Sunday, January 31, 2021

Trans Iowa Stories: A Prank Entry And Registration Madness: Part 4

  "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!

This entry will show off some of the Trans Iowa post card entries I saved over the years. There are a LOT more than I am showing off here, but in order to keep this post somewhat less long than the "Iliad" , I have shaved down what I am showing here to about a dozen. I tried to show off cards by thematic means. Cards that are representative of what most cards I ever got were like. So, with no special order, here they are.....

Many cards had a theme of suffering and death. Now.....why would THAT be? (Card from B. Lichter for v10)

Ben Oney sent this macabre entry for v11. He was from Northfield MN, so.....

I got a ton of homemade cards with captions and everything. This is a compilation of the TDF 'devil', my face, and a scene from T.I.v2 from Craig Irving.

Level B roads played heavily into the subject matter for a lot of homemade cards I got. This one from Don Daly.

A rookie decides life isn't worth more than getting into Trans Iowa v8. This from A.W. Dutton.

The humor and references here make this a classic. From Maciej Nowak for T.I.v8.

This card sent in by Charles Showalter for T.I.v8 gives you a hint as to why the first artwork for v8's site was taken down due to a cease and desist letter I received.

Speaking of site headers- John Mathias made this collage of site headers for his v10 entry.

Trans Iowa was perhaps one of the most 'Lo-Fi' events around, and many sent cards reflecting that.

Jennifer Barr went the other way with this ultra-creative effort for T.I.v11

I got "cards" that weren't really cards, and therefore those never made it as an entry. None more elaborate than this solid wood plaque with engraved acrylic overlay. In fact, I got two for two different people!

Some folks, like Jim Phillips, who sent in many creative cards, made their entries look like court orders and the like.

This is - if not the #1 favorite- it is one of my favorite cards. A five layer card sent in three phases from Emily Broderson.

Okay, so that was not easy! So many great cards had to be edited out or this post would have gone epic length. I have had a lot of people ask about a showing of cards or a book of them, but after so many years I had to whittle down what I kept to a small box that I have here. Some are not anything fantastic to look at but have meaning for me. So, trust me- you don't want to see all of what I kept either. 

Next: The story of the prank card that sparked a huge debate about doping riders and Trans Iowa. 

Trans Iowa Stories: A Prank Entry And Registration Madness: Part 4

  "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!

This entry will show off some of the Trans Iowa post card entries I saved over the years. There are a LOT more than I am showing off here, but in order to keep this post somewhat less long than the "Iliad" , I have shaved down what I am showing here to about a dozen. I tried to show off cards by thematic means. Cards that are representative of what most cards I ever got were like. So, with no special order, here they are.....

Many cards had a theme of suffering and death. Now.....why would THAT be? (Card from B. Lichter for v10)

Ben Oney sent this macabre entry for v11. He was from Northfield MN, so.....

I got a ton of homemade cards with captions and everything. This is a compilation of the TDF 'devil', my face, and a scene from T.I.v2 from Craig Irving.

Level B roads played heavily into the subject matter for a lot of homemade cards I got. This one from Don Daly.

A rookie decides life isn't worth more than getting into Trans Iowa v8. This from A.W. Dutton.

The humor and references here make this a classic. From Maciej Nowak for T.I.v8.

This card sent in by Charles Showalter for T.I.v8 gives you a hint as to why the first artwork for v8's site was taken down due to a cease and desist letter I received.

Speaking of site headers- John Mathias made this collage of site headers for his v10 entry.

Trans Iowa was perhaps one of the most 'Lo-Fi' events around, and many sent cards reflecting that.

Jennifer Barr went the other way with this ultra-creative effort for T.I.v11

I got "cards" that weren't really cards, and therefore those never made it as an entry. None more elaborate than this solid wood plaque with engraved acrylic overlay. In fact, I got two for two different people!

Some folks, like Jim Phillips, who sent in many creative cards, made their entries look like court orders and the like.

This is - if not the #1 favorite- it is one of my favorite cards. A five layer card sent in three phases from Emily Broderson.

Okay, so that was not easy! So many great cards had to be edited out or this post would have gone epic length. I have had a lot of people ask about a showing of cards or a book of them, but after so many years I had to whittle down what I kept to a small box that I have here. Some are not anything fantastic to look at but have meaning for me. So, trust me- you don't want to see all of what I kept either. 

Next: The story of the prank card that sparked a huge debate about doping riders and Trans Iowa. 

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Feedback

 Recently I got a nice email from an old friend of Trans Iowa who had listened to the "Riding Gravel Radio Ranch" podcast recently. He was remarking about a way that Andy and I were describing 'winning' in terms of how that worked out for the early grassroots gravel scene. 

I've written a lot about the differences between what has happened with the big, corporate backed gravel events, the media narratives, and the perceptions that gravel races = Pro roadie-like events versus challenges, democratic experiences, and rider engagement both socially and with the events. There is some overlap, to be sure, between these things, but what we discussed on the podcast really distills this down to a finer point. 

Basically, it boils down to a choice: Do we want singular "Winners" or do we want everyone to feel like a winner. This can be a fine balance, and even some events you'd throw under the bus, maybe, are actually pretty good at doing the right things. Or they were. Here I will bring up that event formerly held in Emporia Kansas, the Dirty Kanza 200. I know.....we aren't supposed to 'name the name', but that's what it was called. The name doesn't matter in this discussion. What matters is that Jim Cummings and his crew made everyone that they could feel like a winner. Yeah, a big hoopla, fancy-pants finish line experience may not be your cuppa, but ya gotta admit, a LOT of people responded to that treatment in a very positive way. There was a big winner overall, but that wasn't THAT big of a deal, until near the end, where I feel like things got tilted too far in the direction of catering to the Pro/Media/Corporate side. 

There are other events which feature challenges, where if you can manage to get through to the end, you are celebrated, and maybe even if you don't make it, you still feel like a winner. It was upon THAT foundation that "The Gravel Scene" was founded. This happened without any sense of organized racing, without much of any help from the cycling press, and without any support from the cycling industry early on. It didn't need those things to become wildly popular. Why? Because of what I described above- everyone was welcomed, everyone was made to feel important. Winners all. 

But now I am hearing about events being put on with big prize money to five places down, or a big purse for Pro class riders, or events with nine million age divisions, (I jest, but you know what I mean), and lotteries to even get a chance to get in some of these events, like those are good things for everybody? 

Are not these the very reasons many people grew tired of criterium racing, road course racing, XC MTB, and other highly categorized, winner take all, cut throat mentality events? I would say, YES! And yet we want to start going down that road with gravel events, eh? Good luck with that.....

We know the end of that road, and it has a "Dead End" sign on it.

Feedback

 Recently I got a nice email from an old friend of Trans Iowa who had listened to the "Riding Gravel Radio Ranch" podcast recently. He was remarking about a way that Andy and I were describing 'winning' in terms of how that worked out for the early grassroots gravel scene. 

I've written a lot about the differences between what has happened with the big, corporate backed gravel events, the media narratives, and the perceptions that gravel races = Pro roadie-like events versus challenges, democratic experiences, and rider engagement both socially and with the events. There is some overlap, to be sure, between these things, but what we discussed on the podcast really distills this down to a finer point. 

Basically, it boils down to a choice: Do we want singular "Winners" or do we want everyone to feel like a winner. This can be a fine balance, and even some events you'd throw under the bus, maybe, are actually pretty good at doing the right things. Or they were. Here I will bring up that event formerly held in Emporia Kansas, the Dirty Kanza 200. I know.....we aren't supposed to 'name the name', but that's what it was called. The name doesn't matter in this discussion. What matters is that Jim Cummings and his crew made everyone that they could feel like a winner. Yeah, a big hoopla, fancy-pants finish line experience may not be your cuppa, but ya gotta admit, a LOT of people responded to that treatment in a very positive way. There was a big winner overall, but that wasn't THAT big of a deal, until near the end, where I feel like things got tilted too far in the direction of catering to the Pro/Media/Corporate side. 

There are other events which feature challenges, where if you can manage to get through to the end, you are celebrated, and maybe even if you don't make it, you still feel like a winner. It was upon THAT foundation that "The Gravel Scene" was founded. This happened without any sense of organized racing, without much of any help from the cycling press, and without any support from the cycling industry early on. It didn't need those things to become wildly popular. Why? Because of what I described above- everyone was welcomed, everyone was made to feel important. Winners all. 

But now I am hearing about events being put on with big prize money to five places down, or a big purse for Pro class riders, or events with nine million age divisions, (I jest, but you know what I mean), and lotteries to even get a chance to get in some of these events, like those are good things for everybody? 

Are not these the very reasons many people grew tired of criterium racing, road course racing, XC MTB, and other highly categorized, winner take all, cut throat mentality events? I would say, YES! And yet we want to start going down that road with gravel events, eh? Good luck with that.....

We know the end of that road, and it has a "Dead End" sign on it.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Friday News And Views

Vegelatex sealant from Effetto Mariposa (Image courtesy of Cantitoe Road)
 Plant Based Sealant?

I have used Caffe Latex sealant off and on throughout the years. The sealant foams up while riding and seals punctures in a bit different fashion due to the foaming action. I always thought it worked pretty well. It is otherwise a fairly typical sealant formula using latex and a carrier, which is not ammonia in this case, by the way.

Now Effetto Mariposa, the company that makes this product, has a new sealant called "Vegelatex". Yes.....it is plant based. Here is what Effetto Mariposa has to say about this product.

"Most tire sealants employ slowly biodegradable liquid polymers (like natural or synthetic latex) to repair punctures; Végétalex instead contains only plant-based particles and fibers – finely ground olive stones and cellulose fibers – to deliver a tremendous puncture clogging effect. This mix, held together by xanthan gum (produced from simple sugars), fixes punctures ranging from small tire porosities to bigger cuts (up to 5 mm) fast and in a permanent way."

Huh. If it works, then I'm all for it. Effetto Mariposa says this sealant is longer lasting- up to a whole season of use- but they also said that about Caffe Latex, if I recall correctly and ah......not so much. It lasted a long time, but not a year. Anyway, it's an interesting product that - if it is even nearly as good as they say- is something to consider. 

If you want to learn more the site page is here

Image courtesy of WTB
WTB Announces Proterra Wheels:

WTB is now offering gravel and trail wheels built in California by hand called Proterra. They have models in inner rim widths for gravel at 23mm and 25mm. A trail offering comes in at 26mm inner width while a wider 30mm inner rim width 'Proterra Tough' wheel is offered as well. 

Proterra wheels in the other widths are designated 'Proterra Light'. The gravel wheels are all 28 hole drillings and the 27mm and 30mm MTB wheels are 32 hole. All are laced to WTB's Proterra hubs using "J" bend spokes and all hubs use easy, no tool maintenance. The gravel wheels are 12mm through axle 100 mm front/142 mm rear spaced while the MTB wheels are 110mm/148mm Boost spaced. 

Wheels will be available individually or as sets. A set cost is $649.90 no matter which model you get. Fronts are $294.95 and rears are $354.95 each. All wheels are going to be available via WTB.com at first since WTB wants to get there wheel building facility going so they can optimize and adapt their systems before going full-tilt and supplying vendors. 

Learn more at WTB.com

Fargo Apex 1. The only complete model for '21 (Image courtesy of Salsa Cycles)
Salsa Reveals 2021 Fargo Model, Frame Sets:

The pandemic has thrown a wrench in a lot of plans and so you may not be very surprised to learn that Salsa Cycles has one- yes one- complete model of the Fargo on offer for 2021.Also not surprisingly, it is a SRAM Apex model. basically 2020 with a color change. The last time Salsa had more than one complete Fargo on offer was 2019.

Other than this abbreviated range, there are no other big changes for '21. You still will be able to get a titanium Fargo frame set, and the steel frame set, but that's all. Prices have inched upward as well. The Apex 1 complete bike is $2399.00, the Ti Fargo frame w/carbon fork is $2999.00, and the steel frame with carbon fork is  $1099.00, All prices are USD. 

Comments: The Fargo is the longest running model in Salsa Cycles range and it is a model that hasn't changed since 2017's Fargos debuted as they are now, pretty much. The only notable change being the carbon fork which is now Boost spaced. So, with one complete, and only a color change, what does this say about the future?

Of course, this can only be speculated on, but there are certainly two things at play here. One- The pandemic brought a renewed vigor to sales of all bikes, but touring/bike packing bikes were a segment that saw significant interest. The Fargo fits right into that scene. However; how much longer will that last? Once things go back to 'normal', and the pandemic is declared over, what will the Fargo's appeal be then? 

It's old in the tooth, and there isn't a whole lot more Salsa can do with the current platform. It's tweaked out about as far as it can go. That is one thing. The other is that Salsa Cycles does not have an electrified mountain bike, or any model with a motor at all. With electrified HPC's all the rage, it wouldn't be a big surprise to me to see the Fargo give way to something full suspension for their MTB range. It could be a bike packing bike, but I doubt it would carry the Fargo name. 

At any rate, good things come to an end, and it wouldn't surprise me at all to see the end of the line for the venerable Fargo come in 2022 or '23.

 That's a wrap for this week! Have a great weekend!

Friday News And Views

Vegelatex sealant from Effetto Mariposa (Image courtesy of Cantitoe Road)
 Plant Based Sealant?

I have used Caffe Latex sealant off and on throughout the years. The sealant foams up while riding and seals punctures in a bit different fashion due to the foaming action. I always thought it worked pretty well. It is otherwise a fairly typical sealant formula using latex and a carrier, which is not ammonia in this case, by the way.

Now Effetto Mariposa, the company that makes this product, has a new sealant called "Vegelatex". Yes.....it is plant based. Here is what Effetto Mariposa has to say about this product.

"Most tire sealants employ slowly biodegradable liquid polymers (like natural or synthetic latex) to repair punctures; Végétalex instead contains only plant-based particles and fibers – finely ground olive stones and cellulose fibers – to deliver a tremendous puncture clogging effect. This mix, held together by xanthan gum (produced from simple sugars), fixes punctures ranging from small tire porosities to bigger cuts (up to 5 mm) fast and in a permanent way."

Huh. If it works, then I'm all for it. Effetto Mariposa says this sealant is longer lasting- up to a whole season of use- but they also said that about Caffe Latex, if I recall correctly and ah......not so much. It lasted a long time, but not a year. Anyway, it's an interesting product that - if it is even nearly as good as they say- is something to consider. 

If you want to learn more the site page is here

Image courtesy of WTB
WTB Announces Proterra Wheels:

WTB is now offering gravel and trail wheels built in California by hand called Proterra. They have models in inner rim widths for gravel at 23mm and 25mm. A trail offering comes in at 26mm inner width while a wider 30mm inner rim width 'Proterra Tough' wheel is offered as well. 

Proterra wheels in the other widths are designated 'Proterra Light'. The gravel wheels are all 28 hole drillings and the 27mm and 30mm MTB wheels are 32 hole. All are laced to WTB's Proterra hubs using "J" bend spokes and all hubs use easy, no tool maintenance. The gravel wheels are 12mm through axle 100 mm front/142 mm rear spaced while the MTB wheels are 110mm/148mm Boost spaced. 

Wheels will be available individually or as sets. A set cost is $649.90 no matter which model you get. Fronts are $294.95 and rears are $354.95 each. All wheels are going to be available via WTB.com at first since WTB wants to get there wheel building facility going so they can optimize and adapt their systems before going full-tilt and supplying vendors. 

Learn more at WTB.com

Fargo Apex 1. The only complete model for '21 (Image courtesy of Salsa Cycles)
Salsa Reveals 2021 Fargo Model, Frame Sets:

The pandemic has thrown a wrench in a lot of plans and so you may not be very surprised to learn that Salsa Cycles has one- yes one- complete model of the Fargo on offer for 2021.Also not surprisingly, it is a SRAM Apex model. basically 2020 with a color change. The last time Salsa had more than one complete Fargo on offer was 2019.

Other than this abbreviated range, there are no other big changes for '21. You still will be able to get a titanium Fargo frame set, and the steel frame set, but that's all. Prices have inched upward as well. The Apex 1 complete bike is $2399.00, the Ti Fargo frame w/carbon fork is $2999.00, and the steel frame with carbon fork is  $1099.00, All prices are USD. 

Comments: The Fargo is the longest running model in Salsa Cycles range and it is a model that hasn't changed since 2017's Fargos debuted as they are now, pretty much. The only notable change being the carbon fork which is now Boost spaced. So, with one complete, and only a color change, what does this say about the future?

Of course, this can only be speculated on, but there are certainly two things at play here. One- The pandemic brought a renewed vigor to sales of all bikes, but touring/bike packing bikes were a segment that saw significant interest. The Fargo fits right into that scene. However; how much longer will that last? Once things go back to 'normal', and the pandemic is declared over, what will the Fargo's appeal be then? 

It's old in the tooth, and there isn't a whole lot more Salsa can do with the current platform. It's tweaked out about as far as it can go. That is one thing. The other is that Salsa Cycles does not have an electrified mountain bike, or any model with a motor at all. With electrified HPC's all the rage, it wouldn't be a big surprise to me to see the Fargo give way to something full suspension for their MTB range. It could be a bike packing bike, but I doubt it would carry the Fargo name. 

At any rate, good things come to an end, and it wouldn't surprise me at all to see the end of the line for the venerable Fargo come in 2022 or '23.

 That's a wrap for this week! Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Townie Update

My 1978 Trek converted to single speed and 700c wheels
 I mentioned those old Dura Ace hubs and Salsa Cycles Delgado Cross rims back a week or so ago now. Well, here is where those ended up. This is an old 'barn-built' Trek that I acquired several years ago. I had tried it as a Gravel Mutt back in 2013 or so, and then it ended up on a hook shortly thereafter. so, like nearly eight years later.....

I built up those Dura Ace hubs and Salsa rims and thought about what to put them on. This bike seemed like a good place. And as I said, this will end up becoming my townie after I divested myself of the old Surly 1X1. That was my go-to errand rig for a while there.

Looking back at the back story on this bike, I realized that my intentions all along were to make this bike into a single speed. Ha! Things have finally come full-circle then. And I think that's a good thing with this bike. While I did do a gravel ride or two on this, it is a 'road bike' in the old-school, classical sense of the term. It isn't meant for anything too rowdy like a gravel road can be like. 

No, bikes built with the classic road racing ideal in mind back then all featured certain ideas about how the end user was to be sat on the thing. It was all about nose-to-the-stem, butt-in-the-air, aero type positioning. You get that feeling immediately when you sit on this bike, even though I fitted some old Origin 8 Gary Bars with a super-shallow drop. Your face is 'out in the wind' and the whole experience is one of feeling as though that if the front wheel hit a stick you'd come flying straight off the front of the thing as the bike stopped dead in its tracks. Personally, I find this feeling to be quite uncomfortable. Especially on gravel.

Maybe that's because we've grown accustomed to bikes where the front is higher, the front-center is longer, and the angles are slacker. These things all push the front end 'out there' with the front wheel way out from underneath you. Even older MTB off-road machines weren't like this, and they were a lot more like this old Trek is. The old style of positioning along with the geometry is night-and-day different than it is now. 

The old brass head badge has a nice patina on it.

But this won't be anything but an errand bike now, so I am okay with doing short rides to pick up things here and there. The simplicity of the frame- no braze ons- makes for a really clean look, although I'm not a fan of the outboard, full-run housing rear brake. 

One thing that always strikes me about older steel road bikes is that they look like they are barely here in this world. I mean, look at those skinny steel tubes! Handle bars have larger diameter tubing. The seat stays are truly 'pencil thin'. It just looks like it would be impossible to ride it. Too flexy! How can it hold up? 

But therein lies the magic of steel tubing. Strength is not measured by visual mass. But most folks would never buy into a bike built with such gossamer thin tubes anymore. It just looks too weak! But it isn't! Maybe that is inherently why these old bikes are fascinating to some people. More than any space-aged carbon doohickey, a good steel frame is far more amazing to the eye upon closer inspection. The engineering principals are honed to their finest points. The connection method- lugged and brazed- is as minimal as it can be, yet if done properly, amazingly long lasting and strong. Add in wire spokes and a relatively weak aluminum hoop that becomes another thing when tensioned and laced to a stout hub, and the package is simply mind boggling, yet so familiar we lose sight of the marvel that is a bicycle. 

So, to me this is a classic example of the bicycle as it appeared most often throughout its history. It will glide along just fine on the streets of the city. Now I need to figure out just how I want to accessorize it- or not- to aid me in my goal. I could find a rear rack and that would open up some great possibilities, or I could just use a messenger bag. I have several. I also could go the top-tube bag route, or get a frame bag. So, we'll see. 

Not a lot of room here!

I did find that I needed every bit of space here to allow for the 36mm Panaracer Pasela tire to spin freely. This may end up being swapped for a 35mm tire at some point, but for now, my brief test ride gave me some hope that it will be okay. Tons of clearance elsewhere, of course. It's always at the chain stays where things get tight. 

The gear will stay. I like the ratio for city cruising. So, the 39T chain ring and the 20T free wheel. Seems about right. Plus the added bonus of having a longer lasting set of parts versus spinning smaller diameter components is a nice thing. 

Now, the rear brake was an issue going way back, and that due to a missing, rare bit that Dia Compe had to work as a cable stop inside their levers. I had forgotten that I came up with a kludge to get myself by. It was to use a fixing nut from a linear pull brake as a cable stop. Good idea but for the fact that by pulling the lever the pressure created stripped the plastic cover off the housing and the spiral reinforcing wire pulled through the opening in the nut. There was my problem with the rear brake! 

So I fixed that by installing a step-down ferrule on the new run of housing I installed and then have that go into the nut. Perfect! Now I could set up the rear brake and have decent stopping power. Nothing like a disc brake, mind you. Brakes back then were pretty much 'speed modulators' more than they were brakes. I probably could stand to use some real pads here, but that'll come later. This is basically an effort to prove the concept. 

The brake issue has been solved.....for now

So, besides making the rear brake functional, I had to re-wrap the handle bars as well. I found a couple forgotten rolls of fizik tape I had and used that on the Gary Bar. This bar is a pretty radical take on a flared drop bar. It has extreme flare and super-minimal drop. The ramps are really steep and the extensions are short. It happens to work, ergonomically, as long as you don't ever ride on the hoods, because that position is too weird on this bar. 

This oddness makes it a really tough bar to wrap too. I had to really take my time, and fizik's faux-leather like material they use is not very forgiving. So, I had to be patient and take my time. It ended up going well. I like how it turned out for now. This may end up getting changed anyway depending on what I decide with the stem. Yeah.......that old school stem! 

Of course it is a negative rise, old forged, no face plate style bit that was once super commonplace. It is a big reason I feel so much like falling off the front of this thing. I was thinking as I test rode this that I might like a taller front with less reach in the stem, but I am going to live with this for now. That said, I have a strong desire to get a stem with some rise and swap this out. Of course, that will ruin the classic lines this bike has. I could always opt for a flat bar with a shim....... Nah! If I start messing with that I'll end up wanting to swap out the seat post for an offset head one, (I happen to have the perfect Campy Record post for this) and that will be another thing to mess with. Besides, I nailed the position on that Brooks. Why mes with a good thing? 

Let's see......There is only one other nit I would have to address if I end up going with this, as I think I am going to do. That is the head set. It is the original component to the bike and it is indexed pretty badly. That isn't a good thing for city riding. I will have to see about turning the crown race 90°, an old trick used by racers back in the day to extend the life of their head sets. If that doesn't work, I'll have to source a new head set. Maybe..... I may have a Campy head set somewhere.....

The test ride was successful, even though I had to ride on some snow.

 So, now I will have to strip this back down, clean up some bits, and then decide if I want to powder coat this jalopy or if I want to just touch up the paint job with some fingernail polish and leave it at that. The old Treks were painted with wet paint, Imron if I am not mistaken, and that is some pretty brittle paint. This could be a never ending touch-up job. That's why I am considering powder coating it for the more durable- but not original- finish. 

For now I want to get the necessities done. The head set being number one there. Then I'll go from that point and either rack this up, or whatever. Stay tuned.......

Townie Update

My 1978 Trek converted to single speed and 700c wheels
 I mentioned those old Dura Ace hubs and Salsa Cycles Delgado Cross rims back a week or so ago now. Well, here is where those ended up. This is an old 'barn-built' Trek that I acquired several years ago. I had tried it as a Gravel Mutt back in 2013 or so, and then it ended up on a hook shortly thereafter. so, like nearly eight years later.....

I built up those Dura Ace hubs and Salsa rims and thought about what to put them on. This bike seemed like a good place. And as I said, this will end up becoming my townie after I divested myself of the old Surly 1X1. That was my go-to errand rig for a while there.

Looking back at the back story on this bike, I realized that my intentions all along were to make this bike into a single speed. Ha! Things have finally come full-circle then. And I think that's a good thing with this bike. While I did do a gravel ride or two on this, it is a 'road bike' in the old-school, classical sense of the term. It isn't meant for anything too rowdy like a gravel road can be like. 

No, bikes built with the classic road racing ideal in mind back then all featured certain ideas about how the end user was to be sat on the thing. It was all about nose-to-the-stem, butt-in-the-air, aero type positioning. You get that feeling immediately when you sit on this bike, even though I fitted some old Origin 8 Gary Bars with a super-shallow drop. Your face is 'out in the wind' and the whole experience is one of feeling as though that if the front wheel hit a stick you'd come flying straight off the front of the thing as the bike stopped dead in its tracks. Personally, I find this feeling to be quite uncomfortable. Especially on gravel.

Maybe that's because we've grown accustomed to bikes where the front is higher, the front-center is longer, and the angles are slacker. These things all push the front end 'out there' with the front wheel way out from underneath you. Even older MTB off-road machines weren't like this, and they were a lot more like this old Trek is. The old style of positioning along with the geometry is night-and-day different than it is now. 

The old brass head badge has a nice patina on it.

But this won't be anything but an errand bike now, so I am okay with doing short rides to pick up things here and there. The simplicity of the frame- no braze ons- makes for a really clean look, although I'm not a fan of the outboard, full-run housing rear brake. 

One thing that always strikes me about older steel road bikes is that they look like they are barely here in this world. I mean, look at those skinny steel tubes! Handle bars have larger diameter tubing. The seat stays are truly 'pencil thin'. It just looks like it would be impossible to ride it. Too flexy! How can it hold up? 

But therein lies the magic of steel tubing. Strength is not measured by visual mass. But most folks would never buy into a bike built with such gossamer thin tubes anymore. It just looks too weak! But it isn't! Maybe that is inherently why these old bikes are fascinating to some people. More than any space-aged carbon doohickey, a good steel frame is far more amazing to the eye upon closer inspection. The engineering principals are honed to their finest points. The connection method- lugged and brazed- is as minimal as it can be, yet if done properly, amazingly long lasting and strong. Add in wire spokes and a relatively weak aluminum hoop that becomes another thing when tensioned and laced to a stout hub, and the package is simply mind boggling, yet so familiar we lose sight of the marvel that is a bicycle. 

So, to me this is a classic example of the bicycle as it appeared most often throughout its history. It will glide along just fine on the streets of the city. Now I need to figure out just how I want to accessorize it- or not- to aid me in my goal. I could find a rear rack and that would open up some great possibilities, or I could just use a messenger bag. I have several. I also could go the top-tube bag route, or get a frame bag. So, we'll see. 

Not a lot of room here!

I did find that I needed every bit of space here to allow for the 36mm Panaracer Pasela tire to spin freely. This may end up being swapped for a 35mm tire at some point, but for now, my brief test ride gave me some hope that it will be okay. Tons of clearance elsewhere, of course. It's always at the chain stays where things get tight. 

The gear will stay. I like the ratio for city cruising. So, the 39T chain ring and the 20T free wheel. Seems about right. Plus the added bonus of having a longer lasting set of parts versus spinning smaller diameter components is a nice thing. 

Now, the rear brake was an issue going way back, and that due to a missing, rare bit that Dia Compe had to work as a cable stop inside their levers. I had forgotten that I came up with a kludge to get myself by. It was to use a fixing nut from a linear pull brake as a cable stop. Good idea but for the fact that by pulling the lever the pressure created stripped the plastic cover off the housing and the spiral reinforcing wire pulled through the opening in the nut. There was my problem with the rear brake! 

So I fixed that by installing a step-down ferrule on the new run of housing I installed and then have that go into the nut. Perfect! Now I could set up the rear brake and have decent stopping power. Nothing like a disc brake, mind you. Brakes back then were pretty much 'speed modulators' more than they were brakes. I probably could stand to use some real pads here, but that'll come later. This is basically an effort to prove the concept. 

The brake issue has been solved.....for now

So, besides making the rear brake functional, I had to re-wrap the handle bars as well. I found a couple forgotten rolls of fizik tape I had and used that on the Gary Bar. This bar is a pretty radical take on a flared drop bar. It has extreme flare and super-minimal drop. The ramps are really steep and the extensions are short. It happens to work, ergonomically, as long as you don't ever ride on the hoods, because that position is too weird on this bar. 

This oddness makes it a really tough bar to wrap too. I had to really take my time, and fizik's faux-leather like material they use is not very forgiving. So, I had to be patient and take my time. It ended up going well. I like how it turned out for now. This may end up getting changed anyway depending on what I decide with the stem. Yeah.......that old school stem! 

Of course it is a negative rise, old forged, no face plate style bit that was once super commonplace. It is a big reason I feel so much like falling off the front of this thing. I was thinking as I test rode this that I might like a taller front with less reach in the stem, but I am going to live with this for now. That said, I have a strong desire to get a stem with some rise and swap this out. Of course, that will ruin the classic lines this bike has. I could always opt for a flat bar with a shim....... Nah! If I start messing with that I'll end up wanting to swap out the seat post for an offset head one, (I happen to have the perfect Campy Record post for this) and that will be another thing to mess with. Besides, I nailed the position on that Brooks. Why mes with a good thing? 

Let's see......There is only one other nit I would have to address if I end up going with this, as I think I am going to do. That is the head set. It is the original component to the bike and it is indexed pretty badly. That isn't a good thing for city riding. I will have to see about turning the crown race 90°, an old trick used by racers back in the day to extend the life of their head sets. If that doesn't work, I'll have to source a new head set. Maybe..... I may have a Campy head set somewhere.....

The test ride was successful, even though I had to ride on some snow.

 So, now I will have to strip this back down, clean up some bits, and then decide if I want to powder coat this jalopy or if I want to just touch up the paint job with some fingernail polish and leave it at that. The old Treks were painted with wet paint, Imron if I am not mistaken, and that is some pretty brittle paint. This could be a never ending touch-up job. That's why I am considering powder coating it for the more durable- but not original- finish. 

For now I want to get the necessities done. The head set being number one there. Then I'll go from that point and either rack this up, or whatever. Stay tuned.......

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Winter Review Of The Ti Muk 2

A recent outing on the Ti Muk 2
 Last year in May I posted my one year review of the Ti Muk 2. That is still a pretty solid overview of what I think about this bike. However; the Winter of 19/20 wasn't particularly marked by my use of that bike in difficult Winter conditions. I tended to be on my Blackborow DS for those rides. 

This year has been different though. While I have had the blackborow DS out on a few tough, trail-busting rides, the Ti Muk 2 has been used in this manner as well. I thought that with the additional time spent in severe conditions, I might give you some thoughts I have had on this bike and the components that make it up. 

First of all, I have been pleasantly surprised by the capabilities to break new trail and traverse deep snow that this bike has allowed me to do this season so far. I have two specific areas on the commute to work that are basically open, grassy fields. I have burned in a path during dry times, but typically, no one else uses the one trail and only one other fat biker uses the other. When we got the 5" snow fall here a couple of weeks ago now, I thought I'd likely have to start going around on the bike path with regard to the first 'open field' from my house. However; that first day I decided what the heck! I'd give it a whirl and just see. Surprisingly, I made it! Then I tackled the second section as well. I got through that one too. So, I kept trying and I was sometimes frustrated by heading offline or running out of leg and lung, but overall, this has been a great discovery. 

Secondly, I have found that the lower ranges which this particular Rohloff internal hub gear unit has due to its cog/chain ring combo are well low enough. In fact, I have found that even when doing the above difficult trail breaking, I only used the lowest gear once. Pretty impressive! Usually, the lowest gear is far too low, which is about where I would want the range to be. Now, on the high end I seem to be good there as well. I have used the fastest gear several times. Mostly on down hills or with a stiff tailwind, but again, this is about where I would want it to be in the range. I don't see myself spinning out the fastest gear on a regular basis. 

Finally the Cake Eater 4.0" tires have been working great in the snow. I am amazed at how these tires claw through soft snow and grip on ice, but still roll really well on harder surfaces. There is no hint of funky self-steering either. Of course, these are tubeless and that may have a lot to do with things here. But still, for only 4" tires, they have really impressed me. 

Hope that you enjoyed that review. Hit me up in the comments with any questions.

Winter Review Of The Ti Muk 2

A recent outing on the Ti Muk 2
 Last year in May I posted my one year review of the Ti Muk 2. That is still a pretty solid overview of what I think about this bike. However; the Winter of 19/20 wasn't particularly marked by my use of that bike in difficult Winter conditions. I tended to be on my Blackborow DS for those rides. 

This year has been different though. While I have had the blackborow DS out on a few tough, trail-busting rides, the Ti Muk 2 has been used in this manner as well. I thought that with the additional time spent in severe conditions, I might give you some thoughts I have had on this bike and the components that make it up. 

First of all, I have been pleasantly surprised by the capabilities to break new trail and traverse deep snow that this bike has allowed me to do this season so far. I have two specific areas on the commute to work that are basically open, grassy fields. I have burned in a path during dry times, but typically, no one else uses the one trail and only one other fat biker uses the other. When we got the 5" snow fall here a couple of weeks ago now, I thought I'd likely have to start going around on the bike path with regard to the first 'open field' from my house. However; that first day I decided what the heck! I'd give it a whirl and just see. Surprisingly, I made it! Then I tackled the second section as well. I got through that one too. So, I kept trying and I was sometimes frustrated by heading offline or running out of leg and lung, but overall, this has been a great discovery. 

Secondly, I have found that the lower ranges which this particular Rohloff internal hub gear unit has due to its cog/chain ring combo are well low enough. In fact, I have found that even when doing the above difficult trail breaking, I only used the lowest gear once. Pretty impressive! Usually, the lowest gear is far too low, which is about where I would want the range to be. Now, on the high end I seem to be good there as well. I have used the fastest gear several times. Mostly on down hills or with a stiff tailwind, but again, this is about where I would want it to be in the range. I don't see myself spinning out the fastest gear on a regular basis. 

Finally the Cake Eater 4.0" tires have been working great in the snow. I am amazed at how these tires claw through soft snow and grip on ice, but still roll really well on harder surfaces. There is no hint of funky self-steering either. Of course, these are tubeless and that may have a lot to do with things here. But still, for only 4" tires, they have really impressed me. 

Hope that you enjoyed that review. Hit me up in the comments with any questions.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

The Elephant In The Room: 2021

 NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

 Last year I wrote about the possibilities of cancellations for 2020 gravel events in light of the then, new COVID-19 virus. Well, we can all look back with 20-20 vision and see what the results were. (Pun intended)

Also, since that time we all have kept hearing about a 'return to normal' and wondering when that would happen. Many thought that the Fall of 2020 would be that time. Nope! 

So, we rolled into 2021 with the pandemic still wreaking havoc, but now we have a vaccine! So, everyone is getting all revved up to 'get back to normal' and have events again. Some events are hesitating, waiting out to see how things go- ala last Spring- and some have bailed already. (Mid-South did this just last week)

Some are concerned about the 'most vulnerable communities' who need to be protected, and that's admirable and right, but what about the folks who are much younger who contract COVID, get sick, and in many cases do not fully recover, or worse, die. It happens. You cannot predict who will and who will not succumb, so saying, "Well, I got it and it was no big deal.", or "I just am not seeing this in my community" doesn't negate the fact that at anytime, anyone could get COVID-19 bad, have it permanently alter their life, or have it kill them. In fact, statements like this are really pretty self-serving. Pretty shallow, if you want to know what I think.

Secondly, I brought this up on the blog last week, but the vaccination of 328.2million US citizens to a 60% level, or higher, to achieve a level where we can even start to entertain returning to normal, takes a while. Experts are saying late Summer at the earliest. Things like this are why it is likely that the Summer Olympics in Japan are to be cancelled. This is why some events here have cancelled already. 

Oh, and then there is the question of just how long is a vaccination good for. Guess what? We don't know that answer yet. So, many folks getting vaccinated today? Well, guess what? They may need to get it again in late Summer. We just are not 100% sure on that, again, relying on experts I have researched. And by the way, you can check this out for yourself. The information- good information- is out there if you know where to look. 

All this leads up to something I saw yesterday on Twitter. Here's the first Tweet I want to reference. It comes from the organization responsible for the 'RAGBRAI-like' ride across Kansas, Biking Across Kansas. 


Next, I came across a Tweet from a media personality in the cycling genre' who was passing on some information concerning Unbound Gravel. Read this and contrast what it says against the previous Tweet shown:


So, one event cancels, the other is ploughing ahead headlong into the unknown. (Perhaps this is what it means to be 'unbound'?) Anyway.......................I will give you that Unbound has left themselves an 'out', or rather, shall we say, they have left themselves a possibility to make money. Let's compare and contrast organizations here a moment. 

BAK (Biking Across Kansas) started out as the facilitator of the annual ride across Kansas which started in 1976. It limits participation to 850 riders and costs approximately $275.00 each for the week. As far as I can find, BAK.org is a small 'touring company' and only does this event in Kansas. Unbound Gravel, on the other hand, is owned by Life Time Fitness, who in turn were bought out in 2015 by TPG and Leonard Green & Partners LP. The Life Time Fitness business was estimated to be worth 4 billion at the time of the sale. 

Getting into the Unbound 200 costs $240.00 a head In non-COVID times about 1500 riders were in the DK200, this event's predecessor, but other distances are available and they estimate that about 4,000 folks could possibly ride the event now. (Keep in mind- Unbound has never happened yet) A quick check of the 2021 event site shows that Unbound is not offering up any clues as to if there will be any roster restrictions, or if there are no restrictions. They also are not specifying exact measures, (crowd limit numbers, distancing protocol specifics, etc) that will be taken for COVID protocol, only describing overall measures. 

You can draw your own conclusions, but one thing is very clear- Smaller organizations are much quicker on their feet than corporate behemoths. I would also imagine that motivations for the Unbound to happen are a LOT more complex and maybe not as simple like a direct, more home-grown approach event like the BAK.

That said, in one sense it shouldn't matter if you are corporate or a small organization when lives are at risk. I am just amazed at the level of disconnect that is observable from event organizations all the way through to individuals who are seemingly not seeing the seriousness of the issues we are faced with. In my opinion, making plans to go forward with any large scale event which will draw individuals from across the nation and potentially internationally before the end of Summer is pure folly and irresponsible.

The Elephant In The Room: 2021

 NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

 Last year I wrote about the possibilities of cancellations for 2020 gravel events in light of the then, new COVID-19 virus. Well, we can all look back with 20-20 vision and see what the results were. (Pun intended)

Also, since that time we all have kept hearing about a 'return to normal' and wondering when that would happen. Many thought that the Fall of 2020 would be that time. Nope! 

So, we rolled into 2021 with the pandemic still wreaking havoc, but now we have a vaccine! So, everyone is getting all revved up to 'get back to normal' and have events again. Some events are hesitating, waiting out to see how things go- ala last Spring- and some have bailed already. (Mid-South did this just last week)

Some are concerned about the 'most vulnerable communities' who need to be protected, and that's admirable and right, but what about the folks who are much younger who contract COVID, get sick, and in many cases do not fully recover, or worse, die. It happens. You cannot predict who will and who will not succumb, so saying, "Well, I got it and it was no big deal.", or "I just am not seeing this in my community" doesn't negate the fact that at anytime, anyone could get COVID-19 bad, have it permanently alter their life, or have it kill them. In fact, statements like this are really pretty self-serving. Pretty shallow, if you want to know what I think.

Secondly, I brought this up on the blog last week, but the vaccination of 328.2million US citizens to a 60% level, or higher, to achieve a level where we can even start to entertain returning to normal, takes a while. Experts are saying late Summer at the earliest. Things like this are why it is likely that the Summer Olympics in Japan are to be cancelled. This is why some events here have cancelled already. 

Oh, and then there is the question of just how long is a vaccination good for. Guess what? We don't know that answer yet. So, many folks getting vaccinated today? Well, guess what? They may need to get it again in late Summer. We just are not 100% sure on that, again, relying on experts I have researched. And by the way, you can check this out for yourself. The information- good information- is out there if you know where to look. 

All this leads up to something I saw yesterday on Twitter. Here's the first Tweet I want to reference. It comes from the organization responsible for the 'RAGBRAI-like' ride across Kansas, Biking Across Kansas. 


Next, I came across a Tweet from a media personality in the cycling genre' who was passing on some information concerning Unbound Gravel. Read this and contrast what it says against the previous Tweet shown:


So, one event cancels, the other is ploughing ahead headlong into the unknown. (Perhaps this is what it means to be 'unbound'?) Anyway.......................I will give you that Unbound has left themselves an 'out', or rather, shall we say, they have left themselves a possibility to make money. Let's compare and contrast organizations here a moment. 

BAK (Biking Across Kansas) started out as the facilitator of the annual ride across Kansas which started in 1976. It limits participation to 850 riders and costs approximately $275.00 each for the week. As far as I can find, BAK.org is a small 'touring company' and only does this event in Kansas. Unbound Gravel, on the other hand, is owned by Life Time Fitness, who in turn were bought out in 2015 by TPG and Leonard Green & Partners LP. The Life Time Fitness business was estimated to be worth 4 billion at the time of the sale. 

Getting into the Unbound 200 costs $240.00 a head In non-COVID times about 1500 riders were in the DK200, this event's predecessor, but other distances are available and they estimate that about 4,000 folks could possibly ride the event now. (Keep in mind- Unbound has never happened yet) A quick check of the 2021 event site shows that Unbound is not offering up any clues as to if there will be any roster restrictions, or if there are no restrictions. They also are not specifying exact measures, (crowd limit numbers, distancing protocol specifics, etc) that will be taken for COVID protocol, only describing overall measures. 

You can draw your own conclusions, but one thing is very clear- Smaller organizations are much quicker on their feet than corporate behemoths. I would also imagine that motivations for the Unbound to happen are a LOT more complex and maybe not as simple like a direct, more home-grown approach event like the BAK.

That said, in one sense it shouldn't matter if you are corporate or a small organization when lives are at risk. I am just amazed at the level of disconnect that is observable from event organizations all the way through to individuals who are seemingly not seeing the seriousness of the issues we are faced with. In my opinion, making plans to go forward with any large scale event which will draw individuals from across the nation and potentially internationally before the end of Summer is pure folly and irresponsible.