Monday, May 10, 2021

Country Views: Single Speed With Wind

Escape Route: Park Avenue
Saturday it was supposed to get rainy by sometime after noon. So, obviously I was going to embark upon my single speed gravel mission in the morning. However; it was really cold for May. Like just above freezing right around 6:00am. So, I waited a bit for it to warm up somewhat. You see, I put away most of my cold weather gear thinking, you know, it's almost Summer time here and all! 

Anyway, things did not get underway until about 9:40am and I headed North to possibly go up to see if I could get North of Dunkerton and then come back around via Bennington Road and back toward Waterloo. However; once I got clear of the city I decided on a different route. This was based upon my choice of bike for the rode and the weather conditions.

I chose, as I let on above, my single speed Twin Six Standard Rando v2. The route would start out with rollers and longer grades. Combined with Southeasterly winds which were, putting it mildly, more than forecast, and I could see that going further North would only be making my return trip a harder one. Going North and West was going to be easier- a LOT easier- than going East and South. This caused me to rethink my options and I decided upon a largely Eastern push, then South, and a finish going all to the West. 

I wore a Bontrager windbreaker, my new Pirate Cycling League jersey, a pair of bibs, and my Twin Six 3/4's pants. I also had on some great Alpaca wool long socks and my RX8 Shimano shoes. I also wore a pair of Handske long fingered gloves on this ride. On my head I wore a Walz cycling cap, Rudy Project sunglasses, and my Bontrager helmet.

Waterloo is a train-town, and sometimes ya just hafta deal.....

There is a tractor doing something way out in that golden field, but what it was I don't know.

So, my modified route went all the way down Big Rock Road. I ended up doing much of what I had ridden last Wednesday, but I went beyond to a point a mile East and about a mile and a half South of Dunkerton. I found a streamlet which came close to the road near this point and which was surrounded by brush. Enough cover to get in a 'nature break'. That morning coffee had done its work! 

Going East, the winds were brutal. They never really gusted, they just were a consistent resistance to moving forward. Going up the long grades was hard riding. I focused in on my form, so as not to roach my right knee, which hasn't been feeling the best all Spring. Amazingly I held a good average speed, according to my rough calculations. So, despite feeling like I was just crawling, I was making consistent progress.

I turned South eventually on Nesbit Road. I figured on taking this until it petered out, which I knew that it would based upon my rides out this way last year. I just was a bit fuzzy on the details. I was figuring on having to go about 6 miles South, and the wind was still providing plenty of resistance, but I felt better in this area. 

That probably can be chalked up to mainly flatter terrain. That and the wind was now on my left cheek, and not quite so 'head-on' as it had been going East. Nesbit Road was also not as freshly graveled. All combined to make going South a bit less of a chore. My speed picked up as a result. 

Oxley Road, which I had forgotten about, was my last push South.

I ended up having to do seven miles South because I had forgotten about Dubuque Road which is one of the 'old highway 20 routes' in the area. Nesbit Road truncates at the intersection with Dubuque Road, and so I had to turn West for a quarter of a mile and I had no idea what that next Southern road would be. Actually, at the time I figured it would just end up being more Nesbit Road. In fact, it was Oxley Road. I had forgotten about that bit from last year.

Rest stop before the easy part at Oxley Road and Young Road.

I spotted this John Deere themed MTB and trike sitting against the fence at this farm.
Once I had stopped for a bite to eat and drink, I headed back west, and that was sure nice! Riding was easier by far, but I still had to pedal. There is one long grade which starts at the intersection of Young Road and Canfield Road. This goes up for about a mile and a half before it goes down hill at all. So, it was no free lunch, and there were other shorter hills to get up and over as well.

Apparently it was too windy for a wake of Turkey Vultures I passed on Young Road.
Approximately where this intersection is with Gibertville Road and Lafayette Road is where an old Native American trail intersection was located.

I took Young Road until it dumped out onto Gilbertville Road and then Northwest to Elk Run Heights and an intersection with Lafayette Road. According to my old trails book, this marks where an old Native American trail along the North side of the Cedar River took a slight left and another branch of trail went on North and West to the Turkey Foot area and the Big Wood. 

I took Lafayette Road down toward Evansdale and eventually to the bike path along the Cedar. As I rode I thought about how this might have looked around the early 1800's. There would have only been trees along the Cedar. Where I was riding there may have been a single tramped down trail and lots of grasses alongside of it. It was hard to imagine as cars went speeding by me constantly at 40mph or more. Buildings and trees and stuff everywhere kind of makes envisioning the old scene really tough. But it is fun to think about it. 

Eventually I made it home just shy of three hours of being out there and having done about 33 miles or so of riding. Not too shabby for a single speed in the wind we had Saturday.

Sunday, May 09, 2021

Trans Iowa Stories: Making Note Of Some Interesting Things

From the recon of the T.I.v12 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 going back to earlier Sunday posts on this blog. Thanks and enjoy!

Running up to the 12th Trans Iowa event, there are a few interesting things which occurred which have impacted Trans Iowa, and more importantly, my life, even past Trans Iowa. Of course, I had no idea that these things would end up becoming such a big deal later on, but as they say, "Hindsight is 20-20." So with that I will get into a few things here which ended up becoming important parts to my story and Trans Iowa's history. 

In a foreshadowing of the future, Sarah Cooper, who had recently found gravel events in 2015 and was winning in some of her efforts, also was bitten by the idea of putting on her own event. In 2016 it was revealed that there would be a 200 mile/150 mile event in the Fall called the "Spotted Horse Gravel Ultra". Sarah seemed to use influences from Trans Iowa and a few other grassroots events to formulate her idea of what a gravel event could be. I was pretty stoked on this idea of hers, to be honest, and I actually signed up to ride in the first one. However; an eleventh hour organization of a Fargo Reunion Ride which was going to have my brother in Life, Matt Gersib, my good friend Ben Witt, Jason Boucher, and others involved, changed my plans. It was a once in a lifetime gig and I ended up bailing on the Spotted Horse deal. 

Sarah Cooper's Spotted Horse logo.
But the bigger point in all this was that Sarah Cooper stepped into event promoting, and eventually that led to her, along with some other Trans Iowa related people, putting on the "Iowa Wind & Rock" event later on. There is a lot more to that facet of the story, but that will have to wait until I get into the final chapters of this tale. 

Another turn of events which directly impacted Trans Iowa v12 and my future was when, in 2015, my employer at the time hired a young man by the name of Andy Tetmeyer. He was an ambitious fellow with a gregarious character and was full of ideas. As we worked together it was easy to become friends with Andy and we seemed to hit it off well right away. I noticed Andy was a good sales person and got along with many types of people, so when he offered to be a volunteer for Trans Iowa, I gladly accepted his offer. 

Andy's participation in T.I.v12 will be covered later, but another facet of his working where I did had a big effect upon my later life. Andy's ultimate ambition was to own his own bicycle shop, so I kept close tabs on him after I learned this. By 2015 I had been ready to move on from my job where I had been for a long time. Trouble was that there was no where to go in the area. Bicycle mechanics may have been, and may still be, in short supply in many places, but where I live? Not so much. At that time there were three viable shops and everyone had the personnel they needed. So, I was biding my time, waiting for a good opportunity to arise. Andy seemed like he may present that opportunity at that time. And as we all know now, that all worked out later. 

A family issue with the folks involved in the property where "The Barn" sat raised its head along about the early part of T.I.v12's production. This caused me to take stock in where the route might end. While there was hope held out that the Barn may still be available, I decided to not place any bets on 'hope' and that controlling my own destiny, in terms of where the event would end, was my best course of action. This is why T.I.v10 was the last time we ended at The Barn. Trans Iowa v11 was to end there, but, of course, that didn't happen for the obvious reasons of the weather that weekend of T.I.v11.  

So, I chose to find out if we could plug the route into the West end of Grinnell somehow. I did not really want to end the event at the intersection of 8th and Bliss, as we had for T.I.v7 and v8. That wasn't going to work with my route, but a cemetery on that end of town did. This choice also left the option of using The Barn, should that chance present itself, since I routed right by it. However; I wasn't going to bank on that chance, and as we all know now, that was a good idea.

Finally, around this time I was becoming more and more aware that my two children were getting on in age to the point that their awareness of what I did and their approach towards adulthood were making me take stock in where I placed my energies. The focus needed to be more on them during this critical phase of their lives and Trans Iowa simply was a huge energy drain on me. It was taking away from my ability to give of myself to them, not to mention my ever enduring wife, Phyllis, and that did not sit well with me. The combination of my growing dissatisfaction with my job situation and my family needs were starting to gnaw at my desire to put on Trans Iowa by this time. 

These things and more were all mixing together to create the scene in which I entered the planning for Trans Iowa v12 and beyond. 

Next: Secret Sponsors and More

Saturday, May 08, 2021

Country Views: Surprises

It is hard to see here, but this field has corn sprouting up.
 Wednesday I had some errands and chores in the morning, a son to pick up in the afternoon from track practice, and in between a chance to roll some gravel. It was a really great day out up until about 5:00pm when things clouded over and started to get sprinkly. But I was done riding long before that! 

The temperature was about perfect for riding and the variable breeze was no big deal. I could never quite make up my mind which direction it was blowing from. Oh well, like I said, it was not a problem at all.

So, I wanted to ride the Black Mountain Cycles MCD, but the evening before I noted that the rear wheel was loose/wobbly a bit. I didn't have the time to investigate so I looked at it Wednesday morning. I didn't know what to expect since a through axle wheel usually doesn't get this way- unless something was broken- but I thought I'd check the tightness of the through bolt first and it turned about a quarter turn and that was it. Just a slightly loose axle. WooHoo! 

So, I was able to ride the pink MCD after all. The new Pirelli Cinturato tires are on it, and I wanted to get them out on the gravel again. One thing I didn't do was to check the air pressure, because these tires seem to have a good air retention quality. I probably still should check the air, but well.....I didn't and it was just fine.

I found this laying in the middle of the road on Moline Road. I moved it to the side before I left.

Heading up Airline Highway to the East.

I didn't get far before I spotted something bright and rather large laying dead center in the road. As I passed by I saw that it was some bright-work off some Chevrolet or another. I laughed out loud as I was surprised that the car operator didn't stop to pick it up. I decided to stop and move it off the road, lest it cause someone else trouble, or if the owner came by looking for it. I propped it up against a fence post and moved along. 

As I rode East on Big Rock Road it started clouding up.

West Central Iowa has their "Tree In The Road" We've got a "Tree at the T"!

I decided to turn South on Ordaway Road. This is an odd road in that it is broken up into four sections, none of which is longer than two miles. The road runs North-South in Black Hawk County and the section I was on went between Big Rock Road and Airline Highway for one mile. I don't ride it much, so I figured, why not today? Generally, if I do ride it, I go from Airline toward Big Rock, but this may be the first time I have ever ridden it the other way around. 

And I know that because I never noticed that a tree on Airline Highway stands in the South ditch directly across from Ordaway Road's termination there at a "T". If Ordaway continued South from there, the road would either have to go around that tree, or they would have had to have cut it down. At any rate, from the North it looks like the tree is in the road, much like the famous "Tree In The Road" in West Central Iowa. 

Sorry fellas! No hitchhikers allowed on my pink MCD!

This John Deere was pulling this odd contraption made up of long, large diameter rollers.

As I came back on Airline Highway West, I came across a farm where two young boys decided to try to hitch a ride! Now that was surprising, and fun. I decided to snap their picture and they held their pose for me as I did. I waved a friendly 'hello' as I passed by and they returned the favor. You don't see that often on a gravel ride!

Then I had to go North on Crane Creek Road and as I did I saw this John Deere tractor pulling something through an old stubble field that I had never seen before. A contraption with large, shiny rollers, like steel rolling pins. The operator was in what I would call 'road gear', he was going so fast. Anyway, what is this? A way to crush old stubble so you do not have to disc? A form of 'no-till' farming? I have no idea. I am a bicycle mechanic. Not a farmer.

That swirling mass of high-speed dust? That's one of them there "Terra-Gators", that's what it is!

Patterns in the fields and in the skies.....

As I was coming back on the big rollers of Big Rock Road, I noted a strange swirling mass of dust in one of the valleys, and it looked like it was headed my direction. When I saw the squared off cab peek above the horizon line I pulled off to the side. I realized what this machine was straight away. It was a Terra-Gator, a ginormous three wheeled motorized sprayer tank with wheels about six feet wide and eight feet tall. You don't want to tangle with one of those beasts on a gravel road!

I also had a two dog encounter where a medium sized dog came running out of a stubble field (!) barking at me. It is super rare to have a dog do this where there is almost nothing around. Then I noted a greyhound looking dog standing off in the same stubble field the other dog came out of. This whippet looking dog was just standing there, doing nothing, and it looked odd to me. Something was weird here. Maybe the one dog was trying to tell me something? It wasn't aggressive and did not pursue me after I passed it by.  

Well, after that oddity, I made a quick visit to the namesake 'Big Rock', which has been freshly spray painted by vandals again, and then four more miles back to my truck. That was it. A short ride full of surprises. I was definitely not thinking this was going to be anything but another routine gravel grind. Glad that I was wrong about that!

Friday, May 07, 2021

Friday News And Views

"Grax" Chain Lube from Allied Bicycle Works
 Allied Bicycle Works Debuts New Gravel Specific Chain Lube:

It was only a matter of time, but now we have a specific lubricant just for gravel travel. It is a wax based lube, so 'gravel' + 'wax' = 'Grax', I guess. (Note- I'm not going to dig all the way into their technical docs, but feel free to if that is your jam) 

Ironic, innit? I juuust got underway with another round of the 'Lube-Off' and here we have a perfect contender to check out. So, I figure here we are, all set up for Round 2 of 2021 since I have been requested to try the Silca lubricant and now this looks like ........well, I have to test this, right? 

They also purport to have an excellent chain cleaner, so maybe that will have to come along with the "Grax" stuff for further review. The lube is said to last for up to 350 miles. In 'extreme' conditions that goes down to 100 miles. It costs about a buck an application. (20 bucks for what Grax says is a bottle worth for 20 applications.) 

They say this is better than most stuff out there. Hmm...... Maybe we will see. Maybe......

Andy's Bike Shop Adds Spoke Cutting Machine:

New Tool Day was Tuesday this week. Andy ordered in this brand-spankin' new Wheel Fanatyk Spoke Cutting Machine. Now we can cut and roll threads on spoke blanks in most any size for bicycles that you can imagine. 

This is cost effective if Andy's sticks with it long enough to make not having to order in specific spoke sizes worth the machine's cost. That should pan out since we need spokes for repairs all the time. Now instead of boxes and boxes of spokes in black and silver in sizes from 250mm to over 300mm in 2mm increments, or serially in some cases, we can now just have one box of each color and order more as needed.  

And of course, if you are a fan of mechanical gizmos, this thing is right up your alley. One lever cuts the spoke to length according to a gauge you set for length. The other lever rolls the spoke threads. Andy and I figure that one could cut a wheel's worth of spokes and thread them in less than five minutes using this machine. 

It even has a port where the cut ends are directed down a PVC tube to a receptacle which you can place underneath the 'exhaust' tube and you could collect scrap for recycling. It is all rather well thought out, and very well executed, from what I can see. I really am looking forward to using this machine on a wheel build soon. 

This will also come in super handy when we get weird requests for spokes such as recumbents, BMX bikes, or for odd wheels on older bikes. This machine will also cut a heavier gauge spoke for HPC (e-bikes to you) vehicles and the like. So, I think we will have spokes covered in terms of needs at Andy's. 

Now there still are the really oddball spokes, like straight pull, double threaded, ball end spokes, bladed spokes, and probably a few more I am forgetting that this machine won't help with, but if you are running something like that, you shouldn't expect to find 'unicorns' just anywhere. So, there is that.....

Redshift Sports Kitchen Sink Bar Review Up On Riding Gravel:

Well, if you have not seen this, I finished up my review of Redshift Sports Kitchen Sink Handlebar on Riding Gravel recently. Short version: I really liked it. Longer version: It is a must to incorporate the grips called "Cruise Control" grips when you get this bar. The real benefits come with the total package.

One thing I thought about afterward was how I missed elaborating upon the "Really Long Bar Tape" which Redshift has for this set up. As far as bar tape goes, it is definitely longer in length, so those big, wide drop bars that are out now would be no match for this tape. It'll cover it. But that is not what impressed me about that tape. 

I tried some tape from Marque Cycling, an offshoot of Irwin Cycling, and it was a grippier tape with these little 'nubs' every so often that gave your mitts more 'traction' for the action. In fact, it is still on the bars I am using on my "Orange Crush" BMC bike. Anyway, that tape has a remarkable resemblance to this 'Really Long Bar Tape', minus the nubs. This Redshift Sports tape is very grippy, just like the Marque tape, and the finishing strip has a very strong resemblance to the Marque finishing tape. 

My guess is that Marque/Irwin makes this for Redshift, but I don't know that for sure. And whatever, right? the point is that that Redshift tape is some really grippy, nice bar tape. And I just wanted to get that out there. I'd buy it for my other bikes too, but I only wish that they had more colors than black and grey. I like my colors.

So, Kitchen Sink Bar- grips, bar tape..... Good stuff. Read that review. Nuff said......

B.O.G. Series Drawing To A Close:

Two more weeks to go and I'll be through all I have to say in my beginner series for gravel going cyclists that I dubbed the 'B.O.G. Series'. I figure on wrapping up everything on May 19th. 

When the series concludes I will set up a page with links to every article in the series for future reference. That way if you, or anyone you know, is looking for a good guide for starting out with rural cycling, you could maybe point them in this direction. 

I've received some great feedback on the series every week, and some great criticisms and suggestions were also dropped my way. My plan upon ending the series is to review all of that feedback and write any follow-up articles as necessary. So, if you had a comment in regard to deeper dives on certain subjects I touched on here, I should be responding to those in the near future. That probably will continue as a Wednesday thing until I feel I have exhausted all the inquiries and suggestions. 

What then? Who knows? Regular postings should not cease regardless. So, don't worry about missing daily content just yet. Thanks as always for reading 'Guitar Ted Productions'!

And that's a wrap for this week. get out and breathe some fresh air on a bicycle ride this weekend.

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Guitar Ted Lube-Off Update: NFS Blue Devil Lube

My new Wippermann chain as it looked out of the box.
 Hey folks! It's another Guitar Ted 'Lube-Off' update! I know.......super exciting stuff here. More ride reports will happen soon! But for now, here is the first report I have for the NixFrixShun, (NFS) 'Blue Devil' lubricant.  I decided to put this on my other new Wippermann chain I purchased recently, and that all went on the pink BMC MCD bike. 

So, looking at the page for the Blue Devil lubricant, I got two very different approaches to the application process. But one thing I did see which I was not surprised by was that NFS recommends that you only apply the lubricant to a clean chain. Say no more! I dunked my brand new Wippermann chain in a solution of warm water and dawn dish soap and scrubbed, rubbed, and let it sit for a bit, then I removed it and air dried it. How did I air dry it, you might ask? Well.......

Centrifugal force is a neat thing. Using that idea with air flow, I went into the back yard, checked for any overhead obstructions like wires to the house, etc, and swung that chain 'round like a propeller blade, holding it by its end. There is something rather boyishly satisfying that comes from hearing the 'whooshing' sound of an object that you wield while swinging it through the air. Anyway, I swapped ends, and repeated the process for good measure. 

Post-application look at the chain with the Blue Devil lubricant.
I had thought about laying it then across the hood of my still smoldering grill which I had used to cook dinner on, but it felt so dry that I skipped this measure. So, off to the dank reaches of 'The Lab' to install the golden strand and apply the Blue Devil lubricant! 

The interesting observation I have made so far in this round of the 'Lube-Off' is that both lubricants I am trying are colored blue. DuMonde Tech's 'regular blend' is also blue in color. Coincidence? We will see.... At any rate, getting back to that application process- NFS's site has wording to do the application in one way, then recommends you take a look at a video, which tells of a bit different application process. Actually, the two are pretty different. I took the road the video showed me, so we will see which is correct.  

Well, that done, I went and checked on the shifting and found that my cable tension was off. Like way off! It's funny how much better a new chain shifts than an old one does. So much so that my minor adjustments to cable tension as that old chain wore made the new chain shift horribly. It was so bad it had become unrideable. Something to think about if you swap chains. 

Speaking of the chain- This Wippermann chain did not start out nearly as noisy as the first one but hasn't gotten as quiet as the first one has either. So, kinda consistently 'ker-chunky', if you know what I mean. Shifts are smooth though. Even under heavy pedal pressure. Good there so far.

And as you can see, the new lube, which was run in for about 40 minutes or so, looks okay so far. But this is not gravel riding. So, stay tuned for the next update on this lubricant coming soon. 

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

B.O.G. Series: Routes and Navigation Basics

  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! 

Now that we've covered the bikes, the gear, and some self-sufficiency basics, it is time to talk about the riding. Where do you get routes and how do you navigate out there? These questions can be addressed with technology, but many times the devices (Garmins, Wahoo, etc) are very expensive for beginners and knowing the nuances of route finding is a somewhat clouded pursuit for many. 

So, let's take a look at routes first.

Snip from Google.
Sources for routes can be found all over now days. Just check out Google Earth to start out with. Pick an area you want to explore and search it. You'll see all the roads, but don't take it all as gospel. This is just researching now. You are just getting ideas here. 

So, what do you look for? Okay, anytime you see a lot of curvy roads, rivers, creeks, and areas marked as preserves or forests, etc, you can pretty much bet on facing some challenging terrain. Now while that may sound disappointing, usually the best stuff to experience is in these sorts of areas. Well....not best, but 'most spectacular? Probably. If you are looking for pictures for your Instagram, then you are on the right track. 

But I might suggest a different approach. If you are a beginner, not used to rural riding, and maybe are not quite feeling confident in your self-support skill sets, then keep things closer to home. Actually, I've found some real gems to see which are very near to my hometown. I bet most people could say the same if they researched routes and took the time to look. 

But Google will help you sort out a possible route. Next up, I would look to your government sources. Many states maintain a Department of Transportation web presence which may have a wealth of road information for you to verify that your route you found on Google Earth is not a State highway or some blacktop road now. Iowans can see stuff like this here. Clicking on a color PDF for any county will pull up maps that have color coded roads, (hint: You want the green and red roads in Iowa!), and you can print those out and either use them as is, or input the route on a mapping program, if you want. 

Many states have this sort of information. Out West, your best bet is the BLM, or the Bureau of Land Management which has information on cycling besides maps for their jurisdictions. But government sources are great for detailed information which will help you decide where you might be interested in going. 

Next stop- Local Knowledge. Fortunately gravel cycling isn't anything new, at least that's a plus for you beginners. Because of this, there are already thousands upon thousands of miles of loops, point-to-point, and local routes which have been searched out and have been proven to be great routes. You can generally find these sorts of things out from local bike shops, local bicycle clubs, or even promoters of events in your area. It is highly likely that the promoters of gravel events have ridden or driven thousands of miles of rural roads searching for good routes, so don't forget to check in with anyone who may be connected to the promotion of a local-to-you gravel ride or race. 

If you haven't already found a great route, you can try making your own using some of the above mentioned resources, and if you do, I have one critical bit of advice for you: Drive the route first to verify it actually exists. Too many times I've run into bad information from all sorts of sources, even from the latest governmental agencies and from Google or any online atlas or paper atlas. There just is not as much of an emphasis on accuracy for roads seldom traveled or used for touring. So, don't get caught at a dead end on your bike! Drive that route and see if it works first! Besides, you'll maybe see if it actually will work out how you think. Or you may see a more tantalizing alternative. 

Many rural intersections are marked with 'street signs' like this one at a "T" intersection.
Navigation: So, are you challenged when it comes to finding your way? Well, get used to navigating via a paper map by using one to route yourself through an unfamiliar urban area, or draw up your own cue cards and see if you can follow them on an urban adventure. Practice makes perfect, and once you understand maps and how to follow them, you are on your way. 

Many times roads in rural areas have corner signs, almost like street signs, which will help you to orient yourself or to help you verify your directions. If you are fortunate enough to own a GPS device with a route prompt feature, you can use those signs to help make sure you are lining up with your downloaded route. Out West you may have sign posts with numbered forest roads or trail numbers. Just make sure you are acquainted with how things are marked in the area you are hoping to travel through before you get there. Again, government sources are key here.   

And the old compass is a great tool for righting a disoriented mind. Don't discount having one in your bag for a ride, especially if the route is a turning and twisting one which can make finding directions a bit more challenging at times. Finally- ride with seasoned riders a few times. Often you can learn a lot by doing and asking questions of those more experienced riders, if that is at all possible. Local gravel group rides are another thing to look for here to get your feet wet in following routes and learning about where to ride.

To close, I'll just reiterate that if you are a beginner, don't try to bite off more than you can chew the first few times. Maybe stick closer to town, or an area you are familiar with. Maybe hook up with a gravel group ride, or hang with the folks that already ride gravel on social media who can suggest routes or take you out to ride something. There are a bunch of ways to do this, and finding the way that suits you best shouldn't be too difficult these days.

Next: Riding "Right" (Basic Gravel Road Riding Rules and a word or two about dogs)

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Pushed Pause For Maintenance

A much needed break for some maintenance was taken over the weekend.
 'Creak.....creak....creak...' It wasn't getting better. It wasn't going away. You may have heard something similar on your bikes from time to time. The 'cry for maintenance' from the bike. 

I knew I needed to heed the call and last weekend, with forecast temps into the 80's-90's and high winds of 25mph with gusts up to 40mph, it was a great time for me to plan to do the deeds. Plus I had those new chains and the 'Lube-Off' to get going. It all just made sense to me to take the time to get the stuff done. 

So, the first thing was the Twin Six Standard Rando v2 which had developed a noise from the rear wheel. I think the bolt on axle drop out plates were to blame here. The bolts which fix them to the frame were all juuust a tiny bit loose. That seemed to take that noise down to almost nothing. I may have to do a bit further research into that one. 

The next job was cleaning up the Noble Bikes GX5. It really needed it! Plus that bike had developed a slight creak from the bottom bracket area. I figured it was the thread-together PF-30 insert from Wheels Manufacturing. A wrench to the interface for the component revealed that it needed only a slight 'snugging up' and that was taken care of. Meanwhile, I double checked all the chain ring bolts. Yep! Every one of them was slightly loose. 

I am an example of 'one', as they say, but my takeaway is that 1X systems and less than 5 chain ring bolts puts a lot more stress on chain ring bolts and in ways not normally seen on 2X and 3X systems where lateral loading is not as common. But that's just my theory. I do know that many mechanics are reporting 12 speed (which is mostly 1X set ups) are wearing out chains laterally before they wear out in the traditional way. So, there is that supporting evidence as well. 

The Standard Rando needed some TLC too.

Well, then the new chain went on and with that drive train all spiffed up, I can now turn my attention to the final bike (for now) that needs attention and that is the pink BMC MCD. That bike is also getting a new chain and a good once over. While it doesn't have any noises to track down, I still need to make sure it has been gone over. 

Once I get through that, my three main gravel rigs will have been spiffed up for the 2021 season. I will need to look at the Fargo soon as well. That bike is in line for some new drive train bits, but with the current shortages, I am still not in possession of all the parts necessary to do what I want to do with that bike. So it is kind of on the back-burner, in terms of maintenance.

And with things going the way they have been, I just don't know when that work on the Fargo will happen. It could be that I don't ride it much this year due to all of that. I had made plans on getting new wheels built up for it but I have put that all on hold for the time being since everything is so difficult to get now. I have an option I could exercise there with the Fargo, but it will depend upon a couple of other things happening first, which are also parts dependent. 


But whatever, right? I have three bikes which will be just fine and single speed bikes which will work just fine and on and on.... I have nothing to complain about! Besides, I managed to quell the noises 100% on the Noble GX5 and I have almost done that with the Standard Rando v2. I count those as major victories. Not to mention me finding time to go do the work in the first place! So, all is rolling well here. 

Now for some riding!

Monday, May 03, 2021

Guitar Ted "Lube-Off": SCC Tech Lube

The next round of the "Guitar Ted Lube-Off" has begun and both of the new contenders have arrived. The first one I will cover here is the SCC Tech lubricant, or as they like to say in their marketing, "drivetrain treatment'. Kind of like STP, I guess.

But first, I wanted to quickly address a request heard from my original blog post last week and from social media. These pushes came too late, so I am afraid that regardless of the passionate responses, I am left with the only option I have at this point. Let me explain.....

A week ago today I posted the announcement for this new round of the 'Lube-Off' and asked for your suggestions. On Thursday last week, I announced my two selections for this round based upon the feedback I had gotten to that point. So, we're off and running. The orders were placed and product was on the way.

Friday, a "Jeff from Silca"made a near novel length comment pushing hard for Silca lubricant to be included. Then on Saturday, a no less weighty request came from another industry person on social media, whose opinions I regard highly, asking for the inclusion of Silca lubricant. Okay......look. As I stated, (I thought it was clear) in my posts last week, there were only going to be two slots in this round which were filled Thursday of last week. So, all I can do is to wait and ask you passionate about Silca lubricant to wait, until the next round of the 'Lube-Off' happens, which I guess is going to be right after this one, eh? 

Now with all of that out of the way, let's take a closer look at this SCC Tech stuff. As you can see in the image, I purchased a small bottle of the lube and it came with that sticker and cloth you see in the image there, which I did not expect, but it was a nice touch. The lubricant's application process is online at the SCC Tech site. So, I hopped on there and did a little studying to see what I needed to do with my new chain and current drivetrain. 

By the way, I am using a brand new Wippermann 11SB chain for this lube. The drivetrain is made up of a Shimano XT 11 speed cassette, GRX 1 X ring and GRX rear derailleur. In terms of the cassette, chain ring, and derailleur jockey wheels, SCC claims the lubricant will 'clean' it up, but I went ahead and 'dry cleaned' (NO SOLVENTS) the parts with a rag as best I could. 

They don't really say what to do with a new chain, so I did not strip the chain down with cleaners, as I would typically do. I thought I saw where SCC claims you don't have to do anything there, but when I went to verify that I could not find that claim. Anyway, this stuff, if claims are to be believed, should handle whatever Wippermann ships chains with easily because it isn't much. A Wippermann chain seems to have a LOT less shipping oils/grease than say, a Shimano chain, and feels a lot cleaner than any SRAM chain I've handled out of the box.

This is what the chain looks like midway through the first test ride.

So, SCC Tech wants you to put a drop of this blue lube on each link, rotate the chain a bunch of times, and then remove the rear wheel and clean the drivetrain bits. Well, I had started with a clean drivetrain, so I just wiped off the excess lube and let it sit overnight. Then I rode it the next day for about 45 minutes (to run in the chain and make sure everything was shifting good) and that was that. Mid-way through the ride I checked the chain with my 'Wipe Test', which longtime readers know is a simple swipe of the finger tip across the mating side of the chain. I did get some wet, blackish residue, but as SCC Tech says, this is simply the lube working out anything in the chain and drivetrain that shouldn't be there. 

My impressions of this blue colored lubricant is that it is about the same viscosity and feel as DuMonde Tech, it just lacks the latter lube's aromatic element.  It went on easily, wiped clean easily, and left the requested 'sheen' on the black side plates of the Wippermann chain.

It should be noted that SCC Tech claims this lubricant is neither a "Wet" nor a "Dry" class lubricant. They call it a 'drivetrain treatment' which is fine as long as I don't end up with a bunch of caked on limestone dust after every ride. We will see....... 

Now a brief word about the chain, in case you are curious about Wippermann chains. I used the Shimano chain sent with the GRX group up until this point and so there is a distinct difference here between the two chains. Immediately I noted a much louder and authoritative 'ker-chunk!' with each shift of the gears. It was quite reminiscent of how a SRAM drive train sounds when shifted. After riding for 45 minutes though, the sound deadened out quite a bit. I'm not sure if that was due to the lubricant or just the chain 'getting acquainted with' the rest of the drive train.  Of course, this being a clutch derailleur and 1X, the drive train is going to always have a bit more noise when shifted. 

You don't get that sort of an experience with a Shimano chain. It just runs with whatever noise it makes for its lifetime, and that isn't much noise at all. So, I'll be keeping an eye out for where this goes as I keep using the Wippermann chain. Shift quality was fine, and speed of shifting was excellent, but I did a bit of a tune-up as well, so keep that in mind here. 

Stay tuned for the next contender- The NixFrixShun "Blue Devil" lubricant.

Sunday, May 02, 2021

Trans Iowa Stories: The GT And Jeremy Show

(L-R) Jeremy Fry, Mike Johnson, Ron Saul, and GT at the DK200 2010
  "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! 

When I think about doing the last several Trans Iowa events I think about a few key individuals who were integral parts of every single one of those last Trans Iowa events. Probably the keystone of those few folks is Jeremy Fry. If you've been following this series, you've seen that name pop up a lot already.

Jeremy Fry's friendship with me has been tied up in cycling events I have been a part of for well over a decade now. He has ridden in Trans Iowa, finished it, been in my GTDRI event several times, and has done other gravel events with me as well. But the chief thing I'll always be grateful for is Jeremy's help in doing the recon for T.I.v9-v13. We honed that experience down to the gnat's eyebrows. 

The process of recon with Jeremy started out crudely at first. I would start by doing a mock set of cue sheets. Now in the beginning of all this that consisted of scribbled out directions and notes in a spiral bound notebook. Eventually, I actually wrote out those as Trans Iowa style cues so Jeremy could modify the descriptors and make changes as necessary so that when I finally formatted the cues it would be spot on, or nearly so. 

We even had the mileages written down and we'd compare what I got off of GPS data on the mapping program with Jeremy's cheesy Garmin cycling computer which would sit on the dashboard of the truck recording the route. Sometimes we had to make changes and sometimes it was so spot-on it was scary. But the whole process became so streamlined that by T.I.v12 it was pretty much a rote exercise. Even where we went for breakfast the morning of a recon was not in question. 

Breakfast first! The Frontier Cafe was the place.

The Frontier Cafe in downtown Grinnell was the place. I guess I don't recall the first time we went there, but once we did, it was a staple of our recon routine until v14 when Jeremy decided to ride the last one. (I'll get into why that was later) 

Once we had that breakfast in us we'd roll out and the fun would begin. And I don't mean that in a sarcastic way either. It was fun. A lot of fun. But first, let me back up a bit and give you the fly-over view of a typical day of recon with Jeremy. 

First I would nail down a date that worked for both of us. Then at some ungodly time in the dark, I would pull up under a street light near Jeremy's apartment, and he'd walk down a half a block or so to meet me. He'd have a blue cooler full of bottled water, Diet Coke, cheese, and summer sausage. Then we'd hit the road to Grinnell and breakfast at the Frontier Cafe. Afterward it was a pretty much non-stop drive doing recon, with brief pauses for 'nature breaks' and a convenience store inspection or two. Barring any rerouting nightmares, we'd bag half, or in some cases, all the route, and head home. 

In between there was banter, laughter, silent pauses, and stories to be told. Sometimes we'd miss a turn and Jeremy would be right there with a sarcastic comment. Sometimes we both would be glazed-eyed and drowsy, but we always had a great time. You have to if your plan is to spend an entire day bumping along gravel roads with another person. Had we not had fun, it would have been a short run for us two doing recon. Thankfully it was the furthest thing from a bad experience as you could get. In fact, I looked forward to doing that every year. Jeremy probably wouldn't admit to it, he'd rather make some smart-ass comment or two, but I'm pretty sure he was into it as well. 

A view near the end of the day of recon for v12.
I often thought that I wanted to make a film about all the facets of Trans Iowa. I know that the recon rides with Jeremy Fry would have made for some pretty interesting viewing. But as it was, that never happened, that film idea just never materialized. So, I'm afraid you'd have to have been there to 'get it'. My writing couldn't possibly convey the interplay between us. But I know it was cutting humor and often times a surprise or two was on tap for us that was interesting as well. 

T.I.v12 recon was a bit different though in that the route came up within about three miles of Waterloo. So Jeremy and I decided to start at that point, not the beginning of the course in Grinnell, as we usually did. That way we could end up back in Waterloo, or, you know.....three miles from town. That put off the Frontier Cafe stop for several hours, but we made it work. We actually got the entire 330 plus miles in on one trip, which was a fantastic accomplishment for us. It just made things so much smoother when recon could be put down and I could move on with other facets of Trans Iowa's production.

Looking back at the v12 recon report I have to smile because I had to be so cagey about the route. I didn't want to reveal things about direction, or features that could be identified through Google Earth or what have you. Because people were always trying to figure out what I was up to, I kept details very hidden. In fact, even people that weren't in Trans Iowa made a game of trying to guess where I was taking the route. 

That was another thing about Jeremy I always appreciated. His confidence in matters concerning Trans Iowa was immutable. He could always be trusted with the route information and details that I did not want made public. This characteristic of his became very important to me later on. But at the time of his helping with recon, it was a relief to me to know that I could trust him fully with anything concerning Trans Iowa. 

Next: Some Interesting Things To Make Note Of

Saturday, May 01, 2021

Country Views: In Search Of The Mythical "Chicken-Duck"

Escape Route; CVNT
 "Didn't you see them?!!", yelled N.Y. Roll at me from behind me as we rolled onward up Cotter Road in the dark that morning, "You rode right past one! It was sitting on the railing!"

Thus my 'close encounter' with the mysterious animal N.Y. Roll calls the "Chicken-Duck" resulted in my not seeing one. Of course, it was dark, and I was looking at my glowing orb of light which was projected on the road ahead of me. Not off into the dank blackness of the surrounding area, although N.Y. Roll would later say that the creature could have been touched on the bridge railing had I outstretched my arm, it was that close. This near-miss was much to N.Y. Roll's dismay, and he's been after me to go check this out ever since. 

That was almost two years ago now, what with 2020 being a solo-ride year for most of us. So, the idea to go search for this mythical creature was not on the top of my agenda. I had other 'quests' to undertake, but now that 2021 is here, this idea of finding the 'Chicken-Duck' has come up again. I was telling here on the blog how I had ridden South of town recently and N.Y. Roll pinged me to ask if I had seen the 'Chicken-Duck' yet. I told him I had not gone by the place where he claims these things are at. 

Yes, as far as I know, this animal, if it actually exists, is found only in one place. A feeder creek to the larger Miller Creek near by is where N.Y. Roll has claimed to see these creatures on occasion. So, I had a Wednesday with nothing better to do, and I figured, 'Let's go see if I can find these things". 

It was to rain, or so the weather people said, by around noon, so I toted my bike in my truck down to the CVNT trail head and started from there to save time rolling through Waterloo and Evansdale. I gave myself about two hours ride time which would take me past the area N.Y. Roll claims these things exist, but I also wanted to backtrack and cross Miller Creek in another area. I mean, who says these things won't travel? So I figured on taking Cotter Road down to Reinbeck Road, coming back to Foulk Road, and then crossing Miller Creek again on Foulk, and so have another shot at seeing these things. 

This run down house on Foulk Road sits in stark contrast to its surroundings.

Nearing the first area to check out. Here closing in on Cotter Road from Miller Creek Road.

I had to start on the CVNT and cross the Cedar River, then a short jaunt down to the intersection with Foulk Road and onward South. The chip seal eventually turns into gravel where you cross HWY 218 and then it is a short distance to a left on Miller Creek Road. I had fresh gravel all the way, but a strange sensation that I was riding well dialed me up to think that it wasn't me, it must be a tailwind. My turn left on Miller Creek Road affirmed my suspicions. 

Great! Now I would have a headwind to end the ride with. Oh well..... Onward to see if these 'Chicken-Ducks' were real or not. I was figuring more toward the 'not' side myself, but what the heck! You never know unless you go and find out, right?

Further down at Miller Creek proper. Also nuthin'......

Well, I must have really bad luck in finding 'Chicken-Ducks' or N.Y. Roll has been eating past-date energy bars and hallucinating. I found zero evidence of any ducks, chickens, or mixtures thereof. All I saw were birds flitting about singing the songs of Robins and casting the warbles of the Red Winged Blackbird into the sky. Maybe the elusive 'Chicken-Duck' is like the Yeti, Big Foot, and Thylacines. Maybe they live in a parallel universe and N.Y.Roll just happened upon a portal one day. 

It all was just too much for my dust-addled brain to take in at the time. So, I just rode on and tried to leave the whole cryptid zoology idea to N.Y. Roll. He could maybe get an image someday and just show that to me, right? (Remind me not to take any energy bars from him, by the way.....) 

Planting with a smaller rig here off Cotter Road

I was passed by one of those crazy looking sprayer machines. They look like something out of 'Star Wars'. 

There are a lot of planted fields out there now, but I did observe some farming activities still ongoing concerning planting. At one point I was passed by one of those elevated sprayer machines. Those things look like alien spacecraft and sound weird with their hydrostatic drives. I also had no idea they could go that fast, but they can and kick up a lot of dust due to that. 

Skies began to clear up a bit as I returned back to Evansdale.

Patterns in the sky and in the ground.

The wind that was at my back going out was now in my face as I started back on Foulk Road. It wasn't too bad, but it was there and climbing the big rollers near Benton County was not what I'd call easy. As I rode up on to one of the taller rollers I thought about that old book I just got and how it told of the old Native American trails. 

In that book it told of how the Native Americans would use high ground and the most direct routes to places. I saw as I looked out over the hill, a ridge line of hills running, more or less, from the Southeast to the Northwest. The high ground gave a view of the Cedar River Valley to the North and behind me I could also see for several miles. It struck me that the old book told of a Native American trail on the South side of the river, and how that trail avoided the timber which lined the Cedar on both sides. It would make sense then, that the trail may have run up on this ridge line of hills I was crossing over. 

From up on top of the high ground I could discern the Cedar River's line several miles away.

Of course, I had no way of knowing for sure that this was the case, but it was certain that at some point I was crossing the old, beaten in path the Native Americans traced out into the prairies by their single file movements of people and possibly the rare, prized horse. 

That old book I have has a plat map of some of those older trails I need to look at closer. Maybe someday I can know with better information just where I might be crossing those old lines that once were there as I move across the gridded out crushed rock roads. 

I just about lost it on McKeller Road in a very deep, sandy patch. (See arrows pointing out my fish-tail track)
Planting the river bottom land

So, my ride ended finally as I reached the truck again. None the wiser concerning mythical animals nor the exact location of an ancient trail. But the ride was not a total loss. I had fun, I was refreshed mentally, and I got some physical exercise. All big pluses for this time of the year, which I rarely used to get out on rides for due to it being the traditional time when I put on Trans Iowa. 

I'm sure I'm going to be hearing from N.Y. Roll about this though.....