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!

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. 

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".

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!

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 RidingGravel.com 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.

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 RidingGravel.com 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

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.

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 on.....you 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 RidingGravel.com 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 RidingGravel.com 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!