Saturday, April 17, 2021

Crazy Lights

Raveman lights purchased for test/review on RidingGravel.com
 We have it easy these days, we do. Especially when it comes to lighting for our night time bicycling excursions. I never cease to be amazed by each new generation of LED lights and Lithium/Ion battery technology that seems to come around about every 3-4 months. Last year's lights? Ancient! Old technology! 

I think the term "planned obsolescence" has never been better defined than by the pace of LED light tech. It's stupid, really, and you get more for less all the time. 

This has me thinking about old technologies for lighting which we thought were fine. Perfectly usable stuff, that's what we thought, and we raged through the night with lights not much brighter than birthday candles. We were crazy, that's what we were. There is no way we'd do things like we did with that poor lighting now, especially since we 'know better'.  

This may sound completely bonkers now, but back in the mid to late 00's, we didn't have much for lights. Well, not self-contained lights. You could get rad battery pack lights, but we gravelists didn't want to have to deal with dangling wires and we didn't want to have to deal with battery packs, which typically weighed a ton.We could have gone the hub dynamo route, but that was very expensive. So we had to hack, make-do, and what I ended up using were some less than stellar lights. One I used and had three different iterations of was this home made bodge of a camping head lamp with an external battery pack. (Light, three triple "A" batteries) But I had 100 Lumens of light for thirty hours!  So there was that. 

I dredged through the archives and found some examples of what I used to use. So sit back, grab a cup of coffee, and be amused at what it was I used to use to bomb down hills at night on gravel at 30mph.....

The venerable Cat Eye EL 500

 This was a light we used to recommend for Trans Iowa. Yes- really! It was rated at 1000 candlepower and ran off 4 AAA batteries, easily found at convenience stores and you could pack extras. The unit was light, fairly durable for gravel riding, and threw an okay amount of light. It was also pretty inexpensive going for around $25.00 in its heyday. It had a magnetic switch, so theoretically it could never fail. The major downfall of this light was that the lens screwed off to reveal the batteries and that usually fouled up the housing at some point, which was made of pretty flimsy plastic. The lens also wasn't what I would call great either. 

Blackburn came out with a "better version" of an EL 500 in the late 00's and I used one for a while.

 After the Cat Eye EL 500 came out and was wildly popular many companies went to work to make a better version. I had a Blackburn light around the time we did Trans Iowa v5 in 2009 which was definitely an improvement. Gone were the separate AAA batteries and it was a true self-contained unit. The trouble with this one was that the handle bar/light mount was finicky, (a very common issue with lights), and the thing was heavy for the minuscule amount of power (compared to today's lights), so off it came. It also had pretty poor run times on its higher setting, as I recall, making it a bit of a problem when it came to riding at night for a long period of time.

My hacked camp head lamp with external battery pack. This was from 2012

 Longer run times meant you had to compromise on light power. Battery technology wasn't quite being applied at the time so one could have a light weight, portable, self-contained, long run time light. I ended up scouring department stores and hardware stores for options. I ended up finding these Eveready camp head lamps, you know, the type you wear around your head so you can set up your tent at night? 

I hacked three of these, but my best attempt was the last where I found this adjustable lens light with a metal casing and bezel which ran at 100 Lumens for thirty hours off a three AAA battery pack. With the lens bezel set to maximum flood, I had a light I could putter around out in the country with for as long as I liked. Trouble was that it was too floody, and there wasn't that 'punch', that strong beam you need to see when you are flying downhill at warp speed. So I supplemented this light with one of the forerunners of the new vanguard of self-contained LED lights, a Lezyne Super Drive, circa 2012. 

The Lezyne Super Drive came out at the end of 2011.

 The Super Drive was top of the line at the time for Lezyne and had a 450 Lumen output with a run time of 1.5hrs. A piddly amount compared to today's lights, but back then, it was something, being so small and powerful as it was compared to the competition. By the way, it would run at 100 Lumens for 5 hours. Six times less than my hacked camp light! 

It was at about this time when companies started dedicating R&D to lightweight, self-contained, versatile lighting with decently long run times. That's when the whole deal went bananas and takes us up to today. 

So, now we have LED rear lights with brake sensors and light sensors to warn cars coming up from behind that there is a cyclist on the road. We have 1600 Lumen lights, which is supposedly 600 Lumens brighter than a car headlamp on high-beam, which run for an hour plus at that level. All self-contained, and priced well below $200.00. It's crazy. You used to have to spend nearly a thousand bucks for that sort of power and run time. This 1600 Lumen light I am testing will run at 400 Lumens for 7 hours. Quite a bit better than that Lezyne Super Drive at about the same power. Plus I have several modes other than that, and a remote!

Stay tuned for updates on these Raveman lights. 

Note: These Raveman lights were purchased at a discounted price for test and review on RidingGravel.com. I am not being paid, nor bribed, for this post and I always strive to give my honest thoughts and opinions throughout.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Friday News And Views

Gravel Events Leveraged For Social Change Issues:

If you hadn't noticed, there is a big issue regarding the proposed World Cup level event for cyclo cross in Arkansas this Fall and how that state has passed some anti-transgender legislation. Social issues are being leveraged against the organizer, USAC, to influence that organization to pull the event from the state of Arkansas. Many athletes who planned on attending the event have cancelled their plans in light of the new legislation and their support for LGBTQ+ issues. 

A "Bicycle Retailer and Industry News" article has more details and links for further reading here

There have also been calls to boycott Arkansas based cycling companies and I even saw a lob at the Unbound Gravel event, since Kansas is also considering similar anti-transgender legislation. So, this is where the big gravel events are getting drug into this conversation, and why when I got an e-mail from the Arkansas based event, Big Sugar NWA, that the image posted here was front and center in that e-mail. 

Comments: I expect that if Kansas does pass this sort of legislation, we can expect to see more leverage brought to bear upon the Unbound Gravel event, as well as any other 'big' gravel events with corporate backing. Let's face it, if you are after social change and want to make an impact you are not going after the little events. The aim that I see is that the events that stand a chance to be hurt economically, if they are tagged with the 'boycott', are the events that will be used to bring a light to what the people behind these issues want. 

I took a look at the Arkansas laws and I feel they are really dumb and based out of fear. There shouldn't be anything like them on the books. I also think 'boycotting'  events is not all that effective in making change in this area either. But this does shine a light, for sure. I mean look- I'm writing about it, as are many others, so it is effective in that, at least. So, corporate gravel events, and obviously cyclo cross events, can be credited with engendering at least that much activity in this socially charged issue. Plus there are the things listed in the image, which Big Sugar NWA is undertaking for their event. So, I guess there is that..... But the average citizens who vote in Arkansas? Hmm...... I dunno about that. 

Cracking Down On Speed:

It looks as though Iowa may be limiting any HPC rig to 20mph speed limits. The amendment to the law was recently passed by the Iowa Senate and is going back to the House of Representatives for approval. This hasn't taken effect yet, but there are no indications that it will not be passed into law.

So? Is this a big deal? Maybe...... Many so-called "Class 3 e-bikes" are pedal assisted up to 28mph. Other classes of HPC rigs are limited to 20mph already, excepting the "Class 4" category, which can go faster than 28mph and requires a license and registration. All is 'good in the hood', right? Just follow the laws and we'll all get along just fine. Except when people don't follow the laws, and they don't.......a lot! 

Example: Just the other day at Andy's Bike Shop, where I work, a customer was in telling of a friend's electrified Schwinn Sierra which could hit top speeds in excess of 30mph. Not pedal assisted, of course, because what would be the point in that? (And yes- there may have been a bit of a 'fish story' element to that, but still...)

Another example; We had a guy in last year who owns an old klunker 26"er with a gas engine conversion which he claims can go 55mph and he pretty much rides it wherever he wants, bike paths included. I've seen another one like it around as well. (Note- I do not distinguish between motor types- gas, electric, whatever. If they have pedals and a motor, they qualify. They all are HPC's which is Hybrid Powered Cycles if you are wondering) There are more examples which are not modified that are all over the internet for sale and can go in excess of the so-called 28 mph limits.

So, 20mph limit? Sounds fine to me, but no one is cracking down on what is already out there AND is illegal, so what makes anyone think that a speed limit law is enforceable? It is not enforceable. The manpower required to enforce such speed limits doesn't exist, and you know, we do such a great job cracking down on speeding cars too. Yeah..........

So this 'law' is malarkey. Doesn't mean anything, just like those "class" regulations of HPC's are meaningless. It's the Wild, Wild, West out there when it comes to these things, and I am afraid nothing is going to happen until people start getting hurt, suing, and/or dying. 

Studies are finding that moderate exercise helps with COVID survival

Exercise Helps- So Why Aren't We Pushing The Message?

I think many of us that are fans of cycling kind of 'get this' already, but more studies are being undertaken which are pointing to physical inactivity as being associated with a much higher risk of hospitalization and death due to COVID-19. 

At RidingGravel.com, we were honored to have a contribution from 80 year old gravel rider (!) John Ingham with a message and references given which also pointed to similar conclusions. (Read that here) So, seeing that consistency in data, I am thinking that if you are pedaling, or exercising on a regular basis, you are doing 'it' right, in terms of disease prevention and minimizing risks with respect to diseases and mental health issues. 

So, it baffles me, and it saddens me as to why our government and why our policy makers are not prioritizing some simple measures by enabling folks to - you know - exercise regularly in safe places where being mowed down by motorists piloting plastic, steel, and rubber cages at ridiculous speeds is not a fear and an issue. Not to mention making exercise a priority to help fight the ever growing healthcare issues this country faces. 

I dunno.......maybe I'm the crazy one here. But it seems to me that this is so easy to understand that it flies right over most people's heads. Am I wrong? With what I see going on around me, I have to wonder if I'm not from another planet. The disconnect I see surrounding the issues of health seem astounding to me. 

Iowa Wind And Rock Happens This Weekend:

The ultra-distance gravel event that took its cues from the event I used to put on, Trans Iowa, happens this weekend out of the Winterset, Iowa area. Iowa Wind And Rock is a 300+ mile, cue sheet navigated, time limited event that takes in some of the gnarliest roads in South Central Iowa. 

This would make the third edition of this event. Last year's COVID-modified and postponed event happened in October, and was run in conjunction with the Spotted Horse event, which I volunteered for. This date is the 'traditional' date for such an event in Iowa though. 

I just wanted to take a moment here and wish all the riders, volunteers, and organizers of Iowa Wind And Rock a safe, fun, and successful event. I hope all travel associated with the event is safe, and that nothing is left afterward but epic memories and stories that will be told. 

SRAM AXS Rival
SRAM Finally Reveals AXS Rival:

Lots of people knew it was going to happen, but yesterday SRAM finally let everyone know- and see - the new Rival version of its wireless AXS shifting group. You've probably already have seen this blasted around the internet yesterday, so I won't bore you with all the fine details. 

Comments: My first impressions were that this is the BEST looking SRAM road group ever. The shift levers look almost Shimano-like. (Probably not a mistake there) The crank looks a lot less like a department store level bike crankset  than some of their other offerings. Okay, so aesthetically, good. Very good. 

I did get the press release yesterday which was on the day it was released for public consumption. So, I have only had a brief moment or two to browse the 34 page FAQ (!) besides the other marketing hoo-ha that came along with it. I found that the reason the levers look so good is because SRAM deleted the 'contact feature' (I assume pad contact adjustment) and the remote shifter capabilities. This FAQ also stated that no- Force and Red will not have these sleeker, nicer looking levers. There are no plans to do that with Red or Force levers at this time.You Red and Force users are stuck with those ugly, clunky levers for the near future, at least. 

There are also a few other surprises that I came across. Did you know that you have to use 12 speed compatible chain tools and chain checkers with SRAM flat top chains? (Yes- SRAM says don't try any other tools or else!) Also, Eagle and AXS flat top chains? Not cross compatible. 12 speed quick links? One time use only. And don't you ever spray your AXS equipped bike with water to clean it. Says so right in the FAQ. (But of course, people will do this)

It's a lot of reading, but I'll get through it soon. Oh, and if you want this group they say it'll be available this month. Complete set ups are around $1600.00. Good luck getting your hands on a group. My guess is that these will go like hotcakes and be on back order for a long while. Maybe I'm wrong about that, but maybe not......

More soon after I've digested all this techno-babble......
 

That's all for this edition of the FN&V. Have a fantastic weekend.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Recon The Route

This isn't quite ready yet.
 I was passing through downtown Waterloo yesterday and noted that there was a lot of barriers to my commute route which cuts across an intersection underneath the expressway. This was going to present a challenge to me because there looked to be something going on with this formerly forgotten bit of dirt. It had sat looking the way it has for years, but apparently the 'powers that be' have turned their "Giant Burning Eye" of urban beautification upon this forlorn urban feature. 

This could be a situation where I fly the "Fickle Finger of Rebellion" to those Mordorites of Modernization and try to cut across anyway, or I could just, ya know, go a block over, around, and be on my merry way. 

I guess I'll just go around! 

I decided that I should explore my options though, given that this development had provided me a chance to check out some new possibilities. So I first went over to look at the 'really old route' which was the way I had commuted to my old shop job for 17+ years. I have noted that more work had been done over that way, but I hadn't been down to really look at it of late. So, I went the long way around and when I got to the barricades I peered over and saw that yes- indeed things looked closer to finished on the South side. However, I was going to have to check out the North side and that meant another long way around to see that.

On the way, I had to traverse the new roundabout at Fletcher and University. The dimwits!  You can cross going East-West, but North-South? fahgeddaboudit!  Not happening. I guess cyclists were not meant to go North-South in Waterloo, Iowa. Huh! Who knew?! 

Once past that mess, I went around down to the East side, dead end of Falls Avenue and what do you know? Nothing has been done where you cannot see it from the new road. Imagine that. Looks like it'll be quite a while before any cycling can be done through that tunnel. That fancy-pants tunnel that my son, when he saw the image here quipped, "Ya mean that hasn't been graffiti ridden yet?" He's not wrong, you know. It will be as soon as they open this up. Painted up, that is. Plus, they had troubles occasionally with people getting ambushed under the old bridge that I used to go under through there. I wonder how this tunnel will affect things in terms of that. 

Let's say I'm a bit skeptical that this whole deal is a very smart design. 

But when it gets done, I'll be using it for the commute. In the meantime, I'll be going about two blocks more out of my way to work. Longer bike rides! Hooray! (Only slightly sarcastic there.)

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The B.O.G. Series: How To Repair A Flat Tire

  Welcome to the Basics of Gravel Series (B.O.G.)! In this series I will attempt to bring a very foundational knowledge of gravel and back road riding to anyone reading that may be curious or a beginner in riding off-pavement, but not wanting to be mountain biking. There will be a new entry every Wednesday until the series is complete. To see the schedule, click this LINK. Thanks! 

The author fixing a flat tire.

One of the many skills a bicyclist should concentrate on acquiring is how to repair a flat tire. This is a skill which is especially handy for the rural cyclist. To become a 'self-supported' cyclist, one that can maintain their own physical prowess during a ride and be able to overcome minor mechanical setbacks, is a key to being a successful rural cyclist. 

The flat tire repair I am going to cover today will concentrate on the tubed tire type set ups. This is the sort of tire/wheel combination found on most bicycles and the type most beginners will encounter first. Last week I covered what items make up a simple flat repair kit. You should go back and review those items at this link if you missed that or need a refresher

One thing to note here is that you may want to add certain special tools to your particular kit depending upon the bike you are using. Some wheels are attached using various systems that may require special wrenches. You also may want to consider adding something like a sharp awl, a small pair of pliers, or a small knife for removing embedded objects. 

Now I will go trough the steps to properly diagnose and repair a flat tire. 

  • Diagnosis- Part 1: First, the obvious- your tire won't hold air, or it suddenly goes flat while riding. Now the important thing to find out is why did that happen. This is very important because if you don't understand what made your tube fail, your chances at fixing the problem are going to be very low. So, the first thing to do is to visually inspect the tire. Look for foreign objects protruding from the tire. These could include bits of metal, glass, or sharp thorns, so be careful when handling the wheel. You may see a slit where a tire may have been cut. Sometimes the flat will be caused due to a tire casing failure, where the bead of the tire has been separated from the rim. In most of those instances- where the tire has been damaged- repair in the field is probably either impossible, or beyond a beginner's skill. At that point you may need to call for a ride/help. We will assume from this point that the repair is possible in the field. 
You may need to add special tools to your kit to remove your particular wheels.

  • Wheel Removal: This part is something you should practice and be familiar with before you have to do it. First off- you need to understand what attachment system you have on your bicycle. You'll probably be dealing with either a bolt-on, 'quick release', or possibly a through axle. Next, you need to understand whether or not you will need to adjust the brake to allow for wheel removal. Many bikes have an adjustment, or a way to 'release' the brake, to allow for the tire to be passed through the braking mechanism. This is for a rim brake system, if you have disc brakes, this does not apply. So, know your attachment method, understand your brake release mechanism- if applicable- and then, finally, stow away any tool you may need to get the wheel off the bike. In some through axle situations, this may be a 6mm or 5mm hex key. In the case of a bolt-on wheel, you will need a box end wrench to fit the nuts on the axle. (Usually 15mm, but it could be something else- check this carefully) Make sure you stow away the proper tool. Quick release axles don't generally require tools, but do understand what you have and that it may have its own quirks. Finally- A Tip For Removing a Multi-Speed Rear Wheel: Shift the rear derailleur into the fastest selection (smallest cog) to move the rear derailleur the furthest outboard that it can go. This will make wheel removal much easier. NOTE: Internally geared hubs, coaster brake equipped bikes, single speeds, and other unusual set ups may require special techniques and tools for rear wheel removal. See your local bike shop for tips in these cases. 
Pressing inwards with your thumbs in this position will help to dislodge the tire from the rim.

  • Now I'll assume that you know your bike, you understand and have practiced wheel removal, and we're at a point where you actually need to fix a flat or find out why your tire looses air in a very short period of time. So, wheel in hand, take your valve cap off, (if applicable), then use the corner of the tire lever to depress a Schrader valve core, or open the Presta valve and depress the manual core shaft to fully release as much air as possible, if there is any to release. Completely flat already? Then don't worry about that step. Next- Holding the wheel with both hands by the tire, use your thumbs to push the sidewall of the tire away (inwards) from the rim edge. (See image above) Make sure the tire is separated from the rim edge all the way around on both sides. Next- Take a tire lever and pry the tire up and over the edge of the rim. You may need to do this with two or three tire levers, spaced a couple inches apart, before the tire comes off freely. 
Tire levers have a hook which grabs a spoke so you can 'park' one as you apply another to get a tire bead over a rim.

  • NOTE: YOU DO NOT HAVE TO FULLY REMOVE THE TIRE FROM THE RIM. One 'side' of the tire should stay inside the rim and not be pried off. This will speed up repair and help us to determine where the flat happened. Now reach in a gently pull the tube out of the tire casing. Next- Note where the valve stem was in relation to the tire. This is important for the next step. 
It is important to note where your tube's valve is in relation to the tire before you remove the tube.

  • Diagnosis- Part 2: This is the next critical step in completing a successful flat repair. With the tube out, (try to keep the tube oriented in the way it came out of the tire for best results here), use a portable pump (frame or mini-pump), to air up the tube. In cases where there is a big hole in the tube, the tube won't hold air at all, and you may have to really pay attention to where that big hole is to find it, but you will find it. If the hole/puncture is smaller, and the tube airs up seemingly well, you may hear a hiss, in which case your search will become easy. But you may not hear that. In this case I over-inflate the tube to a ridiculous size, then I pass the tube, rotating it in my hands slowly, by my ear. When I feel airflow or hear a hiss, I then have found the problem with the tube. 
Inflating the tube to a cartoonish size will help you find the leak in some cases.

  • Next- Orient the tube valve stem to the point noted earlier on your tire. Then note where you found the problem with the tube. Let's use the valve stem as a '12 o'clock' position and then look where we heard the hiss, or saw the hole in the tube and see at which 'clock position' it was on the tire by holding the tube against the tire with the valve stem aligned with the valve hole on the rim. Now you have a smaller area to look at inside the tire for a foreign object and you will not have to search the entire tire casing for that possible problem. If you don't use the clocking procedure, you'll be left with no other option than to search the entire inner tire casing for the possibility of an embedded foreign object.  
 
Holding up the valve in the '12 o'clock position and aligned as it came off the wheel allows for quicker detection of embedded objects in a tire.

  • NOTE: If the hole in the tube faces the tire/rim interface, you may have just pinched the tube and tire down on the rim and caused a 'pinch flat'. Many times you'll note two holes directly across from each other. If this is the case, you may be able to skip the next step. If the air is rushing out of a hole facing the inner rim well, you may have a rim strip problem. This may not be repairable in the field. When spoke holes are revealed and can rub against the tube, that causes a flat eventually. If possible, re-orient the strip correctly and install a new tube. In some cases tubes fail at the valve stem. Just replace it then.  Next- When looking for possible embedded bits in a tire casing, it helps to use a rag, or cloth and to sweep the inside of the tire with that. This rag will snag on anything inside the tire casing that is sharp and sticking into your tire. This will keep you from cutting your fingers and makes short work of finding small bits that could otherwise escape detection. Use a small hex key, sharp tool,  or a small pliers to pull out or push out anything you find. If you don't find anything, use you eyes to visually inspect the area. If you see the hole, or small cut, and cannot detect any foreign objects, you should be okay to install a new tube. 
When replacing a tube it is best to have enough air in it to give it some shape.

  • Installing A New Tube: Now assuming we have gotten the proper diagnosis and have gotten any foreign objects out of the tire, (if any were detected), we can now replace the tube. You could patch a tube in the field, but unless you enjoy sitting around in the middle of nowhere, it is better to just do that later and replace the tube for the time being. The first thing to do is to make sure you add a little bit of air into the tube- just enough to give it shape- not enough to stretch the rubber at all. Never put a tube in as it comes out of the box. That's a recipe for a pinch flat. First, feed the valve stem through the valve hole in the rim. Then carefully stuff the tube up into the tire, being careful to place the tube in the rim well and not in a position where it will get pinched against the outside of the rim and the tire as we start to place the tire bead over the rim edge and back where it belongs. Next: Start pushing the tire bead up and over the rim edge while keeping an eye out for the tube, so it doesn't get pinched. The last three to four inches of the tire bead will be the toughest to get over. At this point you may gain an advantage by doing two things. First, let a little bit of air out of the tube. Then, make sure the bit of tire you already have pushed over is as far into the middle of the rim as you can manage it without pinching the tube. This may be all you need, but if things are still not budging, I find that instead of pushing up on the tire bead with my thumbs, a rolling motion, using my hands and pushing the entire casing over sideways in the direction I want the bead to go, works well. 
  • Finishing Touches: Now that you have the bead in where it belongs, it is time to air up that tube. I like to introduce a small amount of air, maybe up to 20psi, and then stop and inspect how things are going. At this point you have enough air in the tube that you can see if things are wrong before the tube blows up. Things like a bead starting to pop off one side, or if your tire seems to be stuck down lower into the rim at one spot. Here you can manage to manipulate the tire a bit by pushing and pulling as necessary, or start over by deflating the tube and making corrections as necessary. If you reach this point and all looks good, then go for it and air it all the way up to pressure. If you have a Presta Valve, don't forget to manually close it. Replace the wheel, reattach brakes, if necessary, and spin the wheel to make sure, one last time, that everything looks good, and you are off......almost!

Now is the time to make one final sweep of your repair area. Got any litter to carry out? Definitely pick up after yourself, and of course, you are taking that old tube with you! Don't you dare leave THAT out there! Check to make sure you grabbed all your tools, and then make one last check to make sure you zip your bag shut which you are packing everything in. (Don't laugh! I and others have been bitten by forgetting that one!) 

I recommend doing mock flat tire repairs at home to familiarize yourself with the procedure. The more comfortable you are with the tools, concepts, and processes, the more chances for success you'll have when you really need to do the job out in the Styx. Plus, practicing may bring questions to the fore which you can get answered before things are at a critical state. 

Learning flat tire repair is liberating and empowering. Anyone that rides a bike can probably master the techniques necessary to do this task. With careful observation, patience, and with the correct tools and procedures? Yes, you could be a self-sufficient cyclist. 

Next week: How To Lubricate Your Chain

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Found It!

"Crossroads On The Cedar" by Clarence W. Baldwin.
 Quite some time ago now my friend, Tony, lent me a book he had which was one part history of the Cedar Valley, one part geography, one part geology, and one part about how humnas traversed this area from antiquity up until the 20th Century. 

I found its contents fascinating, because I live here, but also because I have become intimately familiar with the land in and around Black Hawk County. I knew vague tidbits and hints of the past, but this book unlocked the secrets of this area and made my eyes see why things have developed as they have over the past 200 years in this area. 

As I say, Tony's book was a loan, so I read it once, scanned some maps in it, and gave it back to him. I then started looking for a copy, but then one thing led to another, and well that idea got driven clean out of my head. That is, until I started digging around again recently concerning the plat maps of 1910 for Black Hawk County, and ran across more history of the area. 

There was a reference in one story about a really well researched book concerning the old trails in Black Hawk County and that the author's name was Clarence W. Baldwin. A little sleuthing revealed that this was a reference to the very same book Tony lent me. I found a single copy on Amazon, ironically a retired copy from the Waterloo Public Library, and bought it. It's a little beat up, and the maps are mostly missing, (fortunately I scanned Tony's copy), but I was stoked to get my hands on this resource over the weekend. 

It's got a lot of great information regarding where the old Native American trails ran, why they ran that way, and how those trails influenced immigration to this area. It tells the tale of where these trails were likely to have informed current highways, and why many faded away due to farmers not liking trespassing wanderers who were seeking ways to the West. It tells the tale of Waterloo and Cedar Falls early days and now I kind of know why the streets ran parallel to the river instead of along the compass points in the original plat. (This really screwed up subsequent additions and is partly why Waterloo is a nightmare to navigate for new folks.)   

So, between this and the 1910 Atlas of Black Hawk County I have found online I will be having a bit more interesting rides than I used to. Again, like I stated on Friday, I encourage anyone that rides in a rural area to dig into their local history. It is enriching, and enlightening, and you will have a treasure to pass on to future generations.

Monday, April 12, 2021

In Case You Forgot- It's Still Spring!

Got those 650B tires set up over the weekend.
 Remember when I was telling you it was too dry and that I had been riding in shirt-sleeves, and that it was in the 70's? Well, about that....... nature has a way of balancing out, and well, it is still Spring! We got the memo this past week.

Cold winds, rain, and grey skies dominated the latter part of the week and over the weekend? pssssshaawww...

Let's just say that if this had been a Trans Iowa weekend it would have been a classic weekend of weather for it. I wasn't going to go out and battle 25-30mph winds in air that was often so wet that it seemed like we were in a mist-machine of some evil Summer hating villain. Besides, I was going to err on the side of caution in terms of health.

You see, in case you missed the mention last week, I got my second shot of the Pfizer vaccine last week and the side effects were being felt all the way into the weekend to a degree. I just wasn't quite 100%, and the weather we had demands that you be 100%. Because that kind of weather will drag you down, in terms of health, and if you are already weakened? Not good.....So, I played it safe and just decided to set up the tires and risk a bit of a test loop around town here to make sure the 650B's were settled in correctly.  

Since I am on a single speed with these tires, you notice the diameter difference between 650B and 700c a bit more acutely. Using smaller diameter wheels lowers you gear ratio a tad bit. I was definitely feeling that on the test ride. But it isn't terrible. I could maybe get back to where I want to be with 700c by dropping a tooth in the rear, but I'll leave it for now. I've got plans......

More on the wheels and tires soon.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Trans Iowa Stories: It's About The People; Part 2

 "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!

In this special edition of Trans Iowa Stories I wanted to pause again to take a look at the folks who became an integral part of the event from T.I.v8- T.I. v11. Some are volunteers and some are people who rode in the event during those years. 

Some of the characters of Trans Iowa carry over from my "Part 1" of this mini-series within the Trans Iowa stories. You can click that link to go back an re-read that if you'd like. 

From L-R: Robert Fry, Jeremy Fry, Cornbread, Jason Boucher- T.I.v9 CP#2
I need to stop in this series for a bit to acknowledge the people integral to the event from the period of Trans Iowa v8- v11. I found this previously used image from v9 that has three folks I need to acknowledge and that were very important to having Trans Iowa at all, in one case here, and definitely in having the event run as well as it did for the last half of Trans Iowa's run. 

So as you may have picked up on by reading previous entries, Jeremy Fry became my right hand man in terms of putting on Trans Iowa. We did recon together, bounced ideas off each other, came up with ideas for courses together at times, and Jeremy's math talents were leaned upon heavily by me. Cue mileages and descriptors were often only as good as they were due to the diligence of Jeremy Fry. 

As if that wasn't enough, Jeremy often was a checkpoint volunteer, most often at checkpoint #2, and so many riders got to know him a bit from seeing him throughout the years. I also should mention that Jeremy participated in four versions of the event- v5, v6, v7, and v14., finishing two them. 

My favorite things about Jeremy are his cutting, dry sense of humor and his dogged determination to help make Trans Iowa as good as it could be. Sometimes I think Jeremy was more adamant about that than even I was! 

Another Fry, Robert Fry, a native of the U.K., was another figure in this time period of note. Robert was a distinctive individual in that he had toed the line at the very first Trans Iowa and had been around to see the beginnings of things since he is a resident of Waterloo and an avid cyclist who knew Jeff Kerkove. Robert was also heavily involved in randonnuering, so things like cue sheets, time cut -offs, and long distances were ideas not foreign to Robert. Besides riding in the first Trans Iowa, he rode in v8 and in v10, posting finishes in both events. 

Robert also was a huge help in volunteering at checkpoint 2, with Jeremy Fry, and Robert played off of that by declaring he and Jeremy as the "Brothers Fry", although they are not related. One of the more notable things about having Robert help out during this period was that during these years we had a few fellows come over from the U.K. to ride Trans Iowa. Robert, being an ex-pat U.K. fellow, was their biggest champion. 

This Jason Boucher shot of rider Paul Errington from the UK. at T.I.v9 ended up becoming an iconic Salsa Cycles catalog image.

Finally from the image above we have Jason Boucher, who was responsible for the email after T.I. v3 which influenced me to keep Trans Iowa going. I seriously doubt I would have continued on without his influence then. Jason also was connected to Salsa Cycles and took a lot of inspiration and information from Trans Iowa which informed gravel product for years to come. He was very influential in getting other Salsa/QBP related employees into Trans Iowa by way of talking up the event, and so we would not have had champions like Joe Meiser, or John Gorilla, more than likely, had we not had Jason Boucher in Trans Iowa's corner. 

Jason's passion is photography, and he brought his formidable talents to bear at Trans Iowa on a few occasions which not only was an honor for me, but also enhanced our event experiences and obviously preserved a lot of important memories from over the years. Not only that, but the story of Trans Iowa was told to far more people than it otherwise would have been because of the influence of Jason.

Greg Gleason pulls a line of riders up a hill at T.I.v10 Image by Wally Kilburg

Greg Gleason was a rookie rider at Trans Iowa v10 who no one knew anything about. After the finish, everyone there wanted to know who the heck this guy was that just won Trans Iowa. Well, we all found out in the years that passed since that Trans Iowa who Greg was. Just a very talented, fast, durable cyclist that animated every Trans Iowa after that until the end. That's all.

Greg was always one of my favorite riders at Trans Iowa. Always affable, kind, and supportive of myself and Trans Iowa, Greg became an ambassador of gravel riding there for a hot minute after he floored us all at T.I.v10. I'll have more to say about Greg in my last part of this mini-series. 

Another rider that started showing up around this time was Sarah Cooper. She had been involved in ultra-distance cycling and gravel riding was a fairly new thing for her. Yet she persevered and became a winner of the Womans Open class twice in her four attempts. She also figures heavily as an influencer of the event behind the scenes and in another way which I will get around to in my last post in the mini-series. 

Monica Sattler (L) finishing T.I.v9 with Paul LaCava

Monica Sattler who was from Germany, also was a pretty impressive rider from this period. She only rode in Trans Iowa one time, but she not only finished, but she won the Woman's Open! That's impressive! She then took her experiences from Trans Iowa and a few other gravel events and wrote an inspirational book which featured a bit from her Trans Iowa ride. Again, an ambassador for the event, spreading the word far and wide which we would never had the pleasure of having without her one ride in the T.I.v9.

Not only that, but I recall the banter we shared at the finish line that morning as being really enjoyable. I don't think I've had an exchange like we had with anyone else at any Trans Iowa. 

Jana Vavre is one of the most notable figures in Trans Iowa history. She became the first woman to ever finish a Trans Iowa at T.I.v7 and the first woman to repeat as a finisher when she came in 2nd in the Open Woman's class, 6th over all, at Trans Iowa v9. Jana's breaking of that barrier in v7 made it known that it was a possibility for other women to finish Trans Iowa. It was obvious that after her finish that more women started trying Trans Iowa, and I credit her valiant effort in v7 for this. By repeating as a finisher Jana only cemented this fact even further. Jana is a very influential, and underappreciated woman in the overall gravel scene in my opinion. She also figures into my last post in this mini-series. 

From the sponsor side we had a couple of what I would call "Super-Supporters" of Trans Iowa. One was a bit more behind the scenes, but Josh Lederman, who also rode in Trans Iowa, was my contact for sponsorship through Ledermann Bail Bonds. This sponsorship kept Trans Iowa going by way of financial support during times when I did not have the funds to do a lot of the things I wanted to do to enhance the experiences of those who came. Things like the 10th anniversary t-shirts, getting my truck repaired one year, and so on. Josh, and Ledermann Bail Bonds were vital to how Trans Iowa came out for several years there during this time period. 

The other "Super-Supporter" of Trans Iowa was Will Ritchie, then with WTB. It was Will's passion for Trans Iowa and for how I did things which caused him to become a huge advocate for Trans Iowa, and gravel riding in general, during that time. In fact, it could be said that without Will's insistence that WTB get a hold of this gravel grinding thing, and support Trans Iowa, a few things may never have happened. I'll have a lot more to share about Will and WTB in my last post in this series. 

Just as I have started this post with talk of volunteers, I am going to end it with volunteers. One of the biggest super-fans of Trans Iowa was the group known as the Slender Fungus. I counted on them heavily during these latter years of Trans Iowa for their unwavering support. Ari Andonopoulous, Mike Baggio, Arik Gum, and T.J. were indispensable and an integral part of various bits behind the scenes and as volunteers. 

Next; A Moment Of Reflection

Saturday, April 10, 2021

To "B" Again

I picked up a pair of 650B Gravel Kings to try out.
 The gravel bike scene has seen an integration of what was competing wheel sizes in the mountain bike realm. 700c based rubber and 584 ISO based rubber, or more commonly known as 700 vs 650B. In mountain biking, this is known as 29" vs 27.5. But whatever you want to call it, in the gravel scene, both wheel sizes coexist seemingly without much issue at all.

Bikes often will accept either wheel size and work out fine. I first found this out when I saw a Raleigh Tamland at the DK200 and it had the then new 650B WTB Horizon tires. I went home and pulled off the same thing with mine and it was just fine. Different, but fine. Then it was my first Standard Rando which I ran the 650B wheels and tires on. But since then I haven't run the wheel size much.

Occasionally I would get a chance to review a tire or some wheels in 650B, and then I'd pull out the Raleigh, or in later years, the Noble Bikes GX5. But I didn't use the wheel size in a regular way for a while. Not that I don't have wheels and tires for it, I do. But I just never really stuck with that wheel size. 

Lately I've been looking for something to spark a renewal of interest in my 650B set up. I have a new Standard Rando, the v2, and I did try the 650B wheels and tires I have now in there, but I wanted a better tire. Well, that tire has come along and I am excited to get this set up on the bike and get rolling. It also fits into another plan I have to swap some wheels around in the fleet. 

So, first I'll get the 650B set up going as these new tires are going to get reviewed for RidingGravel.com. Then when I get some time to mess with the rest of this plan I will swap around a couple of other wheel sets and tires as well on my other bikes. Once everything gets settled in, I'll be trotting out the changes here and letting you know why I did what I'm going to do. 

Stay tuned............

Friday, April 09, 2021

Friday News And Views

Can't ride it if you can't get the parts.
 Impending Disaster For RAGBRAI Riders?

The other day it dawned on me how a typical season with RAGBRAI goes down. Generally speaking, traffic in the repair department starts an uptick in June, with a final crescendo of craziness just before RAGBRAI, which is always the the last full week of July. Okay......so what? 

Well, if history proves to be a reliable record, and I've been wrenching for nigh unto 22 years now during RAGBRAI years, these bikes we're about to see haven't been looked at, for the most part, for at least a year, and now since last year's pandemic-cancelled ride, it may be two years. Not to say that these bikes haven't been ridden at all- they just may have not seen a repair shop.  Now imagine the following.....

June rolls around, and as we all know, parts and new bicycles are in VERY short supply. Ordering in stuff? Not going to happen. Cassettes, chains, tubes, tires, and even accessory items like cell phone holders, computers, and racks are NOT going to be available readily, if at all!

So, stop and consider this if you, or anyone you know, is going on RAGBRAI this Summer, because what you expect will be very different from reality when you visit your local bike shop. My advice? get your bikes in ASAP and hope that what you need can be had before RAGBRAI. Be patient. It may take weeks to get stuff, and maybe you'll have to 'make-do' with the best situation a bike shop can come up with. But a warning: If you wait until June-something to get your bike ready for RAGBRAI you may be very disappointed. 

Don't say I didn't warn you.   

No Bikes For You!

Scuttlebutt and reports from industry insiders are pointing to the fact that 2021 bikes will be very difficult to impossible to get. It's looking more and more like 2022 will be when new bike supplies start to normalize. There's even some saying it won't happen until 2023! 

What seems to be occurring is that smaller, "second tier" brands are announcing that they will not have 2021 bikes at all, or anymore. I know Kona, Jamis, and (rumored) Felt are in this situation. It seems that the big four companies, (Trek, Specialized, Giant, and Cannondale), may have 'muscled out' the smaller brands for production of what limited amount of bikes that could be made for 2021. I, (nor anyone) knows that for certain, but by what is coming out, that seems like a plausible situation. 

Whatever the causes, it has become quite apparent that new bikes for 2021 are rare, and in some cases, non-existent, so - once again- same song, second verse. A so-called 'bike-boom' goes pfffffffftttttttt! as the momentum that was created by the pandemic gets slowly crushed by the lack of supply to meet demand. By the time 2022 bikes hit, which may be in the dead of Winter during the 'off-season', will consumer demand still be there? Will economic forces come to bear that make buying recreational stuff not as attractive? 

We will all find out, but for now, it seems that empty racks, more often than not, will be the norm in bike shops across the nation this Summer. 

A page from the "Black Hawk Co. Atlas" published 1910
Learning History:

As some of you longtime readers may have guessed, I am interested in history, and in particular, local history. Poking around on the innergoogles, I have come across a few choice tidbits of source material which has piqued my interest. One of those is a site which has a 1910 atlas of Black Hawk County scanned for all to see. 

The atlas not only has maps, but a written historical account of the county's settling and culture. (Of course, this from a Western man's point of view) So, I have found a few interesting things which have made my rides out in the country a bit more fun from a historical standpoint. 

One being a story, written in the first person, by a pioneer who settled on Miller Creek Southeast of Waterloo. This person claims, at the time he settled there, which was in 1850, no one lived between his place and Vinton, Iowa, a distance of approximately 22 miles or so. The writer tells of having to go to Cedar Rapids during the Winter, a trip undertaken on foot (!!!), and that due to the severity of the Winter, they could not return home until Spring broke. When the weather did turn, this person walked, being forced to ford and creeks, streams, or run-offs that were encountered. (Remember, in 1850 there were no bridges in this part of Iowa.) At one point, near where LaPorte City is now, the writer had to cross a creek swollen with Spring run-off, forcing him to swim in his clothes. After reaching the further shore, he was hit by North winds cold enough to freeze his clothes, but having only six more miles to go to reach home, he made it. 

And we think we have it rough. 

There was more, but the other anecdote I found fascinating was the description of the land and how that determined where settlers chose to take land. At first, the only trees were found along the bigger rivers and major streams in this part of the state. Wood was a precious commodity, seeing as how shelters were made from it, not to mention fence posts and more. This was such an overbearing point that the earliest settlers figured that the prairies would never be settled! Obviously, that didn't last long as by the 1860's land for claiming by white settlers was getting very scarce in the county. Railroads helped accelerate the growth. The first line reached Waterloo in 1860. 

There is also some information regarding interactions with the Native Americans between the white settlers, and regarding interactions between tribes, which was sometimes acrimonious. What is mainly apparent is that the "Turkey Foot" area, the conjoining of the Shell Rock, Cedar, and the West Fork of the Cedar, was a huge draw for tribes due to its rich and diverse wildlife hunting opportunities. Tribes often held council in this area, the last time being in 1858. There is more to it all, I am sure, but it is interesting reading.

So, anyway, the maps are fun since they show all the locations of rural churches, cemeteries, and rural school house locations. Obviously, there are few rural school houses left, but I will have to make notes for future rides to see the locations of those and also to see where any old churches may have stood. The page from the atlas I chose to show here shows all of Black Hawk County and the rural routes are marked in red. Heck, I could even ride the old rural routes for fun! I encourage you to research your own areas and see what, if anything you can learn. I think it brings a bit of perspective to find out the what, why, and how when it comes to your area's past. 

Okay, that's a wrap for this week. Keep on riding and smiling.....

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Jersey Time: Part 2

Craig Schmidt, one of the Gravel Worlds promoters, holding up the first Gravel Worlds jersey.
 Last February I posted about my ordering a new Pirate Cycling League jersey. Well, actually.....I got two designs that they offered. Those just came in to Guitar Ted Productions headquarters, so I thought I might just go ahead and show off all the PCL jerseys I have collected throughout the years. 

The first one I ever got wasn't really just a PCL jersey. No.....it was a Gravel Worlds jersey. No....I did not earn it, so no one has ever seen me wear this thing, and no one ever will. I was just honored by Corey "Cornbread" Godfrey, one of the promoters, by this gift of a GW jersey. Since the PCL puts on the event, it was my first in the collection. You can see an example in the image here to the left. 

Okay, then I am pretty sure the next one I got was this older design with a mostly black background with a red and white design all over it. I have a short sleeved version and a long sleeved thermal version of that jersey. I have to be honest and say that out of all the ones I have, this one is my least favorite design, but it isn't that I don't like it. I do like it, but subsequent designs out of the PCL have been better, in my opinion. After that one I have lost track of which design came before which. So, I'm just going to wing it and throw them out there for your consideration. 

The next one here is a jersey I had to have because it hearkened back to an original PCL jersey from about 2010. It was an army green design with the traditional PCL skull and chain logo. I saw it on Troy Krause originally when he wore the OG design at Trans Iowa v7. When the PCL did a tribute jersey to that one, I had to get it! 

I'm pretty sure this might be the first PCL jersey offered to the 'outsiders' of the PCL

This design was inspired by an earlier one available mostly only to PCL racers.

Again, I cannot remember when I got each of these, or if I got two designs in the same year, or what. So, these are not in any sort of 'order'. Next up is maybe my favorite PCL jersey of all, the red version, which also was done in black. I happen to have both. But for some reason I think the black and red ones were different years. I say that because I have two red ones, and I cannot imagine myself popping for two red ones and a black one. 

I'm getting older. I don't remember everything!

Perhaps my favorite in my PCL collection are the two red PCL jerseys.

This is the black version of the red one above.

The PCL's Gravel Worlds celebrated ten years of gravelly goodness recently, and to honor that, they had a special ten year anniversary jersey made. Well, you know I had to get that one! NOTE: The guard on the sword handles are drop bar shift levers!

Here I am modeling the ten year anniversary Gravel Worlds jersey.
This season's two choices in designs were both so good I could not decide which one to get, so I just got both! I like the red one because of the pattern and the colors they chose, but orange! Yeah, it was going to be way too hard to decide between the two for me. Here they are....

The subtle fade in the red/black pattern was a surprise that I liked.

The orange one is stunning, in my opinion.

You can definitely see a theme with the PCL jerseys and I like that they keep a certain continuity to their yearly offerings. That said, they really do a nice job choosing themes and colors that make each one stand out and I don't seem to be getting bored with what they come out with! 

Also, I certainly do not have every year's designs. I did skip a few years here and there over time and some years had alternate designs I did not choose to acquire. There are a couple I wouldn't mind having, but hey! It isn't like I am lacking for PCL jerseys! 

You may wonder why I get these in the first place. Isn't this a club, or a team that I am not affiliated with? Fair question. So, here's my answer.....

Way back in about 2006, a bunch of Lincoln, Nebraska cyclists came to the second Trans Iowa and became big fans and supporters of the event. Of course, me being new to all of this gravel/endurance stuff, I didn't know anyone. I only found out later that this was a core bunch of the PCL that had come to support what I was doing. In fact, they became inspired to do something for a gravel event themselves, and when I heard about it, I was compelled to reciprocate. It didn't hurt that I was becoming friends with these people too. 

So, when the PCL put out a design for a jersey that anybody could get, I jumped at the chance. Over time, they have created a sort of "PCL diaspora". Adopted pirates of the gravel seas who, like them, just like to ride bikes on gravel. Pretty simple, really. And so I consider myself one of them as I ride displaying 'the colors' and I try to always "Ride Right" and not be a dick to others, because I am pretty sure those are the only bylaws of the PCL. I can dig it. So, I am all-in with that. 

Hope you enjoyed seeing my collection. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

The B.O.G. Series: What Accessories You Should Consider

Repair tools are one accessory item you should consider.

 Welcome to the Basics of Gravel Series (B.O.G.)! In this series I will attempt to bring a very foundational knowledge of gravel and back road riding to anyone reading that may be curious or a beginner in riding off-pavement, but not wanting to be mountain biking. There will be a new entry every Wednesday until the series is complete. To see the schedule, click this LINK. Thanks! 

In today's article I want to touch upon a few things that you may want to have along for the ride on gravel, or in a rural area. There will be a lot of my regular readers that will have about twenty things to add to this list, but remember: This is geared toward the beginner/rookie to gravel. I'm keeping this very simple, very 'low-barrier', and as such, let's consider this a 'starter kit' that in time could be added to. So, these are bare essentials, to my way of thinking. 

So, breaking this down I have three simple categories: Food and Drink, Repair, and Fun/Useful Items. (Readers may quibble about my category names. Fine! Call it whatever you'd like. These names are functional) Okay, so as I see things, you need a way to be fueled, which we discussed previously, but you also need a way to carry the stuff. Let's take a look at that first. 

Example of a water bottle cage- a Velocity Bottle Trap in this instance.

Water is essential and the most traditional way to carry it is in a cycling style water bottle and a 'cage' to hold that bottle with. Your bicycle probably has one, hopefully two, and perhaps more water bottle bosses for this. If you have no mounts don't sweat it. You still have options. There are strap-on bottle cages from a couple of sources. But you also could go with a hydration pack, which could also carry other things as well, depending on what you get. 

Food is one of those 'other things' you could carry with a hydration pack, or you can go with a 'saddle bag' like this, or a top-tube mounted 'bento' style bag like this. Or, hey! Get both, and you'll have even more versatility. (And room for repair items!) The good thing about a decent set of bags is that you can move them from bike to bike, so they are something you can get years of use out of. 

Speaking of repair- You should invest in the tools to do your own flat tire repairs. There are complete "flat tire repair kits" available for bicycles, but you can piece one together as well. I am assuming tubed tires here, which is what most beginners will have. Okay? So, here's the short list of things to consider for your flat repair kit:

  1. Tire levers, like these
  2. A small pump, like this, or this, or this. Or you can do a CO2 type system, like this, but that is less environmentally friendly, so keep that in mind. 
  3. A rag to find foreign object with. 
  4. A spare tube, of course, in the size you require. 
  5. An air gauge, a pair of tweezers and a Sharpie (These are optional)

I'll explain #'s 3-5 next week, and how to use all of this kit. 

Additionally a well prepared cyclist will also carry some sort of multi-tool. There are about a million different kinds. A good, solid, simple one is good to get you started. Like this. You don't have to have a multi-tool, but it is going to end up in your bag if you keep at this at some point. Gravel and back road riding has a way of loosening up things you want tight. Like water bottle cages, so it is nice to be able to take care of that when necessary. 

I've used these locks for security and liked them.
Fun/Useful Things: Now there are some other things which can make your ride time a bit more enjoyable. many of these things cyclists will end up getting anyway, but keep in mind, you don't have to buy any of the following to ride on gravel. You just may want to add these items to make your riding more enjoyable and versatile. 

One thing a lot of folks like are cycling 'computers', which, when I think about that name, it is rather funny that we call these things 'computers'. Anyway, they can tell you how fast you are going, how fast you went at maximum, they can tell time, distances, and more. You can spend a little or a lot here. Basic computers are sub-50 bucks. Top-o-the-line Garmin GPS units can be hundreds of dollars. 

Cell phone holders are another product a lot of cyclists want, but be very careful here as gravel and back road riding can jar phones from many mounts meant for pavement riding. Make sure you are getting something that is very secure, or......just toss the phone in a bag. You could do without the distractions anyway, right? Just a thought.......

If you live in a wetter area, clip-on fenders or full-fenders are a great way to make it so you can keep riding without getting a 'skunk stripe', (the wet stripe up your backside from riding through a wet puddle or on a wet roadway)

A security system of some sort can be useful. If you have to stop at a convenience store, as an example, you may want to lock up your ride while you are inside. There are a ton of security locks out there, but I've used these before and they are easy to carry and use. It isn't the only option, so explore at your leisure.

I could go on, but those are some things that I feel are essentials. 

Next week: How To Repair A Flat Tire

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Back At Full Throttle

Next in Life Time Fitness' attempt at world gravel domination.
While many of us understand that things are beginning to look up in terms of the pandemic, some are running out there like it's over. The very news of the distribution of the vaccine may be at the root of it. (I got my second shot yesterday, by the way) One example of this could be seen by the slew of news and promotions coming on now concerning races and events. Apparently, we're done listening to experts and the 'race back to normal' is on full throttle, by this measure. Maybe it'll all be alright, maybe it will not be quite so great. Color me skeptical and perhaps overly-cautious.

You may have some strongly held opinions and beliefs concerning that, but it doesn't matter. Economics and people's desires to 'do the stuff' have been bottled up for too long and now the genie (the hope placed in the vaccine's help) is out of the bottle. There is no putting it back in, apparently. And in that vein, concerning gravel based events, an explosion of new events along with the traditional dates being announced have appeared as if from a fog to try to gain our attention. 

One of the big movers and shakers, pre-pandemic, was Life Time Fitness, who had been rumored to have a goal of six major gravel events spread across the calendar year. They started out by buying the DK200, which due to some turmoil ended up becoming the new event called the Unbound Gravel, which will run for the first time this June. Then they also had planned on another new event dubbed the Big Sugar NWA, to be held in Arkansas late in October. Life Time also acquired the Tushar in the Crushar, a July event. Now they have just announced a new event which they plan on having this year in Trinidad, Colorado, dubbed "The'Rad". 

Another announcement was made recently concerning the "Jingle Cross" gravel event, which started out as a ride, but now will become a full-on competitive event.  Now dubbed the Jingle Cross Gravel GX, it will happen on Saturday October 16th. Which is right in the heart of corn harvesting season. Hmm..... Hopefully that won't tic off the farming community! 

I also know of several smaller gravel events kicking off for the first time in 2021, like a new series I heard about in Washington, and a revival of a series in Oregon. So, there is a lot of new gravel activity happening out there. I suspect that there is a lot more I am not hearing about as well. 

Comments: "Corporate Gravel®" will be a big deal going forward. Curated event experiences will be packaged and sold as "adventure" for the masses which will all be scrambling to get out and do things now and going forward. Only a rise in COVID cases would stop this in its tracks, or perhaps rising travel costs, which we are starting to see as well. 

I like to see the smaller, local flavor events with a more 'homemade' atmosphere myself. Not having the rider's every need catered to allows for unique experiences, which cannot happen if more things are 'controlled'. Also, I'm not a huge fan of pre-packaged anything, so whatever these 'big time' events have in store doesn't really speak to me personally. So, I have a bit of a bias to overcome there. I admit that. But live and let live..... 

I will always call out crazy marketing claims though. And some of these bigger events have done some ridiculous marketing in the past. Some claiming to be "World Class events" before they had ever run the event a single time. It used to be that a person, or an event, had to earn that kind of respect. Now they claim it before they even run the event, or have only one or two runnings under their belt. I don't know about you, but that raises some red flags for me.