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 RidingGravel.com 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

FINELY DESIGNED WEARABLES

• 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 mean.....so 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. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Fall Views: Tree Wrasslin'

Minimal tree color along the dike on Black Hawk Creek here.
 I mentioned in the Monday post that I had feared that I missed 'peak color' time for this Fall. Well, I was a bit off on that, apparently, and so I was wrong. It isn't quite to the peak yet. I found this out on my ride Tuesday along Black Hawk Creek in the Green Belt. 

I have hit that time of the year when I will have a lot more time off from work. I knew this was coming- it does every year in this business. So, I am not complaining, I'm just telling you how it is for me when Fall comes into its zenith and Winter is not far off. 

So, I was able to scoot out for a short jaunt into the Green Belt along Black Hawk Creek to see if the colors had popped and do my traditional 'pilgrimage ride'. The ride I try to do every Fall to remember my roots in mountain biking and to enjoy the Fall colors, be that what they may. See, the Green Belt was where I first rode a mountain bike in the late 80's and it is where I learned a lot of handling skills. 

Typically I would choose a single speed to do this ride because there usually are enough sticks and branches out there that a derailleur equipped bike runs the risk of having that dangly bit whacked off and it causing even more carnage. So, a single speed device generally is immune to such damage and chaos. But this time I took my Ti Muk 2, and it has gears, but they are hidden inside that big, German made hub, and cannot be harmed by the pitfalls of Fall riding. Plus, it is a fat bike, so really, it just crushes anything like a stick in its path with no problem. 

Work being done on the Fletcher Avenue crossing of the Black Hawk Creek.

There are some pretty places in the Green Belt if you know where to look.

The ride would be done as sort of a convoluted loop, thanks to my connector trail named "Marky-Mark". This provided me an excuse to see the condition of this trail. It generally is pretty low maintenance, and maybe some of that was by design, but I often think about how fortunate I was to lay this out, mostly by chance, along a line that just ended up being really sustainable. 

The angle of the light at this time of year makes riding in this area a real challenge from a sight perspective.

The 'money shot'. Most of the color was packed down into one corner as of this post.

Marky-Mark was clear as far as the tread of the trail went, but there were four dead-falls across it at certain points. One of which I was able to clear off myself. The others will require a saw. The wood is pretty dried out, and the sizes of the trunks are not all that big. It should not take much, but I'll have to source a trail saw and get back out there to clear that off sometime here soon. 

I tried moving those other trees, but they were just too long, too embedded into the duff around the area they were in, and I ended up having to let that go for now. But I tried moving each one. Tree wrasslin' should be a sport. It's a pretty much 'full-body' exercise action, and it would make for some comical viewing, I think. 

The new fishing pier at the Green Belt lake.

The best color tree I saw on the whole ride was like three blocks from where I live!

On the way back home I circled around part of the Green Belt lake and saw the new pier that had been installed recently. Call me a grump, a progress-hater, if you will, but it burns me up to see stuff like this being installed on this small water impoundment. They even put in a paved path going from the parking lot up to it. What once was a place uninhibited by man-made structure is now stained, in my view. Besides, I don't think a pier was at all necessary. 

And that pavement to it? A certain precursor to having a path paved around this small lake. Bah! Why do we think pavement is an improvement? I don't know where that came from. This small lake has a dirt path around it that is about as easy to walk on as you could ask for with zero maintenance. Even some small amount of thoughtful maintenance as it is now would make it so a wheel chair could easily go around the entire body of water. On dirt, yes. No, it would suck in the rain, but honestly, who would use it in inclement weather anyway? Likely no one, just as with our current paved trails. There just is no good reason to do the pavement out there. 

But I'm the odd one out in that way of thinking, I am sure.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Reader Mail: How To Clean Up A Tubeless Tire For Re-Mounting

Mess of old sealant to get off. How do you do it?
 Readers sometimes send in questions, sometimes I get a comment on a post, and these questions and comments are best answered in a blog post. I'll tag such posts as "Reader Mail". Here is the latest.....

This is the first in what should have been a long time running series here, but, ya know, sometimes I'm thick-headed when it comes to thinking about features for this blog. Anyway... Here is today's question from reader "S.C." (Note- The question was lightly edited for clarity)

 "I use Orange Seal for my tubeless bikes and spend a lot of time getting the old sealant off the bead of the tire. What do you use? I have used alcohol, Scotch Brite and rubbing my fingers back and forth, which works pretty good, but makes my fingers raw after a while. I have now 3 bikes with tubeless and I start to cringe when I think of replacing the sealant and cleaning the tires."

Cleaning up a tubeless tire after it has been used a while is smart maintenance. First of all, if you just keep jamming sealant into a tire when your sealant dries out, your tire is going to end up looking kind of like this one here to the left. That is not a good look! Plus it makes your set up heavier and less capable of sealing a puncture. 

So, the best call is to look at your tubeless tires at least once every six to twelve months by at least pulling a bead and cleaning things up- if necessary. Not every sealant dries up similar to another. For instance, Stan's often dries up into these clumps a lot of people refer to as "Stanimals". They are wet, slimy, and often a wet, slimy residue is left inside a Stan's sealed set up. In that case, a good cleaning with a rag and isopropyl alcohol is all you'll need to do there. Oh....and discard the Stanimal! 

An example where I probably wouldn't worry about cleaning off the old sealant.
Other sealants dry into thin, crusty skins. These are the least bothersome, and typically I don't even worry about the cleaning of those types of sealant, as long as the bead area is smooth. But you can sometimes get that sealant off with a brush and Monster Energy drink, in the the original flavor. (Yes, really. I've done it.) <===You probably can do the same thing, with less drama, using warm soapy water, by the way.

Then there are the sealants where you get a 'skin'. Kind of like peeling off a stretchy sticker, or a Sunburned patch of skin. I usually just do the peeling thing. It can be soooo satisfying! I don't know why that is. Anyway.... The bead area can be the hardest part of cleaning off a sealant like that, and our Reader Mail question today refers to just such a sealant. 

Orange Seal, when it dries out, does leave a 'skin' and you can peel it off. But as our question today reveals, getting this off from the bead to leave a clean area to seal against your rim is hard. This is important to achieve though, because leaving old sealant on a bead area invites a place for sealant to leak, or make your set up more difficult than it needs to be. A thin layer of dried sealant on the casing is really no big deal. I wouldn't even worry about that. But the bead area is a critical area to clean. So, just how do I get a bead area cleaned up? 

I decided to use this gross old sealant clogged tire as an example for today's post.

For my example today I used an old Terrene Honali tire I tested for RidingGravel.com a few years back. (Standard Disclaimer) This tire was run with my 'home made sealant' which dries up a lot like Orange Seal does. I used a ton of sealant in this tire over a fairly long period of time without cleaning it up. You can see the disgusting results! My task to answer today's question was to see how long it would take to clean up this tire to a state where I would feel comfortable using it on a new tubeless set up again. 

The main bit I had peeled out in five to ten minutes. The beads took a little longer, but I found a tool which sped up the process, and I think this will be something a lot of you can do at home which will help you get a tire cleaned up in a jiffy. 

This plumber's wire brush soldering tool worked a trick.

I had a wire brush which plumbers use for soldering, but you probably could use any wire bush made with finer gauge wire. Gently, and I mean gently, scrub the beads of the tire where sealant has built up until it balls up or an edge peels back. Then grab that and peel away as much as you can. Repeat as necessary. It is very important that you don't scrub so hard you cut into the rubber! You won't need to use much pressure as the wire will pull up the sealant easily. 

You don't need to have it 100% clean. This is good to go on to another rim now.

 I wouldn't use a motorized drill type set up either. Just go by hand and be gentle! My results were very satisfactory and the entire tire took about 15 minutes from start to finish to clean up to a point that I felt comfortable with remounting it. And you can see how mucked up it was to start out with! That went 360°, by the way. It wasn't just on one side of the tire. 

Obviously the best practice is to not let sealant dry out 100% and then it cleans up initially with a rag, then some soapy water, and a follow up with a dry rag. But sometimes you don't catch it that way and it ends up all dried up. Then you can use these tips to get that tire ready for remounting and a new dose of sealant. And by the way, while you are in there, replace your tape, valve core, or the entire valve. It isn't worth trying to reuse these things if they look even the tiniest bit 'iffy'. I replace tape before remounting any tires and I replace valve cores every six months religiously. Cheap insurance!

I hope this helps! If you have further tips, leave them in the comments. Also, I take questions for future Reader mail posts at g.ted.productions@gmail.com. 

Thanks!

Monday, October 18, 2021

Visitations

Fall color seen on my walk Sunday.
 This wasn't to be a typical weekend here for me. Andy had taken vacation and I had to tend to the shop all week long. That meant I had to work another Saturday. The week itself went better than expected. I was busier than I had anticipated I would be, which is good for business, obviously, but better for me. I really do not like standing around 'baby-sitting' a shop with nothing to work on. That drives me bonkers. 

So, having a mostly busy week was good, that is, until Friday. That was brutal! I had very few people walk in the door and a LOT of dead time to fill. I had caught up on repairs and had little else to do but clean and organize. 

So, Saturday I feared for the worst. I had worked a Saturday recently and it was pretty much like the Friday I just described. I was thinking I was going to possibly lose my mind, but a couple of surprise visitations happened which saved the day. I guess mentioning here that I would be in the shop Saturday was a good thing, because both folks who came in to see me said it was because I had mentioned I would be working that they made the effort to see me. 

So, the first individual that surprised me with a visit was someone who I hadn't seen in well over a decade. I think the last time I saw this person was at a Frostbike in 2008. So, yeah.... A LONG time had passed since I had seen this guy. I used to make mention of him a lot when this blog first began, and since that was over 15 years ago, most of you folks probably don't know or remember that.

His name is Clay. I've known him since I first was in the bicycle business back in the 90's. I used to refer to him by his nick-name here, which was Dirtram, which was a play on his surname name. Anyway, he worked at the shop where I last worked, and I think our time there overlapped maybe a few months or so, but it wasn't very long before Clay moved on and out of my reckoning. The last time I think I saw him was about five years after I saw him previously, so when he came in and visited me Saturday it was a big surprise and we had a lot of catching up to do. 

Rick Chalfant, third from left here, was the other visitor Saturday.

After a few customers came in, Clay excused himself, and then it was awhile before another surprise visitor stopped by. It was Rick, who had been up last for a GTDRI in 2016. 

He read on the blog that I would be there, and since he was up for a family function, he made some time to swing by and chat for a bit. It was great to catch up with Rick and talk about our families and riding. 

Then some more time went by and I was about an hour out from shutting the door when my wife and son dropped by and so that made the end of my day a lot nicer than I thought it was going to be. The only bummer was that I didn't get to ride my bicycle home from work. 

So, yeah......no ride out in the country. No ride in the woods, like I traditionally try to do at 'peak Fall color time', and there was another reason for that. My family has been battling head colds, with the exception of myself- so far- and so I stuck around the house to lend a hand where I could with chores and taking care of people. 

I likely missed peak Fall colors, but sometimes more important things come along, like seeing old friends and acquaintances and being there for your family when they need you to be. It ain't always all about bicycles.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Trans Iowa Stories: A Look At Sponsors For The Last Trans Iowas

A small craft bag maker by the name of Knickerbakken made these for v13.

"Trans Iowa Stories" is an every Sunday post which helps tell the stories behind the event. You can check out other posts about this subject  by clicking on the "Trans Iowa Stories" link under the blog header. Thanks and enjoy! 

As Trans Iowa went on, not only were certain people enamored of the event enough to come and ride in it, certain people were attracted to it enough that they found ways to be a part of the event through other means than by direct participation in it. One of those was a man who crafted custom made cycling 'wallets' for tools and tubes. 

His company was called "Knickerbakken", and he just wanted to do some work with the T.I.v13 logo. I allowed that and he sent out about six wallets which I ended up passing on to some special volunteers of the event. I still have mine and when I look at it I am struck by the amount of work and detail that went into making this. I am truly still astounded that anyone would have done this for Trans Iowa. 

Then there were the items that my partner in RidingGravel.com made for Trans Iowa. Ben made me a flask for v13, but for v14 he went all-out and we had bottle openers made for everyone in the event out of stainless steel. I also got a few flasks made and some coffee mugs which I handed out to my dearest volunteers.

Flasks and the bottle opener that Ben Welnak made for T.I. v13 and v14

Of course, we had more 'traditional' sponsors as well. The interesting thing about sponsors, for this era of Trans Iowa or earlier, was that I almost never asked for sponsors. I admit- I am really bad at that. Not that I never asked, because in a few instances I did. No, what was unique about Trans Iowa was that, as far as I know, it was an event that businesses and people wanted to do things for. The smaller, more 'under-the-radar' sponsors really exemplify this, I think. That's why I am spending time writing about this now. 

Some of the more traditional sponsors were WTB and Velocity U.S.A. Both were multi-year sponsors which came on board in the last several years of the event. Velocity liked to do this thing where they gave away a wheel set but only to the last person to make Checkpoint #2 on time and then finished, so basically the last placed person. I always thought that was cool. 

WTB was even more egalitarian with prizing. They would give away a set of tires to every finisher! This wasn't always easy to forecast, obviously! We had no finishers, then 40+, then 6 the following year. It was a good idea that was a bit hard to implement, but they were always up for it. 

The Trans Iowa v13 t-shirt, inspired by a post card sent in by a T.I.v3 rider, and funded by Lederman Bail Bonds.

We would often get collaborative efforts that would result in cool items for the riders. The T.I.v13 t-shirt being one of those. It was, in fact, the last t-shirt done for the riders. Lederman Bail Bonds always was very generous with sponsorship monies and I allocated a big portion of that to getting these made. It was all based upon a design from a post card entry for Trans Iowa v3 sent in by Gary Cale. I ran the idea by him and he allowed us to modify the idea to fit the v13 theme seen above. Ironically, the t-shirt fit the event like a hand in glove. 

N.Y. Roll also did another volunteer's t-shirt for v13.

N.Y. Roll had done a t-shirt for the volunteers of v12 and he stepped up again for the volunteers of v13 with another design. This time he used the v13 logo and put it on an ash gray t-shirt. He did both the v12 and v13 designs without any prompting, or even with my knowledge, beforehand. Again, showing what lengths people would go to in order to show their respect and love for Trans Iowa. It was simply amazing and I know of no other event which allowed, or even asked for, such participation in an event in these unique, creative ways. 

I should also mention sponsors like Pedal of Littleton, Salsa Cycles, and Bar Yak, all sponsors in one form or another which would come alongside Trans Iowa and offer goods and merchandise for the prizing table year after year. There certainly were others, and of course, the anonymous donors of cash and pre-paid gift cards who would slip me their support at the Meat-Up, or in a letter ahead of a Trans Iowa, just to make sure that this event was well funded and backed. 

All of these things were out of respect and love for Trans Iowa. I am, now and always will be, forever in these people's and company's debt for what they have done for this event during the years it was run. It wasn't so much the things, or the money, it was what the motivations were that I find really special. A 'thank you' is all I have to give, but it just never seems like enough.

Next: Back to the route finding for v13

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Thoughts On Boxes And Bikes

Trek filed a patent on this bike box design recently.
 "NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned....." 

Friday I pointed out this article in which the author writes that he thinks there may be a coming "D2C" (Direct To Consumer) model for Trek Bikes in North America. Based upon the patent filing alone, one might be led to such conclusions. However; there may be more going on here than meets the eye. 

Many commenters on the "WhellBased.com" article mentioned that it might be odd for a D2C strategy from Trek when they have been purchasing retail outlets like crazy of late. And that seems to be at odds with this D2C thinking. 

However; there is another way to look at this. Yes, there is no doubt that Trek has bought into several retail chains and outlets over the past five years or so. They are not about to abandon retail, but that doesn't mean that they are going to continue into the future as a traditional bicycle retailer either. So, how does a consumer driven delivery system, as exemplified by the box patent, jive with a retail setting? 

Fulfillment of orders, that's how. Here is how I see this working. In the future Trek, (and probably Specialized, Cannondale, etc)  will have retail "showroom" centers where you can walk in and see samples of everything- and I mean every single bike - that they make. The thing is, they may only have a single example of, let's say a more niche bike, or their Project One line, or of a 'halo bike' they offer. But in the 'bread-and-butter' categories, you'd have one on the showroom and a full size run in the back.

Bikes with high-end spec, or that are specialty bikes, would be sized professionally and ordered. These bikes would likely be delivered at the showroom, but not necessarily. However; the more pedestrian level offerings would be sized and test ridden at the showroom with any sale made being a "D2C" delivery. (In store bikes would be samples only) The consumer would still have 'touch-and-feel' opportunity and service would be commensurate with the price of the bike. Basic offerings would be delivered to the consumer direct while high-end bikes would get the red carpet treatment with professional fitting and all of that. 

Showrooms would be stocked with all the Bontrager goodies and accessories from select brands. But as far as the basic line, most of those sales would be D2C and the customer may never see the showroom at all. Outside of areas with Trek Showrooms, the D2C model would work and service would be done by "Trek Approved" local bike shop service providers. (Who theoretically could be service providers for other brands as well) These shops would not be Trek dealers, but merely approved by Trek to do maintenance and warranty service where Trek Showroom outlets were not local to the consumer. 

Obviously, this is all conjecture, but with regard to this bike box and Trek's owning retail spaces, it would make sense. 

Now, I see all the big four brands and some second tier brands doing D2C in the next five years, or they will be pushed out of the marketplace. Retail spaces for bike shops will be owned by brands, and the independent shops won't necessarily be bike purveyors as much as they would be service centers and "Authorized Fulfillment Centers" for certain brands. Think of it like this- Some shops are already building and servicing certain e-bike brands, but are not necessarily dealers. It isn't 'just repair as usual', because it's deeper than that. I've already experienced this at Andy's Bike Shop.  

How This Will Affect Micro-Brand Bikes: There will always be those brands that are so small that they don't really trip the radar of the mid to big brands. However; with more pressure on all aspects of the retail supply chain, and with demand being what it is yet, we may see factories exert demands which may push several smaller 'micro-brands' out of the retail picture. I would describe a 'micro-brand' as one that has limited supply of bikes/frame sets, or that makes its living outside of the typical bicycle retail channels. 

I know of at least one instance of a brand being pushed to the brink of shutting down due to their factory upping the minimum order on each size, and I have to think that this is not a one time example. Many of these smaller companies cannot carry inventory in a warehouse, or a warehouse bigger than they already use, or they may not even have the monetary horsepower to pull the lever on a bigger minimum order. 

So, in these times, we may see a shrinking of 'fringe brands' and a narrowing of offerings from those that can survive. It will be a different landscape going forward for smaller companies, that's for sure.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Friday News And Views

Gravel Worlds seeks to have at least 1000 women in '22
Gravel Worlds Launches Women's Initiative:

In an effort to balance out the participation of women in Gravel Worlds with the men, Gravel Worlds is offering a 1000 spots across its various distances exclusively for women ahead of the opening of regular registration next month. 

An incentive for doing this is that Gravel Worlds will be donating a certain amount per registrant and they have a matching grant lined up to double the impact. From the press release:

"Gravel Worlds will be donating $5 per rider to the Nebraska Interscholastic Cycling League (Nebraska NICA Chapter) to their GRiT (Girls Riding Together) campaign for the first 1000 woman who sign up for the 300-mile, 150-mile, 75-mile, or 50k cycling distances. In addition, Gravel Worlds sponsor, HMH Logistics will be matching this donation for a potential total of $10,000 donated to GRiT."

Gravel Worlds also announced a gender nuetral category for their main event as well. More details can be seen at Gravel Worlds website. 

Gravel Routes Approved By Women:

I saw on social media where there is a site exclusively for women that curates routes on gravel. This is kind of Colorado/inter-mountain West-centric, but there are some rides from all across the US. 

Interest in routes has always been high and this probably will be a popular resource for those out West. However; I could see where someone might try a nationwide data base of gravel routes with information and ratings like this site has. 

It is interesting and I've been asked to drop routes I've come up with in the past, but there are a few issues with regard to providing 'curated routes' which you may not have thought of. For instance, let's say you draw up a route and give information on it with points of interest and places where you can resupply, or places you'll pass through to see and get things at. Well, let's say a bridge goes out, or a place closes that was the linchpin for resupply. Now let's say someone gets bitten by that who had planned a big vacation around 'your route' and deems their money spent and time taken off a waste due to 'your incompetent information'. You can say "Hey! I am only telling you this could be a good route to ride", but you'd be wasting your time and now you've got a ticked off person emailing you their negativity. 

You can disclaim things till the cows come home, but that won't change the hassle and the energy drain of dealing with ignorant people. I'm not saying that these women shouldn't do what they are doing, but I am saying why I won't ever do that. I know others provide routes, and you might think it is "no big deal", but after putting a gravel calendar out, (which I quit doing for reasons like I have pointed out), I know what can happen. 

PON Holdings Purchases Dorel Sports: 

A big merger in the bicycle industry happened this week when it was announced that Pon Holdings bought Dorel Sports for $810 million. This may sound like gibberish to you, so let me break it down into 'bike nerd' language. 

Essentially what this means is that A bunch of Euro bike brands owned by Pon, including the US MTB brand Santa Cruz and the Euro racing brand Cervelo, are now joined together with Cannondale, GT Bikes, Schwinn, and Pacific Cycle. 

The sale should be completed by Spring 2022, according to several reports. It is thought that this will form the world's largest specialty bicycle group, eclipsing the former top company, Giant. 

Comments:  Typical of Pon Holdings, I would expect them to make minimal changes to the brands they acquired in this sale. Santa Cruz, when it was purchased by Pon several years ago, basically continued on unchanged, as an example. What I would expect is an injection of capital with this acquisition allowing these companies to advance and grow further. It would be congruent with Pon's past historical bicycle business ventures. 

With electrified bicycles being all the rage in Europe and now in the US, I would also expect a big change in how many models some of these brands Pon acquired carries in their ranges. Anything beyond that is a mystery to me at this point, but again, most folks probably won't see a difference now, or in the near future, with regard to this sale.

The 2022 Carbon Mukluk XT (Image courtesy of Salsa Cycles)

Color Changes Highlight Salsa Fat Bike Line For '22:

Yesterday Salsa dropped the news on its 2022 line of fat bikes. It is pared down from previous years, probably due to supply chain issues. But whatever the reasons, you get basically two levels of Beargrease and Mukluk. 

Comments: It is interesting to see Salsa stick with the skinwall fat tires on the Mukluk. I like the look as it hearkens back to the original Pugsley, but I am sure it is a polarizing spec choice. The other notable thing here is that both the Beargrease and the Mukluk in current versions are pretty long in the tooth. There really hasn't been any innovation for 5 years. 

And what about the Blackborow longtail fat bike? There was nothing in the press release about that bike. I would assume it fell victim to the shortages and Salsa is only offering what it can make which sells the best for now. Clearly that is the Beargrease and Mukluk platforms. 

Parting Shot: Is Trek planning on going to a D2C model soon? This article shows why that may be true. 

That's a wrap for this week. Have a great weekend and get out and ride!