Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Tool Roll Wars: An Introduction

The SILCA Asymmetrico tool roll.
 I mentioned the tool roll thing a while back in a recent "FN&V" post and this post will serve as the next update. Basically, I have three tool rolls to look at now. I know......For a guy that said he wasn't into tool rolls to have three now is pretty ironic. But, one thing led to another and here I am! For a quick recap then.....

The KOM Cycling Tool Roll came in first and when I Instagrammed it, a commenter said it was a 'rip-off' of the SILCA Asymmetrico tool roll. So, I figured, let's just see about that, shall we? I ordered one up. Now two things in comparison are fine, but - well, three is better! So, I thought about it and came across a tool roll from a completely different viewpoint. This third one is from a mountain biker's perspective and it shows. The third tool roll is the Burrito Pack from Topeak.

I've got all three packed and have used them all on rides now. I want to get some more miles in on gravel, but I already have some pretty strong opinions on all three already. And for the record, if the KOM Cycling tool roll is a 'rip-off', it is a better version than the one they supposedly ripped off the design from. Now, do I really think the KOM one is a so-called 'rip-off'? No, I do not. Similar? yes, but if you are ripping off a design, that means to me that you are copying it as closely as possible and selling it for a LOT less money. 

The KOM Cycling Saddle Tool Roll.
While the KOM  Saddle Tool Roll is about 15 bucks cheaper than the SILCA one, I find that to be about par for the course with SILCA's pricing which is usually at the premium end of the range for anything they sell. For instance, when you compare the KOM Saddle Tool Roll with the Topeak Burrito Pack, they are the same price, or within about a dollar of each other, depending where you look. So, on price, there is no real disparity here. 

Design-wise, the similarity between the SILCA and KOM seems very close, but upon closer inspection, you would see that the KOM's "ATOP" dial works very differently, has a much longer string length, and has a bit better clasp/hook at the end than SILCA's tool roll. Plus, how the two carry a cargo is not even close. Rip-off? I think not. In fact, the KOM Saddle Tool Roll is a better product. But I'll show why that is in my reviews on RidingGravel.com when I get those written. (Hey! I gotta save something for the other site!)

The Topeak Burrito Pack.
The Topeak Burrito Pack actually is a better design in many respects than either of the other two. Being that the Topeak tool roll is designed with MTB in mind, it is slightly larger, and therefore can swallow a tube, (or two!), that is 'gravel tire sized' better than the roadie inspired tool rolls it is up against here. It also has a couple of details which make it more secure, and that is a really big deal when you are relying on that bag to not only stay on the bike, but retain its contents in high-vibration situations like gravel roads or on rough back roads. 

There is also the fact that you can attach the Burrito Pack off a top tube, so it is not relegated to just under the saddle. While the Burrito Pack does not have a fancy-pants rotary loop closure, it is simpler, and you know.....Velcro works well. So, let's say you have a Velcro failure due to wear. Well, you can sew another patch of it on there. A rotary loop closure dial fails and......what? Probably goes in the bin at that point. And those dials do fail. 

So, that's where I am at with the "Tool Roll Wars" deal now. I'll be writing up separate little reviews on these for RidingGravel.com, but I'll be back here at some point with some commentary as well. 

As always- The Standard Disclaimer applies here.

Tuesday, August 03, 2021

Here We Go! Gravel Worlds Prep On The MCD

Gotta Know Where To Go!
Okay, I had something cleared up this past weekend which was necessary to know what I was going to be doing at the upcoming Gravel Worlds event in Lincoln, Nebraska. I was going either way, it was just a question of for what purpose. That's all I'm a'gunna say 'bout that. I just mention this because I wasn't going to post about Gravel Worlds prep until I had that hurdle cleared. Now that my purpose is clear, I am going to discuss my rig here for my attempt at finishing this 150 mile beast of a ride. 

First off, you probably inferred by my "Water Carriers" posts that something was up, and this is it. Gravel Worlds! I needed to have the ability to carry enough fluids to get from place to place on the route and not be in a deficit. Well, as you know, that has been addressed. 

So, here we have the 'rest of the story', so to speak. First up is navigation. I already showed off my home made cue sheet holder, and the next order of business from a navigational point of view was to get some way to count down the miles so I could follow cue sheets. Now, yes- Gravel Worlds has downloadable GPS navigation for their courses. But the thing is- I do not own a GPS unit that allows me to follow a course. My Lezyne computer is kind of a dinosaur in that you have to have your phone linked up to it to be able to use turn-by-turn navigation, which I always thought was bogus. So, I never bothered to ever try it out. Heck, sometimes I leave my phone at home. I like it that way. So, having to tether my phone to a navigation device seemed dumb to my way of thinking. 

Anyway, so I needed to go the old school route, and thankfully Gravel Worlds does cues yet. Otherwise, honestly- I probably wouldn't go. Any event that assumes you will have an expensive piece of gear to be able to come to their event is not my kind of event. Nuff said.....  

Okay, so I have this Sigma computer on there, and it is a wireless unit, so we'll see how that goes. As long as it counts mileage, it will make my job easier. That and tell me the time, (which I don't really need now since I wear an Apple watch) - that's all I need. So, I'm good to go there once I get the cues from Gravel Worlds and print them out. Elevation gain? Who really cares? It is what it is. Ya gotta ride the course and whatever hills they put in there. Doesn't really matter now or afterward what the numbers are to me. It'll be hard, I know that!

The KOM Tube Strap
Next up we have a storage solution in the KOM Tube Strap. It is a new product for KOM Cycling which they are having me review for RidingGravel.com. I figured Gravel Worlds might make for a good testing ground. (*Standard disclaimer- I am not being paid for this mention, got the product for free, etc....) The idea came to me to try this for Gravel Worlds when I eschewed the idea of using a seat bag and found my Top Tube Garage Bag was getting a bit crowded. I realized this Tube Strap thing-a-ma jig just might clear up some space, if I could figure out where to put it. I tried the obvious- the seat post- but my thighs grazed it and that is a definite no-go with me! But hanging from the top tube? Hmm... 

I tried that and it was a winner. Now, I may not carry what I have in it now- a tube, tire lever, CO2 cartridge inflation system- but I do need to have a spare tube, the tire levers, and I think I'll be throwing on a Stan's NoTubes DART tool. That should do it there.

I could have gone with one of the three tool rolls I have on review, but for some reason I just do not want to do that for Gravel Worlds. I really wanted to keep anything off the saddle or on the seat post proper. Part of my minimizing scheme. That said, I may change my mind here. Stay tuned..... 

The Redshift Sports ShockStop Seat Post and Ravemen Tail Light.

The one and only time I finished Gravel Worlds was a time a used a shock absorbing seat post. I remember it made the wash-boarded out roads livable and it saved me from a lot of saddle fatigue. Over a 150 miles, these sorts of products pay dividends. 

Well, I have at my disposal a Redshift Sports ShockStop seat post which was reviewed for RidingGravel.com once upon a time recently. (*Insert standard disclaimer here) So, I figured, why not use it? It weighs more than the Whiskey carbon post that was in there, but as I said- this is a looooong ride. Comfort and rider freshness is king. This seat post is dialed and works really well. So, I'm using it. By the way, this bike already was fitted with a Redshift Sports ShockStop stem as well. So, I've got that benefit going for me up front also. 

I'm also going to be using one of the Ravemen tail lights, but likely not the one shown. I have one that mounts on the seat stay which is there, but not shown in the image here. The seat stay mounted one has a longer run time, a better mount, and so it won out for the job at Gravel Worlds. (*Disclaimer: I paid for these lights at a discounted rate for test and review on RidingGravel.com)

A look at things as they sit now.

Okay, so I've gotten things dialed in with a bit finer focus now, but there is still work to do. I need to get my nutrition lined up and do a dry run packing that onto the bike. I'll likely tweak out the tube strap cargo, figure out which of a myriad of multi-tools I want onboard, and maybe a few other odd-ball things here and there. But what you see here, minus the dust, is pretty much what I will be pedaling out of Lincoln Nebraska in a couple of weeks time. 

Oh, and there is one major change yet to be revealed. That would be the race-day wheel and tire set up. These wheels and tires are heavier than what I will be using, and that was planned ahead of time. I may get in a quick ride or two, but pretty soon I'll be swapping over to the other set of wheels to make sure everything is copacetic with that wheel and tire combo. 

Questions, thoughts, concerns? Leave me a comment. Otherwise, stay tuned.....

*Standard Disclaimer Page can be found under the header: To save my having to write out my disclaimer for various items and products I use, I have written a "Standard Disclaimer" and made it a page with its own description/explanation. You can access it under the header where it says "Standard Disclaimer". I will only add in disclaimers now if there is a modification, as with the Ravemen lights which I did purchase with my own money, but at a discounted rate. Thanks!

Monday, August 02, 2021

Country Views: Flora And Fauna

Adventures On 4th Street: My way outta town Saturday.
Well, I wasn't supposed to ride alone, and I was supposed to ride a big, 77 mile route N.Y. Roll had laid out, but things didn't work out that way. Probably for the best, for me, as it turned out.

First, the reason I missed N.Y. Roll's ride- That was on me. I changed some things on my Noble Bikes GX5. I did not get to test ride the bike, due to the weather Friday, since it rained. Well, I didn't get the cassette tight enough, and it was rattling and well..... Back home I go! I was about half way to the ride meet-up when this was discovered. 

Anyway...... An easy fix, but by the time it was taken care of I had missed the ride start time. I had let N.Y.Roll know and when I was ready, I just went and did my own ride headed North. The wind, what there was of it, was out of the North and so, I decided to take in a tailwind home plan. I went out of town via 4th Street and Donald Street to reach Moline Road and finally out onto the gravel.
 

I haven't even reached the gravel yet on Moline Road and there is a deer (Left side) running ahead of me.

The eaves of the rain clouds head South- I'm headed North!

Immediately upon getting on Moline Road I see a deer. That was cool! Then, I rode out from under the gloom of clouds which had brought the rains Friday and into Saturday morning. In fact, it had spit some precipitation on me as I was heading out of town. But once I cleared the city, I was in fine, if not a bit cool, weather. 

Blue skies....

......and Sunshine!

See, when you've been subjected to high humidity and temperatures in the upper 80's and lower 90's for the better part of July, riding when it is in the low 70's and not so humid feels 'cold'. Ha! We Mid-Westerners are going to be absolutely freezing on the first 50 degree day this Fall! 

The corn and bean crops keep on maturing.
Little pale pink prairie roses 

This time of year things get kind of 'hairy' and wild looking in the ditches and fields where the wild plants flourish. Plants are blooming everywhere, and grasses have matured and are turning brown already. The tall corn cuts off your view in many places and this lends a bit of a closed-in feeling which you don't get when it is "Brown Season" or in the Winter and early Spring. Coupled with the heat and humidity, it feels like your are getting wrapped up into a warm, green, vege-blanket. 

This Collie-looking beast was so unkempt looking- and vigilant! I had to dismount here.

The Red Winged Blackbirds gathering on the high lines.

I came across an obstacle near the corner of Moline Road and Marquise Road. It was large, hairy, unkempt, and barking incessantly. It was in no mood to allow me to ride by. So, I dismounted and talked to this beast as it continuously barked and went back and forth up the road as I approached, what I assumed to be, its home. That was where another barking dog, on a chain, was also staring me down and would have joined the larger dog, had it been free to do so, but thankfully it could not. 

Of course, the owner was either gone or not paying attention to the goings on. I ended up walking about a quarter mile before this mangy looking mutt, with slavering jaws agape, decided I was no longer a threat and let me mount up and ride away Eastward. Finally! Peace and quiet throughout the land!

A nice splash of pink here near the corner of Marquise Road and Sage Road.

Not much further South- A splash of yellow.

The delay with the dog was no big deal. I wasn't feeling 100% on this day anyway. And here is 'Reason #2' that it was good that I did not go on the big ride. My right knee was a bit painful at times. I had a very sluggish feeling overall, and I was a bit tired. At one point I actually let out a big yawn! I turned down the wick a bit and just toodled along. 

At least the wild flower show on Sage Road was worth pedaling out for. I saw all sorts of flowers and they were all beautiful. I had made it up to the county line, and decided to turn back with the wind and head back home. There was no sense in digging a bigger hole for myself to have to recover from.

A quick rest stop at The Big Rock.

This opportunistic grasshopper finds relief from the Sun in my bike's shadow.

Yeah, it was a really good thing I did not try a big ride like the 77 miler N.Y. Roll did Saturday with a couple of friends. I would have had to have bailed out on that anyway. Or....I would have stupidly kept going long after I should have bailed. Glad I didn't go now.... Not because I didn't want to be with others, but because I just wasn't feeling it Saturday. 

 I guess I really never noticed how far you can see from this hill on Sage Road.

Allis in chains: Looks like a Model C perhaps?

I eventually made my way back home, and for the next three hours I sat bobbing in and out of sleep. Eventually I went down for a two hour long nap. I was knackered! Even after I ate a lunch. Didn't matter. I was down for the count the rest of Saturday afternoon. At least I got something of a ride in and had a bit of adventure anyway.

Sunday, August 01, 2021

Trans Iowa Stories: A Near Miss

From Andrea Cohen's timeline. Riders take over a convenience store during T.I.v12.
  "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 clicking on the "Trans Iowa Stories" link under the blog header. Thanks and enjoy! 

The overnight hours of Trans Iowa v12 were probably some of the most interesting from an overall rider standpoint. We had a record number of riders pass through the second checkpoint which meant that we had more riders on the last half of the course than a few early Trans Iowas had in their starting line ups! That may seem, on the surface of it, to be a problem with keeping track of everything and everybody, but in reality, it was one of the least stressful times I've had running a Trans Iowa. 

The weather, certainly, was a major contributing factor to this being easier on everyone. While it did cool off, it never got really cold, like it has at several other Trans Iowas. It didn't rain, and even the wind died down to a mere breeze, presenting no further obstacle to progress toward the finish line in Grinnell. In other words, it was the 'perfect non-storm' of events which would eventually lead to this becoming a record setting event. 

That was another reason of mine for not making this event bigger than it was. Trans Iowa was always somewhat of a tightrope walk, in may ways, but I will stick to just this one example here. That being that it was possible that we would have had 120 riders, and perhaps due to T.I.v12's excellent conditions, this may have meant that we would have had nearly 100 riders left in the event overnight. Riders that would have been slamming a convenience store over a period of four to five hours in the middle of the night. A time when convenience store staff would have been thin, and thus the appearance of a group of riders would have been causing trouble. Much like T.I.v5's trouble at the Le Grand convenience store, this may have gone very poorly. As it was, we had groups of five and six riders at a time coming in, (as seen in the image above), and causing a bit of a stir. Imagine that times two, or three. And that's just one example of why this event could not have been grown bigger without wholesale changes to its format. 

Another item worth noting is tracking of the rider's progress. This was necessary for updates for Trans Iowa Radio, obviously, but in more critical terms, it was necessary for us as the facilitators of the event to know where people were on course and to know, in any way we could, if there were problems or what to expect for finishers. Finally, that command that Richard, "Deke" Gosen gave us way back in the beginning of Trans Iowa. That we must keep track of everyone in the event. This was a command I never forgot to follow. 

Gleason and Zitz appear at the under-the-highway tunnel during T.I.v12

This idea was exemplified during T.I.v12 by the utilization of the Mathias' who were stationed at a couple of spots on course during the morning hours of T.I.v12's first day. I also received a request from my then co-worker, and volunteer at CP#1, Todd Southworth, to allow him to be an observer at the point on course where the trail went under HWY 330. This was where MG and I had been sitting, for hours, awaiting the arrival of Gleason and Zitz, the two inseparable leaders of T.I.v12. Once we had sight of those two, Todd made his way to our position. We left when Todd arrived, but not before we had seen a few more riders come through. Todd ended up staying there all night and into Sunday watching for riders for us and making sure they understood the tunnel passage under the highway. Just another layer of watchful eyes that was useful to me in keeping track of everyone.

Once Todd reached our position at the tunnel, MG and I were a bit animated and anxious to get out of there. This was because we knew that the lead pair had a distinct chance at breaking the mythical 24 hour barrier. We were, at that point, pretty sure it would happen, given the short distance from where we last saw Gleason and Zitz and noting the time we observed them going by us.

I've written about this before in this series, but the unspoken challenge of Trans Iowa was "Can you break the 24 hour barrier to finish?" It was something murmured amongst those who felt that they were fast enough, strong enough, and wily enough to pull that off. Ira Ryan almost did it in T.I.v3. Joe Meiser came closest in T.I.v5, and then vowed to come back and try again if anyone beat his time. Not many gave thought to this, but I knew it was 'a thing' and I designed my courses with that in the back of my mind every year. 

Going into T.I.v12, I had no worries about this record being broken. This would be the longest Trans Iowa at around 340 miles, and with the typical weather we got, I figured that distance combined with a weather factor would stop any chances of that sub-24 hour thing from happening. But I did not realize how much that tailwind in the beginning of T.I.v12 was benefiting the riders, and I did not bank on that wind to die off at Sunset, as it had, allowing for little resistance to the leaders. I did not bank on all the Level B Roads being dry and rideable, but there it was. And Gleason and Zitz were tantalizingly close to doing the unthinkable. MG and I raced back to the park in Grinnell to see what would happen. 

The co-winners of Trans Iowa v12- Greg Gleason (L) and Walter Zitz

The way I had the finish set up has to be detailed here now because it ultimately played a huge role in how the sub-24 hour barrier was not broken. Since The Barn finish was off the table, I sought for a new finish line area within the confines of Grinnell which could serve as a discrete place to hold this sort of activity, be accessible to support people, and provide a decent experience for the riders. During a trip to see some NASCAR racing in nearby Newton, Iowa one year previous to T.I.v12, I was able to explore Grinnell a bit and found Arbor Lake Park, which is situated on Grinnel's West side around a small lake. It had plenty of parking, and not many residential homes were nearby, so we would not be a nuisance to the locals. With Grinnell's City blessing, I was able to hold the finish here for v12. 

The lead in to the park would be on as much gravel as possible. I wanted to come in from the South, but work on an overpass of the railroad shut down the road, and ultimately shut down that possibility. I ended up having the riders come in further North via a set of several turns onto a street that had an access to a cemetery on the park's West end which had roads through it leading to a bike path which crossed a small stream and then into Arbor Lake Park. 

All of this was detailed on the cue sheets, but physical markers were going to be the only way to know when to obey cues. Of course, none of the final turns had any street signage, so I had to make sure we marked all those final turns into the finish. I directed Tony and Mike to do this and they expertly completed the task to perfection. They were there at the park, as were a few support folks, Wally and George, and possibly others, to see if this big moment would be occurring. 

We waited in the dank night air, freezing as it had gotten fairly cold by now, for any signs of Gleason and Zitz. I was chatting with a few folks, nervously checking my watch, and right at almost 4:00am, I thought I heard voices out on the road. This road was the one that went past the cemetery and passed the park by the North. We couldn't see anything on the road due to a thick screen of trees which were between us and the road Gleason and Zitz were coming in on. If it was Gleason and Zitz that I heard, they missed the turn. As it turned out, that's exactly what happened. 

Gleason and Zitz missed the flags which indicated the right turn into the cemetery property, but upon backtracking they found it. That time that expired between was all it took for them to just miss completing T.I.v12 in a sub-24 hour time! Officially, by my watch, they crossed the line at 4:01am! Greg Gleason was miffed about the corner marking and said so between smiles and congratulations. He was also understanding that the cues were spot-on and about the situation. So it was all good, and I realized his disappointment was valid, but that it was just a mistake on his part. Walter seemed chuffed at just being able to be a finisher, to be a co-winner, and all that at his first crack at Trans Iowa. 

There was a fair amount of commotion over this finish, which was a bit unusual for Trans Iowa. But this was unprecedented. We had 'co-winners'! The sub-24 hour thing was threatened! Excitement was in the air. Generally speaking,winners would cool down, hang for a minimal amount of time, and be off. Gleason and Zitz stuck around a bit longer than most any other winners that I remember. That was something notable to me, and I was pleased with the interaction the two were having with those around at the time. But that was all just a precursor to what would be the norm for the rest of the morning and early afternoon. 

Next: The record setting finish of T.I.12 stirs up much celebration, emotions, and joy.

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Ti Muk 2 Gets A New Bar

The Answer Pro Taper Carbon handlebar.
After waiting two full weeks past my ordering date, these Answer Pro Taper Handlebars finally showed up. I ordered them directly from Hayes up in Mequon, Wisconsin. That's just shy of a five hour drive from where I live. Yet it took two weeks to get the handlebar here? I could have ridden the Ti Muk 2 there and back in less time. Anyway.......

I'm a little miffed. Hayes nor the USPS gave me much to go on in those two weeks. In fact, my last communique' from the USPS said that the handlebar was "moving to the next facility". Yeah....that's comforting. But I hear this is par for the course now when ordering stuff. I guess my excellent experience recently ordering from Silca is extraordinarily rare. 

But, the point! Yes......the handlebar arrived! I got it installed and went for a ride immediately. I have a very good feeling that me and this Pro Taper bar are going to have a long, happy relationship. I surmised, as you may recall when I first brought up this handlebar, that the extreme sweep of the Jones Carbon Loop Bar was just not in agreement with me ergonomically. Not 100% at least. This Pro Taper bar looked like a good middle-ground between average sweep and the Jones sweep. Goldilocks? Yes, it would appear so, at least at first blush. I'm going to give this a bit of time before I declare this a done deal, but let's just say I am in no hurry to go put that Jones Bar back on. 

Anywho.... How about some images?

Excuse the filthy nature of the beast, but here you can see how my hand height is about the same as with the Jones Bar.

This bar is wider than the Jones bar, and it allows for a clear path for my Schmidt light to shine.

Like the black wings of a bird.....Caw-caw!

I was a bit concerned how this Answer handlebar would play with my dynamo light, but the mount snuggles right up against the stem, and there was enough straight handlebar to accommodate that mount. Plus, now I have a clear path for the light to shine instead of getting shadows from the cable housing runs, as with the Jones bar. 

The Ergon grips are nice, and I do like them, but I am going to pop for a set of the Bio-Kork Ergon grips when I can get those because they insulate a bit better than these will in the cold temperatures. I could have cut down the ESI Silicone grips I had on the Jones Bar, but I might be selling those, and whomever buys them may want those too. 

So, the experiment has been kicked off, and so far things look good. Oh....and for those who care about such things: The Pro Taper Bar weighs 190 grams. So, I lost a bit of weight with this swap also. Anyway....I will be putting in more rides on the Ti Muk 2 as cooler weather approaches, so I will update things when that happens. Right now I have a massive cleaning job to do, (obviously), and I need to do tubeless maintenance on these Cake Eater tires. Then I should be ready to roll onward. 

Stay tuned......

Friday, July 30, 2021

Friday News And Views

 Who Started This Gravel Bike Nonsense Anyway?

The "Global Cycling Network" is a site and You Tube channel that is very popular. They have a great sense of humor and their videos are always very well produced and written. More like a television production, really. Anyway, last weekend I was alerted to watch their latest (at that time) video on gravel cycling and "who is to blame for it and 'gravel bikes'". 

Well, much to my surprise and enjoyment, they mentioned Trans Iowa and had former Trans Iowa rider and winner of T.I.v5, Joe Meiser on, and he mentions me by name in the interview GCN did with him. (See the video here) The piece was done in association with Salsa Cycles, by the way, so that would account for maybe why I got mentioned, I suppose, but either way, I was pleasantly surprised to see the piece. 

Even if you don't agree about any part I had to play in things, check out the video. It's pretty well done, and the opening bit is hilarious. 

An excerpt from the latest LOOK Bicycles Press Release

LOOK, This Isn't Funny:

I heard about a weird press release a while back out of LOOK Bicycles which featured news about a gravel racing team they were going to support. I eventually must have made the cut to be on their radar as I received the same release only a day later. This was late last week when I saw this. 

So, things start out well enough with the typical marketing banter about gravel, how exciting and popular it is, and how this team is going to be at certain high profile European based gravel events and hopes to be at "....UNBOUND Gravel, the most prestigious event on the American calendar,". 

Okay, that's all fine. No harm, no foul. But then you scroll down and the team members are presented. The image shown here is the first you see- the "Team manager"? Ah........My first reaction was, "It's not April 1st, is it?" Wow! And the other three member's profiles are no better. We have RĂ©mi Aubert, AKA "The Doctor", shown in clinical whites with a .....wait for it.....a hypodermic needle in hand! The next rider is nicknamed "The Gardener", and is shown with a gardening shovel on his shoulder with the tag line of " Legend says that the road is never the same after he has ridden it". I don't even understand that. Must be a French thing. Anyway....

I suppose this was meant to be 'funny' and somehow be genuine and 'down-to-earth', like grassroots gravel, but it sorely misses the mark. It certainly doesn't seem serious, and I still don't know if I should laugh, (it is a joke?) or what I should think of that press release. One thing is for sure- That's maybe the weirdest press release I've ever been sent! 

PRO Vibe Evo handle bar. Image courtesy of Shimano.
Isn't It About Time For Handlebars To Evolve?

For all of the evolution in design we see- from pedals, drive trains, wheels, brakes, and even the clothes we wear for cycling- handle bars seem to have been overlooked. While we get a few different shapes, and maybe a stem clamp diameter change every 20 tears or so, the basic handle bar remains pretty much as it has been for over a century. 

Well, maybe that is all about to change. In my opinion, the only reason handle bars haven't changed radically is due to the archaic way that the controls are attached to them. Especially on drop bar bikes. The ancient band clamp mechanism works, certainly, but it also limits the bar to a certain diameter and shape for much of its length on drop bars. 

The advent of electronic shifting has kind of accelerated the idea of having your shifter work, and mount, in brand new ways. Shift pods, buttons, or other triggering gizmos are going to free up how we shift. Think about the hybridization of mechanical and electronics, as with the Archer Components (scroll down page linked) system I tried last year.  That button system could be molded right into a handle bar of any shape or size. Brake lever perches could be adapted to slide along a track to accommodate different ergonomic needs. It could be pretty interesting.

Obviously 'standards' would need to be set within the industry. This is why a component giant like Shimano should be watched closely as they have the horsepower to set trends. Did you know that it was Shimano, in cahoots with Fox, that got the industry to switch from 20mm through axles to 15mm ones? And flat mount brakes? Who do you suppose started that deal? 

So, when Shimano introduces a new handlebar with integrated grips and an aero shape, it gets me to thinking, maybe something else is coming along these lines. Something for gravel with integrated vibration damping grips, remote 'pod' shifters, and who knows? Maybe even a hybridized electric/mechanical shifting set up. 

SRAM AXS Rival may have a companion gravel group soon called "XPLR".
SRAM to Counter GRX With Rumored "XPLR" Gravel Group:

Rumors are flying that SRAM is about to unleash a new wireless gravel group set of its own to compete with Shimano's GRX groups. 

Rumors have it that the group will be a 1X12 featuring a 10-42t cassette. The name for the group is said to be "XPLR", which is interesting since the tire company Donnelly uses that same name for its gravel tire range. 

Along with the 12 speed rumors scuttlebutt is that there will be a companion dropper seat post and a Rock Shox branded gravel front suspension fork. When these parts will become available, or even announced, is not yet known, but web watchers have reported that some online retailers have already posted listings for the parts, (no images), so introduction seems imminent. 

Stay tuned......
 

Gravel Promenade Tomorrow With N.Y. Roll:

Yes, you too can ride with the great N.Y. Roll! He has a little gravel soiree' lined up for ya. It's about 77 gravelly miles out in Eastern and Southern Black Hawk County. He is leaving at 8:00am sharp from Prairie Grove Park which is in South Waterloo. 

I've ridden all of this, unless he's going places out of Black Hawk County that I haven't been to, and I can vouch for the 'cool' factor here. It's a great route and you will have a good time of it if you go. You should go too, ya know. N.Y. Roll doesn't think anyone will show up, so prove him wrong, why don't-cha?
 

That's a wrap for this week! I hope that y'all get outside and enjoy a ride or two! Thanks for reading G-Ted Productions.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

The Great Ragby Comes To Town

The ride in Iowa called RAGBRAI happened after a one year pause due to COVID and the route that was to be used in 2020 got used this year. Anyway, that's the story I heard. I know......you might think I'd know this stuff, but I am not at all concerned about RAGBRAI. 

I'm not against the ride. Not at all. I'm just not interested. I tried it. I rode it completely twice in two different decades. I worked as a mechanic on it two consecutive years. I've ridden a partial week. I've done single days of it on different years. So, yeah, I know all about RAGBRAI. I just don't want to ride it, nor am I all that interested in its goings on. With the exception of this year, because it may have affected my work. Usually, looking at history, that would be a reasonable expectation. However; there is one big wrench in the works this time, and that is due to the effects of the pandemic. 

There is also the fact that over the last ten years RAGBRAI participation, at least from this area, has been in a steady decline. Riders kept getting older, then either quit, or died. No new, younger riders were taking their places. At least not in numbers large enough to stave off the obvious decline in repairs, accessories sales, and new bike sales that you could directly tie to RAGBRAI. It used to be that from mid-June to RAGBRAI's start on the last full week of July, I'd be swamped with repair work, turning away jobs because I couldn't get to them, and setting hard cut-off dates to get RAGBRAI related work out the door by the time the riders would be departing. 

The last five years that hasn't happened at all. People saying they were going on RAGBRAI were more rare. Repairs were easy to keep up on. Then last year, of course, there were no RAGBRAI repairs at all. Then this year dawned, RAGBRAI was back, and we were wondering if people would be buying into doing this ride, despite COVID variants, rising numbers of new cases, and more fear-mongering by the media. 

Well, during the previous weeks leading up to RAGBRAI, we heard stories of folks bailing out on the ride. Six guys not coming from out-of-state due to uncomfortable feelings due to the pandemic. The local RAGBRAI charter was only 3/4's full, a weird thing since this club annually turned people away every year that wanted to go with them, but could not due to their buses being filled up. 

We had few RAGBRAI repairs, which wasn't a surprise to me. Then on the day they were here, well, I saw very little RAGBRAI related activity. Normally buses painted with wild schemes and emblazoned with weird team names would be seen going up and down the streets. I would catch random riders all across town. Residential areas would be peppered with camp sites in front and back lawns. It was that way last time RAGBRAI came to Waterloo, but not so much in 2021. 

I worked at Andy's Bike Shop yesterday. We had a reasonable amount of emergencies to take care of. It wasn't any more or less than I remember in that way from the years past. So, at least that part was fine. But going home, I saw very little evidence of the ride in this old city.  I caught a few riders at the dead end created by a barricade on the Sergeant Road bike trail, they seemed a bit lost, but I was in a hurry to make supper time. I didn't stop to ask questions. But I was surprised I did not see more riders out and about. 

It'll be interesting to read and hear the after-reports. I'll be curious to know if the Waterloo visit was received well, and if numbers were what was expected. I'm thinking it did not have the impact people thought it would, but we'll see. One thing is for certain, this ride does not seem to have the overwhelming effect on this city that it once did whenever it came around in years past.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Water Carriers: Update #5

What it looks like post last weekend's 60 miler.
 So the big test of my water carrying system was last weekend when I rode with N.Y. Roll. My biggest concern was how the three bottles I would need to be able to access while riding would work out. 

The upper one on the down tube had been moved upward a bit, perhaps making that one harder to grab and reinstall. The Chaff Bag bottle may be tough to use as it was up against the make-shift cue sheet holder. The only way you really can find out if these sorts of things will work is to actually go on a ride and see. So, of course, that's what happened over the weekend. 

I have to say that most of my fears were unfounded. Yeah....that top bottle took a bit of a different move to get in and out, but it wasn't what I would call 'difficult'. I moved the strap on the Chaff Bag a bit which canted out the bag's top a bit to make the bottle clear the cue sheet holder. So, that worked. All in all, everything did what it was supposed to do. 

The big Jett Green bottle stayed put. The Wolf Tooth strap and B-Rad held it like a champ, and it was super easy and quick to get the bottle out and replace it again when stopped for refilling. The bottom bottle, the Jet+, was rock solid and I never noticed it while riding. I believe I have everything I need locked in with a few changes elsewhere to the set up.

One will be that I may end up using this Topeak Burrito Pack for my flat repair kit and that would go under the saddle. I have nothing there now and adding that pack would open up a bit more space in the Top Tube Garage Bag for nutritional stuff and whatnot. I'm still debating on whether or not to run two lights. I don't think I will, mainly because Gravel Worlds is only dark for about 30 minutes after the start and then whenever you roll in after - oh, say 8:00pm or so, depending on cloud cover. I might have maybe four hours max in darkness. If it is longer than that, well..... I probably am a DNF. 

Finally, the wheels and tires here are training wheels and tires. I have a lighter set up that I will race/ride on when the time comes. Stay tuned for that coming soon.....

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Hazy Daze

Screen grab from local KWWL weather video Monday.
 I've made note of the hazy skies in some of my "Country Views" posts of late. Those wildfires out West have really had a big effect upon our weather here as well as in many other places across the USA. 

I noted it with my riding a couple weeks ago when some stuff with me flared up. It coincided with the hazy air, and it hasn't gotten better either. Air quality around here has suffered as a result. That in turn has affected my riding. 

I notice it in my throat. It feels rougher and like it does after I've been around a campfire for a few hours. My nasal passages have been plugged up at different times and at other times my nose runs, like my body is trying to rid itself of this smoke. Otherwise I feel okay, but this haziness has me concerned.

In fact, I limit my going outside now. I just don't want to do more big efforts outside, especially when it gets really hot out, which seems to exacerbate things with regard to the smoke. When cooler weather prevails and the wind comes out of the North, it's better, and I try to plan rides around that if I can. If I cannot get the weather I feel is safer, I just do a quick paced walk and get in a couple miles and call that good for the day, and I've been doing that a lot of late. It's getting old.....

Hopefully I am ready for Gravel Worlds, but I am not going to roach my lungs on this cheese-grater air just to do a silly gravel ride. Dealing with this year's excessive gravel dust has been bad enough as it is without that.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Country Views: Pastry Ride

The Stone Castle Estate of N.Y.Roll.
 Friday N.Y. Roll texted me about a 60-ish mile gravel ride he was going to do Saturday and asked me if I wanted to roll along. I said I did, and the time of 6:00am was agreed upon to get going. We wanted to 'beat the heat' of the day, as it was supposed to be bad. There was a heat advisory out, and it was going to be humid too. So, the hope was that we'd get well into the ride before things got really cooking. 

I decided to roll with the pink Black Mountain Cycles MCD as I had it all set up for a longer ride anyway. I met N.Y. Roll at his house which he calls the "Stone Castle Estate". We got off and going by a hair past six and were on our way, cruising through the Southern neighborhoods of Waterloo. N.Y. Roll had the route on his GPS device and called out the turns as we went along. 

The plan was to head out on Ansborough, then East on Quarry Road to start out. The wind was out of the Southwest, but it wasn't bad yet. So despite the headwind we made pretty good time. The Sun was up, but there were enough clouds about that we never got blasted by its full potential. How long that would hold out was anyone's guess, but we're veterans of this sort of riding, and typically? Yeah....the Sun comes out and you get cooked sooner or later. That's what we were figuring would happen. 

Things weren't too bad to start out with heading South on Ansborough Avenue.

I'm thinking we're going to start getting cooked any minute here.

We reached Quarry Road and started going East. N.Y. Roll said we were going to head South at some point to get close to Dysart, then East again. The Sun was not yet hitting us full-on, and we were now getting a quartering tail wind. We were moving right along. 

It was pretty humid to start out. I was dripping sweat off my arms by this point in the ride.

Time for a 'nature break' at this bridge over Miller Creek.

I was fearing that I was in for several hours of fighting for grip with my handle bars as I was just pouring sweat off my arms, down my wrists, and then dripping off the heel of my hands. This got into the grips and made things slimy. Fortunately, the humidity let up as the ride went along and this became less and less of a problem for me. 

The Red Wing Blackbirds have raised their young and are now gathering to fly to their Wintering grounds.

Lots of farms have their bit of gravel road soaked in soybean oil to keep the dust down.

Eventually we headed South on Foulk Road and went into Benton County along the very same route I was on for my failed GTDR last July. But we didn't stick to that route long as N.Y. Roll wanted to head East and South again so he could 'poke a square' in some oddball game he is playing with some other cyclists in the area. (Don't ask me, I have no clue what this is.) then we went east toward Vinton, but cut North again before getting there and headed North toward La Porte City. 

We came across this cool painted silo in Benton County.

A nice Level B Road in Benton County

N.Y. Roll had me stop at a corner off HWY 218 at one point so he could go 'poke another square' and I noted a guy in an end loader equipped John Deere construction model tractor ambling into a field near me. I watched as the tractor slowly and deftly was maneuvered into place where it appeared the operator was moving some big field stones. 

N.Y. Roll passing the 'rock picker' in the ditch.

Surprisingly the cloud cover kept the Sun at bay for much longer than we had expected.

We were waiting to get cooked by the Sun during this ride, but miraculously we never did. It was definitely hot- mid 80's - but it could have been far worse had the Sun been clear to nail us with it's fiery rays. As I said before, even the humidity was lower as we went. Actually, I felt really good. I was keeping up on the hydration, and the GU Roctane was fueling me well. That said, N.Y. Roll promised a stop at Rockets Bakery in LaPorte, and I was looking forward to it!

Where old moving van trailers go to die.

Coming into LaPorte City in a way most people do not.

Eventually we reached LaPorte City again and we were back on familiar roads. We had gone quite a ways through Benton County on some roads I have never been on. So, as a result, I have a lot of barn pictures to share! Look for those in a previous post here

 After pastries we headed back toward Waterloo, at first on the CVNT.....

.....but we also veered off that trail to take in some pavement, gravel, and this dirt on Weider Road.

I got a nice pastry, courtesy of N.Y. Roll, (THANK YOU!), and then we finished off the ride by taking in bits of the CVNT, pavement, gravel, dirt, and local bicycle trails. I made it home in time for lunch even! N.Y. Roll said his GPS was at 60-ish miles and we covered the distance in 4 hours and fourty-five minutes, including stops. That's about as good as I've done this year so far, so I was happy with the results. Just as N.Y. Roll was about to drop me off at my turn-off to my home, the Sun rode out of the clouds. "I guess we timed that about right!", he quipped.

I'll leave you off with a quote from N.Y. Roll which he shared as we passed a pen of goats early in the ride. These goats had inflatable balls in their pen with them, and I marveled at that. N.Y. Roll retorted with, "Oh yeah! They nose those things around. Goats are a lot like dogs, only dumber and they taste good."

Yeah..... There is only one N.Y. Roll! Good thing too....