Saturday, July 31, 2021

Ti Muk 2 Gets A New Bar

The Answer Pro Taper Carbon handlebar.
After waiting two full weeks past my ordering date, these Answer Pro Taper Handlebars finally showed up. I ordered them directly from Hayes up in Mequon, Wisconsin. That's just shy of a five hour drive from where I live. Yet it took two weeks to get the handlebar here? I could have ridden the Ti Muk 2 there and back in less time. Anyway.......

I'm a little miffed. Hayes nor the USPS gave me much to go on in those two weeks. In fact, my last communique' from the USPS said that the handlebar was "moving to the next facility". Yeah....that's comforting. But I hear this is par for the course now when ordering stuff. I guess my excellent experience recently ordering from Silca is extraordinarily rare. 

But, the point! Yes......the handlebar arrived! I got it installed and went for a ride immediately. I have a very good feeling that me and this Pro Taper bar are going to have a long, happy relationship. I surmised, as you may recall when I first brought up this handlebar, that the extreme sweep of the Jones Carbon Loop Bar was just not in agreement with me ergonomically. Not 100% at least. This Pro Taper bar looked like a good middle-ground between average sweep and the Jones sweep. Goldilocks? Yes, it would appear so, at least at first blush. I'm going to give this a bit of time before I declare this a done deal, but let's just say I am in no hurry to go put that Jones Bar back on. 

Anywho.... How about some images?

Excuse the filthy nature of the beast, but here you can see how my hand height is about the same as with the Jones Bar.

This bar is wider than the Jones bar, and it allows for a clear path for my Schmidt light to shine.

Like the black wings of a bird.....Caw-caw!

I was a bit concerned how this Answer handlebar would play with my dynamo light, but the mount snuggles right up against the stem, and there was enough straight handlebar to accommodate that mount. Plus, now I have a clear path for the light to shine instead of getting shadows from the cable housing runs, as with the Jones bar. 

The Ergon grips are nice, and I do like them, but I am going to pop for a set of the Bio-Kork Ergon grips when I can get those because they insulate a bit better than these will in the cold temperatures. I could have cut down the ESI Silicone grips I had on the Jones Bar, but I might be selling those, and whomever buys them may want those too. 

So, the experiment has been kicked off, and so far things look good. Oh....and for those who care about such things: The Pro Taper Bar weighs 190 grams. So, I lost a bit of weight with this swap also. Anyway....I will be putting in more rides on the Ti Muk 2 as cooler weather approaches, so I will update things when that happens. Right now I have a massive cleaning job to do, (obviously), and I need to do tubeless maintenance on these Cake Eater tires. Then I should be ready to roll onward. 

Stay tuned......

Friday, July 30, 2021

Friday News And Views

 Who Started This Gravel Bike Nonsense Anyway?

The "Global Cycling Network" is a site and You Tube channel that is very popular. They have a great sense of humor and their videos are always very well produced and written. More like a television production, really. Anyway, last weekend I was alerted to watch their latest (at that time) video on gravel cycling and "who is to blame for it and 'gravel bikes'". 

Well, much to my surprise and enjoyment, they mentioned Trans Iowa and had former Trans Iowa rider and winner of T.I.v5, Joe Meiser on, and he mentions me by name in the interview GCN did with him. (See the video here) The piece was done in association with Salsa Cycles, by the way, so that would account for maybe why I got mentioned, I suppose, but either way, I was pleasantly surprised to see the piece. 

Even if you don't agree about any part I had to play in things, check out the video. It's pretty well done, and the opening bit is hilarious. 

An excerpt from the latest LOOK Bicycles Press Release

LOOK, This Isn't Funny:

I heard about a weird press release a while back out of LOOK Bicycles which featured news about a gravel racing team they were going to support. I eventually must have made the cut to be on their radar as I received the same release only a day later. This was late last week when I saw this. 

So, things start out well enough with the typical marketing banter about gravel, how exciting and popular it is, and how this team is going to be at certain high profile European based gravel events and hopes to be at "....UNBOUND Gravel, the most prestigious event on the American calendar,". 

Okay, that's all fine. No harm, no foul. But then you scroll down and the team members are presented. The image shown here is the first you see- the "Team manager"? Ah........My first reaction was, "It's not April 1st, is it?" Wow! And the other three member's profiles are no better. We have RĂ©mi Aubert, AKA "The Doctor", shown in clinical whites with a .....wait for it.....a hypodermic needle in hand! The next rider is nicknamed "The Gardener", and is shown with a gardening shovel on his shoulder with the tag line of " Legend says that the road is never the same after he has ridden it". I don't even understand that. Must be a French thing. Anyway....

I suppose this was meant to be 'funny' and somehow be genuine and 'down-to-earth', like grassroots gravel, but it sorely misses the mark. It certainly doesn't seem serious, and I still don't know if I should laugh, (it is a joke?) or what I should think of that press release. One thing is for sure- That's maybe the weirdest press release I've ever been sent! 

PRO Vibe Evo handle bar. Image courtesy of Shimano.
Isn't It About Time For Handlebars To Evolve?

For all of the evolution in design we see- from pedals, drive trains, wheels, brakes, and even the clothes we wear for cycling- handle bars seem to have been overlooked. While we get a few different shapes, and maybe a stem clamp diameter change every 20 tears or so, the basic handle bar remains pretty much as it has been for over a century. 

Well, maybe that is all about to change. In my opinion, the only reason handle bars haven't changed radically is due to the archaic way that the controls are attached to them. Especially on drop bar bikes. The ancient band clamp mechanism works, certainly, but it also limits the bar to a certain diameter and shape for much of its length on drop bars. 

The advent of electronic shifting has kind of accelerated the idea of having your shifter work, and mount, in brand new ways. Shift pods, buttons, or other triggering gizmos are going to free up how we shift. Think about the hybridization of mechanical and electronics, as with the Archer Components (scroll down page linked) system I tried last year.  That button system could be molded right into a handle bar of any shape or size. Brake lever perches could be adapted to slide along a track to accommodate different ergonomic needs. It could be pretty interesting.

Obviously 'standards' would need to be set within the industry. This is why a component giant like Shimano should be watched closely as they have the horsepower to set trends. Did you know that it was Shimano, in cahoots with Fox, that got the industry to switch from 20mm through axles to 15mm ones? And flat mount brakes? Who do you suppose started that deal? 

So, when Shimano introduces a new handlebar with integrated grips and an aero shape, it gets me to thinking, maybe something else is coming along these lines. Something for gravel with integrated vibration damping grips, remote 'pod' shifters, and who knows? Maybe even a hybridized electric/mechanical shifting set up. 

SRAM AXS Rival may have a companion gravel group soon called "XPLR".
SRAM to Counter GRX With Rumored "XPLR" Gravel Group:

Rumors are flying that SRAM is about to unleash a new wireless gravel group set of its own to compete with Shimano's GRX groups. 

Rumors have it that the group will be a 1X12 featuring a 10-42t cassette. The name for the group is said to be "XPLR", which is interesting since the tire company Donnelly uses that same name for its gravel tire range. 

Along with the 12 speed rumors scuttlebutt is that there will be a companion dropper seat post and a Rock Shox branded gravel front suspension fork. When these parts will become available, or even announced, is not yet known, but web watchers have reported that some online retailers have already posted listings for the parts, (no images), so introduction seems imminent. 

Stay tuned......

Gravel Promenade Tomorrow With N.Y. Roll:

Yes, you too can ride with the great N.Y. Roll! He has a little gravel soiree' lined up for ya. It's about 77 gravelly miles out in Eastern and Southern Black Hawk County. He is leaving at 8:00am sharp from Prairie Grove Park which is in South Waterloo. 

I've ridden all of this, unless he's going places out of Black Hawk County that I haven't been to, and I can vouch for the 'cool' factor here. It's a great route and you will have a good time of it if you go. You should go too, ya know. N.Y. Roll doesn't think anyone will show up, so prove him wrong, why don't-cha?

That's a wrap for this week! I hope that y'all get outside and enjoy a ride or two! Thanks for reading G-Ted Productions.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

The Great Ragby Comes To Town

The ride in Iowa called RAGBRAI happened after a one year pause due to COVID and the route that was to be used in 2020 got used this year. Anyway, that's the story I heard. I might think I'd know this stuff, but I am not at all concerned about RAGBRAI. 

I'm not against the ride. Not at all. I'm just not interested. I tried it. I rode it completely twice in two different decades. I worked as a mechanic on it two consecutive years. I've ridden a partial week. I've done single days of it on different years. So, yeah, I know all about RAGBRAI. I just don't want to ride it, nor am I all that interested in its goings on. With the exception of this year, because it may have affected my work. Usually, looking at history, that would be a reasonable expectation. However; there is one big wrench in the works this time, and that is due to the effects of the pandemic. 

There is also the fact that over the last ten years RAGBRAI participation, at least from this area, has been in a steady decline. Riders kept getting older, then either quit, or died. No new, younger riders were taking their places. At least not in numbers large enough to stave off the obvious decline in repairs, accessories sales, and new bike sales that you could directly tie to RAGBRAI. It used to be that from mid-June to RAGBRAI's start on the last full week of July, I'd be swamped with repair work, turning away jobs because I couldn't get to them, and setting hard cut-off dates to get RAGBRAI related work out the door by the time the riders would be departing. 

The last five years that hasn't happened at all. People saying they were going on RAGBRAI were more rare. Repairs were easy to keep up on. Then last year, of course, there were no RAGBRAI repairs at all. Then this year dawned, RAGBRAI was back, and we were wondering if people would be buying into doing this ride, despite COVID variants, rising numbers of new cases, and more fear-mongering by the media. 

Well, during the previous weeks leading up to RAGBRAI, we heard stories of folks bailing out on the ride. Six guys not coming from out-of-state due to uncomfortable feelings due to the pandemic. The local RAGBRAI charter was only 3/4's full, a weird thing since this club annually turned people away every year that wanted to go with them, but could not due to their buses being filled up. 

We had few RAGBRAI repairs, which wasn't a surprise to me. Then on the day they were here, well, I saw very little RAGBRAI related activity. Normally buses painted with wild schemes and emblazoned with weird team names would be seen going up and down the streets. I would catch random riders all across town. Residential areas would be peppered with camp sites in front and back lawns. It was that way last time RAGBRAI came to Waterloo, but not so much in 2021. 

I worked at Andy's Bike Shop yesterday. We had a reasonable amount of emergencies to take care of. It wasn't any more or less than I remember in that way from the years past. So, at least that part was fine. But going home, I saw very little evidence of the ride in this old city.  I caught a few riders at the dead end created by a barricade on the Sergeant Road bike trail, they seemed a bit lost, but I was in a hurry to make supper time. I didn't stop to ask questions. But I was surprised I did not see more riders out and about. 

It'll be interesting to read and hear the after-reports. I'll be curious to know if the Waterloo visit was received well, and if numbers were what was expected. I'm thinking it did not have the impact people thought it would, but we'll see. One thing is for certain, this ride does not seem to have the overwhelming effect on this city that it once did whenever it came around in years past.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Water Carriers: Update #5

What it looks like post last weekend's 60 miler.
 So the big test of my water carrying system was last weekend when I rode with N.Y. Roll. My biggest concern was how the three bottles I would need to be able to access while riding would work out. 

The upper one on the down tube had been moved upward a bit, perhaps making that one harder to grab and reinstall. The Chaff Bag bottle may be tough to use as it was up against the make-shift cue sheet holder. The only way you really can find out if these sorts of things will work is to actually go on a ride and see. So, of course, that's what happened over the weekend. 

I have to say that most of my fears were unfounded. Yeah....that top bottle took a bit of a different move to get in and out, but it wasn't what I would call 'difficult'. I moved the strap on the Chaff Bag a bit which canted out the bag's top a bit to make the bottle clear the cue sheet holder. So, that worked. All in all, everything did what it was supposed to do. 

The big Jett Green bottle stayed put. The Wolf Tooth strap and B-Rad held it like a champ, and it was super easy and quick to get the bottle out and replace it again when stopped for refilling. The bottom bottle, the Jet+, was rock solid and I never noticed it while riding. I believe I have everything I need locked in with a few changes elsewhere to the set up.

One will be that I may end up using this Topeak Burrito Pack for my flat repair kit and that would go under the saddle. I have nothing there now and adding that pack would open up a bit more space in the Top Tube Garage Bag for nutritional stuff and whatnot. I'm still debating on whether or not to run two lights. I don't think I will, mainly because Gravel Worlds is only dark for about 30 minutes after the start and then whenever you roll in after - oh, say 8:00pm or so, depending on cloud cover. I might have maybe four hours max in darkness. If it is longer than that, well..... I probably am a DNF. 

Finally, the wheels and tires here are training wheels and tires. I have a lighter set up that I will race/ride on when the time comes. Stay tuned for that coming soon.....

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Hazy Daze

Screen grab from local KWWL weather video Monday.
 I've made note of the hazy skies in some of my "Country Views" posts of late. Those wildfires out West have really had a big effect upon our weather here as well as in many other places across the USA. 

I noted it with my riding a couple weeks ago when some stuff with me flared up. It coincided with the hazy air, and it hasn't gotten better either. Air quality around here has suffered as a result. That in turn has affected my riding. 

I notice it in my throat. It feels rougher and like it does after I've been around a campfire for a few hours. My nasal passages have been plugged up at different times and at other times my nose runs, like my body is trying to rid itself of this smoke. Otherwise I feel okay, but this haziness has me concerned.

In fact, I limit my going outside now. I just don't want to do more big efforts outside, especially when it gets really hot out, which seems to exacerbate things with regard to the smoke. When cooler weather prevails and the wind comes out of the North, it's better, and I try to plan rides around that if I can. If I cannot get the weather I feel is safer, I just do a quick paced walk and get in a couple miles and call that good for the day, and I've been doing that a lot of late. It's getting old.....

Hopefully I am ready for Gravel Worlds, but I am not going to roach my lungs on this cheese-grater air just to do a silly gravel ride. Dealing with this year's excessive gravel dust has been bad enough as it is without that.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Country Views: Pastry Ride

The Stone Castle Estate of N.Y.Roll.
 Friday N.Y. Roll texted me about a 60-ish mile gravel ride he was going to do Saturday and asked me if I wanted to roll along. I said I did, and the time of 6:00am was agreed upon to get going. We wanted to 'beat the heat' of the day, as it was supposed to be bad. There was a heat advisory out, and it was going to be humid too. So, the hope was that we'd get well into the ride before things got really cooking. 

I decided to roll with the pink Black Mountain Cycles MCD as I had it all set up for a longer ride anyway. I met N.Y. Roll at his house which he calls the "Stone Castle Estate". We got off and going by a hair past six and were on our way, cruising through the Southern neighborhoods of Waterloo. N.Y. Roll had the route on his GPS device and called out the turns as we went along. 

The plan was to head out on Ansborough, then East on Quarry Road to start out. The wind was out of the Southwest, but it wasn't bad yet. So despite the headwind we made pretty good time. The Sun was up, but there were enough clouds about that we never got blasted by its full potential. How long that would hold out was anyone's guess, but we're veterans of this sort of riding, and typically? Yeah....the Sun comes out and you get cooked sooner or later. That's what we were figuring would happen. 

Things weren't too bad to start out with heading South on Ansborough Avenue.

I'm thinking we're going to start getting cooked any minute here.

We reached Quarry Road and started going East. N.Y. Roll said we were going to head South at some point to get close to Dysart, then East again. The Sun was not yet hitting us full-on, and we were now getting a quartering tail wind. We were moving right along. 

It was pretty humid to start out. I was dripping sweat off my arms by this point in the ride.

Time for a 'nature break' at this bridge over Miller Creek.

I was fearing that I was in for several hours of fighting for grip with my handle bars as I was just pouring sweat off my arms, down my wrists, and then dripping off the heel of my hands. This got into the grips and made things slimy. Fortunately, the humidity let up as the ride went along and this became less and less of a problem for me. 

The Red Wing Blackbirds have raised their young and are now gathering to fly to their Wintering grounds.

Lots of farms have their bit of gravel road soaked in soybean oil to keep the dust down.

Eventually we headed South on Foulk Road and went into Benton County along the very same route I was on for my failed GTDR last July. But we didn't stick to that route long as N.Y. Roll wanted to head East and South again so he could 'poke a square' in some oddball game he is playing with some other cyclists in the area. (Don't ask me, I have no clue what this is.) then we went east toward Vinton, but cut North again before getting there and headed North toward La Porte City. 

We came across this cool painted silo in Benton County.

A nice Level B Road in Benton County

N.Y. Roll had me stop at a corner off HWY 218 at one point so he could go 'poke another square' and I noted a guy in an end loader equipped John Deere construction model tractor ambling into a field near me. I watched as the tractor slowly and deftly was maneuvered into place where it appeared the operator was moving some big field stones. 

N.Y. Roll passing the 'rock picker' in the ditch.

Surprisingly the cloud cover kept the Sun at bay for much longer than we had expected.

We were waiting to get cooked by the Sun during this ride, but miraculously we never did. It was definitely hot- mid 80's - but it could have been far worse had the Sun been clear to nail us with it's fiery rays. As I said before, even the humidity was lower as we went. Actually, I felt really good. I was keeping up on the hydration, and the GU Roctane was fueling me well. That said, N.Y. Roll promised a stop at Rockets Bakery in LaPorte, and I was looking forward to it!

Where old moving van trailers go to die.

Coming into LaPorte City in a way most people do not.

Eventually we reached LaPorte City again and we were back on familiar roads. We had gone quite a ways through Benton County on some roads I have never been on. So, as a result, I have a lot of barn pictures to share! Look for those in a previous post here

 After pastries we headed back toward Waterloo, at first on the CVNT.....

.....but we also veered off that trail to take in some pavement, gravel, and this dirt on Weider Road.

I got a nice pastry, courtesy of N.Y. Roll, (THANK YOU!), and then we finished off the ride by taking in bits of the CVNT, pavement, gravel, dirt, and local bicycle trails. I made it home in time for lunch even! N.Y. Roll said his GPS was at 60-ish miles and we covered the distance in 4 hours and fourty-five minutes, including stops. That's about as good as I've done this year so far, so I was happy with the results. Just as N.Y. Roll was about to drop me off at my turn-off to my home, the Sun rode out of the clouds. "I guess we timed that about right!", he quipped.

I'll leave you off with a quote from N.Y. Roll which he shared as we passed a pen of goats early in the ride. These goats had inflatable balls in their pen with them, and I marveled at that. N.Y. Roll retorted with, "Oh yeah! They nose those things around. Goats are a lot like dogs, only dumber and they taste good."

Yeah..... There is only one N.Y. Roll! Good thing too....

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Trans Iowa Stories: A Tale Of Two Trans Iowas - Part 6

Michael Roe, aka "Dr. Giggles" riding T.I.v12. Image by Celeste Mathias

 "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!

Past Checkpoint #2 I don't recall much right away. We had to check on a bit of bike trail going into Grundy Center and then we stopped at a Casey's Convenience store there. Past that point we started heading South more until we reached the next major feature in the T.I.v12 course. That would be the Level B Maintenance road section on 270th in between C Avenue and D Avenue. It was maybe a half a mile section, but what a half mile! Two descents, two climbs, and much of it flanked by steep embankments covered in vegetation and trees, sometimes reaching a height of two stories at its peak. The 'road' at this point was nothing more than a car and a half wide slot with two deeply rutted out tracks at many points. The ruts are sometimes two to three feet deep. 

This was the section first used for Trans Iowa v7, and ironically, MG had ridden that event and so he was curious to see the road once again. He was one of the few riders that year to actually ride most of the section. But then, MG has talents and skills on a bike few possess. Plus, he has the daring to use those talents, sometimes beyond the limits. His many screws and plates in his body today being a testament to that. It was this daring characteristic of MG's that gave me a bit of a thrill as we sat at the base of the first climb, staring up at it through the windshield of the Subie. 

The only shot I managed to get during MG's crazy climb and descent of 270th.

MG was leaned over the steering wheel, peering up and assessing the road as I was telling him that during recon a week before that we had to talk George out of driving this in his big F-150 Ford. I mean, who would be so crazy as to think they could actually drive up this? Right? 

Well, MG has that characteristic, as I've said, of being a dare-devil, and the next thing I knew, he had started up the first climb. I sat amazed for a second, wondering if I should shout to him to stop. This was madness! But in that moment I saw in his eyes that the game was on, and the right thing to do was not to resist, but to aid him in any way that I could. So, I took on the role of spotter on my side of the road, to keep the Subie out of those tire swallowing, deep ruts, and off we went! 

The trickiest part was that first ascent. That was where the ruts were deepest and most dangerous to us. The final descent was a bit narrow, rocky, and loose. MG had to take it quite gingerly to keep the Subie pointed in the right direction. At one point on the way down we heard a very loud thwack! against the body under my door opening, but there was no time or even space to get out and examine what had happened. We had to wait until we hit the intersection with C Avenue before MG stopped and we could get out and inspect the damage. It turned out that we must have turned a broken off tree limb with the front wheel into the rocker panel. A nice dent sat there as a result. 

After a quick shot of whiskey to celebrate our conquering of the 270th Street obstacles it was onward toward our unique, under-the-road crossing of Highway 330 near Melbourne, Iowa. This was a resource I used first for Trans Iowa v9. I had spied a bike trail along HWY 330 on trips to Des Moines and as I tried to discern where it started/ended on the South end, I kept losing the trail at Melbourne. I then noted that it appeared to go under the highway. Through some messaging back and forth with recon partner, Jeremy Fry, it was confirmed that this was indeed a tunnel under the four lane road at that point and the trail's Southern terminus was on the West side of the road leading to gravel. Perfect! 

Greg Gleason leading Walter Zitz somewhere near the Marshall County line. Image by Wally Kilburg

 So, when we used that feature for v9, we went through from the Southeast side of HWY330 to the Northwest side, essentially having to go through Melbourne. We found at that time that the trail petered out into a gravel parking lot next door to a county maintenance shed. So, as MG and I made our way down to this point, we utilized the parking area as a sort of rest stop during our travels. We would see the riders coming in as we were using this in the opposite direction as we had for v9.

Looking to the West from the parking lot MG and I were parked at during v12.
I suppose it was around 4:00pm in the afternoon by this point. MG backed the Subie in so we would be looking out toward the direction the riders would appear from, and then we sat. Of course, I had a few riders call in to quit the event. Wally would text me updates on the two leaders, Walter Zitz and Greg Gleason, who were at least an hour, hour and a half up on the rest of the riders. But otherwise it was just me and MG. It was quiet. We were relaxed, sitting in the sunshine of a perfect April afternoon, and I loved it. 

I had a rough morning, and this respite from chaos, worry, and fear was quite a change. MG even busted out his ukulele and sang me some tunes he was working on. It was the best time I had experienced on a Trans Iowa in years. In fact, it was almost as if we weren't even running an event. Everything seemed miles and worlds away. This is what I was hoping for. This is what I dreamed might happen if MG would drive me around the course of Trans Iowa. It was a healing moment for me in many respects. The pairing of MG and I was one of the main reasons I wanted to keep doing a Trans Iowa after this. Just to grab a few hours like the ones we had there in that gravel parking lot. 

It was a balance to what the morning had for me. A tale of two completely different experiences. It was as if Trans Iowa had an evil, alter-universe. The riders were reveling in the great weather. Sure, things were tough out there. It was still a triple century plus, but as far as Trans Iowa events went, this one was perhaps the best for riders. The numbers afterward point to this as being fact. But on the other side of this alter-universe was my having to bear the brunt of the events in the background. That was the 'other' Trans Iowa many never knew was going on behind the scenes. But for several hours at a nondescript gravel parking lot near Melbourne, Iowa, I was able to escape. I am still very thankful for that!  

Next: A Near Miss - A story about Trans Iowa's mythical sub-24 hour barrier.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Barns For Jason: The Pastry Ride Version

 I went for a 60+ mile bike ride with N.Y. Roll today and it went through a lot of territory I'd never been through before. You know what that means! Barns For Jason, that's what! 

So, instead of posting all these in the ride report, (coming Monday), I am just going to post them as a stand-alone post today. This will be done in a 'photo-dump' mode, so no captions- no words to go with it. If you have questions about a specific barn you see, just hit me up in the comments. With that, here we go.....

And that's a wrap! A few of my images did not come out, so maybe someday I'll get back that way to record those again. Maybe not! But with about half the 60 miles on new-to-me roads, there were bound to be a few new barns!

The Last Time I Was On RAGBRAI....

Jacob at graduation last month.
 Today is my son's birthday. Eighteen.... I recall when Jacob was born, of course I do, but this time of year will always be special for the circumstances surrounding his birthday. See, it has something to do with RAGBRAI.....

Back in 2002, I was still working as a car mechanic. I had recently gotten back more into cycling after being on the sidelines for a few years in the late 90's. So, as a result, I was in the bike shop quite a bit getting bits and things for my bicycles. On one occasion, the owner asked me if I might ever be interested in being an on-the-road mechanic for RAGBRAI, as that particular shop was a licensed RAGBRAI bike shop. That, by the way, is something I find a lot of people do not know about, or understand. That you just cannot show up and repair bicycles on RAGBRAI. No, you have to be approved and under contract from RAGBRAI. Anyway....

So, I accepted the offer in 2002 and that led to my being hired at the bike shop later that year. The following year, Mrs. Guitar Ted and I were expecting the birth of a baby boy in early August. My boss wanted me to wrench on RAGBRAI again, and we decided, Mrs. Guitar Ted and I, that I could squeeze that in just before our son was expected on August 8th. So off I went, new cell phone in hand, you know.....just in case, and RAGBRAI 2003 commenced with myself being the overnight stop mechanic. 

Well, we were in Oskaloosa, Iowa for the next to last overnight, and as a treat, I was invited to sleep in the RV which generally was reserved for the boss and a few of the office people and spouses. Usually I was sleeping in the rented box van, or underneath it, as I did a couple of really hot nights that year. So it was that at around 5:00am my phone rang. It was Mrs. Guitar Ted. Yep......our son was about to be born! 

So, this caused a bit of a ruckus, as you might expect. The shop crew had to roll on to the next town, and so I gathered all my stuff in my duffel bag and was dropped off at the Oskaloosa HyVee grocery store where I set up camp on the bags of water softener pellets stacked outside their front door and started calling for a ride home. Eventually I was able to raise up my sister who lived in Des Moines and she agreed to come and fetch me and get me back to Waterloo. Then it was time to just sit and wait. And wait......and wait! 

All the while I am in the dark as to what is happening with my wife and soon to be born son. I don't know if I'll get back in time to be there when he is born, and I am quite the spectacle in that moment. What is this guy doing? Just sitting there on the soft water pellets with a big duffel bag? Ha! At least the chaos of RAGBRAI commerce and activity kept the focus somewhat off me 100%. Then, after what seemed like an eternity to me, my sister pulls up and off we go. 

I made it back in time, and I was witness to Jacob's birth. It's been quite the adventure ever since. Now he is eighteen, and they say he is an 'adult' now. Hard to believe it, and yes- it went by so fast. Well, here we are now and Happy Birthday Jacob! May you be blessed with many more markings of your birthday in the years to come! 

And as for me, I'll always remember my 'last day on RAGBRAI'!

Friday, July 23, 2021

Friday News And Views

 Shimano Announces Re-opening Of Factory:

 After a full month plus of complete shutdown, and two weeks at 60% output, Shimano has reportedly re-opened their Malaysian factory components works. A factory said to be responsible for parts production from 105 road level and below, and SLX MTB level and below. The component manufacturer, already behind demand leading into the shutdown, is now further behind on making these critical components for the majority of what bike shops sell here in the U.S.A. 

The news, published by a couple of industry specific sites, is good, but with all the critical time lost, coupled with shipping and packaging issues worldwide, this situation has gone from bad to worse for consumers. Things like disc brake pads, disc brake rotors, derailleurs, and wheel components, amongst other bits, are nearly impossible to source. 

In the meantime, other manufacturers have been tapped to provide parts for brands seeking to get bicycles into dealer's and consumer's hands. Brands like Microshift, which does complete drive trains, and other lesser known companies, are trying to fill the void where Shimano was once dominant. While some bits seem well up to the task, it is apparent- to this mechanic at least - that many of these components are sub-Shimano quality and likely will not have similar performance or longevity. 

Furthermore; it has been whispered that some brands may even skip 2022 model year bikes altogether due to the paucity of parts and shipping woes. Some even say the bigger brands are pushing out the smaller brands for factory capacity to manufacture bicycles. Whatever the truth may be, it sounds a lot like 2022 will be a continuance of 2021 in regard to bicycles and parts.  

The KOM Cycling Saddle Tool Roll on my Noble Bikes GX5.

Tool Roll Wars:

Recently I was sent a KOM Cycling Saddle Tool Roll for test and review on (Free and at no charge- I'm not being paid for this, yadda,yadda, yadda...) It's a new product for them and for me, it is another 'dreaded tool roll' deal. You see, I haven't been too impressed by this sort of storage idea in the past.

I tried a tool roll once from a company I shall not name, and the thing ended up falling off my bike at unawares after being rock solid on there for over a week and I lost all my good riding tools. Bah! 

These things are for the minimal-packing cyclist, but yet they are not all that much lighter or compact than a small under-saddle mounted bag. I should think almost any under-saddle mounted bag wouldn't just fall off your bike. So.....the whole idea of a 'tool roll' was kind of lost on me. But there is a certain romanticized view of such things coming from the road riding world, as I understand it. 

Anyway, the tool roll..... I am testing another one. This is a bit like a Silca tool roll, and I was rudely reminded of this by a commenter on an Instagram post I made about the KOM Saddle Tool Roll. "It's a rip-off...", and I'm like, am I supposed to do something about that? It may be similar, yes- probably, but 'rip-off'? So, I figured why not? I ordered up the Silca one as well. (Paid for, not asked to test, yadda, yadda, yadda....)We'll see about the similarities and compare and contrast. Fair and square, without any negativeness or name-calling. 

Tool Roll Wars. It's on! Stay tuned......

Sea Otter Australia Postponed:

While to us here in the U.S.A. it may seem as though things are all 'back to normal', the rest of the world is still grappling with the effects of COVID-19. The latest cycling related issue regarding the pandemic is the postponing of the Sea Otter event in Australia to early Fall. 

This news comes as case loads of COVID-19 are on the uptick in the U.S.A. Most agree that the Delta variant of COVID is to blame as it is much more contagious than the original COVID strain. It is not engraved in stone that we here in North America won't ever have to isolate, wear masks, or suffer cancellations of events again. This bears watching going forward and things like what we are seeing now in Australia, Japan, Malaysia, (see first entry in today's "FN&V") and elsewhere in the world remind us that despite vaccines being available, this isn't over just yet. 

Cannondale Topstone 2

Andy's Bike Shop Is Now A Cannondale Dealer!

I've known about this for a while now, but the public statement just went out this past week that Cannondale Bicycles will now be sold through Andy's Bike Shop in Cedar Falls, Iowa. (If you are unaware, I work as a mechanic at Andy's

 Now Andy's Bike Shop sells Kona Bikes, Cannondale, and Reid Bikes. We were pretty happy to land a Cannondale account since it is a brand that has been represented in the Cedar Valley for 30+ years now. After the shop I last worked at went out of business at the end of 2019, Cannondale bikes have been missing from this market area. Not anymore. 

Obviously bicycles are hard to come by, but by the end of this month Andy's Bike Shop should know more about exactly when the Cannondales will be rolling in. I don't know exactly what we'll be able to get, but I hope to see some Topstones and maybe.......their new Super Six Evo SE gravel bike. That'd be pretty cool. Stay tuned.........

That's a wrap for this week. have a great weekend and stay cool!

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Country Views: Tall Corn Ride

Escape Route: County V-49 South from Raymond, IA

 The day off this week saw temperatures into the 80's with pretty high humidity too. Just the perfect scenario for training to get ready for some of my upcoming planned big rides. The wind was even cooperating by merely being a breeze from the Northwest, hardly anything to speak of, making for really tough conditions in the heat. 

I also decided that I needed to practice throttling things back when it gets hot and humid. What better way to do that than to limit yourself to a single gear. The Twin Six Standard Rando v2 got the call for this ride then. I also decided to go to Raymond, Iowa to embark upon a fairly brief ride to just get acclimated to the brutal humidity. 

My route plan was to head out on Young Road and then to see what I felt like doing after that. So, that meant a bit of riding a gravel shoulder on County V-49 to get the half a mile South out of Raymond so I could pull off left and start riding gravel proper. The nice thing about the gravel shoulders out that way is that they were all recently graded and maintained, so they actually ride better than the gravel roads in many cases. 

It was a hazy, hot, and humid day.

It seems to me that the Chicory has been flourishing this year. 

Young Road started out very promisingly with nice, smooth lines to follow, then it went all to deep, fresh gravel. Oh well! It isn't as if I haven't ridden on that before. Onward then on the single speed! 

Most of the field corn is tasseled and silked out now. How tall is it?......

I'd say about THAT tall!

The corn growth has been amazing of late. Whatever moisture we were able to get recently was sucked up and turned into greenery out in the fields. Out in Eastern Black Hawk County, at any rate, the corn is as tall as I can ever remember seeing it. Miles and miles of it that way. It is simply amazing. 

The Barclay United Presbyterian Church on Newell Avenue.

Looking North up Pilot Grove Road

I ended up coming back on Newell, Pilot Grove, and Osage Roads to get back to the truck in Raymond. In between I came across the rare County Sheriff sighting, a few Red Wing Blackbirds still patrolling, and a smashed Apple iPhone in the middle of the road. You just never know what you'll come across out there!

My favorite 'Lone Tree' on Pilot Grove Road has survived the recent severe weather.

It was a decent enough ride. Not too brutal, although I was soaked in sweat by the time I had finished my 20 miles. Not a real long ride, but I had other things to do once I got back home. So, a good little heat training ride and I felt okay for the duration. Plus the single speed kept my efforts within a certain range which was another part of the plan. 

More soon....