Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Project Wide Gravel Wheels v2: Update On Build

The rear wheel is built and awaits final tensioning.
 Just a quick update on the Project Wide Gravel Wheels v2 build. I thought you all might want to know how this is all shaping up so far.

The Spank 359 rims are made in such a way that they require spoke washers. These little discs of doom are a total pain in the butt to deal with, but if I don't use them I risk having the wheels explode due to nipples pulling through the rim extrusion. Not good! So, the pain in the butt process is necessary and patience while building these up is the key. Trying not to drop a spoke washer in the inner rim cavity is not easy, and when you do, you have to shake the rim like you are peppering your favorite recipe until, hopefully sooner than later, the thing pops out and falls to the floor. Fortunately that only happened once so far! 

Ironically, I am getting even more practice with spoke washers at work, since I have a job building up a set of DT Swiss rims on a customer's hubs that also requires spoke washers. The only difference is that DT Swiss' spoke washers are curved- concave/convex, and must be inserted in the correct orientation, making the job even more tedious! When it rains it pours, right? But at least I have work, so I am grateful. 

Anyway, the rims, again which were gifted to me by a former co-worker of mine, came with the spoke washers, but not enough to do both rims. So, I did not realize this until I started building the wheel. I hadn't cracked open the package they had come to me in, so I did not know how many I had to begin with. I immediately hopped online and found what I needed at Jenson USA and the parts (I ordered extra silver brass spoke nipples as well), should be here by the weekend. Okay, with that out of the way.....

I should mention again that Spank highly recommends that you use butted spokes and I suppose that is because these types of spokes will flex easier than straight gauge ones do, and that plays into the 'vertical compliance' claim Spank makes for these rims. Well, as it turned out, I had all butted spokes for this set on hand, so in the end, it will be what Spank recommends. I had at first thought I was going to used a mixed straight/butted gauge set. 

Besides all of that, and the extra time incurred by using spoke washers, this wheel built up really nicely. I hope that the front one goes as well as this one has. Once I get this wheel set done I will dive into wheel set number two for this project using some Stan's Neo hubs laced to Velocity Blunt SS rims. Stay tuned......

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Water Carriers

The Elite Jet Green (L), the Jet Plus,(M), and a standard bottle (R)
 I got a nice gift in the mail yesterday from a marketing company I work with for review items for It was two bottles from the "Elite" company.

I wouldn't normally say anything about 'water bottles', but I thought that these two bottles were unusual enough that they warranted mentioning. By the way, I wasn't asked to review these at all, nor does the marketing company or Elite know I am posting this. I just thought maybe some of you folks could use something like these bottles. 

First up, the enormous 'Jet Green' bottle I got here, which is on the left in the image. The impressive thing about it is that it is made from a 'bio-plastic' using sugar cane plants. There is no petroleum based products in its manufacture at all. The other thing is its size. Now, any of these two bottles are available in 550ml and 750ml, which are normal bottle sizes, but this example is 950ml! That's about a quart, in case you were wondering. 

The nozzle at the top has a bigger diameter than many bottles have, so it flows a bunch of water. The bottle is reasonably soft, easy to squeeze, and not weird feeling. I'm not sure about the 950ml size. There is more volume over the top bit where a water cage grabs this bottle than there is under that area. It makes me wonder how this would stay in a water bottle cage or not. It is so tall that it probably will not work in several cases. So, it has its limitations, but in cases where you need to pack a lot of water and you have the available cage space, well..... This might work for you.

The Jet Plus has a cover which would make it ideal for under the down tube.
The 'Jet Plus' is Elite's bottle with a cap cover which protects the nozzle from dirt and debris making this bottle a great choice for under the down tube situations where the front tire can sling all sorts of crud at a bottle. 

The other feature of the cap is that with its design, you can 'one-hand' the opening and closing of the top with ease, allowing the rider to keep one hand on the handle bars at all times. One slight flick of the wrist, and the protective cap snaps back into place and you can stow the bottle away again.  

This bottle comes in all three sizes that the Jet Green bottle comes in as well, so you can get something with the protective cap that fits your situation. The 750ml size I received might be a bit much for some bikes under the down tube position, but I'll give it a whirl here and see what bike it works on for me. 

The other thing with this bottle, and the Jet Green, is that they are biodegradable once you are done with them. The plastic is infused with certain elements that allow micro-organisms to attack it and break it down more quickly which allows the bottles to be assimilated into the earth again. You can check out the Jet Plus here:

So, there you have it. As always, I am not being paid, nor bribed for this post, I honestly just thought these two bottles were cool and unusual enough that they deserved to get a mention. I'll be using them soon and I will have a thing or two to say about them down the road, but Elite s a well known and respected company from Italy that manufactures these bottles there. I have little doubt that they are at the very least, 'good' products. But, we shall see.......

Starting Over

 Not all the gravel is in the country.
 A little over a week ago now I helped my neighbor move from his old home to his current home a little ways across town. I mention this because I did something- or I guess maybe I 'over-did' something, that weekend. I worked 'way too hard'. 

So, moving is an all-body work-out, and in heat and humidity, it can be brutal. Consider that I was also working in two houses with zero A/C that were both so hot inside that it felt like it was a LOT cooler outdoors! I mention all of this because I ended up working harder than I have in years. And....I paid the price. 

I was pretty beat-down last week. Tired, sore, and aching all over every day. My first day of feeling somewhat 'normal'? Saturday this past weekend. So, as a result, I have been taking baby steps back- in terms of cycling- because I just haven't had anything in the tank for many days. In fact, I skipped a few days - not in a row - from cycling at all last week because my body was telling me that I was not ready yet. 

On one hand, I have been a bit dejected about this. On the other, I was surprised at the output I still had while moving that day. I haven't worked that hard on a bicycle- maybe ever - in my life. So, what that taught me was that I have a lot left in there to work with if I can just fuel and drink correctly during an event, and have the mindset I had while moving stuff that day. I know I had a very different mindset than I have ever had while attempting to bicycle a big event. 

 A nice day Lilly seen while 'urban-gravel riding'.

 So, I've been slowly coming back to speed, so to speak, of late. I am a bit anxious, as I prepare for my Gravel Worlds attempt in mid-August. I'm sure I'll be fine by then, but it is the 'worry-gene' I have in me that makes it harder than it needs to be. I think I need to approach this like I did with regard to my moving day's activities; I just need to decide I'm taking the bull by the horns and gettin' things done. 

The mental deal is so much of what we have to overcome. I know my body is capable, but I also know that my biggest battle to overcome is from within me. It's not easy to deal with it. But at least that moving day kind of dialed up to me that I have to work on what's in between my ears more than I do my pedaling a bicycle.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Guitar Ted Lube-Off: SCC Tech Lube Results

 NOTICE:  The Guitar Ted 'Lube-Off' is a comparison of different lubrication products for bicycle chains that is undertaken in 'real world' conditions in a set way. Then I compare and contrast the results with past 'Lube-Off' products to see "which one is best for me". This is done for entertainment purposes and the reader should apply their own reasoning and discernment while reading my 'Lube-Off' entries. What works for me may not work for you at all. 

Okay, the time has come for me to render a final verdict on the SCC Tech Lube. I also have a bit of news on this lube which I will share first. But even before that, if you missed the last update on this lube, you can click this link to go back and read that. Plus there is another link there to take you to the intro. 

 Now for the news: Wolf Tooth recently introduced their chain lube, which- as it turns out- is this very SCC Tech Lube! They call it "WT-1" but it is the same lubricant as this SCC Tech stuff I already have. So, you are essentially getting a review on the WT-1 as well. Bonus! (The link takes you to my "FN&V" post where I detailed the news on that lube.)

The SCC Tech Lube left a little residue on the cassette, and maybe a bit on the inner plates of the chain.

As far as how this lube performed overall, I would say that it is pretty darn good stuff. I was a bit put off initially by all the black residue that milked out of the chain to begin with, but SCC Tech claims this is the lube doing its 'self-cleaning' thing. Okay.....I decided to bite, and in the end? The lube started to behave in a way that didn't collect more dust and grit, stayed slippery, and kept this chain relatively quiet. I did follow the advice of SCC Tech to wipe down the chain with a rag from time to time, but even this became less of a need as time went on during the test. 

SCC Tech Lube passes the 'Touch Test' with flying colors.

As far as my 'Touch Test' goes, SCC Tech did very well once the lube settled in and quit milking out all that black residue. This ended up being on par with DuMonde Tech and the Muc-Off C3 Ceramic lube. Pretty impressive! 

Shift quality remained excellent throughout the test, but for whatever reason, this lube - or probably this Wippermann chain- is a chunky, loud shifting deal at times. I'm blaming the chain here, because as this lube got drier, the chain shifts got louder. Less wet stuff to damp noise is what that is. So the shifting seemed great, it was just this chain, I think, which was a bit on the loud side when shifting at times. 

At the end of the day, I slot this lubricant in at Number Three on my all-time Lube-Off list. It just is not as clean overall as DuMonde Tech nor as good as the Muc-Off in this regard. The SCC Tech Lube also has that initial period of 'self-cleaning', which can be a bit more maintenance intensive as you should be wiping that off periodically as this process works itself out. That's an extra step neither of the top-two lubricants I have tested require. 

But......SCC Tech Lube is not just a dry conditions lubricant either, so if you see that as a step above from a versatility standpoint, I would take that point and maybe say the SCC Tech Lube could be the better lubricant in those situations where you need an all-around conditions lubricant. So, it depends on how you look at this. I am testing for dry conditions only here, so take that into consideration in my final verdict. 

SCC Tech Lube vs NixFrixShun "Blue Devil" Lubricant: 


So, this round featured the two 'blue' colored lubricants, NixFrixShun's Blue Devil and the SCC Tech Lube. The Blue Devil lube's final verdict is here at this link. So, what do I think about the Blue Devil against the SCC Tech Lube? I feel Blue Devil is pretty good, but it was clearly more apt to gather grit and gunk on the side plates of the chain and on the derailleur jockey wheels than the SCC Tech. While Blue Devil kept the chain quiet and shifting really well, it just is not as clean, so it falls below the SCC Tech in that category. Had the SCC Tech Lube stayed dirty as it was out of the gate, this would have ended up being a tie, but the SCC Tech seems to get better with age, in terms of staying gunk-free. 

I will concede that Blue Devil is also listed as an 'all-conditions' lubricant, so it may have staying power through wet and muddy conditions that I did not test for. Again though- it just doesn't stay as clean over-all. To my way of thinking, dirt and gunk on the chain equals a possibility for advanced wear on components, besides slowing you down a tiny bit. That's especially not good in these times where getting new parts is tough, or impossible in some cases. We want to make our parts last as long as possible. A clean drive train goes a long ways toward that goal. 

So, that's a wrap on this round of the "Guitar Ted Lube-Off". I'll check into some lubricants for the next round, but it was clear that many of you thought that I needed to check out the Silca Super Secret Chain Lube and one reader suggested this lube from Prestacycle that has made some amazing claims. Many also suggested Silca's Synergetic lube, but Silca lists this as a 'wet lube' and typically anything specifically listed as such fails miserably in my testing. Remember- dry, dusty, dirty conditions are what I will be subjecting these chains and lubricants to. So, I think it is a bit unfair to put a 'wet lube' up against my proven winners in a 'dry conditions' testing environment. Convince me otherwise and I may change my mind.....

So, this is my ranking so far: DuMonde Tech, Muc-Off C3 Ceramic Dry Lube, SCC Tech Lube. I would heartily recommend any of these three for dry, gravel, dirt road, or pavement use. 

Okay, a final note:  I bought the SCC tech Lube and the NixFrixShun Blue devil lubricants for this round of the Lube-Off. I was not paid nor bribed for these posts and I try to give you my honest thoughts and opinions throughout.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Trans Iowa Stories: A Tale Of Two Trans Iowas - Part 3

A rooster pheasant trots along the T.I.v12 course. Image by Wally Kilburg.
  "Trans Iowa Stories" is an every Sunday post which helps tell the stories behind the event. You can check out other posts about this subject  by clicking on the "Trans Iowa Stories" link under the blog header. Thanks and enjoy! 

As daylight revealed a calm-ish, comfortably warm day, riders were moving toward the first checkpoint at a pretty decent clip. My volunteers were ready at a corner not far from the main drag through Deep River, Iowa. Due to my insistence that a Trans Iowa course be mostly gravel, and due to the fact that there really was only one way to get into and out of the village without retracing part of the route or using busy roads, the circuit through the area surrounding Deep River was a bit odd. It came in from the Southwest, went past Deep River, a little North, then back West and finally a short Level B section brought them in on an "L" shaped bit into Deep River's South side. Then across the village to the West, and exiting the checkpoint, the riders went South and then West for a mile, then North a bit, and finally East until they crossed Highway 21 and then a big leg Northward. 

Catch all that? 

The sad thing is that I just wrote that from memory. It's that way with some of my courses. I can still see them in my mind and I know where they go without even looking them up. That said, other times I see a map of an old course, or old cues, and am surprised by the route.  I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by that given the amount of time I spent on those courses. But back to the story- That circuitous route around Deep River meant we were in that area a bit longer, in terms of where the riders were, than we'd normally be for a Trans Iowa. 

A lone rider makes his way up the Level B road coming into Checkpoint #1 for T.I.v12 (Image by Wally Kilburg)

This allowed for a chance happening that involved the local volunteer fire department. Apparently, there was an emergency call. The fire department volunteers assembled and were blazing down one of the gravel roads Southeast of town when they came upon some Trans Iowa riders. The story I was told by eyewitnesses, who were also riders in the event, was that several riders pulled over to allow the speeding vehicles to pass, but a couple were either heedless of the commotion due to wearing earbuds, (possibly) or were willfully ignoring the first vehicle's siren and lights. (Note- My eye witnesses told me the following vehicles were not displaying any emergency lighting or audible sirens.) 

The Checkpoint 1 set up at the Southwest end of Deep River for T.I.v12

Subsequently one of the fire department volunteers, who had returned to the village after the call, figured out that our volunteers were involved. This was obvious due to the numbers on the bikes and riders and that the volunteers were servicing the riders with cues for the next leg of the event. That fire department volunteer approached my volunteers and was angry and asked to have a word with whomever was in charge. Andy Tetmeyer, who I have talked about in previous posts about T.I.v12, took it upon himself to deal with this person and Steve Fuller, another volunteer, called me while this was happening and acted as a relay and facilitated the conversation with me. Of course, I was quite alarmed and made Steve tell me a few times what had happened, according to the volunteer. I made a promise that I would get to the bottom of the affair, and told the man via Steve and Andy I was sorry and we would not be any problem for them in the area within a short time. The man seemed to be amicable to my gestures and apologies, and we left the conversation on good terms. Or so I thought.... 

(L-R) Walter Zitz (partially obscured) Greg Gleason, three unidentified riders, Volunteers Mike Baggio and Andy Tetmeyer. Image by A Andonopoulous

After Trans Iowa, the Chief of the Volunteer Fire Department of Deep River, Iowa was searching Facebook for some way of getting a hold of that nere-do-well who was out of line and causing potential mayhem and death in her jurisdiction. I received a message from the administrator of an Iowa based cycling page she posted an email to and so I contacted her. She was pretty adamant that I was a really bad person for allowing these situations to occur, and after I stated my point-by-point fact based report on the matter, she was not very convinced of my leadership in the realm of safety and responsibility. She also said that the agreed upon terms and apology I made with a volunteer of the Deep River Volunteer Fire Department must have been a fantasy because she had no knowledge of it and did not acknowledge to me, or hint that she recognized the description of, the driver or the truck he was allegedly in. Furthermore; even if that was truth he had no basis to accept such terms and/or an apology from me. But she did say that my decision to never disturb the Deep River area again with such nonsense as a bike race was good enough for her to drop the matter.

This took about a week to resolve, post T.I.v12, and required a lot of my time in researching the issue and contacting riders who may have had knowledge of the events which disturbed the Volunteer Fire Chief. Fortunately, I had solid evidence of the facts and was able to present my case in a manner which was pretty bombproof, despite what the Chief thought about it. But all of that really sucked the wind out of my sails. Both that day of and afterward. 

So, as Checkpoint #1 was closing down, I sent word up the road to Jeremy Fry at Checkpoint #2 to make sure every rider got the message that they MUST pull over for emergency vehicles. Then I figured we were in the clear from all the negative stuff for the weekend. Of course, we weren't.... Or I should say, I wasn't clear. 

Riders headed Northward through Tama County during T.I.v12. Image by Celeste Mathias

Mike Baggio, a volunteer at Checkpoint 1 and who was volunteering as a support person for one of the riders as a last minute replacement, was summoned by his rider who was up the road from the Checkpoint in Deep River quite a ways. Apparently, he was in a group, tailing off the back a bit, when suddenly a Great Pyrenees dog rushed out from a farm yard to give chase to the group. This man had no where to go and actually broadsided the dog in the road, upending his bicycle, and then crashing onto the gravel. The early diagnosis was a broken collarbone. 

My heart sank....

My worst fears during Trans Iowa were having to deal with serious injuries. Fortunately, Mike Baggio was and is a clear-headed thinker and jumped into action. He kept me abreast of the situation via text and phone calls throughout the rest of the morning and early afternoon. As it turned out, there was no broken bone, just a separated shoulder, but still..... I was so relieved to hear Mike say that the rider was going to be fine, that he was safely back in Grinnell, and had no ill feelings about the incident as far as Trans Iowa or myself went. 

This event was not going well for me. While the riders, for the most part, were experiencing possibly the best tailwind section in Trans Iowa history, approximately 160 miles worth of it, I was hitting some pretty big headwinds in terms of emotional and mental storms. A reroute to deal with, lost cues, a tangle with the rural volunteer fire folks, and now this injured rider?  I was hoping for a turn of events for myself and my volunteers. 

But those two incidents weren't the only excitement during the morning and early afternoon hours. There was more to this Trans Iowa than anyone knew about that was going on behind the scenes. 

Next: We will take a break for next week and enjoy some images from T.I.v12

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Project Wide Gravel Wheels v2: The Rims

The Spank 359 Rims
 I've been detailing my new wheel build and the obvious 'star' of this show is the Spank 359 rims. Yes.....these are really mountain bike rims. I get that, but as I have said, the whole 'wider is better' inner rim width thing is blurring the lines between road and mountain anyway. May as well go to the wide side, right? That's kind of the point here- to find out where the line is at. 

So, in this post I am going to take a closer look at these rims and what- if anything- would recommend them for riding on gravel roads. The big selling point with these rims is the 'radial compliance' which Spank claims smooths out the ride a bit more over standard rims out there. I thought I'd focus in on that claim a bit first, as it is the main one that would make sense in terms of usage for gravel riding.

First of all, Spank uses a shallow rim depth of 19mm. This is done to help induce some flex in the vertical plane. Kind of like how fat bike wheels in aluminum often are- wide but very thin- these rims would have a bit more of an aptitude towards flexing vertically. The width of 35mm (outer) helps keep the rims laterally stiff, at least that is what Spank claims. There is a version of this rim with Spank's "Vibrocore" which is a foam filled interior of the rim, but this rim I have does not feature this technology. 

To give you an idea of how ridiculous and stupid this idea is, the 359 is Spank's down hill mountain biking rim! But in comparison to many 'gravel rims', this rim is only about 100 grams per rim heavier. And this is not a rim for racing, or even for thoughts of 'going fast', but I am thinking this is the rim for adventure and maybe bike packing with a gravel bike. My intentions are to use a tire of 45mm or wider, so nothing crazy like a 700 X 38mm tire will see these rims. So, at first glance this seems like a really dumb idea, but...... Maybe it will work well. If not, I can always convert to use with a MTB at some point, or just blow apart the rims from the hubs and start from scratch.

The 359 rims feature a 'hump' in the profile where the spoke drillings are.

The 359 rims get some lateral rigidity from the way Spank had the extrusion made which features a mid-hump in the rim well. Instead of the traditional "U" shaped inner rim well this one looks more like a wave with the crest at the point where the spokes go through. There is also a unique ridging in the bead seat which Spank claims locks into the bead of the tire and allows lower pressure usage without tire burping. 

So, that's the deal here. I'll be awaiting spoke nipples and then these wheels will be getting built up. But there has been another recent development which will provide me with the opportunity to test my original hypothesis right along side of these ridiculously wide wheels. You may remember that this project was to be done with a set of Velocity Blunt SS rims? Well......they showed up the other day! 

I could have just swapped out rims and proceeded as planned, but I happen to have a wheel set languishing in the Lab which has rims I do not prefer, and they have 28 hole hubs with Center Lock disc mounts and 12mm through axle compatibility! So, I will be blowing that wheel set apart and utilizing the hubs which will be laced to the Velocity Blunt SS rims. It's a twofer! 

Stay tuned.....

Friday, June 25, 2021

Friday News And Views

 COVID Impacts Supply Chain Issues Again:

The latest news to impact the bicycle, (and other industries and retail segments) supply chains is an uptick in COVID-19 cases in the Far East. Especially important to the bicycle industry is the recent shut down of Shimano's big Malaysian component works. 

Shimano, according to a recent "Bicycle Retailer and Industry News" piece, had to curtail activities at its facility in Malaysia on June 1st to 60% capacity and then a week later it was shut down completely. This shut down has now been extended to June 28th, effectively wiping out a full month of manufacturing of mid to lower tier components. Shimano reportedly makes brakes, hubs, derailleurs, wheels, pedals, and freewheels at this facility.  

In another article from "BRAIN", contributor, Jay Townley, it is reported that shipping bottlenecks continue with shipping container prices going through the roof. So much so that some companies are now saying it is too expensive to ship anything out of Far East ports now. The situation might best be illustrated by the following quote taken from the "BRAIN article" here:

"According to The Wall Street Journal Logistic Report June 11, “Dozens of vessels are backed up off the Yantian port in Shenzhen, straining fragile shipping operations that have been battered by a persistent empty container shortage and a continuing bottleneck at U.S. West Coast ports.”  The reason?  A shortage of workers because of a surge in COVID-19 cases! "

Furthermore in regard to container shipping prices from the same article; 

"Container costs are soaring, and logistics service providers report desperate American importers are paying well beyond even the listed spot rates. Human Powered Solutions (HPS) Senior Logistics Advisor, Dave Karneboge reported on June 7 that the none contract rate, which currently represents about 30% of container shipments is currently $10,000 for a 40-foot container that cost under $2,000 a year ago."

This has resulted in a huge delay in getting new bicycles into shops, and a huge shortage of parts to fix bicycles as well. Specifically, at Andy's Bike Shop, which is where I work part time, they are a Kona dealer, and we field calls from across the nation weekly from consumers looking for Kona models. We have seen shortages on brake pads since last year, and cassettes and chains are also in short supply. I recently had to piece together a wheel from a customer's parts and a new rim because complete wheels are non-existent in many sizes. 

As a shop, we are not expecting many new bikes now until 2023! Sure.....some stuff will be out, and available, but I don't see a lot of inventory in complete bikes being in shops next season now, especially when parts for mainstream, 'bread and butter' models seems to be shut down and delayed indefinitely. I expect stock to become available in fits and spurts and that finding a new bike on a shop floor will be rare for a long time coming. 

As an example, I spoke with a shop manager who works for one of the largest Mid-Western bicycle retailers recently and his specific location has back orders on one hybrid model for 200 units! All customers who have pre-paid and will be waiting for months to get their bicycles. That's one, entry level hybrid model at one shop location- Can you imagine what it must be like nationwide? 

Get the picture? This won't get straightened out for a long time.........

Intense MTB as seen on COSTCO's website.
New Times- New Marketing:

You may not know about Intense Cycles, but they have been a small, high-end manufacturer of unique, high-performance mountain bikes for years. Intense has never really broken out as a major player in the field. Not that their bikes weren't top class, they just never broke out of their SoCal backyard to become a nationwide force to be reckoned with. Somehow or another, Intense seemed to keep plugging along regardless. 

Now, with the marketplace changing at a rapid pace, Intense has found itself reaching out to the big box retail and online player, Costco. With resources combined which give Intense better buying power, Costco has and Intense have partnered to bring a special aluminum framed 951 Trail Bike to a direct to consumer price of well under 4G. 

Comments: The marketing and buying power of Costco matched up with the boutique aura of Intense Cycles should be a big hit......for awhile. Typically this sort of an arrangement has the ultimate effect of becoming rather stale after a period of time. Consumers get hip to the lowered, less than special and elite spec and technical frame details, and then on the other hand, the alternative choice tends to become a drag on the rest of the range, making the 'boutique' nature of a brand less than 'boutique'. Consumers are fickle that way. But who knows, maybe Intense can pull off what really hasn't been done well in the past. 

But the bigger picture look at this points to more brands doing similar things. Physical retail floor space is becoming more rare for bicycles and many shops are being consolidated in terms of brand choices down to a single brand's offerings. The old 'just-in-time' ordering philosophy of the past decade has left the supply chain drained for the foreseeable future, so this also tends to be an issue with physical placement of bicycle product going forward. 

I am already seeing pre-order bike sales being handled by many dealers (as noted above) and it doesn't take much of a stretch of imagination to think that this may become a preferred model for brands going forward. Dealers would take orders on a proposed bike and spec and after pre-orders close, those bikes would be manufactured, delivered, and picked up by consumers. Neat and tidy from an inventory perspective and definitely more predictable on the manufacturing end where quantities available could be dictated up front. Both in terms of a minimum to get the ball rolling and a maximum to insure a sell through. 

Orders could be teased up through the use of traveling demos where consumers could try spec bikes and decide on the spot to place a pre-order. While this wouldn't work for mid to lower level bicycle sales, most likely, it could. But I see this being a way to sell high-end MTB, Road, and Gravel in the future. Especially for smaller brands. 

But the Walmart/Costco model will probably also be utilized. We already have seen Walmart delve into higher end bicycle sales (Viathon) and I wouldn't be surprised to see an Intense-like brand come onboard with them in the future. But whatever happens, I am betting big retail and smaller, boutique bicycle brands will start holding hands to reach more consumers in the future and bypass the traditional bike shop sales model.

Gravel Worlds- GirlsGetGritty, Form Partnership To Increase Female Participation In Gravel Events:

When we started rolling out Trans Iowa in 2004-2005, it was our intention to include women into the event. But back then, extreme, ultra-distance events were dominated by fields of male participants. Women weren't excluded, but how do you encourage female participation when , you know, the sport is dominated by dudes? It was a conundrum that flummoxed us in the early days of Trans Iowa, for sure. We really wanted to see more women take part, and even more so- to see a woman finisher, but it took seven events before that happened. 

I suppose we should have had someone like Angela Naeth helping us at Trans Iowa. That's her, by the way, in the image on the left as she was waiting for the start of the 2021 Unbound Gravel. Anyway, having a voice in the event from a female perspective may have helped our ambitions along and expedited female participation at a much faster rate. 

Well, I screwed up. I just wasn't hip to the thought, and that's on me. Truly one of my biggest regrets when thinking back upon Trans Iowa days. Anyway, Gravel Worlds is partnering up with Naeth's all-women gravel race team, "GirlsGetGritty" and Gravel Worlds is offering free and discounted spots to women who belong to Naeth's team and her organization, IRaceLikeAGirl

Comments: Kudos to Gravel Worlds and GirlsGetGritty for this initiative. As I stated, I've always desired to see participation increase for females in gravel events and that females also get equal prizing and race the same distances as the males do. Fortunately, in terms of the latter two things there, that has always been pretty much the case since the gravel scene kicked of in 2005. So, we got part of it right! 

This will also help to make the gravel scene more inclusive and should be seen as another step toward the goal of making this sector of cycling the most welcoming one that has a competitive nature. The gravel racing scene has always been light years ahead of Pro, UCI or USAC type governed cycling and sanctioned events in this area. This despite the endemic media attempts to codify gravel events, and bring them under the realm of 'real racing', whatever that is, and I hope that the major gravel event promoters reject that sort of thinking completely now and into the future. Hopefully GirlsGetGritty and their founder, Angela Naeth understand that as well. 

Note: Image and information on the GirlsGetGritty, Gravel Worlds story were provided to me by Matt Gersib, Media Contact for Gravel Adventures LLC.

That's a wrap for this week! Hope that you can get out and ride some! Thank you for reading G-Ted Productions!

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Wolf Tooth Supple Lite Handle Bar Tape: Impressions

As wrapped on my PRO Discover Big Flare Handle Bars.
 Wolf Tooth Supple Lite Handle Bar Tape:\

NOTE: This handle bar tape was sent to for test and review at no charge. I am not being paid nor bribed for this post. got in some of this new Wolf Tooth Supple Lite bar tape and I just put it on the Noble GX5's PRO Discover Big Flare handle bars. I go through a lot of handle bar tape and so I get my mitts on many different types and brands of the stuff. The Noble GX5 was due for something new and so this was a timely delivery. I will be doing a "Quick Review" for later, but right now I wanted to pass along my impressions of this tape, because I am pretty impressed with what I have experienced so far. My thoughts may change if I see issues down the road, so make note that this is not a 'final word' on this product. It is a 'first impression', so it should be read that way. 

Now- a bit of a back story- Previous to using this tape, I tried a competitor's thick - nearly 5mm thick- handle bar tape and found that - after trying to wrap one side for 30 minutes- that it was just not a well designed product. Part of the issue was the exit path for the hydraulic hose on the Shimano GRX levers and part of the issue was also the PRO Discover bar's tight bend from the tops to the ramps of the design. The thick tape tried before wasn't able to conform or hold its position in this transition area of the handle bar, so it ended up that I had to give over and try the tape on another bike. In the meantime I took some cheap, OEM fake cork tape, and had the entire handle bar wrapped in under ten minutes.

Note the tighter wraps near the hoods. This makes the tape nearly 5mm thick there.
Keep that failure in mind as I tell this story, because the Wolf Tooth tape is 2.5mm thick, but 40mm wide. It tapers out to the edges from the center, so it depends on how you wrap the tape as to what the final thickness is. Overlapping closer makes the tape thicker, while spreading it out as you wrap makes it thinner. I purposely wrapped the Supple Lite tape in big, overlapping layers at the brake/shift lever where that tight bend is on the PRO Discover bar and it laid down and took to this difficult to wrap area quite nicely. Very impressive!

Now the thicker portion is right behind the lever's hood, which is right where you want some 'cush' in the rougher stuff. The drop section is thinner, where I spread out the overlapping so that I have a more solid grip there as that is where I will be during descents and whenever I want a secure grip for maneuvering. 

The Supple Lite tape is made of an EVA foam and is crazy tacky/grippy. I'll see how that holds up in a dusty, dirty, sweaty environment later, but right now that seems like a good thing. The give of the tape is pretty firm, but yet palpable, so I am hoping that it does give me some relief on the chunky crushed rock. 

Oh, and by the way, it has nice finishing tape and is quite long enough to wrap a wider bar. This PRO one is approximately equivalent to a 46cm bar. Now consider that the previously mentioned, really thick bar tape that didn't work out costs nearly $60.00 and the Wolf Tooth tape is $29.95. That's pretty eye-opening right there. I'm hoping to find out that this tape holds up well, because if it does, it would mark one of the better values in bicycle products out there right now. Time will tell all......

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Project Wide Gravel Wheels v2: Getting Acquainted With The Machine

Practicing on my own spokes....
 In my effort to get these wheels built I have decided to take all of you readers along for the ride. So, today's post will be about the next step in my Project Wide Gravel Wheels v2. The next step was to get the spokes gathered together. 

I did a bit of a big overview concerning how to arrive at the proper data to get spoke lengths in my last update. So, I will be assuming that you either understand that, or have gotten this far. Now to choose spokes....

I had an excellent question regarding this in the comments section and it will serve to provide a general discussion here of spoke brands, types, and the nipples to go with them. Most people kind of overthink this part, in my opinion. Basically, all the minutiae that some folks sweat over when choosing wheel components is completely forgotten about and not discernible in terms of ride feel after a few weeks of riding. So- why sweat the choices when there are proven winning combinations? My take on component choices follows this philosophy. 

So, I'll list a few 'this-or-that' topics and comment appropriately....

  • Butted/Bladed or Straight Gauge: I don't sweat the weight thing here as the difference in butted versus straight gauge is not all that much. You are much better off being concerned about rim and hub weights as you can realize a lot more gains from those parts than you will from 28-32 spokes. That said.... Use what makes sense for the build. Straight gauge spokes tend to be tougher, they handle more abuse in a better way- so use those in situations where you want that quality. Butted spokes can be more flexible, and they often are the 'strongest' spokes in terms of tensile strength. So, use those where those qualities make more sense. But don't go solely on weight.  
  • Alloy vs Brass Spoke Nipples: You can almost never go wrong using brass nipples. Alloy nipples can be used successfully, and- of course- come in various anodized colors while brass nipples do not. Alloy is lighter, brass is tougher. Brass resists corrosion better than alloy does. Alloy requires that the builder make sure that the spoke lengths are exactly the right length to avoid nipple failures. Brass is more forgiving in that way. Again- use what makes sense for the job. If you go alloy- make sure you, or your wheel builder, knows the correct methods to attain the best outcome. 
  • Brand: Stick with the following- DT Swiss, Sapim, or Wheelsmith. That's my opinion. Anything else is taking a risk, again- my opinion - that is not necessary. Period. 

Okay, one more interesting tidbit- The Spank rims require 'spoke washers', which are what they sound like- Little washers that go under the nipple head and against the inner rim well. These do-dads spread force across a wider area of the rim instead of localizing it at the spoke hole edges. Not all rim manufacturers require these, but some do. (Some builds should have them as well.) Also, Spank strongly recommends using butted spokes to get the best out of their claimed 'vertically compliant rims'. So, I am not going 100% butted, but there will be some butted spokes in this build. Spank also requires the builder use 3 cross pattern in the lacing. That's fine as that is what I would do anyway. So, these wheels will be a bit odd compared to a standard set of wheels. 

I have quite a stash of spokes from the years of wheel building. So, I often go through those to see what I have that I can 'use up' in my next wheel build. They are all Wheelsmith spokes, for the most part, with a few DT Swiss spokes thrown in for good measure. I had to source about half the spokes since I did not have the correct 295mm length. Fortunately we have a Wheel Fanatyk/Wheelsmith/Morizumi spoke cutter at Andy's Bike Shop. Actually, we just got it a couple of months ago. There are 'blank spokes'- spokes which are overly long and not threaded- which can be cut to a precise length and have threads rolled into them by the spoke machine. It is a fun, easy to do process and I cut 28 spokes in minutes for the job before I started work Tuesday. 

The next thing I have to do is to source nipples, and after that- it's wheel building time!

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

That's A Lot Of Gravel

 Gravel. It's what I ride on these days, as you all that come here know. I was reminded yesterday of one of the big reasons why that is. We have a lot of the stuff here! 

I did this thing called "The Quest" last year where I challenged myself to complete a ride on every Black Hawk County gravel road that I hadn't ridden before. That was a LOT of roads, but any thoughts about riding every gravel road in Iowa are completely crazy. It would take a lifetime of riding gravel roads to manage that challenge and conquer it.

I've seen estimates on how many miles of gravel and dirt roads Iowa has, and they range around the upper 60,000 to 70,000 miles. Let's say you have a good 60 years of riding, allowing for childhood development and old age on the other end. You'd have to ride over 1,100 miles of new gravel miles every year for 60 straight years to accomplish the feat.  I highlighted that 'new gravel miles' bit because that is important to understand. You see, it is not as easy as just riding 1,100 miles of new gravel every year.

No- because you have LOTS of dead ends! Those all have to be out and back, which double the miles in those sections. Just think about how many stubs of dirt and gravel there are running up into dead ends along I-80, I-35, I-29, I-380, and many four lane limited access U.S. Highways like Highway 30, 20, and others. 

Plus all the dead ends along rivers, cities, and roads that just end for no apparent reason. All would have to be done as out-and-backs which would really complicate matters. That takes not just more miles, but more time. I'm not here to say it would be impossible, but one would have to have a logistical talent, organization that was impeccable, and dedication that was off the charts. I mean, think about the Winter months, inclement weather, and the dog days of Summer, all which you'd have to consider as road blocks to accomplishing the goal. 

Travel time, health over 60 years, and just plain luck would all have to come together to make that ride even close to possible. Yeah......I have a small idea of this. That challenge I did last year just in Black Hawk County nearly consumed me. I cannot imagine doing that for decades. But.......maybe someone will. 

I probably won't be around to see it if it ever does happen, but whomever succeeds in doing that someday will have ridden a heck of a lot of gravel and dirt roads!

Monday, June 21, 2021

Project Wide Gravel Wheels v2: Calculating

Scribblins- Gotta measure twice....
 Over the weekend I had a rather unusual opportunity. I was out sitting on the porch Saturday morning, drinking my coffee, watching a pair of House Wrens raise their family in a bird house my son made in middle school, when I saw my neighbor with a load of stuff heading for a trailer he had attached to his work van. I had been contemplating where to go for my ride. It was beautiful, and the day promised to be perfect for cycling. But he looked at me and meekly suggested I could be helping him, so I immediately got dressed for working and proceeded to help move him out. 

He had a ton of stuff accumulated over a span of 25+ years of living there. He had fallen on his luck, his family had pretty much forsaken him, and well..... I decided I needed to help him more than I needed to ride. Anyway....that was Saturday. 

Sunday rained. We needed it, but with Father's Day happening as well, I just had zero opportunities to ride a bike. Either it was raining, or I was with family doing things, and I had little time between either to squeeze in any activities. Besides, I had worked my tail off the day before going up stairs and down in two different houses, carrying heavy objects, for hours. My body was in need of some rest! 

So, what better time than this to do some math! I love math. (sarcasm alert) I also figured that this might be a great opportunity to explain my processes regarding wheel building. So, if you are curious, here's how I go about getting things together before I actually take part in the act of lacing up wheels. Like most things, preparation is key. Get the prep right and the actual act of doing whatever it is you are trying to accomplish will go smoothly and quickly. 

The obvious thing you need up front is compatible parts. Lacing hubs with 28 holes requires rims with 28 holes. I know......but it had to be said! Many times people try to lace things up with non-matching spoke hole counts and for what? It's just not necessary or necessarily the best idea. So, avoid that at all costs. Then the next thing you need to figure out is what sort of spokes you want to use and what lacing pattern is best for your wheels. 

This is all my opinion, so keep in mind that wheel building is something of a religion with some folks. Meaning that they have 'rules' and 'practices' that shall not be broken or you shall be cast to the outer darkness of wheel building! Or something terrible like that. Anyway, I do not buy into that nonsense. I do what I feel are sensible things with a slight twist at times. Read on....this wheel build will be right up that alley. 

Getting the correct measurements off your hubs and rims is critical.
Okay, so I am of the mind that unless the hub manufacturer says you should not lace 3 cross, then you should lace 3 cross. (Rohloff recommends only 2 cross, as an example) I see no great benefits to doing things otherwise and you can end up with issues if you veer off the 3 cross way. But that said, I've done 2 cross, and in some cases 4 cross (tandem), so it is not a hard and fast rule. So, I am doing 3 cross here. Next, the spokes....

I know that people have their favorites. I have mine too. Mine is Wheelsmith. Some folks like DT Swiss. I've used them and I've used Sapim- all good. Stick with the mainstream brands and you'll have success. Nipples? You cannot go wrong with brass nipples. You can go wrong- but not necessarily so - with alloy nipples. If you know what you are doing, alloy is okay. Match the purposes with the material. Run the spokes up past the nipple flange. Okay? Then you are okay with alloy. Otherwise a brass nipple gets the job done well every time. I'll be using brass nipples on this particular wheel set. 

Finally- measure twice! This is critical to getting the math right to determine spoke length. The rim diameter at the point where the nipple seats into the rim is called the 'Effective Rim Diameter'. (ERD) That can be measured in a couple different ways, but I happen to have some old Wheelsmith spoke measuring rods. That's what I use. You can go by manufacturer spec numbers here, but measuring is always best practice. Then you have to measure the hub. 

You'll need three things here- Hub Flange Diameter, Hub Center To Flange on the drive side, and the same for the non-drive side. Sometimes I call it 'non-drive' and sometimes I call it 'disc side' depending upon the hub and whatnot. But the point here is that spoke calculations are made by getting the numbers (distances measured in millimeters) for the flange diameter, (measured from the center of spoke holes across a hub flange) the center line of the hub to the center line of a hub flange, and then that added to what you get for ERD. This- after the calculations-  will determine spoke length. It used to be that hubs were symmetrical, but now days with 'wheel dish' that is not the case, so you have to measure both sides of the hub. Disc brakes also cause 'dish', so make sure you carefully measure front disc hubs as well. 

Once you have all the numbers, you plug them into a spoke calculator. The one I like to use is on United Bicycle Institute's website. It has been really accurate for me over almost 25 years of using it. But there are others. DT Swiss has one a lot of people like as well. Whatever you choose to utilize, just know that the data you input needs to be as accurate as you can get it to help realize best results. Mostly this means that you should be using a digital calipers to get your measurements with. There are other tools, but a decent set of digital calipers for about $25.00 will get you the results you want if you use them correctly. 

Then you buy/order up your parts, (if you can find them) and the next step is to build. I'll get into how I do that for you all in my next update. Stay tuned..........

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Trans Iowa Stories: A Tale Of Two Trans Iowas: Part 2

"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!

The pre-race event for T.I.v12 was a rather good one, as far as those went. I never was as smooth or had it all together as I wanted to have it, and this despite making notes, and charts, and whatever I came up with. I don't know that I ever really ran the pre-race meeting the way I intended to for any Trans Iowa. Typically I'd lose my clipboard, the roster sheets, or forget half the stuff I wanted to say. I guess it never really mattered, since everything went well. 

 So, afterward when everything was wrapped up and I got a call from a rider that said he was missing a cue sheet in his set, I was really miffed. Was this a singular mistake or did we screw up more sets when we had the cue sheet stuffing party a few days ago? Now I had that on my mind! Well, first things first. I told the guy to get a hold of me at the start and I'd fix him up. One more detail to add to the pile! And you know from reading these tales that any mishaps with the cue sheets was a really big deal to me. So, I was feeling not so hot about this deal for hours afterward. 

The entire evening was a bit crazed what with that big Winny RV behind Bikes To You and all the car shuffling we had to do to get everything lined up for our early morning bug-out. I just recall being in a state of constant dealings with things until I finally laid my head down and caught a few precious moments of sleep. MG was there and had his wife's Subaru Forrester to haul me around in all the next day, night, and into Sunday. It was going to be a lot of fun to hang out with him, and he was excited as well. 

The iconic T.I.v12 start line image by Wally Kilburg. I have this print hanging in my living room.

So, the regular start line hoopla was in play. I was bopping around, talking with various riders, getting them lined up, (always like herding cats!), and then giving them all my little sermonette, as I always did. While this was happening Wally was futzing around with his camera about 15 yards away and I was off to the side, chatting with some racers. Then I decided to walk out to the middle of the front row and make a quick announcement, but before I had a chance, I heard Wally bellow, "Hey Mark!". I quickly turned around and saw that Wally had trained his camera on myself and the folks around me, so I made a quick decision to 'make a pose' and the spread leg, crossed arm thing was what I came up with. 

It was all spur of the moment, but I could tell from Wally's reaction that he was pleased with the shot. Then I turned around and got back to business and forgot all about the moment. Of course, I had a lot more pressing things on my mind right then. Moments later, I was off with MG in the blue Forrester and the start was a fading memory. It wasn't until much later on, when Wally sent me a preview of his shots from T.I.v12, that I saw the results of the start line image. It was stunning! I was super pleased with it. Wally took note and kindly printed a version of it out and sent it to me gratis. I have it hanging in a place of honor in my home to this day. 

The moon sets the morning of the first day of T.Iv12
So here I was sat in Matt Gersib's Suby and bouncing down a gravel road in the dark. Not very exciting reading there, but for me it was something that had not happened since I had David Pals as a co-director for T.I.v7. For myself? This was a huge difference maker. All I had to do was to tell MG where to turn and which way to go and man the phone. 

Again, that may not seem like a big deal, but speaking from experience, this was a game changing decision for me. It made putting on Trans Iowa so much easier it was crazy. Driving, navigating, trying to do social media, Trans Iowa Radio, and taking calls from volunteers, riders, and concerned people close to the event was a task which was far too difficult than it needed to be. Do that for a couple hours or so, no big deal. Try doing it for 24-30 hours straight. Maybe that helps paint the picture. 

Added in to this is the fact that now I had MG in a car to myself for a couple of days, which I was excited about. I have a deep friendship with him which I don't have with any other person. Sometimes now that Trans Iowa is done and with all that has happened with a global pandemic and whatnot I find myself feeling guilty for not being a better friend to him. I miss those long days and nights in the car with him. But at least I had those times, and they were mighty good ones. 

So, not only was this situation a big deal for the putting on of Trans Iowa, it was a big deal to me personally. I was excited. I think Matt was as well. This was going to be a good time, and it was one of the highlights for me during Trans Iowa v12. Had I not had MG driving me this would have perhaps been a lot tougher event on me than it ended up being anyway.

Riders navigate some of the early miles of Trans Iowa v12. Image by Celeste Mathias.

As the morning wore on towards Checkpoint #1 nothing much was really happening that was noteworthy. The early miles were marked by some pretty outstanding terrain. The imagery that came out of this part of the event was some of the best that any Trans Iowa produced. Of course, I had the talented Wally Kilburg and his cohort, George Keslin out there taking images. I have shared with you about those two before. However; for Trans Iowa v12 I had a new resource which became available to me. Not only was this good for imagery, but I had another set of 'eyes' out there which became immensely valuable to me for the last three Trans Iowa events. 

John Mathias, a very talented rider who had ridden in v7, v8, v9, v10, and v11, was now wanting to help as a volunteer. He and his equally talented wife, Celeste Mathias, decided to travel around the course as observers, and Celeste, being a hobbyist photographer herself, was to take some images for the event as well. I knew of her vast talents in imagery from Celeste's work for a Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational which John participated in previously and at which Celeste had done some very impressive imagery work.  

I'll be sprinkling my posts for v12 with the work of Wally and Celeste, but expect a single post showcasing the images in the coming weeks. 

A rider bombs down one of the many rollers found early in the course of T.I.v12. Image by Wally Kilburg.
Dawn shows the eerie morning fog during T.I.v12. Image by Wally Kilburg.

The course looped to the South and then it made a big push Eastward to go by Montezuma Iowa and then onward to points East. Fortunately the Sun illuminated the course enough through this section that the beauty of the land could be enjoyed by the riders and captured by Wally. It was a rather spectacular morning for the sights, that's for sure. 

This would turn out to be the calmest time of the event for many hours for me. Actually, I don't remember much about this particular bit of T.I.v12. Maybe it was the peacefulness, the ethereal look to the early morning hours, or maybe it was that I felt everything was solidly in hand concerning the event. I did have Mike Johnson and Tony McGrane running interference to catch anything untoward with signs and marking the course. I had that extra set of eyes with George and Wally and John and Celeste. I had MG driving me around and providing great companionship. It seemed too easy. 

Sharing the load with these folks did make putting on Trans Iowa easier, but ultimately, the responsibilities of certain aspects of the event were not sharable. It was things pertaining to those responsibilities which would be the most difficult thing to deal with for me during this Trans Iowa. 

Next; A Tale of Two Trans Iowas - Part 3

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Announcing Project Wide Gravel Wheels v2

A Pair of Spank 359 rims walked into the door Friday for this project.
 Back about five years ago now, I started a project to explore what a wider inner rim width might do for a set of gravel grinding wheels. I called it "Project Wide Gravel Wheels". (I know- what a genius name for a project, right? )

Anyway, probably six months after I launched those wheels out into the countryside a lot of wheel manufacturers were touting 24mm inner rim widths. Mine were 25mm, but the point is, my "wide gravel rims" were now ordinary. Hrrrumpf! 

Not that I cared that much. In fact, I was pleased to see it after my experimenting with 25mm inner rim width went really well. So, this was seemingly spot on. The industry seemed to go ahead with 24mm being at least something of a standard, but then things crept up wider. First it was 25mm, now I am seeing 26mm inner rim width. Hmm......

You all know I've been searching for some rims to match up with my DT Swiss hubs. Well, parts, as you all must realize by now, are near-non-existent. I had my eye on some Velocity Blunt SS rims, to be honest, and those are on back-order for me still. Those push the limits at 26.6mm inner rim width. So that is why I wanted to go there with my next wheel build. However; I got a text message late Thursday from a former co-worker and he informed me that he happened to have a brand new set of rims- 28 hole drilling- and he was willing to gift them to me for this wheel project. Thanks Craig!! 

Okay- so you got some MTB rims? Yes. See, this is part of my point with this trend toward wide internal dimensions for gravel. We already are using MTB rims! Look at what passed for MTB rims ten years ago. They were what we use now for gravel bikes. So, why not try something outrageous? I figured that the Velocity rims I was trying to get would be that, but these Spank 359 rims are truly outrageous! 

So, this project will really be a "Wide Gravel Wheel"  since the inner rim width will be a eye-popping 30.5mm wide! Ha! I doubt that the bicycle industry will quickly follow suit on that! I dare them to! So, at any rate, I aim to find out just what this crazy wide inner rim width will do, (other than the obvious), and I figure worse case scenario I just run 700 X 47-50mm tires on this wheel set. 

The hubs are black, the rims are black, and I am going with my "Guitar Ted Signature Spoke Set" which is all black spokes with silver nipples on one side of the wheel and all silver spokes and black nipples on the other half. By the way, the OG Project Wide Gravel Wheels were laced like that. Anyway, stay tuned! This should come together rather quickly now that I have parts in hand.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Friday News And Views

The Juiced Cross Current electrified bike. Image courtesy of Juiced
 A Recent Experience With An HPC:

 So since I work at Andy's Bike Shop, I get to see some of these electrified HPC's (Hybrid Powered Cycles) and really get to see how they are made and this time, how a particular model rode. Let me tell you- there is a big disconnect between what endemic cycling brands say and what reality is. 

So, the mainstream story on so-called 'e-bikes' is that there are three classes regulated so that anything outrageous, too fast, or anything you do not have to pedal is relegated to licensing and insurance, like a motorcycle. They call the rider-assisted type HPC's "pedelecs". Okay? So, the prevailing thought is that this whole segment is regulated and safe and orderly now. 

No, no, no! This segment is anything but well regulated. In fact, it is the wild, wild West, if it is anything. And- there is zero policing of rules anyway- so they are meaningless. Case in point- the Juiced brand model I worked on the other day. While it does have a 'pedelec' factor in that there is assist when you pedal, it has a throttle, and you don't have to pedal it. So, a hybrid of a hybrid. Anyway, this 56lb beast, (yes, that's what Juice claims, but it actually may be heavier), goes 28mph and gets to that speed in a very unnatural time. The pedal assist, while adjustable, is also very unnatural feeling- to me. 

Now, I get it- "It allows my________ (fill in the blank) to ride where otherwise....." Yes. Fine, I am onboard with all of that. Does it get 'more people out riding more often'? Maybe. I'm not convinced numbers are up around here because of HPC's, but maybe..... These people are getting the same 'work-out' as people riding 100% human powered rigs? That's a very dubious claim. After riding one of these and seeing how little effort is required? I am extremely doubtful of those statements. 

Also- This rig goes for $1600-$1700 depending upon options. That's a lot less than most 'bike shop brand' HPC's and- in my opinion- still too expensive for the general non-cycling or casual cycling public. The very people that HPC advocates are saying these cycles will appeal to. Plus- they are heavy, not very well spec'ed, and aren't serviced by many shops. Now we at Andy's do work on them, but I know most shops in the area will not touch these things. Of course, that's extremely helpful to the cause of the HPC (sarcasm alert). But this is the future. Sooner or later all shops will have to figure out how to work on these things. May as well start now.....

And that's my take on things HPC at this point.....

The HED Wheels Emporia GC3 carbon rimmed wheels. Image courtesy of HED

HED Wheels Amps Up Inner Rim Widths For Gravel:

I've opined on rim widths for gravel/back road wheels before, so I am not going to bang on about that a lot here, but HED Wheels' newest offering is another example of the 'wider is better' philosophy with its 26mm inner rim width. 

The 'other trend' this wheel set represents is that of lowering costs for carbon rimmed wheels. The mainstream brands are finally recognizing that many consumers are looking at and buying carbon rims from places like Nextie and other Far East firms which sell rims for not a lot more than what aluminum rims sell for. So, complete wheel set prices, for carbon rims, used to all be 2G+ and now we're seeing those prices float down to 1500 and in some cases, around a thousand bucks. The Spinergy GX wheels being a great example of that. 

Now, of course, you have some compromises when you spend less from the major brands. That HED wheel set is 1500+ grams, so it isn't going to wow you with incredibly easy to spin up feelings like, say a sub-1300 gram, super-expensive wheel set would. But at 1600-ish bucks? That's not bad. But you can even find less expensive wheels than that at about the same weight, like these from Bontrager, which are about 300 bucks less than the HED wheels are.  

In a time when everything is hard to get and when you do- it cost a lot more- this trend in carbon fiber rimmed wheels is nice to see. Will it last? Hard to say. My guess is that we will see things stabilize and maybe creep upwards in price, especially if places like Nextie start to move up on prices from where they are now. But if not, this competition is good for the buyer, and with all the quality options out there now, there are certainly more reasons than ever to check out a carbon wheel set for a gravel bike. 

The new Cannondale "Dave" jump bike. Image courtesy of Cannondale
Cannondale Debuts New Dirt Jump Bike:

You know that the shortages are real when a dirt jump bike with a single speed drive train and 26" wheels is 'big news' for a major brand. Usually this sort of introduction would get very little notice, but with not much else to talk about, the marketing 'paint brush' was all in on painting the picture for us in regard to the Dave and what it is for. 

But let's be honest here- Do we really need anyone to tell us about this bike? It is a 'big-person's BMX bike' and that's about all you need to go on. You know, tricks, jumping, hopping, general hooliganism. That's what Dave is all about. 

Have you heard those pundits that say "All Bikes Are Gravel Bikes"? Let's see them do a metric century on a Dave and ask them about that afterward. Ha! But the point is, this bike telegraphs its intended use quite well without any further explanations. Marketing just doesn't have a whole lot to do of late, so- you know- they have to justify their salaries and come up with something. (Again- sarcasm alert

I've seen bikes like these before come through my work stand. Frankly, they are nothing to get worked up about. They are tools to be used up, and most of the time, that's how they appear when I've seen such bicycles. Used up, ridden hard- put away wet. A hammer for those inclined to pound the bike park or urban landscapes with. If it is your cuppa tea, then this might be interesting. 

Oh, and by the way, Andy's Bike Shop is now a Cannondale dealer too. Full disclosure here...... 

Reminder On The Trans Iowa T-Shirt/Book Fund:

Last week I floated an idea by you all. It had to do with the series "Trans Iowa Stories" being put into a book format at some point and a way that you, the readers, could help that along a bit by buying a Trans Iowa v14 logo shirt. 

Click that link to learn more. What I wanted to do today was twofold- remind you of that opportunity to get in on the t-shirt and help out, (done), and there is one other thing I wanted to run by everybody here.

I was thinking the other day. "I'm writing this book, but I am a part of the story too. (Big part? Small part? Am I dreaming I ever was a part of it? You decide.....) I was thinking that what this project needs is a voice with no real horse in the race that could maybe ask some Trans Iowa riders and related folks what their take is on me, my part in things, and Trans Iowa in general. I do not have the proper perspective to undertake such a task. Plus, this book, if it happens, needs that angle to be interesting and complete. 

So, if you are interested in taking that on, or if you know anyone that might be interested in such a thankless task as looking into my contributions to Trans Iowa and the event itself, then comment,or contact me at and I will discuss the idea with said individual. I cannot promise the efforts will result in anything but an experience to learn from, but you never know.... 

Okay, that's a wrap for another week. Get out and ride! Thanks for reading!