Wednesday, March 31, 2021

B.O.G. Series: What To Eat And Drink

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

Eating and drinking on any bicycle ride is important. Especially if your ride is over an hour's length in time. Gravel, or more specifically- open country riding- is even more taxing on your system due to exposure to the elements. Winds can suck moisture out of you much easier out there. The Sun is a concern, and of course, terrain can place demands upon your body that simpler rides around town may not demand from your body. I already touched upon the subject of nutrition in this earlier B.O.G. series article, so please double check that link to get all of my thoughts on this subject. 

I'll detail things out by separating the liquids from the solids. So, let's first tackle drinking. Water is the obvious choice here, but supplementing that with an additive is not a bad idea. Your sweating out will take along with it vital nutrients that your muscles need to function properly. So replenishing those lost nutrients is very important on longer rides. Doing so will not only make your ride successful, but it will help you avoid cramping, losing power, and getting disoriented, (what many cyclists refer to as 'bonking'). Essentially, re-hydrating with just water isn't always going to be enough. In fact, using too much water is bad, but that's a topic for another day.

Hydration tablets, like these NUUN tabs, can be added to water.

So, enhancing water with a hydration supplement, like tablets, or liquid electrolytic add-ins, can be helpful. could use Gatorade, or a similar substitute, but be careful as those typically have a lot of added sugar and that's not a wise thing to ingest while exerting yourself, typically speaking. 

Products for electrolyte replenishing are typically available in many grocery stores' natural foods aisles. Things like tablets which dilute into water are common. (Don't allow a tablet to dilute in a closed container as it will pressurize the container and when you open it? BOOM! Well, kind of!) One liquid type electrolyte enhancer is Elete, which I really like as it can be added to water and you cannot taste it. I've never cramped while using that product and I highly recommend it.

There are also ways to make sure that your levels of minerals and electrolytes are up to snuff through what you eat. Bananas are a perennial choice for cycling and are easily portable while riding. You can take in salty foods as well, which can aid in keeping cramps at bay. I've seen folks eating pickles, (or just drinking pickle juice!), olives, and such fare which can be useful if you are trying to find things in the house you already may have. Salty snacks can also be used here. Just make sure that you can ride with whatever it is you choose to eat and drink so that things don't spoil, get ruined by jostling around, or that may be affected by the heat of Summer riding.  

If you are a beginner, don't think you have to pack a meal, or even a normal 'snack' to ride with. You may only be doing shorter rides to start out with, so if you are talking an hour or two, a couple of water bottles and a small amount of food is all you will really need here. If you are taking more than a sandwich bag can hold, you are probably over-packing, as far as food goes. 

For instance, in the image above, I show a selection of food I was using on a 150 mile ride. So, I had a lot of stuff! Don't go away thinking you'd need all of that! Not for an hour or two, at any rate. But what I show there is really good nutrition that can be carried along with little to no trouble. I get a lot of what I use in the natural foods aisle, but you can do things differently. Just be very careful not to litter, please! Plan on packing out your garbage, and this may also influence your choices. I mean, who wants to cart around an aluminum soda can that is empty, right? Just don't take anything like that unless you are okay with packing it out. Littering is really dumb, so let's not do that anywhere we go. 

Now all this talk about 'packing' may have you wondering about just exactly what it is you pack things in to. Next week I'll get around to that and more. 

Next: What Accessories You Should Consider.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Trans Iowa Stories: New T.I.v1 Image Turns Up

(L-R) Todd Scott, Mike Curiak, Joe Partridge, Steve Fassibinder at T.I.v1
 Trans Iowa Stories is a series about the behind the scenes, unknown, or little told stories about the event which usually appears every Sunday. This special Trans Iowa Stories post comes as a new photo from Trans Iowa v1 surfaced yesterday on Facebook. 

Every once in a while a new tidbit of information reaches me concerning Trans Iowa. Perhaps because the traditional date for the series is fast approaching, old participants of the event are finding new things to share with me. 

As an example, this coming Sunday's "Trans Iowa Series" post has two new images shared with me last week by Ari Andonopoulous. Now, just yesterday, I got tagged on a post on Facebook by former Trans Iowa finisher Joe Partridge. Joe was one of the nine riders (not those Nine Riders) who finished the very first Trans Iowa, he riding a single speed. 

In the image here, which I grabbed from Joe's Facebook page, he is sitting second wheel in a four-up group. This group was near the lead throughout the event. The group is representative of some of the top names in endurance racing in 2005. Up front is Steve "Dr. Doom" Fassibinder, then Joe, behind Joe is the legend Mike Curiak, and following in fourth is Todd Scott, who had done several 24hr events, the Leadville 100, and the Iditasport event on his bike. Todd was one who also finished this event. 

While there were two stalwart, very experienced endurance racers in this group, they did not prevail. Todd and Joe weren't slouches, by any stretch, but it was cool to see that they made it through despite the fact that the 'big guys' did not. In fact, it was in part that many of these well known racers did not finish that Trans Iowa instantly became something of a byword amongst the endurance racing crowd. The fact the no one finished the following year, at T.I.v2, just further cemented that notorious air about the event.

Back in 2005, no one had ever heard of a 'gravel bike'. It was either a flat bar or drop bar bike and most folks were split into the cyclo cross camp or they were in the mountain bike group. Of course, 26" wheels still ruled the day in terms of MTB, but Trans Iowa v1 had a lot of 29 inch wheeled bikes and you can see those represented in the group shot above. Todd was on a 26"er, if I recall correctly. 

I will always point to this event, the first Trans Iowa, as being the first 'modern day' gravel event. Sure- there were other bicycle races held on gravel, or partially on gravel courses, but none of those kicked off what we know today as the 'gravel segment' of cycling. This was the event that started this whole thing rolling that you know today as Gravel®. These four guys, and others who attended, were the pioneers of that movement. I think it is just amazing that I was there and saw it start. That I got to be a small part of this is so humbling. Just a really cool experience. 

Anyway, thanks to Joe Partridge for this great shot that I had never seen before until yesterday.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Country Views; Going To School

Escape Route: Moline Road
Saturday, and really all last week, was wet. Too wet for my tastes and so I did not get out to ride in the country on that day. It was also pretty dreary all week long last week. No Sun! So when I saw that Sunday was supposed to be partly Sunny, the high winds did not deter me from getting out there. 

It wasn't supposed to be particularly warm, so I did use a pair of thermal tights, a long sleeved wool jersey, and a soft-shell jacket. The humidity was super-low for this time of year, so that all worked out and I stayed pretty warm. If it had been wet air, well then I maybe wouldn't have been as happy, because that wind! It was every bit as bad as that other day recently that I rode, and the only difference was that this time the wind was out of the Northwest. 

So my route plan was to go North first and see how I would do. My knee, my right knee, as you might remember, had gotten a little twinge of pain riding into that bad wind last time. Well, I tried not to push too hard. Spin to win! Ha! But that's the best way, and it worked! I didn't suffer any knee pain despite going five miles straight into that punishing wind. And Moline Road is all rollers, mostly uphill, which makes it harder.

Looking West down Mt. Vernon Road

East down Bennington Road

Five miles was enough too. I don't think I could have been going much over ten miles an hour, and probably slightly less than that, into that wind. As I approached Bennington Road, I could tell it was time to bail out of that brutal wind or my knee was not going to continue to hold up. So, I hung a right and weeeeeeee! It was soooo much easier to pedal! 

Looking Southwest from under the eaves of the Bennington School house.

Sage Road looking South.

I stopped at the Bennington Schoolhouse at the corner of Sage Road and Bennington Road. I thought it wise to give myself a break so I wouldn't overtax that right knee. For some odd reason I was also out of the wind there, which did not make any sense, as I was on the Western facing steps of the schoolhouse. Anyway.... Maybe I was getting a bit of a 'draft' off the farm outbuildings across the road!

I made my first "Big Rock" visit of 2021 at the corner of Big Rock Road and Sage Road,.

Surprisingly, this was the wettest spot I came across after a week of rains.

The roads I saw North of Waterloo are in spectacular shape and very fast. I saw very little fresh gravel, although I suspect that won't last much longer. I also was a bit surprised by the lack of any mud to speak of and that the roads were still very dry. This after a full week of steady rains. That just shows you how dry it really was before last week! 

So it turned out to be a successful test of the right knee. I wasn't wanting to ride too far with that massive wind. Even riding South there was enough side force that going down hill at approximately 30mph was sketchy at times in the gusts. So no matter which way you were headed, it was no picnic for one reason or another. 

Hopefully the Spring winds start to subside a bit. I can deal with some wind, but this heavy wind stuff is not going to work for me long term. But Spring will be waning soon enough. I probably should just enjoy it while it is here!

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Trans Iowa Stories: The Last Rider

Greg Gleason's surprisingly clean looking bike in Sigourney,. Iowa

  "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!

 MG and I rendezvoused at an interstate truck stop on I-80 and decided that we could have breakfast. This was weird! Having any time at all for myself during a Trans Iowa? This was unheard of. I felt like a truant. This was a luxury I had not expected in the morning when it was still dark outside. 

But with one last rider left in the event, and Tony and Mike out there covering for us, we had time to casually sit down and talk about what had just transpired over the past seven or so hours. MG was amazed by the tales I had to tell, and of course, at that time I only knew a little bit about what had happened. 

But I wanted to know about him. What the heck was going on? Flu? Something not sit right with him? He looked to be just fine at that point as we chatted in the truck stop. Turns out that through a process of deduction it was determined that some bad ranch dressing at the pre-race meal was to blame. Basically food poisoning. But all was well by noon and MG had something to eat with no further ill effects. After this, we tried to come up with a plan to deal with the event, such as it was.

This was unprecedented. One man was left. We had probably ten people including MG and I which would have to keep 'on duty' to facilitate the event with this last rider. I basically had to decide first whether or not just to call the event off. I quickly determined that we had to run the event. Calling it off without any real good reason, whether there were ten riders or one, wasn't in my game plan. So on to the next hurdle. That being, do we keep everyone on duty, or can we just pare it down to MG and I to follow Greg around? 

This was put to Jeremy, who was the lead at CP#2, and to Tony and Mike. Not one of them was going to quit until the event was 'officially' over. Jeremy, who was going to have an assistant come along with him, did decide that he would come alone, if needed. This didn't sit well with me because this meant that Jeremy would have had to have traveled several hours in one direction to get there, all for a single rider. Jeremy didn't care, and so I was left with having that worry on my mind. Meanwhile, MG and I determined that if we could prove that Gleason couldn't make it on time, we could pull him, but that had to be a slam dunk. If it was close, we were going to have to let things play out. The first order of business then was to find out where Gleason was. Without that knowledge, we had no good way to ascertain his progress or to figure his approximate time of arrival at CP#2.

MG and I headed South to pick up the course while Tony and Mike reported in that they had short cut the course to Sigourney, approximately 30 miles further down the course, and had not seen any signs of Gleason. He should have stopped at a local Casey's there for resupply. Maybe he slipped by and was South of there already? Tony and Mike went to check that while MG and I, in separate cars, by the way, made our way to Sigourney to eventually meet Tony and Mike and convene there. Before we got there, Tony messaged me. Gleason was at the convenience store. 

Had Gleason made good time he had several miles of this to traverse on his way to CP#2- This taken the Saturday of T.I.v11 near where Greg stopped.

Tony related to me that the roads immediately South of Sigourney were treacherous. The worst he'd seen all day. That was saying something! Greg was inside the Casey's scarfing down a sandwich. His bike sat outside, looking none the worse for wear, despite the horrible conditions. Apparently, the heavy rains had washed away any mud Greg had run through. By this point the rain had abated. There were showers and mists, and the wind had calmed down significantly. In fact, things were actually much improved from my view. Had more riders made the time cut-off, this would have been a race. 

But on the other hand, it was looking like a losing battle. John Gorilla probably had the right idea after all. A close shave on time to the first checkpoint didn't allow enough time in the bank, as it were, to deal with walking more miles of Level B Roads, and there were definitely more miles of Level B Roads to Checkpoint #2. Gleason was pressing it close too. While we were watching him prepare to leave Sigourney, it was already 12:45. The next checkpoint closed at 8:00pm. Greg had a little over 80 miles to go. He was going to have to pull a rabbit out of the hat to make it, but he was a strong rider, and conditions were improving. Plus, I knew there was a long stretch of very flat terrain coming up. Maybe if Greg turned on the afterburners, he could gain enough time to play with to navigate the B Roads and still make it. Maybe. 

Of course, Greg didn't know this, and we couldn't tell him. It was just going to have to play itself out. I did lob a comment at him that I meant to get into his head. I said, "With 80 miles to go it's gonna be tough to make it in time."Greg didn't respond with anything tangible. He just grunted and shoved off. But now I knew the idea was understood. He could be motivated, or he could crumble. Now all we could do was wait to see what the outcome would be. 

Greg Gleason finally appears over the hill where we were parked. A little too late!

Now I had some math to do. Actually, I had the numbers crunched by Mike Johnson as well. I didn't want to rely on my math skills. I also forwarded my numbers to Jeremy, who just so happens to be a math professor at a local community college. All were in agreement that if I parked at a point about 40 miles from Checkpoint #2, and if Greg wasn't there at or before 4:00pm, he wasn't going to make the time cut. This was predicted on our knowledge of the course, the number of muddy, unrideable Level B Road miles within 40 miles of CP#2, and the weather. 

The weather actually improved even more by the mid-afternoon. MG and I had positioned ourselves at the spot where we were figuring Greg had to get to by 4;00pm. It was just at the end of a long, straight run Eastward where the course turned South down a narrow, muddy Level B Road. I was anxious. On one hand, I wanted Greg to fail because then I could call off Jeremy and save him a long round trip. On the other hand, I wanted to see Greg overcome the deficit and pull off a major coup.

In the meantime MG and I had a couple hours to kill. It seemed like a super long time to me. Of course, we were in the middle of no where. Nothing was going on. We just kept chatting, staring Westward at a low hill, looking for any sign of movement on the horizon that might indicate a rider. We spent some time playing with Amy, MG's dog that he brought along, and otherwise the only break in the monotony was a single car that passed us by. 

MG and Greg Gleason quaff a cold Dales at the spot where Greg pulled the plug.

At 4:00pm I told my finish line volunteers, mobile volunteers Mike and Tony, and CP#2 volunteer Jeremy that the event was over. Wally and George were notified and they decided to head home. We had not seen hide nor hair of Greg. Then we waited some more. 

Then at 4:20 MG said "There he is!", and as Greg rolled up I got out of the truck and walked up to meet him. It was over. Trans Iowa v11 was officially done. I made an announcement on "Trans Iowa Radio" to make it public. Officially it was the shortest Trans Iowa ever in terms of time, at just over 12 hours. Greg covered about 128 miles in that time, which was the second shortest amount of miles covered in a Trans Iowa ever. But could he have made it? 128 miles sounds good enough to keep going, right? Well, he had about 3.5 hours to do 40 miles to Checkpoint #2 and again- I knew the course. With at least three plus miles of walking in that 40 miles, he wasn't going to make the cut-off. It truly was a slam dunk to stop things, and even Greg agreed.

A solemn moment of silence followed which was cut short by MG asking Greg if he wanted a cold Dales. He responded in the affirmative and we both gave him a toast to celebrate his efforts. Then we piled into our vehicles, Greg with MG in his vehicle and myself in my truck, and off we went back from about as far as you could get from Grinnell on the T.I.v11 course. It was a long drive, and we didn't really know what we were going to do for certain once we did get back. 

I had a lot of time to think about that along the two hour drive back to Grinnell. We decided to tell everyone to head to a place in down town Grinnell called Lonski's. It was a local sports bar/college hang-out where I had been a few times before. MG also helped get the word out. I had a LOT of WTB tires with me as WTB had sent out something crazy like 40 pairs of Nano 40 TCS tires to hand out to every finisher. Well, obviously there weren't going to be any finishers, but I needed to download these tires. I really didn't want to be sitting on those for a year until another Trans Iowa might happen. 

Another Trans Iowa....... Yeah, I was thinking about that too. How could I let this Trans Iowa be the last? How could that be my legacy, my end statement? I couldn't allow it. The riders would have not allowed it, nor would they want to not have a chance at redemption. I figured that there would be a fair number that would want to have another crack at it. My volunteers wouldn't want it to end that way. I'm sure it was not the experience they were thinking it might be. Another year would prove to be better. 

In the meantime I had one more thing to do. A meeting. A gathering of the fellowship of Trans Iowa riders was to take place. An unprecedented chance to sit with those who had dedicated themselves to this crazy event. I was really looking forward to it too. 

Next: The Gathering

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Making Up For It

Making for the muck. It's all about testing!
Recently I was lamenting the fact that we went through the transition from Winter to Spring without much of a "slop season' in between. Usually I wouldn't mind that much. It makes for cleaner bikes and longer lasting drive train bits, that's for sure. However; there are a couple of things I am tasked with which sometimes requires bad weather and bad conditions to accomplish my goals. 

Well, as if on cue, the rains came this week and soaked out everything. So now we have mud, puddles, wet dirt, and more to slog through and that's exactly what I have been doing when I have time to get out. In particular, I needed to get that Showers Pass jacket review done and I need to abuse these WTB Proterra wheels more.

We also need rain for more than just my own personal desires, of course, so I am happy to see it coming down. I was a bit surprised that Thursday and Friday were sort of wet days since the forecast said these days would be Sunny. Ha! So much for that! 

But again, that's fine. Things that grow need the water. We were uncommonly dry last Fall and early Spring, so even this wet stretch won't be enough to make it through the rest of Spring. We'll need to see even more rain yet, and hopefully it comes at regular intervals. 

I'll be out today and I'll be interested to see how this rain has affected the roads. As dry as things were, I'm betting that the roads will absorb the moisture up really well. in fact, it wouldn't surprise me at all to find the roads dusty yet. Especially if the County has kept up with laying down even more crushed rock, which I fully expect that they will have. 

I maybe won't be getting a big ride in. there are home duties calling. I have to set up a new bed for my son, and I have to get the lawn mower ready for the year. But definitely there has to be a ride put in. I also have concocted a couple of ideas for rides coming up soon. These will be different than I've done for quite some time. I also will have a big 100 miler in the works soon. So, consistency in the riding is important. 

Stay tuned....

Friday, March 26, 2021

Friday News And Views

Do I have to "Throw the Horns" if I ride tires made of METL? (Image courtesy of the SMART TIRE Co.)
SMART Tire Company Wants To Deflate Your Tires:

"Here we go again!", I thought to myself as I read the press release. More airless tire nonsense! But wait! This is NASA level tech used for rovers on foreign planets. It might be a bit different, and, as it turns out, it is very different. 

The tires are called METL and are, of course, made out of 'metal'. A Nickle/Titanium mixture, to be exact, and are made in a mesh. Think 'microphone screen' and you might get an idea, if you've ever pondered the cover of a Shure SM-58.  The mesh can deform and spring back, in a manner better than a fine bicycle tire's casing, the company claims. 

The tires use no air, and are claimed to have a lifespan greater than that of your bicycle. Of course, whenever you hear 'great things' you can expect some 'not so great things' are probably following not far behind. So, as a for instance, the SMART METL tires for bicycles will have an outer tread of rubber which can wear away and will need regular replacement. Ah.......okay? And, of course, no weights were given and no prices were revealed. you install them wasn't mentioned. 

Comments: There is too much unrevealed here for me to really give a take on these, but the fact that much important information was withheld for the time being says that I should be very skeptical of this being a workable solution for my bicycle. Another obvious thing about the SMART Tire Company is revealed right in their mission statement: "....The SMART Tire Company, with hopes of becoming the next, great American tire company..." 

The 'next great American tire company', eh? So, bicycles are really just a proof of concept exercise? Sounds like it to me. Maybe I'm being too cynical. We'll see........ 

My Apple Watch face on March 22nd, 2021.
A Time Marker:

Lots of people are marking dates now with regard to the ongoing pandemic. "It's been a year since....." whatever happened in relation to COVID-19 type reminisces have been filling social media. Well, I haven't been one to be any different in that regard. This was, and still is, kind of a 'big deal' in my life. 

I'm not sure what ever prompted me to start a streak to fill all three 'rings' of activity monitoring on my Apple Watch on March 22nd, 2020, but I bet I had some personal challenge in mind having to do with keeping my mind focused on something positive during that dark time. Whatever the motivation was, it stuck.

Monday I completed all three rings- Move, Exercise, and Stand, for the 365th consecutive day. A full year. This challenge I undertook has changed me. I did gain fitness, for sure, but more importantly, I gained a new habit or two, and I am able to tear myself away from social media, website work, and be free from technology without feeling like I am missing something, or feeling the least little bit guilty about it. 

To me, that is huge. But trust me, I have a long way to go yet. I have seen a little bit of 'the Light', if you will, and it is tantalizing. If I can move away from this seat I am sat in as I type this more during 2021 than I did in 2020 it will be counted as another goal and a success. You may be thinking I should include my mobile smart phone in this, but I forget about that thing far too often as it is. In fact, I lose it about three times a day and it doesn't bother me. Well, it doesn't until I have to find it!

So, where do I go from here? I figure I may as well keep on truckin'. Why not? It has been a good thing and I don't see a downside. Also- I am already at peace having set a year straight goal and achieving it, so if a day comes where I get sick or injured and cannot do one or all three 'rings' of activity, I am okay with that too. No worries now. But heck- why not go for two years straight? So, that's the plan for now. We'll see how it pans out in a year. 

Shimano Celebrates 100th Anniversary Of Business:

Shimano is the big bicycle parts manufacturer from Japan which we all might be familiar with, but do you know what their first bicycle part was? It was made in 1921 and it was a single speed free wheel called the "3.3.3.". Shimano also went on to make internal gear hubs, and of course, they were the first into MTB specific parts and the first to market a gravel specific group, amongst many other fine accomplishments. Some of you also may not know that Shimano is a big player in the fishing reel segment. I happen to own a fine example of an 80's era Shimano spinning reel. 

Want to check out more Shimano history? They have a special Centennial website here.

You're always on my mind....
Can't Stop Thinking About You:

Back in my 20's, I often would get a feeling come around about August time. The way the Sun light hit the grass, and the smell of a fresh-cut lawn would send my mind back to football practice. Two-a-days and humidity, sore muscles and running, running, running....Those memories haunted me every Fall for several years. And to think I only played organized football games for what? Five or six seasons? That memory really stuck with me for quite a while into my early adulthood though.

So, it should come as no surprise to me that every Spring the sights, sounds, and smells take me back to something I did for 15 years. I put on an organized bicycle event that exacted a lot of energy and emotion. Such was the case over this past week as the grass started turning greener and the smells of earth and whatever aromatic sensations are carried to me by the stiff Spring winds began to stir thoughts of organizing gravel events. 

How I did things still rolls around in my head from time to time. This past week it was how I organized the logistics regarding navigation for the event. Things that were getting to be a concern, and would be now, prompted a thought for a solution. It was exciting, if I am honest, to wonder how this new idea would play out. 

But don't get too aroused out there folks. I am not going to come out of retirement anytime soon. It is just that since I have been doing that thing for so many years that it is hard to just throw the switch and turn it off. Frankly, for me at any rate, that isn't possible. My mind will probably be permanently altered due to all those years of thinking about gravel events and how to do them from a director's viewpoint. 

Oh well.....

LATE BREAKING NEWS: Gravel Worlds has just announced that they have received approval from their local Health Department and have added 250 extra roster spots as a result. From the press release:

"Lincoln, Neb. (Mar 25,2021) — The Pirate Cycling League has received approval from Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department to hold Gravel Worlds 2021 as an in-person event the weekend of August 21, 2021. The LLCHD also approved 250 additional rider entries, bringing the total number of participants to 1,600."

Go to to register.

That's a wrap for this week! I hope you all have a safe and enjoyable weekend , hopefully on bicycles.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

People Will Forget Until You Remind Them

In response to how folks perceived MTB's when they came out.
I read this bit of wisdom from an old dirt car racer on Twitter one day. He said: "People will forget until you remind them", and he'd proceed to talk about some accomplishment in racing he or his family achieved. It sounds like bragging when you read it the first time, but he's right, you know. People forget their history- or never knew it to begin with - and spout off some pronouncement that they probably wouldn't have with some perspective and knowledge of history. Such was the case earlier this week when Russ from the "Path Less Pedaled" was musing on why folks "hate on" gravel bikes. 

Generally speaking from my experience over the past fifteen years of talking about bikes for the purposes of riding on gravel, dirt roads, and bad pavement, I can say that most people's responses to the term and the existence of 'gravel bikes' lack a knowledge of history and a perspective on the subject. Sometimes the responses are near the mark, sure, but most times they lack any consideration of, or knowledge of, what has gone on before all this modern day 'gravel bike' nonsense. 

Now, you longtime blog readers all know this, more than likely, but my take on an all-terrain road bike is one drawn from history. Use bigger tires, like they used to, use slacker geometry, like they used to, and a lower bottom bracket with moderate length chain stays, just like they used to, only do it all up with modern materials technology. This was, and is, to my way of thinking, the any-man's road bike, with the 'man' part referring to humans as a species, okay? 

So, this all came up when it was pushed out on Monday on social media that certain groups of people were 'angered', (bent out of shape?), by the term 'gravel bike' and the question above was posted which you can see my answer to. Historically, no one I ever read, spoke to, or knew of thought that MTB's were just "road bikes with fat tires". In fact, if you thought that then, you'd likely not find many folks to ride with either in the roadie camp or the MTB camp. The gulf between the two was real, as crazy as it may seem today. 

Of course, this went further on in discussion until the term 'gravel grinder' came up, which is the other thing that seems to tweak some people off. But as I pointed out in that thread, and have pointed out numerous times here, that is not a construct of modern day gravel marketing. It existed as a 'thing' long before the popularity of 'gravel events' took off in the mid-00's. 

Courtesy of Richard Masoner's Tweet
I've often told the story here that Iowa and other Mid-Western roadies would often use rural roads to train on for late spring criterium racing. They referred to these early season training rides on crushed rock roads as 'gravel grinds', and going out for a 'gravel grinder' was understood to mean that you were going to go on a training ride on gravel roads for their higher resistance and more hilly terrain. 

This term was adopted by early race promoters who put on mountain bike races on gravel roads. Then, it became the obvious term to borrow for races and events put on gravel for any type of bicycle you wanted to haul out. It was a natural progression, and as such, was never meant to be a marketing term. It was adopted by the followers in the gravel event promoting ranks and then went on to represent the segment of racing and riding that was on gravel. This also probably explains why marketers adopted 'gravel' for the components and bicycles used at such events. I cannot say for certain, but that's a logical assumption on my part. Your mileage may vary. 

And as you can see, I'm not the only one that thinks this way about where that term came from. I know some folks might think we 'made that up', but we didn't. It was a term we borrowed that made sense to us in the mid-2000's. So, whether or not that 'irritates' you, the term has a history and means something that maybe you may not have considered. That may not make you feel any better about that term, but it isn't going away and for good reason. 

It reminds me of how 'mountain bikes' came about as a descriptive term for those types of off-road, fat tire bikes. That term- Mountain Bikes -was actually a brand name at first. It was what Gray Fisher and Charlie Kelly called their fledgling all terrain bicycle company. But the popularity of the name ended up becoming the term for the whole genre of off-road bicycles. Think about how dumb that is. I mean, you don't have to have mountains to ride those bikes, right? Surely "All-Terrain" should have won out. But, as we all know, it did not. 

So, there is a precedent for how a silly name becomes a term for a whole category of bicycles. I'm no fan of 'gravel bike', and you long time readers all know that. But I've been over-ruled and the market has spoken, so gravel bikes it is. 

And as far as 'gravel grinders' go, well, you can call your rides whatever you want to, but where I'm from, these crushed rock road rambles have been called that since long before I was big enough to ride gravel roads. So, it is a tradition we carry on with here. I see no harm in that term. I also don't see that term, as annoying as some think it is, going away either. Convince me otherwise....

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

B.O.G. Series: How To Be Self-Supported And Why

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

The 'modern gravel riding scene' was based around self-reliance to a large degree. That has morphed along with the passage of time, but self-reliance, or as we are calling it here- self-supported riding- is a good practice to engage in and will make your riding less stressful, more fun, and in the end, it will provide you with more success and adventure. This post will help to show you what areas to focus on and why these self-supported ideas can make your gravel rides better. 

First, you should develop an idea on what sort of ride time you typically want to take on and the area you'll be riding in or through, as the case may be. Much of your decision making will pivot off of where you ride and for how long. For example- If your adventure is near, or even within an urban area, where you have access to retail stores, your kit and what you need to know will be different than the person who is riding in a remote area in the foothills, and both of those will have different decisions to make from the person who is riding a 100 miles through small villages in a rural agricultural area. So, how can you make any sense out of this? 

  • Time: Your needs will be dictated by time of ride. Longer rides require more thought to nutritional needs, access to drinking water, clothing choices, and repair kits may be the largest for the ultra-distances. But for beginners, we are thinking what? Maybe an hour or two? Let's start there! 

So, working with the thought that we are dealing with just getting started on gravel riding, and maybe this ride will last up to two hours, we're likely talking something in the 20-25 mile range- or less. That's a decent pace, but not racing speeds. So that's our first parameter here. 

  • Location: Where the ride happens is the next bit. Let's assume a 'worst case scenario' here and think about an up to two hour, 20-25 mile distance ride where you are not going to have any access to a town, convenience store, or water stops. Okay? Let's also add here that this is actual rural road- gravel or dirt or both- and we'll go from there. Keep in mind that if your riding time or place of ride is less demanding that you can adjust accordingly. 

There are two things you need to think about when thinking 'self-supported riding' after time and location. That is "How will I maintain my own self to make it through the ride?" and "How do I make sure my bicycle makes it through the ride?' Let's think about the rider first. 

My bike here has multiple mounts for water, as you can see.
When you ride an hour or longer, it is conventional wisdom that you, as a human, will need to re-hydrate and you will need to replenish your energy. Drinking and eating for riding are subjects that are so deep, wide, and long I cannot possibly get a good overview in the space of one article. So, suffice it to say that water and something you like to have as a snack will have to do to get you started. Water is typically carried in a bicycle water bottle and that goes into a 'cage' which mounts to your bike. One bottle is usually enough for one hour of riding. Not consumed all at once either! No, sip on it occasionally. That's best. This is the conventional way to do the hydration thing, but there are several options. Just make sure you have enough water. Then, make sure you are constantly drinking small amounts. 

Eating is similar. I once heard a successful long-distance gravel rider say that riding longer rides was really not just riding- it is an eating contest! Well, to the degree that you should be eating regularly, yes- but this doesn't mean a vast quantity of food is necessary. I'll get into the questions of what to eat and drink next week.

You probably should eat if you've been out over an hour on a ride, but you don't have to- it isn't a hard and fast rule for everyone. So, play it by ear, but eating something is better than not, most times. Just as with drinking, moderation is key. The best bet here is to experiment with options that can be transported in your bags or backpack without having them get destroyed or ruined by heat. Carrying those items in bags, as mentioned, is generally what most do, and bags for bicycles are varied and many in size, shape, and form. If this is too bewildering, hard to deal with, or impossible to get for you, a simple rucksack will do. (Book bag, backpack, etc) I even used a messenger bag for several years to transport clothing, water, and food for rides. I even did a Winter race with a messenger bag! So, be creative. It doesn't have to be a 'bicycle specific thing'. Baskets are another option too. Milk crates on a rack will work. You get the idea..... Just make sure it is a system that is safe and doesn't destroy your food, or your ride.

Veterans of gravel riding know that you need to be properly equipped with tools and know-how. 
Now, what about your bike? Well, we've already discussed how it needs to be ready to go- No ifs, ands, or buts, so I assume you are undertaking the ride with a bike that has been signed off as workable and safe. What we are concerned with here is doing what it takes to get home in case of a 'breakdown', which 90% of the time will be a flat tire. So, disregarding tubeless here, because most beginners will be on tubed tires, you should know how to change a flat tire out and have the tools to do that. This is the number one killer of rides. 

So, seeing as how flat repair is its own subject, and seeing as how this has been covered to death already in many ways better than I can write it out, I suggest taking the time to read through and practice flat repairing by checking out this article from REI here. I'm not an REI guy, nor am I getting anything for pointing you their direction, its just a good, comprehensive look at the subject. There are tons of good flat repair tutorials out there, so feel free to search and check out the one that speaks to you. Bottom line? You NEED to learn this skill and own the proper tools to accomplish the task. 

It is very important that you take care of yourself, first, and secondly, that you know how to repair a flat tire and have the tools and proper bits to accomplish the job. If you are separated from a group, or riding alone, you will definitely feel more secure and empowered if you have the skills and knowledge necessary to do both types of self-support- Rider and bike self-support. 

I'll get around to how you can carry all this stuff around in a couple weeks here, so don't worry about that just yet. Just keep in mind that you are covering the bare necessities here of self-support. There is a LOT more you can learn here, but for getting out there to ride, these basics should prove to be good to get you started. Now, of course, there are other eventualities that can occur which can cause a ride to end prematurely. So, since we live in the times we live in, a smart phone is a good thing to have at hand. Letting people that care about you know your ride plan is another thing, and of course, riding with other seasoned riders is always a good thing as long as they are sensitive to beginner cyclists or rookies to gravel riding. 

Next week: What To Eat And Drink

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

I Missed The Mud.......A Little!

Wet, soft roads, like these in Spring of 2018, were absent this year.
Well, it would seem that we went from Winter straight into Spring with barely any transition at all. The roads all around Iowa are seemingly coming out of Winter with flying colors and in a rather unprecedented state, they are even getting fresh gravel already. That's usually something that waits until April sometime. 

And here I was, thinking we'd have a typical transition from Winter to Spring with at least two weeks of "slop season" riding. I tacked on fenders and clip-on mudguards all to no avail. They simply were not needed this year at all. In fact, I stripped two bikes of their fenders already, and may succumb to taking them off my Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross rig. I have not ridden that bike without fenders for over five years. 

So, big deal, right? That's a good thing. Well......maybe, except we need the moisture and it is super dry out there now, even with this rain we are getting. I am just kind of shocked we haven't seen any moisture in the roads. It is a pain to deal with when you want to bicycle, but not having any? That's not good for anyone. So, I kind of missed the mud, to be honest, and I hope that it doesn't continue to be overly dry out there. 

The other side note to all of this is that I am supposed to be reviewing this rain jacket and, well..... Hopefully I can get out in this and put an end to this review I'm doing. It has rained before this, of course, but it was freezing cold and coming down in the form of 'soft snow'. Like big flakes of snow that had just been melted enough that you could call it rain. Not anything I'd want to ride in.

I'm not sure why, but my iPhone camera just cannot replicate the color of this bike correctly.

Sunday I rode the Standard Rando v2 around the neighborhood to get my daily exercise in. No big deal. Just enough to spin out the legs and to stress the knee I tweaked Saturday a bit so it wouldn't get stiff. That all worked out, but as I was riding it I kept debating in my mind whether or not I am going to keep riding the Winston Bar on there. Unfortunately, no decision was made. 

I guess I'll just keep riding it the way it is for the time being until I get inspired to do something different. I'm not necessarily missing a drop bar, but I'm not sure the Winston Bar is 100% right for this bike. It's really good, so don't get me wrong. It is probably just a case of over-thinking things. I guess I should forget about missing 'slop-season' and the Winston Bar and shut up and ride.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Country Views: Spring Blows Into Town

Escape Route: Hess Road
 Another Saturday, another beautiful day on tap. This time it was the first day of Spring as far as the marking of the Spring Equinox goes. I always figured it was acting like Spring most years long before that, and apparently the weather people think so as well. Now there is this "meteorological Spring' which they say starts March 1st. Well,, maybe that's too early, and I figure it is somewhere in between there, but they never asked for my opinion, so it is whatever it is. 

 At any rate, it was supposed to be near 60° and Sunny, so I was game for a ride. I went back and forth on what I wanted to do all day Friday and into Saturday morning, and in the end, an early start to Friday (4:00am) and a week's worth of bicycle wrenching had me pretty pooped out. So, I slept in instead of trying to get out before the Sun came up. That turned out okay anyway since it was about 31° in the morning and then it was supposed to zoom up about 15 degrees in the first hours of Sunlight. That's always a recipe for 'tough-to-dress-for' rides. So, I was okay to wait until the temperature stabilized. 

When I looked at the possible conditions for Saturday on Friday, the forecast was for around a 20mph wind out of the Southeast. Okay, so the route plan was South then, and I didn't dial it in until I left, and that's when I decided I'd ride from Prairie Grove Park to Hickory Hills via gravel and back. Only there was one thing I didn't know....

I decided to use the Black Mountain Cycles MCD with those Kitchen Sink bars on it. Since it was pretty warm, I dressed in a long sleeved wool jersey and a vest, 3/4's pants, and long wool socks with some pretty warm (for me) standard MTB shoes for footwear. No gloves. At first, I thought it might be a mistake as the wind was stiff and that made it feel colder, but after about three miles I was fine. 

The appearance of 'cover crops' (usually rye grass), makes for quite the contrast with what snow is left.

Some roads were still in 'hero gravel' status.....

I got out on Hess Road and turned East on Orange Road only to find that the wind wasn't 20-ish miles an hour. It was definitely stronger than that. But it is Spring now, whatever way you look at it, and that means wind. It wasn't worse than I would have thought for this time of year, so I plugged along. 

.....and others were full-on deep in gravel.

Most of the time it was in between rough and smooth.

I soon decided that this wind had revealed that I wasn't in as good of shape physically as I thought I was. I was struggling up minor grades and my speed was low. Hmmm... Oh well! That means I just had to work at this and continue to get better. It is only just starting out in Spring here. I have time, I thought, to make gains. 

The roads were getting new gravel on them. Now, I don't know how the County decides to go about this job, because you'd hit patches of deep, loose gravel for a stretch then you'd run out on a short stretch of about 50 yards of hero gravel, then back to deep gravel, then a mile of hero gravel, then on and on.... Switching back and forth so you had variable conditions. From time to time, it even looked like 'normal' out there, as in my image above. Transition time in the country.......

I had to stop for a minute and noted that this water bottle cage (the upper one) had come loose.

Then I started up a grade and the wind roared. I shifted down two gears, spun the best I could, and hunkered down. This wasn't just a little over 20mph! I was working way harder than I should be. Hmm.....this was more than a fitness issue! Then it became a physical issue. Yep! I felt it as a twinge of pain in my right knee. 

I was at the point I was going to turn East and make my way to Hickory Hills, but instead I stopped. My knee wasn't going to work itself out, it was only going to get worse pushing into.....hey! I have a phone with me! I decided to dig it out and see just what the heck was going on here. And when I pulled up my weather app, I was finally seeing the light. "Winds at 22mph with gust of 33mph.


Made sense immediately, and in my estimation, the "gusts" part was more consistent than not. Flags were standing straight out. And as we all know, being out in the open always adds a bit to whatever the weather apps are saying. So the decision to head back was made there. 

The last snow banks are quickly disappearing, so I decided to get one last pic for the album.

The maintainer had been up Beck Road. You can see my tracks here, and maybe one other faint set.

Coming back in was brilliant! With that big wind at my back I was simply flying along and on downhills I think I was right around 30mph pretty easily. I counted one section of a mile where I pedaled maybe 20 feet of the mile. It was nuts!

I also saw some other tracks in the freshly graded surface of Beck Road, which if I had to guess, I would say it was Tom. He lives nearer to the Southern gravel in Black Hawk County, so I know he's out there a lot. But it could have been someone else. You never know.....

That white dot at the end of the road? That's the socked-in B Level Maintenance section of Petrie Road.

As I have stated here recently, it is so dry out there in the country that it is incredible for early in the year. The roads are sooooo dusty! I feared earlier that it was so bad that the road beds would start breaking down into moon dust, and on my ride Saturday I saw evidence of that happening. Now the County is laying down new gravel, but without some rain soon we will be in trouble. 

Fortunately those rains are forecast for today and tomorrow. Hopefully that pans out and we'll be getting some support from moisture to keep the roads together for a bit. Of course, Spring plants and animals will be needing that moisture as well. I really hope that they get it too. 

Greening up is happening. Soon the countryside will be festooned in green everywhere and farmers will start tilling fields. Another season of growth is kicking into gear......

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Trans Iowa Stories: A Face In A Window

Greg Gleason at Checkpoint #1 during T.I.v11 Image by Wally Kilburg

 "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!

 Greg Gleason sped away from Checkpoint #1, raised his fist in the air, and disappeared. then everyone looked around. The faces of the volunteers were aghast. Was this it? Now what happens?

Gleason was at the checkpoint long enough that by the time he left it was over. No one else was going to make the time cut. We were preparing for the arrival of some riders, but how many would actually push on to the checkpoint? Surely most of them knew that they were done. 

About ten minutes later, a water-logged Bruce Gustafson rolled in alone. Then a few more minutes went by and a foursome rolled up including former Trans Iowa winners John Gorilla and Eric Brunt. John told me then that they purposefully waited a mile or so out to make sure they missed the cutoff! It was that miserable out there! But upon further reflection on this, I think John was cagey and wise enough to understand that a Trans Iowa course was going to have enough difficulties that pushing onward at the edge of the time cut-off for CP#1 was a recipe for failure further down the road anyway. Why incur further potential damage? While I don't know for sure that this was his thinking, I am sure that he was aware of that and possibly based his decision to purposefully make sure that he missed the cut-off due to those thoughts. 

After those four rolled in and were accounted for, riders started trickling in. Some alone, others in pairs. Soon we had a shelter house full of shivering, rain soaked, and muddy racers waiting for rescue by their support people. Phones were pulled out and several conversations were going on at the same time. It was becoming a bit of a chaotic scene. Steve Fuller manned the roster sheet and I ended up being the phone contact relaying information to him. We saw about a 50/50 split between riders that showed up and those that either turned back or were getting picked up out in the country between Guernsey and Grinnell to the West. 

Things were hectic for a bit there. While Wally and Jason seemingly disappeared, I had the forethought to document the scene as it unfolded. 

John Gorilla leads in three other late-comers to the checkpoint shelter.

Mark Johnson, a strong single speeder from Illinois, smiles after arriving at CP#1.

The chaos increased as vehicles piled into the checkpoint, riders were carted away, and volunteers tried to make sense of who was accounted for and who we still needed to find. The phone was going nuts as I was taking calls from riders and now from worried support people trying to navigate the sodden gravel roads around Guernsey, Iowa in search of abandoning riders. 

My two stalwart volunteers, Tony McGrane and Mike Johnson were cruising the course in search of anyone in need of assistance or directions. Tony related to me how at one point he was trying to help a rider short-cut their way to the small village where he was to be picked up, but that he was so out of sorts that he couldn't follow Tony's instructions. Eventually this rider was picked up safely. 

A rider at CP#1 with a thousand yard stare induced by the brutal conditions of that morning.

It was not uncommon for reports of riders on the verge of hypothermia and disorientation to come in to me that day. We also were watching riders waiting for rides that were 100% spent. Exhausted by their efforts to reach the checkpoint in time. Shivering, staring blankly, and incoherent, they were all eventually plucked from this normally quiet Iowa village and brought to a safe, warm place to gather themselves back up again. In fact, later on Wally reported to me that a few Guernsey residents ventured out and were bold enough to ask him a few questions. When they were appraised of the situation, they were seemingly chuffed that such heroics were being played out in their otherwise forgotten corner of Iowa. 

Occasionally I still get stories brought up about this Trans Iowa. Recently Warren Weibe, a veteran of eight Trans Iowas, reminded me of the story he had about v11. He was walking the heinous, muddy Level B before the checkpoint like everyone else. When he exited the road and reached gravel again, his spirits lifted briefly as he attempted to mount his bike. Now he could make some progress and ride! 

As he went to clip into his pedals, he realized one of his shoes was missing! How long he had walked without it on, he did not know. But he did know he'd have to go find that shoe, which could be anywhere in that mile of muck. Fortunately for Warren, he found it rather easily, since, as he put it, "It was sticking up out of the mud like a half buried car at the Cadillac Ranch".

Back at the shelter house in Guernsey, it was a busy scene until about 10:00am, a full hour and a half after the checkpoint closed. Then things started to wind down. MG called me and said he was feeling much better. He decided to come out and meet me at the checkpoint and then we'd go out in search of the last rider. Meanwhile, vehicles full of wet, muddy riders were pulling away. One, a pearl white Escalade, was packed full, and as I watched it slowly start its journey back to Grinnell, I saw a familiar face peering out. It was Tim Ek. He was a figure that was prominent in many of my Trans Iowa experiences, both during the events and in between them. We had several great email exchanges, and he was a very encouraging, supportive person during Trans Iowa's formative middle years. 

He waved at me from that foggy window as the Escalade rolled away. It was the last time I ever saw him as a Trans Iowa rider. 

Next: The Last Rider

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Little Did I Know

From the 2019 Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational
A comment on yesterday's post got me to thinking. It was made by Tom in reference to his having been in the 2019 C.O.G 100 event. He posted, "I’m very thankful I caught the tail end of your event days." 

First off- "Thank you, Tom!"

Secondly, I immediately thought afterward, "Was that my last cycling event I put on?" And the answer is, no- No it wasn't. The last one was a "Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational". That occurred in July of 2019. Little did I know then that this would be my last event production. I didn't go into that event with the thought that I was going to stop with the work and promotions of events at all. That wasn't even on my radar then. 

Of course, I had retired Trans Iowa as an event. That was completely different, in my view. My intentions past Trans Iowa were to do the 2020 C.O.G. 100, another GTDRI, and maybe even a "Geezer Ride" again. Yep! I had no idea that the 2019 GTDRI was the last event I'd put on, maybe ever. (Because hey! You never know, right?) <===That said, don't get any ideas! I'm pretty content with my resume' and my legacy in events as it is now. 

Plus, I ain't gettin' any younger! I want to do some riding without the baggage of event production, and all that entails, hanging over me. It's a burden, quite honestly, and if you have produced an event, you know what I mean. It's an intangible 'weight' that is hard to describe, but once you've been unyoked from it, the feeling of freedom is strong. I doubt I'll be willing to put that yoke back on my shoulders again, but like I said, you never know. Never say "never", never say "always". 

While I'm thinking about the GTDRI, I will remind you that after the "Trans Iowa Stories" series is over, I am motivated to write up another series on the GTDRI's fourteen year run. Then I'll probably tag on my other various event productions along with that at the end of that series. That should be a whopping amount of writing to do in the future. So, if you were wondering what the heck Guitar Ted was going to do once he finished the T.I. stories, well, now you have that road map. 

That is, assuming I am around to write that stuff. You never know......

Friday, March 19, 2021

Friday News And Views

Note the red circled rider. This may give you some perspective on the hills.
 C.O.G. 100 Course v2 Attempted: 

Last weekend there was a 'virtual contest' in regard to the Mid-South event. We, (meaning myself and N.Y. Roll) tried to get the C.O.G. 100 v2 course on their radar as an 'official' route, and we even submitted it, but they must have deemed it not worthy since it was never put on as an 'officially recognized route' for their contest. Whatevs......

We tried at least. But maybe it is better off that it wasn't on their radar. Why? Because it is a really hard course. Just ask Tom and N.Y. Roll who attempted it last weekend. They made it 87 miles before throwing in the towel. Apparently, a soupy Level B Maintenance road was partially to blame there. (Note- There was only one of those adding up to about two miles of the entire course. )

Of course, being a route that I devised, the hills are in abundant supply. It isn't hard to find those in Jasper County, by the way, so don't go congratulating me on me route finding. Besides, I'd run Trans Iowa through here many years, not to mention a few Guitar Ted Death Rides and a Geezer Ride. So I know the area like the back of my hand. That said, you have to know how to string together the right roads to get a lot of elevation. In those 87 miles that N.Y. Roll and Tom accomplished they climbed 6700 feet, so there is not much relief there. Check out that image to the left. That's Tom circled in red at the bottom of a valley. You can refer to him and see how long and steep the hills get out there.That image is courtesy of N.Y. Roll, by the way.

The course was made public at one point so if you grabbed the route you now have a bit of reference material to guide you. (Note- Don't ask me for the route. I typically don't make my routes public. You missed it? Don't ask me for it now. It's out there......somewhere....) I'll be trying this course at some point (hopefully) this year as well. I've actually ridden a big chunk of it by bicycle at one point or another, so I know what to expect, but this report from N.Y. Roll and Tom should be noted if you have the route and are going to attempt this. 

What A Difference A Year Makes;

 One year ago about right now we were all descending into the unknown of COVID-19. I don't have to remind you all what that was like. But one thing was clear- no one knew how it was going to end at this time last year. And maybe the fear of the unknowns- the virus, how it was all going to unfold- was the worst part. 

Well, now it all looks a bit different a year later. Now we have a 'light' of sorts at the end of a tunnel. There seems to be a point where - yes - this will all pass. Vaccine roll-out is ongoing and very hopeful outlooks say that by mid-Summer we'll all be doing things much like we had been before the whole mess started a year ago. 

I'm not 100% sold on that rosy outlook, but I will say that I am feeling a lot more hopeful than I have been in a long while for an end of this thing to be happening. I also feel a lot better personally since Monday I was able to avail myself of an opportunity to get my first of two vaccination shots. My son did as well. This means that after the first week in April my whole immediate family will have been vaccinated. That's a relief, I'll tell ya that much. I am also very hopeful that you all reading this will be able to say the same, if you haven't already been vaccinated, soon. 

What an accomplishment by scientists and the health care system. In less than a year we went from fear and anxiety to having hope that things are ending for this pandemic. I suspect that this will have a big effect on events and social interactions going forward. 

I was talking with my neighbor the other day, who is single now after a divorce. He was hoping to get his vaccination soon so he could put out on social media that he was a good guy, had his 'shots' and was house trained. Ha ha! What weird time we live in! 

Oil slick- So popular, but why? Image courtesy of DT Swiss

DT Swiss Sells Out Oil Slick Hubs:

So, supposedly those sneaky Swiss guys made some 240 level hubs in that oh-so-popular 'oil slick' anodization that is all the rage amongst the MTB crowd now. They only made 1000 pieces worldwide and only official DT Swiss dealers were able to get them. According to at least one of those dealers, this was an unannounced opportunity and the hubs sold out in minutes. 

Comments: So oil slick ano is a big deal now. It's a fashion thing, of course, and nothing more. This too shall pass, just like all ano color phases have. Purple had its day, turquoise, pink, and on and on. "Oil slick" is just the latest to make a splash. I think we can kind of blame SRAM for this as they started manufacturing some oil slick looking bits when Eagle came out several years ago now. 

I find the concept odd. Especially the name- 'oil slick'. That was a bad thing at one time and the term represented the worst of our society's dependence upon petroleum based products. An 'oil slick' was, and still is, one of an environmentalist's worst nightmares. And here the supposedly 'green' bicycle industry is producing a product that riders are scrambling for the chance to buy-  A component anodized in a color with a name that somewhat celebrates the idea of pollution? 


Apparently this oil slick thing is most popular with the mountain biking set since DT Swiss only did the hubs for Boost spaced bikes, which, at least for now, is within the realm of mountain biking. Which makes it even odder since mountain biking is traditionally tied to green, environmentally sound practices, in general. UPDATE: Okay, maybe not just MTB. State Bicycle just dropped a handlebar, seat post, stem, and water bottle cage in 'oil slick'. They are more of an urban/fixed gear company with a gravel option, so there's that.

Speedplay Pedals Available:

Speedplay pedals have been around for years. I first became aware of the brand in the mid-1990's when a coworker of mine bought a set for mountain biking. Since that time the brand, a family owned business, made a lot of inroads into the road biking market where they arguably carved out a niche and their users became loyal fans of the brand over the ensuing years. 

But hard times hit and Speedplay eventually was sold to Wahoo Fitness who have now revived the brand. Now you can get the pedals which are a sort of reverse orientation from every other design again. Speedplay uses the pedal as the 'cleat' and the spring mechanism goes on your shoes. so it is quite a bit different than most 'clipless' pedals on the market. 

Nothing shows up on the site in regard to a mountain bike specific design, or the pedal that Speedplay had made for gravel, the SYZR, although Speedplay had a design out which they had released shortly before the company was sold. Reports were that design was somewhat problematic and so perhaps it has been withdrawn within the Wahoo Fitness Speedplay range. Whether or not that type of pedal will surface again is not known at this point. 

Comments: I suppose you could use the Speedplay pedal for gravel, but that 'cleat' on the shoe, even with the walkable 'protector' thingie, ah....... I wouldn't recommend it. But I've seen folks using straight up roadie pedals on rough gravel before, so.... I just don't think it is good for the life of the cleat and it's undoubtedly harder to walk on gravel- if you have to- with roadie cleats and flat bottomed, stiff road shoes. But not everyone's idea of 'gravel' is the same, so I cannot speak for everyone there.

That's a wrap for this week! Get out and ride if you can!