Monday, August 31, 2020

Fall Views: Double Header Part 1

St. Paul's church on Burton Avenue on a stellar blue-bird day.
 Over the weekend I actually got out both days. The weather broke Friday evening and perhaps that will be that for Summer-like weather. Maybe we will get a week of Summer-like temperatures again in September, but that humid, hot weather is probably gone for the year. We will see. At any rate, it couldn't have been much better for riding over the weekend. The lows are into the 50's and the highs were supposed to only be in the 70's but I think it actually got warmer than that, just without that beastly humidity we had all last week. 

The route was going to head North, as the cold front brought a Northwest wind. So, I decided upon a "Three County Tour" in reverse from what I had done in the past.This would take in Black Hawk, Bremer, and Butler Counties. I had an option of making it a four county tour, as adding Grundy County wouldn't have have been hard to do, but I wasn't sure how many miles, or how much time I had, in the bank. Since I didn't get started until after lunch, I figured time would be the deciding factor. Not that this mattered. I was just glad to get out the door on such a great day to ride.

The roads to start out were excellent, once I got out on the gravel. There hadn't been any fresh grading or dump truck loads of gravel applied anywhere in Black Hawk County's Northern tier, so the mostly uphill route was easier into the stiff wind than it might have been otherwise. I headed up Burton Avenue and then cut over west on the county line, Marquis Road, to get over to Janesville, Iowa. There I was planning on riding straight West through the village to the pedestrian/bike trail bridge across the Cedar River, and then onward toward Butler County. 

A herd of cattle grazes peacefully in a pasture along the banks of the Shell Rock River

I had to grab another image at the West Point cemetery near Waverly Junction, Iowa.

The wind was tough, more than I had expected judging from the forecast. The wind had to be in the 20mph range and going pretty much straight North and West just kept me into it as it was solidly out of the Northwest. I ended up taking a break at two spots. Once on Burton for a 'nature break' and the other just West of Janesville to eat, drink, and reconnoiter my options via the maps app on the phone. I made a determination and set off, crossing the Shell Rock River and then going by Waverly Junction. 

Essentially I never had been in this area traveling in this direction before, so everything looked new. This made for a 'mistake' of sorts, in figuring out how to get to the only bridge across the West Fork of the Cedar on gravel in this part of Butler County. I knew it was on Willow, but I got off on the wrong foot to get to the gravel and instead I found the paved bit of Willow about 3.25 miles South of Shell Rock instead. You cannot use paved roads on my rides. Not gonna do it!

So, another couple of miles West and I finally found a Southbound road. Oddly enough, I had been following another's bicycle tracks for miles. Someone else was pretty much going the same way as I was. Or- I was going the same way someone else had gone already, to be more correct. But I knew sooner or later this would end. 

The highest elevation on the ride occurred out here in Butler County. It also was the chunkiest stretch of road too.
I saw about a quarter mile where the high lines were lined with small birds

I ended up stopping at one point where a Southbound road I found "T'eed" into an East/West bound stretch of gravel along a tree lined farmstead. I took the opportunity to stop, eat, and do more research on my phone maps to see where I should go next. Turns out I was on the right track if I went East, so off I went with the wind at my backside and I was rolling. 

I got passed by two dudes, each in their own 4X4 pulling flat bed trailers. They weren't friendly, and they doused me in the fine limestone dust that was prevalent all over due to the lack of any good rainfall in recent weeks. Nothing I am not used to, but this copious dust, and those two vehicles and trailers were the cause of something I came across later. 

Young, inexperienced, and in the ditch. This shot is looking back on the incident.

I turned right on Willow, and right away I spied a car in the ditch. Odd that. In Winter or Spring, this isn't out of the ordinary, but during late summer on a stretch of dead straight and level gravel? What were these two people doing? They looked to have backed right up to a corn field. At the time I saw them, they were just getting out of the vehicle. 

A young lady was driving and the young man who was with her walked up onto the road, saw me, and when I asked if all was okay, he responded. He said, "Yeah. We didn't see the oncoming car and.....", by this time I was passing by, because I could see two other cars full of young people pulling up. The young man turned his attention to these folks and it was obvious they all knew each other. 

Then I looked up the road and the massive powerslide skid marks were easy to pick out. Somehow or another the female driver lost control, looped it out, and it would appear that she backed the car into the gently sloping, grass filled ditch in an arc, almost pointed in the direction of original travel again. The skid marks were at least a couple of hundred feet long and I estimated that the young lady was going at least 40mph if not more. Probably faster to skid that far, I would think. Thankfully they looked none the worse for wear, but considering the ditch the car ended up in, they were pretty fortunate. It could have been way worse. 

I figured it was the two truck/trailer vehicles that had kicked up all the dust, and I would imagine the young lady probably lost her bearings in the blinding cloud of dust. Moral to the story? Go slower! MUCH slower! 

The old bridge across the West Fork. The only one on gravel on the Eastern side of the County.

I ended up stopping again on the bridge over the Beaver Creek to see why I was feeling like I had a stone in my right shoe. I had checked this several miles back, but maybe I missed it or another got in there? I did a much more thorough investigation this time, going as far as taking my sock off, turning the sock inside out, and even removing the inner shoe liner, just in case. I found nothing. I determined that it must have been a nerve issue and I pedaled back the rest of the way without incident. 

Since it was getting on into the afternoon and I had well over 40 miles in, I decided to make it a three county tour by turning East at Westbrook Road, ironically which is the corner of Butler County that touches Grundy County. Oh well....... Another time then. 

I went into Cedar Falls on West First Street and then I used my normal commuting route home from Andy's Bike Shop once I reached downtown. I ended up with a little over 53 miles on the afternoon. Not bad. I was tuckered out though and I still had to get up early to meet Andy for a Sunday mornaing ride. 

Next: Double Header Part 2

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Fall Views: Barns For Jason

Over the weekend I did two rides and saw a lot of new-to-me barns. So, as you know, that means one thing and one thing only. A new "Barns For Jason" post!  So, again, as you may know, these posts are an artifact from an old contest I had going on with Jason Boucher to see who could post the most unique barns. (Meaning that you couldn't post one barn twice, they had to be 'unique' to the series) Now this series has become a way for me to document the old structures which are quickly fading from the rural Iowa landscape. 

These are barns from Saturday and Sunday's rides. The first batch are from barns in Northern Black Hawk, Soutwestern Bremer, and Eastern Butler Counties. The second batch is from a Sunday ride I did with Andy of Andy's Bike Shop and are from North of Cedar Falls. 

Separate ride posts will happen tomorrow and Tuesday. 


And that's a wrap on this "Barns For Jason" post.

Trans Iowa Stories: New Process- Less Stress

You can barely see Jeremy Fry here in "The Truck With No Name". T.I.v9 recon
 "Trans Iowa Stories" is an every Sunday post which helps tell the stories behind the event. You can check out other posts about this subject by going back to earlier Sunday posts on this blog. Thanks and enjoy!

The post-Trans Iowa v8 editions were mainly marked by how things were streamlined and less stressful than they were from v1-v7. One of the biggest helps in that regard was the addition of Jeremy Fry to the Trans Iowa team.

I never asked for help, and most times people just offered themselves up and I'd find a way to use their talents. Just as in the case of Jeremy Fry, he had come to me after T.I.v7 and said he wanted to be a part of Trans Iowa. Initially, that was being a volunteer at a checkpoint, which Jeremy did from v8-v13.

If all you considered was the impact Jeremy had from the standpoint of volunteering, Jeremy was invaluable to Trans Iowa. He would sacrifice a whole day of his for the event, traveling to and from his post, and often times he made a way to transport things I needed as well. He also brought along a friend of his to assist the day of on several occasions. He was trustworthy and I never had to wonder how he would handle my event if the need to enforce time cuts or if policies came in to question concerning the event. Jeremy was probably more prickly about those things than even I was!

A lot of Trans Iowa participants could probably vouch for Jeremy and his volunteering help. However; what a lot of people do not know is that Jeremy Fry was a big reason recon was so efficient and why the cues were so exact over the last several years of Trans Iowa.

Jeremy was perfect for the job, as he is a mathematician and teaches math at a local community college here. Me? I am horrible at math! The thing is, a LOT of math is done to get Trans Iowa cue sheets produced, and time figuring, which placed checkpoints, was a big part of recon and the event cues as well. Jeremy had to, more than once, send me corrections on my math. But that isn't all.

Wally and George also made the process of course checking really streamlined.

He also was another check on the cues from a rider's standpoint. We sometimes would lock horns about how things should be presented, but we always seemed to get through that and end up with the best cues in the business. Of course, as time went on, less and less of the gravel events used cue sheets. 

Jeremy and I didn't care. We used cue sheets ourselves to recon the course with every year for v-9 through v-13. (Jeremy rode in v14, so he had to recuse himself from helping me out that final year) Those draft cue sheet sets really helped speed things up in regards to field work, and with Jeremy in the truck taking notes, and with me concentrating on driving, we got to the point where getting recon done in a day happened. Usually it took two shots, but this was a MAJOR improvement over previous years when reconning the course might take several trips and not get done until shortly before a Trans Iowa was to happen. That never occurred with v-8 through to the end.

The processes were revised, and we had a method which allowed for a lot less stress and anxiety on my part. Adding in the yearly course checking with Wally and George, which also ended with v13, and Trans Iowa was almost becoming second nature to put on, in terms of logistics.Wally and George became invaluable to these processes as well. They were yet another layer of checking, another set of viewpoints, another set of reasoned opinions from which I could learn from and draw upon.

Of course, they were a blast to hang with as well, so that didn't hurt anything either! Also, it was another thing that took care of the imagery for the event, as Wally and George would use that annual Spring trip to scout out image taking opportunities, thinking about the timing of the light and where riders may be at during the event at certain spots. All this tied into making me more aware of things concerning the event itself, which in turn made how I ran it ever easier.
I hand cut and collated cues into sets, and bagged them, from v8 up through v10.

Then there was the offer from Mike Johnson, a multiple time Trans Iowa finisher, who wanted to contribute to the cue sheet production. He and his wife, Amy, would front the paper and the money for printing to get Trans Iowa cues done for the last few events. Not only that, but they, along with Jeremy or N.Y. Roll, would help to bag the things. Mike also was a valued volunteer, often manning a chase vehicle which marked corners and watched over riders with another stellar volunteer of mine, Tony McGrane. So, between Mike, Tony, and N.Y. Roll and Jeremy, I had more help with cues and with looking after riders than I ever could have dreamed of.

Speaking of watching over riders: John and Celeste Mathias were also indispensable and always cheerfully at the ready to help watch riders during a Trans Iowa weekend and report in numbers they saw go by their totally random observation point. By the way- I never asked for them to do this. They completely did it of their own accord. Celeste's photos were greatly appreciated by many as well, and her very unique perspective was so very appreciated by myself and others. Again- all unasked for. I couldn't have gotten better help. In fact, they were the ones who shepherded a fallen rider during the last Trans Iowa, making sure that rider was cared for and that this person got the proper medical attention. I am soooo thankful for the Mathias' help during those final T.I. years!

Mike Baggio and the the rest of the Slender Fungus, (Ari Andonopoulous, Dr. Giggles, Gumby, and more) were also stalwart volunteers over the last several Trans Iowa events. I'll get into some important stuff they helped me with in the upcoming stories, but suffice it to say, these folks made my life WAY easier in terms of putting on Trans Iowa too.

By the time the last Trans Iowa rolled around, I was set for help and these people took a TON of stress off my shoulders every year. They all were ready at a moment's notice to lend a hand during the event, and immediately afterward, almost always, they were the first to say that they were in again for another one, should I decide to do a Trans Iowa the following year.

I have no idea why that was, but I was amazed, and I still am, that these folks would be willing to throw their efforts and money behind Trans Iowa. They took a lot of worry off my shoulders, that's for sure. But in some weird twist, not having to stress about those things perhaps gave me too much latitude to stress about other stuff. For whatever reasons, I ended up being emotionally flattened after almost every Trans Iowa anyway. But that certainly doesn't take away the fact that these folks and their contributions made a HUGE difference to me personally, and in terms of the event. I know that the riders were impacted positively by their efforts as well.

Next: A Tool For Marketing

Saturday, August 29, 2020

A Little Job Update: Part 2

 Back in March I posted a bit of an informational post to help answer some questions I'd been getting about my new place of employment at Andy's Bike Shop. This was early in March and right when we entered this "new-normal" we have been in ever since. I figured that with all the changes in my life of late, the upheaval in the bicycle industry, and with all the changes in all our lives, I would give a new update on my situation and how it's been going. 

So, yeah......bicycles. As most of you know, this whole deal with the pandemic has slammed some areas of the economy in a bad way and some in a good way. In my view, the bicycle industry got both: Good and Bad. 

First- we sold everything we could get our hands on. Not just at Andy's, but all shops nationwide were in this situation. Then the supply chain was drained. And well......we're still dealing with that. Then people brought out every bike in a barn, garage, or from a dumpster pile that they could find and brought them in to be repaired which drained that supply chain. Try to get a 7 speed shifter right now. Not happening. 26" tires were gone for a while. Chains were too. You get the picture.

This means that we had a spike in sales, then we had a leveling off, and we probably are missing more sales than we made in the beginning because parts and bikes are in such short supply. Now Winter is coming and well, that means even if we get bikes, it'll be next Spring before we can make any headway there. 

In the meantime, specifically for Andy's Bike Shop, we're repairing stuff like crazy and getting the odd new and used bike out the door. I'm busy. No lack of work here, but what I found out the other day about this new gig surprised me. I will share what showed me something I was unaware of here......

The other day, and this happened for the third day in a row, I was all ready to walk out the door, hop on my bike, and make the commute to Andy's. I looked at my watch, and for the third day in a row I was 15 minutes too early to leave. I had to sit down and just relax for a bit so I wouldn't get to work 45 minutes to an hour early. Why was I all jacked up to go already this early? 

Because I am excited about working at Andy's! 

That may seem obvious to you, but here's the thing. I had spent over a decade not being excited to go to work, and that became 'normal' for me. I used to have a hard time getting out of the door to make it to work on time, and I was sooooo frustrated by that! I couldn't figure out why I just didn't get my rear in gear in the morning. I figured it was just 'me'. My issue with being too distracted or something along those lines. Well, it wasn't that. I didn't like working at the old shop and this was my subconscious way of dealing with it- by putting it off till the last possible minute. 

So, when I realized all of this, I was really happy the other day. I now know what it is like to want to be where I work. And let me tell you- it is pretty refreshing! I notice it in everything I am doing there now. So, if you've been wondering how things are going for me at Andy's, well, they couldn't be much better for me personally. Now if we could get a room full of new bikes to sell!

Friday, August 28, 2020

Friday News And Views


Salsa Cycles, on Wednesday, sent out a notice that owners of the Cutthroat Carbon Deluxe v2 and Cutthroat Carbon v2 forks need to check their fork for a possible safety issue. The affected forks were delivered to dealers in September 2019 to the present and can be identified by their serial numbers which require the fork to be removed from the bike to be seen. 

Riders who are unsure of how to remove the fork safely should have a qualified mechanic look at any suspected fork immediately. You can check in to THIS LINK for more information regarding this advisory. 

Please share this post with anyone you know that has a late model Cutthroat or that has a Cutthroat fork that fits the description here. 

The Ti Muk 2 has been set up and ready for the Fat Bike Century attempt for weeks now.

Fall Planning:
With the end of August here, I have been in planning mode for Fall riding and reviewing for I have things I want to do, and things I have to do. Lately, the 'things I have to do' have been taking priority and will continue to do so for quite a while. This is problematic since I failed to get in the entire 100 mile ride I attempted at the beginning of August and I still have the Fat Bike Century on my plate to attempt yet as well. 

But I have things that are continually dragging me away from personal challenges, and while I may sneak in a hundy while doing testing, it won't be on the fat bike. That one may have to wait and I am thinking that is a more likely than not situation. There are wheels that need to be ridden, 'super-secret' stuff to be used, and I have a Light and Motion light needing some night riding scheduled into the mix. All this also hinges on times I have open to ride, and that coupled with weather. 

That, as Jeff Kerkove used to say about Trans Iowa, is 'the wildcard', right? I could really get into a pinch if the weather conspires to be awful on days I have open for test riding. So far this year I have hit the jackpot. I have maybe only had a few days where I had to forgo testing due to weather. In fact, I have had more outside influences keep me from riding this year than I have had issues with weather. So, I hope my weather luck holds. It's 'crunch time' for my reviewing, because sooner than not Winter will be here, and while you may think that's nuts to think this, I know I have at least three months of scheduled reviewing/test rides ahead of me. Yes- There is that much stuff going on. 
Mike Varley teased this LaCabra proto plus wheeled bike as a future BMC model.

Plus Bike Dreams:
Posting my Ti Muk 2 and selling my Sawyer, which was set up with B+ wheels, has me thinking a lot about plus sized wheels again. It is the one thing 'I think' I am missing in the stable of choices I have here. Having ridden a few of these types of bikes, the concept intrigues me greatly. I know what the wheels are capable of, and I know just exactly what I'd do with a bike with plus sized wheels, if all was right with the design as I see things. 
First of all, I'd want to be able to run 29 X 3" tires, although I'd likely do 29 X 2.8"ers in reality. 650B plus sized tires? Eh......why? 29"ers roll over stuff better and with a 3.0" wide 29"er tire, you can traverse some pretty difficult terrain. I've done it, so I know. I've seen it done too. I am convinced of this wheel size's prowess. 

So, that's why I have issues with the proposed BMC LaCabra. As cool as that bike would be, I would rather see it in a 700c format. So, what else is there? Well, you have the Surly ECR. Maybe.... It's over-built and has those stupid Surly drop outs which are a turn-off for me. So..... Jones Bike? Yeah.... a distinct possibility, but the cheap ones are not my cuppa. I'd do a LWB Titanium one in a heartbeat with a truss Fork, but $$$$'s are not what I have available to get into that. Really....the dream bike? A LWB Ti Spaceframe and Truss Fork. Hey, a man has to have a dream rig, right? 
Don't tell me about the Fargo. Not interested in the newer ones. I've seen these with 29 X 3" tires and I am not impressed. I don't want "modern trail geometry" either, so that puts a lot of other choices to rest too. No, right now only the Jones Ti LWB has me intrigued. But until I win the lottery...... The Ti Muk 2 will have to do me for now. Yes- I could build 29 X 2.8 wheels for this. However, this screws with the bottom bracket height on a Mukluk and I've tried 29+ wheels on a Mukluk before, so I know this. 

Anyway, just a random thought I have from time to time!
That's it for this week. Have a great weekend and put in some bicycling miles! 

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Fall Views: Neeker-Breekers, Grit, & Insects

Things are drying out and turning brown now out in the country.
 Got out Wednesday for a nice test on a few things I have to review for The day was promised ahead of time to be hot, humid, and breezy. It hit on two of the three. Humidity, while at 58%, wasn't bad- for around here. Usually it's around 70% this time of year when it is hot. So, actually, I was thinking it didn't feel too bad. 

I took the Noble GX5 with these crazy Atomik/Berd Ultimate gravel wheels on it, which was part of what I had to review. I also had on these gloves to review, (not ready to post anything quite yet on those), and the Hutchinson Tourareg 700 X 45mm tires. Busy day taking it all in, for sure. Oh....yeah, I almost forgot. I was also wearing those Rudy Project Cutline glasses I'm reviewing. Sheesh! Anything else? Nope..... That's it! Gotta get the work in! 

Anyway, I headed North this time up Burton Avenue for a bit. The wind was out of the South, so I made up my mind to turn East and go a ways that way, then South and back home. Not a big loop. Just a couple hours to get in some test riding. The gravel was exemplary. Really good. Only a few stretches were treacherous with loose, chunky gravel. I was a bit surprised by this. But.....I'll take it! 

It wasn't cloudy, but those wildfires out West are polluting our upper atmosphere in the Mid-West and it was weird outside. The light is diffused and this casts a weird light on everything. You could almost see the haze, it was making things so different to look at. You really notice the issue when the Sun is low in the horizon. The Sun looks reddish-orange and the sky turns a brownish-red/orange. Not a natural look! But while things looked odd, at least we weren't subjected to breathing the smoke down here. Being a 'flat lander' does come with some advantages! 

The roads were fast, dusty, and lacking in deeper chunk. The Atomik/Berd Ultimate gravel wheel shown here.


It was very difficult to get a good shot due to the atmospheric conditions. My camera kept wanting to 'blow-out' the highlights, and I'm not a good enough photographer to figure out how to work around the issue I was having. A few shots I got were totally unusable, but I did get what I needed. 

At the crossroads of Bennington Road and Sage Road

Yep! That's some tall corn right there!

I couldn't get a shot to look right if my life depended upon it if I was pointed East. Weird. And even looking other directions, it was a difficult day to shoot. Just really odd out there. Anyway..... Nuff said. 

The nature of the countryside is definitely saying "Fall". The birds are gone. No Red Winged Blackbirds to contend with anymore. No Starlings. No Robins warbling in the distance. The Western Meadowlark has fallen silent. The only sounds I heard were the constant singing chorus of 'neeker-breekers'. You "Lord of The Rings" fans will understand that reference. The crickets and grasshoppers, rubbing their legs together, making that "neeker-breeker" sound. Listen for it, you'll never hear those insects the same again. 

Then there was the gritty sound of tire against gravel. And the wind, of course. That was it. No other sounds to be heard out there for two hours. Sights were not all that noteworthy either. With the obvious lack of birds, only the occasional cow and horse were seen. Insects were flying about though. Grasshoppers, butterflies, and the odd dragonfly were seen. But yeah......this is looking more like the end of the season and the beginning of another. 

Throw-back jersey

I also took this occasion to bust out one of the old Advantage Cyclery race team jerseys that I have. This was the race team that was based out of the shop where I first plied the trade of bicycle mechanic back in the mid-90's. After Advantage Cyclery folded, in very early 1997, I moved on to become an auto mechanic and did not get back into working on bicycles until late 2002. 

In the meantime, I left racing behind, and I had my race jerseys, which I tucked away in a drawer. Now every 'blue moon' I get the urge to dig one out and ride in it. So, that was fun. I will say that in the last 25 years jersey technology has come a long, long way. This thing was like wearing a garbage bag compared to what we have now! But hey! It was for kicks, and I had fun wearing one of these again. 

Last time I posted about this someone that had an old one of these sent theirs to me! Ha! Well, listen- I have plenty. I don't need anymore of these Advantage jerseys! I think I must have about four of them as it is! But the thought is what counts and I still appreciate that I was sent one of these a few years back. 

The testing went well. I learned what I could and rode home. Now it is time to put thoughts to digital letters and images for all to read at some point. I have also decided I need to do some specific wheel testing coming up soon. I have some theories to either debunk or to confirm. Always thinking out there on these test rides.......

The ride was in the morning, before it got beastly out. Still, it was 88°F and with the wind, it was fairly draining. I did have to back off from riding too hard in the heat so I wouldn't get myself in the 'hurt locker' and be down for the count the rest of the day. I had a driving lesson to give! So, I had to be on my game.

The driving went okay. My daughter, who will turn 20 this December, finally decided she needs to know how to drive. I took her out on a gravel road, (natch!), and turned her loose for a couple of very tentative miles. It was fun. She peeled out once, unintentionally, but I had to let out a good "WooHoo!" for the occasion regardless. I mean, you just cannot let a good spewing of gravel go without a yelp of uninhibited joy, now can you? Well, it ain't happening around here! 

Afterward it was time to hit the ice cream store for celebratory treats. She made a good start. Now for some continuing education......

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Goodbye Sawyer

 Yesterday I said goodbye to Sawyer. No......not a person. The bike. The cruiser style hard tail masterpiece that should have been a Gary Fisher branded bike, but was one of the victims of the timing of Trek's absorption of the Gary Fisher brand. While it was hoped that elements of the Gary Fisher brand, then called the Gary Fisher Collection, would survive, it disappeared a few years later, never to be heard from again. To my way of thinking, this is still one of the strangest, and biggest, mistakes Trek ever made. 

Well, back in the day, I was sent one of these Sawyers and I have had it around since then. I often enjoyed the bike, but with so many single speeds, it just didn't get used as it should have. 

I've written a few posts dedicated to the lines of this swoopy cruiser. I've talked about how Trek screwed up the marketing for this bike, how it was a big failure at retail, and how there has been a cultish following for Sawyers since then. I won't cover that old ground again. I'll just say that after three years, maybe more, of wondering what to do with this bike, I finally pulled the trigger on selling it. Then "Mr. W" answered my sales page ad and asked if he could be the bike's next caretaker. Well, the exchange happened, and now the Sawyer is all his to ride into the Sunset.

And that is exactly what should happen. Bicycles weren't made to be collected and sat in rooms to be ogled by bike nerds until they die and relatives have to dispose of them. They were made to be ridden. They were made to be scratched, beat up, and eventually worn out. I often think about what Mike Varley, of Black Mountain Cycles, told me once when I asked for touch up paint codes for my "Orange Crush" rig. He said something to the effect that he'd rather I let the scratches be and they would be "character marks", scratches that invoked stories and memories of adventures had with that bike. He's right, you know.

I don't think you've had a successful time with a bike unless you've ridden it so much you've worn out parts, dinged it up, and somehow kept it going for years and years. Bikes with character marks, and maybe more importantly, stories to tell. That should be the goal. Not having some pristine garage queen parked on a pedestal. But to each their own. This is only my view.

And getting back to the Sawyer- I was happy to hear "Mr W" say to me, as he wheeled the bike out the door, that he'd "definitely be riding this bike a lot". More than anything else, those words were music to my ears. 

I grinned to myself later, long after the Sawyer was gone, thinking about "Mr W" and his new-to-him Sawyer, blasting some single track somewhere, making memories, and gaining a few of those "character marks" in the process. It made me glad I decided to let that bike have a new lease on life. It made me happy to know that I could, at least one time, let a bike go I really liked, but wasn't utilizing, and let someone else experience the joy of riding a bike that a person cherished and loved on terrain that made for good times. 

Be well, Sawyer! May you and "Mr W" have miles of smiles with each other!

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

The End Of Summer


When the Sun comes up like this, you just know it's gonna be a scorcher!
While it may feel like Summer is still kicking strong, what with our heat and humidity, this is about the time of year that, in my opinion, the season switches to Fall mode. I've got my reasons for that, and today I will share a few. 

First, the weekend of Gravel Worlds is past. It would have been this past weekend, and I always have noticed that after Gravel Worlds the Sunrise and Sunset seem to be closer together in time. The daylight hours seem to really start to decrease right about now. I am sort of sensitive to how the daylight appears so maybe I'm an odd duck here, but this point of the year seems significant to me. I did note that last Friday was the last day the Sun was up past 8:00pm CST, and the mornings come later and later in a very noticeable way right about now. This signals Fall to my mind. 

Secondly, school starts here in Iowa for grade school, middle school, and high school students. This year, being very odd, has been one where school happened last over five months ago. So this marks a big moment in time for 2020. AND it is my son's last year in school. I sent a kid off to a 'first day of school' for the last time. (sigh) A big parenting moment, for sure, but it has nothing to do with why I think Fall starts now. I just snuck that in there! 

Then there was my Grandpa. He died this week in 2013, so THAT anniversary always kind of sticks in my mind as being a harbinger of Fall too. He was my hero when I was a child. I know.....kind of morbid, but this is my experience. Fall starts now. 

Yeah....yeah.... It's HOT and we have a heat advisory, AND it is supposed to be the hottest its been all year at 96°F today, but whatever. Fall starts when Nature says so, and I'm seeing the signs all over. Birds leaving, seasonal flowers blooming- or fading- and trees are turning colors now. The corn is ripe and drying down out in the country. Leaves are falling. Just slow down and look and you can see it for yourself. 

Now for an inventory of my wool stuff.......

Monday, August 24, 2020

Gravel Bus In 650B Mode

 The Gravel Bus with Irwin Aon GX 35 Carbon wheels in 650B.
 My Saturday plans were laid waste by duties having to do with my son's participation in football and rain. Basically, it was a double whammy, as I wasn't going to get to do what I had intended either way. Sometimes somethings weren't meant to happen. 

So, I had a lot of time on my hands Saturday and I used that to get some things done I had intended on doing. I had just purchased a Surly single speed spacer kit, a Surly 20T cog, and I had picked up a box of super-secret stuff for at Andy's Bike Shop as well. I decided to get cracking on the 650B wheel set up for the Gravel Bus. I had already set the tires up tubeless and all I needed was to match up the gearing so I wouldn't have to do any chain tensioning when I switched back and forth between the 700c and 650B set-ups. The box? Nunya. You'll have to wait for a little over a month to find out what's up there. 

I ended up running the first Standard Rando I had in 650B mode pretty much on a permanent basis until I sold it. That was because it was the only way to get any decent volume tires on that frame and fork. The clearances were tight on that design. With v2, Twin Six has allowed for a bigger tire to be fitted, so I can run 700 X 43mm tires with no issues. But that still allows for 650B as an option, so now this Standard Rando is actually more versatile, at least for my uses and intentions. 

So, how does it ride? Stiffer with smaller diameter wheels......maybe. The caveat here is that I had been riding Spinergy wheels on this which do ride pretty darn smoothly, so switching out to a deeper section carbon wheel with steel spokes and in a smaller diameter? Probably no surprise that the bigger hits are more sharply felt there, even with the cushy tires. One thing a lot of people do not take into account is that the 650B diameter- even with a 47mm wide tire- effectively lowers your gearing range. You can most acutely feel this when switching from 700c and keeping the cog size and chain ring size the same, as I have done here. 

The smaller diameter wheel/tire combo effectively lowered the gain ratio on the Gravel Bus.

This will come in handy when conditions are worse, in hillier areas, or on really windy days when I want to use a single speed. It's kind of a round-a-bout way to change ratios without changing anything on the cog/chain/chain ring front. Plus, it looks like I could squeeze in some fenders. That might be nice in muckier, transitional weather. 

So, this will end up being the dedicated 650B wheel set and my matching 700c Irwin Aon GX 35 Carbon wheels will end up becoming the alternate wheel set for the Gravel Bus. This will bring the Project Gravel Bus to a close. I doubt I will be doing anything major, in as far as changes go, to this rig anytime soon.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Trans Iowa Stories; Social Media Effects

T.I.v2- No social media. GT in the rain coat. Jeff Kerkove in the blue coat. Image credit Unknown

"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!

Social media had a massive effect on Trans Iowa and my relationship with this facet of our current-day society, as it affected Trans Iowa, was a rocky one. That said, Trans Iowa spanned the time between eras. When we started in 2005 Twitter and Facebook weren't a thing. When we started, getting good, reliable cell phone coverage in Iowa was not a given. In fact, it was not possible. The main way people communicated socially then was via blogs and on chat forums and sites that hosted them.

This had the effect of making riders basically disappear for the duration of a Trans Iowa. It's pretty much unimaginable now. I mean, can you even consider riding any event without a GPS computer, a working cell phone, your pocket camera/cell phone camera, Strava, Facebook, or Twitter and Instagram? You would have had no choice to do it any other way than with none of those things in 2005/2006 at Trans Iowa.

Of course, some may remember that during T.I.v2 I did a "Trans Iowa Radio" , audio-post thing, mostly as a joke, and a way to entertain myself in the lonelier times. However; I was unaware that this was an important, first step in social media. Immediate, fresh information was gobbled up by folks hungry for instant gratification. I did not take the thing seriously at all, and for that I was roundly chastised afterword by folks related to riders and by riders themselves in some instances. 

With the change for T.I.v9 to having "Trans Iowa Radio" hosted by Mountain Bike Radio/Riding Gravel, the onus on myself to be the information conduit was taken away. So, although this opened the floodgates for more social media contact, which was not good in my opinion, it did get me off the hook in terms of expectations by outsiders to provide a 'play-by-play' info stream for Trans Iowa. But there was a lot of pressure to open up the event to being covered even more in terms of social media.  

This raised some big red flags in my mind, and the whole thing became a grind to try to control until there just was no point in it anymore. Every year after 2007, Trans Iowa became less and less of the event I wanted it to be from an experiential point of view for the riders.

 T.Iv14., Social media was fully entrenched into the event. Image by Celeste Mathias

Am I saying that these earlier Trans Iowa events were 'more pure'? No, I am saying they were more where I wanted to take Trans Iowa, but that was made impossible by the whims of the times and the effects of technology. Well, unless I took Draconian actions to rid the event of social media altogether. In my mind's eye, the whole social media thing waters down what Trans Iowa was supposed to be. That's a complicated story, and I may not ever really get around to telling that, to be honest. Not in a way that would satisfy me, and certainly not in a way that wouldn't ruffle some feathers, and in the end, who cares anymore? 

Trans Iowa was good, maybe even excellent, regardless. It obviously made an impact if I still am hearing about it two years post the last one I put on. I figured it would be a distant memory by this point in history. And maybe it will still get to be just that.....

I suppose telling you what I might do "IF" I ever did another Trans Iowa-like event might point out where I am at with regard to all the social media things. Okay, one thing for sure- It would not be like the Trans Iowa. This would be a fresh start. Given my perspective looking back and from what I have learned, I would make this new event even smaller. Riders would sign non-disclosure agreements. I would supply wired computers for all participants which would be calibrated and installed the evening before the event. I might have chip tracking, but it would be private, and only for my uses.  I would ban cell phones, GPS, and cameras. (Yes- really) AND the event would maybe be 40-50 people MAX. Probably less. No photographers. No film crews. Cues would be handed out at the start line, and when you finished- if you finished- there would be nothing. No handshake, just me tallying the results, and you'd go home.

That's the experience you cannot get anymore at any gravel event anywhere. Sounds stupid today, doesn't it? Think about what things were like in the last century. (If you are old enough to have memories reaching that far back) The experience was yours. It wasn't goaded on by social media or anything outside of yourself. (Well, maybe not - I have no idea what lurks inside of your head and soul) You would have awesome stories to share orally or to write down afterward. This started to go away during Trans Iowa's middle years when people had good enough cell service that they could call wives, mothers, brothers, boyfriends, and the like to get cheered up in the dank darkness of an Iowa rural night. It was when all the 'likes', the feedback from social media posts, started to play a role.

Social media inherently made a big difference, (I would argue that it made it easier and less meaningful), to some of the Trans Iowa participants, but most don't know anything different. How can you blame them? I don't. I just feel these folks got cheated out of something I did get to experience several times. To be honest, sometimes that pisses me off. Sometimes I am incredibly saddened by these thoughts. But that's my perspective and not anyone else may feel that way. I get that. But I'm trying to be honest about the social media thing here. That's how I feel, especially when it comes to Trans Iowa.

And again- I knew it was impossible to keep it out. I went along with a lot of the social media stuff because I knew that. That said, I'm free to say what I really think about these things now, because now it doesn't matter. Trans Iowa is done. How it all went down was probably as good as it could have been given the way I did things. And I'm okay with that. 

Next: Getting back to some stories about the ninth version of Trans Iowa.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Should We Or Shouldn't We?

As the year of 2020 slowly trudges toward its inevitable conclusion, we are now running into the Fall where many events that should have already happened have been postponed to. The plumb of all of these must surely be the Tour de France, set to take place mostly in the beginning weeks of September this year. Starting August 28th, this pinnacle of cycling racing is an event- like it or not- which sets the tone for much of what follows behind it in the cycling world. 

Obviously things will necessarily need to be quite a bit different this year. A hint of what it takes to put on such an event was given when the Colorado Classic released details on its protocols that it was to have enacted for its now cancelled event, as I reported on in this FN&V post. A really blunt take on where the TdF sits within current events was recently published here on "Cyclingtips" website which echos much of what was to be at the Colorado Classic. 

The question, "should the event start?", is not just a question for the Tour de France, or the now cancelled Colorado Classic, but this is the question on every event promoter's mind coming into Fall, Winter, and even into next year. Where will we be sitting in regard to COVID-19? Will there be a 'second wave', as it appears there will be in France? Does any event with larger numbers of people planned for participation need to have the same, or similar protocols to what the TdF has? How do you balance all of this against health concerns, economic concerns, and public perceptions? 

Whew! Those are balls that no one wants to juggle with. Will the outcome be a positive or a negative? In my opinion, the Tour this year will be a sort of 'proving grounds'. If this spectacle, which stands to make a LOT of money for a lot of people, can go off with little to no COVID impacts, then I think you see bigger events take note and encouragement from that. However; if the microscope of attention focused upon the Tour sees one crack to exploit concerning this pandemic, you can be sure that the condemnation for any failures will be swift and far reaching. This, in my opinion again, will affect following events to a great extent. 

Should the event even start? Pfffft! It'll be easy to say after the fact. Place your bets now though, and this becomes a sort of gamble. A gamble that may have some dark consequences. In light of that, the prudent person might answer, "No. The TdF should not start." Those with the view that traditions should be upheld, those with a view that  human beings being social creatures, need this sort of thing,  and those who find economic ruin too great an expense for something that needs to not be feared? Well, they may look at this quite differently. And this is really a microcosm of the World's predicament concerning COVID-19, isn't it? The results of running the TdF then might actually have far reaching consequences. 

This isn't an experiment I'd want to conduct, but he we go..........

Friday, August 21, 2020

Friday News And Views


Campagnolo Files Patent For 13spd:

It was revealed on Wednesday that in an online article by "Cyclingtips" that Campagnolo has filed for patents on a 13 speed cassette. Rumors have been flying since June when Shimano released a new Shamal wheel set that is featuring a new free hub body which is backward compatible with SRAM XDR, Shimano MicroSpline, and current and older Campy free hub bodies. Wording in the documents lead one to believe that a rumored gravel group set with 13 speeds dubbed "Ekar" is all but a formality now. 

Pricing and finer details are obviously unknowns as of now as is whether or not this will be a 1X group set. Commenters on the article I looked at seem to think that it will be 1X and that it will be priced between Record and Chorus. 

Others claim it will also have a 2X option as well. Obviously, derailleurs would necessarily need to be new and shifters as well. The wheels already out show how the patent filings on the cassette would integrate. The free hub body is shortened to allow for the planned 10 and 9 tooth cogs on these cassettes to overhang outboard of the free hub body. 

Comments: Companies keep trying to reach a wider range of gearing without using triple crank sets, which seems........really dumb. This tells me that modernized electronic and mechanical patents on front derailleurs must be tied up by Shimano, not allowing for development of modern triples. Either that or we are in a phase of design which almost completely ignores the efficiencies of straighter chain lines. 

Think I'm way off? SRAM had a wacky 'morphing-sized' chain ring idea that they filed patents for several years back, which to my mind was also an end-around to bypass Shimano's stranglehold on patents for front derailleurs. Shimano has also deleted triples from their higher end groups, yes, but at some point I think this 1X madness ends and close ratio cassettes with multiple front ring crank sets becomes a thing again- at least for adventure bikes- which tend to not have the complexities of full suspension mountain bikes. 

Ritchey Design Debuts The Beacon Bar:

The flared drop bar market has gone bonkers. Fifteen years ago there weren't any to be had besides the pioneering "Midge Bar" from On One. Then it took almost ten years to get a halfway decent selection going. Now, within the last five years, the flared drop bar market has so many choices, it is nigh unto impossible to turn around in a bike shop and not get snagged in the shorts by one of these hooked rascals. 

Also, as you longtime readers know, I have been a fan of the long-gone-but-not-fogotten Luxy Bar. The bar with the radical sweep in the extensions and plenty of flare all mated to a minimal drop. Well, no one has ever really made a decent Luxy clone, but now we have something close. The Beacon Bar from Ritchey Design

This bar, as I say, comes close, but it lacks the straight, 1 1/8th" diameter tops which are integral to theLuxy's design. The Beacon Bar, (why do I see this as 'Bacon Bar'?), has swept back tops, which, I suppose, is fine, but the outer diameter tapers from the center portion, and does not remain a constant diameter to the ramps. It also lacks the outrageous sweep in the extensions which is something I like about the Luxy. 

NOTE: Confused about drop bar terminology? See this post

The, excuse me- The Beacon Bar, has the great minimalist drop and backward length on the extensions though, and the curve, or radius, of the drops is pretty spot-on, from my view anyway. A hundy gets you some. Sounds like a winner to me. 

DK and Kaw Nation Part Ways: 

The seemingly never-ending saga which is the end of the Dirty Kanza name had, what is hoped to become, its final chapter written this past week. In an email sent out by the (now temporarily named "DK") event promotions team, it was revealed that there was yet another meeting between the four current event promoters and members of the Kaw Nation's Tribal Council. The meeting resulted in the parting of ways between the two entities with the Kaw nation saying in a statement that, "We respectfully asked that the name be changed to dissolve the connection to our people, the Kanza.

Furthermore, the promotions team said that through reaching out to various riders, brands, the businesses and government of Emporia, and others that they are "very close" to re-branding the event. Apparently an icon and a color palette have already been approved.  

The team tasked with the rebrand has stated that it is very difficult to reconcile the past history and equity built up with the old name and event with whatever they come up with. I would say that I would agree. And furthermore; I might advise them to not even try. Why not?

Easy- The cultural quagmire, which is still being stirred up by certain self-imposed 'influencers' will not let this go away. That said, it will be a lot easier to make a new, fresh start and not have any ties backward to what the old event was. Does this mean changing the format? Maybe. In terms of inclusion and equity, they probably have to do that. More importantly, in my opinion, is that whatever this becomes, it closes the door on the old history and never really does anything- good, bad, or in denial of it - for the future. Apologize to the Kaw Nation? Probably not a bad idea. 

But like I said a week or so back- this is a brand new event. Or, at least, it should be. This is an event, with its new owner and new promotions team, which is trying to save the economic impacts and demand it had from riders. That's definitely understandable- but it should not ever be connected to the "Dirty Kanza 200" in a way that is directly comparable in the future, just because that is an open invitation for the wound to never be healed, in my view. 

Can it ever be the impactful, iconic event it became under Jim Cummings? Maybe. Give it time. I don't think it is wise to try to make it so immediately, or to think it will happen soon. COVID-19 may still have some say in this as well. But that said, done right this could be bigger and better. Time will tell.........

That's it for this week folks. Summer is on the run! get out and enjoy it while you can!

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Blinded By The Light


Here are those Atomik/Berd Ultimate wheels I wrote about yesterday.
Wednesday was another cracking good day, but I was not up to doing a big ride in the country due to a procedure I had done at the optometrist. So, no "Country Views" today. Sorry! I was too busy trying to find the right sunglasses to tone down the brightness of all that light flowing into my eyeballs! 

That's right, I had my eyes dilated so the optometrist could check on the health of my eyes. Yeah.....walking out of the place was a shock! It was a bright sunny day with no clouds. My sunglasses were on the dashboard of my truck. Good thing my daughter was there to guide me by the arm. All I could see was brilliant white! 

I wasn't dying, walking through the Pearly Gates or anything, but I imagine it to be something like what I experienced Wednesday morning. Yikes! That wasn't any fun! My legs were wobbly and I felt nauseous. For a minute or two. And then it took about five hours for the effects to wear off. At least enough that I could dare to try out those Atomik/Berd Ultimate wheels a bit. 

So, I rode over to the new overpass being built for the Sergeant Road Trail. Progress has been steady all Summer due to the good weather. In fact, they should be paving over the road on top soon as they were doing final grading when I checked. 

The tunnel for bikes, on the right, and the sloping bike path down to it off University to the left.
The former roadway was considerably higher than where the new pavement for University Avenue will go.
This appears to be another approach for cyclists from the East.

It's nice to see this infrastructure for cycling and pedestrians going in. University Avenue has been a conduit for travel between Cedar Falls and Waterloo long before it was 'University Avenue'. In fact, parts of this throughway may have been part of old Native American trails and certainly would have been used by horses and wagons back in the day. Back in the early days of roads, this was part of the "Red Ball Route", a kind of Northwest to Southeast passage through Iowa from Minneapolis, Minnesota and on to St. Louis, Missouri. This became HWY 218 and is now HWY 27, or the "Avenue of the Saints". 

After visiting there I went and rode my usual 'testing loop' of alleys and hilly streets in Waterloo. Then it was back home again to take care of some business, since I could see again! Hopefully I don't have to go through that again for a while. That blinding by light situation is for the birds!

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Trails Festival Tales

The original poster as it appears above my dresser today.
I was up in my room getting ready for work the other day. Nothing unusual about that. I've done that 1000's of times before, but this particular day I took note of an old poster I had tacked up on the wall with that white, tacky dope stuff you could get to quickly mount images on your walls. Well, this particular poster has been above my dresser for 24 years. The poster was issued to commemorate the first annual Cedar Trails Festival. 

This was the brainchild of a group here in town that was in charge of coordinating the different government jurisdictions that the trails ran through. Their job was to help make sure the trails were maintained and promoted, amongst other things The name of this particular group is ICOG. They worked with the local city and the state governments to come up with this festival to promote the trails systems and even the soft trails were included in this plan. 

The first trails festival was to be held in August of 1996. At that time I was the lead mechanic at a shop called Advantage Cyclery in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The ICOG man in charge of organization of the Cedar Trails Festival had contacted my boss, Tom Webb, to help with running the soft trails part of the Festival. It was agreed that Advantage Cyclery would sponsor this  and Tom downloaded the responsibility of  all the organization of this end of things to me. Fantastic! This happened in June, just as we were ramping up for another RAGBRAI season and repairs were at their highest levels. Like working 10-12 hour shifts wasn't enough of a work load. 

I remember that ICOG wanted us to lead two group rides. One in the Green Belt and one in George Wyth State Park. Now remember- at this point there was no other organized group to take care of the soft trails. Nothing was being done on any scale to clear trails, mow back weeds, or assess conditions. So I required that the ICOG guy get the State to handle the George Wyth end of things because, well- the State wasn't about to let me walk around with a weed whacker! So, I ended up with getting that part done and off my back. 

The Green Belt was another story. The City of Waterloo Parks and Recreation Department, at that time, mowed the Green Belt once a year. They usually did this in mid-August, but this wasn't scheduled to happen until after when the trails festival was to take place. They said I could go in there and use manual tools to clear weeds, but that they "didn't want to know about it". Essentially, I was on my own. 

So, I had to go out there in mid-July, after working a full day, and use a scythe to knock down a few sections of seven foot high weeds in a few places. It was hot, muggy, insect ridden, and a thoroughly unpleasant affair with no pay. I'll never forget that Summer. Then the ICOG guy started leaning on me to do more, and well, I kind of came unglued. 

These bandanas were given to each rider on the soft trails ride.
The conflict got a little heated, but my boss stepped in and smoothed things over. At any rate, the soft trails part ended up being two excruciatingly slow rides which saw upwards of 40-50 riders on each ride take part in a single track tour of the Green Belt and parts of George Wyth. I had some help leading the riders through, which was great. All volunteer help, totally unrecognized. I don't remember seeing anything mentioned by the organizers about who did all the work, it was just "sponsored by Advantage Cyclery". WooHoo! That kind of bugged me at the time. 

At any rate, it was all deemed a success. Even the other hard surface trails events were well attended, but it was the night ride that was obviously the big hit. The organizers set up a night time ride with candle pots set along the entire length of the main paved trail from Cedar Falls into Waterloo. This was probably about five or six miles worth of trail that was lined- both sides- with candles. 

That ride was complete chaos! People didn't understand that they needed to have lighting on their bikes to see the road/trails by. They thought the candles would shed enough light to ride by. Then there were groups starting on the Waterloo side coming to Cedar Falls and vice-versa.Erratic kids on tiny bikes with parents were everywhere. People were stopping randomly. There were several trail-side "beer and alcohol stops" arranged at unawares to the authorities. It was a complete mess, but it was super popular and well received. 

There was an after-party at a place on 18th Street in Cedar Falls and I recall the place was packed. I folded a 40 spoke wheel trying to trackstand that night in the parking lot. Ha! Anyway, it was quite the scene. Later years proved to be popular, but the soft trails experiment was not repeated and eventually the night ride was really the only draw for the festival. The last 'annual' trails festival happened in 2014. Nineteen years it lasted, but interest and participation waned until at the end, hardly anyone noticed the event. 

Since that time a "Pedal Fest" has taken up where the annual Trails Festival left off, but it hasn't gained the traction, nor the widespread appeal, that the original Trails Festival had. Those early years brought out all sorts of people. Not cyclists- people. Folks that were bicycle-curious. The Pedal Fest cannot lay claim to such an appeal like the CTF had. Too bad. In the times we are in now, such a festival would have major impacts on the citizens of the town. 

So, there is my tale about the Cedar Trails Festival (CTF), such as it was. Those were far different times in the late 90's and the Trails Festival was a really big deal back then. I am glad to have been a part of the first one.