Saturday, November 26, 2022

No Burn For You!

Somewhere in New York, N.Y. Roll was Turkey Burnin'
 A week and a half ago now I posted regarding the second attempt at a "Virtual Turkey Burn". A poke in the ribs to those who might enjoy a bit of a challenge to get out and ride over this holiday weekend here in the U.S.A. 

Well, as it turned out, a week ago I started feeling a cold coming on. A typical head cold, for sure, and it deepened as the weekend progressed until on Tuesday this week when I felt horrible. I have not had a cold like this for several years. (Are masks to blame? Social distancing?) Anyway, the lingering effects of this are slow to wear off and well, it isn't wise to go out into cold weather and stress your body when it is fighting illness already. 

So, I had to sit and watch this short window of beautiful weather go by and miss getting in a Turkey Burn ride to boot. (sigh!) But at least I know folks like N.Y. Roll are out there trying to get in as many miles as they can over this period of time. 

He was in New York visiting family right after that wicked heavy lake effect snow they had up that way. His native grounds "only" received around two feet of the white stuff. Fortunately for N.Y. Roll the weather cooperated up that way as well and some of that snow has melted off allowing for some road cycling up his way. Today's image is courtesy of N.Y. Roll's Instagram, by the way.

I'm not sure if anyone else is "participating" in this endeavor, I only know that I will not be doing any country riding until I am healthy again. It's getting better every day, but the experts claim that the typical cold takes about 12-14 days to recover from. If that is true, I can expect to start feeling a whole lot more like myself around Wednesday or Thursday of this coming week. 

Just in time for it to be frigid cold again. Of course!

Friday, November 25, 2022

Friday News And Views

The "Anti-Black Friday" Edition: 

Yeah, this whole "Black Friday" thing is getting long in the tooth, isn't it? I really hope that someday it just goes away.... 

But until then, I am all "anti-Black Friday". What's more, I am not doing any "holiday gift list" stuff this year either. Let me tell ya, the marketing departments aren't liking that decision. They are sympathetic to the anti-Black Friday idea, I feel, but - ya know - it's tradition! Or something like that....

All you need to know is that I am being leveraged to do the whole thing, and I just am not feeling it. So, I won't be shoving discount codes, "deals", or any "holiday gift ideas" down your throats here. You're getting bombarded enough by that garbage by this point anyway, most likely. 

So, I've dug up what I could of some interesting things I've found across the innergoogles for your reading enjoyment today. And as always, Thanks for reading the blog! 

Forget shopping! Get out and ride!
Hopefully You Are Riding!

Of course, the perfect antidote to excessive consumerism is a good bicycle ride. Be that 'round the block or out in the 'burbs', getting out and pedaling is good for you.

But you know that!

Need some motivation? Well, I put out this challenge last week. maybe that would be a nice way to kick off the weekend? Maybe. 

However; don't let that challenge and distance hold you back. Just getting outside and pedaling, or even walking, if you are stuck in the snow like N.Y. Roll is in New York now, is a good idea. Just get outside, breath the air, and move. I like to do that with a bicycle, but you do you. Besides, you probably ate too much yesterday anyway, yes? (If you didn't, good on ya!)

Are More Batteries A Better Thing?

Recently Magura announced a new Vyron dropper seat post that is activated by a wireless Bluetooth remote. The system is pretty technologically advanced, with the wireless thing, of course, but there is also a servo motor which controls oil flow in the post as well. 

Naturally, the system works on a battery, a Lithium-Ion battery, (two, actually), which is replaceable. And when that battery needs replacing? 

Why do we consistently (a) need to turn everything into a "device" controlled by radio waves and batteries with (b) environmentally toxic materials? These batteries typically are not disposed of properly, especially when they are of such a small size, as in the Vyron post. These disposed Lithium-ion batteries contain metals such as cobalt, nickel, and manganese, which are toxic and can contaminate water supplies and ecosystems if they leach out of landfills. 

I mean, bicycles are bad enough in terms of their carbon footprint, environmental impacts due to manufacturing, and in terms of the high-end bicycles, a further reliance on electronics, but a dropper seat post with disposable batteries?   

True- each seatpost mounted battery lasts a claimed year of service, but eventually, these all will probably end up in the landfill. Not to mention the CR 2032 battery used for the remote, which assuredly will not be handled properly at disposal.  That is- unless a concerted effort is made to persuade riders to do otherwise, and I haven't seen that yet. Meanwhile, mechanically operated droppers are working just fine without such concerns. 

Something to consider....

An Acknowledgement And A Lesson:

I read an article the other day that claimed that the youth out there feel that hand written notes are a "waste of time". Yeah.....that was the term used. 

Amazing. 

That's too bad, because these folks are missing out on something wonderful, if, in fact, that article is representative of what the youth out there really think. I am choosing to not believe this at all.

I think people really appreciate being thanked, recognized, encouraged, and well.....noticed. Doesn't a hand written note do those things? Yes, I am here to tell you that a hand written note does those things, because a recent hand written note has done that for me. Although, perhaps I am disqualified from being an example, because I am old. That's really dumb, by the way, if true.

That's my acknowledgement of this particular note. You know who you are that sent it, so "Thank you!"

The lesson? Anyone can do this to help another. It can be a text, a phone call, or a simple note like the one I received. Don't believe for a second it is a "waste of time". 

Update: Okay, this is kind of funny. A day after I wrote this about "Thank You's" I saw the following which is related. As quoted from an Axios Finish Line newsletter I receive nightly:

" Another study by researchers from Kent State University tested the effect of writing letters of gratitude to other people.

  • The results were clear: Taking the time to say thank you in writing made people happier, more satisfied with life and even decreased symptoms of depression."

So: On the very unlikely chance that writing a "thank you" doesn't do anything for the recipient, it does something for you.

Reminder: If you are an old reader here, you know what is coming. If you are fairly new, maybe not so much. Here's the deal: The "End-OfYear"posts kick in starting December 1st with my first of many "Bikes Of 2022" postings. There will be four "Rear View 2022" posts, a "Top Ten Posts of 2022", and a "best-of" photo review for the year, all coming up.

Have a great weekend! Thanks for reading Guitar Ted Productions.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Happy Thanksgiving!

 HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

I hope you are all well and able on this day. If you are celebrating Thanksgiving, I hope that you are doing so with loved ones and focusing on them today.

I am very thankful for:

  • My health
  • My family
  • Riding
  • All of you readers of Guitar Ted Productions!
I hope that you all have a great day!

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Fargo Gen I: Winter Project

My Fargo Gen I bike has gone through several permutations. The latest one has been taking shape over the course of this year. I added a new crankset not long ago and the Ti Regulator seat post and Brooks saddle, (which - honestly - that may have been done in 2021.)

Anyway, it was a good move all around and my only quibble was that the wheels, a set of old Sun Ringle' Black Flag hoops, was a bit on the flexy-narrow side. Flexy in that the aluminum extrusion and low-ish spoke count wasn't giving enough lateral support, and narrow in that the inner rim width was narrower than many current "gravel" wheel sets. 

I have some Velocity Blunt SS rims just waiting to be laced up to something, but I was held back because I remember when the Fargo had a carbon hoop set and how that literally transformed how that bike rode. I had sold those wheels several years ago, and honestly, that was a good move for me because those wheels were not tubeless and those rims were also pretty narrow internally.

I wanted wheels with a decent inner rim width

Yeah, so maybe some day I'd lace up those Blunt SS rims for the Fargo, but I'd need new hubs and those would be costly, because, well.....I'm not going to use just any old hub! So, that all got put on the back-burner. I mean, the Fargo was rideable as is. First world problems and all......

Then one day this past Fall, Grannygear, my friend and contributor to my work since the late 00's, pinged me with a  message. It went something like this; "Hey, I've got these old Roval carbon wheels that I want to move on. They need some work though, and since you are a wheel man, maybe you might want to fix them up?"

So, one thing led to another and I received the wheels the other day in exchange for a minor amount of cash (digitally, natch!). Grannygear was correct. These wheels are not perfect in any way, but with a bit of TLC and time, they should come out nicely and I think they will suit the Fargo well. 

From the days of painted spokes... Roval MTB wheels.

Near as I can tell these are 2011-2012 vintage 29"er hoops. They were reviewed by Grannygear for the old "Twentynine Inches" site I used to run. They have DT Swiss internals, DT Swiss spokes and nipples, and the wheels have swappable end caps, so I can use QR compatible end caps to retrofit these to the Gen I Fargo. No "boosty" nonsense either, which is good for that old green bike. 

They are 10 year old carbon wheels, so they need the previously mentioned "TLC". Cleaning, replacement of a couple nipples, and retensioning should put them back into order. I did not note any corrosion with regard to the nipples, so that was a good sign. 

And to boot, these won't be seeing any hard-core MTB action. They will enjoy "retirement" from Grannygear by being put to use here on the gravel roads. I should say also that the only thing these wheels will be subjected to is excessive dust, which probably is not a whole lot difeerent than their previous life in SoCal's environment, which was dusty with a different type of dust. 

I checked out the bearings and they are worn, but serviceable yet. I'll run them until they die and re-rack when the time comes. The star ratchet free hub should last a long time, and I'll take a peek at that once I remove the stubborn end cap that is on the drive side. That cap needs replacing anyway, since I am going with the quick release set up for the Fargo. 

Grannygear said these were pretty stiff laterally, and with a healthy 32 spokes tensioned properly, I bet these will straighten out the handling of the Fargo to my liking and previously held standard. The slightly wider internal rim width is welcomed as well. With an under 1400 gram wheel set, the Fargo should feel fantastic. 

I'll keep those old Black Flag wheels for the Fargo also. Those will go on when things get gnarly weather-wise. But the Rovals will live on and they will be a very welcome addition to the Fargo.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Visiting We-Cycle

On the road to pick up some bicycles.
Since I've started working for the Cedar Valley Bicycle Collective, I've had some pretty interesting days, but my favorites have been the two days this year that I was able to connect with two other "collectives" in Iowa that serve a similar mission to what our mission is at the CVBC. 

My first experience was with the Des Moines Street Collective, and that was a real eye-opening experience that taught me a lot. This time I got to visit We-Cycle in Ames, and that was a very different, but no less enlightening experience. 

The day started out cold, blustery, and with a little Sun out as we headed out to the South and West. Curt, a board member for the CVBC was driving again, as he had for the Des Moines trip. The countryside looked like it was in the grips of mid-Winter, not the beginnings of the season! Drifted in ditches with various wavy, overlapping folds of snow were everywhere and snow was even blowing across the roadway in spots. That along with the low temperatures made it feel more like January than late November. 

We actually did not go to We-Cycle first, but to a small town where the CEO/Director of We-Cycle Ames, Val Nehls, lives. She had an overflow of donated bicycles there which we were there to help clear out. We made a small dent in the pile, and then we moved on to Ames and the We-Cycle location, which was in part of an old grain elevator/co-op business.

We didn't pick up all the bikes from Val's house, but we made a dent!

The road from Val's home to We-Cycle was treacherous!

I'm not a big fan of heights, so when we arrived at We-Cycle I was a bit concerned about the exposed wire mesh staircase bolted to the side of the building which was the only way to access We-Cycle for us. Think "industrial" stair case and you'll get what I mean. I was amazed, by the way, at how Val just bounded up and down those stairs like it was no big deal. She could shoulder a bike, and almost run down the steps, light as an elf on her feet. I remarked to her that perhaps she should give cyclo cross a try!

We-Cycle is located in the second story of this warehouse above a coffee shop.

We-Cycle occupies a small corner of this sprawling space.

Val was very kind to us and her volunteer, Allen, who showed up to lend a hand, and bought us coffee from the coffee shop in the lower level. It was a bit of an odd place, since I could not really see any reason to suspect that there would be a coffee shop in that space. But there it was, and it was a bustling place Friday morning with college aged folks coming in and out on a regular basis as we were loading up bicycles. 

Then it was time to bid Val and Allen farewell as we headed back with our load of goods to Waterloo and the CVBC. I enjoyed getting another look at a place that is essentially doing the same thing as the Cedar Valley Bicycle Collective and getting low-income and at-risk individuals on reliable two-wheeled transportation while helping the communities that we serve to move old bicycles from garages, sheds, and barns which might otherwise end up in a landfill someday. 

I know of one other place in Iowa like this that I have yet to visit, and that is the Iowa City Bike Library. I need to make a connection there as well. I think it would be pretty cool to have all these organizations interconnected in a relational way to help further our missions in Iowa.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Gravel Amplifier: Funk Bottoms, Solstice 100, Flint Hills Gravel


 Hey y'all! It's another edition of Guitar Ted's Gravel Amplifier Series! Read on to check out today's offerings for your consideration. I have checked out these and they pass my standards, so you can be pretty sure these will be gravelly good times. 

However; please understand the following: I am not PROMOTING THESE EVENTS! I am amplifying them. In other words, I am acting here, (quoting the Dictionary.com meaning) " to make larger, greater, or stronger; enlarge; extend." these events bandwidth in terms of their message. That's it. That's all I am doing here.

So, if the site goes dark, the dates change, if you cannot get a hold of the race director, or if there are issues on your side with attendance, etc, I AM NOT THE PERSON YOU SHOULD CONTACT.  I will not reply to such queries. I am merely informing you of the existence of an event. Period. 

Funk Bottoms Gravel:

Location:  Glenmont Park 108 Main Street, Glenmont, OH. 

Date: Saturday, June 17, 2023

Why It's Cool: Billed as Ohio's toughest gravel grinder, Funk Bottoms Gravel has been around for a while. I recall adding this event to the old gravel calendar I used to keep, so this is a veteran of the gravel scene. In fact, 2023 will be Funk Bottoms' 13th year. 

This one is a big loop course that you can do once, or if you have that crazy itch for climbing, twice. each loop is the same 100K course. There is a claimed 7000ft of vertical in the 100K course, so get on yer climbing gears! Self-supported means you have to be prepared for any issues. There is a secret checkpoint and chances for resupply in smaller towns the route passes through. Low entry fee of $40.00 (for now) which raises to $50.00 later and then $60.00 later on closer to the event. 80% gravel course.

Caveat: There are field limits for males, but none for women, single speed, or for the 200K

Website: http://funkbottomsgravel.blogspot.com/2022/09/2023-funk-bottoms-gravel.html

The Solstice 100

Location: Beatrice Nebraska

Date: June 17th, 2023

Why It's Cool: TheSolstice 100 is a grassroots gravel event put on by some great folks I have met, so I can vouch personally for their care and passion for this event. In fact, I rode this one back when it was located in Malcom, Nebraska. Two distances, including the Solstice Fiddy, which is as it sounds, a 50 mile version, and a 31-ish mile "kindler" version of the course. Self-supported with chances for resupply in pass-through towns and checkpoints. $60.00 reg for the long course. Nearly all gravel course. 

Caveat: As the name would suggest, this event occurs near the Summer Solstice, so it is HOT! Be prepared to get a lot of Sun and experience high humidity. 

Website:  https://www.solsticegravel.com/

Flint Hills Gravel Ride/Run

Location:  516 Locust Street, Americus, Kansas

Date: April 8th, 2023

Why It's Cool: This event is run to give folks a chance to experience the Flint Hills on a bicycle or on foot (the "Run" part) It is a very low-key, grassroots event run by a passionate race director named Bobby Thompson. Three distances ranging up to a crazy 100+ mile "Adventure" category, but Bobby offers shorter, more manageable distances as well. If you have a hankering to see what all the hub-bub is about the Flint Hills but "that other event" is too much for ya in terms of cost and hoopla, then this is your Huckleberry. 

Bonus: Bobby Thompson just announced an insane ultra-distance challenge dubbed the "Flint Hills Ultra", a 1000 mile (!!) permanent route you can do anytime. There will be a competition held on teh route as well.

Caveat: The Flint Hills are tough on tires, so be prepared by using puncture protected tubeless tires and bring a boot, extra sealant, and a reliable inflator. 

Website:  https://flinthillsgravelride.com/

That's a wrap for this edition of the "Gravel Amplifier". If you know about an event that you think should appear on the "Gravel Amplifier", please send me a web address for that event at g.ted.productions@gmail.com. I'll check it out and if it passes muster, it'll appear in a future "Gravel Amplifier" post. Thanks!

Sunday, November 20, 2022

The GTDRI Stories: Reversed Influence

 

The recon for the 4th GTDRI was fun.
"The GTDRI Stories" is a series telling the history, untold tales, and showing the sights from the run of Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitationals. This series will run on Sundays. Thanks for reading!

As the calendar turned to 2009, I was finding myself at another crossroads in terms of the website stuff I was doing. The entire network of sites I was a part of at the time was falling apart, I started another new blog about gravel grinding, and plans for a third outlet for cycling reviews was being laid. Of course, Trans Iowa, another "Big Wheeled Ballyhoo, and the next Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational were also events I had on my "to-do" list. 

Somehow or another, I found the time to throw this route together that I had begun to conceive of around 2007. That was a big loop in Northeast Iowa. The whole idea stemmed around a suggestion for a starting point from a friend at the time. He had told me of Echo Valley State Park near West Union, Iowa. 

This time, instead of the GTDRI routes influencing Trans Iowa, Trans Iowa routes influenced the GTDRI. We had come through this area in 2008 and I had gotten a lot of great feedback on certain roads that were in the vicinity of West Union. Plus, there was a big chunk of road that never got used in T.I.v4 because it had been truncated before we got back to Decorah. So, with that already all looked at, and a bit from T.I.v3 added in, I had the majority of the course figured out without too much trouble. 

All I had to do was stitch together the loose ends of the route into a cohesive whole and then check out the bits I had not ever been on before. That mainly was the first 40 miles and maybe another 20 or so of the back half of the route. Of course, a trip to Echo Valley State Park was in order as well. 

The roads of Clayton County are pretty spectacular

I had to ascertain how camping might work out for the event. That trip also included a truck drive of the mostly flat section from Echo Valley to Elkader, which also passed through Elgin, a distance of about 25 miles along the Turkey River. 

This sector was pretty flat, and I didn't consider how brutal the rest of the course was until I had seen the bit I had to look at from Edgewood to Strawberry Point. There was, essentially, no where to rest from the hills other than the section along the Turkey river. 

This gave me pause. I decided that my including the flat portion at the end, by running the course anticlockwise, was not in the group's best interest, (if there was going to be a group, I never really knew!). So, I decided late into the planning stages to reverse the direction of the course and put the flatter part first. 

This kind of went against my initial vision of the route which had I ran it the originally conceived of way, it would have followed the T.I.v4 course exactly where I used it. But, as it turned out, the way we ran it was perfect. And we couldn't have chosen a better Summer to do this on either.

Next: The Year With No Summer

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Like And Subscribe: Do You Really Want Print Media?

Back when print was still a thing: Article from "Dirt Rag"
 NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

I'm old enough to remember when getting the latest "Mountain Bike Action" in the mail , or when seeing the latest edition of  "Dirt Rag" in the bike shop was the definition of a great day. Print media had no real 'predators' in the realm of information and creative writing for cycling. 

There were no online forums, no social media, no You Tubers spewing a video out every other day to keep their content "fresh". Because let's face it folks, today it is all about content. Realize that this content doesn't have to be good. It just has to be mostly free and coming at you like water out of a back yard garden hose. 

So, how did we get here? Well, I gave you a snapshot in the previous paragraph, but let me give you another glimpse into when the paradigm shifted. I just happened to have been there. 

It was my first trip to Sea Otter in 2007 with the "Crooked Cog Network", a self-titled, self-aggrandized "media" group consisting of several blogs. The newfound power of the internet and online streaming of content almost as soon as it was created was just getting going. This happened to upset the apple cart in a very visible and tangible way at the Trek/Fisher Press Camp we were invited to in Santa Cruz, California. 

Up to this point, press camps were the realm of "traditional print media". Remember, they had no "natural predators", but now with forums like mtbr.com growing by leaps and bounds over the previous 5+ years, traditional print media was facing new competition- a predator had arrived which was eating into their normal way of doing things.

Rumors and industry chit-chat was freely shared across digital devices, mostly PC's at that point, and you didn't have to wait a month for the news, like you did with print media. An evening scouring the forums yielded more than enough news to make print look lame, and you could dig into it every day, if you wanted to. "Fresh" content was what the masses craved, and while forums were cool, and all that, there was now a new presence on the scene- real-time bloggers. 

Images and info straight from the show floor to your PC- all in a day's work

The Trek/Fisher marketing guys held a meeting to go over all the new bikes and tech for 2007. In the first two rows were all the heavy-hitters in the print media world at that time. James Huang, the "Angry Asian" was there. Editors from "Velo News", "Dirt Rag", and other prominent print media were there. "Real" websites were represented as well. But us bloggers? We were at the back. Sneered at by the front row, and mostly they wouldn't even speak to us. 

Crooked Cog Network founder Tim Grahl set up his MacBook lap top, a camera, and a line out to the internet. As the presentation was given, Tim screen-shot each image shown on the screen at the front of the room, wrote a few lines quickly to accompany the image, and boom! Posted to the site we were pushing content to. I was flat out amazed. I'd not even imagined such a thing in 2007. 

When the presentation was over, the lead spokesperson for Trek/Fisher, Travis Ott, said that he would allow a bit of time to let the media get their notes in order before we moved on and hoped that stories would be published "soon". That's when Grahl piped up next to me and said. "We've already got the story up on our site". I'll never forget the half disgusted, half amazed look James Huang shot him as he jerked around to see who was speaking. 

Print media was doomed after that point, in my mind, because the masses became ravenous for constantly changing "fresh content" and online purveyors of information were only too glad to give it up for free. No subscribing to a periodical. No waiting a month to see what's new. You could see what was new minute-by-minute. Literally.

That's how we got here. Instant upload to the internet, everyone has a computer/receiver in their hands now, and content gets pushed without ceasing, 24-7 these days. How does a print based ideal even compete? It cannot do what it used to do, and to my way of thinking, traditional media has missed the boat. The traditional cycling media seems bent on trying to replicate the analog days of print media digitally, and from advertisers to content consumers, that is a dinosaur that died a long time ago. 

Companies use social media to promote product now.

 So, Outside kicked several Cyclingtips and Velo News creatives to the curb the other day. It's a hard reality for media who try to make a living creating content in long form for websites. Ad dollars are scarce to non-existent. Companies that once spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in print/website based advertising now have "influencers", Instagram stories, and sponsored content. Their own media content is self-created for these brand's social media and You Tube channels. Companies and brands have "marketing firms" that get product out to independent reviewers and niche websites (Like myself) and target audiences instead of the old ad in a magazine that might not ever get seen by a core customer of a brand.

Pre-packaged content is offered all the time to me to post on my blog and on RidingGravel.com. I must get offers to post "sponsored articles" daily. I just deleted another offer for a "guest blog post". Seriously. It's like pulling weeds, these guest post offers. They just keep popping up everywhere. I have never looked into any of these offers, but I am sure they come with click-through ads so the guest poster can make a few pennies.

But do we still need a magazine? Do we need to have any form of print media? If not, do we need a web based site that isn't in the traditional vein? Could that even be supported enough to pay a living wage to a creator these days? 

That's a tough nut to crack as well. Think about myself and the old story from Sea Otter I posted above. I was a part of the dismantling of traditional media, in a way, and for 17+ years I've blogged here, at no cost to you, nearly daily, spewing fresh content at ya like water from a back yard garden hose . So who am I to pontificate on this media meltdown? 

Well, it isn't just me. It is "everyone", really. It used to be that there were journalists and then everyone else that read what journalists wrote. Now days anyone can post any "news" they want on several platforms. Usually consumable for free.   I mean, "why not me" when it comes to being an expert on issues? That seems to be the big problem with anyone trying to make a buck now writing. Since the writer's craft, talents, and professionalism mean little more than the average person's opinions these days, it's harder to get any value out of a traditional media product. Add in to that most "truth" is broadcast for "entertainment value" and this problem is even harder to tackle. 

Getting a print/digital magazine thing going is possible, I think, but it cannot be anything like the previous offerings and it cannot be corporately owned. It probably would be best if the publication was very niche, stayed smaller rather than bigger, and catered to an audience that craved having stories told to them. You're probably never going to see a wide-ranging, racer focused, gear focused, review type publication make it on a national scale anymore since that sort of publication needs a LOT of cabbage to keep the doors open. A low-overhead operation? I think that type of curated, simple, focused approach is best these days.

But like I said, I'm just one of those hacks in the back row. What do I know?

Friday, November 18, 2022

Friday News And Views

 Inventory Builds Up As Consumer Demand Cools:

You've already seen the ads on your feeds, most likely. The discounting of bicycles and cycling gear is full-on once again. This marks the final swing induced by the pandemic which will affect us all going into 2023. 

Riders will enjoy more choices and bargains on those choices as time marches on toward the holidays. Inventory levels have reached critical mass in some categories with the result being that shipping costs are being forgiven at lower ordering levels for shops and from what I heard, some folks even lost their jobs due to ordering too much stuff at a certain distributor that shall remain nameless.

The inflationary climate has doused the fires of consumer demand as well, sending retailers skittering toward big sales and discounts as we head into the New Year. Some prognosticators of the cycling industry are claiming the fall-out from this may be that retail will suffer and seeing closures is not out of the question. 

Interesting times, to be sure.

The Esker Lorax in titanium (Image courtesy of Esker)
Ti Lorax Introduced:

Last week Esker Cycles announced a couple of new titanium frame offerings- The Walden fat bike and the Lorax gravel bike. 

The Lorax was a steel offering in Esker Cycles previous incarnation, Advocate Cycles. That was back in 2015, but now the Lorax is not Reynolds 531, but titanium. 

It has several mounting options for accessories, as you would expect, tire clearance is a claimed 2" wide for a 700c wheel, and the geometry is pretty good. 75mm bottom bracket drop, 71.5° head tube angles, and a top tube that isn't sloped super crazy so it won't need a really long seat post. The adjustable "Portage" drop outs are cool in case you have to do the single speed bail-out mission. Price with a Wolf Tooth head set, seat collar, and rear through axle is set at $2300.00 USD.

Comments: Not bad, Esker, not bad at all. I always felt as though that the Lorax was a take on the Vaya from Salsa Cycles, and this titanium version does nothing to dispel that notion for me. That's a good thing, because the Vaya is a great, and very underrated, gravel bike choice. I would suspect that this bike would handle very much in the Vaya's vein, which I welcome. 

The price is more than reasonable here, and with a double butted tube set, I would bet that this bike would ride like a dream.

Riding Gravel Radio Ranch Episode #105: The Gravel Amplifier:

Monday afternoon N.Y. Roll and I met at The Stone Castle Estates and recorded the Riding Gravel Radio Ranch Podcast #105. We're calling it "The Gravel Amplifier". 

This goes along with the post I made Tuesday which also is about the same thing. But do make sure you click through to the podcast, because there I list a few more events than I did on Tuesday. (See those in the Show Notes)

So, going forward, this could become a series, but that is entirely up to you- the readers. If I get submissions and they pass the sniff test, boom! Amplification happens. If I get radio silence? Then I move on, and nothing gets amplified. I'm not doing the search and destroy for this anymore these days. Here's why......

You'll hear a bit about this if you listen to the podcast, but when I started the Gravel Grinder News calendar in 2009, there was no one else doing what I was doing. As gravel became more popular and more lucrative, players came in to capitalize on my work, and much of what I had dug up and compiled ended up becoming their "content" with no recognition or acknowledgement for where it came from. 

I get it- It's all public knowledge, but it was a cheesy, classless way to obtain a calendar which I did not appreciate. So, I am not going to publish and maintain a calendar to benefit other sites. They can dig up their own stuff. But I will take submissions for certain events, amplify them, and spread the word as best as I can on my channels. So, no calendar of events, but I will help to push those events that otherwise would not get any publicity in cycling media. 

If you are a fan of an event, or like what is happening at an event and want to see it succeed, let me know. Likewise for event promoters. I am here for ya.....


Lay-offs Affect Cyclingtips:

Late on Tuesday afternoon word started to spread via social media that several cuts were made at Outside and especially at Cyclintips, which is a news/technical review site that employs some very well known cycling media personalities. There were several social media posts claiming that Outside had released up to 12% of the staff. (Now confirmed) One person that was confirmed as a lay-off was Senior Editor, Caley Fretz who had joined Cyclingtips in late 2017. 

Lead technical writer for Cyclingtips, James Huang, who retained his position with the company, Tweeted the following on Tuesday evening, "To be clear, I’m still at CyclingTips. But given everyone who was let go, it still feels like I lost a close friend today."

Outside, who had acquired Cyclingtips, Pink Bike, and Trailforks in 2021, also made cuts to Cyclingtips and shut down the mountain bike title, Beta, completely earlier this year in May. 

Comments: As I said, back in May, I don't trust corporations that own a bunch of media titles. But, on the other hand, what should they do? It would seem that most people consume their "news" on social media, podcasts, or on YouTube these days. It would seem that "real", physical magazines are now dinosaurs. It would also appear that trying to get people to give up money to get behind a paywall is not drawing the money/numbers that some thought it might. Advertisers are looking for max-clicks, and apparently, Cyclingtips wasn't drawing big enough numbers. (For a more in-depth look at the situation see this Cycling Industry News article or this from AdWeek)

Interestingly, Pink Bike, which is said to be Outside's biggest draw digitally speaking, is a massive success. It would seem that we are in an era of consolidation/ending of titles and singular, monolithic entities will now control recreational media and, perhaps someday, even your events. (See both Outside and Life Time for examples) 

Lauf, Gravel Worlds, PCL Debut Collab On Seigla Gravel Bike:

Wednesday big news came from the gang at Gravel Worlds. They have partnered with long-time sponsor, Lauf Cycling, to bring a PCL themed Seigla to the masses. 

The Seigla is the newest incarnation of a gravel bike from Lauf  which features the unmistakable Lauf Grit fork, now in its third generation, and clearances for up to 57mm tires. 

Comments: This is a cool collaboration. I like the bike but for its high bottom bracket, which is something I cannot compromise on, but that's maybe just me. 

I love that Lauf and the folks at Gravel Worlds arrived on, what I consider to be, the classic PCL colors of army green and black. I recall that in 2011 at Trans Iowa v7, second place finisher Troy Krause had on the original PCL Army Green/Black jersey and that I just loved that combo. The PCL came out with a reissue of that design which I snagged right away. So, this scheme on the Seigla is a really great idea, to my mind. 

Want one? Check out this link. 
 

 That's all for this week! get out and ride! (Layer up, y'all!) Thanks for reading Guitar Ted Productions!

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Well, Now This

Snowy commute
So, yeah.... When it snows here the whole dynamic of my cycling here changes. The air temperature dives, it gets windy, and that's certainly part of it as well. But snow, that's a whole different thing. 

I certainly will, and I have in the past, cycle in snow on snowy roads out in the country. But I won't if it gets icy, and then you've got that aforementioned wind and weather. It gets where conditions are rare for a safe, fun ride. I'm at a point in life where I've got nothing to prove to anyone. If things get bad out there in the Winter, well, I could go riding, but I don't have to do that. Why? There is no reason to. 

What I did have to do was to make sure my bikes are ready for Winter and that they have the proper set up. I have already detailed the light thing for Ti Mukluk 2. But I have two other fat bikes and those have to be gotten ready to go. 

I decided to roll out the Blackborow DS for sprucing up for this Winter. It didn't need much, to be honest. It's such a simple bike. I almost didn't have it this year to have to spruce it up. 

Last year I was in a place at about this time of the year that I knew I was out of a job. The pandemic pretty much put a stranglehold on the shop at the time and product was hard to come by to sell. That made it so that Andy decided to call it quits. And I was looking at not having any income for the Winter. But I have three fat bikes, so.....

The Blackborow DS is all ready to roll into 2023.

So I thought about selling the Blackborow DS. I almost had it sold, but the guy didn't bite in the end. I was disappointed, but another opportunity came along and I received some unexpected help so everything worked out for the best. But it almost happened.

So, two fat bikes out of the three are set to go, but look- We just got started with Winter here. Maybe things will swing back the other way and I'll be riding the gravel bikes again soon. Hard to say. But it's good to be ready for this- What we have going on right now.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Virtual Turkey Burn: Reprise

From the 2021 Virtual Turkey Burn
Last year I ran the following idea by you all and it was well received, garnering a few great ride reports. So, N.Y. Roll reminded me about this and I thought, "Why not do it again?" The worst thing that could happen is that N.Y. Roll and I do rides out of it and share them here. 

Following is a cut-and-paste from last year's post

I propose a "Virtual Turkey Burn Century". Here are the parameters for participation:

  1. Pick a bike. As stated, the more 'forlorn, forgotten, and neglected' of your choices, all the better. But also- Run what ya brung. If you want to use your favorite, most used bike- go for it. 
  2. Ride a "century". Metric or full-on hundy, I don't care. Pavement, single track, gravel, back alleys, whatever. You decide. 
  3. Take a picture. Take several if you want to. Digital works best for this.
  4. Send me your pic and a few words with a name I can credit to. 
  5. Do this between Thursday, November 24th to Sunday November 27th. (Thanksgiving 'weekend' in the USA) You can do a century over several days even- if you want to. Whatever.
  6. Send in your pics and words to g.ted.productions@gmail.com by Tuesday November 29th. I will put up a "Virtual Turkey Burn Report" Saturday December 3rd, (or after- Depending upon the number of submissions)  showing off everyone's submissions. (That is, if there are any daring enough to actually do this deal.)

You can join in the fun or just come back to see if anyone actually did something and read about it here. I am committed to the idea, so there will be one report, at the least. What do you get as a participant? Just a fun activity and possibly an infamous reputation from having your images and words posted on Guitar Ted Productions. Sorry, but if you participate, thems the rearwards folks! This ain't no fancy-pants organization here. If you get laughed at by your peers for having your stuff show up here, well then, I am sorry, but I warned ya! 

Okay, that's the plan. Now..... GO!

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Event Amplifier: November 2022

Introducing The Guitar Ted Productions Event Amplifier:

Introduction: Last week I posted about a NE Pennsylvania gravel event and I received a couple of very interesting comments. First, let's look at those two comments, because they were the impetus for me to make a decision to do what I am doing here today. Here are those quotes:

"Please continue to post some of these events. I want to travel to a location to ride but don't want to buy in to the BWR/Unbound style event. I'm not new at all to bikes (or your blog) but am new to gravel riding and it's been so fun exploring new areas."

 "Absolutely post more unique events. It will give me an interesting POI map for next year.

...as long as the fees don't kill.
"

I took inspiration from these comments and Tweeted out that I thought that "...a lot of folks feel this way." I also stated that I would amplify unique, under-the-radar events here on the blog if people would suggest them. The response was quick and I received several suggestions. Today I am going to share some of them with you. 

But first, here are some ground rules: It's got to be a "gravel" or dirt road event. Doesn't have to be a race either, but the course has to have at least 75% of its distance in gravel/dirt. That's not necessarily a hard number, but I think if you stick in miles and miles of pavement your event is something else. Just what that is I'll leave up to you to decide, but in my opinion, it ain't no gravel event. 

Secondly, I really cringe when I see events that have their main focus for their public interface as just Facebook or just Instagram, or just BikeReg. All three? Great! Got a website? That's the best. So, if I see you are only using Facebook, which not all folks have, or want to use, then nah.....I'm probably not going to amplify that. Why? Because I will get grief about it on my end. I have nothing at all to do with the event productions, but I'll get the complaints that "this is on Facebook only? Too bad! I will never use that social media, so why did you "promote that event"? 

Which leads me to this: I am not PROMOTING THESE EVENTS! I am amplifying them. In other words, I am acting here, (quoting the Dictionary.com meaning) " to make larger, greater, or stronger; enlarge; extend." these events bandwidth in terms of their message. That's it. That's all I am doing here.

So, if the site goes dark, the dates change, if you cannot get a hold of the race director, or if there are issues on your side with attendance, etc, I AM NOT THE PERSON YOU SHOULD CONTACT.  I will not reply to such queries. I am merely informing you of the existence of an event. Period. 

Ask me some other time to explain why I have to say these things, but for now- trust me - I haven't driven that point home hard enough. This is not my first rodeo, as the saying goes. 

Finally: My take on these events is just that- my personal opinion. I look at the information presented and call it like I see it. You'll find this opinion in "Why It's Cool" and any concerns I might have in the "Caveat" sections.

Okay- 'niff said on that! 

The Dusty Roadrunner Gravel Series:

Location: These dirt/gravel events take place on various courses around the Albuquerque, New Mexico area throughout the year. 

Dates: The events take place throughout the year. The final event for 2022 is this coming weekend. Look for new 2023 dates on their website to be announced later. 

Why It's Cool: All courses are unpaved and the events are free. The organizers do require that you preregister and spots are limited.  Low key, social, and self-supported. 

Caveat: The events are in remote areas, so be prepared to rough it!

Website: https://dustyroadrunner.weebly.com/

Chinkapin Hollow Gravel Grinder:

Location: Fayetteville, Arkansas. 

Date: October 28th, 2023

Why It's Cool: This event was happening in Northwest Arkansas way before it was cool to be riding gravel in NW Arkansas. The event has a prize purse, and it is a full-blown production with everything you would expect in a race. Festival atmosphere. Great area to bring the family. Reasonable event cost. 

Caveat: The two shorter distances offered have too much pavement in their courses to really be considered a "gravel event", but the 109 mile course does cut the mustard.  

Website: https://www.bikesignup.com/Race/AR/Fayetteville/ChinkapinHollowGravelGrinder 

(I discuss this a bit with N.Y. Roll on the latest Riding Gravel Radio Ranch episode: "The Gravel Amplifier"

Okay, that's it for this post. I'll have a few more soon.  

Monday, November 14, 2022

Getting Lit: Part 3

Shiny! A look from the cockpit of the Ti Muk 2
 As I mentioned Friday, I got the Schmidt Edelux II light mounted and tested on my Ti Muk 2. I know that the Schmidt light looks rather simple and plain, but there is a lot going on "under the hood" here and I'll get to explaining all of that. It should help to make sense of the $270.00+ price tag for this piece of kit. 

Yeah.....that's expensive, but a good LED rechargeable is at least $120+ now, and you have to, you know......recharge the thing sometimes. You will do that a LOT if you run the light all the time at its brightest setting too. So, you have to keep that perspective when you compare an LED light to a stand-alone dynamo system. 

I'm not saying the Schmidt light is "better" or "worse". It is an option, and it may or may not make sense to you. For me and my purposes, this makes sense, especially on this bicycle. 

The Edelux II is Schmidt's latest version of this light and it features the following things;  

  •  High light output thanks to optimal LED-cooling with copper heat sink and aluminum-housing
  • Easy handling with magnetic switch and automatic light sensor
  • Long lifetime with potted electronics, robust housing and coaxial cable
  • Bright standlight
  • Conforms with German legal regulations StVZO
  • Made in Germany | 5 years guarantee

The lens is an anti-reflective glass, not plastic, so it lets more light through and it will not degrade over time. It can be set off, on "light sensing mode", which allows the head lamp to turn on only when it gets dark enough to need a light, or "Always On" mode for day time running lights. This is all controlled by the magnetic switch and reed switch which allows the internals of the head lamp to remain sealed to the outside world. 

All the internal electronics are potted, (encased in silicone, most likely) to further protect them from the elements. The wire Schmidt uses is a coaxial wire instead of the double stranded, plastic coated wires you typically see and which are pretty fragile. The coaxial cable, if you aren't familiar, is a single strand in the center of copper wires encased in a heavy insulation which then is surrounded by a second conductor of braided copper wires and then this is encased in a thick, rubber insulation coating. This is a far more robust way to run a wire to the hub. 

Furthermore, the light came with a grounding tab and has a port with a spade connector for the SON rear tail light I have. So, that was a big plus in this case for me to purchase the Schmidt light. 

I only wanted to buy a head light once, so in my opinion, the Schmidt Edelux II was my best option here. 

The set up from the front.....

 It was important to me to have the light not be interfered by cables or any potential bags/loads I may choose to carry up front. This meant that in my case, a mount up high on the handlebars was optimal. I already had the Bausch and Mueller light mount, so I employed that to mount the Edelux II from. This put the light 'out front' of the cables and well above any load I may choose to place on the front rack. 

Note how the cable runs from the bottom of the light unit into an old floor pump hose which is peeking out on the non-drive side of the head tube by the Salsa Cycles head badge there. I did this with the previous cable as well. It insures an extra layer of protection against the elements in case things get mucky, wet, or rough. 

....and from the back side where the SON tail lamp is mounted to my rack.

Again, the SON tail lamp is rack mountable, and has a coaxial cable like the head lamp does. I ran that cable up another section of floor pump hose to the front of the bike from underneath the rack to underneath the top tube up to the head tube. From there that cable exits the floor pump hose and runs via some spiral-wound plastic wire loom protector, (much like you'd see on spark plug wire looms in automobiles) to the head lamp. 

 The connections at the hub.

Schmidt makes a coaxial connector for the disconnection of wires at the hub to ease front wheel removal. I did not get this option as I do not take the front wheel out often, or hardly ever, so I deemed that this feature was unnecessary for me. Although I did leave enough wire to install that should I decide to go with that in the future. 

So, that's about it. The light is pretty bright. Brighter than the previous Bausch and Mueller light, for sure. The SON tail lamp seems brighter as well. I don't know if that is possible, but that's my impression now. Of course, having the stand light feature is a big plus with being a commuter and all. I also like the stand light as it illuminates my way back into the house at night without trying to fumble for a light switch. 

That should wrap up the repairs and maintenance I started on this bike back in September! I'm good to go now through till next year sometime before I'll need to do another oil change on the Rohloff hub. 

Thanks to Waterloo Bicycle Works and Angry Catfish for the support and excellent service!