Sunday, October 31, 2021

Trans Iowa Stories: Going The Long Way Around - Part 5

A rutted out Level B Road East and North of Indianola, Iowa.
"Trans Iowa Stories" is an every Sunday post which helps tell the stories behind the event. You can check out other posts about this subject  by clicking on the "Trans Iowa Stories" link under the blog header. Thanks and enjoy! 

When I finally got the route details and recon figured out, it was mid-March and I still needed to do a final run through with the drafted cue sheet set. Wally and George were onboard once again to do this job. The plan was to meet them early on a Saturday. April 8th was the date agreed upon, and so I got up at about 4:00am to head down to Grinnell to hook up with them by 6:30am. We were on the road by 7:00 and headed off to CP#1. 

Doing this recon was fun. Typically Wally and George had stories, jokes, and were quick witted and humorous. It was something that made the miles go by swiftly. In between there might be some stopping to check on a photographic opportunity, since Wally had planned to be the event photographer for the day. I could also always count on them to be real and upfront with me concerning the route. If something looked sketchy or did not make sense, Wally and George wouldn't sugar coat it for me. Nope! I got it raw and without any holding back. But that did not happen often during the five years they did this with me, and when it did, I needed to hear it, and more importantly, heed their advice. 

This long incline was just after the crossing of I-80

This time nothing of the sort happened. Things were light and we were joking around, having a great time. Wally was impressed with the course and saw many opportunities to grab some cool imagery. 

We eventually got to a point on course where the road went over I-80 and just South of here we stopped for a bit to relax and stretch our legs. I'm not real sure why this stop still resonates with me to this day, but for whatever reason, I can feel that Sun and hear Wally talking about how he wanted to climb the embankment to get a good vantage point for shooting the riders. Anyway....

So, not far from that Wally got a phone call from his son. Then Wally's voice got tense. He was angry, and we had to stop so he could speak privately with his son. After the call, things in the truck were heavy. There was no longer any joking around, or conversation. Just me calling out route turns and Wally in the back seat steaming. 

You see, Life has a funny way of dealing us cards that intrude on our best laid plans. Rightfully so, in many cases. Wally's wife had health issues. Early onset Alzheimer's, to be specific. I don't think Wally minds my saying so now. It was a situation that made Wally upset because he wasn't there to take care of things, and here he was, gallivanting about the countryside, doing something which in the grand scheme of Life was totally unnecessary. 

After awhile we stopped in a place where there was a Level B Road that George decided he'd drive. At this point the mood had lifted a bit. We did make it through, but we made a big mess of George's truck and we had stopped to take a look at the carnage. While Wally and George were comparing notes from this escapade with past 4X4 endeavors that they had undertaken, I noted an old car heading our way. I had a funny feeling we were about to be asked some questions!

George's truck, post-messy B Road crossing.
An old fella climbed out of an old dusty red car and asked us what we were up to. Of course, he was not quite ready for my tale. No one outside of the gravel grinding circles ever was, to be honest. He looked at me, wide-eyed, and as I examined his expressions, I kind of knew this was all flying far above his head. Then he started in on what he had been up to, the farm, how it was to be handed off to children, but no one was interested, and on an on. Then he reached in his pocket and gave me a big shiny steel ball bearing. 


After a bit we climbed back in the truck and headed up the road. It wasn't long before the tense atmosphere from before came back. Wally had more texts and another couple of phone conversations. It grew very quiet in the truck. We reached Indianola and stopped to eat, but there was no cheer. Wally was really regretting having come out that day. I felt like a heel. 

I cannot recall the last bit of recon, but as we returned to Grinnell, the mood did lighten up and I know we had some good conversations. Once I arrived back at the motel I was invited by Wally and George to join them out back of the motel. There was a small picnic table on a cement pad and we sat down there. Wally and George had a few beers left over from the night before and they offered me one. They both whipped out cigars and we sat and talked for a couple of hours about all manner of things. 

I was late getting home that night, but more than having the course verified, I was so happy to have spent those moments with Wally and George. I should have done that beforehand. I thought we'd probably get that chance again. But you know how Life is, right? 

I took this shot as I left Wally and George to remember that special moment we had.

 As it turned out, this was the final time Wally and George would come out to do this final recon of a course with me. I did not know that then, just as I did not know that I would never recon a course with Jeremy again. Life is funny that way. You get the chance to make something special, but maybe you pass it by because, you know, we'll see ya next time, right? 

And maybe you won't.

I know I'll always cherish that last recon trip with those guys, especially the way it ended. 

Next: More Troubles

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Foul Weather Projects

Finding storage for these is one of but many tasks for the foul weather days ahead.
 This past week has been filled with rainy days. "Too wet to plow", as the farmers used to say. So, riding has been mostly off the menu and that leaves me with a lot of time on my hands of late. 

That means that I had to find something to do. There is only so much 'sitting around' that I can tolerate in a day. This prompted me to start in with some much needed, long put off projects in my 'shop' in my basement here at Guitar Ted Headquarters. 

I have already set my double arm work station 90° from where it was, cleaned out a corner that had accumulated a bunch of tires and wheels, and I have uncovered my tool box I brought home when I switched jobs in late 2019. Then I swept some of the floor, gathered together a pile of wheels I need to figure out storage for, and I am making plans for some ceiling mounted 'hooks' to do that with. Then it will be on to two other corners of the shop, a work bench clearing and cleaning, and then who knows what. 

I also have a couple of odd-ball bike ideas to tackle and I have one idea which, if I can pull it off, will be pretty weird, but rad. I don't know exactly how I am going to approach that idea yet, but I am pretty excited about what it could turn out to be. 

Anyway, I have a lot lined up for those days when it is just too nasty out to do any meaningful riding. Hopefully I don't get around to all of it because, well, I'd rather be riding. But these are things that would make the quality of shop life around here better and clear up a lot of space in the doing of those tasks. 

Stay tuned......

Friday, October 29, 2021

Friday News And Views

My quote Tweet from Tuesday on the "Bike-Europe" story.
 Cannondale To Assemble Bikes Again Stateside:

Tuesday news broke that Cannondale, who were recently in the news for being purchased by PON Holdings, is currently building a new assembly facility in the USA. 

The story, published by "Bike Europe", a site for news of the trade, states that the new facility is being constructed in Rincon, Georgia. This city is located just North of Savanna, Georgia and not far from the major East coast port of Charleston, South Carolina, which makes sense from an import of parts and frames/forks standpoint for the brand.

Comments: It should be understood that while the assembly of bikes will be back on U.S. soil, the manufacturing of frames and forks will still occur in the Far East. However; it might prove to make Cannondale more efficient for its US/North American based dealer network to have this assembly factory based here since it may allow Cannondale to react more quickly to supply changes and demands for the market here. 

What may be of more importance for the future is that Cannondale is trying to make it so that their bicycles can be assembled and ready to ride in fifteen minutes or less by dealer technicians. Presumably this would be so easy that consumers might also be able to accomplish assembly of a bicycle. New box designs and major assembly of bicycles in the Rincon facility could portend a move to a consumer direct retail model, which many in the industry are thinking will be where the major bicycle brands are going to focus sales on in the coming years. 

But for the near-term, the "Bike Europe" article only quotes a Cannondale official as saying  that this will have .... a quick impact on the market but (the new US and European facilities) are also set up to evolve and grow with demand and innovation opportunity...” Innovation opportunity? That's an interesting term. Could mean anything, but with onsite storage capabilities of assembled bikes, it would make sense that a future "innovation opportunity" might include consumer direct sales. 

Mid-South- SBT GRVL Events Partner Up To Encourage Junior Participation:

The Mid-South gravel event has partnered up with the SBT-GRVL event in Colorado to encourage more participation by under 18 riders by offering reduced prices for entry to their respective events. The announcement was made on their respective social media accounts Tuesday of this past week and a post on the SBT-GRVL site gives more details

A quote from the story linked above: " This initiative isn’t just aimed at elite juniors,” said Amy Charity, owners of SBT GRVL. “We want to welcome and raise up the next generation of back-of-the-packers, the kids who simply want to have a good time out on a bike and see where two wheels can take them. This is about fun and experiencing gravel. 

Comments: A great idea and I think this will be well received. Interestingly this marks the second partnership with another event for the Mid-South. Once again, this makes me feel like a door is opened for more in the way of partnering and perhaps even a series format for these three events is in the future. All three events and their directors have staunchly resisted any associations with USAC/UCI and are representative of the biggest non-corporatized gravel events happening currently. 

Again, any series ideas are completely speculation on my part, but with the energy and enthusiasm that Bobby Wintle brings and with the influence he has with his Mid-South event, I could totally see this happening. Especially so with the leadership shift at Gravel Worlds. I'm feeling this could be in the cards. Convince me otherwise.....

45NRTH Debuts New Boots:

The long running boot models, Ragnarok and Wolfgar, from 45NRTH have received updates for the '21/'22 season. The Wolfgar is more about fat biking in ultra-cold conditions. I won't cover that one here. That boot has been redesigned, but the features are more about small tweaks. Not so with the completely new Ragnarok Tall, a boot which has a taller cuff now than the normal Ragnarok. 

The cuff is made of Neoprene and is a claimed 5.75" high, a full 3.5" taller than the Ragnarok. The cuff is closed with hook and loop material but the main boot is a BOA closure system. The normal Ragnarok remains in the line up if you don't want the taller cuff. However; it would seem that the 'bumble-bee' color scheme is inescapable. 

Ragnarok Tall will cost $245.00 and should be available starting in November from any 45NRTH dealer.

Comments: I think this new Ragnarok Tall is interesting. I like all the tweaks, the taller cuff, and the boot looks much like something I'd want in a mild-weather Winter boot. That said, whenever you compromise on ease of entry/exit for the foot, you introduce more places for air/water leakage. I had a boot with a very similar overlapping Neoprene cuff and I did not really like it. The area where the hook and loop closure is causes a doubling up on materials, which I found a bit less comfortable than a single 'sock' style Neoprene layer, as with my Northwave Winter boot. Plus, those hook and loop panels often snag on wool socks and on Lycra tights, which is a bit fussy. Some folks with more abrupt ankle to calf transitions probably won't go with this anyway and opt for the regular Ragnarok boot. Finally, the "yellow and black attack" color scheme is perhaps a bit polarizing. 

I'll probably pass on the Ragnarok Tall this time, mostly because I still am rocking the OG Ragnarok and I still have those Northwave boots which are really good. But when it comes time to move on from those, I'll likely look at these as a top choice for a Winter boot when the temperatures are above 20°F.

Bontrager Circuit WaveCel Helmet.

Bontrager Announces New Circuit WaveCel Helmet: 

Yesterday Bontrager announced a new WaveCel helmet called the Circuit. I have a WaveCel Starvos helmet and it is the only helmet I have ever had that fit me 'right'. Typically I have to modify a helmet to get it to be comfortable for my head. But Bontrager announced last year that they were going to make their "XL" size a true XL and I was pleasantly surprised when I got the thing. It really is an XL! 

For reference, my hat size is 7 7/8ths or 63cm, (approx), so pretty large. Most "XL" helmet sizes in the past went up to 60cm, maybe 62cm, and I am forced to find that extra space for my noggin when I used those other helmets in the past. Things like removing all the padding, and in some cases the Velcro patches that held the padding in as well. (Note- Now I see other companies doing bigger XL sizes as well, so Bontrager seems to not be alone in this) 

Anyway, I loved that I was able to slap the Starvos on my head, with all the padding intact, and have extra space in case I wore a cap, or buff. Wow! That was a first for me. Now I have - through a snafu with Grannygear getting the wrong size to review - another WaveCel helmet. It fits great as well. Plus, it is a racier, lighter helmet with fancy-pants magnetic light mounts. Woo! 

So, I'll be pitching in my two cents on the Circuit WaveCel soon and adding it to my Starvos as the only other helmet - ever - to fit me out of the box unmodified. (Standard Disclaimer in effect)

And A Thank You To: All who commented on Tuesday's post, thank you! I appreciate the support and thoughts expressed concerning my mother's death and I found those comments comforting and thought provoking. I am doing well and remain thankful for the good times, memories, and lessons passed on to me by my mother. 

I just thought I should take a space here to mention how much I appreciated all the support and the time some of you took to comment, or reach out via messenger/email, or to leave a note on Facebook. 

That is a wrap for this week! Stay tuned for more and thanks for reading Guitar Ted Productions.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Torque Wrench Basics For Home Mechanics

Torque specs and proper application of torque is critical for cyclists.
Today's post is courtesy of G-Ted Productions reader, "Sean", who suggested that a post covering torque wrenches and what I thought of them was probably a good idea. He's right, and so today I am going to cover the basics of torque wrenches. What torque wrenches I like will be detailed. I will also cover reasons why using proper torque on fasteners is important. So off we go now.....

What It Is: Torque is important and you use it everyday. Anytime you screw on or unscrew a lid, cap, or fastener, you are applying torque. When it comes to your bicycle, this ends up being very important  because without torque your bicycle would fall apart, and wouldn't be pedaling either. "Proper" torque is when you have applied a specified force to a fastener so that it (hopefully) will not break or come undone during use, and so that the parts joined together won't fail because of improper torque. Basically, too tight or too loose is bad. We want to be in that "Goldilocks" area, but how do you know when you have your fastener 'in the zone'? Well, you don't know nuthin' without measuring tools. That's where torque wrenches come in. 

A good torque wrench will give you a measurement that you can check against the specifications for the part you are fastening. For instance, many stem bolts have a 4-5N m. torque specification. Going less than 4N m. is not good and going over 5N m. is not good. The torque wrench will tell tell you when you have that fastener in that 4-5 Newton meter range. (Yes, that is what "N m." stands for) I'm not going to get all into the units of measure for torque here, but the most commonly used units for bicycles are Newton meters, and to a much lesser degree, pound-feet , and inch-pounds. 

An example of beam/deflection torque wrenches
Types Of Torque Wrenches:

There are four types of torque wrenches in use in bicycle shops: Beam/Deflection, Clicker, Digital, and Dial Gauge. Most accept 1/4" or 3/8th" socket tools and some have the hex type bit pockets. 

Beam/Deflection: These are probably less commonplace in bicycle shops these days, but beam/deflection style torque wrenches are simple and low maintenance. They do have a disadvantage though in that it takes a steady, skilled hand to use one properly. It's easy, for instance, to miss your target torque range when getting into higher torque settings since you have to rely on muscle steadiness to get an accurate reading. The plus side is that these types of wrenches, if handled with care, do not go out of spec. This means that when a beam type wrench measures 5 pound-feet of torque today, it will still be 5 pound-feet of torque 20 years from now when it gets used again. (I know because I have two and have had them tested) Beam/Deflection wrenches are usually big and ungainly compared to other options though. 

Dial Type: These are similar to Beam/Deflection wrenches but they use a dial embedded into the wrench to read out torque applied. These wrenches are the ones which were prevalent for many years in auto mechanic shops 30 years ago and more. They will need calibration from time to time to remain accurate. Generally speaking, these are also a bit large and ungainly, and are not generally found in bicycle shops. Besides needing calibration from time to time, dial type torque wrenches need extra special care so as to keep those glass lens covers on the dial gauge intact.

Digital: Now we are getting into wrenches which are typically found in many bicycle shops today and which are made for home mechanic use. I have this Topeak digital wrench which I used in a shop setting for a while until it died. Typical digital wrenches are set up for 1/4" sockets or hex shaped bits. These wrenches work by means of strain gauges, typically.

The digital wrench will typically use a sound when proper torque has been reached, and it will give you a digital read-out as well. Usually these read-outs will stay on screen until you dismiss them. That's handy if you want to stop for any reason and wonder afterward where you were. 

Some do all of the above and 'click' over when the proper torque has been reached. These are nice because you get an audible and tactile alert when the torque specification has been reached. But either way, any of these wrenches will need periodic re-calibration to remain accurate.  

Click Type: These are the other type of torque wrench which you will find often times in a bicycle shop. The Click style wrench will 'click' and the lever arm will 'jump' a tiny bit in the hand when proper torque has been reached. These typically are seen in either 1/4' or 3/8ths" socket tool style and good ones can be just as accurate as a digital wrench. 

Click style wrenches also need to be re-calibrated every so often and, as with all torque wrenches, they need to be handled with extreme care. Many bike tool companies do click style wrenches and support them when it comes to re-calibration. 

Another sub-set of 'click' style torque wrenches exists and these are smaller with sometimes a dedicated bit, or limited bit sizes for the most common fasteners on a bicycle. These are very popular with home mechanics and hobbyist repair people due to their inexpensive cost and smaller, portable size.These types of torque tools typically are not certified for their torque range and cannot be calibrated.

An example of a smaller, 'click' style torque tool.

Which Torque Wrench Is Right For You?

 The proper torque wrench for anyone working on bicycles will be determined by a few factors. First, it must read out in Newton-meters. This is by far the most commonly used measurement for torque on a bicycle. Secondly, you need to know what parts you want to torque and what specification range you will be working in. It does no good, for instance, to have a wrench which measures from 20N m. to 200 N m. if all your fasteners require between 3N m. and 15N m. So, match the range of the tool to your needs. This requires research on your part. But I can tell you that automotive torque wrenches are definite overkill. Unless you already own digital or click style wrenches for automotive, then skip that segment and buy wrenches meant for the bicycle trade. 

The third factor here is to figure out how often you will be disassembling/assembling parts on your bicycle. Is this a wrench for 'just in case', or is this a wrench for your tool kit because you swap out parts monthly? If you don't see yourself messing with parts swapping, a simple "torque key" style tool will get you where you can periodically check things like stem bolt tightness, for instance. Constant parts swapping and tear-down/build-up of bikes will require a more serious tool. 

This fixed bit 'torque key' tool might be all you need.
Another determining factor may be that you may feel comfortable changing out stems and seat posts, but anything beyond that goes to the bike mechanic. Then all you might need is a simple digital torque wrench like that Topeak one above. 

Bigger jobs will require bigger wrenches and more durable wrenches like that silver Unior wrench above. In fact, you may find that- like me- you need several types and styles of torque wrenches to cover any scenario. 

Care And Feeding Of Torque Wrenches:

If you've been reading so far, you've noted that I've brought up that torque wrenches need to be handled with "extreme care". This is no joke. Simply dropping a torque wrench can throw it so far out of spec that it would be dangerous to rely upon it afterward. A digital torque wrench may even be damaged beyond repair if dropped, or if you drop a heavy tool on it in a drawer, for instance. This is why you see many torque wrenches in protective cases. Keep those and ALWAYS store your torque wrench in it. NEVER drop a torque wrench and use it afterward without checking its accuracy. (Typically this means sending it in to be re-calibrated and certified) See the papers which I have in the Unior case in my image above? Those are certification papers on my wrench. Yes- these are precision measuring tools and should be handled with extreme care. No joke. 

Conversely, a torque key style tool should only be used in instances where you are checking torque of an already fastened part. These should never be used in assembly situations. Also, it should be noted that you shall NEVER USE A TORQUE WRENCH TO UNSCREW A FASTENER. Well,unless you don't care about accuracy. This even goes for torque key tools. Just don't do it. That's what regular tools are for. 

Detail shot of my Unior torque wrench.
What's My Favorite?

I bought a torque wrench a few years ago and before I did I determined that this wrench was going to be used on a consistent basis in a shop setting. I needed it to measure Newton meters primarily and within a range of 4N m to 20N m maximum. I did not want a digital wrench after having that Topeak one above which failed on me after about a year of use. (To be fair, the Topeak one is not really a 'daily shop use' type of tool) 

My research led me to Unior, and I've been very happy with this particular one I have. However; I now work at Andy's Bike Shop where he has a similar wrench from PRO, (Shimano's accessory/tool brand) and it also works very well. I would highly recommend either for 'serious' home usage. 

The Topeak wrench could also be a good home mechanic wrench if you are not constantly using it. When mine worked it was great, and I would not hesitate to recommend it for the serious home mechanic. 

Torque key type wrenches are okay for checking tightness of components, but I do not recommend them as 'assembly tools' for any reason. They generally are not calibrated or certified to a high standard, and with today's parts being so sensitive to torque, I would not rely on these tools to be accurate after being used several times for assembling bits. Checking on torque? Yes. Place one gently in your kit to double-check torque before a big ride. But don't buy one of these thinking you can 'get by' and assemble a bicycle safely with any modicum of accuracy. 

Oh, and those beam/deflection wrenches? I have those as back-up in case I have to send in my Unior for any reason. I wouldn't recommend them to most bicycle mechanics, but in a pinch, these are better than not using a torque wrench if used with care.

There is a LOT more to torque wrenches that I am not touching upon here. Things like how to use them and what to do with fasteners and more. Those are things you should research. But I hope that this primer on the subject of the torque wrench itself is useful. 

Thanks to "Sean" for the prompt to write this. Thank you for reading G-Ted Productions.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Once You Were Weird

These were once show-stoppers. Now? Meh!
 Last Summer I realized that I had owned and ridden "The Snow Dog" for ten years. I wrote all about my personal history with this bike. I detailed the changes, and where it sits now in my stable of bikes as far as usage and purpose. 

But one thing I did not get into, and which is also now ten years old, is the prevalence of fat bikes as a bicycle type. That may not seem like a thing to mark now, but if you jumped in and got a fat bike in 2011/12, you know what I mean when I say, these bikes were show-stoppers. 

Everywhere I went, people would gawk, stop or slow down in their vehicles, and maybe even yell something nice out the window at me because of these bicycles. There was just something about a fat bike which elicited a sometimes visceral, sometimes child-like curious reaction. Questions! Oh my, yes.....all the questions! 

"Are those hard to pedal?", or maybe the "Are those motorcycle tires?" comments were the earliest. I'd often get "Wow! That's a cool bike! How much did it cost?" Or, "That looks heavy! How much does it weigh?" Of course, often these would be followed by the famous, "What's a bike like that for?", or "Those only good for snow then, right?" I might even get the question asking where I got it. There were probably others I am forgetting. 

I remember when I was riding home from work one day on the original Ti Muk I owned. A car slow-rolled besides me and was filming me riding on his smart phone. Sheesh! That was odd! But such were the reactions of folks, and it stayed that way up until about a couple of years ago. Then I think something happened that kind of has made fat tire bikes ubiquitous in the minds of the general populace. 

Electrified bikes.

I call 'em HPC's (Hybrid Powered Cycles) because they have two power sources- electric motors and human power - but whatever you want to name these, they have become commonplace and fat tires on these are nothing unusual. In fact, average folks seem to want those over conventional bicycle wheels when it comes to HPC rigs. 

And the entry level/Amazon/internet brands seem to have picked up on this by offering wider tires in several diameters. 20", 22", 24", 26", and 27.5"ers are all running around on 3"+ wide rubber now. Common folk seem to think seeing a fat tire on a bicycle now is a dead giveaway that the bicycle has a motor. 

I got that take once when I was riding the Ti Muk 2 home from work in 2019. Of course, I had the generator lights blazing, so I suppose that also falsely pointed folks in the electric motor direction. But a guy rolled up beside me at a stop sign, rolled down the passenger side window, and yelled, "Hey! Is that an electric bike?" To which I answered, "Nope! I'm the motor on this thing!" The motorist looked at me with a disgusted look, shook his head as if to say, "You're insane", rolled his window up, and that was that! There was no way in his mind that I was not on an electric motorized bicycle, and he wasn't having anything to do with my explanations. 

I guess I was seen as being a weirdo. It used to be that the fat bikes were weird. Not so much anymore....

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Free At Last

Even memories can be taken away.
 Over four years ago I wrote this post concerning my Mom's old bicycle seen again here today. Well, yesterday she took her final 'ride' on outta this world. And it was a good thing.

See, my Mom was suffering from Alzheimer's. Her quality of life had been pretty dismal for well over a year now. But that's over. 

She has been set free. 

I'm glad it's over. The gut wrenching business of dealing with the disease and its affects has been far reaching. It wasn't just my Mom that suffered, but all of us that loved her and knew her did as well. That said, obviously I am most concerned about my Mom's freedom from those chains. It's sad, this death, but it is also good. 

One's mind often goes to memories of the past and what we experienced with the loved one that is now gone. But I find it rather ironic that this evil disease takes even memories away before death. 

Again I wonder: When was her last bike ride? When was the last time she ran? When was the last time she felt loved? 

Cherish every moment. Love over hate. Strive to live a peaceful life. 

Apologies for the heavy subject today, but I felt I had to address this. Thanks for reading if you made it this far.

Dedicated to Linda Belkin, who died Monday, October 25th, 2021. I'll miss you Mom!

Monday, October 25, 2021

Fall Views: Harvesting And Hawks

Canadian Geese flying over the Cedar River near the John Deere Foundry.
 Saturday was beautiful. Sunday? It was supposed to rain most of the day. I went for a Saturday ride then. 

I had thought about going for a really long ride Saturday but I wasn't feeling it in the days leading up to the weekend and it was forecast to be slightly below freezing for that morning. I hadn't even dragged out my Winter weather gear yet! I actually got that rotated out with the Summer stuff put away on Friday. So, my idea at this point was to wait until it got closer to 40°F and to wear that new T-6 wind vest I just got. 

I also wore some thermal wind bibs, an Endura brand base layer, my excellent Bontrager Merino wool jersey, and some GORE windproof gloves. The feet got the long, Sock Guy wool socks and the Northwave Winter boots. A Buff for the head under the Bontrager Starvos helmet, some Spy sunglasses and I was off on the Noble Bikes GX5. 

That place up on Burton Avenue with all the animal themed iron sculptures now has this scary spider in the yard.

This fallow field and clump of woods gave a bit of color relief from the browns of the crops and harvested fields.

So, with wind, what there was of it, coming from the Northeast, I decided a run for the Northern county border would do for a ride. Plus there are glimpses of several bits of woods along this route on the first half of the ride. Maybe I would catch some Fall colors? Possibly, and I was also sure that I would catch some harvesting action, what with the day being so great and the following day forecast to be very wet.

These two mutts gave chase but this was as close as they got to me.

A view up West on Mt. Vernon Road from the intersection with Burton Avenue.

Not all the crops are out yet. Most every soybean field was harvested, but several corn fields were yet to be worked, and as I went North, I did not see much activity, which I thought was a bit curious. But maybe it was still too early? Hmm... 

If you look carefully you can see a Red Tailed Hawk silhouetted against a cloud.

This hawk is a bit easier to see!

While initially the harvesting activity was scarce, the Red Tailed Hawk sightings were not! Normally I might see a few during a two hour+ ride. But I must have spotted nearly a dozen on Saturday. I'm not sure what was going on, but Mrs. Guitar Ted and my daughter also saw many hawks on a quick run they took to Minneapolis and back Saturday as well. 

St. Paul's church on Burton Avenue. Note the harvester machine in the distance on the road.

Rest stop: East Janesville church.

Eventually I did come across some harvesting activity when a very large combine came rolling up the road from the North. The machine had a corn harvesting head attached and the overall width of this thing meant that I had to abandon the road and wait in a driveway I came across. That was rather convenient because otherwise I would have had to have bailed off into the ditch! 

A smaller combine harvesting near Highway 63 on Marquise Road.

Two more hawks soar above this unharvested corn field.

I ended up at the county line and went East two miles to come back on my favorite road in the area, probably, which is Sage Road. I guess I like it because it has fast, flatter terrain up North and more rolling terrain as you get closer to Waterloo. Then you have the East Bennington School House, an old country church, and the "Big Rock" to visit. Plus, I hardly ever see a vehicle on this road.

Empty wagons waiting to be loaded with freshly picked corn from the harvester in the background.

A "Gleaner" brand harvester. You don't see many of these anymore. I actually got to operate one of these once!

Coming down Sage Road I saw a lot more harvesting activities. Combines were everywhere you looked and wagons, tractors, semi-tractor trailers, big trucks, and pick-up trucks were seen waiting on the machines to dump their loads to be hauled away. The pick-up trucks, while not used to haul corn, were no doubt the vehicles used to get the workers out in the fields. 

A stop at the Big Rock for a 'nature break'.
Two men chat while a harvester works the corn in the distance.

Eventually I found my way back home after a casual two and a half hour cruise in the country. It was a fantastic day out and it seemed that everyone, and everything, was taking advantage of what possibly could be the last nice day in 2021. 

While that may or may not be true, I'll be getting out much more often now that the shop is operating on Winter hours now and I'll have more time on my hands. Look for more ride posts including "Brown Season" and "Winter Views" posts to come before the year closes out.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Trans Iowa Stories: Going The Long Way Around - Part 4

This was pretty close to CP #1
 "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!

Getting back to the recon issues for T.I.v13, you might recall that I had to scrap the entire first leg to checkpoint #1 as I originally intended it to be due to the closure of a single, short span bridge on a Level B Road. 

This section ended up becoming a real head scratcher due to the fact that it was devised after the rest of the route. This made getting the mileage right a big priority, since adding mileage was out of the question. Typically I also liked to use a small village to host the checkpoint in, but looking back on it, I suppose a remote corner in the middle of no where may have had to do if I didn't get a short enough distance figured out. 

After hours of looking at maps, drawing up ideas, scrapping them, and then staring at the map to make sure I wasn't missing something, a route idea finally presented itself. I was actually pretty happy with how it turned out because I was able to put together several miles of previously unused roads into a town we had used as a checkpoint for v7, Baxter, Iowa. 

I had to burn up a day off at work to get this checked out though. It was a big rush to get there and back so I'd be around to gather kids from school and other family related stuff. The actual time spent on course was but a pittance of what the overall windshield time was for the day, but what else could I do? This was during a time in January when the roads were clear and I wasn't sick. Ironically I was sick before and right after this, and recon would have been out of the question. 

Then I had to wait until mid-March before another chance came up to go back down to the far Southwestern corner of the course where I wasn't happy with the original route. Jeremy agreed to come along so we hit the road early one March day and did our usual Frontier Cafe stop in Grinnell before getting over to where it was that I wanted to verify the course ideas I had. 

It was a bit of a mixed bag. I took out a huge chunk of pavement and replaced it with two others that added up to the same amount of pavement. Gah! But it was good too because I felt 100% better about a couple of big highway crossings and that the new ideas were far safer for the riders. 

So, this was pretty much the final bit of the puzzle in terms of putting together the complicated Trans Iowa v13 course. It also, at the time unbeknownst to me, was the last time I ever would do a recon with Jeremy. On the one hand, that sucked not knowing that would be the end of our run together. On the other hand, maybe it was good to just have it be another 'normal' recon for us. I don't know. But I do know that I still miss doing that with him. It was fun while it lasted. 

Now it was mid-March, 2017, and I had a little over a month to do a complete final recon with Wally and George, get the cues set in stone, and get them printed. The stress over the route for this Trans Iowa stretched from October to April, and a day didn't go by that I didn't fret about getting it done on time, much less having it be to the high standards we had set for the event in terms of cues for the last five years running. This all on top of getting other logistical and procedural things arranged for T.I.v13 and you know, the rest of my life outside the event. 

But at that point I was just happy to be looking at the light at the end of the tunnel, as it were. Trans Iowa v13 was coming together, but there was that last route check in April yet, and I was eager to schedule that as soon as possible.

Next: The final route check and trouble outside of Trans Iowa affects the day in "The Long Way Around - Part 5"

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Twin Six Ritual Wind Vest Review- Part 1

 NOTE: I bought these Twin Six products with my own damn money. This is not a paid review. I am doing the review without the knowledge of Twin Six or its distributors and marketing folks.

Another disclaimer- I've been a fan of the Twin Six guys and their stuff since, what? 2005? Since they cranked out their first thing, which was a pair of socks. I had those, and since then I've had several things from Twin Six. I used to be on their "Team" as a sponsored rider, and I've received product from them in the past at no cost to me. I happen to really like their stuff. 

I already have purchased a bicycle at employee discount and several items of apparel, along with some water bottles from them at full retail in the past few years. 

So, that's where I'm coming from with this review here, so you understand ahead of time my biases. That said, I won't hold back with any criticisms of this wind vest if they are warranted. 

Okay, so why a vest? Great question. I was not a 'vest fan' until a few years ago when Ben, my partner in made the suggestion that I get one when we did the custom Riding Gravel jerseys. Well, it really wasn't a 'suggestion' as much as it was done at his insistence. So, I got one thinking it very well may be a waste, but that I would try it out. And you know what? Ben was spot on about how versatile vests are and about how much I would like them. 

Well, you cannot have just one vest! So eventually I got a 45NRTH Naughtvind vest, which is nice, but it is really lightweight. I mean, I barely use the thing since there are very few days that its light, barely there fabric is worth having on. So, I decided to give this T-6 vest a try as it much more closely resembles the one I have with the Riding Gravel livery on it. Plus, it has flowers on it. Y'all know I like me some flowers, right? 

The back view. Note how the design crosses the pockets with barely any visual break. Pretty fancy!

Okay, so here's a bit of the technical babel from the T-6 website


• Lightweight, wind-proof micro-fiber ripstop fabric front
• Micro denier perforated fabric on back for ventilation
• Water and wind resistant
• Three back pockets
• Full length two-way zipper
• Unisex sizing
• Temp range: 50˚ to 60˚ F
• Made in the USA

 Okay, a few words on the above spec. First, this stuff is pretty true to size. Check the T-6 sizing charts before pulling the trigger on anything and you will be rewarded with a correctly fitting garment. This is a wind vest, so it fits snugger than not, as it should. You don't want a wind garment that flaps in the wind, if you care about aero and working less than you have to. 

The three back pockets are deep. Water bottles will stay put. Yes- that makes getting smaller stuff from the bottom harder while riding. The two-way, full-length zippers are beefy and high quality. I really despise poor zippers, and many garments for cycling I have, and have had in the past, fail because of chintzy zippers. I believe these T-6 zippers look a lot more like something that should hold up. That said, I am not a fan of two-way zippers. It is not something I would ever use, and they are fussy. It's an over-complication of a simple thing that should not be over-complicated, in my opinion. YMMV. 

The suggested temperature range is just that- suggested. I find garments like this to go well below 50°F for me, and in fact, I wouldn't even consider putting this wind vest on at anything above 50°. But there again, I am not like most folks, or maybe just some folks. 

Made in the "Oooo-sa!". Yeah, that's cool. More so now than ever, actually. But again- this may not hit you in the same way it does for me. I think it does inform the sizing though, as many overseas made apparel items are sometimes ridiculously small for the stated sizing. 

 Now back to the choice of a vest. I thought of one other detail that pushed me toward this vest and not the similarly designed Ritual Wind Jacket. That jacket only cost a little bit more, but it did not have the three rear pockets that the vest has. I think a wind jacket that ends up covering up your jersey pockets is limiting, and the Ritual Wind Vest does not do this. If the wind jacket had the three back pockets, or even a zippered, 'marsupial' style pocket, I would have strongly considered it. But T-6 didn't do this, so I opted for the vest after much back-and-forth before pulling the trigger.

I do have wind jackets which do feature zippered pockets for carrying stuff, and I love that about them, however, they have bogus zippers. Did I mention how much I despise poorly made zippers?

Stay tuned for more soon...

Friday, October 22, 2021

Friday News And Views

Canfield Yelli-Screamy
Canfield Bikes Announces Third Generation Yelli-Screamy:

Another long-low-slack geometry hard tail? (yawn) But there is a reason I post on this particular model today. It has more to do with its influence and history than it does with this third generation of the bike. 

Go back ten years ago. 2011 was a time, if you can recall, when many said that 29"ers would "never be in the long-travel categories or be all that good for anything playful and fun on real mountains". They were decent XC bikes, sure, but - you know - serious mountain biking? That was the province of 26"ers and the , at that time, new 27.5"ers. 29"ers would certainly never be 'that bike' you would ride on rowdy mountain trails. 

Then Canfield Bikes, and a few other niche brands, started fooling around with 29 inch wheels. The parts were barely  serviceable for such exploits, but they made it work. Canfield found itself a hit with the 29"er "Yelli-Screamy" model, and 29"er freaks were all over this bike when it came out back then. This sudden popularity of small brand hard tail and full suspension bikes with big wheels eventually got the bigger brand's attention. It took a few years, because the industry's dalliance with 27.5" stuff had to run its course first, but then 29"er hard tail and full suspension rigs started dominating the lines of the big brands by the mid to late 'twenty-teens'.  

So, here ya go. A hard tail which was a ground breaking model ten years ago, revamped for 'modern geometry', and at a price for a frame that, amazingly, is still pretty reasonable at $799.99. See Canfield Bikes for more.

First PRO Only "Gravel Event" In Italy:

What?!! You've never heard of Serenissima Gravel? Why, it was the very first PRO only roadie event held on gravel, that's all. (So, what is Strada Bianche then?) But you could be forgiven if you have not heard about this. It really doesn't affect many of us in the gravel community. 

But for some, this may be seen as a 'validation' of gravel as a racing surface. For me? It's nothing but PRO UCI sanctioned road racing on a different surface. Novel for roadies, perhaps, but calling this a 'gravel event' is a big misnomer. See, 'gravel events' are not just about licensed, male, elite athletes with no other riders and no 'culture' besides typical roadie fare. 

No, a 'gravel event' encompasses much more than racing. It is about finding one's limits, learning about how to be a self-sufficient cyclist, learning about caring for others, and it is all-inclusive. It is NOT just for the highest categories of male (and female, one would think) racers. However; Serenissma Gravel held its PRO only event with just one day of males racing. No females. And, of course, you could ride the next day on the course the PROs used (gasp! Really! You let them do that!) in a 'fondo'. Woo.....

But again- some may think this sort of thing is the bee's knees. And that's fine, but it is not 'gravel racing'. This is a gravel event, if you are wondering what I might mean. And so is the next item .....

Remembering When Things Were 'Iffy':

About a year ago this weekend I did something I thought was a bit daring. Some would say I was being a bit cavalier about the situation, and risking too much too soon. I went out of town to volunteer at a gravel event.

And now you think that sounds really mundane, right? I what? I went somewhere and did a good deed. Why on earth would that be 'risky'? 

Well, I think we all have kind of forgotten how tense we all were just a year ago with this whole COVID deal still ongoing. (And really, we still are not out of the woods yet) There was no vaccine, there were still social distancing and mask mandates, and fear and anxiety was high. People were unsure of what was 'okay', and doing a bicycle race was barely on that side of the line of being something folks wouldn't get too upset about if you were to engage in that activity. 

I had not driven beyond the bounds of Black Hawk County, at that point, in nearly six months. I had only been in a few towns by bicycle outside of Waterloo in that time, and we went once to Cedar Rapids for a football game my son was in. I had not seen anyone outside of Waterloo in nearly half a year. So, going to volunteer at the Spotted Horse marked a line, a breakthrough of sorts, and socially it was a bit of a shock and a relief. It actually was so uplifting that I felt guilty for doing that when so many other people were left sitting around in fear. 

Like I say, we are still dealing with this pandemic, but a year ago we were still engaged in fear and anxiety at a much higher level than we are now, in my opinion. The Spotted Horse, for me, was a big release of tension and a day which gave me some hope that we would, at some point, be doing things again socially. And that has mostly come true. 

I just wanted to mark this anniversary and say 'thank you' again to Dori, Sarah, and Steve, the RD's of the Spotted Horse. Good luck on your event this weekend.

That's a wrap for this week! Have a great weekend and thank you for reading G-Ted Productions.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Fall Views: Mournful Sounds

It was a beautiful looking day at least!
 Wednesday was to be a showery, cooler day by the afternoon. In fact, a few showers blew through the area early, just after Sunrise, and then it cleared off by about 9:00am. I wasn't going to wait to find out if the weatherfolk were wrong or right. I went and got my things on and grabbed the ol' Tamland Two for a ride South of town. 

The wind was stiff. Something above 20mph and at least a bit more out in the open, straight out of the Southeast. I decided to use my standard Southern jumping off point of Prairie Grove Park to go South and East a bit until I ran out of time, then turn around for a short, fast trip back to the truck. 

I had to be back shortly after noon to join my daughter for lunch, then I had other stuff to do for the rest of the day. So this little window had to work out or I was going to end up with nothing. Fortunately the day appeared to be beautiful, despite the constant wind coming in my face to start with. 

This ride was all about testing the Topeak Gravel Bag and the Tubolito tube I have still in the back tire. (More on that at the end of this post.) I don't much ride tubed tires anymore, and riding into that headwind, it was easy to blame my work on tubed tires which I perceived as 'holding me back'. The fact was that it was the wind. As I have said many times, 'Never judge a tire's performance on a windy day!

A field with freshly installed drainage tile near the corner of Orange Road and Ansborough

Some hints of Fall color on Ansborough South of Schrock Road

Going South on Ansborough wasn't too bad. Sure, I was working against a pretty stiff wind, but at least the gravel had been pulverized by the big harvest machinery and semi-tractor trailers which had obviously been doing their jobs recently by the looks of the fields. Every field down this road had been harvested, both corn and soybean fields.

The Raleigh Tamland I was riding has always had this odd quirk. Whenever I ride into a wind, or sometimes a crosswind, it begins to moan and whistle at a low pitch, varying with wind speed. I suspected that this was wind blowing across the opening at the bottom of the steer tube, and when I swapped over to the current Fyxation carbon fork, it didn't go away. It was just a bit different tone was all. 

Anyway, none of my other bikes really do this at all or with any consistency. Only the Tamland. So, as I went East, I got this mournful low tone going and it kind of fit the scenery and the time of year. Then when I turned away from going East- poof! That sound was gone. But the landscape was the same. Barren. Devoid of crops now. This laid bare the nature of this part of Iowa. It is a rolling prairie. A vast, mostly treeless plain. We usually don't think of our state in this way, but it is easier to do so once the harvest is in. 

A partially harvested corn field on Aker Road

A little further up the road, this combine sits idle, its job mostly done.

This is the time of year when the sky looks bigger, the land broader, and the sound of wind is the only thing that accompanies the grit of tires on gravel. The animals are all gone with the exception of a hawk or a few crows who fly silently on the wind. The 'neeker-breekers' are all silent now. Their life cycles completed for the year. It's coming up on "Brown Season" when everything falls silent and an eerie presence falls over the land until Winter covers that up with a white blanket of snow. 

It was a quick ride back to the park, and my truck, with that stiff wind at my back. The tubed tires didn't hold me back any, and in fact, had I not known a Tubolito was in the back, I would have thought that I had a rear tubeless set up. It rides that smoothly with that tire. Even despite the few miles of fresh, deep crushed rock on Aker Road on the way back. It was gnarly loose! I am really glad I didn't decide to roll out that way! 

This ride was supposed to help me with my final take on the Tubolito tubes, but I received an email from my contact which stated that maybe my ultra-light Tubolito which kept going flat within 24 hours was perhaps defective. I am expecting a new replacement soon. So, stay tuned on the final say on those orange things soon. 

Note: See the Standard Disclaimer page to understand my relationship and philosophy on products and services I receive and use for riding and which I talk about here on the blog.