shows New Color For The RX8 Gravel Shoe: 

Sometimes when I get a press release I say, "Wow!", and at other times I also say, "Wow!", followed by some 'other thoughts'.

I opened a recent Shimano press release and the 'wow' came out followed by, "are you kidding me?" Yeah.....those are some fancy, flashy slippers for cycling right there! And those colors! 

Now listen people- I like green and purple. A LOT! My favorite two colors ever right there. But on my shoes? Ah.........sheesh! I'm not so sure about that. Maybe if they were all one color or the other? Yes. Then I would be down with that. All purple or all green. But this mix?

Supposedly this is inspired by the Southwest's deserts and the blossoms on prickly pear cactus. Thus the name of the color, "Cactus Berry. I dunno..... They look more like The Joker's footwear to me, but I could be way off there. I'm thinking the 60's era, made for T.V., Cesar Romero Joker. Anyway....

That's all for this week. Have a great weekend and keep on keepin' on!

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Country Views: Summer Heat

Hazy, lazy,and hot. Typical late Summer Iowa weather.
Wednesday was forecast to be 'nice' out. Whatever that means, is up for debate, but a more correct description would have been 'typical' Summer weather. Humid, hot, not much wind, and hazy skies.

I set out for Petrie Road's Level B section to test out the new Kinekt Stem I am reviewing for Riding Gravel. I've had this stem on several rides already, but this was the first time out to Petrie Road.

I took the Black Mountain Cycles MCD and when I was loading it up, I noted that the seat tube water bottle cage was wobbling more than it should. It had a full, large bottle of water in it already, and while that should make the cage move a little bit, this was excessive. I decided I could tighten things up at the launching off point when I got there.

Once I arrived at the starting spot, I took a closer look. While the mounting bolts were a little loose, it was really the fault of the cage being broken in two places. Hmm..... A quick decision to roll with that and maybe transfer water from the tall bottle to the shorter bottle I have to use on the top of the down tube was made and so I got going under a hot Summer Sun.

The roads South of town were laden with fresh, dusty gravel. The cars that passed me by early on left clouds of the stuff hanging in the air, but you could barely discern a slight Northerly component to the air. Whatever. You certainly could not feel the air movement and the heat, although only in the upper 80's, was stifling. The only relief was moving on the bike.

These fist sized rocks on Petrie Road gave the Kinekt Stem a good test.

After I stopped for some water the second time, I decided to drain what was left into my mouth of the water in the smaller bottle so I could put the water from the big bottle into the small and thus give the wounded cage a lighter load. However; when I pulled the big bottle out, the cage disintegrated, breaking again, and was not useful even to hold an empty bottle at this point. So, I shoe-horned the big bottle into the upper cage somehow, put the now empty small bottle under the down tube in that cage, and moved on.

Holmes Road looking North across Schrock Road near Hudson, Iowa.


I was riding along a non-descript portion of gravel when HEY! What the...... My frame pump jumped ship for no apparent reason. Weird! I retrieved it and put it back into its place. But when really weird things start happening like imploding bottle cages and ejections of frame pumps, I tend to take those as 'signs' that I need to just cut back my grandiose riding plans and head home. So, whether rightly or foolishly, that is what I did.

A solo detassling machine.
I came across one of those detassling machines in the field working. I had pictured a row of them in a storage area not many weeks ago here. Anyway, it was interesting. This machine is operated by a single person and the beams sticking out either side have cutting blades that basically mow off the tops of the corn which they don't want to cross-breed. Look carefully and you can see the perfectly cut tops in the field ahead of the machine in the image.

So, now they won't be needing bus loads of young teenagers to hand pull tassels anymore. Although some of that is still happening, as I have seen out there as well. No doubt someday this operation will be automated to the point that the machines will work by GPS directions and will only require a single person in a truck command center to keep track of them. But for now, it would seem that the days of hand labor in the fields of corn in Summer are nearing their end.

Times are a changing.......

Country Views: Summer Heat

Hazy, lazy,and hot. Typical late Summer Iowa weather.
Wednesday was forecast to be 'nice' out. Whatever that means, is up for debate, but a more correct description would have been 'typical' Summer weather. Humid, hot, not much wind, and hazy skies.

I set out for Petrie Road's Level B section to test out the new Kinekt Stem I am reviewing for Riding Gravel. I've had this stem on several rides already, but this was the first time out to Petrie Road.

I took the Black Mountain Cycles MCD and when I was loading it up, I noted that the seat tube water bottle cage was wobbling more than it should. It had a full, large bottle of water in it already, and while that should make the cage move a little bit, this was excessive. I decided I could tighten things up at the launching off point when I got there.

Once I arrived at the starting spot, I took a closer look. While the mounting bolts were a little loose, it was really the fault of the cage being broken in two places. Hmm..... A quick decision to roll with that and maybe transfer water from the tall bottle to the shorter bottle I have to use on the top of the down tube was made and so I got going under a hot Summer Sun.

The roads South of town were laden with fresh, dusty gravel. The cars that passed me by early on left clouds of the stuff hanging in the air, but you could barely discern a slight Northerly component to the air. Whatever. You certainly could not feel the air movement and the heat, although only in the upper 80's, was stifling. The only relief was moving on the bike.

These fist sized rocks on Petrie Road gave the Kinekt Stem a good test.

After I stopped for some water the second time, I decided to drain what was left into my mouth of the water in the smaller bottle so I could put the water from the big bottle into the small and thus give the wounded cage a lighter load. However; when I pulled the big bottle out, the cage disintegrated, breaking again, and was not useful even to hold an empty bottle at this point. So, I shoe-horned the big bottle into the upper cage somehow, put the now empty small bottle under the down tube in that cage, and moved on.

Holmes Road looking North across Schrock Road near Hudson, Iowa.


I was riding along a non-descript portion of gravel when HEY! What the...... My frame pump jumped ship for no apparent reason. Weird! I retrieved it and put it back into its place. But when really weird things start happening like imploding bottle cages and ejections of frame pumps, I tend to take those as 'signs' that I need to just cut back my grandiose riding plans and head home. So, whether rightly or foolishly, that is what I did.

A solo detassling machine.
I came across one of those detassling machines in the field working. I had pictured a row of them in a storage area not many weeks ago here. Anyway, it was interesting. This machine is operated by a single person and the beams sticking out either side have cutting blades that basically mow off the tops of the corn which they don't want to cross-breed. Look carefully and you can see the perfectly cut tops in the field ahead of the machine in the image.

So, now they won't be needing bus loads of young teenagers to hand pull tassels anymore. Although some of that is still happening, as I have seen out there as well. No doubt someday this operation will be automated to the point that the machines will work by GPS directions and will only require a single person in a truck command center to keep track of them. But for now, it would seem that the days of hand labor in the fields of corn in Summer are nearing their end.

Times are a changing.......

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Long Term Shimano GRX Review

The GRX component group I received last Fall on the day of the unboxing.
The shocking news last May that Shimano had released a purpose-built, stand-alone group of drive train parts for gravel riding is now something not even questioned. Think about that. We accept it as 'no big deal' now. Of course there is a gravel road drive train gruppo. Why wouldn't there be one

The fact that GRX was adopted so quickly says that gravel/all-road/adventure cycling has walked into the spotlight and it isn't some fringe activity we Mid-Westerners do in our spare time. It's serious business now, and Shimano legitimized gravel bikes in one fell swoop with the introduction of GRX.

Since I am a co-owner of RidingGravel.com, I was afforded the unique privilege of being one of the first people to get to handle, install, and ride GRX components. The review for the site was wrapped up earlier this year. I've continued to ride the GRX stuff since and I thought I would write up a follow-up post to this one I wrote last Fall. Instaed of hashing over all the well worn paths again concerning GRX, I thought I would address, point-by-point, my post from last Fall to see how I feel about those things after more than half a year has gone by and hundreds of miles of gravel riding.

So, if you want to know details about weights, technical aspects, and whatnot, just follow those links I have above, which should satisfy your curiosity. I'm going to try to stay in focus here on my thoughts from last fall. Here we go!
  • Shifting: I said it last Fall, and in speaking with someone just the other day about my GRX stuff, I basically said almost the same thing, word for word, more than 8 months later with no looking back at that post. I guess that means the GRX shifting really is that good! Now- I have had to tweak on the barrel adjuster a couple more times since last Fall, but really- is that unusual or surprising? The only way you are getting away from that is to upgrade to Di2. So, GRX is top-notch in the shifting department. 
  • Brakes: I also said this last year, and it stands to this day. Best Brakes For Drop Bar Bikes. Period. So easy to actuate the brake and from the hoods, you can one-finger these to stop on a dime. They are that easy to modulate and apply. No noises either. Not a peep. Amazing brakes!
  • Ergonomics: Hood shape and lever feel are still tops and what I said last year hasn't changed for me. I will only add one thing, If you prefer no-gloves, like me, and if you get really sweaty, the hoods get kinda slippery, and those ribs molded into the hoods don't help with grip very much. In fact, I have to wonder if the strips of raised rubber don't actually cause less grip when my hands are dripping with sweat. I might advocate for a smoother, perhaps slightly textured grip, or maybe an area based on the type of folds you see on some ODI lock on grips. Anyway, overall, this is my only serious let-down with GRX so far. If my hands are not dripping with sweat? I have zero issues. I didn't have the opportunity to experience this until this Summer, since I got on the GRX essentially on the cusp of Winter here. 
  • Ride Performance: Again- everything I said still holds true with the exception of the aforementioned ergonomic issue. I will add that as a 1X group, I was prepared to not get on with that aspect of the drive train. However, with Shimano's closer ratio cassettes, and with their easier shifting, I am smitten with the 1X drive train now. It still is not my preference, I just don't dislike it anymore. The quick shifting is great, but I still feel when the chain is at the extreme angles and a 2X would allow me to put the chain in a more efficient chain angle and still give me my gear I prefer at the moment. But that maybe is just me.......
  • GRX Wheels: When you think about Shimano, I don't think you will have "great wheels" come to your mind. Maybe I'm wrong, but if you are anything like me, Shimano wheels don't rank high against the competition. But, at a tick over $400.00 for the set, I have to say that the GRX wheels present a pretty great value. I have had zero issues with the set sent to me to test. Nothing. Tubeless performance has been excellent. Like I said last year, "In my opinion, these are wheels you just ride into the dirt, however long it takes, and you don't worry about them along the way." Nuff' said.
The GRX wheels and group here from the 4th of July ride I did recently.
Recently, Andy of Andy's Bike Shop got GRX stuff for his Twin Six Standard Rando v2 build and he absolutely loves the stuff. I know MG, who tested the Di2 stuff and the 2X mechanical 11 speed GRX loves it as well. There are a lot of newer bikes coming with GRX now, and a LOT of people are finding out how a purpose built group for the kind of cycling we do is worth its weight and trouble to get. Because GRX has been pretty hard to source unless you buy it on a new bike.

The Future: We mused on this during our latest recording of Episode #55 of the Riding Gravel Radio Ranch recently, but I cannot imagine that the all-new GRX Di2 type lever won't be trickled down to the mechanical group. I imagine a 12 speed Di2 option with a 2X or 1X option on the crank set. I imagine this being introduced ahead of a Dura Ace offering because gravel/all-road is more important than road racing now. (Wouldn't THAT be a shocker) I imagine Di2 integration with a Shimano sourced or branded, or co-partnered GPS computer/navigation system. I imagine a GRX Di2 type dropper post option which would be run electronically. I imagine a higher end GRX wheel set (Carbon perhaps?)

However it goes, I know that with GRX we are looking at a new era in cycling. I'm still excited about it, and I still think Shimano is tops in this type of cycling. Will we see SRAM or even Campy rise to the challenge? Time will tell........

Disclaimer: I did not pay for the GRX bits and Shimano did not bribe me, nor pay me to write this up. In fact, they are not even aware I am doing this here. As far as I know anyway.

Long Term Shimano GRX Review

The GRX component group I received last Fall on the day of the unboxing.
The shocking news last May that Shimano had released a purpose-built, stand-alone group of drive train parts for gravel riding is now something not even questioned. Think about that. We accept it as 'no big deal' now. Of course there is a gravel road drive train gruppo. Why wouldn't there be one

The fact that GRX was adopted so quickly says that gravel/all-road/adventure cycling has walked into the spotlight and it isn't some fringe activity we Mid-Westerners do in our spare time. It's serious business now, and Shimano legitimized gravel bikes in one fell swoop with the introduction of GRX.

Since I am a co-owner of RidingGravel.com, I was afforded the unique privilege of being one of the first people to get to handle, install, and ride GRX components. The review for the site was wrapped up earlier this year. I've continued to ride the GRX stuff since and I thought I would write up a follow-up post to this one I wrote last Fall. Instaed of hashing over all the well worn paths again concerning GRX, I thought I would address, point-by-point, my post from last Fall to see how I feel about those things after more than half a year has gone by and hundreds of miles of gravel riding.

So, if you want to know details about weights, technical aspects, and whatnot, just follow those links I have above, which should satisfy your curiosity. I'm going to try to stay in focus here on my thoughts from last fall. Here we go!
  • Shifting: I said it last Fall, and in speaking with someone just the other day about my GRX stuff, I basically said almost the same thing, word for word, more than 8 months later with no looking back at that post. I guess that means the GRX shifting really is that good! Now- I have had to tweak on the barrel adjuster a couple more times since last Fall, but really- is that unusual or surprising? The only way you are getting away from that is to upgrade to Di2. So, GRX is top-notch in the shifting department. 
  • Brakes: I also said this last year, and it stands to this day. Best Brakes For Drop Bar Bikes. Period. So easy to actuate the brake and from the hoods, you can one-finger these to stop on a dime. They are that easy to modulate and apply. No noises either. Not a peep. Amazing brakes!
  • Ergonomics: Hood shape and lever feel are still tops and what I said last year hasn't changed for me. I will only add one thing, If you prefer no-gloves, like me, and if you get really sweaty, the hoods get kinda slippery, and those ribs molded into the hoods don't help with grip very much. In fact, I have to wonder if the strips of raised rubber don't actually cause less grip when my hands are dripping with sweat. I might advocate for a smoother, perhaps slightly textured grip, or maybe an area based on the type of folds you see on some ODI lock on grips. Anyway, overall, this is my only serious let-down with GRX so far. If my hands are not dripping with sweat? I have zero issues. I didn't have the opportunity to experience this until this Summer, since I got on the GRX essentially on the cusp of Winter here. 
  • Ride Performance: Again- everything I said still holds true with the exception of the aforementioned ergonomic issue. I will add that as a 1X group, I was prepared to not get on with that aspect of the drive train. However, with Shimano's closer ratio cassettes, and with their easier shifting, I am smitten with the 1X drive train now. It still is not my preference, I just don't dislike it anymore. The quick shifting is great, but I still feel when the chain is at the extreme angles and a 2X would allow me to put the chain in a more efficient chain angle and still give me my gear I prefer at the moment. But that maybe is just me.......
  • GRX Wheels: When you think about Shimano, I don't think you will have "great wheels" come to your mind. Maybe I'm wrong, but if you are anything like me, Shimano wheels don't rank high against the competition. But, at a tick over $400.00 for the set, I have to say that the GRX wheels present a pretty great value. I have had zero issues with the set sent to me to test. Nothing. Tubeless performance has been excellent. Like I said last year, "In my opinion, these are wheels you just ride into the dirt, however long it takes, and you don't worry about them along the way." Nuff' said.
The GRX wheels and group here from the 4th of July ride I did recently.
Recently, Andy of Andy's Bike Shop got GRX stuff for his Twin Six Standard Rando v2 build and he absolutely loves the stuff. I know MG, who tested the Di2 stuff and the 2X mechanical 11 speed GRX loves it as well. There are a lot of newer bikes coming with GRX now, and a LOT of people are finding out how a purpose built group for the kind of cycling we do is worth its weight and trouble to get. Because GRX has been pretty hard to source unless you buy it on a new bike.

The Future: We mused on this during our latest recording of Episode #55 of the Riding Gravel Radio Ranch recently, but I cannot imagine that the all-new GRX Di2 type lever won't be trickled down to the mechanical group. I imagine a 12 speed Di2 option with a 2X or 1X option on the crank set. I imagine this being introduced ahead of a Dura Ace offering because gravel/all-road is more important than road racing now. (Wouldn't THAT be a shocker) I imagine Di2 integration with a Shimano sourced or branded, or co-partnered GPS computer/navigation system. I imagine a GRX Di2 type dropper post option which would be run electronically. I imagine a higher end GRX wheel set (Carbon perhaps?)

However it goes, I know that with GRX we are looking at a new era in cycling. I'm still excited about it, and I still think Shimano is tops in this type of cycling. Will we see SRAM or even Campy rise to the challenge? Time will tell........

Disclaimer: I did not pay for the GRX bits and Shimano did not bribe me, nor pay me to write this up. In fact, they are not even aware I am doing this here. As far as I know anyway.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Spiffing Up The Blackbuck

Current state of the Blackbuck
Yawn........ another single speed on Guitar Ted Productions? Really?

Yes.

Long time readers all have seen this rare bird several times before. This is a 2006 OS Bikes Blackbuck, in case you did not know. I guess this is almost a "vintage" 29"er" now days! It's old enough a lot of people have probably never heard about "OS Bikes" and this single speed.

OS Bikes was a short-lived outside project of Mark Slate's. Mark is one of the founders of WTB, a Mountain Bike Hall of Fame member, and one of the true 'pioneers' of the modern mountain bike, and certainly a big part of why the first 29"er tire ever was made. So, to say that Mr. Slate was a highly influential man in cycling is no hyperbole. In fact, he still is pretty important at WTB, and still has a hand on what riders are doing with their MTB's and gravel bikes in the year 2020, more than 40+ years since he got started.

Mark's biggest influence was on tires and saddles, (he designed the saddle on this bike you see here) He was not particularly known for his design of bicycles, but this is one of his efforts. This particular Blackbuck comes from the first run of 500 bikes that were made. I purchased it as a frame/fork. The original rigid fork was super short, had a 51mm offset, and resulted in a ridiculous 74° head angle with a trail figure down into the upper 40's, as I recall. This resulted in a textbook example of "Twitchiness".

I tried it a couple of times but it was so nervous that I just didn't jive with it. So, I have tried a multitude of forks on this bike and finally arrived at what you see here as being the best thing I tried out of them all. That fork is a Bontrager Switchblade, a fork steeped in mystery and rumors. I'll maybe get around to writing about that fork and its history with me later sometime.

Ultra-modern bar standards- Ultra-old school 29"er vibes.
The OS Bikes name actually stands for "Of Spirit Bikes", and why a Blackbuck, well, I'm not sure. I'm betting there is a story there, I just am not sure I know what it is. Anyway, the point is that I really like the bike and my aim is to slowly bring this up to a coherent looking build versus the hodge-podge of anodized stuff I've hung off the bike in years past.

My first "spiff" was to jettison the tired Salsa Shaft seat post in favor of a Thompson lay back, which is what the build deserves from a class and era-correct viewpoint. The next spiff happened when Grannygear gifted me his White ENO front and rear hubs and the excellent White Industries freewheel. I paired all of that up with the aforementioned fork, which also features silver anodized bits, and the look is coming together well. Finally, I threw on a Bontrager 35mm bar clamp diameter stem with matching Bontrager handle bar.

I need to score some Paul Love Levers in silver, a silver 1 1/8th King head set, (or equivalent), and a silver seat collar. Finally, I have a first gen (silver, natch!) XTR 180mm crankset, courtesy of the same Grannygear, which will be paired with either a black ring or silver ring. OR- I will get a White Industries crankset in silver.

Maybe I should go all White Industries/Paul Components. Get the White Industries head set, crank set, and the Paul levers and brake calipers. Ditch the Thomson post for a Paul Components Tall and Handsome, maybe... Except those parts are priced beyond what the Gross National Product of several nations is. Yeah.......maybe not!

The point is, with some silver bottle cages, I would be all silver and black then, and the bike would finally look 'right', ya know? OR- I could just shut up and actually, ya know.......go ride some single track with it already! 

 Yeah. Going riding then........

Spiffing Up The Blackbuck

Current state of the Blackbuck
Yawn........ another single speed on Guitar Ted Productions? Really?

Yes.

Long time readers all have seen this rare bird several times before. This is a 2006 OS Bikes Blackbuck, in case you did not know. I guess this is almost a "vintage" 29"er" now days! It's old enough a lot of people have probably never heard about "OS Bikes" and this single speed.

OS Bikes was a short-lived outside project of Mark Slate's. Mark is one of the founders of WTB, a Mountain Bike Hall of Fame member, and one of the true 'pioneers' of the modern mountain bike, and certainly a big part of why the first 29"er tire ever was made. So, to say that Mr. Slate was a highly influential man in cycling is no hyperbole. In fact, he still is pretty important at WTB, and still has a hand on what riders are doing with their MTB's and gravel bikes in the year 2020, more than 40+ years since he got started.

Mark's biggest influence was on tires and saddles, (he designed the saddle on this bike you see here) He was not particularly known for his design of bicycles, but this is one of his efforts. This particular Blackbuck comes from the first run of 500 bikes that were made. I purchased it as a frame/fork. The original rigid fork was super short, had a 51mm offset, and resulted in a ridiculous 74° head angle with a trail figure down into the upper 40's, as I recall. This resulted in a textbook example of "Twitchiness".

I tried it a couple of times but it was so nervous that I just didn't jive with it. So, I have tried a multitude of forks on this bike and finally arrived at what you see here as being the best thing I tried out of them all. That fork is a Bontrager Switchblade, a fork steeped in mystery and rumors. I'll maybe get around to writing about that fork and its history with me later sometime.

Ultra-modern bar standards- Ultra-old school 29"er vibes.
The OS Bikes name actually stands for "Of Spirit Bikes", and why a Blackbuck, well, I'm not sure. I'm betting there is a story there, I just am not sure I know what it is. Anyway, the point is that I really like the bike and my aim is to slowly bring this up to a coherent looking build versus the hodge-podge of anodized stuff I've hung off the bike in years past.

My first "spiff" was to jettison the tired Salsa Shaft seat post in favor of a Thompson lay back, which is what the build deserves from a class and era-correct viewpoint. The next spiff happened when Grannygear gifted me his White ENO front and rear hubs and the excellent White Industries freewheel. I paired all of that up with the aforementioned fork, which also features silver anodized bits, and the look is coming together well. Finally, I threw on a Bontrager 35mm bar clamp diameter stem with matching Bontrager handle bar.

I need to score some Paul Love Levers in silver, a silver 1 1/8th King head set, (or equivalent), and a silver seat collar. Finally, I have a first gen (silver, natch!) XTR 180mm crankset, courtesy of the same Grannygear, which will be paired with either a black ring or silver ring. OR- I will get a White Industries crankset in silver.

Maybe I should go all White Industries/Paul Components. Get the White Industries head set, crank set, and the Paul levers and brake calipers. Ditch the Thomson post for a Paul Components Tall and Handsome, maybe... Except those parts are priced beyond what the Gross National Product of several nations is. Yeah.......maybe not!

The point is, with some silver bottle cages, I would be all silver and black then, and the bike would finally look 'right', ya know? OR- I could just shut up and actually, ya know.......go ride some single track with it already! 

 Yeah. Going riding then........

Monday, July 27, 2020

Plans Postponed

Saturday was supposed to be my next hundy ride. It didn't happen because I could not sleep at all Friday evening. Not sure why, but I am blaming what we had for my son's 17th birthday celebration- such as it was. 

Socially, my son's life sucks due to what is going on. There aren't many kids his age getting together around here for any reason, and as a result, as a parent, I feel bad about the situation. So, as a way to give him something to have a part in, he got to pick what we had for the evening meal on his birthday. He chose Popeye's chicken, because he really likes their stuff. Okay, chicken. Not a big deal, right?

Well, lately, and by "lately" I mean within the last five or six years, I have developed a bad reaction to any fast food's offerings. It started off a long time ago with Burger King's french fries, and now I just cannot have anything fast food. It makes my body swell up, my joints ache, my muscles feel like I got tackled by a linebacker, and I cannot sleep. I should have said, "Hey- you guys go ahead, I'll cook my own food.", but that would seem kinda bad on the son's birthday, so........

I was basically up all night into Saturday, it was supposed to be really humid, and hot, of course, and I was in no position to tackle 100 miles of gravel in the state I was in. In fact, I didn't feel quite "right" until later in the day. So, no- I did not nap. Which meant I slept like a log Saturday evening and on Sunday I felt tapped out. Just worn down from being so off kilter, food-wise. So, from here on out- no more fast food. 

I managed a casual ride Saturday morning. Not what I had intended.
It was hard to take because I was ready on every other level. I had a route, with cues "good enough" for me to follow. I had the Black Mountain Cycles pink MCD all ready to go. I had excitement for a new-to-me set of roads in an area I hadn't been in the country in for over a decade. I was super-bummed out.

But, in the end it maybe wasn't such a bad ride to miss on that kind of day. It was simply brutal out Saturday afternoon. The kind of day I often get beat by. I've had to cut short Guitar Ted Death Rides, Gravel Worlds rides, and Odin's Revenge rides because of weather like that. And really- I don't have anything I need to prove to anyone else or myself. It wouldn't have been prudent to try that kind of a ride on that kind of a day even had I gotten the best night's sleep ever.

So, I postponed the ride to another, more favorable weekend when I hope that the weather will be not quite so dangerous for me. No need to get out in such extreme conditions if I really don't have to. The route is set, I have what I need ready to go, and time is on my side.

Besides, this isn't like an event which has to happen on a certain day, right? That's when the weather is whatever the weather is. That's when you shrug your shoulders, say, "Well, here we go again!", and you clip in and shove off. But there is no such situation at hand in terms of this challenge I have set up. There is no set "date" to do this. It's refreshing, in a way, to have that liberty.

But I was a tad bit sad because this past weekend was the 'traditional' weekend for the Guitar Ted Death Ride invitational, and boy! Did the weather ever cooperate! If this had been a 'normal' year, I would have been torched out there Saturday. So, it was a blessing in disguise that things are the way that they are. And- the GTDRI used to happen in August years ago. That was before I started going to Gravel Worlds all the time. Anyway..... Later on in August, maybe, I'll get that century done. No hurry.

I ended up doing some casual ride Saturday morning, and while doing so, I found another excellent in-town testing area for Riding Gravel stuff. I also got my Lab organized a bit, I filed away some odds and ends, and I re-upped the Garage Sale Page with new stuff. Have a look and see if anything trips your trigger there.

I'll get around to this century thing later. Stay tuned.......

Plans Postponed

Saturday was supposed to be my next hundy ride. It didn't happen because I could not sleep at all Friday evening. Not sure why, but I am blaming what we had for my son's 17th birthday celebration- such as it was. 

Socially, my son's life sucks due to what is going on. There aren't many kids his age getting together around here for any reason, and as a result, as a parent, I feel bad about the situation. So, as a way to give him something to have a part in, he got to pick what we had for the evening meal on his birthday. He chose Popeye's chicken, because he really likes their stuff. Okay, chicken. Not a big deal, right?

Well, lately, and by "lately" I mean within the last five or six years, I have developed a bad reaction to any fast food's offerings. It started off a long time ago with Burger King's french fries, and now I just cannot have anything fast food. It makes my body swell up, my joints ache, my muscles feel like I got tackled by a linebacker, and I cannot sleep. I should have said, "Hey- you guys go ahead, I'll cook my own food.", but that would seem kinda bad on the son's birthday, so........

I was basically up all night into Saturday, it was supposed to be really humid, and hot, of course, and I was in no position to tackle 100 miles of gravel in the state I was in. In fact, I didn't feel quite "right" until later in the day. So, no- I did not nap. Which meant I slept like a log Saturday evening and on Sunday I felt tapped out. Just worn down from being so off kilter, food-wise. So, from here on out- no more fast food. 

I managed a casual ride Saturday morning. Not what I had intended.
It was hard to take because I was ready on every other level. I had a route, with cues "good enough" for me to follow. I had the Black Mountain Cycles pink MCD all ready to go. I had excitement for a new-to-me set of roads in an area I hadn't been in the country in for over a decade. I was super-bummed out.

But, in the end it maybe wasn't such a bad ride to miss on that kind of day. It was simply brutal out Saturday afternoon. The kind of day I often get beat by. I've had to cut short Guitar Ted Death Rides, Gravel Worlds rides, and Odin's Revenge rides because of weather like that. And really- I don't have anything I need to prove to anyone else or myself. It wouldn't have been prudent to try that kind of a ride on that kind of a day even had I gotten the best night's sleep ever.

So, I postponed the ride to another, more favorable weekend when I hope that the weather will be not quite so dangerous for me. No need to get out in such extreme conditions if I really don't have to. The route is set, I have what I need ready to go, and time is on my side.

Besides, this isn't like an event which has to happen on a certain day, right? That's when the weather is whatever the weather is. That's when you shrug your shoulders, say, "Well, here we go again!", and you clip in and shove off. But there is no such situation at hand in terms of this challenge I have set up. There is no set "date" to do this. It's refreshing, in a way, to have that liberty.

But I was a tad bit sad because this past weekend was the 'traditional' weekend for the Guitar Ted Death Ride invitational, and boy! Did the weather ever cooperate! If this had been a 'normal' year, I would have been torched out there Saturday. So, it was a blessing in disguise that things are the way that they are. And- the GTDRI used to happen in August years ago. That was before I started going to Gravel Worlds all the time. Anyway..... Later on in August, maybe, I'll get that century done. No hurry.

I ended up doing some casual ride Saturday morning, and while doing so, I found another excellent in-town testing area for Riding Gravel stuff. I also got my Lab organized a bit, I filed away some odds and ends, and I re-upped the Garage Sale Page with new stuff. Have a look and see if anything trips your trigger there.

I'll get around to this century thing later. Stay tuned.......

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Trans Iowa Stories: Two To Go

The leaders of T.I.v8 not far past Checkpoint Alpha.
"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! 

With the success of Trans Iowa v8 in the rear view mirror, I had focused upon the next Trans Iowa. In fact, I already knew before T.I.v8 that there would be a Trans Iowa v9, and not only that, a v10. How? Most of the time all anyone ever heard from me was that Trans Iowa could end at any time. While I always held out that possibility for the event I now had a solid goal.

Since v8 was such a success, and since it solved issues for me with repeatable processes, I now could seriously entertain those thoughts I had going all the way back to T.I.v5 about getting to ten events and then getting out. See, I knew it would be only a matter of time before something bad could happen to someone that might turn ugly. I never was much on math, but the theory of probabilities was a vaguely familiar idea to me. The longer the thing went on, the higher the probabilities were going to be that something would go very wrong. That's where my head was at.

Trans Iowa was a huge risk for me personally. Just think about how things could have went pear-shaped had someone been seriously injured, or worse, died. This was always on my mind. This is why I was horrified when cues weren't done, or when they were bad. This is why I was so upset when I found bits of the course that I had not reconned were putting riders at unnecessary risk, as in T.I.v7. I would literally lay in bed at night awake for hours thinking through how I could do things to help prevent this from happening.

And then there was putting on the event itself. Which at times was fun, and at times I was too busy to notice, but many times there were moments when I was sitting on pins and needles wondering what was going on, (like when Charlie Farrow went missing in v8), or when it was dark, cold, and I was wondering why the leaders weren't where I thought that they should be at a certain time. The sudden rise in heart rate every time the cell phone went off, only to find out it was someone wondering where their boyfriend or husband was at. I apologize if I came off somewhat coldly, but please understand, I was struggling with my own demons out there too.

If it weren't for many people, like the Slender Fungus, shown here, I wouldn't have kept going.
There were the people who 'just didn't get it' that pestered me with inane questions, there were those who thought my rules and processes were untenable and wanted me to modify things, and the grind just to get certain things done with the event that were burdensome. Tying together all the logistics, getting processes in place every year, and then there were the all important cue sheets and course finding. Every year..... I told people that Trans Iowa was literally a ten month to twelve month undertaking for me. It was never far from front and center in my mind all Summer, and of course, after I announced another one coming up, things ramped up for months until the climax of another version of Trans Iowa was to set me off on another sleepless weekend.

Don't hear all this as complaining because I loved putting on Trans Iowa. I just had this other, darker side which was tearing at me all those years as well. I often was torn in two by this. The love and the fear. It was very difficult at times, and I am not doing well here trying to describe this. But just know that I knew I could not continue Trans Iowa indefinitely. I've quoted this before, but this seems like a good time to remind you of some sage observations Charlie Farrow had post Trans Iowa v5:

"My message to all those that did not finish, for what itz worth, is to go for it again next year, but with an eye on using all that is given to you. One reason to make another attempt next year stems from the simple fact that guyz like Guitar-Ted and D.P. are a rare treasure to the cycling community and consequently, certainly, it would be unfair to simply assume that they will indefinitely be willing or even capable of providing us with this truly novel cycling experience year after year."

Note: emphasis mine

Charlie 'understood' and while I have never confirmed this with him, I am quite certain, based upon the above quote, that he knew this event's days were numbered just from his keen awareness and observations while at Trans Iowa. He could feel that which I am trying to articulate above. He knew instinctively that the joy of giving would someday be quenched by the darkness of fear and the weariness of worry. I am sure many Trans Iowa participants also felt that vibe also. 

This is why I set a decade of this nonsense as a limit. I figured after Trans Iowa v8 that I had at least two more of these in me. I could do what I had done for v8 more easily now. I had more people drawing up alongside of me, willing to share the load. I could lean on that resource to help me weather two more Trans Iowas. Yes. I could do two more. 

But that was it. After v10, my intention was to just walk away and never look back. 

Next: I take a quick look at volunteers of Trans Iowa and how I managed that part of the event.  

Trans Iowa Stories: Two To Go

The leaders of T.I.v8 not far past Checkpoint Alpha.
"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! 

With the success of Trans Iowa v8 in the rear view mirror, I had focused upon the next Trans Iowa. In fact, I already knew before T.I.v8 that there would be a Trans Iowa v9, and not only that, a v10. How? Most of the time all anyone ever heard from me was that Trans Iowa could end at any time. While I always held out that possibility for the event I now had a solid goal.

Since v8 was such a success, and since it solved issues for me with repeatable processes, I now could seriously entertain those thoughts I had going all the way back to T.I.v5 about getting to ten events and then getting out. See, I knew it would be only a matter of time before something bad could happen to someone that might turn ugly. I never was much on math, but the theory of probabilities was a vaguely familiar idea to me. The longer the thing went on, the higher the probabilities were going to be that something would go very wrong. That's where my head was at.

Trans Iowa was a huge risk for me personally. Just think about how things could have went pear-shaped had someone been seriously injured, or worse, died. This was always on my mind. This is why I was horrified when cues weren't done, or when they were bad. This is why I was so upset when I found bits of the course that I had not reconned were putting riders at unnecessary risk, as in T.I.v7. I would literally lay in bed at night awake for hours thinking through how I could do things to help prevent this from happening.

And then there was putting on the event itself. Which at times was fun, and at times I was too busy to notice, but many times there were moments when I was sitting on pins and needles wondering what was going on, (like when Charlie Farrow went missing in v8), or when it was dark, cold, and I was wondering why the leaders weren't where I thought that they should be at a certain time. The sudden rise in heart rate every time the cell phone went off, only to find out it was someone wondering where their boyfriend or husband was at. I apologize if I came off somewhat coldly, but please understand, I was struggling with my own demons out there too.

If it weren't for many people, like the Slender Fungus, shown here, I wouldn't have kept going.
There were the people who 'just didn't get it' that pestered me with inane questions, there were those who thought my rules and processes were untenable and wanted me to modify things, and the grind just to get certain things done with the event that were burdensome. Tying together all the logistics, getting processes in place every year, and then there were the all important cue sheets and course finding. Every year..... I told people that Trans Iowa was literally a ten month to twelve month undertaking for me. It was never far from front and center in my mind all Summer, and of course, after I announced another one coming up, things ramped up for months until the climax of another version of Trans Iowa was to set me off on another sleepless weekend.

Don't hear all this as complaining because I loved putting on Trans Iowa. I just had this other, darker side which was tearing at me all those years as well. I often was torn in two by this. The love and the fear. It was very difficult at times, and I am not doing well here trying to describe this. But just know that I knew I could not continue Trans Iowa indefinitely. I've quoted this before, but this seems like a good time to remind you of some sage observations Charlie Farrow had post Trans Iowa v5:

"My message to all those that did not finish, for what itz worth, is to go for it again next year, but with an eye on using all that is given to you. One reason to make another attempt next year stems from the simple fact that guyz like Guitar-Ted and D.P. are a rare treasure to the cycling community and consequently, certainly, it would be unfair to simply assume that they will indefinitely be willing or even capable of providing us with this truly novel cycling experience year after year."

Note: emphasis mine

Charlie 'understood' and while I have never confirmed this with him, I am quite certain, based upon the above quote, that he knew this event's days were numbered just from his keen awareness and observations while at Trans Iowa. He could feel that which I am trying to articulate above. He knew instinctively that the joy of giving would someday be quenched by the darkness of fear and the weariness of worry. I am sure many Trans Iowa participants also felt that vibe also. 

This is why I set a decade of this nonsense as a limit. I figured after Trans Iowa v8 that I had at least two more of these in me. I could do what I had done for v8 more easily now. I had more people drawing up alongside of me, willing to share the load. I could lean on that resource to help me weather two more Trans Iowas. Yes. I could do two more. 

But that was it. After v10, my intention was to just walk away and never look back. 

Next: I take a quick look at volunteers of Trans Iowa and how I managed that part of the event.  

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Why Is "Aero" A Dirty Word?

The Noble GX5 with FLO Cycling G700 wheels. (Why all the "G" stuff?)
Earlier in the week I posted my introduction to the FLO Cycling G700 wheel set on RidingGravel.com As I usually do, I shared the link on RG's social media outlets. Then the comments came.

Nothing unusual about that process, but what was said in particular about the aero wheels was......interesting. As we plod through 2020, maybe I could forgive anyone some grumpiness, but these comments are consistent with something I've found strange for years.

Anytime you brought up the subject of aerodynamic efficiencies for gravel riding you'd get poo-pooed at best and outright slammed for even thinking those 'dirty thoughts" at worst. Why? Even I could tell as early as 2012 that aero was something gravel riders should be paying attention to. I wrote up a review on the HED Ardennes+ wheels I got back then here on the blog which mentions "aero" a bit. I recall every time I did, someone would eventually tell me I was nuts and everyone else largely ignored me on the subject.

Too bad. The benefits are real. These newer designs, which concentrate on having big tires as part of the package, obviously work better than my old HED Ardennes+ wheels do, which, by the way, are still kicking around with lots of life left in them. Anyway, the obvious benefits to the deep section FLO Cycling wheels were the ability to cut through heavy cross winds, ease up on the effort in a headwind a bit, and the obvious push from the tail wind was there, just as I felt back in 2012 with the HED wheels.

Some may scoff. How can you fit a range of tires on there that would work aerodynamically? Well, FLO Cycling tested and found benefits at a certain range of widths. They adjusted the rim design accordingly. The best width to use is 37-40mm wide, and I have 42mm's on there, so I am a bit above what is "optimal", but there are still benefits. Make sense? FLO Cycling realized people would use varying tire widths and took that into account. Smart move. Had they made the wheel to work specifically with one tire, well......that's goofy. 

So, anyway....You may dismiss aero as being only for really fast roadies and tri-geeks all you want. I know it works on gravel too. It isn't a "dirty word" as some feel it is, judging by the responses to the subject I've noted. Also- it isn't just for the fast folks. Anyone can benefit. Or......just deny the benefits of aerodynamics and keep wearing loose, flappy clothing, sit upright, and ride box section wheels. Nothing at all wrong with that if you are into it. You be You. But don't complain about headwinds/crosswinds and wonder if there is something you could do to make it easier on you. There is something you could do. It's called "being more aerodynamic". It makes a difference. 

Why Is "Aero" A Dirty Word?

The Noble GX5 with FLO Cycling G700 wheels. (Why all the "G" stuff?)
Earlier in the week I posted my introduction to the FLO Cycling G700 wheel set on RidingGravel.com As I usually do, I shared the link on RG's social media outlets. Then the comments came.

Nothing unusual about that process, but what was said in particular about the aero wheels was......interesting. As we plod through 2020, maybe I could forgive anyone some grumpiness, but these comments are consistent with something I've found strange for years.

Anytime you brought up the subject of aerodynamic efficiencies for gravel riding you'd get poo-pooed at best and outright slammed for even thinking those 'dirty thoughts" at worst. Why? Even I could tell as early as 2012 that aero was something gravel riders should be paying attention to. I wrote up a review on the HED Ardennes+ wheels I got back then here on the blog which mentions "aero" a bit. I recall every time I did, someone would eventually tell me I was nuts and everyone else largely ignored me on the subject.

Too bad. The benefits are real. These newer designs, which concentrate on having big tires as part of the package, obviously work better than my old HED Ardennes+ wheels do, which, by the way, are still kicking around with lots of life left in them. Anyway, the obvious benefits to the deep section FLO Cycling wheels were the ability to cut through heavy cross winds, ease up on the effort in a headwind a bit, and the obvious push from the tail wind was there, just as I felt back in 2012 with the HED wheels.

Some may scoff. How can you fit a range of tires on there that would work aerodynamically? Well, FLO Cycling tested and found benefits at a certain range of widths. They adjusted the rim design accordingly. The best width to use is 37-40mm wide, and I have 42mm's on there, so I am a bit above what is "optimal", but there are still benefits. Make sense? FLO Cycling realized people would use varying tire widths and took that into account. Smart move. Had they made the wheel to work specifically with one tire, well......that's goofy. 

So, anyway....You may dismiss aero as being only for really fast roadies and tri-geeks all you want. I know it works on gravel too. It isn't a "dirty word" as some feel it is, judging by the responses to the subject I've noted. Also- it isn't just for the fast folks. Anyone can benefit. Or......just deny the benefits of aerodynamics and keep wearing loose, flappy clothing, sit upright, and ride box section wheels. Nothing at all wrong with that if you are into it. You be You. But don't complain about headwinds/crosswinds and wonder if there is something you could do to make it easier on you. There is something you could do. It's called "being more aerodynamic". It makes a difference. 

Friday, July 24, 2020

Friday News And Views

New Bottle Trap colors from Velocity USA.
Velocity USA Debuts New Bottle Trap Colors:

If you've been an observant reader of this blog for some time you've probably heard about Velocity USA's "Bottle Trap" cages. I have been a faithful user of these for quite some time now.

These injection molded cages come in a variety of colors and now Velocity has added three more to its line. They are, from left to right in the image, "Terra Cotta","Sea Foam", and "Mocha".

Me being an artist and all, I see these as, from Left to Right: Brick, Sage, and Limestone. Your mileage may vary. We all see things differently. The bottom line is that these new colors reflect a bit of a muted palette which may fit your bike's paint scheme better than some of the more garish colors Velocity offers in the Bottle Trap.

If you've never tried a Bottle Trap, well, these are what they say in the name. They can vary a bit in terms of grip from "almost impossible to remove the bottle", to "Kinda Tough To Get Out", to "Meh! No Big Deal!". I have had all three, and let me tell ya, the first type is a pain! They can loosen up a bit with use, but even the loosest ones grip your bottle VERY securely. That's why I recommend them for fork mount cages, or anywhere you want to store a bottle on a bike where you don not need hand access to said bottle while riding.

For cages that you need to get to while riding I'd recommend Blackburn stainless steel, Lezyne side mounts, or the ultimate, King Cage. But if you like the colors, and you need a really safe cage, in terms of not losing a bottle, this is one of the least expensive and best for the job.

Revelate Designs, Wolf Tooth Collab On "ToolCash" Product: 

Tool rolls are a really efficient, highly organized way to carry "in-the-field" tools and small items like valve cores or a rolled up derailleur cable. This genre of products includes a lot of goofy ideas, but some of the better ones are of the 'wallet' type. This new collaboration between Wolf Tooth and Revelate Design is such a beast.

The ToolCash is made from Revelate's "Rev-X-Pac" fabric and ideally made to hold Wolf Tooth's own Pack Pliers and EnCase System, this little tri-fold wallet sells for $44.95.

Of course, you can put whatever you want into this wallet as long as it fits. So, money, quick links, extra bits of chain, wet-wipes, nutrition pills, tire patches- you get the idea. Whatever smaller items that you pack that might normally be easily lost in the whirlwind of stuff in a cyclists bag can be safely corralled in the ToolCash wallet.

The size is nice too. It is said to fit easily into a jersey pocket, so that means it'll easily go into most seat bags, handle bar bags, or feed bags. It might even fit into some top tube bags as well. That makes it a pretty cool organizational item.

One final thought. In these "Pamdemic Times", if you are out on a ride and need to buy something, keeping a card or cash in the wallet, along with a pair of disposable gloves, might not be a bad idea. Anti-septic wipes could go in there as well. Just a thought......

Teravail Tires Now Available On-Line:

Teravail Tires, a brand started up by powerhouse bicycle and bicycle parts distributor QBP, has announced that Teravail Tires are now available consumer direct. Previously Teravail Tires were only available through local bike shops Teravail will give a portion of each online sale to the nearest local Teravail dealer.

Comments: This isn't anything surprising when you look and see that most tires are available direct from manufacturers/brands these days. It makes buying more convenient for riders and that's obviously a good thing for the brands.

However; if you take the time to think about this as a shop owner, "why would you give any shelf space to a company that sells consumer direct?" That space needs to turn a profit, and if the convenience of a store having them on-hand is superseded by  on-line availability, then you maybe start looking at something else that isn't available online that would be worth the trip for a consumer.

This is why the days of super-stocked bike shops is coming, or more correctly, already has come to a close. Repair parts? Yes. Those have to be at hand for obvious reasons. But for those who look to upgrade and want that "different" thing? Well, there is where the old days are gone. And that is a workable deal for shops as long as their service department is good and open to "cooking other restaurants hamburgers", as it were.

It used to be that shops would turn up their noses and refuse to work on stuff not purchased through their retail business, but if any shops are still doing that, well, I don't see that as being a workable strategy going forward. Obviously, there are certain things a shop just cannot do. Things like working on unsafe bicycles, putting things together that shouldn't be together, or working on specialized product, like some HPC/electrified bicycles that require specialized diagnostic equipment. (yes- like automobiles)

But outside of those obvious exclusions, shops just have to focus more on service and less on offering a wide array of parts and accessories. Decisions like those of QBP/Teravail and others like them just make it so that shop owners cannot afford to carry items, and really- have no motivation to do so when consumers can order things direct from the confines of their own bathroom throne- if that's what they dig. Whatever..... I'm just saying that there needs to be a compelling reason to go to a store these days, and the internet has pretty much usurped any of those reasons to make the effort to go. Add in these crazy times and the reasons are even less than ever.

Maybe in the area where things need to fit, in terms of actual color perception, and when things are very technical, there are reasons to visit a store. But when things we buy experience commoditization, no- Then the reasons to make the effort to go to a shop to see them becomes less and less.

Special Shout-Out: To my son, Jacob, who turns 17 today. I love you, Son!

Well, that's it for this week! have a great weekend and stay safe! Roll those miles of smiles!