Thursday, September 30, 2021

On The Death Of The Trade Show

 NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

Dave Pryor @ CrossVegas in '13

Back in the early part of the last decade I was probably in Las Vegas, or in the surrounding environs, for this thing called "Interbike". It was THE industry trade show for cycling for many years. But as with many things in Life, there were changes creeping in back then. 

One of the major changes was the dawning of social media. The instantaneous broadcasting of - literally - anything was bringing a new threat to the stability of the trade show. It was making what was once an anticipated event irrelevant. 

Gone were the times of waiting, the 'breaking of news' on one page in a magazine, or even on a website. No, now anyone with a smart phone and a connection could Tweet, Facebook, or post onto a site immediately, often, and with impunity. There were no "embargos" or editors. No filters and no managing of story lines. People walked down show aisles and posted willy-nilly on every bobble and bit they saw until, well, you could sit on your bum at home and see everything. Why bother with soiling yourself with the unwashed masses at Interbike? There was no longer any point in any of it. 

Brands and marketers figured this pivot out very quickly and took control of the loose reins. Suddenly there were less and less 'big brands' at the shows and messages now were 'managed' through controlled releases to the press via embargos. There were the brand specific 'press junkets' where brands could fly out hand picked media and groom them on their messages. Then there was the dawn of the dealer only events for specific brands where new product was released, shown, and orders written up. The very things Interbike was founded upon were now commodities controlled by the brands and marketers themselves. Interbike, as a vehicle for these things, was bypassed and no longer necessary. 

I saw that and my partner in "Twentynine Inches", Grannygear, saw that. We decided in 2013 that it would be our last Interbike show.  By this point we were able to get what we needed in a day. Hardly worth it from the standpoint of travel, lodging, food, and transportation costs to the site. (Well, in reality- that was my expense) The show had tried a last gasp attempt at life when it moved to Reno in 2018, but that was a failure, and plans for another show were shuttered afterward. There has been no Interbike since that time. 

Some folks miss the Vegas atmosphere. Not this guy!

So there ya go. A brief summary of the death of a trade show from my perspective. I would have been there around this time back in the day. So, do I miss it


Overall, the answer would be a definitive "no". On one hand, I miss meeting people. I miss getting to know a few folks that are in the industry. But really, most of that, probably 90% of it, was superficial interfacing with a person for what? Five minutes? Maybe, if you were lucky. Then it was time to shuffle onward to the next "Hey! How ya doin? Yeah, the show is great. Goin home tomorrow. Have a good one!", and so on and on....

What people maybe choose to forget is the insufferable McCarren International Airport experiences, the sights of the downtrodden who live in the shadows of Vegas' Strip, or maybe the constant reminders that, on the Las Vegas Strip anyway, humans and their sexuality were nothing more than a way to make a quick buck and were meaningless otherwise. Some lament the 'getting together of folks', but you cannot ignore the rest of what Vegas stands for. And sure, there were multiple loud calls to pull Interbike into places like Reno, Denver, Anaheim, or the PNW, but when nobody could commit or seemingly make up their mind, Vegas became the default option. I think this was another key to Interbike's demise.

Some aspects of trade shows popped up at cycling events. The DK200 2015 here.
But the trade show, as a vehicle for information dispersal and business transactions, is dead. There is no real good reason to resurrect that idea, and 'getting together' is not good enough anymore. Not in large masses in centralized locations, at any rate. Business cannot afford to be a vehicle for superficial social gatherings. 

But other events do offer the opportunity for the gathering aspect that trade shows were once known for. Now, it would seem, the expo at a bicycle event serves as that social opportunity which fills a vacuum which was once served by Interbike, and to lesser extents, other smaller bicycle trade shows. In a way, the vestiges of the trade show are now carted around to various cycling events and one can see the old ways practiced, like they used to be, when Interbike was king. It's kind of like going to see the pioneer farming exhibit at the county fair. Quaint, but still irrelevant to modern times.

Probably the ultimate example of this is Sea Otter. A bicycle festival first, but a trade show as well. Sea Otter came to prominence in the late 00's as the place to introduce new product and get it into people's hands for impressions. Media jumped onboard with Sea Otter and it quickly became a much more efficient place to do business than Interbike ever was. A much more wholesome atmosphere didn't hurt either, as well as the beauty of the Monterrey area in terms of nature. 

But even Sea Otter has become somewhat lackluster in terms of marketing and newsy items since marketing and brand managers have sought out 'influencers', 'stories', and You Tube edits which they can control and measure metrics on better for their clients. Pinpointed marketing to specific media is also a big thing now and Sea Otter paints a broad stroke which doesn't always work for that. Add in COVID, and now one has to wonder how things will look moving forward in regard to 'expos' at events. 

Whatever happens, indoor trade show events are dead. What the future holds is not completely clear to me, but one thing is for sure- I don't miss flying out to Vegas. Not even one little bit!

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Modern Day Tube

Tubolito products received for test and review.
 Tubes in bicycle tires. Anyone who has ridden a bicycle knows about those rubber hoops inside the tires. It is one of those things only bicyclists really know about, and then not all bicyclists know about them. (I am consistently amazed by riders who do not know they have tubes in their tires.) 

I remember when I was between bicycle mechanic jobs. I worked on cars at an auto repair shop for five and a half years. When I first started the job, my boss was amazed when I mentioned something about tubes in bicycle tires. He said, "You guys still use tubes?", in an incredulous tone of voice. 

Yeah.....we still use those things! And they can be the downfall of a good ride, a race, or your commute to work. Even if you run tubeless, you probably have a spare tube tucked away, you know, just in case. I doubt bicycle tubes will ever go the way of the dinosaur, but one thing is for sure- they have changed.

I think it was the late 90's when I first saw a butyl rubber alternative for a bicycle tube. It was touted as more puncture resistant, lighter than butyl rubber tubes, and that it would be longer lasting. One caveat- You had to buy the exact size to fit your tire. Apparently these were not very stretchable tubes. Subsequently the idea did not go over well, although I had a 16" one around for years as a spare for my Burley Flat Bed trailer. 

That was that. It looked like butyl rubber was going to be the king forever. Then a few years ago I heard about these Tubolito things. I checked them out in a news story I saw, probably on "Bicycle Retailer and Industry News". Hmm.... Little orange rolls with an erotic looking nipple capped in black. Weird. They reminded me of those failed plasticky clear-ish tubes from the 90's. I saw the price and gulped. What! Over 30 bucks for a tube! To pack as a spare? Ah........hard pass. 

But then the marketing dude for American Classic tires sent out a few samples of the new models that are hitting the roads now and with them he stuffed in a few Tubolito products. (See Standard Disclaimer page) So, since I try to be open-minded, (but I don't always succeed in that), I figured I better check this deal out again. I went to their site and poked around a bit. there is some compelling evidence there as to why anyone might want to use one of these, not just as a spare, but to actually ride with. Okay....I'll check it out then.

They are still pretty spendy though. 

More soon.....

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Project Wide Gravel Wheels v2: Final Word

The PWGWv2 has seen its last ride.
First off, if you did not see the last post on this subject, here is the link. There are links there to see even more on this subject if you want to go down that rabbit hole. 

This post will likely be the last word I post up on this since I've made up my mind about the set up. I'll try not to cover too much ground concerning previous ideas which I've presented. (That's what the link is for) So, here is a bullet point list inspired by my friend Grannygear:

The Good:

  • The Spank rims claim to have some vertical compliance built in. Meh...... Big tires at low pressures mask a lot of that, but I will say that these rims do ride well and they built up nicely. 
  • The width of the Spank rim creates a big air chamber which allowed stupid low pressures (sometimes less than 30psi) without any perceived loss of low rolling resistance. 
  • The Cannonballs from Teravail are not my favorite tires but on this rim I could live with them. That's saying something here for me. 
  • The wheels, as far as that goes, would be great on a frame for wider tires, like up to 2.6"ers.  
  • The DT Swiss 350 hubs are awesome. 

The Not So Good:

  • These wheels feel like they weigh a ton. Once spun up though they want to roll and roll. 
  • These wheels only work with really wide gravel tires limiting their use for my bicycles with through axles.
  • The hubs are 100mm/142mm OD which means a MTB type bike which could go with bigger tires probably wouldn't work because everything is Boost spaced now. (yes- I realize Boost adapters are a thing, but that is a bit of a kludge)
  • The Cannonball set up is fine, but there is minimal clearance on the BMC, and that is too little for my peace of mind long term. 
  • I'm stuck with a wheel set I cannot really use as is.

So, where do I go from here? First off, this project is over and my take away is what I posted in the previous post in this series, but suffice it to say that the answer is 'no'. So, I need to move on and figure out what to do with what I have here. The first plan of action will be to take off the wheels and break down the tires and components off the wheel set. I'll put the Spinergy wheels I have on the BMC for now. 

Now if I can score some QR end caps for a DT Swiss 350 hub set, I could put these wheels to better use. They would make a fine set of wheels for my Gen I Fargo, as a matter of fact. So, that will probably be my first option.

Barring that, I probably will blow these wheels apart. Then I'd use the hubs and lace those to a brand new set of Velocity Blunt SS rims which probably would work on all of my gravel bikes since that rim has an internal width of 26.6mm, right at what I now consider to be the maximum for inner rim width for gravel tires. 

The Spank rims would go up on a hook for another day. Maybe they would be built into a wheel set for a future bike I don't have. I don't know, but obviously I would have to find a set of hubs appropriate for the job. Again- they could end up on the Fargo. 

Either way, it looks as though I'm building another wheel set!

Okay, if anyone has any further thoughts, please chime in. Otherwise, PWGWv2 is over. Stay tuned for PWGWv3.......

Monday, September 27, 2021

Fall Views: Early Morning Riser

I barely made it out for the show.
Last weekend's big ride made an impression on me. I was reminded how cool it is to get out and ride while the Sun is coming up. I guess Gravel Worlds was really where that thought came into view more, but anyway... 

The thing is that during the Summer months, one has to rise ultra-early to catch the Sunrise. I mean, I'd have had to have been out of bed around 3:00am during June, just to be out there in time for all the fireworks. I'm kind of a morning person, but that's ridiculous. So, getting out to see the Sunrise in Summer is not usually something I am motivated to do enough to, you know, actually do it. 

But Fall, now we're talking! The Sun comes up at around 7:00am, and getting up at 5:00am, or even at a more luxurious 6:00am, is far more attractive to me, and doable. So, last weekend's early call was a reminder to me that- hey! I can do that again if I want to, and why not? So, I got up at around 5:15am Saturday and ate a breakfast. Then I got around to putting gear on and I got out of the house around 6:20am.

A little bit later than I wanted to get out, but I was out! The plan was to head down South of town and get some time in watching the Sun rise on a gravel road again. But I was going to have to hurry! I had seven miles to get to the gravel, and the Sun wasn't going to wait for me!

I noticed it last week too, but the rising Sun seems to line up with the East/West roads this time of year.

The Golden Hour was just beginning here on Washburn Road looking off to the North.

I left out on the Sergeant Road bike trail with my lights blazing on the Twin Six Standard Rando v2. I was spinning those cranks as fast as I dared to with my single gear. It was in the 40's again, so I had some warm clothes on. I wore my Twin Six Standard wool jersey, wool arm warmers, a 45NRTH Naughtvind vest, and GORE gloves. I also had on some 3/4's length commuter pants, a pair of liner shorts, and long Sock Guy wool socks with my Giant MTB shoes.  On the noggin went my Gravel Worlds buff, a helmet, and the Rudy Project glasses I have with the transition lenses. 

The Sun is juuuust about ready to pop up here as I go South on Ansborough Avenue.

I'm not sure what these contraptions are, but they looked like two monsters from afar.

I spun like a mad-man until I reached the Washburn Road and Aker Road intersection where I stopped for the road picture above to start this post. Then I went East to catch the Sunrise, and then South again on Ansborough. Through this section I was passed by three trucks. Farmers are in the beginning stages of the harvest, and you could tell it was going to get real busy out there really soon. 

Petrie Road was covered with fresh gravel, which was highlighted by the rising Sun here.

Harvested on the left, not quite yet on the right.

I saw plenty of cleared fields on my short ride. I suspect that within the next two weeks all the crops will be cleared out and the fields will be barren until next Spring. It won't take very long to get everything out of the fields this year if things stay dry. 

Headed back on Aker Road

This will probably be the last time I get to see corn shadowing a road in 2021.

Fall is a funny time of year. One moment it is Summer, (last weekend), and three weeks later everything looks like Winter is on the doorstep. I know that the air is certainly changing. I thought my feet were cold last week? Ha! My feet got absolutely frozen on this ride Saturday. It's about time to break out the Northwind boots and plastic bag vapor barriers again. 

It actually was colder at this point in the ride than it was when I started out.

A speeding truck kicks up dust on Washburn Road off in the distance.

The ride wasn't that long, but it was great to be out so early. I also was glad to have beaten most of the harvest traffic that looked as though would be cranking up big time this weekend. I got passed by two semi-tractor rigs as it was! 

So, I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for all the harvesting activities and try to fit in rides where it makes sense. But I also will probably be doing a couple more of these early morning deals now too. I would be out beating the traffic and activities, and getting a big show in the process. Sounds like a good deal. The only problem being that as the Sun is lower in the sky, I really have to watch out for cars and trucks as those folks will have a super-difficult time seeing me out there.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Trans Iowa Stories: Going The Long Way Around: Part 2

The digitized version of the Trans Iowa v13 logo.
 "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! 

Finally, I've been treated to some great Trans Iowa stories and memories from riders recently. I am collecting these to - hopefully - put into a book at the end of this series. If you were a Trans Iowa rider and have any memories that you'd like to share, please do and send those to Maybe your tale will also end up in the Trans Iowa Book Of Tales!  

Putting the pieces together for T.I.v13 was a big challenge. I took on the task in bite sized pieces to make things easier. First, I knew I wanted to circle Des Moines in an anticlockwise fashion. This meant that I could re-use portions of the route I came up with for Trans Iowa v8, which went East of Des Moines, but used a return route to Grinnell which would make sense for Trans Iowa v13. I did use some of the same roads near Des Moines but I veered away from the v8 course near Pella and used completely new roads to Trans Iowa from there.

Coming out of Grinnell was another easy thing, comparatively, to do for v13's route. I planned on going backward on v12's return course to begin with, and Baxter, Iowa was earmarked as the first checkpoint. That town was used as the first checkpoint for v7, and made for a perfect segue way to get to the underpass of HWY 330 at Melbourne Iowa. From there the route would be all new roads West and South to aim toward the Northwest edge of the Des Moines metro. This eventually would get the route into an area I was already quite familiar with due to having ridden the Renegade Gent's race for several years, which uses the gravel roads North of Des Moines and South of Ames, Iowa. 

One of the vital bits of road for v13 near Des Moines.

I identified a route then which would use the High Trestle Trail's bridge across the Des Moines River, thus eliminating a huge geographic obstacle, and then......getting around the Northwest corner of the Des Moines metro! Uggh! That caused me no end of headaches. 

Many dead ends, many ideas died, and frustrations with high traffic areas where I feared to put riders at risk made this part of T.I.v13's route a nightmare for me. Now I was on my own here. This is something I think not many people really considered when they think about my way of doing things and route finding. 

Since it was absolutely imperative that no one knew where the course was going, I had no real way of asking anyone about good routes or advice on roads. I might steer conversations and messages to places that would reveal information I could use at times, but those communications had to be 100% organic and I needed to be very careful not to tip my hand. So maybe I found tidbits I could use, but most times I was left on my own to figure out the route. I could only trust Jeremy Fry with ideas and as a sounding board to get any feedback on my ideas, and he was indispensable in that role for me. 

Besides that, I stared at county DOT maps and Google Earth for nights on end, working things this way, then that way. I turned over possibilities in my mind many times. This mostly had to do with either choosing to go through a bit Granger or trying to go around it. However, Highway 141 was a super tough obstacle, and in the end we kind of skirted Granger and I found an oddball overpass which led to gravel heading South. Whew! One part of the puzzle solved!

Next up and just down the road was Waukee. I tried a few ways to get folks across busy Highway 6, and eventually settled on something I wasn't 100% satisfied with, but I was stuck in so far now on this idea that there was no pulling out of it now. This was either going to work or I was abandoning the entire route. One more hurdle was cleared, and the next one, which was just a few more miles down the road, proved to be another pickle. 

The Level B that almost was put into v13, but wouldn't have been in it afterall.

This was a double-whammy situation. I had to clear Interstate 80 on a gravel overpass, which I had found two of that would keep the route mileage down, and the other obstacle was the Racoon River. Both things having to be cleared within a few miles of each other. The overpass was easy, but the Racoon River? That was tougher. I basically had two choices. One was to go through the little village of Van Meter. I didn't really want to go that way because it added pavement miles. Too many for my tastes. The other way was much more rural and led to a killer Level B road and then towards a bridge after a short bit of pavement. Then directly after the bridge there was a gravel road to the South. 

But afterward I learned that a development for an internet computer service center was requiring new paved roads to be built in the area, one of those new roads looked to be taking out the very Level B road I had in mind. This development was being debated, but I preemptively decided against the more dirt/gravel option. Which, as it ultimately turned out, was a good decision on a couple of levels. One being that the road in question did end up becoming taken away, and two- even if it hadn't, conditions for Trans Iowa v13 dictated that this Level B would have been a liability anyway. 

However; I wasn't liking all the pavement that my Waukee and Van Meter options were injecting into the route. Eventually I took a flyer on another idea. This was a bit further out of the way, but it eliminated a couple of risk factors, crossed the Racoon River, had less pavement, and it avoided Van Meter altogether. This route went through Adel, Iowa. In the end, that's the way we went.

So, the route around the Northwest side of Des Moines was a pickle to figure out, but there were more surprises lurking out there which we did not realize until we actually did recon in October of 2016. 

Next: Going The Long Way Around: Part 3

Trans Iowa Stories: Going The Long Way Around - Part 1


Various trips past the Des Moines area provided me with ideas.

NOTE: This post was supposed to have published 9/19/21, but due to a technical error it was republished today. I apologize for any inconveniences this may have caused.  "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! 

 I've been treated to some great Trans Iowa stories and memories from riders recently. I am collecting these to - hopefully - put into a book at the end of this series. If you were a Trans Iowa rider and have any memories that you'd like to share, please do and send those to Maybe your tale will also end up in the Trans Iowa Book Of Tales!

In the epic tale, "Lord of the Rings", J.R.R. Tolkien writes about hobbits and describes how some are very home-bound, not taken to adventure or wild ideas of travel to foreign lands. However; some of them, namely the Fallohides, had this adventurous streak. This was epitomized by the nature of Bilbo Baggins' character, who traced his lineage back to this clan.

I have a secret to reveal here- I am not much for travel. So, I guess I wouldn't quite qualify to be of the race which Bilbo Baggins claimed to belong to. That said, I do have an adventurous streak, so maybe there is something deep inside of me that is, as they would have said in the "Lord of the Rings", 'Took-ish". Whatever the case may be, I don't often travel, but generally whenever I did, be that with family or for events, the route invariably took me past Des Moines, Iowa on the interstate highway system. 

Since the time of Trans Iowa v8, I had an idea. This idea was to take Trans Iowa and make a course for it around the metro area of Des Moines. A circumnavigation. A 'ring' around the city, if you will. My quest since that time was in pursuit of creating this ring. Not a Ring of Power, like Sauron had made, but a Ring of Adventure. A course that would put not only the riders of Trans Iowa to the test, but myself as well. Just creating such a course, to my mind, was going to be a monumental feat. 

The annual CIRREM gravel event's course helped provide ideas for V13.
So, ever since 2012, I had been trying to figure out ways to accomplish this task of creating this ring around Des Moines. There were some very difficult obstacles to overcome in making a ring around Des Moines work. The course had to cross two major interstate routes, several U.S. highways, and various county roads. The course had to be less than 340 miles long, start and end in Grinnell, (already adding a bunch of miles right there!), and it had to be at least 90% gravel. How to manage all of that and keep the riders relatively safe was my task. I was not sure this would be something I could ever accomplish, but I kept working on it, silently, secretly, for five years, before I pulled the trigger and actually attempted it. 

Why even try this? A fair question. My motivation was from Gravel Worlds. Their early courses were circumnavigations of Lincoln, and due to the nature of their State Capitol building's architecture, one could almost always see a glimpse of the building from hilltops as you rode around the course. I thought that this idea was interesting. I also love Gravel Worlds and the people behind it, so I figured a circumnavigation of Des Moines during a Trans Iowa could be my tribute to Gravel Worlds.

Now, when I did travel, as I said, Des Moines was often on the route, so I always kept an eagle eye out for overpasses of I-35 and I-80 which I could use for this route idea. Several overpasses, which were gravel roads, were identified on those trips. Then I would research those out on the State DOT maps whenever I was back at home. These crossings would be a critical piece in making the ring around Des Moines possible. But just because I could find gravel road overpasses didn't mean that they were useful.

 If the road the overpass carried ended up at a "T" intersection with a county road, or went into a town and had no exit, that wasn't a good through route for Trans Iowa. Add in that these overpasses had to be as close to Des Moines as possible to cut down on mileage made the difficulty level rise again. Now think about resupply stops. These overpasses had to work into a route that made sense for resupply chances as well. So, as you can tell by the parameters, making this course work as a Trans Iowa course was going to be a monumental task. 

Next: Going The Long Way Around: Part 2

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Reflections After The Fact

  UCI Announced Pro Gravel Series & World Championships On Wednesday:

 NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

Whew! Now that the dust has settled on this announcement, here are a few more thoughts on the whole sanctioning of Pro gravel events. For my immediate reaction which I wrote up on Wednesday, see this post on I'm going to reference that post, but I will also try not to cover it too much here. 

First off I wanted to comment on a Twitter thread that Pro cyclist Phil Gaimon posted late on Wednesday after the announcement. His take was that this was a good thing because "... if there's money on the line for the win....", there should be certain "rules" and protocols in place to accommodate those searching for that monetary prize. He mentioned separate fields, closed roads, and more.

And therein lies the 'Big Problem'. 

The gravel scene started out, in part, as a reaction to what the 'Big Problem' was with organized, sanctioned racing. Most of those issues could be traced back to monetary prizing. That's why all the early gravel grinders did not offer money as a prize. 

My take on what Mr. Gaimon is stumping for is that what happens when you get what he is asking for you no longer have 'gravel racing'. It is Pro road racing that just happens to be on a surface that is not paved. It is NOT gravel racing. It is not what most people want to be a part of, or even can be a part of. It is exclusionary. I'm not against the Pros having Pro road racing on gravel courses. Go for it! It just is not 'gravel racing', and the two things should not be equated as being the same.

With that said, I had some other reactions.....

While some have jokingly or seriously suggested that I am the grumpy one, wishing things were not going to be so regarding the UCI, I don't feel that way at all in reality. In fact, you might be surprised at my first reaction to this which was "So what!". Now I have said that the UCI and their versions of cycling are not what is good for the masses. I still feel that way. I also know that many folks think that UCI oversight is "the death of the sport" and I have written about that as well, because I don't subscribe to that theory. I have suggested over and over again that people "vote with their dollars" to effect their opinions rather than bemoaning what seemed like to them to be an inevitable take-over of gravel by the "Evil UCI Overlords". 

No, I am not the 'grumpy one' here. As I have said, it is rather the opposite, and the tone of today's thoughts on all this UCI hullabaloo follows along with my answer to a Facebook post where someone poked some fun at me for being Mr. Discontented. Here is that reaction:

"Not at all. You misread if you think I have any "discontent". In fact, I feel grateful. There's never been a better time to be a gravel/rural cyclist."

Yes, we as rural/gravel/unpaved cyclists have never had it better. This is a "Golden Age" of gravel cycling. It has nothing at all to do with Pro racing. Nothing. Now there are websites, media writers, editors, and 'experts' who have and will continue to push the Pro Racing agenda as being 'the pinnacle' of gravel cycling. However; millions of rural cyclists who will never grace a podium are not wrong. They 'get it' and will continue to drive the gravel/rural cycling scene. 

And maybe those media/experts/influencers are finally kind of understanding that the Pro scene isn't all what it is cracked up to have been. They have seen former Pro racing prospects come out of road racing to do gravel events. They've seen how road racing has waned in the USA while gravel events keep breaking new ground in terms of numbers. The latest UCI news brought several attempts at 'humor' from these sources that was- perhaps - a bit disingenuous, considering their stances in years past on gravel and how it was not "real racing". Obviously, coming around to 'gravel' now behooves them, as seen by the turnabout started in the grassroots of competitive cycling over the last dozen years or so. 

Whether those media and so-called influencers and experts do come around or not really doesn't matter in the end. The cycling industry has gone 'gravel mad' and we are benefiting as cyclists. There have never been more events to do, or more ways to ride in rural areas than there are now.  What the Pro riders and the UCI do is not changing that. The UCI developing the gravel series and World Championships for the Pro riders is a reaction to what has come before. The UCI and USAC are not innovators in this area of cycling. They are reactionary. They are followers. They are the ones being influenced. Not the other way around. 

For us that were into it all along, this should be seen as gravy. Icing on a cake we've enjoyed for years. Now let's see if they can pull it off and grow this scene even more. If the UCI/USAC folks screw it all up, well then, we know already how to get it right. Don't forget that..... I'll sign off with my final paragraph from my Riding Gravel post:

 "The bottom line here is that whatever the UCI, USAC, or the “Big Gravel Event Machine” does won’t have any power unless you give it to them. Ultimately, whatever your vision of ‘gravel cycling’ is will be shaped by what you pay attention to, by what you spend your money on, and by what you think about it all. That power is in your hands. Don’t give it away without thinking really hard about that."

Friday, September 24, 2021

Friday News And Views

 Double Posting Of Trans Iowa Stories For This Weekend:

Last weekend a Trans Iowa Series post was scheduled but another one was inadvertently scheduled to drop at the same time. This caused a technical issue which I could not resolve, so I ended up pushing both posts back a week.

That mistake is on me, and to the fans and readers of the series, I apologize. 

The good news is that both of those posts will appear this Sunday, one following a little after the other time-wise. They will appear as originally intended also, so you won't be missing a thing that I originally formatted for you to see. 

So, that's a brief note, for those who care, about what happened to last week's 'Trans Iowa Stories' post and what to look forward to for this Sunday. Now with that, I should be back on track and hopefully there will be one post for each of the following Sundays for the remainder of the year. Look for the series to wrap up sometime early in 2022. 

Rides Requiring Proof Of Vaccination:

Recently the news that the Mid-South was requiring proof of vaccination, or a negative COVID test, to get into their 2022 event spread amongst the gravel community. Now word is out that a smaller event out in Vermont organized by the group that puts on the well known Rasputitsa event is also going the proof of vax route. 

While the "Grateful" isn't a big nationally known event, the fact that the organizers are pursuing the proof of vax/negative test route seems to point to a trend in the gravel event scene. It also seems to be consistent with many concerts. sporting events, and with what some businesses are doing. 

Andy and I speculated about this on the podcast recording this week and my take is that this is probably being driven by three elements. 1- A Sense of Social Responsibility where promoters feel compelled to protect and care for their riders in the best way they can. 2 - Legal Ramifications where the possibility that being sued over COVID transmissions, or deaths/health issues may loom over an event, especially when that event is charging a healthy entry fee. 3 - Insurance requirements where it may be possible that municipalities and/or event insurance providers are leveraging event promoters to require proofs of vaccination to hold an event under their insurance/oversight. 

Now, you may have issues with the whole proof of vax/testing thing, and that is a completely valid discussion and far too big a deal for this column. I'll just say this- you don't have to go participate in any events, much less those that require proofs of vax/negative COVID tests. You could organize your own rides. You are free to ride how you want to ride. 

That's a very important thing to remember in all of this. 

The Whisky Parts Co. Spanos Bar

Big Week At Riding Gravel:

The bits and baubles came rolling in over the past week for testing and review on (See the Standard Disclaimer Page here)

Amongst the products that were received are some unusual things. How about some woven cloth bar tape? No.....not the traditional type. This is quite a bit different stuff from Grepp. They claim it is reusable, washable, and that it has superior grip properties over traditional tapes. 

Then there is the American Classic tire, the Wentworth, which I purchased with my own money, by the way, and will be checking out here and on Riding Gravel. 

Then there is the Topeak Gravel Gear Bag, which is not maybe what you think it is. This is an organizer with tools and spaces for tubes and things which you strap to you frame for the rare case that you may need to repair a tire in the field. 

Finally, there is the Whisky Parts Co. Spano Bar, (pictured) which is a carbon fiber drop bar with some unique features. It has flattened tops, a squished profile for the bar in the drops, and a very short reach and drop. 

So, I've spent the week getting all these things set up and checked over for longer rides to come soon. Most of the blurbs I write will be over at Riding Gravel, but you'll probably see this stuff in images and mentions over the next several weeks.

A newMTB trail system is planned near Copper Creek in Des Moines.

New Mountain Bike Trails In The DSM;

Recently, AXIOS Des Moines reported that a new mountain bike park is set to be implemented which would connect Des Moines and the Pleasant Hill areas. 50 acres of undeveloped land have been purchased for the project which will include an area to buffer rain run off to help prevent flooding and improve water quality in the area. 

The park, named the Copper Creek MTB Park, is envisioned as a way to satisfy recreational cyclist who have been using local trails at an ever increasing rate. Plus, this should draw more tourism to the area due to the other local cycling attractions and Iowa's dearth of public lands devoted to off-pavement cycling.

For more details on the project see this link.

NOTE- I'll have a missive on the UCI/Gravel World Championships and series for tomorrow. Otherwise, that's a wrap for this week! Enjoy your weekend and get some riding in!

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Fall Views: GTDR/ToBHC - Part Four

Headed North to end this loop.
 With the end of the Level B dirt road section on 110th, I was now taking a right hand turn to go North to finish off circumnavigating Black Hawk County.  This road turned into Grundy Road, the Black Hawk County border, within about a mile. So it would be straight up this for thirteen miles before I would turn left on Ridgeway. 

I tried to count off ten miles to get me to my first rest stop, but with a few sections not having gravel crossings at every mile, and with Black Hawk Creek cutting across my path, I lost count and I ended up going to a point seven miles up the road and resting by the bridge. Then I got back on and saw something that gave me a bit of concern. A "Road Closed Ahead" sign!

I didn't come all this way to be thwarted by a road being out!

This was about as bad as it got, so I made it through.
I decided to forge ahead and see if I could finagle my way around or through whatever it was that was going on out here. I then vaguely recalled that some development for a warehouse or something was happening out this way, but I don't recall the details anymore. Whatever! I made it through, although it looks as though we stand to lose several miles of gravel due to whatever is happening out there. 

Now I was at Ridgeway, a busy section of paved road due to its connections and proximity to HWY20, and I had pretty much run out of gas again. I needed a rest stop, but not at that insanely busy corner with cars and trucks rushing by. I needed to go one mile West to take in the 'notch' in Black Hawk County's border with Grundy County. Then I rode about a half mile North and took another break. My legs were shot by this point. Resting helped, but after six to seven miles, I felt my legs screaming and they were weak. So, another six or so miles later, I stopped near the intersection with Beaver Valley Road. 

Of course, the gravel was unrelenting toward the end.

I was having to stop more than I wanted to, and the temptation to take a nap was overwhelming, but I didn't do that. I resisted as best I could. I had come this far and I was going to push through, no matter what. Eating some pretzels didn't seem to help at this juncture. Water wasn't a concern. I had plenty right up until the last miles. Fortunately, I never cramped, but I was tired. Really tired! 

And even though I was stopping more, I still had 'time in the bank' too. I was going to probably come in well ahead of 5:00pm, so I could take my time here and just do what I could in smaller chunks. It was tough to accept that I had so few miles to knock out but I did not have the energy to attack it and knock them out in one sitting anymore.

Cows at pasture.

Getting close now! That's the water tower for Waverly, Iowa off in the distance.

At one point,after dragging myself off the grassy ditch, I saw two cyclists approach me on fat bikes. I gave a wave and they returned it, but they turned to head East down some pavement and never did go by me. Probably a good thing. I was not in any condition for cheery conversations just then!

Off up another hill and now through Finchford, which seemed desolate. I had to stop for a 'nature break' on the West Fork road, but soon I was off again and up into Bremer County as I had to navigate around the Shell Rock River. I reached a corner, just down from a picturesque farm, and threw myself into the grass. I was spent. Down the road, at the farm, a dog was going berserk because of my presence. 

Finally I said out loud to the dog,(but of course, the dog could not hear me), "Okay, okay! I'm going to move on!", as if this dog was urging me on to finish. I actually trudged up the road about a quarter of a mile by foot, pushing my bicycle. I figured moving was better than sitting, or worse, sleeping. Finally I shook myself to my senses thinking that it was madness to walk when I had a perfectly good biccyle to ride. So, I mounted up.

Crossing the Shell Rock River- almost done!

Crossing the Cedar River and to the finish!

There was something that happened right then. I have heard it described as 'the horse smelling the barn'. The sense that I was almost there conjured up every last bit of power I had and I completed the ride without stopping from that point. It didn't even really hurt that much!

I rolled in with a time of ten hours, twenty minutes for the 112.1 mile route. The circumnavigation of Black Hawk County was complete! It was ten after four in the afternoon. (Note- I started at 5:50am) So, I beat my goal and despite a not very pretty end, I was finished. 

I know that is not very 'fast' as racers could probably do this route in far less than ten hours, but that wasn't the point. I was not out for a race. I was out for the challenge and the idea of riding 'around' the county by bicycle. Did it live up to my 'death ride' ideals? Totally. I felt completely 100% spent afterward. So, in terms of my goals and desires for this ride, it was 100% success. 

Thank you for putting up with this tale this week. Tomorrow I return with my traditional 'FN&V'.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Fall Views: GTDR/ToBHC - Part 3

A field of harvested corn off Mc Chane Road.
Now I was headed, mostly, West as the North and East sides of Black Hawk County had been traversed. I decided on the 'North' route option instead of the South one to get from Black Hawk/Buchanan Road to La Porte City. The two options were similar, but the North route had .3m more gravel and was 1.3m shorter in distance overall. The main thing for me was the route staying inside Black Hawk County instead of getting into Buchanan and Benton Counties. 

I rolled into La Porte with 55 miles under my wheels at 10:30am. Pretty good time and an hour in the bank against my time limitation of 5:00pm. I decided not to go to the convenience store and instead I stopped at the gazebo on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail to rest and swap out clothing. 

By this time it was pretty warm, and a vest wasn't needed. I took that off and rolled it up and stowed it in the frame bag. Then I sat down to munch another half of a PB&J along with a few Dot's pretzel sticks and water. Meanwhile a group of cyclists came up the CVNT and rolled into the gazebo where I was sitting. These were recreational cyclists out for fun. Some of them recognized me as that "legendary gravel guy". I retorted back saying, "Well, I am either legendary or an idiot. One or the other!". This brought a round of "Oh no! You aren't an idiot!", until one of them piped up and said, "Maybe you are just a legendary idiot". 

Fair enough. 

All in good jest there, no offense taken or given. I then packed up my stuff, popped on my helmet, and headed off to hit up Reinbeck Road and a big push Westward. The Sun was riding high now, and the wind, which had come up before I started going West, was out of the Southeast. So it was a quartering tailwind. That was nice! 

Head West. Looking up Reinbeck Road.
Some bridge construction on Kimball Avenue near the intersection with Reinbeck Road.

Unfortunately Reinbeck Road was a complete mess of fresh, deep gravel. It was as bad as it was when I started the ride back near Janesville. The deep gravel was taxing my legs and the heat was getting hotter. I also had been distracted by the group back in La Porte and I had forgotten to take some ibuprofen and electrolyte tablets I meant to take. The ibuprofen to deaden my left shoulder pain, brought on by the rough, deep gravel, and the electrolyte tabs because I was sweating a lot by this point into the ride. 

I knew there was a good place to stop at the intersection of Reinbeck Road and Ansborough Road. That's where I stopped and downed the pills and took a bit of a rest from the hard pedaling through all the fresh gravel. Once I left that spot the gravel let up a bit and it was more typical roadway for several miles, which I welcomed. Now I was getting into the Southwestern corner of my route. Here I had to make a detour into Tama County so as to avoid some paved roads. This allowed for a trek through the three straight miles of Level B Road on 110th. 

 A field harvested and worked up already- and there is the rig doing the work off in the distance!
Near to the end of the three miles of Level B Road on 110th in Tama County.

The plan was to stop and eat my last half of peanut butter and jelly sandwich on one of those three miles of dirt. I also ended up taking off my bandana from my head and my Sun-sleeves. It was beastly hot by this point. Like Summer-time, really hot! Worse than Gravel Worlds had been this year. I didn't bother to look at my phone to check the weather then, but later on I found out it had reached the 90's! From 40° to over 90°! No wonder I was cooking! What a wild swing in temperatures. 

But the good news was that I had reached this end of the course by noon. I had 35 miles to go and five hours to get it done before my time limit! I must have been pushing it really hard on Reinbeck Road and not realized how hard I was going. I had bagged another 30 minutes since leaving La Porte City. Crazy! No wonder I felt cooked.

So, I came up with a plan. I needed to break this down into chunks. I decided I would go ten miles and rest. That meant I would have three chances to stop before the end. Okay, let's put this to bed then! 

Next: Part four, and the final chapter to the GTDR/ToBHC story.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Fall Views: GTDR/ToBHC - Part 2

Stopped for a 'Nature Break'
 Now with the Sun up, there was that time which many call 'The Golden Hour' when you get that fantastic light for taking images. With zero cloud cover, I was snapping off pics like crazy. It was just too good not to be doing that. 

I also had to find a suitable place for a 'nature break'. Finally I found a secluded area once I got off the first stretch of pavement I had to insert into the route. While I don't like having to deal with traffic, I had gotten an early enough start that the paved roads were fairly desolate. 

At this point I was fairly concerned about making good time, so I quickly ate the half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich I packed for myself, (one half of three halves), and I moved onward after a few minutes. It was still cold, and everything was covered in dew, so now my feet were soaked too. Great! Freezing feet and damp socks. Perfect! But there was nothing I could do about that except to get back on my horse and work again. 

Thousands of these migrating birds were everywhere around at one point on the route.

Just down the road from where I had stopped for my break, near the corner of Pace Road and East Gresham Road, I saw thousands of birds. I am not sure what kind they were. They sounded like red winged blackbirds, but I couldn't tell in the low angle of early morning light. At any rate, it was an amazing experience to see flocks numbering in the thousands as they flew all around me for the space of a half mile or so. 

Now I was working the route South and I knew the roads around here well. The gravel was better too, so I started to put more time in the bank. It wouldn't be long before I would get to Jesup and my first planned resupply stop of the day. 

This barn is worse off than last yer. It won't be there for long.

Another 'nature break' stop provided this view.

I made it to Jesup and stopped at the Casey's General Store there to resupply on water and grab something to eat. I ended up with a Bacon, Egg, and Cheese breakfast sandwich and water. I also snagged a bag of Dot's Pretzel sticks for the road later on down the line. I made pretty quick work of the stop and was out of there in less than ten minutes. 

Then it was a big section of pavement to get to Spring Creek Road, which itself was paved for a couple of miles before it went to gravel. Spring Creek Road would get me down to where I had to cross Interstate 380 on pavement, which just so happened to be on the Black Hawk/Buchanan County line.

People that leave heaters on the ledges outside of convenience stores- Stop it already!

The Shady Grove store on Spring Creek Road

I decided to take the "Northerly Route" once I had the East side of Black Hawk County traversed instead of taking road out into Buchanan County which was paved. Then I would have had a gravel South to the Cedar Valley Nature Trail and I would have then gone Westward to La Porte City. Instead, I went down the paved portion of Black Hawk/Buchanan Road till it went left and I continued straight on the gravel portion of Black Hawk/Buchanan until I reached the intersection with McChane Road and thus ended my Southward crossing of Black Hawk County. 

These semi-tractor trailers were off-loading freshly picked corn. The harvest has started!

A roadside marker on Black Hawk/Buchanan Road

So by now the Sun was fully up and it was much warmer than it had been. I was thinking of stopping to get off my vest but I was so near to La Porte City that I just wanted to get the section over with and deal with all the clothing swapping out there. This would also bring up the next, and final, resupply chance, but I wasn't blasting through the water and I probably wouldn't need any by the time I reached town, a mere 22 miles down the road. 

Next: The South border traverse on my GTDR/ToBHC in Part 3