Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Country Views: Red, White, & Blue Ride

Escape Route: Sergeant Road Bicycle Trail
 Generally I do a 4th of July ride every year on the 4th. Makes sense. If I did a "4th of July Ride" on any other day it would maybe be silly. But I made an exception this year as the 4th was forecast as a rainy, thunderstorm ridden day, and well.....I do not like being a lightning rod. I don't know about you, but generally speaking, it almost never just 'rains' here. It pours buckets, blows wind, and electrical storms are common. Going out for a ride in the rain then is a really bad idea. 

 Please forgive me this, but I did my annual 4th of July Ride on the 3rd. It was Sunny, not a cloud in the sky, and in the mid-80's for temperatures. In other words, almost perfect riding weather, and almost zero chance of being electrocuted. That's always nice. 

So, I took off about mid-morning for a Southern route because the winds were out of the South. Not a gale-force wind either, like we've had most of the riding season, but a stiff breeze none-the-less. And as mentioned, it was plenty warm, but strangely enough, not very humid, which ended up being a good thing later on.

Starting off down Eldora Road

It's about as green as it gets out here now.

This route was a bit different in that I took the entire Sergeant Road Bicycle Trail. Along the way I ran into my old Trans Iowa recon partner, Jeremy Fry. I stopped for a bit and chatted with him, then I continued onward down the trail all the way down to Hudson, Iowa and then found my way West from there to the beginning of Eldora Road. This is a remnant of an old stage coach route/trail which was made over original Native American paths and went Southwest from Waterloo overland to points Southwest along the Iowa River, and Eldora in particular. 

Some of this trail remains as "Eldora Road" and is 'off grid' to the rest of the roads here. Because it follows the Black Hawk Creek valley, it is relatively flat. But I turned due South at the Grundy-Black Hawk County line and headed toward Tama County on Grundy Road. 

A Prairie Rose along Grundy Road.

This shed is along M Avenue, which is what Grundy Road becomes in Tama County.

I was working the headwind pretty well, not being too held back by that or the fresh gravel. It got more hilly as I traveled South into Tama County, but I would not be going South into Tama County long before my Eastward segment of my route had me turning left. 


The first three miles going East would be on 110th Street, a Level B Maintenance section. It generally is a dirt road which is in excellent shape and I expected it to be fast and smooth. I was not disappointed. I stopped for a quick "nature break" and continued going East. 

Looking back at 110th Street from R Avenue

Between where I took this image and the top of the next hill is the Tama-Black Hawk County line

I was making pretty good time and now with the wind out of my face, it was easier going. Once I turned North it was game-on. The speeds increased, and I started ticking off the miles back towards Waterloo. 

A couple of weeks ago, this corn was barely out of the ground. Late planted, but still 'man-high by the 4th of July'!

I started looking at my watch about this time and was trying to figure out if I was going to make it home for a late lunch. I calculated that I might make it by 1:30pm, if all went well. I was tossing around the idea of going East up Petrie Road's Level B section, but if I didn't, and went straight, I'd get home faster. But I hadn't been on that dirt road in a while, so.....

Day lillies in the ditch give a splash of orange color to this scene.

And this field was covered in yellow blossoms.

I debated and debated on this and in the end, I was making such good time with the wind I figured I could add that into the route. I had to go a mile east at some point anyway, so why not? 

The West end of Petrie Road. You'd ride right by this if you didn't know it was there.

It gets easier to see the road as you go East.

Anyway, I ended up the ride by doing a bit of speed work evading an aggressive troupe of Red Winged Blackbirds on Aker Road. That zapped me pretty good, and I was on the fringes of a pretty good bonk by the time I made it home, about 3 hours and 45 minutes, total, after I started. That's including four brief stops. 

I feel like I rode well, despite not bringing anything to eat, as I should have, so I was pretty pleased with that effort. And I was very thankful for the freedom I enjoy to be able to do a ride like that.

Monday, July 04, 2022

Country Views: The 4th of July

Happy 4th of July!

Today we pause to celebrate the birth of the USA and our Declaration of Independence. 

While this nation has its flaws, it has done some amazing things and provided opportunities for millions. 

In terms of gravel cycling, I decided it might be fun to celebrate and show off gravel from all parts of the nation which we are free to ride. 

Some of the images are not mine and I will indicate these where necessary.

Central California by Grannygear

 
East-Central Nebraska

Michigan- (Image courtesy of Moran 166 race)

Utah (Image courtesy of Salty and Stupid Cycling)

Pennsylvania - (Image courtesy of unPAved of the Susquehanna River Valley)

Virginia - (Image courtesy of the Rocktown Rambler)

Mississippi - (Image courtesy of the Mississippi Gravel Cup)

Wisconsin (Image courtesy of Dairy Roubaix)

Minnesota (Image by John Ingham)

Oklahoma - (Image courtesy of Mid-South)

Vermont - (Image courtesy of the Muddy Onion)

Illinois - (Image courtesy of the Ten Thousand)

Kansas

Thanks for checking these out. Wherever you live, I hope that you have your health, freedom, and a bicycle to roam on. 

Thanks for reading Guitar Ted Productions!

Sunday, July 03, 2022

Trans Iowa Stories: The Fall-Out

Handing out cues at T.I.v14 (Image by K. Roccaseca)
 "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!  

Trans Iowa v14 was a success. It was average from the standpoint of finishers versus starters, and it had plenty of tough conditions to go around. The main issues for the riders being lots of fresh, deep, loose gravel, a very cold overnight, and for those who came in to the finish, a pretty stiff headwind. 

The event's ending announced on my blog, Sunday at 2:00pm, was timed to post as Trans Iowa ended. What would the fall-out be? I had no idea, but I expected there to be some. First there was the feedback that hit me because of the event. The post-event blues, if you will. It wasn't too bad, but the physical toll the last Trans Iowa took on me was immense. I had continual bouts with fatigue off and on for a good solid week, and doing anything was tough. 

But doing things was just what I tried to immerse myself in. I was forward-facing. I was resolute that I had to leave this Trans Iowa thing behind. So much so that I was kind of militant about it all. Of course, a few people asked about passing the torch on to others. Trans Iowa could still live, right? Just let it go to good caretakers and relax, right? 

 There is a good story which I can share regarding this-  Jeremy Fry, who had been my recon partner and had been a checkpoint volunteer many times, not to mention a finisher of Trans Iowa, had ridden in the last Trans Iowa. He was bitten by the 120th Street cue thing, but he did figure it out. Ironically, he would have probably really grilled me on the cues for that if he had been reconning the route with me. But as it stood, he saw what I had done, and I think he approved. Unfortunately, his navigational error caused him to miss the Checkpoint #2 cut-off. 

Jeremy Fry riding during Trans Iowa v14 (Image by J Duke)
 

So, Jeremy had gotten a hold of me right after Trans Iowa was over, and asked if he could bring some beer and have a chat on my porch some night. Well, he showed up. We talked about his experiences with riding the event. We talked about our past with Trans Iowa and eventually, after much beer had been consumed, we got around to the subject of the possibility of turning over the event to someone else. Jeremy was pretty animated and resolute. He firmly told me that under no circumstances should Trans Iowa continue on under someone else's leadership. He pointed a skinny finger at me at one point and said, "YOU are Trans Iowa!", in a very commanding tone. 

Okay, so I got that message. And upon reflection, I think I understood what Jeremy was trying to tell me. The event had been so infused with my spirit, my unique touches, that anyone else would not measure up. This is not to say that anyone else would do anything badly, or even 'wrong', but anything off the marks I had set would be seen negatively, perhaps. I thought that was the correct interpretation of Jeremy's remarks, at any rate. 

And to be completely honest, this was the train of thought I had as well. I wasn't against a Trans Iowa-like event in Iowa, even on the same weekend I ran it. I was against anyone setting themselves up for a hard road, or perhaps a failure, because "Guitar Ted didn't do things that way!".  

Next: An Offer To Consider

Saturday, July 02, 2022

Who Is Watching You?

Gravel riding in rural areas is calming, relatively safe, and obviously, it also must be a lot of fun, because so many people are engaged in the activity now. There are a few things one should know when riding in rural areas, and many of those things are obvious. Dogs? yep, we've been aware of that. How about how to read roads? Yes, you've seen articles on that. Finding routes? You betcha! 

But have you considered the rural residents, their attitudes about strangers, and how that intersects with a rise in distrust generally amongst the populace? Connect the dots and you might be surprised to find out that this has resulted in a rise of security measures on the part of rural residents. In other words- you are being watched. 

Security cameras are nothing new. They used to be big, metallic covered, clunky, and easily spotted devices, but that is no longer the case. Today's cameras are often camouflaged, wireless, and can "see" in a wide range, and even in the dark. Basically, you never know when someone might be sitting at a computer desk, or lounging with a laptop, just, you know, 'checking the cameras', and see you on their property, or 'just passing by". 

The most obvious places to find this technology is around homes and outbuildings, but you should also be aware that 'game cameras' often are mounted along roads, and especially low maintenance roads, where hunters like to find game. So, just because you are out of eyesight of a house, are you really? 

Modern security cameras have wide fields of view and can see in the dark
 And maybe you think its 'no big deal', right? I mean, who cares if you ride a Level B road, or poach that Level C road, (which is illegal, by the way) Well, if that's how you think, you have no clue as to how the residents of rural areas see you. 

Rural Iowans, (and I suspect many rural residents across the USA), are very suspicious of strangers, and oddballs on bicycles don't typically help that feeling along. Sure, most folks are kind, and even very helpful to us as cyclists. Heck, I had a young man in a pick-up truck stop to ask if I was okay as I was resting on a bridge just last week, But typically suspicion is their first emotion, and if it is an odd time of day, or at night, you can bet that the suspicions will run higher. And also- You never know who you are dealing with. 

I've run across the more suspicious types, and with a bit of conversation, the atmosphere gets cleared. However; if you are poking around an outbuilding looking for a good place to take your "nature break", you are going to have to accept that there may be some unpleasant consequences. And that may be chalked up to security cameras on the scene. 

I'm not trying to brow-beat, or talk anyone out of riding rural areas. To the contrary! I happen to enjoy the rides out of town immensely, and I highly recommend that you do it as well, if you can. However; it pays to be aware that times have changed, and technology is creeping all over the world. The 'eyes' of someone who is invisible to you just may be on you and your activities anywhere, literally, these days. And you know, this surveillance is only going to increase.

Always be aware and ask, "Who is watching me now?", before you do something off the bike, or before you ride a non-public road or area. The answer to that question might very well be, "Someone is watching!", and you should act accordingly. Remember- "Choices come with Consequences" - Are you willing to accept that? 

Choose carefully.

Friday, July 01, 2022

Friday News And Views

$800-plus bucks to save two watts? What?!
A Brief Look At What Has Been Done Before:

Last week you all probably saw this ridiculous rear derailleur cage from Ceramic Speed which has aero covers and is supposedly good for a two watt savings over something like 25 miles. Give or take. 

I know, it was probably one of the better click-bait things for many sites and it probably got a lot of tongues wagging about , "How stupid is that?!". 

I dunno..... Probably so 'stupid' that they'll sell every one of them that they make 'stupid', that's how stupid that is, most likely. 

If you believe it, it will work, most likely, and you'll pay that price for "speed". Seems to be the thing with cyclists for as long as I've been paying attention. (See the dropper post thing below)

The thing I saw when I noted that derailleur cage last week was that it wasn't the first attempt at making a rear derailleur more aero. Heck, some of you older folks probably remember the aero-rear derailleurs from Campy, Sun Tour, and others back in the 80's. Well, I thought about one effort to make components aero that was pretty involved and fell flat on its face. It was the Shimano Dura-Ace AX Series components. 

Shimano Dura Ace AX rear derailleur
The Dura Ace AX stuff was pretty radical back then. The brakes, the derailleurs, and even cable routing was considered and made to cut through the wind more smoothly. 

I cobbed a couple images for this segment from the 'innergoogles', and to the left here you can see how the upper jockey wheel is shrouded, but note that cable routing! No cable hanging out in the wind here! Due to the way derailleurs were made back then, the upper jockey wheel was deemed to be more important in an aero application than the lower one. See how all the derailleur edges are smoothed out too. 

Part of the reason Dura Ace AX fell flat with riders was its use of the new, at that time 10mm chain pitch called Dura Ace 10. Normal chains, in a metric measure, are 12.7mm in "pitch", which determines the distance between chain pins and cog teeth. If you want to take a deeper dive on why Shimano thought a 10mm chain pitch was better, read this

Anyway, I thought it might prove to be interesting to point out that these sorts of ideas have cropped up in cycling's past and that this Ceramic Speed idea is just a modern-day riffing on those old ideas.

Shimano's new 105 Di2 group. (Image courtesy of Shimano)


New Shimano 105 Di2: It has been years since people wondered if Shimano would ever 'trickle-down' a Di2 105 level electronic group, and finally, the day is here. It happened this week, and what might be a big surprise to many, it isn't an older, 11 speed group, or a watered down version. Nope! Shimano went all-in and equipped the new 105 Di2 with the latest in Di2 technology and made it 12 speed! You've no doubt read all about it already, so on to the....

Comments: SRAM made inroads on the market with their lower priced AXS Rival stuff, and while their system is ballyhooed for its completely wireless set up, that can be a bit of a 'drag' in terms of shifting speed. Shimano went wireless where it meant the most- in the levers, and stuck with a wired derailleur system because they did not want to compromise the speed and efficiency of their already world-class Di2. And it seems many Pro cyclists and enthusiasts agree. However; to get in on Shimano Di2, you had to spend a pretty penny because it started at the Ultegra level. 

Now with Shimano 105 Di2, he prices are far lower, and in many individual component cases, less than SRAM Rival AXS. There is one area, however, where SRAM still holds a bit of an advantage and that is in the extended range that SRAM AXS Xplor has. 

But you have to assume that GRX, being held out as a separate category by Shimano, (Gravel, vs MTB or Road), will soon see a similar update, and when it does, I assume we will see a similar 12 speed set up with wide-range casettes to go along with that. Interestingly, Shimano chose to make Di2 105 backwards compatible with HyperGlide 11, 10, and some earlier free hub bodies. Will GRX stay that course, or will the 12 speed be MicroSpline, as it is with their MTB stuff?

My feeling is that Shimano sees GRX being more closely related to road bike componentry and therefor they will stick to the course set by Di2 DuraAce, Ultegra, and 105, in my opinion. Or.....Di2 105 is being stuck with the "old" free hub and newer road and GRX stuff will be MicroSpline. I can see it going either way. 

The bad thing here is that this may signal the end of high-end, mechanically operated drive trains. Now I mean from SRAM and Shimano. I think you'll always have stuff like Microshift around doing whatever the 'big guys' are not doing.  But there was no traditional 105 announced with this, so..... Makes one think.

SILCA's "The Truth" tire pressure gauge. (Image courtesy of SILCA)

You Can't Handle The "Truth"!:

Well, you can pre-order it for about $249.00 though! What am I talking about? This thing that SILCA has made for Pro and insider's use only for many years, that's what. 

Almost $250.00 for a tire pressure gauge? Yep! If getting every last bit of performance out of your tires is of paramount importance to you, this gauge will help you get that. 

I know.....I know... You squeeze your tires using that highly calibrated 'hand gauge' you've always used and head on out the door. Yeah, well- this ain't fer you. Racers, time-trialists, fat bikers, and anyone that wants to hit the 'sweet spot' on pressure every time they ride, this is for you. Yes- it is expensive. I'd counter that with the history of SILCA so far in the USA being one that has shown that it provides some pretty high-end, reliable tools and kit. Listen- The Pros wouldn't have been using this if it didn't hold up and do a good job.

I mean, this gauge compensates for temperature, barometric pressure, and humidity. That's more than I can say about myself, right there. If only I could compensate for humidity....... I know one thing I am going to compensate for, and that is using another type of gauge I can afford, (or already have) to compensate for the waaaay expensive SILCA gauge. That's what I am doing....

The "G Series" Dropper Post (Image courtesy of Enve)

Don't Stop Till You Dropper: 

Or something like that..... Anyway! The dropper post for gravel riding, or heck, even just road riding. I think it is a vastly underrated and misunderstood thing. Most, even Enve and others that promote the use of such lowering devices for gravel, think they exist to get you down a sketchy segment. Well.....yeah, but....

Aerodynamics. That's why you should be using a dropper post on a gravel bike. The rest of that nonsense is gravy. Dropping your tush on a long descent via the use of a dropper will make you leave your friends in your dusty contrail. That's if you just sit there and coast! 

 Don't believe me? Well, you go try it and get back to me afterward. I don't "think" you'll agree- I know you will. It's a thing. Better than a derailleur cage cover.....pffft!

So, Enve has seen that from a more MTB perspective, and totally missed the boat on the best reason to use one of these, but whatever. They will catch on someday. The point here is that Enve has developed an "upside down" dropper for a bicycle. They call it the "G Series Dropper Post".

You can read why they did what they did here. I think it is an intriguing way to do this idea. It allows for saddle bags, for one thing, and it seems that this design may indeed do what Enve claims in terms of keeping the muck out and the durability high for the internals. 

Yes- it also is quite expensive. But it weighs less than 400 grams, which in dropper post terms is ultra-light weight. So, you do not pay much of a weight penalty here, and once again: Aero! Free Speed! And an additional note. I thought this was a unique design, but as it turns out, DT Swiss makes one like it. It's even more expensive!

 That's all for this week. Have a safe, fun, and happy 4th of July weekend (If you live in the USA), and if you don't celebrate that, have a great weekend anyway and get out and ride! Thanks- as always- for reading Guitar Ted Productions!

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Hammerhead Karoo 2: Final Word

I did get the Karoo 2 to function 100%- for a little bit!
Hammerhead Karoo 2 Review Short Version: Not a good GPS unit. Read on for the longer take, if you want to know more.

Longer Version: Last week I got two bits of help after posting my "Part 3" of the Hammerhead review. Apparently, you cannot work an upload from a PC computer to the Karoo 2 head unit. You have to do it by your WiFi connected phone, or phone-like device of choice. 

One would think that would be front and center in the set up for the Karro 2, but neither my wife, nor I, saw this. We had to find out via other people who had gone through this. That's not right. This is not how you sell a device and have it be used by a consumer. Not such an expensive device as the Karoo 2. THAT should have been communicated during the set-up procedure. Had I known that, one of the several strikes I have against this device would have been mitigated. But I still would have nixed this in my review as being a bad product. At least the example that was purchased by my wife for me. 

Second strike? That I had to back out of a turn-by-turn ride to keep the unit from randomly shutting down while riding. In other words, if you choose a saved ride and want turn-by-turn directions, you choose it from your "Collections", and the Karoo 2 says it is preparing the ride for you. Then the screen pops up with the map and icons ready for a ride. You roll off, and everything seems okay. You get a prompt to turn, and the map is showing your progress and the data is compiling. All good, right?

 
I got this message repeatedly until I bailed out and started up the unit again.

Nope! I kept getting the above message and despite restarting the app, I had to completely back out, by using the power off button, refire the unit, and then it would behave. But only then. Does that seem right? Is there anywhere in the instructions that details this? No. there is not....

And then to top it all off, I got everything working Friday on my ride, but the map froze, so the tracking was stopped at a couple miles into my ride. I was still getting correct and punctual audible and readable turn-by-turn prompts, but nothing on the map was moving. Oh,. and time, speed, and whatever else was fine as well. 

On a stop I rebooted again, and then the evil message prompts came back, and well, I had had it by this time. 

Final Words: When one buys a device, one should not have to hop through hoops and have to spend hours to "figure it out" to get it to work. That is simply not an acceptable way to have consumers deal with any electronic device. There is no reason a device shouldn't be intuitive, easy to figure out, and run smoothly. For instance, Hammerhead touts the "smart phone" power that the Karoo 2 has. The "app" style navigation with a swipe is supposedly intuitive and makes for a great user experience. I say that is simply not the case at all with regard to this unit I have had. 

I recently had to learn a new smart phone for work. A Motorola phone. I use an iPhone and have for years, yet it took all of about 15 minutes for me to figure out how to operate the Motorola phone. Now that's intuitive. Additionally the Motorola phone doesn't randomly shut off, require me to visit a website to "research my problems", because, well, there aren't any. Furthermore, there is no need to dig through hundreds of queries from other dissatisfied users on the company website to see if your question has been asked before. Contrast that to the literal hours I have spent online, in Hammerhead's FAQ, on their user forum, and dinking around with the unit itself, and I still do not have a clue as to how it works. 

My contention is that this is not tenable. I shouldn't have to be running around trying to find out how this unit works after all the hours I have tried to interface with it. The company should have a cleaner, easier to understand interface, and their FAQ is literally useless. The user forum is fine, but if this unit is all that and a bag of chips, why are there literally thousands of queries- many with no answers? 

Speaking of no answers, I sent in a question to Hammerhead and still haven't seen an answer. Nice customer service there....

 Yes, I am upset, and I am frustrated, and this unit has been shipped back to Hammerhead with a note. We'll see what happens...... Frankly, at this point, I don't care if I ever see one again, but we'll see. 

I suppose it goes without saying, but this was not a sponsored product and it was bought by my wife as a gift to me. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Gravel Grinder News: Gravel Worlds Achieves 1000 Women of Gravel Worlds Goal.

 Today it was announced that Gravel Worlds, whose presenting sponsor is Garmin, achieved a goal of signing up 1000 women to their event in August. This commendable effort was done in a certain way to be free from calls of "sponsored riders" or from any other untoward motives that might be laid up against the Gravel Worlds team. 

Instead of using the leverage of sponsors, media, or advertising, Gravel Worlds used their social media platforms to spread the word and - as organically as is possible these days- raised awareness to the point that the achieved the goal set for themselves. 

And furthermore; it wasn't like Gravel Worlds didn't already have a higher number of female identifying participants anyway. Check this quote out from the press release:

 "According to Garmin Gravel Worlds co-promoter, Jason Strohbehn, the movement started from conversations with sponsors, who said 28% women’s participation at Gravel Worlds 2021 was nearly double the industry average. 

“Initially, we were embarrassed by our women’s participation numbers, and it then became embarrassing to learn that it was double the industry average,” Strohbehn said. “We quickly set a monumental goal to triple the number of women we’ve ever had at Gravel Worlds and obtain more than 35% women. We wanted a goal that was not only going to push ourselves, but also be big enough to encourage an entire industry."

Comments: Well, I think Gravel Worlds has set a pretty high bar for other events to follow and they did it in a way which, in my opinion, was harder to do, but also- believable. In this day and age where riders appear who are "comped" in, and sponsorship dollars and company marketing can be leveraged, (Think what Garmin could have done to help this happen), and it becomes apparent that Gravel Worlds wants to keep things as grassroots as they can, yet be "big" as well. That may seem like two things which are at odds with each other, and in my opinion, it does cause Gravel Worlds some issues with how they put on their event. But this achievement should be seen as monumental in the gravel going niche. (Is gravel riding still a "niche"?) 

So, yeah- If you run a gravel event, and you want more women participating? Here's your example of not only how to do it, but that it is possible to do it. And when I think about gravel events and gravel riding in general, that's been one of the core elements of this sport- "You can do it!". Gravel Worlds is showing us another way that can be interpreted.

Guitar Ted "Lube-Off": EcoSheep Lube - Final Thoughts

  NOTE: The Guitar Ted "Lube-Off" is an occasional series here on the blog where I pit chain lubrication products against each other to see what- if any- chain lubrication products are good for riding on gravel. These reviews are my opinions only and are not meant to be taken as the final word on any of these products. 

Okay, I finally got the EcoSheep oil lube out on some dusty gravel and finished up this test. I probably actually have far more than six hours on this lubricant, but the chances to use the bike it is on for a dry, dusty ride hadn't presented itself until last week. So, anyway, here we go with a final look at this unique, 100% natural lubricant. 

One thing before I get to my final thoughts here. I don't know for sure if this is a wet or a dry lubricant, or none of the above! EcoSheep does offer a "road version" of this and a "MTB" version, (tested) and I assume that should be interpreted as 'road = dry', and 'MTB = wet'. 

That said, I assume I have wet lube here and that's how I am judging the EcoSheep "for mountain bikes" product.

So, typically you would never want to use a "wet" lube on dry gravel roads. it is a recipe for a bad result. Gunky build-up, gritty, grinding noises, and accelerated wear as a result are what you'd most often have happen. but I think EcoSheep will surprise you a little bit here.

So, as you can see, there is a fine coating of dust on the chain. However; you can still read what is embossed on the side plates of the chain, and the rollers look okay. No "gunky build-up" here. 


The "Touch-Test", where I roll the chain rollers on my index finger to see what, if anything, comes off, showed little but some dust and maybe a bit of dark residue. Interesting! 

The chain shifted great, by the way, and it wasn't noisy at all. Not anything above a typical chain noise that I would consider 'normal' for a derailleur based drive train. I do think it is high-time for a reloading of the EcoSheep, but I have to say, this stuff wasn't as bad as I thought it would be! 

The cassette is about the same as the chain.

So, is the EcoSheep good stuff? I would put it this way- If you ride a lot of places where stream crossings are common, or if you live where it rains a fair amount, this might be a great all-around lubricant choice. For me? No. It is not good enough compared to DuMonde Tech, SILCA Super-Secret Lube, Muc-Off C3 ceramic dry lube, or even some others I've tried. However; I'm keeping this stuff around for our sometimes wet Springs and I want to test this on my Winter bikes. 

Conditions on my last, 2+ hour ride were horrendously dry and dusty, so if this lube can come through that and not totally fail, well, I think that is impressive enough. But it is 100% natural, won't harm the environment, and it is a byproduct of sheep shearing, so it is a renewable lubricant. Add that all up and I think it is definitely a player in the Wet lube category.

Again- EcoSheep did not sponsor this review. I bought and paid for the EcoSheep with my own money. See the "Standard Disclaimer Page" for further explanation.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Guitar Ted "Lube-Off": Update On Super-Secret Lube

 NOTE: The Guitar Ted "Lube-Off" is an occasional series here on the blog where I pit chain lubrication products against each other to see what- if any- chain lubrication products are good for riding on gravel. These reviews are my opinions only and are not meant to be taken as the final word on any of these products. 

I know I just gave my final thoughts on this SILCA Super-Secret Lube not long ago (HERE), but I have a bit more to add to the story now that I think is interesting. So, read that link and then consider this post an addendum to that one. 

Last weekend's "Hall of Fame Ride" saw me use the Black Mountain Cycles MCD I used for the Lube-Off test featuring Super-Secret lube. After the initial test period, I felt like I probably should reapply some lubricant as the chain felt not-so-slick anymore. It wasn't noisy, per se', but the chain wasn't as quiet as I'd have liked either. 

So, I wiped that chain down really well, until I was hardly getting any residue off of it, and I liberally applied Super-Secret to the chain rollers, manually turning them with the tip of my index finger to help pull the lubricant into the chain pins. then I wiped off the excess and let it sit for a day. 

When I came back, I could not see any evidence of the Super-Secret Lube on the chain, but I could feel it, and the chain was quieter. So, I took it on the Hall of Fame Ride last weekend which was approximately 44 miles and change of mostly very dusty gravel. Following you will see the chain and results from the "Touch-Test" of the chain afterward with no modification to the chain whatsoever, no cleaning, nothing. This is what it looked like right after the ride.

The odd dark marks are where the chain is worn and the gold treatment is gone.

Mostly dust here!

Okay, so as you can see plainly, the chain was mostly just dusty. The "Touch-Test" brought out a lot of dust from the chain. Most of this will wipe away with a soft, micro-fiber cloth and the chain will be fine. 

Here's another view showing where that dust is hiding and what the cassette looks like.

Yeah, pretty impressive! Considering the fact that the cassette and chain are just about toast, as far as wear, this looks really good here. I have to admit that Super-Secret Lube is as good as the DuMonde Tech at this point. I know I'll be using it all up, (I got a special "double your order deal" when I ordered mine), and that will take a while. 

The thing is, I think this is better from the standpoint of reapplication where it works exactly like it did on the first application. DuMonde Tech is a bit finicky in that regard. However; my initial reaction is that I will have to reapply this Super-Secret Lube more often than I do with DuMonde Tech. So, a give and take, which to my mind equals the two out a bit. Nothing I can think of makes either stand out as  "better" than the other yet. 

So, Super-Secret Lube from SILCA is a worthy one for you dust-eatin', gravel-grindin' fiends out there. I'll report back if I have any further observations, but I just wanted to give my latest experience to you for your consideration.

Again- SILCA did not sponsor this review. I bought and paid for the Super-Secret Lube with my own money. See the "Standard Disclaimer Page" for further explanation.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Country Views: Focusing On The Good & Not The Bad

Escape Route: West 5th >> West 6th>> Bike paths.
 It was a ride that started Thursday and got interrupted and finished Friday. That was just part of the many frustrating things about the ride, but I'm getting ahead of myself here. So, let's just get back to what happened on Thursday. 

There was a little bit of excitement as I got ready to ride on Thursday. I did not have to ferry anyone anywhere, (both my children have no drivers license yet), and I had a beautiful, Sunny day to ride as much as I wanted. That doesn't happen much this year, so I was stoked about that. 

There was also the fact that I thought maybe I had the Hammerhead thing figured out. (Stay tuned for the complete details of that saga) So, I had made a route and was hoping to follow the prompts on the device and see how that was to use. 

I got the Raleigh Tamland Two out so I could do a bit of testing on some tires, but also to finish up this round of the Guitar Ted Lube-Off testing, (look for that later this week). It was all coming together, and I was out of the door by 2:00pm and figured on not being back until 5:00pm. Then things kind of went downhill

I'll spare the details on the computer bit for a dedicated post, but yeah, it didn't work.....again. Then I was about to make the right turn on the riverfront bike path and the phone rang. It was Mrs. Guitar Ted. She forgot to tell me we all had dental appointments and that Jacob and I had to be there by three. It was about ten after two at this point. So.......

I didn't get here until Friday morning
The Cedar River from the CVNT bridge. Looked like it might rain, but I was going for it!

So, I made that appointment, by the way, after a bit of an outburst of frustration on the ride back home! But I had a window to get it done the next day, Friday, so I made a plan to get out and to try the testing again. Things weren't as nice weather-wise as Thursday, though, as thunderstorms were forecast to hit by late morning into noon. 

Finally! Gravel headed South on Foulk Road

This is not one of the biggest sprayers out there, but I still gave way to the extreme right side!

So, the computer was working, well, until part of it wasn't, but I decided that I wanted to ride, not futz around with a GPS device, and it was still giving turn-by-turn navigation. So, I pushed onward down Foulk Road into a pretty stiff wind. 

I like this farm on Miller Creek Road. It is pretty unique as far as outbuildings go.

That climb ahead on Cotter Road is one of N.Y. Roll's favorites in the immediate area

I had a chance to take a mile East on Miller Creek Road which broke up a long slog South into the wind. I was glad I put that into the route. Plus I got to see one of my favorite farms in Black Hawk County. Then it was South again, but only for four more miles. Then I was hoping that the Westward stint on my route would provide some relief from this wind I was bucking up against. 

A semi-tractor trailer rig leaves what looks like a jet contrail of dust behind it as it traveled North.

A stop on Quarry Road at Miller Creek to attend to a few things.

So, I turned West, and I could tell that yes- the wind would be less of an issue, but Quarry Road was full of deep, fresh gravel, and it went all across the road. There were no beaten in tracks yet, so bumping along on that was a slog continued. Now it wasn't the wind, it was the gravel. No relief! 

I was feeling something rattling that shouldn't be rattling. So, I figured a brief stop to check over the bike and futz with the GPS was in order since I was approximately half way through my 33 mile loop. What I found, I found by accident, actually. I had checked over a bunch of things and when I couldn't find what I thought I was hearing, I chalked it up to the slightly sloppy lever pivots on the TRP brakes. So, I grabbed the bike by the bars and the saddle to yank it off the bridge railing and....

What?! A loose saddle! The Salsa Ti Regulator has two 6mm bolts that clamp from the sides and both had backed off enough that the saddle could slide back and forth on the clamp easily. Wow! I was glad I found that, because had a bolt backed out all the way, well, you just cannot get that bolt anywhere. 

The sky continued to look iffy all the way back on Quarry Road.

That wasn't all. I decided I wanted the tracking to work on the GPS, and that maybe I knew how to get it going, since it was frozen. But once I got the thing going it would stop everything completely at random, and I'd have to go back and push buttons until it went back again, and the vicious circle continued for about four revolutions before I got frustrated and just shut the dang thing off. 

Then my free hub started slipping. Gah! And the gravel was still super deep and loose, my saddle wasn't right, and my GPS wasn't working, and this ride was going to........

I stopped myself right there.

This corn was pretty lush and dark green.

Another one of my favorite farms to ride by in the county.

Yes, I had a lot of legitimate things to be bummed about. But instead of focusing on all of those things, which were undeniably there, I also decided I needed to find the things that were going right, and there were a lot more of those things than there were things that weren't right. 

Whew! That actually made things a lot more tolerable, and you know what? I started to enjoy this ride I was on, for the first time the whole ride! The free hub hiccuped a few more times, but then it stopped and didn't do it again for the rest of the ride. I thought it was going to fail, it was so bad there for a while, and of course, it still needs looking after.

The gravel got better once I turned North on Ansborough. A lot better. And I had a tailwind. I didn't really need a GPS, and my saddle wasn't perfect, but it was okay. Better than okay, actually. I just was getting too caught up in my pity party. 

That oncoming truck was kicking up a lot of dust. Also- No GPS- No Problems!

Oh! And I never did get rained on, despite the darkened skies.

So, I ended up coming home well under three hours for 33 miles, and that was with stops. So my riding was above average for me, despite the wind and the deep gravel. I was pleased with that too. But then our washing machine and dryer went on the blink.

It never ends! But we'll be okay. there are a lot more things going right that I can look to and the things going bad are usually not that big of a deal.