Friday, December 31, 2021

A Look Forward To The New Year

 Well, that was a year with many ups and downs! But now it is time to look ahead at 2022. This post will focus on my bicycling goals, writing goals, and specifically how all that relates to the blog here.

Before I move on, I would be quite wrong and remiss to not recognize you- my dear readers! Without many of you this would not be as rewarding of an experience, nor would I have my life enriched by your visits at times or by your kindness in commenting. I hope that 2022 brings you much joy and blessing. 

Okay, as for me, I again do not plan on doing a full boat of events, but some? Yes. There may be some events. Looking at that, here are my thoughts on what I'd like to do in 2022. 

Back in the day, years ago, you had to travel all over the place to get to ride in a gravel event. Iowa- for whatever reason- was not developed much in terms of events. And when events came, they went again, and there was really not a lot of stability. So, now we have Relentless Events, the slew of fun, grassroots events by Ben Petty/Wolf Creek Cycling Company, Redfield Rock & Roll, SWIGG, the Iowa Gravel Series, Snaggy Ridge 105, the Prairie Burn in Grinnell,Turds of Misery, and long standing events like the Buffalo 105, CIRREM, and more that I am forgetting. Iowa- finally- has become a hotbed of grassroots type gravel events. So, why go travel when I can stay close to home? 

 I've made the mistake of listing a schedule of events here before and then years later I note that I did not do many of them. So, instead I may just make a goal and see if events fit my goals, enter those events, if I want to, and go ride. Or- I may just do things like my ToBHC. I have scores to 'settle' with a few courses that I just so happen to have the cues for. Maybe I do that instead? Or- Maybe I go do specific trips for certain rides I come up with and to see people who live in those areas. 

I haven't made up my mind. And I may have my mind made up for me. I am looking for employment now that I am out of a job due to Andy's going out of business. What the future there is, I don't know. That may ultimately determine what, if anything, I get to do on a bike in 2022.

The Shady Grove Store from my Tour of Black Hawk County ride.

 I did two legit centuries and a couple metrics this past year. This is a goal that does not rely on coming up with entry fees, travel money, or time chunks. I can just do century rides and I'd like to do more than I did last year. So- at least three. But perhaps more? I have to get an earlier start than I did this past year! 

In the realm of writing, I have a big decision/project looming with regard to the "Trans Iowa Stories" series which is going to draw to a close here early this coming year. I only have to finish up writhing about T.I.v13, the time between v13 and v14, the final Trans Iowa event, and then the posts I will write up to kind of tie everything up and end that series. 

I don't know how long into 2022 that will take me, but I'd wager right through the Spring would be a reasonable guess. Then comes the monumental task of turning all that material from a weekly series into a cohesive book. As far as I can tell, that's going to take a rewriting of it all. There will have to be a ton of editing. Oddly enough, some of what I've written most recently belongs at the beginning and some of the beginning won't see the book at all.

And then there are the images! Gah! 

An image of Trans Iowa v9 by Wally Kilburg

Once the Trans Iowa series is completed I plan on doing a Sunday series on the "Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational" event which I put on from 2006-2019. I will explore the roots of that ride's ideas and I will detail each year's event. I will show how the GTDRI was widely misunderstood, how it evolved, how that it wasn't always my idea every year, and also how the GTDRI routes often were recons for parts of future Trans Iowa routes. 

Otherwise I don't foresee a lot of changes on the blog front here. I keep thinking I'll cut back on the amount of posts I do every year, but somehow, even despite not having Trans Iowa going on anymore, I keep writing in the 265+ posts a year range. Last year I wrote the most posts I have ever written in a single year at 389. So, yeah..... I cannot sustain that every year, I don't think, so we will see.

An image from the 2018 GTDRI that ran on for a story.

 There still will be a "FN&V" every week, at least that's the plan. But yeah.... Ride reports, industry news, cycling related hoo-hah, and some personal things here and there. That's what I think will happen here for 2022.

But if there was one lesson learned in the last year it is this- Nothing is guaranteed in Life. I may or may not be sitting here pounding away at these keys in a year's time. I've been very, very fortunate to have had zero breaks in posting for 16 years now. SIXTEEN YEARS! That's insane! I mean, through sicknesses, deaths, calamities, and more, this blog has not failed to be posted- nearly daily- for all those years. Can we expect that streak to continue? Who would blame me if something happened which would break that string of consistency? Could happen- hope that it doesn't!

I was pretty famous (infamous?) all those years during Trans Iowa for warning folks that at some point Trans Iowa would end. Similarly I also know that at some point THIS blog will end. When? Don't know..... But as the years wear on I see that possibility more clearly now than ever. Someday, I'll make my final post here. I just hope that it is on my own terms, but- you never know. 

Okay, so that was pretty dark! But I'm trying to be a realist here. Especially in these somewhat still uncertain times as we move along with COVID and all of that. Plus, as I have said, a lot of bad stuff has happened and I imagine that has somewhat colored my outlook for 2022. Again- this isn't my favorite time of the year, although I know many profess a love of the holidays, I always breath a sigh of relief when they are over. And that is my 'ray of light' now- all the holiday season is behind us after tomorrow.....

And on that note, I wish you all a very Happy New Year full of taking in every moment and savoring it intentionally. I wish you all a year of doing things with a fullness of gratitude for being able to do them. I wish you all a year of Peace and Happiness as much as you can effect those things. Most of all, I thank you for reading the blog and I wish you all the very best. 

Peace and Love,

Guitar Ted

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Rear View 2021: Winter Begins

Header from the beginning of Winter 2021.
  Hello! it's time again to review the year on Guitar Ted Productions. The "Rear View" has been a staple of the blog since almost the very beginning. This year there will be five Rear View posts looking back on Winter's End, Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter's Beginning. I'll also have a post looking ahead at 2022 near the end of the month. Enjoy the look back and thanks for reading Guitar Ted Productions!

I have a confession to make: "I really do not like the months of November or December". Lots of bad things have happened to me in these months and as Winter approached, it seemed as though this was the case again. At the very end of October my Mother died and then on November 23rd, I found out my job at Andy's Bike Shop was over when Andy called and told me he was pulling the plug on the business. 

But I've weathered these month's storms before and worse ones than this. (If you can believe that.) And, of course, it wasn't all bad stuff. No, something happened which really was a huge surprise to me and alleviated much worry concerning my finances going forward for a bit. (Sorry about being so cryptic but I am not at liberty to say a lot more about what happened. Just that something good did happen.)  I had lots of riding going on yet. I had a nice surprise when a former coworker of mine had her son down for a visit and he came over to ride some gravel one day with me. That was a good time. There was also the wrapping up of review items for the year/season which kept me busy as well. 

Ben Morris snapped this image of me from our ride in November.

The weather, while often times so windy you dare not ride, was actually pretty nice. We did get a couple of good rains, but we are still really dry and the end of the year was mostly too dry again. Cracks in the roads in November are not a very good sign! Record temperatures (70 degrees plus! What!!) and tornadoes and high straight line winds (WHAT?!!) hit Iowa as well. Hopefully late Winter in 2022 will see snow and Spring will be wet enough to bring things back into balance again. 

On the blog I reviewed some oddball Tubolito tubes which weigh next to nothing, pack down to the size of a golf ball, and feel like plastic. They work great though, by the way. I also reviewed American Classic's 700c X 40mm tires here since I purchased them, and that published here late into November as well. 

I did a series on bikes I've kind of neglected. This one is my 2003 Karate Monkey

 I continued the series called "Neglected But Not Forgotten" which was concerned with bicycles I haven't used much or at all in 2021. I did this on a lark, but I'll be danged if it wasn't a popular series, based upon the hits those posts racked up. Who knew that you folks were into bicycles? (Ha! Only kidding. Of course you are into bicycles, if you read this blog, that is.) 

I did a post on not getting in a long ride on my single speed Standard Rando v2 and someone suggested that I do a "Virtual Turkey Burn" challenge over the Thanksgiving Day weekend where folks could drag out a 'neglected bike' and do a long ride. So I put the word out. I did my own long "Turkey Burn Ride" the Saturday after Thanksgiving on a glorious, warm, Sunny day which saw temperatures nearly reaching 60°F. 

A scene at the bridge over the West Fork of the Cedar River on Willow Road in Butler County.

I compiled a few folks images and stories into the "Virtual Turkey Burn Report" which ran on the blog here a week later. It was fun and I was pleased to see some folks get inspired by a reader's suggestion for a ride. I ended up getting four reports with images. I also found out a fifth ride was done in Kansas of 100 miles on gravel. So, I was glad the idea sparked some activity.

December came in warm at first, for December at least, and my focus became one of wrapping things up on the reviewing side, as mentioned above. There was some cleaning in the shop, (my personal shop!) and plans were made to clear out some more old junk that had accumulated over the years. I guess you could say I am a bit of a pack rat! 

Early in December we got Felix to come and live with us.

Early in the month of December we brought home a new cat from the animal shelter and named him Felix. He's been a ball of energy and is keeping me on my toes! 

I also reviewed the Bontrager Circuit WaveCel helmet here which is about the best fitting helmet I've ever used. I also wrapped up my take on the Twin Six wind vest I had gotten earlier in the Fall as well. 

December took a turn for the cold and windy just after the beginning of the month, but then it went all warm, (for this month) and nice again, which got me out for more riding. As mentioned earlier, on the 15th we broke a record for the warmest day of any December ever. Weird! As of this posting we just got snow on the ground! About three inches.....maybe. It's downright cold - in the single digits- and will be that way for a few days with more snow to come New Year's Day (/) Stay tuned on that.....

Later in the month I brought home all my stuff from Andy's and that kind of put a bit of finality on the bike shop days for the time being. 20 years straight (between two bike shop gigs) is a long time to be doing anything. I did pick up a part time, fill-in gig as a mover just to keep busy. 

Of course, the blog was rife with the usual end-of-year stuff and now that brings us to today. Tomorrow I will have a look at the future here and what may happen with me for next year. Thanks for reading, as always!

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Bikes Of 2021: Twin Six Standard Rando v2

Earlier 2021 version of the T-6 Standard Rando v2
 It's the end of the year and time to review what's up with the bikes I used over the course of 2021. You'll get a brief overview, any changes made, and what the future has in store for each bike listed. Enjoy!

The Standard Rando v2 is my newest bicycle in the stable here. I purchased this in the Summer of 2020, so it is my 'pandemic bike', I guess. But be that as it may, this one also does a lot of review work, so once again- Standard Disclaimer.  

Okay, so this single speed has seen the most changes of any of the bikes here this year. From 650B wheels and tires and a mustache bar to 700c wheels and tires and a drop bar, the Standard Rando v2 has been a joy to ride and with the Redshift ShockStop stem, even that beefy, over-built front carbon fork is no big deal anymore. 

Drop bars, 700c wheels

 If you ask me, (and you probably wouldn't, but I'm telling you anyway!), I like the 700c better and the drop bars are better too. So, don't expect to see the Standard Rando set up the way it was this Spring here again. That said, for Winter/early Spring, I may go back to the 650B wheels as they seem to track better in poor conditions and softer terrain. 

I recently added an under-the-downtube water bottle cage for better self-sufficiency. I did not have to stop at all at a convenience store on my Turkey Burn ride, as an example. I like that, especially with regard to this pandemic deal. So, while some may eschew all the bottles due to 'the look' or because of 'aero' concerns, I don't care. Self-sufficiency trumps all of that for me. If I can pack it on me or the bike, I will do that first. 

Changes? Probably only review items from this point. I really like it single speed. I'd be hard pressed to go geared with this bike, although I'd likely love it that way also. So, for now, what you see is what you will get to see. Besides a pipe dream I have of getting single speed specific through axle disc hubs for this, and maybe a new crank set- that carbon one is getting pretty janky looking, I just don't see any big changes anytime soon. 

That's a wrap on the Bikes of 2021. Thanks for reading these entries!

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

A Little Catching Up

A Christmas Day ride
With all the looking back on things, you may be wondering what is up in current terms with me here. Well, this post is aimed at catching you up on happenings around Guitar Ted Headquarters. 

So, I need to go back a bit here to help this make sense. When Fall was coming on, I was prepared for not working much through the Winter, and to prepare for that, I had been saving money to pay bills and whatnot. However; I wasn't quite where I felt comfortable. So, through speaking with a friend of mine, I found out there was a very part time, hit or miss chance that I could pick up some extra cash by helping at a moving company. I said I was interested, since every little bit helps, and I can pick things up and set them down again. (This isn't to belittle what movers do, I just had no idea what I was in for)

Of course, then Andy announced that he was going out of business. I put a bug in this person's ear that I was out of work. Then at about this time a miracle happened, (literally) that made it so that I wasn't going to have any financial stress over the Winter. But I had made a pledge to help at this moving company, so in order to uphold my word, I went to work a couple of weeks ago as a mover. 

The first day on the job I whacked my knee against something while using a two-wheeler cart which was loaded with boxes. I didn't think much of it at the time, but the next day my knee was stiff and sore. The moving bit- very hard work. So, my whole body was a bit 'angry' with me anyway, and it took about three days before my knee got to feeling 'okay'. Of course, no riding happened, so I wouldn't do any further damage. I didn't have to go in again until after those three days and then it was two days in a row which pretty much kicked my knee to the curb. It gets better every day, but I'm only doing short spins near the house and I'm doing some icing, stretching, and self-massage to get the swelling down. Walking helps. Spinning fast on a bike really helps, and so those are the things I've been doing. 

This weather is crazy for late December.

Meanwhile the weather has been insane. 47°F in Iowa on Christmas Day? Unheard of! I mean, we've had 'no-snow' Christmas Days before, but never this warm, to my recollection anyway. I'm sure January will somehow manage to balance the ledger, so I'm not at all thinking that we're going to get an easy time of it. Nope! But every day it is like this is one less day Winter can be brutal, cold, and snowy. The way I have it figured, we only can have two and maybe a half months of real Wintry weather before the Sun starts to win and Spring does its thing here again. 

I'm doing some rearranging in the shop, I have a project or two in mind, and I expect that I may be doing a bit 'more moving of things' with that moving company for a bit. We'll see. If this knee doesn't improve I may have to 'retire' from that experience. And let me tell ya- this is quite an experience! Meanwhile, I am probing my outlook for a different job, but I won't get real intent on that until the New Year is by.

I've got a few more "Rear View"things happening and then the "State Of The Gravel Scene" posts will kick off the New Year with a "Trans Iowa Stories" post sandwiched in there. After Tuesday next week I'll be back to regular blogging again. So, things will be 'back to normal' here soon.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, December 27, 2021

Rear View 2021: Top Ten Posts Of 2021

Last year I posted concerning the top posts of the past year. I thought it was another fun way to look back over the year via the perspective of what caught the reader's attention here. 

So, I thought it would be fun to rank the Top Ten posts from the blog during the calendar year 2021. These posts are ranked according to what Blogger stats tell me were the most read posts of the year. 

I'll start with #10 and work up to #1. Each post will be linked so you can go back and read it if you so choose. Then I will comment a bit on each post. 

#10: Just Because You Can Doesn't Mean You Should - July 6th, 2021

This post was generated by response to a Tweet regarding the possibility that the governing body, USAC, was going to create a Pro level gravel series of events. While that has yet to come true here, the World governing body, UCI, did actually create a series for 2022. How much longer will it take for USAC to follow suit?  

Recently the CEO of USAC stepped down to take a better paying position at the mattress company, Purple. The CMO of USAC also recently quit. An influencer on social media who was on their Diversity Committee recently gave up their position. So......with USAC's leadership in disarray? It may take some time before we see anything like a gravel racing series from this organization.

#9: Twin Six Standard Rando v2: One Year Review - July 14th, 2021

The one year review of my Standard Rando v2 bike was the next most popular post on the blog for 2021. The bike was pretty much what I expected it to be having owned the previous quick release axle version of the Standard Rando. This time I got the carbon fork though, so this bike came out a bit lighter due to that choice. 

I like the much more versatile bottle boss arrangement of this version and that I could set it up as a single speed with a really clean look. My only real beef with the Standard Rando is that it has limited tire clearances compared to my other gravel bikes and to most current gravel offerings. That's okay though, as it forces me to keep relearning that one doesn't always need big tires to enjoy gravel travel.

#8: Life Time Fitness Announces New Series For Gravel & MTB - November 23rd, 2021

Well, while USAC waffled during 2021, Life Time Fitness wasted no time in creating a series of six events that they are dubbing the "Life Time Gran Prix". Half of the events are MTB while the other half are gravel. 

It's an interesting move with the series being closed to a small group of people and that group being not being very "representative" or "inclusive". Rather, it is a showcase group of top-tier athletes which are there as a way to attract rank and file athletes to Life Time's bigger cycling events. In fact, I make the point that these three 'gravel based' events in this series are not gravel events. They are Pro/Semi Pro showcase/publicity stunts attracting a small group of riders chasing money and endorsements. That's not how the gravel scene was built.

#7: Crank-Crankity-Crank-Crank - January 5th, 2021

  I wrote this post so long ago, and the title was so odd for it, that I couldn't remember what it was about! So, after re-reading it..... 

This is a paen to the triple crank, on one hand, and a severe criticism of 1X drive trains on the other, all tied up at the end with a whimsical prediction for the future. I was a bit surprised that it garnered the comments that it did and became the #7 most viewed post of the year. Sometimes you just never know what touches a nerve! 

#6: B.O.G. Series - What To Wear - March 10th, 2021 

Early this year I published a series of posts dubbed "Beginners On Gravel" or "B.O.G." for short. You can see the entire series here, or you can always check the link under the header of this blog.  

I found it rather surprising that this particular post in the series garnered more views than any of the rest. It also sparked more conversations and comments than any of the others. I will say that my audience here has a much more experiential, nuanced viewpoint of apparel for riding than what I was aiming for in terms of readers. 

I think that is what sparked the comments and discussions more than anything else. People with passionate opinions on 'how you do it' were not the people I wrote the post for, but they usually are the ones with the loudest voices. Anyway......

#5: A Discussion Concerning Types Of Geometry For 'Gravel' Bikes - February 27th, 2021 

Unlike the post at #6, which was written for rank beginners, this post was a total 'nerd-alert' post! I figured that this would resonate, and it did, coming in as it does as the #5 most read post of 2021. Geometry and bicycles always is a good way to get interest up here at the ol' 'G-Ted Productions' blog. 

I was motivated to post about this- again- since manufacturers and brands are starting to think that by combining cross bike geometry with gravel bike tire clearances, attachment points, and a bit taller stack height, that they can make just one bike and call it good for both.

Bzzt! Wrong way to do it! And that is why I posted that article. This post shows the 'why' of gravel geometry and where cross bikes are quite a different animal. I also point out that this geometry isn't anything 'new' and that most of this stuff has been figured out for years. Making something a buzz-word and claiming that a bike has a radical new way of doing things is pretty much your standard marketing B.S. ploy. Making one geometry to cover two completely different disciplines is really goofy. This post calls that out.  

#4: Project Wide Gravel Wheels v2: A Tire Swap & Impressions - September 14th, 2021

A few years back I tried a wider internal rim width for a set of gravel wheels and it ended up becoming a standard of sorts in the industry for internal rim width on gravel tires. So, I decided to try again with something really wide. This post, coming in at #4 for the year, was pretty much my conclusions on the experiment.

While I have a wheel set now that, for what I have around here, is pretty unusable, I did find out that where I landed on internal rim width a few years ago probably is spot-on for gravel tires and what bikes will fit for tires going forward. Anything 'more' ends up becoming MTB territory stuff. 

#3: A Ten Year Review Of The Black Mountain Cycles Monster Cross - February 22nd, 2021 

Ten years is a long time to hold onto one bicycle, much less to continuously keep having adventures on it. The Black Mountain Cycles "Monster Cross" model bike I have is one rare example of that in my stable of bicycles. This bike was from the very first run of Monster Cross models which were the creation of Mike Varley of Black Mountain Cycles

Purchased at a time when there weren't any gravel specific bikes, the Monster Cross did what I needed it to do. Yes, it is not perfect, but I do like this bike and it is a great reminder of what gravel cycling was all about pre-2012 when we all just 'made do' with whatever bikes we could make work for us. 

Black Mountain Cycles and this blog have had a long relationship and influence. I know at one point Mike Varley mentioned to me that the majority of Monster Cross frame/fork sales came with a mention that the customer had heard about the bike here on this blog.  So, it makes sense then that this post was #3 on the year for the most popular post in 2021. 

#2: SRAM XPLR: Impressions And Commentary - August 11th, 2021

SRAM was bound to answer Shimano's pitch to the gravel going cyclist with something. Shimano's GRX was really something new- a complete drive train offering for gravel cycling needs. But what would SRAM come up with? Instead of answering with their own, from the ground up design, they made a variation on AXS technology which was lacking in versatility and appeal across the spectrum of gravel riders. 

I think the article can be summed up with this quote from it:

" Which kind of begs a question: Is SRAM's answer to GRX really a 'gravel group', or is it just a minor variation on a SRAM theme with limited options? "

Essentially the answer is "Yes- it is a minor variation on a theme". SRAM chose to try to sell riders on a limited choice ecosystem  philosophy instead of allowing riders a vast array of choices and price ranges as Shimano did with their GRX offerings. 

At any rate, it garnered enough attention that  this post easily slots into the #2 position in my ten most read posts of the year. 

  #1: Redshift Sports Kitchen Sink Handlebar- March 16th, 2021

This review of the unusual drop bar from Redshift Sports drew the most attention of any other post throughout the year. It wasn't even close! And that really came as a surprise for me. A handle bar review? Yes, a handle bar review! 

I have no idea why this is the case, but congratulations to Redshift Sports for making the Kitchen Sink Handlebar and allowing me to review it. This result from my blog readers- making this post the most read one in 2021 by a large margin, is quite amazing. And I am still running it on my BMC MCD bike. So, I guess I do like it very much. My only wish at this point? Could we get this in carbon? 

That's a wrap on the most read posts of 2021. Thanks for reading Guitar Ted Productions!

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Trans Iowa Stories: Waiting For A Light To Shine

Greg Gleason arrives at CP#2. (L-R) Unknown, Steve Fuller, Gleason, MG, and Dan Buettner.
 "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!  

Since I had to be running Trans Iowa, that meant that Matt and I had to move along, checking roads ahead of the leaders, and keeping track of them, so that we could not just sit around. Fortunately since Hughes sat down for a pizza, we did get to hang out in the Cumming Tap for a little bit. But the time came that we had to get along. We didn't leave until the chasers- Greg Gleason first, then Matt Aker and Walter Zitz, came in and we felt that it was time to get going and try to track down Hughes again. 

Matt Aker, (L) and Walter Zitz roll into CP#2 just before we had to get out of there to track down Dan Hughes.
Matt and I had gotten word that Mike Johnson and Tony McGrane were in the area and we ended up stopping at a bridge crossing a few miles South of Cumming and we had a brief chat. They would be the last folks we saw that we knew until about 3:00am in the morning, about nine hours later. Well.....we saw Dan Hughes. Once. But besides spotting him, we were slowly swallowed by the oncoming night and the intensity of the storm. 

But before that we did get to experience the calm and peace from even the storm that seemed to have relented for a short time. We lingered at that bridge for several minutes. I don't remember what was said, but I do remember the brown water swirling under the bridge deck. Soon I was shaken back into a reality of peering out of a dirty windshield trying to find tire tracks in wet gravel. Looking for some evidence of Dan Hughes' passing.

The bridge where we last saw Tony and Mike on Saturday.

Matt and I drove some rain-soaked roads going South and then East over big rollers. These would take us into Indianola and the last real convenience store stop on the entire route of v13. There were others, but as far as the riders up front would be concerned, those would likely be closed when they passed through that town. Matt and I kinda figured we would see Hughes in Indianola, but we were a bit surprised by his pace, as we did not find him in town. 

We stopped at the convenience store to re-fuel the Subaru. We picked up some snacks for the evening as well. Then we headed out via the route towards the East. Not far from town we saw fresh tracks, and then, finally, toiling up a roller in near blackness of night was Dan Hughes. He was weaving and not riding real smoothly, but what can you expect after 200+ miles in less than ideal conditions? 

Then, as if on cue, it started raining. Heavily. The wind was whipping the rain up into swirls and waves which would appear in the head light wash of the Subaru and then disappear into the inky blackness of the night. It seemed that the only reality was whatever the Subaru's lights could illuminate and anything else was empty space. Driving was difficult as the roads were mushy and the wind battered the small car about. For a minute there, I thought I might have seen snow swirling in the headlights. 

Another cool old gabled bridge on the way to Indianola along the v13 route.

 Nah! I was just really tired! Matt was as well. We had a check when we were not sure about where we were. So we stopped for a bit. Talk moved to Dan Hughes. How could one so under-dressed for the conditions survive this onslaught? We also knew that he had about three miles of absolute clay mire and mud to navigate through, which would certainly be sapping his strength even more. We had no idea if he could finish. In fact, we were thinking he would not finish. 

We were very concerned about Dan and whether or not he might fail. So concerned that once we reached the small hamlet of Attica that we'd wait to see if he'd make the small town by 11:00pm, which, by my volunteer's calculations, he should have done, based upon his earlier pace. That was about 35 miles past where we had last seen him. So, Matt and I sat.......and waited.....and we got more worried. Finally, I could not take it anymore, this unseen Hughes character, and I determined that if we backtracked the course to where it crossed the last major highway we'd seen before Attica, we should be able to see his glow of light coming up on the other side of a hill before he could see us. And there we waited...... 

Lots of riders bailed at the CP#2 stop at the Cumming Tap. Image by Ari Andonopoulous.

 It was nigh unto a half an hour into waiting, at that point in the middle of nowhere, that suddenly a blueish glow of a bicycle LED light could be detected growing stronger and stronger. That was all we needed. We turned and flew down the road to Attica. Hughes passed through Attica as we watched him undetected at around 1:00am, taking a full 4.5 hours to cover 35 miles. Those Level B roads had taken their toll in speed. 

Hughes wasn't the only rider in the event and this manifested itself to Matt and I at the time in several DNF calls along the way. Once the checkpoint in Cumming closed I got a flood of calls. It seemed that we had almost lost all the competitors. We were down below 15 riders going through the night, and more would end up not making it before it was all said and done. 

Meanwhile, Matt and I were somewhat amazed, somewhat relieved, and very concerned yet about Dan. He was obviously still moving, so we headed out ahead of him once again, his head light having given us some assurance of his capabilities yet in this torrential rain and wind storm. What next? How fast would he make it to the next point we chose to gauge him by? 

Note: there is a complete lack of any imagery for Saturday evening but for some images taken by Ari Andonopoulous at the Cumming Tap. So, I apologize for the lack of images here. We were very concerned about Dan Hughes and not really worried about documentation at the time.

Next: Punch Drunk In Pella.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Friday, December 24, 2021

Rear View 2021: Top 12 Images

 The 12 best images from the blog for 2021 as chosen by me, Guitar Ted. All decisions are final! (HA!) Not that this is a contest, but I have my opinion which may or may not align with yours. Here they are listed in order from January onward and a couple may have some commentary to go with them. Enjoy! 

January: Two horses seen on an early gravel outing in '21. 

February: Intense cold and snow forces me to take refuge in the shop doing work on a commuter project.

March: Image taken for a four season art project I am doing. Scene from eastern Black hawk County.

April: From one of my favorite Black Hawk County roads, Schenk Road.

May: Spring on Petrie Road's Level B sector.

June: A day lily along a rustic section of road in Cedar Falls.

July: An early morning ride with N.Y. Roll

August: Seen during what will likely be my final Gravel Worlds appearance.

September: A fleeting moment where the light was 'just so' on a ride in Black Hawk County.

October: I got hooked on early morning rides this past few months!

November: A scene from my Turkey Burn Ride.

December: More shop scenes. A relic from Trans Iowa v5 here.

That's a wrap on the top pics from 2021 here. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Rear View 2021: Fall

A header from early into Fall.
 Hello! it's time again to review the year on Guitar Ted Productions. The "Rear View" has been a staple of the blog since almost the very beginning. This year there will be five Rear View posts looking back on Winter's End, Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter's Beginning. I'll also have a post looking ahead at 2022 near the end of the month. Enjoy the look back and thanks for reading Guitar Ted Productions!

I've always held that Fall starts when Gravel Worlds is over. I guess I'll have to change that in 2022.... Anyway! So, Fall came and after I was recovered from that century ride in Nebraska I wanted to get back out as soon as I could to do the Tour of Black Hawk County. This ride had been another plan going on most of the Summer months and I was bound and determined to get that done. Once I completed that ride I kind of got hooked on early morning rides which provided a lot of spectacular imagery for the blog.

As far as the blog went I had wrapped up the Project Wide Gravel Wheels and then I introduced the Tubolito review here. That brought out the old Raleigh Tamland Two for some riding which was nice. I wrote up an article about torque wrenches which went over well. I started looking at some of my bicycles which I hadn't been riding much and posted about those, which drew a lot of interest. I also did a Tubeless 101 maintenance article which was in response to a reader's question. I featured a rebuild of my old Topeak floor pump, which got a lot of attention, oddly enough. 

I got a lot of reader responses to my GPS computer questions, (Thank you!), I ended up getting a Hammerhead Karoo 2, by the way, just recently. (There is a review series started on that already this December) I got some American Classic tires in, (final review should be here), and I bought a new Twin Six wind vest which I shared about here. But the biggest thing for me this Fall was the death of my mother late in October. 

The ToBHC got me hooked on doing early morning rides for a while because of scenes like this.

So, that crazy idea to circumnavigate Black Hawk County via as many gravel roads as possible was also my "Guitar Ted Death Ride" for the year. It worked out really well on all fronts. It was a crazy weather day with temperatures dipping into the upper 30's at the start and topping out at over 90 degrees by mid-afternoon. I was taxed pretty hard by that and the gravel which was a mix of 100% deep, fresh gravel or normal conditions with a slight headwind. 

Being surrounded by thousands of birds was just another reason the T0BHC ride was so memorable.

It was perfect on so many levels. The sights, the experiences, and the complete exhaustion factor, (requisite for "Death Ride" status) were all there. I was really pretty much 100% satisfied with how it all went down. 

And that made for my thirst to get out and ride early mornings almost unquenchable. I ended up planning future rides around when I could get out in the early mornings before Sunrise so I could experience the wonder and the sights of that time of day. I can't say I am sorry I posted so many Sunrise shots! I love them and that time of year is really a great one to grab such imagery. 

I did do rides in full Sun as well!

Fall was spectacular and rather long lasting this year. Typically the leaves are all down by the end of the month of October but we had plenty of Fall color yet this year at the end of the month. I took advantage and rode as often out in the country that I could, but with my son in college and needing me to drive him to campus, I had to stick close to home. 

That low angle of the Sun in late Fall makes every image look more dramatic than it should.

But Fall ended on a sour note for me, obviously, with the news that my mother had died. Mixed emotions there for sure with her suffering from Alzheimer's, so I've been sorting through that since then. Riding helps, but I have to admit that the wind was sucked out of my sails since that happened.

Next I'll cover the end of the year up to the present with my "Winter's Beginning" segment of the Rear View of 2021. I'll also post that day about my outlook and plans for 2022.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Bikes Of 2021: Black Mountain Cycles MCD

The Black Mountain Cycles MCD set up for Gravel Worlds.
 It's the end of the year and time to review what's up with the bikes I used over the course of 2021. You'll get a brief overview, any changes made, and what the future has in store for each bike listed. Enjoy!

Another obvious bike around here, since it sees so much usage, is the Black Mountain Cycles MCD, (Monster Cross Disc). This was the bike I got in 2018 and one that I've always thought of as my gift to myself for 14 years of Trans Iowas. Anyway, this also serves as a test bed for a lot of reviews so once again- Standard Disclaimer applies. That said, a lot of this bike I did pay for out of pocket. 

With this bike I have already had several adventures, but this year's Gravel Worlds was right up there with one of the best rides of 2021. 116 miles of those hills is no joke, and while it wasn't the full distance, I am good with what I was able to accomplish there. 

This bike also served as my experimental test bed for getting some really big water bottles on the frame which has made this bike sort of a 'bulk tanker' of water over the gravel seas! Ha! I also used this bike most of 2021 with the Redshift Sports Kitchen Sink Bar, which has an integrated 'aero bar' of sorts as part of the component. It's interesting, and I've liked it alright, but I am thinking about swapping over to something a bit more gravel-compliant than this bar is. 

Testing bottles and cages here during the Summer of 2021.

Other than going back to the Whiskey carbon seat post and swapping wheels around like I do, this bike is pretty much stable for now. I'd like to eventually get some GRX levers for it, but the old 11 speed Ultegra allows for the mechanical Spyre brakes to be used which are excellent brakes. So, no hurry on that, and ya know- someday there will be 12 speed GRX, so I may as well wait for the inevitable changes once they come. 

I often think of this bike as my 'skinny fargo'. It's set up very much like my Gen I Fargo and it feels a lot like that bike does. I can even squeeze in some big tires on this- up to 50mm- so it approximates a Fargo in that way. It is definitely not a Vaya. I know- I've had one. But be that as it may, it is an excellent bike, and from what I hear, maybe- probably - not available in this configuration ever again. You can thank changes forced by this new age we are in for that. Not that I am 'in the know'......

Anyway, it is a great bike. I am really happy I got one while I could.

Next: The Standard Rando v2

Bikes Of 2021: Noble Bikes GX5

   It's the end of the year and time to review what's up with the bikes I used over the course of 2021. You'll get a brief overview, any changes made, and what the future has in store for each bike listed. Enjoy!

The Noble GX5 is a bike many of you know well. It was a review bike at one point for, so the Standard Disclaimer must be pointed out in regard to it still being here, and of course, many of the parts are under that disclaimer as well since this is a test sled for Riding Gravel. 

So, since this bike gets the lions share of duties for my gig reviewing stuff, I ride it a fair amount. It also has a fair amount of components rotating in and out of service on it. There isn't much left here which is original equipment from Noble! 

I think I have to point to my "Tour of Black Hawk County" as being my number one most memorable ride on this bike so far. That was a ride I had been building up to for many weeks and I had made a few important tweaks to the bike to accommodate that ride and which helped make it successful.

I didn't take many images of the bike on my Tour of Black Hawk County, but the GX5 was an important part of my success that day.

Of course, there will be lots of changes, most likely, to this bike going forward. I'm not sure how long this rig will last- it being carbon fiber and all- so I am always keeping an eye out for a possible successor in metal to replace it with. That said, I am in no hurry to retire this bike. It represents current gravel bike themes very well, and it is not 'outdated' by any means. Until that happens, or until I finally get that dream bike in titanium, I think this one will do quite nicely for the time being. 

Next: The pink BMC

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Guitar Ted Lube-Off: Long Term Blue Devil vs. SCC Tech

 Last Summer I ran another round of the "Guitar Ted Lube-Off". This is a 'contest' of which lube works best for gravel road riding in dry conditions. It's maybe a bit more technical than that, but that is the gist of it. So, I declared that SCC Tech Lube was superior to the NixFrixShun Blue Devil lube in this post. However; what I did not tell you all was that I decided to just roll with those two lubricants long term and then see what the results might be. 

Before I get to the nitty-gritty, I want to point out that each lubricant was re-applied at least once since the end of this test. Both - I know - were re-applied at least one time, but I may have re-upped the SCC Tech Lube twice. (Bad me! I did not write this stuff down!) I do know that I re-applied the Blue Devil lube right before Gravel Worlds and the SCC Tech Lube shortly after that. There may have been one other SCC Tech Lube application in there, which I vaguely recall being this past Fall. Anyway....

Following are some images and commentary on each lubricant.....

The SCC Tech Lube has been a good performer for me.

Yes, there is a bit of grime, but....
SCC Tech Lube:

The SCC Tech Lube provided me with spotless shifting performance and nearly a spotless chain throughout the Fall and into Winter. Keeping in mind that this was the bike I used on my Tour of Black Hawk County, which was a super-dusty affair, and that speaks volumes for me, anyway. 

Shortly after that ride I did have to re-apply lubrication though, as the chain was starting to make a bit of noise. Fall continued on and the dust never got any better. I put a lot of ride time into this bike due to review items which I had on it. So, again, I may have re-applied lubrication once more on this bike. I'm pretty sure I did. 

This lube won the initial "Lube-Off" between these two lubricants and after a long period of usage in severe dust conditions I think it is fair to say that this still is a top-shelf lubricant for a gravel bike. Now, add in moisture and things could go quite differently, but as for what I saw, this stuff is pretty good stuff.

And you don't need to use a ton of it to get these good results. In fact, that is pretty much true of any of the better lubricants I've tried. Less is 'more' when it comes to chain lube in dry conditions. So, keep that in mind when you are lubing your own chain up. 

The 'Blue Devil' lube is the new stuff from NixFrixShun meant for gravel travel.

This was a big surprise. Much cleaner than I expected.

Blue Devil:

This lube is a new-ish lube from NixFrixShun that was developed for gravel riding. I was duly impressed, but it really wasn't just up to the same level as the SCC Tech lube at the time I did the summer test. 

However; it was kept running here on the MCD and right before I went to Gravel Worlds in mid-August I decided it would be best to re-lube, even though it didn't necessarily need it. Since then, I know I have not re-lubed this chain. In fact, I'm not sure where my bottle of this lube is! 

The chain has maybe a touch more gunk on it from dust accumulation, but the touch-test showed very little residue off it. I was, quite frankly, a bit shocked by that. Shifting performance and noise have been non-issues. I really have a hard time faulting this lube for anything beyond the slight gunkiness. (If that is a word!)

Conclusions: So, in terms of the longer view, I would elevate Blue Devil lube to be equal to the SCC Tech. In fact, I have seen no reason to use more Blue Devil, and the SCC Tech lube has had to be applied one time more. But, I haven't looked at mileage so that may be a wash. Either way, I'd highly recommend either of these lubricants for dry, long mileage use. 

Not that either of these is as good as DuMonde Tech, or the Muc-Off C3 Ceramic Dry, but these two are closer to the Muc-Off lube's performance than the DuMonde Tech. I would recommend any of them, honestly. Now for wet? Hmm..... That's a different story. DuMonde Tech holds up pretty well there, but I don't know about these others. So, I plan on using the SCC Tech and Blue Devil throughout the Winter as they are dual purpose lubes. 

So, in the future look for another update on these lubes. Next year when things get warm again I will introduce a couple more lubes to the series. 

I bought the SCC Tech Lube and the NixFrixShun Blue Devil lubricants for this round of the Lube-Off. I was not paid nor bribed for these posts and I try to give you my honest thoughts and opinions throughout.