Friday, April 30, 2021

Friday News And Views

New Shimano "Linkglide" 10 speed group. (Image courtesy of Shimano)
 Shimano Introduces A New E-Bike (HPC) Specific Group:

With the popularity of electric motor enhanced bicycles a problem or two has arisen which was something I saw coming a long time ago. That is that with the electric motor's 'instant torque' application, wear and tear on drive train parts is increased. (Not to mention tires, wheels, and even saddles) This has resulted in consumer's finding out that their fancy-pants 12 speed MTB HPC (Hybrid Powered Cycle) rig goes through parts a lot faster than their normally powered friend's bikes do. 

So, for several years now manufacturers have been "beefing up" parts which the industry has spent billions of dollars on and decades of R&D trying to make strong and light. Because electrified power is a lot different than human power and since, you know, power conservation isn't as imperative from a designer's standpoint, we can add the beef and it won't matter a lick. Well, other than making stuff last longer. Shimano is simply following the market here. 

Another interesting tidbit that was part of this story reveals how HPC rigs are making it 'easier' to ride bicycles, but that a lack of rider skill has proven to be an added design liability when making components for HPC's:

"We (Shimano) noticed that less experienced cyclists ride in the same gear, sometimes under excessive torque, for long periods of time, which puts strain on their drivetrain. As well as that, riders who shift under torque also cause excess wear and tear and ultimately a loss of drivetrain performance. "

They are being nice here, but the message is clear: HPC riders ride differently, so we needed to beef up the parts. Because if they were riding traditional human powered bicycles, they couldn't get away with the lack of technique which is necessary to ride and power the bike 100%. Oh, and none of this 10 speed stuff is compatible with anything else, so far as I have read. Of course, it wouldn't be.......

The Pirelli Cinturato Gravel H tire.

The Pirelli Tire For Bikes That Run Gravel:

Pirelli - That name always meant 'European sports car racing" to me. I saw the banners at the big motorcycle races. I knew Pirelli made a trialsin tire for bicycles. (I actually have an example of one), but today? No one had heard of Pirelli bicycle tires until recently. 

I know that the tire brand Clement was revived by Donn Kellogg who licensed that name from Pirelli. Of course, Clement made some hay with the early gravel scene and the Xplor MSO tire. Things went along well with that relationship until Pirelli released the news that they were coming back into the bicycle tire market. That decision precipitated the split between Kellogg and Pirelli and resulted in the the rebranding of Clement to Donnelly. 

So now I am wondering what the heck is going on with Pirelli? They released some road racing tires and some urban cycling tires.  But nothing was happening on the gravel tire side. So some time goes by, and now here we have Pirelli gravel tires today.

So, I figured that this was something I needed to check out. I got a set via Andy's Bike Shop, ( paid for with my own moolah, natch!), and I have them set up on my pink Black Mountain Cycles MCD. (You can read all the pertinent details on these tires here) That bike has plenty of room for tires at 45-50mm depending upon what rim you use, so I knew that even if these 45's stretched, I'd likely be okay with the BMC MCD. 

And stretch a bit they did! They actually measure up to 47mm now, and I'll be honest, that's okay by me. I was really liking the 47mm Teravail Rutlands I had on there before the Pirellis and I really wasn't wanting a narrower tire, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do. So, as they seem to be about the same volume as the Rutlands, I am happy. Plus, the Cinturato is not really very rounded off, or 'peaked' in its cross section, which I happen to prefer as well. 

If you don't want, or cannot fit a 45-47mm tire, Pirelli offers this in a 40mm and a 35mm, or go 650B X 45 or 50mm! Choices. It's good......

A week of Trans Iowa memories burning into my brain.
The Week Of Trans Iowa Memories:

This week has been rife with memories popping up on Facebook of the 14 years worth of Trans Iowa events I have done. That is because the last full weekend of April was the traditional time for Trans Iowa to be held. Only one Trans Iowa, T.I.v5, was run in May, so most everything I see on Facebook this week is something Trans Iowa related. 

And it isn't just things I've posted, but things I 'liked' posted by others as well. Some folks have even shared their memories that have been popping up on their feeds over the past week, adding more T.I. memories and images to my vast trove of collected stuff. It is an emotional roller coaster of stuff coming at me every day for a week. 

I don't recall this being as intense as it has been this year. Maybe Facebook's algorithm for the Memories section doesn't kick in until something gets a certain age on it, I don't know, but this seems new to me this year. I suppose it is kind of a bummer too because some of this new material popping up could have worked well in my "Trans Iowa Stories" series. In fact, I did garner some bits about T.I.v13 and 14 which I will be integrating into the series when the time comes. 

I have noted that certain Trans Iowa events seem to have a lot of Facebook content (v10, v13, v14) and others not so much. And of course, early Trans Iowa events have almost nothing, although I did score a great T.I.v2 image that will get used for a special post about Trans Iowa vets. The Facebook thing was never a big deal for me to keep up with most years. I was too busy running the event and I figured that if I managed to get any Trans Iowa radio posts up, I was doing well. 

However; for v10 I kind of went all-in because I thought, (actually I had totally planned on it ) that it would be the last Trans Iowa. So, I wanted to throw out as much content as I could, kind of in a 'last hurrah' fashion, seeing as how I'd never be doing that again! Ha! That didn't work very well, did it?! 

But now it is really over and the world turns on......

Riding Gravel Radio Ranch Episode #79:

The latest Riding Gravel Radio Ranch podcast is up now. My co-host is Andy, and we gab about the latest news and goings on in the gravel world. We may not always agree with each other, nor with you, but it seems that we have found an audience that enjoys the show as I have been getting some positive feedback of late. 

I know that the world is weary of podcasting dudes, and I get that. But it isn't like we suddenly cranked this up during the pandemic either. No, we've been doing this for a long time. We just were not very consistent with it until 2020. 

That's when I made it a goal to get the podcast coming at more regular intervals. We used to put the Radio ranch out whenever and sometimes not until months had passed by. Ben Welnak, the originator of the podcast, used to have me on as a guest way back when. So, this podcast has been around, in one form or another, since 2013. The thing is, by 2019 we only had 37 episodes up in six years. Now we have added 42 episodes in 13 months! So, it may seem like we just came on the scene, but we actually kind of just got the thing in gear! 

I'm pretty excited for Episodes #'s 80 and 81 because we have guests scheduled to be on, which is always fun. So, stay tuned for that. Also, if you have any criticisms or accolades, please hit me up. I'm sure we can use some suggestions and comments if you care to share.

That's all for this week! Have a great start to May!

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Guitar Ted Lube-Off: Update

One of the two test bikes for the next round of "Lube-Off" craziness.
 Your voices were heard! Thank you so much for all the comments last Monday concerning which lubricants I should look at for the next round of the "Guitar Ted Lube-Off" tests. I got some great responses and suggestions. Kudos to those who included links in their comments. That was super helpful! A couple of notes I wanted to touch on before I continued though....

- There was a suggestion made for a couple of lubes I had already tested. Rock & Roll Gold and Lilly Lube. Both pretty 'good' but no cigar when pitted against DuMonde Tech. 

- Secondly, there were a lot of suggestions for a Silca lubricant called "Synergetic". However; maybe many of you had not noted that this lube is listed as a WET lube. Typically those don't fare well at all in dusty crushed rock environments. I usually am looking for a DRY lubricant for gravel road uses. Silca did have a wax based lube on their site which maybe would be the ticket for gravel travel, but none of you folks mentioned that. So, I passed on the Silca lubricants based on those factors. 

So, what did get ordered up

One of you mentioned a new NFS formula for gravel that is called Blue Devil Chain Lube. It is specifically aimed at gravel road use, and to my knowledge, it is the only chain lubricant that claims this distinction. Many of you called for the original NixFrixShun formula to be included in the test, but I thought this new formula, (claimed to be better than the original, by the way) would be of more interest since it has the "Gravel®" tag. 

Next I noted some calls for the SCC Slick drive train lubricant to be included into the test. I read up on this lube and found that the claims of self-cleaning and ease of application sounded- well, too good to be true! But I am listening to you folks and if you've had some good results, I'm willing to give this a try. It claims to keep the drive train really clean, and that is the goal here. I am sure gravel road usage will give it a difficult testing, so we will see how it goes. 

Now some of you mentioned "Smoove Lube" and I did look at that, but it wasn't as compelling to me as these other two. That's not to say I will never look at that lube. It just isn't going to be in this round of the "Lube-Off". I've done three lubes at once and frankly, it is just too much to do in one round. So, I am sticking to two lubes this time. But Smoove Lube is now on my radar. Thanks for the suggestion! 

Okay! Both samples of lubricant have been bought and paid for with my own damn money and are on the way. Neither of these companies knows what I am up to, as far as I know, and I have nothing to gain from featuring these products here. This is simply a test for my own satisfaction and maybe we will all learn something from it. Simple as that. 

So, stay tuned for the kick-off of the next round of the "Lube-Off" as soon as these orders arrive at the G-Ted Productions headquarters. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

B.O.G. Series: How To Clean Your Bike

 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!

 Usually in this series I have had to write, from scratch, a way for beginners and 'new-to-gravel' folks to learn the ins and outs of riding out in rural areas. But this time will be an exception. That is because I already wrote a post in January of 2019 that is perfect for this series. 

In THIS POST (click the link to read it) I uncover the simplest way to clean a bike and tell you what NOT to do and what to use on your bicycle. Now, it may be a rather revolutionary take on cleaning, which you may not believe works. That's okay- I understand- but if you want to re-invent the wheel and find out the hard way what NOT to do, then I cannot stop you. 

Okay, with that said I will add that there were a few things I inferred when I wrote that post. I will break those out here now for you. Here is a list of stuff I would have on hand to use:

  • Rags: Preferably terry cloth, thinner rags, or old t-shirts torn up into strips. Old used up bath towels are awesome for this.
  • Soft bristle brushes used for washing other things, but don't get anything huge. The smaller and easier to fit into tight spaces the better. 
  • A bucket to keep rags, brushes, and your cleaner in.
  • I recommend Pedro's Bike Lust, but there are other bike wash/cleaners and of course, household cleaners, which will do okay. Don't use anything you wouldn't use on your appliances. furniture, etc. Stay away from caustic cleaners and aggressive formulas. They may hurt your skin, paint on the bike, or attack aluminum finishes. 
  • As always, use rubber gloves and safety glasses. 
  • Pick a spot to clean where you can easily sweep up the remains of dust, dirt, and mud clods that you knock off your bicycle. In other words, not in the living area! 

 You will find that behind the fork up by the frame, down by the junction of the frame tubes where your crank is, and the crank itself are usually the dirtiest parts of the bike after a gravel ride. (Study my image above of my Nobel Bikes gravel rig here and see for yourself)  Think you are done cleaning? Flip your bicycle over and look again. You might be surprised how much more cleaning you can do! \

One more benefit of a thorough cleaning of your bike from time to time is that you end up giving your bike a great visual inspection. You'll pick up on things a lot quicker later on, and you will learn how your bicycle is put together. This will lead to a better understanding when someone starts telling you about parts and whatnot and you will be able to better connect the dots and begin to understand what is being spoken of. 

Patience is key when cleaning. I can clean up a bike pretty fast these days- after doing it for years, I should be fast, right? But I recall that when I started out, this could take hours to do. Now- it all depends upon how picky you are, but my best advice is that don't shoot for 'perfectly clean', because riding always trumps that! However; if you have the time, go for it!

For extra credit you can take a deeper dive into cleaning by reading my follow-up post to that original one that I linked to by Clicking HERE.  

Next Week: We get into How and Where to ride with "Routes and Navigation Basics".

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Recon The Route: Part 2

Recon vehicle
Note: I'll have results from the lubrication poll I posted yesterday up Thursday. 

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about reconning my soon to be new commuter route to work. I went back this past weekend to check on the progress. I should note that there isn't really any good 'official' information available as to exactly what is going on, so these observation rides help fill in the blanks where that official word is lacking. 

I also need to note that this part I am checking on of the route is only the first mile or so of my commute. The main bit will remain the same. What has been going on is that I have had to 'detour' through a part of downtown Waterloo, which is out of my way, and when the new bit gets cleared up, I can return to a more direct way toward work. 

So, I grabbed the Snow Dog, my 2011 Salsa Cycles Mukluk, and headed on over to see what, if any, progress had been made since my last visit earlier this month. The first order of business was to 'sneak in' the back way to the area I wanted to see via the East dike of the Black Hawk Creek and follow it downstream to where it meets University Avenue. From there I observed the new bike pathway over the old bridge over the Black Hawk Creek. Then on toward the intersection of Falls Avenue and the end of the Sergeant Road Trail, via the tunnel underneath University Avenue. 

Once I observed this area I was done with recon, but not my ride, as I went on and hit up some alleys, bigger hills in Waterloo, and the nearby cemetery where I like to run every 'road' they have in there for kicks. But this post isn't about the rest of my ride. It's about what's happening along University Avenue down near my abode. So, on with the pics!

Some of the fancy-pants railing work going up along the new bike path. This used to be a lane on University Avenue.

The new tunnel under University Avenue. My son predicts that this will get all graffitteed up once it is opened.

Some important improvements have been made here since I last viewed this area.

So my biggest takeaway this time is that my fears that there was no drainage plan for the North side of University Avenue was put to rest after this visit. Clearly there is a plan. Those circled grates are drain-off areas for the rain water and snow melt, but whether or not this is connected to a storm sewer or just a transferal to the South side of the trail is not known to me. The fact that something was done is monumental though. We'll see in the future how effective this 'plan' is. 

The arrows describe roughly the bike path as it will come off the North tunnel opening and veer Left as one rides toward the highway above. This will take the bike path back to its original, more or less, path along the dead end of what was Falls Avenue. Then the bike path will turn Right/North and go on its original path under the expressway. Dead center on the upper edge of this image is the e3xpressway and that sloping line that meets it from the right is the horizon line of University Avenue. 

So, as you can see, it is going to be awhile before I can cut through this area. I'll either use the tunnel, go to Falls Avenue, or I may stay on the South side, use the new, wide bike path, go over the Black Hawk, and cross University Avenue at the round-a-bout with Fletcher Avenue and then onward to my normal commute. 

For now I'll continue on the "long route". It's okay. I get to ride my bicycle more!

Monday, April 26, 2021

A New Round Of The Guitar Ted "Lube-Off" Begins

New Wippermann Connex 11SB 11 speed chain
 NOTE: The Guitar Ted "Lube-Off" is an occasional series here on the blog where I pit chain lubrication products against each other to see what- if any- chain lubrication products are good for riding on gravel. These reviews are my opinions only and are not meant to be taken as the final word on any of these products. 

A couple of the G-Ted gravel sleds are due for new chains so I figured what the heck?! Why not start up another round of the "Lube-Off"? Okay, so with that, I want to kick off this latest round with a short introduction of my two most impressive lubricants so far and then get into the chains I am testing for that go with this round. First up, the long running 'top-dog' of lubricants in my opinion, the DuMonde Tech lubricants in either "Light" or full-strength versions. 

I first was introduced to DuMonde Tech lubricants for bicycle chains via Mike Curiak at Trans Iowa v1. Although, I should mention that Mike does not recall that he used DuMonde Tech there, I clearly remember otherwise. Regardless, that's where I got interested in that chain lube. Eventually I tracked some down and it has won every "Lube-Off" since. 

The other really good lubricant I have tried is Muc-Off C3 Ceramic Dry Lube. It came about when I ran into the Muc-Off line a few years back testing tubeless tire sealants. Muc-Off C3 is really pretty good stuff and nearly knocked off DuMonde Tech here from its lofty throne. Now with these new chains I have in, I will introduce two new lubricants to the "Lube-Off" and see which, if any of the two, can approach the goodness of the two top dogs in "Lube-Off" history. 

And those lubes are.... 

 Well, this time I am going to take 'reader's suggestions'. This means you get to pick the two lubes I will pit against DuMonde Tech and Muc-Off C3. But before you fire up your comments, you'll want to read which lubricants I have already tested so you won't be adding a suggestion that will be rejected. Here following is a short list of popular lubricants I have already tested and have not measured up....

  • aMTBer Products
  • Squirt
  • Lilly Lube
  • Tri-Flow
  • WD-40 Lube
  • WPL Lube
  • ProLink Gold
  • Pedros Chainj
  • Chain-L Lube
  • Rock & Roll Lube
  • Smooth Operator Lube
  • Boeshield T-9 

So if your suggestion is not on that list, throw in a shout out in the comments and I will pick two. If no one suggests anything- or only one, I'll add whatever I want. Ha! So, hit the comments with your ideas. Now one more thing here....

Brassy! Wippermann Connex 11SG chain.
Some of you have in the past, and probably are already thinking I should try some chain wax- or in other words, do a complex task involving cleaning, melting wax in a crock pot, and dipping a cleaned chain in it and hanging that up to dry, THEN putting the chain on your bike and riding it. Well, that's not going to happen. I'll tell you why, because the mere process of waxing a chain makes it a loser in my "Lube-Off" from the get-go- before a pedal has been turned. Why? 

The application process is waaaay too fussy. While I do clean the bejesus out of my chain before lubricant application, I do not want to have to do that waxing process, and.......a crock pot? Not happening here. So, I apologize to you folk who are rabid chain-wax fanatics, but you won't ever see me test that. Not when DuMonde Tech already is nine times easier to use and the prep to apply it is not something I need to have electricity for and ruin a good kitchen appliance to do. 

Okay.... Now what about those chains? Well, the black one is a Wippermann Connex 11sB BLACK EDI chain. The 'gold' one is a Wipperman Connex SG 11 speed chain. (Note- the Connex SG is not listed on the Wippermann site so I linked to a source that sells the chain) Wippermann chains show up well in wear tests and with gravel use, long-wear claims are high on my list of desirable chain characteristics. I've used one Wippermann chain before on a derailleur set up and it worked well, as I recall. The Connex quick link is a really easy one to use and is reusable, unlike many quick links you may think are reusable. 

So, the chain review will be on Riding Gravel, but get those chain lube suggestions in to me and I will then get on to getting those lubes and moving on. OR- I will choose two lubricants and move on. Your choice, readers! 

Note: The Wippermann Chains were purchased by Guitar Ted with his own damn money and this post is not being paid for, nor is Guitar Ted being bribed for his opinions.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Trans Iowa Stories: Closer To Home

A look up Petrie Road's Level B section in 2020.
  "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! 

Route planning for most of the last several Trans Iowa events generally started out with my pinpointing a small village to use as the first checkpoint. This started with our very first visit to Grinnell for Trans Iowa v6. Perhaps Grinnell is not unique in this, but it just so happened that several villages were around the distance from Grinnell that I could make a route work out with a 50-60 mile segment which was what I preferred to do for the first stop on the course. I would identify a town that we had not been through before and try out a route to make it work. Then I'd design outward from there depending on what I had in mind for an overall theme that year. 

For the first two out of Grinnell, those checkpoints were influenced mostly by David Pals' desires to steer the course either through his former 'backyard' of Marengo or as with the v7 edition, his desire to see the course go by Phil Wood's old residence in Baxter, Iowa. (Yes- that Phil Wood!) So the courses kind of had to reflect those ideas. But by v8, of course, the course ideas were all on me. So by this point, what I described above was the norm for the genesis of a route. 

Many times these ideas would be generated by bicycle rides. Either just adventuring or by way of the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitationals and Geezer Rides I held out of Grinnell. For instance, a scouting ride David Pals and I did for Trans Iowa v7 revealed the small village of Ira, Iowa, which became checkpoint #1 for Trans Iowa v9. Other times bits of Trans Iowa routes were generated out of these rides. Someimes I would get ideas generated by doing recon, as you might suspect, or by even local knowledge, as when Craig Cooper and Rob Versteegh recommended the Lynville/Sully area to us on several occasions. The first checkpoint for v10 came about that way. 

One area that had intrigued me due to our routing by it several times was Deep River, Iowa. I first went through this village during T.I.v6 recon and when we were rushing back to North English to stop the event short that year. Then again during v7 recon, we went through that village. The hills were attractive and the area looked beautiful to my eyes. I was wondering if I could make a route work and tried this for the planning stages of V12. 

Once I had identified a way to make the route work into and out of Deep River via gravel, and once the distance was fine tuned to what I wanted, I locked in that first section of the route, but what to do from there? I did not have a good idea, since what I really wanted to do was to find a covered bridge, (none out that direction), or to circumnavigate Des Moines, (wrong direction), so I was kind of left hanging for a bit. Some folks would have told me to just utilize the unseen parts of the previous Trans Iowa, and to be sure- that would have worked out, but I was stubborn. There was no way I was going to use any of that unused part of Trans Iowa v11. So......what to do? 

T.I.v9 came within about 25 miles of Waterloo. Image by Wally Kilburg

By this point in my life I had stopped doing mountain bike parts and MTB bike reviews. I had switched over to gravel with my merging of "Gravel Grinder News" with "Riding Gravel". That meant that I was riding the gravel roads a lot more around my home town of Waterloo, Iowa. This led to my using a rare, for Black Hawk County, section of Level B Maintenance road on the Western end of Petrie Road South of Waterloo. 

Throughout Trans Iowa's history, thoughts of bringing the event through the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area have popped up. This goes back to before a Trans Iowa event ever took place when Jeff Kerkove and I were brainstorming what the event would look like. There were thoughts of bringing it through George Wyth State Park where there is a bit of single track. This never happened, but the idea did bring Trans Iowa v3 around the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area, as close as 7 miles away. Trans Iowa v4 also came near the area as well. 

But since that time, Trans Iowa had not veered much Northward. The v9 edition did come up within about 25 miles of Waterloo, but that was it. One day, as I was riding Petrie Road's Level B section, I thought that it would make the perfect Level B road in a Trans Iowa. Thoughts grew, and when I got home, I drew up a route Northward, just to see if I could make it work. My fear being that the distance would get far too long. I wanted to keep things under 340 miles, maybe 330 being tops, so just bringing up Trans Iowa to ride Petrie Road wouldn't work if it was going to make the route way too long. It was a fantasy. Just a ruse to satisfy my mind- to make sure it was a dumb idea. 

But I made it work......

Next: The GT and Jeremy Show

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Where These Roads Came From

Just a line scratched out on the prairie....
Perhaps you might remember how I came across a book recently that I'd been trying to track down. It tells about how the paths and trails in this particular area became the roads- in many cases, but not all- of today. I was out riding this past week on that familiar stretch of dirt called Petrie Road and I was suddenly reminded of a few things that this book spoke of regarding roads. 

Early on, when these lands were inhabited only by the Native Americans, there were paths that were discernible, etched into the prairies by the people's movements. These paths were visible and follow-able to the early White settlers. They made a lot of sense because of how the Native Americans made these paths in the straightest way that made sense between points of interest. They veered away from sloughs, wetter grounds, and forded streams and rivers where it made the most sense to do that. 

Interestingly, this particular area attracted a lot of attention due to specific features of the land at the time. One was "The Big Wood", a large tract of hardwood forest, mostly maples, as I understand it, that was in the vicinity of the "Turkey Foot", where the Shell Rock, West Fork of the Cedar, and Cedar rivers converge. It was an unusual feature since most of the surrounding area was treeless and all grassy prairies. Trees typically only lined waterways. The "Big Wood" was different in that it stretched outard for an estimated five miles in all directions from the Turkey Foot. Making maple syrup, hunting the copious wildlife, and fishing were attracting humans in need of food for harder times, especially Winters, and pathways to get here were used over and over again for years, decades, and who knows how long. 

The Native Americans used a system of single file travel, so tribes and families would walk in long drawn out lines. Some reports describe lines as long as a mile or more of humans, and this sort of consistent traffic over the same lines is what started the 'roads' as we know them today. Over time, as White settlers came up these old, ancient ways, they settled here along the river at first. Eventually, settlers started taking prairieland for farming after all the riverside claims were staked out. 

Then, later on, other trails formed carrying more pioneers Westward, and these cut across claims on the prairie which made farming difficult. So, as Iowa became a state the Northwest Ordinance, set out in the late 1700's to help organize new territories for settlers in U.S. territories, was applied to Iowa. Farmers requested that roads be set along section lines, for the main purposes of stopping the trespassing of travelers over their lands on the ancient trails and newer ones. Eventually, this pushed rail development forward as a way to have passage through the rural areas for people heading through states like Iowa. By the 1860's. railroad travel started to solve the trespassing issues, and road development took somewhat of a back seat to that rail development. 

When early settlers found the ruts too deep, or the mud too bad, they simply went around, much like we still do today!

 Meanwhile, the influx of Whites pushed the Native Americans, who for the most part were not settled in any particular spot here in this area, Westward. As far as I can tell from the book I have, it was a thing that happened gradually and without animosity, but this book was focused on trails and roads, not Native American issues, so I may have that wrong. White settlers staked out claims and set up farms, while government was tasked with setting up schools and other things in accordance with the Northwest Territories Act. As money was tight, roads- when they were made- were more or less just wagon tracks or in some cases were scratched out by crude means in accordance with the grid system. 

By the late 19th Century, what we have as roads across Iowa- gravel roads and dirt roads- were pretty much laid out as we know them now. Of course, they were merely dirt paths, not unlike Petrie Road, which has a mile section that - more than likely- has never seen gravel. This is what struck me. That this 'path' may never have ever had gravel on it since the county was formatted. 

And what of those roads that don't follow the grid around here? Roads like old HWY 218, which probably traces out the original footpaths that the Native Americans made on the West side of the Cedar River. Roads like Waterloo Road, between Waterloo and Cedar Falls, some of which is now called University Avenue, are also on old Native American trail. The trail South is pretty much where 4th Street comes off the Cedar and then starts to veer over toward Black Hawk Creek and eventually becomes Eldora Road, passes through Hudson, and traces of that diagonal trail are still evident today in the form of gravel road sections Southwest of Hudson, Iowa. 

Trails that existed North and east of Waterloo have, for the most part, been obliterated by "The Grid" and have long since been covered by farm operations. But according to the book I have, one can still map out and imagine where these old trails went. I find it vastly interesting to think about while I am out on rides now. Trying to imagine the land mostly treeless, without buildings, and looking like a rolling sea of grass. 

But that isn't always easy to do when we have everything organized into rectangles and cultivated with tall corn and beans and more. But one can try. One can imagine the old roads and paths while traversing the ones we have now, and try to understand where these roads all came from.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Friday News And Views

2007: You can't do that with 29"er wheels. 2021: Hold my beer...
Niner Bikes Releases New WFO-9:

Occasionally something significant still happens in the world of big wheels. Recently it came from a company once known for pushing boundaries with big, 29"er wheels. That company has been a bit silent in the 29"er scene over the past decade, but this week, Niner Bikes once again lived up to their moniker and posted news concerning a big wheeled monster of a bike, the WFO-9

When the first WFO-9 was whispered about in 2007, it drew a lot of criticism and negativity. "You can't do that with 29"er wheels!", and more was heard on all the major forums. However, Niner, only a couple of years into their existence, was pushing ahead regardless of their not being 'real tires' or 'real forks' for this endeavor. It was cutting edge, forward thinking, and disruptive. Looking back on that early WFO-9, one can now see that Niner Bikes, whatever you may think of them today, should be credited with helping to break the barriers down to what a 29'er could be. 

Another individual who also brought big wheels and long travel together in a way that shocked the mainstream was Devin Lenz. His Lenz Sport brand also has to be recognized in the same breath as Niner as Devin was also independently pushing the big wheeled idea forward with amazingly capable rides that blew away the criticisms of 29 inch wheeled bikes and what they were capable of. 

It's a crazy world of big wheeled bikes these days and back in the 00's, no one was thinking things would be like they are today. Well, except a couple of crazy companies that turned out not to be quite so crazy as we thought. Congratulations to Niner Bikes on the new WFO-9. It may seem like no big deal in 2021, but when you consider that at one time, 29"ers were relegated to being thought of only as single speed bikes or maybe XC bikes, it is a big deal. 

It Costs How Much?

Zipp Wheels have never been what I would call "inexpensive" wheels. Many of their past models would easily be called "halo products"- Products with heady price tags which people aspire to own, but probably never will. 

Well, Zipp didn't do anything to dent that reputation with the recent introduction of their new "353 NSW" wheel set. Yep, you need four thousand Benjamins to get these in your mitts. Carbon wheels for bicycles have been trending downward in price of late, but Zipp? Ha! Obviously they went in the opposite direction with the 353 NSW.

Okay, so what do you get for 4G, (and I ain't talkin' about ancient cell phone connectivity rates). Well, you'd better be getting a light wheel set, and Zipp delivers there with a sub-1300 gram wheel set weight. Okay, well, you'd better be getting an aerodynamic, watt-saving wheel. Once again- if the claims can be believed - Zipp delivers. That saw-toothed design is supposedly a big deal here. Okay- well, what about being able to use it for gravel? Actually- this is the most interesting part. This is basically a gravel wheel set. 25mm internal width? That's not a road racing inner rim width folks. Add in a disc only brake standard and this wheel screams "aero-gravel".

I tested the FLO Cycling wheels last year and stated that these would not be the last we'd here about aero wheels for gravel. While Zipp doesn't claim that these are only for gravel, a companion press release sent at the same time features Zipps rebadged 40mm gravel tire and shows it guessed it- the 353 NSW wheel set. They may not say it overtly, but this is aimed at the gravel market.

Bike Shop News: 

In the world of bike shops, I have been hearing that shortages are happening all across the nation yet. It seems to ebb and flow between different products, but certainly the situation with tires, tubes, cassettes, chains, free wheels, and other maintenance/wear items is still a bad situation. Getting accessory items is also still hit or miss. We've gotten in some stuff, like floor pumps, which were rare last year, yet we cannot get other things at all right now. It's unpredictable and frustrating for everyone. 

In terms of bicycles we actually are getting some few things through the shop. We get them built and they disappear about as fast as we build them. But I am hopeful that at least a trickle of bikes will continue throughout the Summer.  

In other bike shop related news, my friend and El Presidente' of the Slender Fungus, Ari, has been telling me that the Chicago metro region shops are desperate for qualified bicycle mechanics. Ari tells me most shops are four weeks behind in repairs in the region and that there is no end in sight. If you know how to wrench on bikes, and if you want to hang in the Chi-town area for the Spring and Summer, you can definitely find work. 

Again, this situation doesn't seem to have any resolution in sight for the near future. It's so odd working under such constraints and during such unusual times. How this shakes out is anybody's guess at the present time. All I know is that this roller coaster of a bike season in Iowa is going to be an odd one. Especially with RAGBRAI happening. (Oh, and what the heck happened with that whole "Iowa's Ride" thing? Who knows.....)

The shortages are also affecting what I do at as well. But it's all okay. Somehow we'll muddle through this. I'm not worried. I just marvel at the weirdness and how it seems to have no end at this point. They keep saying 2022...... We'll see. 

Podcast And Shirts:

Hey, just a reminder that the Riding Gravel Radio Ranch podcast has it's latest episode up. Hear it here or wherever you get your podcast feed from. We try to keep these episodes at about an hour or a little less, so you don't have to invest a ton of your time into these. My co-host is Andy of Andy's Bike Shop, so sometimes we drop a little local stuff as well. 

Also, you can still get the "Riding Stones - Shaking Bones" or "Addicted To Gravel" shirt designs at the website. The link to those shirt designs is here

And finally, my own designs for the former C.O.G 100 in hats and jerseys and G-Ted merch are still available and you can find that link over there on the right side or just go to the Garage Sale Page for the C.O.G. 100 stuff. 

NOTE: I've been blogging for over 15 years now, I have been doing Riding Gravel since 2015, and putting on events for 20 years or more. These small ways of making some money help me to keep going, defray some costs for making some of the content I put out, and honestly, with the C.O.G. stuff, I just don't want it to go to waste. In the case of the G-Ted merchandise, that actually helps my daughter and I don't get any monetary benefit there at all. I'm not going to apologize for occasionally making you all aware of these things as I feel it is just giving you an opportunity to give recognition to, and give back to what I have have been doing for all these years. If you don't feel led to do anything, no big deal. I'm good. I just wanted to provide the opportunity for you all to say "thanks" and if that speaks to you it does. If not, don't worry about me. I'll keep on keepin' on regardless of whether this stuff gets purchased or not. 

So, don't pull out your credit card unless you really want to. (But get this C.O.G. stuff outta here, or it is going to the landfill before long)

That's a wrap for this week. Hoping for warmer weather here. I also hope you get out for a ride!

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Thoughts On Eccentric Bottom Brackets For Single Speed

My OS Bikes Blackbuck's split eccentric bottom bracket
Once again, a reader comment/question has spawned a blog post. This time the question was from "Tomcat" and here is his question:

".... how are you liking the eccentric bottom bracket? Has it been mostly "set it and forget it"? More and more I like the EBB for a couple reasons, including: 1. It looks sleek 2. I don't have to worry if the wheel is centered 100% in the sliding dropouts or possibly slipping. I'm constantly paranoid that my wheel is not 100% center in the horizontal dropouts. I don't personally own an EBB nor have I tried one, but I'm liking the prospect of using one more and more." NOTE: Comment edited slightly for clarity.

Tomcat was referring to my eccentric bottom bracket insert on my Twin Six Standard Rando v2, specifically, although I have had experiences with several eccentric bottom bracket types throughout the years. In fact, as I researched this topic on my blog archives, I found bicycles I had forgotten about that used eccentric bottom brackets that I once owned. Let's see.....there was an El Mariachi, an early Raleigh single speed 29"er called the "XXIX", a Soul Cycles Dillinger single speed. There were also a couple of test bikes for the former "Twenty Nine Inches" website which used eccentric bottom brackets. This in addition to a Singular Cycles Gryphon I once owned, my Blackbuck, and of course, the Raleigh tandem I own. 

So, yeah, I have experience with eccentric bottom bracket use in road, mountain, and gravel  applications. Specifically to the Twin Six, I am really liking this Wheels Manufacturing eccentric bottom bracket insert for PF-30 style bottom bracket shells. It has held its tension on the chain and has not creaked at all. 

That's probably the number one complaint about any eccentric bottom bracket. I have certainly seen a few creaking ones come through my repair stand. I do have a few thoughts on why I have not had any troubles, not a lick of creaking, and why maybe some people do have issues.  

First of all, it has to be said that some individuals ride bikes really brutally. They seem to have little smoothness, subtlety, and seem to lack finesse in their riding style. Besides many other detrimental issues this sort of riding style can impart on a bike, eccentric bottom brackets don't get along with people like that much. Keeping in mind that any two assembled parts on a bicycle that shouldn't move actually do, ( a minuscule amount) and brute force, ungainly riding styles, and wrestling with the bike exacerbate that movement. Movement causes noises. Period. So, if you seem to never have had a quiet eccentric bottom bracket, this could be a reason why that is. 

The Standard Rando v2 has a reinforced bottom bracket shell which is a good thing for single speed use.
Okay, so with that out of the way, we can see that an eccentric bottom bracket is not for everyone.  But there are some things one needs to consider after riding style. One is that the eccentric should be a quality piece. The more precise it is in terms of shape, the better. Same goes for your shell in the frame. A warped shell from a welding procedure will result in a poor eccentric fit, more chances for noise, and chances for slippage in worst case scenarios. I've seen over-sized shells as well, so be aware that it might be a bad frame to begin with which is causing the issues. The Twin Six is a good base to start from because it is made well. 

The eccentric I used is from Wheels Manufacturing, a brand that makes high quality parts for bottom brackets. So, I am not sure you could even find a better insert. Maybe you could, but the Wheels one is top notch quality. Grease that thing up and stick it in a high quality frame like a Twin Six Standard Rando and you should have a great experience single speeding. 

Unless you ride like a gorilla, then all bets are off.  (Only sort of kidding there.)

So, to answer the question- Yes. I like it a lot. It is pretty much set it and forget it. 

Got any other questions about this or anything else? Hit me up in the comments or e-mail me at

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

B.O.G. Series: How To Lubricate Your Chain

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

In this installment of the B.O.G. Series I am going to show an effective and easy way to lubricate your chain. But first- Chain lubrication can be a religion for many "serious cyclists" and please note- This is for beginners! So if you feel the urge to tell the world about how you do things or about how 'such-and-such' chain lube is best, please don't fill the comments with it. I will warn y'all right now, I'm not going to publish those comments. Helpful hints? That's welcomed as long as you understand, this is for beginners. You'll note the statement in bold which will appear throughout this article. This will serve as a reminder.

One of my favorite chain lubes, and some tomatoes!

As I say, chain lubes are a religion for many, and we are not going there. So, what do you do in this bewildering jungle of products and opinions? Easy.....don't sweat the overwhelming amount of advice and products. We're going to keep this super-simple. 

First, gravel and dirt roads are dusty/dirty. 'Captain Obvious' there, but that guides us in lubrication choice. There are basically two types of bicycle chain lube- "Wet" and "Dry" types. We're going the "Dry" route here because wetter lubes tend to grab more dust/dirt and we are trying to avoid that. 

Secondly- Don't lubricate a dirty chain. What's the point? You aren't going to penetrate the goo already there, and you are just making things worse if the chain is dirty. So, we'll be looking at a super-simple, fairly effective way to get most of the dirt/grunge off

Thirdly- Don't lubricate immediately before a ride. The chain motion while riding will just sling off most of what you just put on, making a mess and making your efforts ineffective. Always do this the night before a ride, or after you are done riding, so the lubrication has a chance to soak in, the carrier of the lubricant has a chance to off-gas, and the lubricant can bond with the metal of the chain. 

Okay, with that all out of the way, here are the items you will need for this operation. 

  • Dry chain lube (Pick yer poison here, most are good. I like Muc-Off C3 Ceramic lube or DuMonde Tech)
  • A couple rags
  • Nitrile gloves or equivalent
  • Safety glasses
  • WD-40 (NOT a lube! You'll see in a minute....)
  • A Flat blade screw driver
  • A room to do 'dirty work' (ie: NOT your significant other's kitchen, bedroom, etc)
  • A place to lean your bike or in a perfect world, a bike stand.

Okay, after you've assembled your stuff here, get to the place you are going to do the deed. Lean your bike, drive side toward you, by placing one side of the handlebar and the rear tire against the wall in such a way that you can back pedal the bike freely. (Or put it in a bike stand, if you have one)


 NOTE: This process will get the majority of the dirt, gunk, and old lube off your chain, but not all of it. It's okay, because we're more concerned about making this process less about technicalities and having to buy and know how to use tools and more about quick, easy ways to help you get the most out of your bike.  


Holding a rag wrapped around the chain like this is one of the main techniques to learn here.

Next- With your gloves on and safety glasses on, grab a rag (I like a terry cloth rag, like an old bath towel)  and place it underneath the chain in such a way that the rag will catch any gunk and lube that happens to come off the chain and derailleur. Secondly, grab the flat bladed screw driver, and back pedal the bike with one hand slowly. Then holding the flat bladed screw driver in such a way that the blade scrapes the sides of the lower jockey wheel, you should be able to get any build up of gunk to scrape off that jockey wheel. Kind of like a lathe, if you know about that. You may have to apply a small mount of pressure here, but not much. Do the same with the upper jockey wheel, being careful not to jamb the wheel while you pedal backward. It can be tricky at first, but you should be able to manage it, and once you get the hang of this, it goes faster. 

NOTE: You can spend the time to do this with your front chain rings and cassette, but I find rear derailleur jockey wheels get far more stuff stuck on them than do the chain rings and cassette. 

The back pedaling of the drive train and a screw driver held like this will peel off gunk from jockey wheels.

 Next- Grab the WD-40, make sure that little red tube is in the spray nozzle to make sure that you can direct the spray where you want it, grab the other rag, and cup that rag under the lower run of the chain. Now spray the lower run of the chain with the WD-40. Follow the spray with your rag in the other hand to prevent your wheel and the rest of your bike from getting WD-40 on it. This helps to loosen grime and dirt from the chain. Back pedal to a new section of chain, repeat the process, and continue until you've gone all the way round the chain. (About 4 sections on most bikes, maybe a bit extra.) 

Next- Use that rag you have and clamp down on the chain in the middle of the lower run, being careful to avoid the crank set and jockey wheels. Back pedal the drive train. You'll note a black streak on the rag. Move to a cleaner section of the rag and repeat as necessary. 

Your rag will get pretty grimy. Repeat the process until you are satisfied, but remember, you won't get ALL the dirt out this way.  It's okay!


NOTE: This process will get the majority of the dirt, gunk, and old lube off your chain, but not all of it. It's okay, because we're more concerned about making this process less about technicalities and having to buy and know how to use tools and more about quick, easy ways to help you get the most out of your bike.  


Next: It's time to lubricate. Grab the lube you have, (I like drip bottles of lube versus spray. Less waste and less chances to foul wheels, braking, and paint jobs) Start at a quick link on a chain for reference, or if you don't happen to have a quick link on your chain, mark a link with permanent black marker for a reference point. Then apply one drop of lube on each roller on each link. Work your way around the chain until you come back to your reference point by back pedaling the drive train so that you are always applying lube to the lower part of the chain run. This is important because when you lubricate this way, gravity pulls the lube down into the inner workings of the chain, and as you back pedal to a new section, the chain ring teeth help push this lube into the chain as well. 

One drop on each roller is enough lube. This is the lower run of the chain, and I am applying the lube from above, letting gravity pull the lube into the chain links.

Once you've made it all the way around, you are done with the lubrication. Now grab the rag, using a clean portion, and hold it around the chain, as you did when cleaning the chain, and back pedal the chain through the stationary rag position to wipe off any excess lube. Then that's it! 

Let the bike sit for several hours, preferably overnight, for best results. Then ride. 

 Now- when do you do this again? I check my chain by rubbing my finger across a few links, if I do not get any wet residue on my finger tip, it is time to re-lubricate. Also, if you happen to ride in some wet weather, through snow, streams, puddles, mud, or the like, you will likely need to re-lubricate right away. 

Tip: If you have that WD-40 handy, spray it on a chain right after a wet ride. The "WD" in the name means "Water Displacement", so this product drives water out of your chain and helps prevent rust. I also like it for its grime-dissolving properties. Thus my suggestion for it as a cleaner for beginners. Besides, many people have this already, so it could be one less thing to buy. 

I geek out on lube often here on the blog (Example here) but for the B.O.G. Series, my intentions are to 'make things as easy as possible- not perfect!'. In the case of bicycle skills and maintenance, the minutiae often espoused by the bike geeks is a huge turn-off to those not so personally invested in whatever nuances are being discussed. So, as far as lubricating chains, is there a 'better way'? Sure there is! But 'Perfect is The Enemy of the Good' in this case where I am aiming to get beginners out and doing things instead of becoming overwhelmed by the 'ya gotta do it THIS way, with THIS lube!' mentality. And even this tutorial may be too much! 

So, keep that in mind. 

Next Week: An effective way to clean your bike without using water.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Thoughts On IWAR

So, the Iowa Wind And Rock ultra-distance gravel event happened over the weekend and I paid some attention to the goings on down there in South Central Iowa. I figured a few folks might be curious as to what I think about that event and how things went down this year, seeing as there are similarities to the event I used to put on called Trans Iowa. I figured I would put in my two cents here. 

First, a few things you should know. I purposefully stayed away from any contact with the event and stayed away from even paying any attention to it, for the most part, on their first run in 2019. Then last year was, well, last year. I was down there as a volunteer for the Spotted Horse, which was run on the same weekend as the postponed IWAR, but I did not show my face around the event headquarters nor made any attempt to associate myself with IWAR. (Iowa Wind And Rock) I'll let my "Trans Iowa Stories" tell you why all that is, so this post won't say anything about that story. Stay tuned......

Nothing 'bad blood' about that, or even negative, so you conspiracy theorists and speculators can stuff that. You'll just have to wait for my reasons for why I stayed away. But this year, I decided being a spectator from afar would be okay. So, off and on all weekend I checked in with the proceedings. Here are a few thoughts from my, admittedly very unique, perspective. 

IWAR does the event pretty much how I used to do things, but of course, it is a different event. It's their baby down there, so any differences are to be expected. I'm sure they put their own spin and flavor on things. But from what I can tell, the bones of the event are pretty similar. Okay, so from that standpoint, I was able to make some observations on the event as it unfolded. 

We knew there would be Level B Maintenance roads and from watching the weather, it was obvious that some amount of precipitation had fallen over the area of their course not long before, or perhaps during, the start. That meant some wet dirt and we all know what that can do. It can destroy stuff, and it did in this case. I guess it is a bit odd, in some ways, from an outsider's view, as to why anyone would fall victim to the eventuality of destruction when dealing with Level B muck, but you kind of have to have been there. Some folks can actually ride these roads and get away with it while sometimes you can be super careful and still get bitten. It's not as cut-and-dried as it might seem. Anyway, I was not at all surprised to see that many of the riders had a shortened day due to the conditions. 

Then races like this get very strung out and IWAR was no exception. A small lead group formed and was whittled down as the day-night-day progressed. I watched and saw times given by the IWAR organizers on social media, along with mileages. I've done the math so much in my head that I could see long before the end that finishers would likely be coming in between 8:00am and 9:00am, given the weather. Of course, I didn't know the course, but I know the pace of these types of events gets slower as the event wears on. 

You also get a few that miss checkpoint cut-offs and IWAR has two you have to make on time. I was impressed by a few mentions of drop outs at the CP#2 spot, as that was how things often went at Trans Iowa. People would get there and figure that was enough fun for one day. Interestingly, almost every time people left CP#2, more often than not they finished. Sure, I had exceptions to that rule, like if folks barely made the cut-off. But it seems like if riders get CP#2 under their belt, can ride past 4:00am, and see a hint of the Sun rising in the East, it's a done deal. It then just becomes a matter of will. I seem to get the feeling IWAR was similar in that way this year. (And that's a LOT easier said than done, by the way!)

So, I was happy for the Relentless Adventures team and for the riders. It seemed like a great event. It seemed to have been done very well, from where I sat, anyway. Not that it matters a whit what I think for their success. It doesn't, they have made their own reputation. But I was pleased to see it all went off well. I wish for nothing but the best for the riders and the organizers there. Congratulations to all who took part in the 2021 IWAR! Well done!

And that's my thoughts on that...............

Monday, April 19, 2021

Country Views: A Run To The County Line

Escape Route: Park Avenue North, Waterloo.
 Saturday's forecast looked the best that it had looked for days. High of 50-ish, light Northwesterly winds of 5-10mph, and no precipitation. So, I was hoping to pull off a big ride. I made all the plans, but Friday evening I was feeling really beat down. In fact, I took a nap after work, which I almost never do. Saturday morning I felt really beat yet, so instead of the big ride plans, I did a run to the county line and back, figuring that would be fine. Of course, the weather is the wild card, and it got played. 

I decided to roll with the Standard Rando with the 650B wheels and tires. After futzing around with bags and making sure I had the right tube for 650B, in case of a tire failure, I managed somehow to get out the door by 8:30am. That was winning right there, considering how I felt. 

So, I headed North on Park Avenue toward 4th Street and out to Moline Avenue to get on gravel. No real indications all through town that things would be anything other than what the weather people were saying it would be. But then, of course, I wasn't out in the open yet. Once I crested the first hill on Moline, I realized that this was not going to be the ride I thought it was going to be. 

Hello Wind!

Yeah, the flags I saw were pretty much standing straight out. 5-10mph winds? Ha! I got home and saw that the current conditions at the time were 18mph winds with 33 mph gusts. Uh huh.....sounds about right. And that made for some hard riding. At least the roads weren't covered in fresh gravel. 

Field work has been getting done now with the warmer weather. Most fields had at least been worked up.

A 'Cat' and a 'Johnny Popper' sitting idle in a worked up field North of Waterloo. 

Woo! Single speed and heavy winds make for a tough go of it. Plus, with how I had been feeling of late it wasn't making for a whole lot of good times. Well, I figured that feeling not so hot, bucking a heavy wind, and single speed was better than not feeling so hot, not bucking a heavy wind, and sitting around at home. So, with that mildly positive thought, I managed to grind out to The Big Rock. 

The Big Rock looking South down Sage Road.

Looking North up Schenk Road.

I rested up a bit and then headed East to Schenk Road and then back North again. The roads here were broken down, dusty, and you'd never know we had any rain lately at all. This blasting Northwest wind and super dry air we've had for a week has been doing its business. 

Schenk tends flatter than not so it was a nice respite from the rollers I had been crawling up previously. My right knee wasn't quite too happy, but what was really the worst was just a deep level of fatigue. I ground up Schenk for a bit and then on to Gresham Road where I decided to make a left to get out of the wind for a little relief. 

Another stop to rest a bit.

The frost heaves caused some pretty significant damage on Gresham Road.

I noticed frost heave damage up here, which surprised me a bit as I hadn't noted anything in Southern Black Hawk County, nor just North and East of Waterloo. However; I noted at least minor frost heave damage from this point all the way back around to Burton Avenue at least to Dunkerton Road. 

A controlled burn, (hopefully!) along the Southern edge of Marquise Road just West of Hwy 63.

Approaching East Janesville Church from the North on Burton Avenue.

I jogged North on Moline then to catch Marquise Road, named after James Marquise who built a cabin in the early 1850's which this road eventually ran by. Then across HWY 63 and up the big hill to Burton Avenue and a much looked forward to respite from the gales I had been working against.

Approaching St. Paul's Church from the North on Burton Avenue.

I chased that cloud of gravel dust in the middle of this image for about a half a mile.

Burton Avenue has its fair share of rollers, especially up by the two old churches, but with this massive wind at my back, the hills were no problem, even though I was riding single speed. Then I noted a bit of a cloud of dust being driven by the wind down the road about a eighth of a mile ahead of me. I never could catch it, but that tells you how hard the wind was blowing, and how dry it is in reality in the country. 

Frost damage repaired with this "yellow limestone" gravel, which is unusual in this part of Iowa.

A big fertilizer rig getting reloaded here.

As I got further South, I noted that some fresh gravel patches were laid down which were of the 'yellow gravel' type of crushed rock. This is an unusual color for gravel around here, but in Northeast Iowa, it is a common gravel type. We generally have the whitish/grey limestone around here. 

The difference is that the yellow gravel tends to be softer, holds more moisture, (in my opinion), and seems to hold up better when wet. Our typical gravel isn't quite like that, but it is what is mined locally and why we have this type of gravel. I'm not sure why we have the yellow gravel here, but there it is....

Not long after I got by the fertilizer rig above, I got a call from Mrs. Guitar Ted and she told me that our vehicle had been vandalized. Apparently someone took a pot shot at our rear passenger window with a bee-bee gun. The window was shattered. So, my ride ended on a bit of a sour note. 

But I was glad to have gotten out, despite all the tough wind, not-so-hot feelings, and the bad news at the end. A ride is good for the soul.....

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Trans Iowa Stories: A Moment Of Reflection

Downtown Grinnell on a morning we were doing recon of a T.I. course.
 "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! 

 As I get into the last three Trans Iowa events and their stories, I come upon a time, (as I write this in 2021) that wasn't so long ago. The memories are still pretty fresh, and I have more resources to fall back on to dig up stories about T.I.v12, v13, and the final version of Trans Iowa. Heck, I even noticed I have many of the text messages I received on my phone from v12-v14. Why? I don't know. I guess I never thought to delete them and they got pushed down the list so far I just forgot about them. 

But when I noted that I still had that resource, and after some research into T.I.v12, I realized that this was an era of Trans Iowa which happened not all that long ago. I think that maybe many of you still remember a lot of things about those last few Trans Iowa events also. There are tons of social media posts, lots more people were posting things Trans Iowa related back then, and so many have stories cemented in their minds concerning these last Trans Iowa events. What stories could I possibly have that have not already been splashed all over the internet? 

Well, there are a few things not many people ever knew happened. There are some things that I went through that I have not yet fully plumbed the depths of. There are a lot of things you all do not know about the final version of Trans Iowa. There are a few things you maybe never heard about which concerned Trans Iowa and how Iowa Wind and Rock are related. Those things are stories I wanted to get to. 

Another thing which I have already alluded to that really changed the dynamic of the event was the advancements in technology. Particularly the 'smart phone'. GPS data gathering cycling computers being another thing which really came to bear on the event. I may do an entire post about that facet of technology as it affected Trans Iowa, but for this post, I have just a few notes.

In the early days of Trans Iowa, things were different. Image by Jeff Kerkove
One being how we learned about weather. Back in the early days of the event we could only rely on traditional weather forecasts. We would look at the 'weather channel' on cable, see what the latest was right before we left, and maybe we had a vague idea of what might happen. Surely, anything like a Trans Iowa v11 situation would have been a complete surprise, and in fact, that pretty much was, excepting that I had a few hours of warning. Now? pshaw! You've got hour-by-hour weather data at your fingertips and you can pretty much know without much doubt what is going to happen. And what is more- every rider could avail themselves of that power. 

I think now back on how support people would pull up a GPS generated map with a blinking dot and say something like, "This is my rider. It looks like he is at 370th and I Avenue. How long do you think it will take him to get to Checkpoint #2?" That was several years ago that these things started happening and I was taken aback. Heck, back in the early years you had zero idea where anyone might be! Now? In 2021? That same support person could easily pull up terrain data, gather rider speed data, and extrapolate an estimated time of arrival with no need of a race director. That same person could tell their rider things about other competitors and the course. And in fact, I know that did happen to a degree.

Certainly technology affected the intentions and the feel of the event greatly compared to the earlier days, and there was nothing I could do about it. Trans Iowa was changed and changing at an alarming (to my way of thinking) rate. This also played into my dismay and discouragement in putting on the event towards the end. But I'll get around to telling more about that later. 

So, as we settle in for the last stretch here, things will get maybe a bit more personal. I won't get into the main stories everyone already knows all about concerning those last Trans Iowa events. I guess that was kind of the point all along, but for the past T.I. stories I did get into happenings with the event more than I will now going forward. That is because back in the earlier days of Trans Iowa, not many people were paying attention, and there wasn't much of a 'digital crumb trail' to follow later. Now you can go search "#transiowa" and find all sorts of posts dealing with the latter days of Trans Iowa. Not to mention the recordings on of riders calling in on "Trans Iowa Radio".

Anyway, I just wanted to take a moment to set the table for these last few Trans Iowa events and the posts that will go with them. There will be one more "It's About The People" post, a post or two dealing with the ending of the event, and definitely a post about the immediate aftermath of Trans Iowa events. That's all in addition to the several posts specifically focused on the last three Trans Iowa events- v12, v13, and v14. Then I'll likely do a final epilogue and that should end the series. I am guessing that may be sometime in early 2022. 

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