Wednesday, January 19, 2022

"Who Was First?" Is Not What A Hall of Fame Is About

 NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

 "Who Was First?" Is Not What A Hall of Fame Is About- And Other Things The GCHoF is Not About:

Over the past week I've been paying attention to all the reactions to the announcement of the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame. The range of opinions is staggering, for such a minor part of activity in the world. In some cases, the opinions are supportive, in others the opinions expressed are just downright wrong. It is the latter of the reaction types that I wanted to address today, because I think a lot of people have the wrong idea about what this hall is about. In my opinion.

I could refer you to the "Gravel Guru" interview (again) with GCHoF founder LeLan Dains, but most of what I am going to cover today is more about the ridiculous takes I've seen on this GCHoF thing. First and foremost of those is that participation in an activity does not make for HoF worthiness. 

Seems kind of obvious, and I'm being blunt and seemingly exclusionary to make a point. That is, we either have things, (events, people, innovations) worthy of being set aside as being important to a particular activity, or genre, or generation, or we have a grey area in those terms, or we don't have anything worthwhile to hold up as being worthy of recognition. Pick any one. I think most would agree that any 'hall of fame' exists to point out 'worthiness' in some way. That may smack you of being unkind, unfair, pretentious, or self-serving, but if we don't have anything worth celebrating then I'm not going to participate in that world. I don't believe in that sort of thing. And people saying things like, "Well, I was riding on gravel on my 1970's road bike in the 80's. Do I get into the Hall of Fame?", well- that's ridiculous. That's a nonsense statement. 

What About The Past? So, with that out of the way, here's another big misconception: "Hey, 'So-And-So" was riding on gravel way before gravel grinding was a thing- That guy was a really great cyclist. He should be in the Hall of Fame if there is one!" Related to my first point, in many ways, but different in that the premise is that anything that happened on gravel before....well recently, I guess- no one states a date....is something that automatically sets that person, or event, or whatever, as "hall worthy". 

First of all, this Hall of Fame isn't set out to find out 'who did what first', and that's straight from the GCHoF folks. So, what is it for? Again- it isn't for finding out who did something first in events, or riding, or racing on gravel. Although older gravel events should be considered and maybe some personalities involved in those events could be considered. But using common sense, we have to look at anything put into this hall of fame from a lens of how that person/event/race affected where we are at with Gravel riding and racing today. In other words- Was it something indispensable to getting us where we are now? That's the kind of question the GCHoF people have to weigh any nomination by, in my opinion.

Lot's of stuff happened out on gravel roads pre-2000's.Now- there is a debate to be had there, and I'm open to considering points of view which are considered and well thought out. Not all of those things should be considered for the HoF of gravel cycling. Some things? Yes. Like Specialized Rockhopper bikes with drop bars? Uh.....not so much. The Flint Hills Death Ride? Yeah.....let's look at that. Bruce Gordon? Uh......that's tough to connect the dots there, but maybe..... (I'd say Gordon had a much larger influence on 29"er MTB evolution.)  That's for the GCHoF to wade through. But again - I would submit that while many things did happen pre-2000's, not many of those people/events/races had any affect at all on modern day gravel. 

But as you can see, it is going to be something that will take 'making the cut' in terms of historical importance for anything to be considered GCHoF worthy. That it simply happened or existed? Not so much. 

What About Current Gravel Stuff? Another thing that is in the 'grey area' of gravel right now is current events and personalities. I think about racers coming to gravel from the road scene, or events created off the back of grassroots gravel, or from the major successes of previous gravel events. Maybe someday those events/racers/innovations/personalities are so influential that Hall of Fame recognition makes sense. But anything post-2015? Yeah.......I'd have a hard time with anything there being in a current GCHoF. It would have had to have been so noteworthy that with its absence it would have hindered the gravel scene. Then yes- that's GCHoF worthy, in my opinion. Name something post-2015 that you think fits that bill. I think you'll have a difficult time finding anything there. (Note- I did not write 'impossible to find') 

And the 2015 date is completely my arbitrary choice. It isn't a GCHoF thing, (that I am aware of) although I think they would be wise to look at things that way. 

What About The Timing Of This Hall's Existence? To those who think a GCHoF is happening "too soon"- Well, the MTB hall of fame was set up in 1988, around a decade past the appearance of the modern day MTB. (And you should and can make some very good parallels to what the GCHoF should be in light of the MTB HoF) So- No. Not "too soon" at all.

And If You Just Don't Like It:  Again- in full disclosure I have been nominated to possibly be in this HOF for gravel, so if I am 'biased' in your view by that then maybe none of my opinions are valid to you. Fine. I leave you with this quote I found on Twitter recently: "It's (The Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame in this case) the most easily mutable thing. Just mute it, stop yukking other people's yums and move on." 

Why waste your energy in negativity if it isn't something you think is worthwhile, or is ridiculous, or whatever? Well.......unless you like being a negative person. I suppose there is that.......

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Plugging Along

The Blackborow DS
Another week starts and another fat bike ride has taken place. I am still in 'knee re-hab' mode and things are going well. It's just that I feel like I am chasing my own tail a bit in this process. 

On the one hand, my initial deep tissue injury seems to be all good now. I was having some tenderness there along the inside of the left knee cap for a while, but now it seems strong and I feel confident on my feet again. Meanwhile something has kind of gotten inflamed or otherwise 'angry' behind my knee and it is something connected to my calf muscle. 

I know..... vague. I'm not a doctor, okay? If I had Mrs Guitar Ted in here writing this up you'd get the textbook terminology. She's smart. Me? I just know where it hurts, not what it is 'officially called'. 

Meanwhile it is forecast to get really cold for a spell. That will put the kibosh on my cycling for a bit. I expect that some of the repairs and projects I have going on will be getting a lot more attention in the coming days as January closes out. 

One of those will be the "Project Wide Gravel Wheels v3", which, of course, has to do something with my Standard Rando v2 and the Paul WORD Disc hub I will be reviewing here. The rear wheel is complete. I just need a free wheel, rotor, and a tire with some sealant to get that done. I have to wait on finances to clear up a bit before the free hub can be gotten, but it should be a White Industries 20T one when I get my hands on that. 

I have a couple of other things going on as well, so stay tuned.... 

Monday, January 17, 2022

A Little Catching Up: Part 4

A broken spoke I had recently.
 Well, as I continue to rehab the knee and get healthier, I have had an issue which I haven't experienced in a long, long time. A broken spoke!

It happened at about the best time something like this could happen- if there ever is a good time for a broken spoke - and that was at the end of my ride that particular day. 

I've been really trying to reel back in my desires to go out in the country and ride for a couple of hours. I don't want to over-stress this knee and end up worse off than I am. So this ride wasn't all that far from the house, but still.... It was nice not to have to nurse a rear wheel over several miles to get back to where I either had a ride waiting or back home. 

I knew what had happened without even looking. That distinctive sound is something any bicycle mechanic that's worked on bicycles a long time will know instinctively. The 'ting-tinging' on my frame tubing was my second clue. but still, I was surprised because I rarely ever break a spoke while riding. A couple of other things surprised me about this broken spoke as well.

First was that it broke in the middle of the spoke. That's very odd! Generally they break at the "J" bend, or at the nipple, like the last spoke I broke did. But right in the middle? I've seen that where spokes that are compromised by a chemical reaction, or that were previously bent in the middle somehow have broken this way, but this spoke didn't show signs of that.

The other thing was that this spoke was on my Irwin Cycles wheel, the aluminum pair I have, and those have been great wheels, so I am a bit puzzled by this broken spoke. When I get to repairing it, (yes - I have not done it yet. Gotta ride fat bikes now! See the rest of the story here), maybe then I'll get to see a clue as to why this happened. Anyway, a broken spoke for me is remarkable, so I get why you think this may be goofy! Especially if you've broken a ton of spokes!

First tracks in 8" of fresh snow at the nearby cemetery.

As I alluded to, it is now time to get back on fat bikes because we just got a dump of new snow over the weekend. This time we were more in the bulls-eye of the storm. We ended up with about 8" of new snow which is pretty good for riding on. Not that dried out, sandy type of snow which is dang near impossible to ride over or through. 

This stuff will make for some good trails and once it gets packed in it should last a while. We are going to get a couple of warm days, but only a hair over freezing, which actually should set this snow up well. Then I don't see anything but chilly weather for the next week, so I expect to get more fat biking in as January closes out. 

The ol' knee is coming along well. I think I might start doing a little longer rides now, but they will have to be easier rides for a bit, just to see how this comes along. The ride Saturday in the fresh stuff was punctuated by a half mile stretch of fresh, untrodden snow which I had to break trail through. My heart gave way before my legs, so that is a great sign. 

So, maybe I'll have some more ride reports coming in soon. And more news on the job front too. Stay tuned....

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Trans Iowa Stories: It All Came Down to This

In many ways, the t-shirt for v-13 was a prophecy for those who rode in the event.
 "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!  

The meeting we had with the volunteers and a few supporters of Trans Iowa at the Mc Donald's breakfast were ready to witness what would be, by any stretch of the hackneyed term, 'an epic ride finish'. The weather amplified the normal Trans Iowa experience into something that those who were there probably will never forget. The wind, the rain, the cold! Just trying to stay warm was really hard to do. Anytime the humidity is high, whenever the Spring winds howl, and when you combine all of that with temperatures in the upper 30's and lower 40's, you will get into a situation that makes it very hard to retain body heat. Hypothermia can be a real problem for normal folks during such times. But when you have people that are dressed in cycling gear, who have been exposed for well over 24 hours to rain, wind, and cold, well then you are really pushing your luck there. And we definitely dodged a few bullets over the night and during the early morning of T.I.v13's finish. 

Sarah Cooper was one such person who ran into some trouble. Ironically, it all happened at about the same spot where Matt and I had waited to see Dan Hughes' glowing headlight cresting a hill several hours earlier. Sarah was riding with Luke Wilson and another rider. Sarah was dropping into the icy grip of hypothermia when Luke, a trained law officer, recognized that she was in bad shape. They stopped at a local farmhouse where they spied an open garage and Luke had Sarah get in a dog bed they found while he roused the owners. Eventually they were cared for by a nice Iowa farm couple and found their way back to safety. Then there was also Ben Mullin, who got within 80 miles or so of the finish but found himself taking shelter from the wind behind a barn. Due to time running out and he being nearly hypothermic,  he decided to pull the plug on his attempt.

(L-R) Walter Zitz, Jackson Hinde, and Matt Aker climb the final hills in T.Iv13's course. (Image by Jon Duke)

Meanwhile there were now only seven riders moving toward Grinnell with any hope of getting back to the finish before the 2;00pm cut-off time limit. The few that were hardy enough to want to stand around and see the front runners come in made their way down to Miller Park. The rain had pretty much ended at this point, thankfully, and would not return. However; the winds and the temperatures were such that just merely being outside was really hard on one's body. 

Mark Johnson toils up a hill on his single speed. (Image by Jon Duke)

Thus began the 'Dan Hughes Finish Watch', and it was a highly anticipated event for the few who were there. Just when it would happen was somewhat in doubt, but that it would happen, now, was not in question. 

Matt and I witnessed first hand the conditions  which Dan had persevered through. We witnessed his countenance and the way he had been carrying himself. Dan had proven his mettle. That was not any longer a thing to be questioned. It was now- as they say- just a matter of time. 

These things which were noted by Matt, myself, and the gathered few which made up the small crowd at Miller Park were the reasons we all were there. We knew we were witnessing the finish of a ride which, on the one hand would go largely unnoticed by those who champion cycling's biggest feats and accomplishments, and on the other hand, would be treasured by the witnesses for a lifetime as being something really quite special. That's kind of the way it was with Trans Iowa.

Any other 'big time' gravel event of that day, or afterward, would have had the eyeballs of cycling's Cognoscenti. The gatekeepers of 'The Narrative' would have been feting Hughes' accomplishments far and wide. 'The Industry' would have offered him prize endorsements and support. But no.... This was not how Trans Iowa was set up. This was something quite different, and to be honest, quite in opposition of such 'normal' affairs associated with such ultra-endurance events. Trans Iowa didn't create 'rock stars', nor was it set up to celebrate the participant's accomplishments. It was, however, set up in such a way that maybe, just maybe, the participants would gain a thing that no one could possibly give to them, but would be worth more than ribbons, trophies, and endorsements. What 'those things' might be could be quite different depending on the person's experiences. Go ask them. I cannot tell you. 

Dan Hughes driving it home over the last miles of T.I.v13 (Image by Jon Duke)

Dan Hughes was the center piece of Trans Iowa v13. Matt and I, and several others, had been keenly following his efforts for most of the event. While we were, at one point or another, fairly sure he would fail, he was proving to us that we were all wrong. He, perhaps, was proving himself wrong, but however that was that cold, wet, windy weekend, we will never truly understand. Only Dan really knows what went on out there. 

And that's the way it should be.  

Next: An Ending- A Release

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Randomonium (Saturday Edition)


 NOTE: Okay folks, if you haven't been around long enough here to know what a "Randomonium" post is, then here is the deal. I ramble, rant, and randomly moan about all things cycling in one, incohesive, bizarre post. "Randomonium", okay?

More Dire Predictions Come To Light:

Last Saturday I ran a piece about the supply chain issues and how that will affect 2022. I also hinted that many in the industry were thinking that 'the bubble will bust' when supply levels come back in the amounts that have been ordered, while the predicted demand for this stuff is agreed by most experts to be less than expectations are. 

An article published recently in "Bicycle Retailer and Industry News" authored by analyst Rick Vosper seems to be saying that even if retail demand goes back to pre-pandemic levels, those levels were on the decrease, for the most part, and 2019 in particular was a very poor year for bicycle imports. 

Most experts seem to agree that a tsunami of high end imports will hit retailers at the end of this year with 2022/2023 orders stacking up against one another in a short timeline for dealers, forcing deep discounts. Standard fare will also be in overstock levels as well due to a similar situation, but......

There always is an exception. 

The other thing the experts seem to agree upon is that this will force a big pull-back in the industry in orders. This whiplash effect in the supply chain will leave vendors, and most vulnerable of all- bike shops- out in the cold. While the experts didn't go as far as to say that there would be business failures as a result, they did say that a lot of bike shops are in a highly leveraged situation now financially. That could spell disaster if the supply chain hiccups that experts are saying will be coming in '22 and '23 happen. 

When the 2022 route is announced it will be under a new leader.

RAGBRAI Gets A New Director:

Gannet/Des Moines Register/RAGBRAI announced last week that it will have a new leader for this year's RAGBRAI and future editions of this event. Former director, Dieter Drake, was promoted upward in the Gannet organization to be "events operations director" for the cycling division of  "Ventures Endurance", a subsidiary of Gannet Corporation. 

The new director is Matt Phippen, formerly a sales director at the Iowa City Scheels location. Phippen takes over effective immediately. I'm sure RAGBRAI won't see too much in the way of changes from this, at least in the near term. My interest comes from the somewhat unknown "The Great Iowa Fall Ride" event, which was a project that Dieter Drake was exploring pre-pandemic. (I wrote a bit about this last year here)

Originally that ride was to be set in Iowa Falls and be a three day, gravel road oriented affair. The idea being that it could be a way for RAGBRAI to extend its revenue stream. My question is, what will become of that idea? And if it comes back as a gravel ride, does that then influence Dieter Drake, as the head of the cycling division arm of Gannett , to produce more events like this in other locales in the future? 

Gravel riding is a big deal now, and 'getting in on the action' is one event promotion corporation's agendas now. We see Life Time Fitness cashing in, USA Cycling is wedging itself into the scene from a competitive side, and it only makes sense that communities and regions would be willing to work with big corporate entities to bring in the promise of tourism dollars and the economic benefits thereof. 

In fact, I was called by a person doing consulting/coaching with teams and cities concerning bicycle trails this week regarding the gravel scene. So, this is on many people's radar now. I look for more to happen in this regard in the near future.

More Reactions To The Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame Announcement:

Okay, first of all- yes, I've been nominated. So, I wanted you all to know that up front.

Second of all: Whoa! People sure got their chamois' in a wad over this deal, that's for sure! Ya know, I did see someone on Twitter say that if a Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame celebrates cycling, then why would any cyclists be against that? 

And I guess that's my favorite reaction, and my adopted response from this point forward. I  mean, if you don't like it, just move along. What harm is it going to bring to cyclists? If you think it is stupid, just forget about it. Giving it space, rent free, in your emotions and mind is, well.......dumb. Just don't bother with it. 

Finally: Many people are saying very flattering things about me and my work in the gravel scene. This is an example. So, that's very humbling and I so appreciate all the sentiments being expressed now. It's kind of hard to process this, for me, and I'm sure it probably always will be. Anyway, even if I never were to get into any hall of fame, I'd be proud of this moment in time because so many folks are coming out and putting my name out there as "belonging" in a hall of fame of gravel cycling. 

Weird.It's all so very weird to me.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Friday News And Views

Payson McElveen on an Allied gravel bike. (Image courtesy of press release0
McElveen Signs With Allied Cycle Works:

Mountain bike Pro and gravel racing rider Payson Mc Elveen has signed a "multi-year deal" with U.S. bicycle manufacturer, Allied Cycle Works. The deal was announced on January 5th, last week. 

The press release stated that McElveen will contest the recently announced Life Time Fitness "Gran Prix", a six event series with three gravel and three endurance MTB events on tap. McElveen will join Allied's Colin Strickland, also a winner of a few major gravel events, on the Allied roster. McElveen will also be riding a "slew of other events and adventure rides" during the coming months of 2022. 

Terms of the deal were not specified in the press release. 

Comments: With big series, big events, and all sporting big payouts for top placements, it only makes sense that smaller brands and the top prospects in gravel would start forming alliances. The brands, like Allied, need the exposure in the field of gravel racing, and the athletes need the support to cover the entry fees and, perhaps more, to get to the bigger events with a possibility of making some money. 

Interestingly, McElveen, who had been signed as an athlete with Trek Bikes, is leaving that deal behind to become a player in the gravel scene. Obviously, this Life Time series, with its three MTB events, places McElveen in a good place to become a major player to win it all. Allied looks to leverage his abilities and McElveen's social media, podcast, and adventuring to boost its brand in the gravel category. (And- as was reporeted in last week's "FN&V", Life Time is getting some play on McElveen's socials) On the flip side, Trek, (and other major brands) may be holding off on the Life Time thing to see if they can get involved in the USAC/UCI Pro Gravel Tour announced this past weekend.

Ten years ago, the thought of talented, young, and well known cyclist being sponsored for "gravel. MTB, and adventure" riding was not even on the radar. Now, getting these same talents to stick with bigger brands and ride either MTB or road is becoming something of an anachronism. This seems to be the trend now though. Who'da thunk it? Then again- with the big announcement of World Pro Tour Gravel and a "Gravel Worlds", will this sort of thing with unsanctioned events shrink in importance?

Speaking of "Who'da Thunk It?":

Tuesday of this week a big announcement was made concerning a "Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame". That's correct- a hall of fame for gravel cycling. 

And yes, you can nominate people. There is a rumor flying around that your's truly is going to be nominated. Yep! Crazy to even consider that from my perspective. 

Here's a bit from the press release for y'all to consider:

"“It is the community of riders that make gravel cycling so special, so we’re excited to present an opportunity for that community to lift up and celebrate the people who have led the way,” said Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame advisory board member LeLan Dains.

Nominations for the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame will be open to the public and anyone will be able to submit a nomination with the permission of the nominee. Submissions will be accepted January 11 through March 1, 2022. Six categories have been established to serve as a guide for the types of riders and community members who should be considered for nomination (some nominees may fall into more than one category) and include: Promoters, Athletes, Innovators, Volunteers, Routeurs, and Storytellers.

 Once all submissions are reviewed, an election committee of more than thirty cycling industry and media representatives, event organizers, and gravel enthusiasts will make the final selections on inductees. The first class of Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame will be announced April 4, 2022, and
then inducted at the inaugural banquet in Emporia, Kansas prior to Unbound Gravel 2022.
"

So, pretty much the same reaction gravel riding has had all along. Perfect!

Comments: First off- I am not being allowed to be on the committee because the GCHoF folks tell me that they think I've got a pretty strong chance at being nominated and so they thought that this would be a bit of a conflict of interest if I was involved in the selection committee. 

Secondly, I'll be completely honest- I never thought about a hall of fame for gravel cycling or that I would EVER be a part of one. I know that some of you think that I belong "up there with the first pioneers and greats" of this niche of cycling. However; whenever folks mentioned how they felt in that manner I just brushed it off as folks being nice to me. I NEVER thought that anything like a "Hall of Fame" for gravel freaks would be a thing. Not ever.... But- here we are. 

 Some have said that the idea is heinous, an insult, and worse. Some are now dredging back up all the negativity surrounding Emporia, Kansas and "The Event That Shall Not Be Named", saying that a HoF of gravel in that city is an affront to Native Americans and is a reminder of that 'racially insensitive' event name. (The Dirty Kanza, in case you are wondering what "that" name is) Some will say that the idea is ridiculous. Okay, I get that, but "history" is important too. Both what came before and what is now. We are at where we are at- may as well not deny the past and try to learn from it. Oh....and by the way, those throwing these stones aren't offering up alternatives. Yeah.....That'll work......

Seen on a thread on Facebook concerning the GCHoF.

Some say that we don't need a HoF for an unsanctioned discipline of cycling. And anyway- we have a US Cycling HOF in California. Well, maybe we aren't sanctioned, but we do need a place to write the collective history. (You know, not everything in the MTB Hall of Fame happened under a "governing body"- right?)  And what of the MTB HoF and the US Cycling HoF? Why do we need that when we have a UCI Cycling HoF in Switzerland? (Ned Overend, Major Taylor, and Greg LeMond are members of that one, by the way) And gravel cycling is not just a US phenomenon. I suspect, (and hope that) members and events held outside of the US become a part of the GCHoF.

Some say  the GCHoF is "self-congratulatory". Well, is there a Hall of Fame that isn't? It's kind of the point- To celebrate and congratulate those that were deemed indispensable to, contributed greatly to, or have had great accomplishments in a movement, cause, or sport. This is almost always done by a panel of peers. So, thanks "Captain Obvious" for that criticism.

I also think the tradition of "grassroots gravel" has a story to tell, and unless it gets a place to be told, (the hall of fame), then it is going to get lost, run roughshod by what is coming down the pike in terms of the "$pirit of Corporate Gravel®. Then no one will be able to tell you that what happens going forward is not how it began, because people will remember what they want to, until you remind them of the past. That's why any "Hall of Fame" should exist. Not so much for "glorifying personalities". 

But yeah.....there will be people lifted up by this hall of fame. If I am one of them, okay...... I don't get to determine what others think about me. That's your job. If y'all say, "GT should be in the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame", then I will be there. If not- I won't be. The existence of the GCHoF is fine by me but I was okay without it as well. I've no idea how it will turn out. It could be a good thing, or.....?  Time will tell.

I'll ride my bicycles down gravel roads either way. 

Link to "The Spokesman Podcast" where I discuss the HoF and more with host, Carlton Reid. 

Link to "Gravel Guru" video where LeLan Dains of the GCHoF drops by to explain things. 

Got someone in mind that you think should "be in there"? Here's the link to the site

Stan's NoTubes Announces New MPulse Hubs For Wheels:

Magnets. They are in everything these days. Especially those crazy-powerful Neodymium magnets. Well, now they are available inside Stan's NoTubes "MPulse Hubs". 

Take a close look at the image here and you can see how the magnets have been bonded to the pawls which then are attracted to the metal drive ring. That engages the pawls with the drive ring very quickly due to the magnetic forces. This also "self-aligns" the pawls for the best engagement with the drive ring. 

Another advantage is that when the hub is in coasting mode, the distance that is created between the pawls and the drive ring means the magnetic field has less pull, and so there is less 'drag' than a steel sprung pawl would have meaning freer coasting. 

But, of course, to get this you have to buy a Stan's MPulse equipped wheel set, or......

You could go to the originator of this technology found in the MPulse hubs, Project 321, and buy separate hubs to build up your own wheel set. They even do a single speed cassette hub with this design. 

That's it for this week's "FN&V"! Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 13, 2022

A Little Catching Up: Part 3

More 'spin therapy' on the Blackborow DS.
 Okay, we've just gone through a spell of pretty cold weather, and I've not been doing any rides out in the country, or in the woods, for that matter. That's all because I am still nursing a knee back into shape. The same injury I incurred due to a bump while doing my side-hustle as a mover. 

It's been progressively getting better, but this moving gig, while not a steady job, seems to put a lot of stress on that knee. Well....both knees, if I am honest. Going up and down ramps and stairwells carrying heavy loads or pushing two-wheeled carts with heavy stuff on them is probably why that is.

This won't be a long-term hustle. Like I mentioned earlier, I told this particular individual I would help when I could and well, I wanted to uphold my word. Plus, I'm not doing much of anything else during this time anyway. But things will change. They always do, and I have been working on something that would get me into a different job. I cannot say anything yet, but I should know one way or the other before the end of the month here. 

Meanwhile I have been doing fat biking and a lot of walking. I seem to be making steady improvement with the knee so that's great. Plus I get outside. The snow, while it isn't much, is perfect for traversing by fat bike where it hasn't been trodden down, or compacted into a sheet of shiny ice/snow. I am trying to find the least beaten down paths and tracks of snow machines or whatever two tracked vehicles have been up on the flood dikes. Of course, now the weather flipped and the snow is about gone- and we're supposed to get 3-6" on Friday.

I'm keeping things 'spinny' and that's been great therapy. I'm hoping to get out on the gravel here during this "January Thaw" we have on tap right now, so we'll see......

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

More About The UCI "Gravel Worlds" Made Clearer Recently

 A recent "Velo News" article (you can read it here), written by Betsy Welch, has made some details of the planned UCI World Tour for Gravel and the climatic event of the series, "Gravel Worlds" a bit clearer. 

In the article it is revealed that there will be gravel "qualifying events" in many countries and on most continents. "More than one" of the races will be in the USA, while Central Africa, Holland, Europe, Asia, and Mexico were also mentioned as places where events will occur. Apparently, all but a few are existing events. Particular to the US events, it is stated that these events will not be any of the "big ones" where thousands of riders attend. Apparently USAC has helped to vet out events which have somewhere around a thousand participants up to 1500 on a regular basis. 

Furthermore; it is being reported that USAC is being very careful to craft the look and feel of the events to be in line with "the spirit of gravel", although it also is reported that these events will be ones that have held a high level of production in the past. According to the language in the article linked, the three US based events have already been determined. 

An announcement regarding the series of 15-20 events and where the "Gravel Worlds" will be held will be forthcoming in "early February", according to the article. 

Comments: This will be interesting and almost answers the question of "How does the USA Cycling organization wheedle its way into the gravel scene?"

The answer, apparently, will be to grow a series of events to support the feeder to Gravel Worlds/UCI Pro Tour level gravel racing. (Sound familiar?) As I have said- It is the same-ol' tactics that worked to turn MTB and road racing in the US into what it is today- meaning a not very fun, not very profitable, not very inclusive form of cycling. Of course, I could be wrong, and I am sure that the USAC and UCI folks have good intentions. 

But already there is banter about "rules" and "bike regulations" and what constitutes a "gravel race". Initially this article would give one some hope that the UCI/USAC rule makers are trying to steer things in a direction that the mainstream of gravel events has gone. However; when discussing courses, there is an initial mention that "75%" of the course must be gravel, but then Erwin Vervecken, the off-road and gravel manager of Golazo Sports- the main event organization helping the UCI -, is quoted as saying that some countries don't have a lot of gravel road networks so there may be only "....60 to 65 percent gravel". 

If Golazo Sports is willing to waffle a bit to get the series going, then perhaps we can expect some waffling on rules until this gets off the ground, and when people are invested? uh-huh........ We shall see. I suspect any "spirit of gravel" will be defined in quite a different way down the road. That is "IF" this takes off. Vervecken was quoted as saying he expects World Tour Pro level competition up front while the mid-pack to back-of-pack riders  would be "........ fun riders who stop at the feed zones, who stop for a drink and something to eat, and then ride in a group with their friends. Their goal is to finish the event,” 

Sounds good, but that misses the point. Basically- in terms of business, (and let's not forget that Golazo Sports is a HUGE corporation which generates over 15 BILLION in sales a year), your "field filler", "mid-pack" riders are the ones footing the bills for this Pro Tour series. (As of now, no presenting sponsors have been named, but I would assume that this is also in the works) Is this comapny even capable of doing anything "in the spirit of gravel", or should I say "The $pirit of Gravel"?  Hmm....

Well, it will be interesting to see what becomes of all of this. Oh.....and you are also probably wondering what I think about Tuesday's announcement on the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame. 

I have words on that in this week's "FN&V"

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Paul Components WORD Disc Hub Review: Part 1

This arrived on Saturday.....
 Since mid-2021 I have been keen on getting the Twin Six Standard Rando v2 on a single speed specific rear wheel set up. That was after I swapped back to a drop bar set up and I realized that this bike makes a great purpose-built single speed. 

But as I have stated in another post, finding a 12mm through axle, single speed only hub is not an easy task. Ten, maybe fifteen years ago, when single speed was in its hey-day due to the popularity of single speed 29"ers, you could find a lot of single speed specific rear hubs. However; those were almost always just quick release, or a combination of that and bolted on options. Neither will work on a through-axle frame like the Standard Rando v2. 

I knew Paul Component Engineering made one, and it was a thread-on free wheel style hub, which actually is what I'd rather have than a truncated cassette style. That is because the thread-on style usually is made in such a way that the resulting wheel build has a zero dish set up. That is "stronger" and "stiffer". Both good things on a high-torque situation as with single speed bikes. Now, Paul Components are not cheap, in terms of dollars, so I was waiting to see if I could somehow score one via the old shop job. Well, that never happened. So, I ponied up my own funds via some income from RidingGravel.com, and I got a hold of that hub this past weekend. 

So, in this post I wanted to document my experience with ordering this hub, because it was pretty good for these times, and also Paul Components does a really great job with the process and experience in general. As most of you probably do these days, I order a lot of stuff online, so when I have a great experience and good service, I will tell you about it, as long as it is bicycle related. I should say that Paul Component Engineering doesn't have any idea at all that I am doing this and that I paid full retail for the hub. Okay, here we go in pictures.....

Scared of clowns? Don't look too closely at this box's graphic design! 



No plastic- everything sent to me besides a vinyl sticker was recyclable


It may seem silly to some of you, but a nice "thank you" and a treat of hard candies goes a long way.

And of course, the WORD Disc Hub itself was in there.

When I ordered this hub I saw warnings and received another when I placed the order that it may take a few weeks - or more- depending upon COVID and whatnot, to get this hub. Of course, I had been on a waiting list for months, since last Summer. (That's why I didn't get the shop discount) So, I was okay with that. But all along afterword Paul Components sent out regular updates to me and thanked me for my patience. That was greatly appreciated and I never felt at any point that my order had been neglected or that I had been forgotten about.

Tracking of the package once it was in the USPS system was flawless. This is generally NOT the case with USPS as I can attest to. I have parts coming for my amplifier repairs (guitar stuff) and that at the same time as the Paul order and USPS tracking is about as good as detecting ghosts in the attic. I'm not sure if Paul Components took cookies down to their local USPS office for the Holidays to 'grease the wheels', but that tracking experience was top notch. 

The manual with the hub has all the dimensions you need to build up a wheel

Another nice touch, besides the things shown above, was that the manual which came with the hub had all the hub dimensions necessary for me to calculate spoke lengths. All I required was the ERD measurement for the Velocity Blunt SS rim, which Velocity publishes on their site, and a short innergoogles trip to the United Bicycle Institute's spoke calculator page later and I was set. 

Then I visited my stash of Wheelsmith spokes and nipples and I found that I had all the things I needed to build up this wheel. So, I Spoke Prep'd the Wheelsmith spokes I pulled for this job on Sunday and laced this wheel up. But before I get into all of that....

Disc WORD Hub = 200 grams

Velocity USA Blunt SS 700c rim = 420 grams

Okay, so I decided to go with my "Guitar Ted Productions "Standard Build"" design which is all silver spokes on one side and all black spokes on the other side. This time I used all silver brass (natch) nipples. Being that there was no dish on the build to accommodate for a cassette or for the disc brake, the wheel was simple enough to build up and it looks as though it should tension up very well. 

So far- so good.

I'll likely have tensioned this up by the time that you are reading this on the post date. Next after that will be swapping over my White Industries freewheel. Then taping, valve stems, tires, sealant, a rotor, and I'm good to go. That will cover the rear wheel.

Then I'm going to take the Project Wide Gravel Wheels v2 and do a rim swap from the Spank 350's to my set of 28 hole Velocity Blunts. Then I will have a single speed rear which will stay with the Standard Rando, but the front could come off, be paired with the cassette rear, and set up on the BMC or the Noble bike, or whatever may come in the future. That will make the DT Swiss 350 hubs useful also instead of sitting around on rims too wide to use on my gravel bikes. 

Then, in the future, I will probably get some Boost spaced hubs, lace those Spank rims to those, and maybe build up a modern day MTB-ish bike. But we'll see. As for this hub/wheel here I will give a progress report on the final details on the set up. That will be coming soon. Then at some point I'll do a ride report on the hub. So, as for now, I can recommend the Paul Component Engineering ordering experience and the experience of receiving the box and contents was very nice. Stay tuned......

Monday, January 10, 2022

It's Not A Mask Mandate, But.....


Cold weather calls for breaking out the serious pogies!
I have a 'rule' of sorts when it comes to cold weather riding. Well......I have a couple of rules, really. One: "I don't have to do anything to prove anything to anybody." So, I don't have to go ride in stupid cold weather so I can post it on social media and have everyone "oooh!" and "aaaah!" over my so called 'accomplishment' . I don't have to show anyone my disgusting 'ice-beard' to show how tough, or whatever, I am. If that offends any of you, sorry......not sorry. In the end, you do you. This is what I think about that stuff in relation to cold weather cycling and myself. 

Rule #2: In light of Rule #1, I don't ride when it gets much below 0°F and especially if there is a windchill. Why should I? It hurts. It takes forever to get dressed/undressed for it. I can get ready for a brisk walk in less time and get my exercise in less time than a bike ride would take. That is- if I even want to get outside. Sometimes even just being out of doors in Winter is a risky business around here. 

Thursday last week it was -3°F and the winds were pretty strong out of the Northwest resulting in a wind chill temperature of -30°F. Definitely not a day to get out and ride, right? Well, rules are made to be broken and I had some experimenting to do! This pandemic thing and its various accoutrements have given rise to an idea for cold weather riding which I wanted to explore. 

The ubiquitous surgical masks, which are a symbol of these times, maybe could be put to use as a face mask for cold weather riding. I had always had issues with any sort of mask for cold weather riding. I've tried several things, even one of those Cold Avenger masks. Nothing really worked all that great for me. I almost always ended up pulling off whatever mask I had on because they drive me nuts. Fogging, wetness, freezing up, slipping, and more things were just too much trouble and when I got to breathing hard, and I wanted the mask thing-a-ma-jig of the day off? I often could not do that quickly while riding, and of course, getting it back on was out of the question without stopping.
 

There's a surgical mask under that Buff.

Well, I thought maybe a surgical mask, which just loops over your ears, might work. They have a bit of structure around the top of the nose to seal off that area, which is critical to keep steam off your eyes, and they are easily moved on and off. I decided to throw on a Buff as a second layer and for more coverage. Then off I went into the sub-zero gales. 

Did it work? Well, let's just say it did well enough that I think with a little tweaking it will be almost perfection for me. Here's the only downfall in my opinion: The mask section which covers your mouth can suck in and out with your breathing. I found a way around that, but it isn't ideal. What I need to do is to build up a little bit of structure there that can support the mask bit someway. How I haven't figured out just yet. 

But as far as keeping the breath- the steamy exhaling- off my eyes? Perfect! Plus I could take the mask down easily and replace it easily with one gloved hand while riding. This is important for eating and drinking, not just for the heaviest breathing sections, but obviously, it works there as well. And if it worked well in those conditions, well, there is some promise there for my uses and needs.

Anyway, that's it! I thought I'd just share what I was doing to let you all know that these surgical masks don't have to be tossed out if you wear them a few times. I got this one and used it, washed it, it even went through the drier, and it came out well. Of course, I am not going to use it for, you know.....a mask mandate area, but for cold weather riding? Heck yeah!

Sunday, January 09, 2022

Trans Iowa Stories: Setting Up For A Brutal Finish

Zombie status activated. The view from the Subie on Sunday morning.

"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! 

Dan Hughes was off and riding towards Grinnell, Iowa at about 4:00am from Pella, Iowa. A ride of approximately 58 miles, as we had it drawn up for him. Sure, it was dark, the winds were contrary and strong, and the roads were softened and wet from over a day's soaking previous to his passing. But 58 miles...... It didn't sound too bad until you account for the facts of what Dan Hughes had already accomplished before he shoved off down 128th Place out of Pella. 

Dan Hughes had already ridden nearly 300 miles. Without resting for more than a half an hour when he did stop, which wasn't often. He had ridden through torrential rain in bone-chilling cold weather that had already knocked out many other riders. Some cases of hypothermia were being relayed to me at the time and Dan, in his minimalist outfit, just kept on truckin'. How he did it still eludes me to this day. 

Those 58 miles maybe would take a normally fit, fast athlete around two-two and a half hours to ride on a good day on dry roads. But this was Trans Iowa, and the roads were horrible, and the wind was brutal, and Dan was taxed beyond the measure most anyone else would have endured. It was 4:00am when he set off on those last 58 miles, but he wouldn't get back to Miller Park in Grinnell for many hours. 

Meanwhile, Matt and I took our leave of Tony and Mike. We trudged along in the dirty Subaru Forrester. Up one muddy hill, then another. Turn here, turn there. Directions were muttered and Matt robotically complied to the commands. No other conversation occurred for the nearly two hours we drove the course back into Grinnell. We were just far too strung out and tired. 

Once we returned to Grinnell a suggestion was made, and I cannot recall who made it anymore- maybe it was Tony- that we should convene at the local Mc Donald's for breakfast. No one was going to be finishing Trans Iowa for several hours, we knew that much. So, there was no need to man the finish line at 5:00am, as we had originally planned. I recall there being several people there connected to Trans Iowa and talk was centered around how few folks were still left in the event. 

In fact, I was able to confirm that less than ten riders were left in Trans Iowa v13 at the time we were having this get-together. The night had taken a toll on the remaining riders who had toughed it out to leave the Cumming Tap what seemed like an age ago. Stories were told then of what had gone on while Matt and I were chasing down Hughes in the dark. The chaos of the Cumming Tap, the deliveries of several riders from their wet, muddy nightmarish experiences. More would come to light later, but what we were hearing, Matt and I, was astounding. The goodness of people who gave their efforts, resources, and time to help some dirty, wet, crazy bicyclists was very touching. 

But now we had less than ten riders still struggling to get back to Grinnell. We needed to get down to Miller Park to await the arrival of Dan Hughes, Greg Gleason, and whomever else could gut out the last miles of Trans Iowa v13. At this point I was approached by a local Grinnell resident, Jon Duke. He asked if it would be okay if he back-drove the course to take some images with his camera. I did not expect a whole lot, but I had the presence of mind to understand that documentation was lacking for this event. So, having recognized this despite my degraded mental status, I allowed Jon to take whatever images he wanted, but I asked that he share them with me for use afterward. He was happy to oblige me, and I am happy that I allowed that. If I had not, well, there would be a lot less imagery which would have hidden the struggle of those final miles into Grinnell.

Thanks to Jon's talents, we have those shots for this story, and in the next chapter of the story we will start to get to see those shots. 

 Next: It All Came Down To This

Saturday, January 08, 2022

Signs Pointing To Another Short-Supply Season

High end parts, like this AXS cassette, are hard to come by these days.
Recently I have been seeing some write-ups and I've had some conversations regarding supply of parts and bicycles for 2022. 

Let me tell ya- it doesn't look all that great.......AGAIN! 

While some folks seem to think that we'll be slowly rising up out of this, most agree that 'if that happens' it won't occur until late this year. Some other folks are taking a more negative view and are saying this year will pretty much be a mirror of 2021 and things don't look to change significantly until 2023. 

Making prognostications is difficult, possibly foolish, so take this all with a grain of salt, but this stuff is coming from those inside the industry and - in my opinion- most of these folks are trying to be as positive as possible. Outside of cycling, the shipping woes, supply chain issues, and warehousing issues still are ongoing with no end in sight. In my opinion, unless those things straighten out, bicycle people can be positive all they want to be, but that doesn't fix the big issue here. 

I'll list a few of the things people are bantering about here that will affect your abilities to get stuff for your bicycle, and bicycles, in 2022. In no particular order......

  • Energy Crisis In China: China has issues with having enough energy to make things work on many levels. This has affected supply chains. It also may become a big geo-political issue going forward, so bicycles may not be the biggest concern there. 
  • Raw Materials Issues: Some folks are talking about how frame manufacturing and component manufacturing is being hampered by ongoing materials shortages. Especially raw materials.  
  • Demand: Obviously, demand spiked in 2020, but it didn't relent in 2021 with most companies claiming that they had more revenue, by a little bit, over 2020. This puts continued pressure on supply.
  • Shipping & Freight Costs: Shipping container costs and freight costs in general have skyrocketed. This makes anything you want for your bicycle more expensive than it was. New bicycles will cost significantly more than they had been costing pre-pandemic. (If you can get something new) 
  • The Future: Many in the industry are now becoming leery of a sharp drop off in demand or that inflation will induce a drop in sales. Both things seem likely.

I was chatting with a local bike shop friend that shared with me that parts are still very difficult to obtain. You know things are still bad when you see a Tweet with content showing a Shimano 11 speed chain and how happy and excited that made the author of the Tweet. An 11 speed chain? Wow....how exciting! Yes- two years ago this person would likely have been laughed off social media. Today? We look at that and think, "Yeah, I get you, Man! You are lucky!". 

And sales going forward are going to be rough. First off, I know many companies are not looking to have much 2022 inventory on bicycles due to the inability to get parts. I've heard some bikes are not showing up- which were ordered in the Summer of 2021- until late this Summer or early Fall 2022. Certainly, we will see spotty availability here and there, but one bicycle person was quoted in a story I read saying that it will be 2024 before you can go into a shop and get what you want - on the floor or ordered- in a timely fashion as we could pre-pandemic. Obviously things would have to improve a lot to just get to that point.

Traditional bike shops will have another difficult year in 2022.

So, I feel like 2022 is going to start out rough, possibly get better, and by the time the season is about over, we may see stock on bikes and parts coming back to levels approaching pre-pandemic levels. But......

By that point, will anyone attracted to cycling in 2020 still care? This is the worry that many in the industry have now. And, it is a real concern. I have seen several ads on the local bicycle sales pages for bicycles barely ridden, purchased in 2020, and which- more than likely- are not getting replaced. Look at your local bicycle sale pages and I bet that you'll note that as well. 

While electrified bicycles seem to have a huge potential here in the US, the semi-conductor chip shortage - which is predicted to be ongoing throughout 2022- is going to put a damper on demand. Higher prices for electrified bikes at traditional bike shops likely will push even more sales to D2C brands. So, brick-and -mortar retail looks to have a another difficult year ahead of them. 

As an avid cycling nut, I know that things will be hard to get, so it makes me second guess doing things which I know will put my parts and pieces through hell. Bad forecast for that gravel event? It may mean that I don't show up because I know chains and cassettes are very difficult to get, and I'd rather be riding than sitting around searching the innergoogles for cassettes and chains. (And that's another thing this pandemic-induced shortage has done. It has made ordinary consumers experts in sourcing their own stuff, where they used to go to a bike shop) So, by association events which find themselves facing poor weather forecasts may see the effects of the difficult supply chain issues. 

Whatever happens, it will be an interesting year- again- for the bicycle industry and consumers.

Friday, January 07, 2022

Friday News And Views

Updated logo colors
Welcome To The First "FN&V" for 2022!

Hey! We're back here with a new "Friday News and Views". This has become one of the most popular features on the blog here , so I appreciate all of you readers who have made this regular feature a big hit over the years. 

You'll also probably have noticed, (how could you not!), a new G-Ted logo color scheme. I decided the old blue/chartreuse and the grey scale versions were old in the teeth. So, I tweaked out the colors and this is what I came up with. I like the more 'eye-searing' color combinations, and since this is my blog, why not? It isn't like I'm going to offend any advertisers! Ha! 

Anyway, if you cannot handle the colors at all, let me know. If enough of you hate it, I can tweak it out to be something different. By the way, I should say that it was Jeff Kerkove who smoothed out my original design for this by using his college attained graphic design skills. So, thanks again, Jeff, if you ever happen upon this. I still appreciate what you did for me.

Profile Racing Announces New SS Freewheel Production:

As a single speed rider, you probably know that if you choose to go with a freewheel rear wheel, you have about three options for free wheels; Shimano, Dicta/Far East Brands, and White Industries. And we all know which one of those is best. 

Well, there is about to be another choice out there: Profile Racing's Elite Freewheel. It looks like something akin to the White Industries model, with the Profile version coming in with a titanium, six-pawl carrier, a tool steel outer ring, and with two ABEC sealed bearings. It will be rebuildable and it should provide single speed freaks what they want with 140 points of engagement at all times. 

They plan on a good run of choices in tooth count with anything from 16T-22T being made. Look for these in shops by Spring 2022. 

Will high end bike sales be D2C in the future? (Image courtesy of Kitzuma)

Changes In Retail Coming Soon?

The marketplace is in total flux at the moment, mostly amplified by COVID-19 effects. One of the changes which has been coming for a while that might fit into this massive shift in retail practices is a recent announcement by BikeExchange of Australia. 

While the acquisition of the Kitzuma bicycle shipping/delivery service itself may seem boring to many of you, it is worth paying attention here. Through some easy digging around, I found some signs that may point to this move by BikeExchange being a change in how new high end bicycles and motorized bicycles will be sold in the future. 

BikeExchange is a web hub for bicycle retailers who can post their inventory on pages hosted by BikeExchange which allows "Click-and-Collect" sales or, feasibly a delivered bicycle to your front door using a service like Kitzuma. While BikeExchange is an Australian based company, they have operations in several countries including the U.S. and in Europe.  

Kitzuma has already established a system for delivery, set up, and it wouldn't be far-fetched to see this as a way to do Direct to Consumer sales for high end accessories either. Think smart trainers, custom bike fitting, or fitting power meters/GPS/Bluetooth accessories for high end consumers. Kitzuma reportedly already charges its clients approximately $200.00/bike delivery/set up. That's not going to fly for your 'bread-and-butter' hybrid/bike path rider, but for a 12K electrified MTB? Heck yeah!

And with shrinking local bike shop opportunities for consumers due to shop counts going down, and with consumer buying trends changing, the "D2C" model will likely be explored not only more intently by BikeExchange, but by the big bike brands in North America like Trek, Giant, Specialized, and Cannondale. That said, as pointed out earlier, less expensive, 'every-day' bike sales probably are not going this route anytime soon. 

Stem Geekery:

Late last month MG and I were texting back and forth and he showed me a stem he put on his fat bike which allowed him to get enough elevation to use drop bars. He said it 'revolutionized' his bike and made it relevant again for him. 

A stem that can give an old dog of a bike new life has to be pretty special, and the Dischord Chromo Peeper Stem from Analog Cycles is that stem. It is a handmade in the U.S.A. stem and it essentially is a threadless riser stem with a really short extension. 

The theory here is that shorter stems and slacker head angles are more stable. You probably have noted that for many years stem lengths have been getting shorter. Well, 'back in the day', as in the 19th Century, stems pretty much were just like this Dischord Chromo Peeper. Steering was typically done from behind the steering axis. We got away from that and went to the opposite extreme by the mid to late 20th century. Since then, stem length has been creeping ever shorter. You can read why that might be on Analog Cycles' site. 

I'm a believer in shorter stems. To a point...... I do not think you can just summarily go ultra-short on stem length on a bicycle designed to have longer stems on it. You have to research your geometry, fit, and handling preferences. Then with all of that you can make a considered choice in stem length that makes sense, and go as short as you'd like to within those parameters that you set. If you can't get there from where you are at in terms of stem length/height, it may be time for a change in bicycles. But that said....

I wanted to grab a stem for another bike off my Pofahl Signature 29"er back in 2019. I needed a 'place-holder' stem so the handle bar assembly wouldn't be dangling from the brake housings. I grabbed the stem I figured I would least likely want to use on anything else. It was a 60mm stem off another MTB. Okay, fast forward to 2020. I decided to give that stem a whirl, since- why not? And you know what? It was a more stable, more comfortable ride with that stem, which was 30-40mm shorter than anything I'd used before on that bike. Wow! 

My Pofahl Signature 29"er during 2020's Single Speed century ride with the shorter stem.

So, I like the idea of maybe going a bit shorter than I've considered going on stem length and that with drop bars. This Analog Cycles offering looks intriguing, but it is not a cheap experiment. At nearly 200 bucks, you have to be pretty committed to the idea. I've tried tall, short reach stems before on bikes designed for flat bars, (Cigne Stem on a Karate Monkey) but although I was pretty sold on it, I found it to be too much of a good thing in terms of height. So, I went back to a slightly lower height stem and sold that Cigne Stem. 

I'll have to do some careful measurements and a mock-up of a drop bar on my Snow Dog fat bike, but I am strongly considering this Dischord Chromo Peeper Stem for that bike. Stay tuned.....

Geoff Kabush Has Concerns About The Life Time Gran Prix Events:

Gravel racing hits the news again? Already? Didn't I just have three days worth of gab on the gravel scene this week? 

Yes. 

And I've a feeling that now that thousands of dollars in prize money is being waved in rider's faces that we'll be seeing a LOT more news about gravel racing. The latest stir is over how Life Time Fitness set up their six event series called the Gran Prix. Three gravel, three MTB events, bigger prize money, and only 60 athletes were chosen. Geoff Kabush tried getting in, but after he publicly outed Life Time on their selection process and gave them some "smarty-pants" answers to the selection committee, (Kabush said he was giving 'honest feedback'), the selection process was - not surprisingly- unsuccessful for him. So, that's number one here.

Now he has taken an opportunity to write up an opinion piece on the Cyclingtips website here. I read through his reasons for his concerns. My overall feeling is that his concerns are a bit misdirected and, ultimately, a moot point. Why? Because Life Time made the series up, created the rules, and put that all out there for whomever wanted to sign up. If you got selected as one of the "lucky" 60 athletes, well now you have agreed to those rules. It is Life Time's 'sand box'. If ya don't like the rules- don't sign up. No one is making these athletes do anything- or are they??? 

You see, if you pay attention, press releases are coming out now about athletes signing on with new teams and getting new endorsement deals since they have been selected as one of the 60 riders in the series. Hmm....which came first? The signing on with the team, or getting the plumb position on the Gran Prix roster? There are probably instances where it worked both ways, but the timing of some of these announcements is suspect in that manner. It wouldn't surprise me to find out that maybe some of these deals were predicated on the athlete getting in the Gran Prix.

But, however that may be, if Life Time made it clear that you were going to be a social media maven (slave?) for Life Time's Gran Prix when you signed up, well then- you should have known better if you didn't think that was really going to be a thing. Again- no one is making these folks do this series against their will.....that we are aware of anyway.

And Kabush brings up doping controls, because, as he rightly points out, the game gets changed when the money comes out. It is a known fact that cheating has occurred back when there wasn't money in the gravel scene, so, yeah- totally! People will dope to win these events. Why wouldn't they? Especially with no controls at all happening in gravel racing. This is why I have been saying that this whole corporate gravel scene is not going to go well. It may take several years, but the few that make up the niche group of upper echelon athletes participating in this nonsense will eventually go right down the same road that Pro MTB, Road, and other sports have gone. 

It's kind of ironic because these are the reasons the gravel scene got going. The gravel scene was a rejection of top level racing and those who felt they "had" to participate in it. It was a rejection of the focus on the few upper tier of participants at the expense of the masses. It was a rejection of all the rules and regulations that stifled the sport. And now? 

Wash, rinse, repeat.

That's a wrap for the first "FN&V" for 2022! Have a fantastic weekend and get outside!