Monday, January 31, 2022

Reaction To The Specialized "Rider Direct" Announcement

 In the last "Friday News And Views" I reported on last Thursday's bombshell announcement that Specialized Bicycles was moving to a 'Direct to Consumer' scheme for retail bicycle sales (excluding e-bikes) which they have called "Rider Direct". (Link goes to a "Bicycle retailer and Industry News story which has been updated since Friday)

In this post I wanted to cover reactions to this story. While it is true that other, smaller brands have done consumer direct sales, this is about one of the so-called "Big Four" brands in the USA. Anchor retailers for the specialty chain bicycle market which have a huge influence upon what you experience as a consumer here in bicycle shops. Those brands are Trek, Specialized, Giant, and Cannondale. 

So, right up front I want to dispel the notion that this isn't a 'big deal' because other companies have been doing this. That is not the point here. It is the impact of the influence on the retail landscape in bicycle sales that matters here. 

The Stage: First of all, we are in challenging times from the perspective of how retail bicycle shops have been affected by a two-year long upheaval in inventory levels due to the pandemic. Shelves are only partially filled and certain bicycle models and types have been 'out of stock' for months with back-orders still to be fulfilled going back to 2021. Meanwhile, the industry in the Far East- where most of the Big Four brand's bikes are made - is taking off time right now for Chinese New Year and when they come back, they will be working on 2023 models. Shipping and warehousing issues have product sitting on ships and on docks worldwide and when- IF - the bottlenecks get cleared up, (some are saying by the end of this year), supply chain issues should clear up. Meanwhile, bike shops are left waiting on a glut of inventory which will have to be paid for eventually. 

The big question: "Will the sales be there when the inventory finally hits the floor?"

Now while all this is happening, consumer trends have changed. There is more on-line shopping than ever. At the same time, bike shops are failing or shrinking in numbers. Trek has gobbled up a lot of retail as a result, making them the #1 specialty bicycle retailer in the USA. Specialized, and I would assume Giant and Cannondale as well, have been pushed out as each new Trek acquisition becomes a one-brand store, whereas they used to be shops which sold multiple brands. 

In the meantime Canyon, and other smaller brands, have moved to D2C sales further eroding the market for independent bicycle retail outlets in sales and numbers. Enter in "Rider Direct".

The Effect: Immediate reaction to the news from the industry was mostly negative. Most fear that this is a big blow to independent bicycle retail.  This reaction comes from the continued observance by owners of retail shops of shrinking 'margins' for complete bicycle sales. Perhaps a quick mention of how bicycle retail works is in order here.....

Time spent unwrapping and assembling a bicycle is part of the cost.

When a bike shop sells a bike, it hopefully makes its full 'margin' on the sale. This is the amount of money above and beyond the cost of the bicycle to the retailer, but there is more to it than that simple monetary figure. Retailers must also include whatever wages their assemblers make across the time it takes to assemble each bike. For instance, if a shop employee making minimum wage, or slightly higher, assembles a bicycle and it takes an hour, (typical time for average bikes), that wage paid for that hour has to be accounted for in the 'cost to do business' on that particular bike. Add in any time spent handling the box the bike came in, which includes off-loading the bike from the freight company's truck, storing the box before assembly, and disposing of the waste after assembly. Add in your daily cost to keep the lights on, pay the rent, etc. Suddenly it is painfully obvious that only making 40% of the cost of a bicycle as 'profit' is not enough. 

A quick example: Bike cost to retailer = $450.00 - Margin target is 40%. Retail bike price = $630.00. Profit after sale = $180.00. (Note: A commenter to this post pointed out that I had confused "margin" with "mark-up". Here's the comment: "You are confusing markup with margin. Margin is calculated by profit on the sale divided by selling price. So if the retail price is $630, 40% margin would be $252. ($630 x .40)" ) 

That $180.00 is where the wages for assembly, handling, and cost of business has to come from. This is assuming no discounts and does not take into consideration how long a bicycle sits on a sales floor, in a back room, or in a box in a storage room/building/warehouse waiting to be assembled. And I am sure I am missing some costs here. Keep in mind also that expensive bicycles typically do not get sold at a 40 margin. Generally speaking, those bikes make even less money for retailers, AND they typically demand a higher paid technician to assemble them AND more time to set up. 

I could go way down a rabbit hole here- But suffice it to say that when "Rider Direct" was announced and that dealers were asked to make less margins due to this program, well- It didn't go over very well.

The Future: While some of Specialized's bigger dealers are saying they will try to deal with this and move on, there are indications that others are cancelling orders and/or are dropping the Specialized line. This further plants Specialized into the D2C camp where Canyon and others are doing business. Meanwhile, Trek has already pushed out some of their competition in brick and mortar retail by their voracious appetite for retail outlets. Where does that leave brands that were once a part of a local bike shop? While Trek dealers can- and sometimes do- offer alternative brands in their shops, Trek demands a high percentage of any retailer's inventory be Trek and Bontrager parts and accessories. (By the way, this figure can be 80% or higher- I know from experience) 

My feeling is that brands like Cannondale, Giant, and more 'second tier' brands like Kona, Marin, and the like, will have to follow suit with Specialized and especially if Rider Direct shows early success. This will mean more pressure will be exerted on the specialty bicycle retail sector as margins get squeezed even further due to online sales programs like Rider Direct, which only allows up to 75%, and as low as 50%, of what margins were previously. 

Meanwhile, I suspect that the numbers of independent, stocking bicycle retailers will begin to fall in numbers. That is a bad sign for consumers. First off- with more single-brand retailers you won't get unbiased information anymore. Secondly, you will have a harder time finding a bike shop in medium sized cities, (and smaller sized cities already lost their LBS's a long time ago), so even getting to see and test ride bikes will begin to be a thing of the past in many more places. 

Some dealers are saying online sales are such a small percentage of actual sales that things like "Rider Direct" don't matter. But it depends on how the brand prioritizes sales and distribution. Trek seems to be behind their dealers. It has been expressed in comments sections online that Cannondale and Specialized are not so dealer-centric and that both brands prioritize fulfilling online sales before dealer sales. If true that could mean bad things for dealers and consumers who like the physical aspects of going to a retail bike shop.

But- I could be 100% off my rocker here. We'll see. I think one thing is certain- things are going to change and change fast.

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Trans Iowa Stories: A Contrast Of Two Cyclists

Mark Johnson struggles against winds, hills, and his single gear. Image by Jon Duke
  "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 had won Trans Iowa v13, and for probably more than half of the event we were pretty much solely focused on his progress. However; Dan wasn't the only one who finished, and he was chased for the entirety of the last 170 miles by Greg Gleason. 

Greg had already proven his acumen at Trans Iowa by winning the first one he entered (v10) and coming in as a co-winner the previous year to v13 with Walter Zitz, the pair nearly breaking the 24hr time for a finish. Greg was expected to do well here, and he proved once again that he was, perhaps, the best Trans Iowa rider in the history of the event. 

There were a few oddities regarding T.I.v13, Greg, and his rival Dan Hughes. First off, Greg was not set up to make an all-out assault on a win for this particular year. No, he had bigger fish to fry coming later in 2017 as he was going to attempt the Tour Divide. So, he claimed he had something of an extra amount of weight which he wanted to test himself with at T.I.v13. At one point during the event he relayed that he couldn't hang on to Hughes' wheel up the many steep rollers, and Hughes got away. This resulted in Hughes gaining about an hour and a half gap on Gleason by Checkpoint #2. 

MG giving Hughes a hug. Image taker unknown

Hughes, as has been documented already, was set up to be as light as possible, his set up eschewing any sense of warm clothes or even extra bottles, bags, or the typical things that you might see a self-supported rider carrying. So, on the one hand we thought that the weather was going to do him in, but since it did not, his set up allowed his faster travel over those roads versus what other riders had chosen to do. 

This is why I feel the most underrated story of T.I.v13 is what Greg Gleason did overnight and up to the end of the event. Greg pulled back a full 45 minutes of that hour and a half deficit to Hughes to finish 45 minutes after him. this is even more astounding when you consider that the finish was into the teeth of a 25-30mph wind and up some of the steepest hills of the event. That Tour Divide load didn't seem to matter much, but you have to wonder, what if? Had Gleason been 100% in for the win? I think we would have seen a very different event. 

Then there was some sort of friction between Gleason and Hughes which I never really understood. Gleason alluded to this when we saw him at Checkpoint #2, but he really was a bit steamed about it at the finish. He spoke about 'attitudes' and a refusal from Hughes to work with him, if I recall correctly. At any rate, there was some agitation on the part of Gleason at the finish which animated his conversation we had at the back of his vehicle as he loaded up to bug out. 

It was quite a contrast in cyclists. Gleason came in pretty much as he had previously at Trans Iowa. He looked fresh, not like a man who had been through a hellish 300+ mile ride. He was animated, jovial, and had a beer while onlookers stood amazed while prying him with questions. Greg didn't seem to mind. He answered them all and with a smile. Hughes, on the other hand, was gone within a few minutes of his arriving at Miller Park and didn't really rub shoulders with many of the onlookers there. He was more reserved, and his countenance was deep and felt more heavy. 

Greg Gleason smiles as he sips his Surly beer after T.I.v13.

Another thing that I always was impressed by, and I think of this particularly when I think about Greg at the finish of v13, is how the human body stays warm after 25-30-ish hours of straight riding. Look at Greg there, bare handing a cold beer in temperatures and in air that conspired to suck the very lifeblood out of anyone else standing there. You'll note the onlookers in the images here. How they are all bundled up against the wind and cold, damp air. 

Not Greg! Coat unzipped, nothing but a cycling cap on his head, and no gloves on. He was toasty warm! I don't know, but maybe I am an oddball for noticing these things. I just always found this characteristic of finishers of Trans Iowa to be remarkable. 

Greg loaded up, said a few goodbyes, and motored out of Miller Park. This seemed to signal to many of the other onlookers that it was time for them to leave as well. Of course, it was after 12 noon by this point in the day. Many folks there had been up all night long, or had been up late and not slept much. The weather was inhospitable yet, and all the excitement was gone. But I still had a few riders to look out for yet, and Trans Iowa was not over.

The ending of T.I.v13 was one which I feel was perhaps the ending with one of the deepest feeling of loneliness I have experienced at this event. Maybe v3 was close, but I was delirious at that point of that event. Anyway.....I'll get to that next week.

Next: When The Clock Strikes Two

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Gravel Worlds In The USA?

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

A while back I mentioned that the UCI finally announced a gravel series and that there would be a "Gravel World Championships" in 2022. The scuttlebutt back then was that there would be three US based events and that they were already established events- not new venues. 

Since then there has been a 'radio silence' from USAC and the UCI which has left many Pro and Semi-Pro athletes in the hang since they have to solidify their schedules now. In fact, many would-be 'Gravel World Champions' are already saying that the train has left the station for 2022 and that if the UCI gets a series going, they won't be participating until 2023 at the soonest. 

Also, recently a speculation piece story published on "VeloNews", (owned by the Outside  media group), seems to point at a strong possibility of a US based "Gravel Worlds" to be held in September or October. Meanwhile, Texas based gravel promotions company the Spinistry, posted on their Facebook page concerning this story and said that the situation "...has cluster written all over it.".

Interestingly the Spinistry thread reveals that the organization, which has put on events like the Red River Riot and the Midnight Massacre since the late 2000's, was approached in 2019 by either USAC or the UCI and offered a spot on a gravel series calendar. The only stipulation, claimed Spinistry, was that they had to come up with the 'licensing cash' estimated to be around $20,000.00 for an event. Otherwise, said the author of the Spinistry response, they were left to do things as they saw fit. The Spinistry did not take up the offer then. 

It's an interesting situation with the supposed three US based events. The news that came out late last year was that these events were in the 1000-1500 rider realm, which would make a 20G licensing fee seem pretty steep in terms of entry fees to cover that. But I am not sure about the business aspects of the proposed collaboration. What I am pretty sure of though is that the UCI is trying to stake out a claim to being the "legitimate" choice in gravel riding/racing here. 

Thinking about the US gravel scene, and what I am seeing said by Pro riders, the "unsanctioned" nature of gravel events is - at once a blessing - and I believe, if the UCI has their way, they will paint it out as a curse. The UCI is well aware of the event in Nebraska called "Gravel Worlds" and that this event has become immensely popular and represents the individualistic and free nature of gravel in the US. It is an independent event, not tied to a huge corporate entity, as Unbound is. It has its roots going way back in the scene, and what better way to discredit that event than to challenge the name on that event's home soil? Having the "UCI Gravel World Championships" inaugural event on US shores? It would stamp authority and legitimacy of the UCI over gravel worldwide. 

And I believe that is why the UCI and USAC are trying desperately to host a Gravel World Championships this year on US shores somewhere. Word is something will be announced in the coming weeks. We'll see...... 

But think about it: If there are qualifying events, and there would be, the UCI would hope to suck in all the big names in gravel to their neon lights of prestige, money, and resulting endorsements, and they know that Pro riders trying to make a living off gravel riding will be attracted to that like moths. Then the media will fall down to their will and cover nothing but UCI/USAC approved events, and everything will be "like the old days again" except the racing surface. The industry will then do the same ol' song and dance as they did in the "Lance Era" and push out bikes meant for the upper half a percent of riders. 

When the Spinistry speaks of there being a "cluster" in regards to this World Championships", this is what I think of. The UCI, building its claim to fame off the backs of promoters, and by extension, the lower tiered riders. Hopefully folks like the Spinistry and other independent event promoters will not fall to the wiles of old school racing think.

Friday, January 28, 2022

Friday News And Views

My bench at Europa cycle & Ski circa 2007.
 Mergers & Buy-outs To Radically Change Consumer Choice/Experience in '22:

 I've mentioned here before how Trek and Specialized are out buying up key retailers in bigger markets to solidify a place in those retail areas for their products. But those are not the only kinds of mergers and buy-outs which are going to affect your cycling experiences in 2022 and beyond. 

While news broke recently that Trek just recently took over an East Coast retailer, I also saw a post on social media which prompted me to read a little further on the subject and reflect on what I have seen personally. I had known this intrinsically, but the post brought this out into words which better expressed my feelings. Essentially, we are going to see - and are already seeing - a big move to make 'choices' go away in local bike shops. 

This will have deleterious effects upon your buying experiences as a consumer. No longer will you find any hint of clear, unbiased opinion on parts, accessories, and bicycles. Now you will only get 'The Company Line®" espoused to you by trained "sales associates" who have managers crawling down their backs to make quotas. (I'm not making this up- it is actually happening) Consumers used to think the local bike shop was trying to "pull one over" on them? Corporate themed bike shops are saying, "Hold my beer....". 

Now- I know not all bike shop employees, owners, and retail experiences were good. I get that, But these big-brand buy-outs of cornerstone retail bike shops is going to point out that there used to be a LOT of good shops, and now there are going to be a LOT less of them. 

I found a pretty interesting article about this from another source written by Matt Stoller HERE.

And that ain't all. Nope! Your media is falling under the same, big-corporate think blanket. Titles and media folk who used to be independent and free to editorialize in the way they saw fit are now becoming subsidiaries of bigger media empires. (Think what happened to newspapers)  And many don't even print a physical magazine anymore. But the bigger issue is who is overseeing what you are reading, and to whom are they beholden? Check those companies out folks. You'd be surprised who all is actually on "the same team" and not what you might think they were/are anymore.  

Specialized Announces Consumer Direct Sales:

In a surprise announcement yesterday, Specialized Bicycles announced consumer direct sales would be an option beginning next week. People visiting the website could choose to either pick up a bike at a dealer, have the dealer deliver the bike in a "white glove, concierge type service", or have a mostly-assembled bike delivered to their door. The consumer direct scheme excludes e-bikes.

Reportedly dealers were made aware of this move last week in a conference call with Specialized headquarters. 

Comments: This is a very big deal. Specialized is widely held to be one of the top four brands in the US market along with Trek, Giant, and Cannondale. Specialized was, by some analysts measure, caught a bit off-guard by Trek's aggressive retail outlet buy-ups over the past several years. This culminated with the Mike's Bikes buyout by Trek, (PON Holding Company bought Mike's Bikes- NOT Trek. Thanks to commenter "sasha" for the catch.)  which was one of NorCals biggest Specialized dealers. Specialized was left without any retailers in a keystone market after they pulled support and sales from Mike's Bikes as a result of the Trek takeover. 

Obviously Specialized, who has bought up some retail brick and mortar stores, saw that they were not going to out-gun Trek in a showdown of who could buy up the most retail outlets. So, this is a shot across the bow of Trek, who have repeatedly stated that they would support dealers by disallowing D2C sales. 

Now I anticipate other, especially second tier brands, to follow suit here. The band-aid has been ripped off by Specialized and I see no going back on this move. It remains to be seen what- if anything- Trek will do, but now it would appear that we are in for big changes in bicycle retail and I think Specialized's move is going to kick this off going forward. Especially if the move is seen as having some success. 

But we'll see. It certainly will be interesting to see how the market reacts to this big change.


The new Moots Routt ESC (Image courtesy of Moots)
Moots Debuts New Routt ESC Model:

 Tuesday of this week saw Moots introducing a new titanium (of course) Routt ESC bicycle. It is a drop bar bike for 700c wheels and has clearances for up to 2.4" tires. 

The bike features a big main triangle, presumably to handle large frame bags, and several braze on points for water bottles and packs. The Routt ESC uniquely is sold with a titanium fork as well. 

This new model will be sold as a complete featuring either an ENVE/SRAM AXS spec or what Moots is calling a "Neo Retro Kit" which features a 12 speed MicroShift/White Industries/XT mix and bar end shifters topped off by a classic Brooks B-17 saddle. (Note the image shows the Neo Retro spec)

Both models will have the same frame/fork which has Boost spacing, a 73mm threaded bottom bracket, and five bottle mount points. The bikes come with titanium King cages included in the price.  

Prices are set at from $12,000.00 for the SRAM AXS equipped model and from $9,769.00 for the Neo Retro Kit. Final prices will be determined by finish choices made by the consumer which include frame treatment/color schemes and a few other small details.  

Comments: There were two things that struck me concerning this introduction. One was that this is a great Ti Fargo alternative with a very unusual titanium fork. The frame spec is cool, and it is NOT suspension corrected. See how that radically alters the look of the bike? Personally, I have to say that I have found it rather strange that Salsa Cycles has doggedly stuck to their suspension corrected format for the Fargo. I like this Moots take on the "Fargo style" much better. But I will add that not having a single-speed bail-out option seems like a bit of an oversight.  Especially for a bike which is obviously aimed at the off-road bikepacker. 

Second was the spec and the overall pricing. Look at that "Neo Retro" version. A MicroShift bar end bike for nearly 10G's? Whooo! Moots are traditionally very expensive bikes, so I get that, but is this a reflection of the times and the future? I think it is. Considering the fact that the Neo spec has a LOT of US sourced parts, (White Industries hubs, crank, Velocity rims) and off-center spec (Velo Orange Daija Far Bar, Brooks saddle, MicroShift) and it becomes plainer to see that certain items are hard to source yet. (At least in quantities large enough for a small run of a model) 

Oh.....and this model range is insanely expensive. There- I said it.


New Iowa-Illinois Gravel Event Series:

Tuesday news broke on a new Iowa-Illinois gravel series based mostly around the Southeastern area of Iowa. The four event series is being put on by a new organization dubbed "Fitwave Gravel". 

Boasting a series "open to all" and eschewing any hints of elitism and claiming "grassroots" philosophies of self-improvement via suffering, this series will spread its event dates across Spring and Fall dates. Hit the link above for the details.

Comments: Another series of events in Iowa. I like it, but why did it take over a decade plus for this to take root in Iowa? We used to joke as teenagers and twenty-somethings that trends typically caught on at the coasts of the USA and "soaked into the middle of the country". By the time something finally caught on in Iowa it was passe' everywhere else. While gravel events did not necessarily start on each coastline of North America and creep toward the middle, I can say that gravel events caught on in a BIG way in every state around us but not in Iowa. 


But whatever. It is now and that's something I've expected for years. I was asked to spread the news about this new series. Consider it spread. Now we'll see how folks respond.

That's a wrap on the week. Stay warm and try to get out if you can!

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Organization Is The Theme

Finding places for all the things.
 It's cold and windy out. That means it is time to do the things I don't want to even think about when the riding season starts up again. Things like- you know.....Cleaning. Organizing. Clearing out stuff I'll never use. That sort of tedious stuff that takes time and is not what you want to face when the weather gets decent enough for riding. 

So, I have been taking time now to get down there and clean, organize, and weed out the chaff. It's kind of funny when you look at stuff you thought was important to keep 20 years ago that barely anyone would need or want now. What is currently 'good to keep' is something that shifts over time. 

This is kind of an ironic situation since what I am doing at home mirrors what my task is at my new job right now. They have a myriad of 'stuff', but not a lot of it is relevant to today's bicycles. Once again, I have to put on my "modern day glasses" when I look at old, decrepit "Schwinn Approved" derailleurs which probably are not going to ever get used now. Those bikes that those derailleurs came on are 50- 60 years old now. Antique! But not antique enough that they have any value. Not like a Campy Record derailleur does. 

And then there are things like 1990's Altus cantilever brakes. You know the ones- They had that plastic spring retainer that always cracks. Saving any of those and actually using them? That's giving someone else a big problem instead of helping them. Nope! Those are going to salvage. And those OEM Shimano brake pads? Those were junk the day they were made. Hard as rocks those. 

Anyway, it is time to separate the goats from the sheep. I'm going to be busy for a while....

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

We Are Not Immune To Traffic On Gravel

An attempt to intimidate a group of cyclists gone wrong. (Image courtesy of Twitter)
One of the main benefits, in my opinion, to riding rural unpaved roads is that I can escape much of the mayhem caused by the operators of motor vehicles. Distractedness, anger issues, people playing around with you, and whatnot. But.....that doesn't mean you are 100% free from any of this nonsense. 

This was illustrated recently over this past weekend by a social media post that went (sort of) viral. You may have seen this. From what I can gather, it was posted by a former Trans Iowa participant, bike shop manager, and Arkansas resident. The story goes that someone driving the red pick-up truck tried to make an intimidating pass on a group of cyclists on the dirt road pictured here.  The pass caused the driver to lose control and roll the truck over onto its passenger side, trapping an occupant within. 

Apparently there were no severe injuries.

While the overall tone of responses was ,"Good! They got their just comeuppance!", I think this points to a wider issue within the gravel cycling community. That being, "You have to be aware of your surroundings and whatever traffic you might encounter deserves your full attention.

I say this because many think that going out on rural roads is an "escape"- which often is translated unconsciously to something like, "I don't have to worry about  or pay attention to traffic anymore!", which, as many of us know, is the furthest thing from the truth that could be. 

Most gravel events are held on 'open roads'. (Image by Jon Duke)

It is easy to get sucked into a mindset that you have it all unto yourself when you get way out there, but these are- for the most part- 'open roads'. That means they are meant primarily for trucks, cars, tractors, and agricultural equipment. Maybe you live where logging trucks are commonplace. Or maybe you live in an area with a lot of ranchers that use ATV's. But the point is- you can and will run into situations with vehicular traffic and you must remain vigilant and attentive to this possibility. 

There is no real "written code" for rural traffic-cyclist encounters, but I think the first thing to take into consideration is what many of us call the "Ride Right" rule. That is- "When cresting hills or climbs- STAY ON THE RIGHT HALF OF THE ROAD!" That's probably a rule that is going to save your- or someone else's - life someday. And I've seen it work. 

I used to put on a ride for beginners called the "Geezer Ride" on gravel. On the very first one I directed, we were out on some big rollers near the Amana Colonies. As a small group of us were climbing this 10+% climb, a Dodge Ram came blasting over the crest of the hill doing about 70-80mph. The truck appeared so quickly that we didn't even have any warning by way of sound or a dust plume. It was just suddenly "there". Thank God everyone was on the right side of the climb or we would have certainly had a death, or two. 

And it is also imperative to note that this applies to almost every gravel event I am aware of. Open roads mean that YOU MUST DEFER TO TRAFFIC. What's a more desirable outcome here? That your placing, (and whatever prizing or money might be at stake) is affected by your having to defer to a train, car, or farm tractor, or that you have suffered loss to an injury, or have died trying to hold your place? I'd say walking away with your life and body intact versus any prestige and satisfaction you get from a higher placing is a better outcome. I dunno..... Maybe I'm the crazy one here? 

Sure, it sucked when I had to wait fifteen minutes for a freight train to pass when I was in the DK200 years ago, but I accepted that part of the deal with riding on gravel was that these things might happen. And some Pros will say, "But we're trying to make a 'career' out of this! We shouldn't be affected by traffic!". Well, tell me this- Did you not know that the event was being held on open roads? When you signed up, were you duped into thinking that this traffic thing might never happen? Really? If that affects your 'career', go ride somewhere in an event that doesn't have that possibility, or hey! Put on an event that suits your proclivities yourself! That's kinda what we did in the gravel scene. 

Today's ag equipment is so big you may have to abandon the road!

And of course, the same things are true for casual group rides or solo gravel rides. In fact, troubles can arise even more easily when your mind wanders to conversation or you get way into your thoughts out there. I know. I'm just as guilty as anyone in that way. 

I often have been shocked back into 'the real world' by the sound of crunching gravel, or the plume of dust seen off in the distance. Thankfully I've not been suddenly overtaken when in such deep thoughts, but I have to try to remain vigilant despite my good fortunes. 

Then back to the first image there where the riders were encountering individuals driving that truck who were using the vehicle as a threatening weapon. Yeah.....we're not immune to that sort of thing either. It's a lot less likely- sure- but it isn't impossible. So, do what you have to do to be prepared for those situations. I'd recommend riding with another person more than not, despite the fact that I ride solo more times than not. But- I have the privilege of being a big guy. I'm not someone many rural folks around here would see as being 'out of place', and that is to my advantage as well. Were I an African American would I have to be 'more careful'? Sadly, I think the answer to that is "yes". If I were a solo female would I have to be more careful? Again, I think the answer is "yes". Should those situations change? Yes. But that isn't going to happen today, and not likely real soon either, so.......

So, while the world "out there" on gravel may seem appealing for its promises of "escape" from much of societies ills, you aren't going to get 100% immunity from it all. Be prepared, be aware, and be reasonable. The realities of rural riding are that we- as gravel riders- have to be aware that we aren't going to always be free and clear to enjoy the ride as we might wish to 100% of the time. But I'll take the odds for riding on gravel against riding on a paved county blacktop for safety and fun every time.

Be careful out there!

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Winter Views: Birthday Ride

It was a balmy 10°F for my Birthday Ride.
Maybe some of you were wondering if I managed to get out for a bicycle ride on my birthday last Sunday. Well, I am happy to report that yes- I did get out. It wasn't anything super-crazy, but it was a good, fun ride and in somewhat challenging conditions. 

I decided to use the Blackborow DS in low range to take it easy on the knees. I know- many of you might think that single speed action is actually worse for the knees, but this low range on the Blackborow DS is pretty spinny. So, I knew I wasn't going to be stressing out my knees too badly and besides, without faster gears I wouldn't be tempted to run a harder gear than I should be. See.......single speeding can be good for you! You just need to use the right single gear. 

My goal for this ride was to go to the lake off Martin Road by Highway 63 and see who might be ice fishing. I'd already seen ice fishing huts on ponds that I never would have dreamed people would try to fish. But there they were. The lake in the Green Belt always attracted ice fishermen. There was a pretty good chance I'd see some action.

So, off I went and spun down the alleys to avoid traffic until I got over by Black Hawk Creek and I had to jump over to the street for a few blocks. It's been so cold that not many people are out and about, so traffic was light. The wind, on the other hand, was a bit stiff and biting. There for a while I thought maybe I'd under-dressed. Actually, that's a sign you've dressed just right if you are Winter riding. 

There were only two ice fishers on the lake. I was surprised.

The trail around the lake looked fun but I veered back into the woods up ahead here.

I met a guy on a fat bike at the top of the dike just before I dove into the Green Belt Trail. I kind of wondered if he came in behind me, but it was hard to tell. The scrunchy sound of my tires masked any other sounds and the trail was beaten in so narrow that I had to pay attention to my own business. 

I figured I'd have to pull up at the place where the trail crosses that rivulet that emanates out of the marshy land along Sergeant Road Trail and the ball diamonds. There has been nothing but confusion at that point since they reworked that area to maintain the dike a few years ago. When I got there I stopped to survey the situation. Then I turned around and sure enough, there was that guy on his bike. I waved him along since I wasn't about to be in a situation where I felt like I couldn't stop whenever I wanted to. 

Up on the dike in the Green Belt

Further down the dike near University Avenue.

I went on then and visited the lake which was fun but there were hardly any ice fishers there. Weird! Then I dove back into the Green Belt so as to stay out of the wind. I ended up getting up on top of the dike then and going all the way down and along that until I reached University Avenue. From there I made my way back to the house. 

It was a great ride and my legs came out of that really well. The snow is about perfect right now with this very frigid air we have. I suspect that if it gets much higher than 20°F that this snow will turn into a mess, but right now the snow is about good as it gets. It sure made for an enjoyable birthday ride.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Goodbye MCD - Hello Mod. Zero!

The MCD model from Black Mountain Cycles is no more...
 So, a while back now I noted that Black Mountain Cycles was out of MCD frames and forks. I was watching their social media casually for any news on new colors. That's what Mike Varley, (who essentially is Black Mountain Cycles) does- he doesn't change the model much if at all. He just orders new frames and forks in two new colors. That model has worked for over a decade for him.

Well, no solid news was forthcoming and I had been hearing that frame/fork sellers on the smaller end of the scale were getting pushed aside for larger orders by their Far East manufacturing partners. I figured that didn't bode well for Black Mountain Cycle's future in frames and forks. 

Then, via a trusted friend, I got word that the MCD and the Road Plus models were getting axed from the line up with a possibility of a new model that combined the best of both into one. I did not say anything at the time, but now Mike Varley himself has posted on the BMC site about this development. 

So, it's true! No more MCD's! There will be a new model, combining the Road Plus and MCD. There will be a few changes with the new "Mod. Zero" too. But I think that in the long view this will be seen as a really good thing, and here are my reasons why I think that is so- in no particular order. 

  • 44mm Head Tube: Mike Varley doggedly stuck to the 1 1/8th inch standard straight steer tube for a LONG time after it was out of fashion. The move to the 44mm head tube is wise from a few standpoints. One- Obviously a tapered steer tube carbon fork could be substituted in for the steel fork. This may not strike you as a positive, but here's the deal- Carbon forks have been around for 30+ years and the industry has them figured out. The benefits of a steel fork are largely negated when you put a disc brake on the fork. The extra reinforcement necessary makes the steel fork heavier, less lively, and therefore not as much the advantage as you might desire. Plus, you can minimize stack height, relative to what you can do with 1 1/8th straight head tubes, to the max for those who want that. (And there are those who do want that)
  • Replaceable Rear Derailleur Hangar: While it is true that you can bend a steel drop out back into shape, it is better to just bolt a new hangar on. If the hangar is made from stout aluminum and is designed so that it has a good base for the derailleur to operate off of, this is a better way to go. Plus bending a steel drop out that also has a through-axle receptacle integrated into it is a lot harder to do anyway. Besides, who has the tools to bend back a derailleur hangar in the field? With a replaceable hangar you can just bolt a new one on and done!  
  • Flat Mount Brakes: While I despise flat mount brakes, it is high-time Mike did this. Your choices and applications open up, and is the way of the World now. Plus, as Mike says, it looks a bit better overall. 
  • Proper Wide-650B Clearances: This is probably more a nod to the folks who were Road Plus buyers. But be that as it may, it does appeal to me if I were to be thinking more off than on roads. The versatility of the new bike model is greater then the two older ones, and I could see a knobbly XC-ish 27.5"er for backcountry explorations. And also- big, wide smoothies are going to fit better as well. I'd consider those for a road tour, as a for instance. 

Mike Varley's sample he is testing for the BMC "Mod. Zero" model. (Image courtesy of Black Mountain Cycles.)

Mr. Varley states in his blog post (linked above) that the 700c clearances will not change significantly from what I have with my MCD. Still, as Mike says- "50-ish" millimeters. I'm actually okay with that as those bigger 29"er tires start weighing quite a bit. And besides, I am a bigger fan of the 42mm-47mm sizes for my riding. Also of note- If you wanted bigger tires on an MCD type of bike, Mike offers the LaCabra. 

Image of the Mod. Zero decal from Black Mountain Cycles' Instagram

As for geometry, we don't have any solid details. Mike only alludes to the subject of geometry when he said of the old MCD and Road Plus bikes that they were "very close in terms of basic geometry. What- if any- tweaks would be made to Mod. Zero are not known at this time. 

I would make a suggestion or two- But Mike has probably made his mind up already. But what the heck! Here is what I would like to see from the "Mod. Zero". 

  • An ever so slightly slacker head tube angle. It would really help with bigger tires and more extreme terrain, but it also is awesome on gravel. 
  • Maybe a tic more fork offset to bring back a bit quicker handling, but also to 'kick out' that front tire a hair more to gain a bit more compliance and toe-overlap room. 
  • Mike is combining the old 650B "road plus tire" sized bike with the old 700c compatible rig, so bottom bracket drop cannot get too crazy. That said, my Twin Six Standard Rando does just fine on 650B wheels with a 75mm bottom bracket drop. I'd LOVE to see that on the new "Mod. Zero", but I'd be really pleased if it were 72.5mm as well. 
  • Do I spy bottle mounts on the fork? A huge plus in my mind if that is the plan.

Now for the million dollar question: Will Guitar Ted be getting one? If you read the linked post from Mike, you already know that these bikes won't be seen here until mid-2023 at the earliest. So, yeah..... Here's where I am at with my fleet of gravel machines.....

I'm likely to retire the Noble Bikes GX5 by sometime around 2023-ish. While it is a great bike, it is going to be five years old by 2023 and being a carbon frame, ridden on gravel, and that not too kindly, well..... It may very well be okay, but I expect that newer designs and technologies may start making that bike a bit off the back in terms of what I can test on there. Maybe not. We will see. And it has to survive that long, which- being a carbon bike- is no guarantee. 

Then I have that old Tamland Two I keep threatening to retire but keeps coming back. That bike will be nine years old in 2023. And the Fargo? ha! So, yeah..... I could see a Mod Zero for Riding Gravel duties. This depends on the finer details which I don't have yet, and I cannot predict what I'll be doing next month much less than a year and a half from now. I don't really need a Mod. Zero, but I might be able to use one for work purposes. So, if I am still doing I would consider one seriously. If I am not? I have a perfectly fine BMC MCD.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Trans Iowa Stories: An Ending- A Release

Zitz, Aker, and Hinde coming home near the end of T.I.v13. Image by Jon Duke.
 "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!  

Miller Park was a cold, wet, and wind swept place on Sunday, April 30th, 2017. It was not a good place to be, but that wasn't particular to Miller Park. It was just downright inhospitable anywhere out of doors on that morning. The kind of morning on which a good church goer would seriously entertain the idea of skipping services. But there we were, a small group of Trans Iowa folks. Waiting.....

I guess we thought Dan Hughes had some sort of super-power that day. We were amazed at his tenacity and perseverance. We were amazed that he was going to finish. We were amazed that anyone was going to finish! 

 Of course, Trans Iowa any year it was held, was no joke from a cycling perspective. 300+ miles, self-navigated, self-supported, and under time limits. Then throw in whatever roads I found: Hills, dirt roads, and even the occasional bike path. On top of all of that, toss on some fresh gravel. Finish it all with a heaping dose of weather. Depending upon the mixture and the nature of the ingredients, Trans Iowa was either a very tough challenge, ridiculously hard, or impossible. When it was on the edge of "ridiculously hard" and not quite "impossible", that was what most folks wanted to see. They called these "classic Trans Iowas". 

This Trans Iowa definitely fell into that "classic" status, and we all knew it while it was unfolding. That's why we were all standing around, shivering, trying to stay warm. We wanted to be eye witnesses to possibly the greatest Trans Iowa finish ever. 

(L-R) Trans Iowa veteran, Ari Andonopoulous, volunteer and T.I. finisher Mike Johnson, and volunteer and T.I. finisher Steve Fuller all awaiting the arrival of Dan Hughes.  (Image by Michael Roe)

From a logistical standpoint I was doing well. The event was going well and I had a finish line volunteer lined up again, which generally speaking wasn't always the case. This time it was Sveta Vold and her youngest daughter, Yeva. She was maybe just old enough to be walking, maybe a little over a year old at the time. Yeva splashed in the many puddles formed in the chip-seal parking lot area while the rest of us stood shivering, waiting... I found the contrast between the joy of a cavorting toddler, seemingly oblivious to the storm going on, and the rest of us cowering adults rather comical. 

Unfortunately for Sveta and Yeva, there was not going to be a lot to do during this soggy day. Trans Iowa was set to have well under ten finishers, and maybe less than five, if things played out accordingly. Hughes' expected arrival was taking so long now that the awaiting group of well-wishers were taking short trips to their vehicles to warm up frozen digits and toes. Along about 10:30am word came, via a text from Jon Duke to me, that Hughes was about ten minutes away from the finish line. I announced to those standing around that we had a finisher coming soon. That got the assembled souls there to stand to attention and all gazed Eastward up the entrance to Miller Park awaiting Dan Hughes arrival. 

My image of Dan Hughes as he finished T.I.v13. I was not ready for what came next....

Looking back, I have to mark that the whole finish line routine I practiced never really got its start until the third Trans Iowa. Since T.I.v1 was so haphazardly run, and because I was the only person in charge, we had to rely on Decorah Time Trial people to man our finish line, so I wasn't there for that one. Of course, Trans Iowa v2 was unfinishable. So, T.I.v3 was the first time I was present for a finisher of the event. And as has been documented before, that first effort made to congratulate the winner wasn't taken well. 

Some events made a big deal about getting that "hug" at the end from the event director. Chris Skogen was famous for his "Almanzo Handshake". What would I do? I cannot say that I really gave the thing much thought back then. I figured that the gentlemanly thing to do was to offer congratulations and a firm handshake. A look in the eyes to convey that I acknowledged the rider's achievement in overcoming the challenge that I set up. A handshake then. And while the first person it was offered to was not pleased, that turned out to be an aberration in the history of Trans Iowa finishers. 

So I figured, ya know, Dan Hughes would roll up, and in his typical, sardonic, dry manner, he would make some crack statement, then I would shake his hand, and we'd make a few pictures together. Then he would hang maybe for a bit, and that would be that. But I wasn't ready for what actually happened.

I have several shots of Dan Hughes at the finish of T.I.v13, but this one by Christopher Rhodes is my favorite.

Hughes showed up finally at about 10:45am. He rolled up to me and I stuck my hand out for that traditional handshake, but Hughes was having none of that. He reached out with his right arm and pulled me close to him in a powerful hug that lasted longer than you might feel comfortable with. 

I know words were exchanged then between he and I, but I have no recollection what those words might have been. All I can remember, and I remember this feeling vividly, is the emotional power that was in that hug Dan gave me. You could say it was a sort of catharsis. A purification of sorts happened right there. Something happened. More than Dan just giving me a hug. It was bigger than that, for him at any rate, and I was left sort of confused by what had just happened. I just knew something really big- more important than finishing Trans Iowa- had just occurred right then. 

Dan Hughes speaking with me shortly after his T.I.v13 finish. Image by Sveta Vold

I've often been told that Trans Iowa was a chance for someone who got into it to have their life changed. I have always taken that to heart, and since T.I.v3 I really focused on that aspect of the event. Many people may not have understood  the various unique facets of Trans Iowa, but then again, many events are not focused on things which are spiritual and psychological. The whole "mental" part of the event was of superior importance to me, so when I got feedback to the effect that someone had a so-called 'life changing' experience out there, I was particularly pleased by that. 

Dan's act was something that conveyed this with more than words to me. It was a powerful moment in my Trans Iowa experiences. Maybe the most memorable moment for me of all 14 years of the event. The fact that Dan is something of an enigma to me, and that his act at the finish line was so intimate and powerful to me, was at once confusing and supremely meaningful. I cannot speak for Dan, but all I know is that something - a release of sorts- happened in that moment, and while I cannot say exactly what that was, it is a moment I will not forget. 

Next: A Contrast Of Two Cyclists


Self portrait. GT in his basement shop.
Well, it's THAT day again! The day on which I was born sixty-one years ago is today. So, in light of this auspicious occasion, I am going to take some time to reflect on a few things. Here we go, in no particular order....

  • Two years....well-almost two... of this pandemic is tiring. I feel like it has been 2020 forever. 
  • Last year was.....uggh! Last year was great too. Lots of changes happened. 
  • Working as a mover for a moving company part time here and there has been enlightening. You've no idea how hard these people work. Think about your toughest days on a bicycle. It's that hard- maybe harder- and those guys and gals do that five days a week. 
  • I still like riding bicycles- a lot! 
  • I still like playing guitar 
  • I still really enjoy writing. 
  • I love my family and count myself super-blessed to have a wife and two children that love me.

I have my health, such as it is. It is good, but sixty-one years and you know what? Things change. I'm not complaining. It is what it is. And that is mostly really good for my age. But I won't kid you- as you age, you'd better become acquainted with pain, changing performance of certain body parts, and hair management where you thought hair would never grow! Just kidding! A little......

Thanks for reading G-Ted Productions. I hope that you have an awesome day!

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Back At It

 Well, as I have been hinting at for a bit here, I had my hat in the ring for a new job. Well, now I can say that I have that job and- actually- my first day is today. The job will be in the bicycle realm, but this time it is a bit different in mission. 

The Cedar Valley Bicycle Collective isn't a retail bike shop. Here is the description from their Facebok page:

"The Cedar Valley Bicycle Collective is:
  • A volunteer-driven community bike resource
  • An entry point for people that may not be ready to purchase a brand new bike
  • An educational resource for bicycle safety and maintenance
  • The Cedar Valley Bicycle Collective is NOT a bike shop; We do not fix your bikes, but we will show you how to fix your bike."
The CVBC does accept donated bicycles, refurbishes the ones that make sense to refurbish and sell, and then sells those used bikes into the community at a more than fair price to get more folks on bicycles. It is a part time position, but that's no big deal. I don't think I've worked full-time at a bike shop since the early 2000's. 
And as well- I've done the retail bicycle thing for about 25 years. That is enough of that. This job has very different challenges and will push me a bit to grow in a bit different way. Another wrenching job would have been more of the same. That would have been 'okay', but this gig promises to be better, I think. Plus I have plenty of time to get other stuff done as the hours are not that demanding. 
So, yeah.... I'm excited to get back to work and retire from part time moving duties! 

Friday, January 21, 2022

Friday News And Views

My old co-worker, Carl Buchanan with a "bike shop horror" from '06.
Mechanics Petition For Banning "Unfixable Bikes":

Recently a petition has been going around for the "banning of the manufacture of 'unfixable bicycles'."

Typically the bane of average shop mechanics, these "mart-bikes" almost always are made for floor appeal first and foremost, with the slight possibility of actually riding them way down the list of priorities. 

The petition states that such "bicycle-shaped objects" are really disheartening for children and lower income adults who typically rely on these bikes for mobility. The petition states that these bikes result in repair bills that eclipse the value of the bike and cause undue stress and harm. Following is a bullet point list of 'demands'. 

"We call on you to:
- Set a minimum durability standard for bicycles to last at least 500 riding hours before breaking down,
- Design bikes to be serviceable and hold adjustment, with replaceable and upgradable components, and
- Stop creating and selling bikes that are made to fall apart.

Comments: While I can sympathize with the plight of the mechanic, I think this petition is misdirected. Part of the onus here is on the consumer. If people understood what constitutes a "real bicycle" versus what you get at a big box store, it might make a difference in a few cases. But also- and this is probably the real issue, we can lay a LOT of the blame here on the bicycle industry at the higher levels. These are not necessarily the brands you see on 'mart bikes', but on the bike shop quality bikes. They have consistently and constantly driven technology, materials, and therefore costs, through to such a point that now an "entry level" bike-shop bike costs North of $600.00! 

I once had a great conversation on this subject with the legendary Gary Fisher. He had a great idea, which was to make the same parts over and over for years. Parts which were once 'top-shelf'- he proposed 8 speed XTR as an example- and with the same parts never changing, costs could come way down. Mate those to a simple frame, and boom! Inexpensive, high-quality bicycles for the masses. 

But when you change parts, colors, frame designs, and all that year-to-year, costs are harder to contain. And obviously inflation and all of that comes into play. However; when I see what smaller companies like State Bicycles can sell a bike for, I cannot help but imagine where prices could go if standardization of parts and pieces were maximized for the inexpensive bikes to meet entry level cyclist's needs.  

Hammerhead Purchased By SRAM:

Wednesday news broke that Hammerhead, the cycling computer company which makes the Karoo 2 computer, was acquired by SRAM and added to their portfolio of companies which includes Rock Shox, Zipp, TIME, and Quark, according to an article in "Bicycle Retailer and Industry News". 

Details of the acquisition were not released and SRAM claims all operations at Hammerhead will continue on as before. 

Comments: Obviously there is a plan here and I don't think it will take a genius to see where SRAM is going with Hammerhead's technology. SRAM's new move into an all-integrated system for MTB and road with its AXS wireless groups and further integration with Rock Shox products means that a centralized control unit would be a boon to those existing systems. 

I expect that SRAM will leverage Hammerhead's tech and release their own, proprietary AXS computer head utilizing the same radio frequency established for the SRAM wireless technologies already in place.  A touch screen control unit that would be easily configurable, upgradeable, and one that has a user-friendly, "smart phone-like" interface makes sense for SRAM. 

My question is how does this affect the future for Hammerhead Karoo users in the future?  Will SRAM demands on resources from Hammerhead cause the company to lose focus on their original business? Does that mean that my Hammerhead Karoo 2 becomes a paperweight sooner than it might have anyway? Time will tell, but whenever a take-over like this happens and the press release says "things will continue on as before with the company we bought" I am VERY skeptical.

"Vaccine Pass" Required For Tour Participants?

Recently in the news a new law passed in France may have an impact on professional races held in France including the Tour de France this coming July. 

Apparently any professional will be compelled to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to participate in any sports in France from this point forward. This would also include cycling, despite it being an out of doors activity, mainly due to hotel/motel considerations for team members and staff. Travel considerations would also be subject to the laws if the teams used public airlines, trains, or buses. Additionally, any person going to France to spectate will also have to prove proof of vaccination to enter motels, hotels, restaurants, and bars and to use public transportation. 

While most teams are reporting high percentages of their rosters as being vaccinated, some are not, which may dictate that certain team members not participate in the Tour or other French races. Furthermore, the new French law also stipulates that a booster vaccine shot must be proven to have been taken by any athlete who has been vaccinated for four months or longer.

Similar restrictions exist in Italy, and in some Middle Eastern countries.  The UCI has not formulated its 2022 vaccine protocols yet and said that for the time being teams should respect each nation's laws. 

Comments: Once again, the pandemic strikes. However; some experts are saying we are entering the 'endemic phase' of this viral wave and that the case numbers will show that by the end of this year. Meanwhile other nations are taking a bit of a conservative approach as the Omicron variant rages across the world. In the USA? Events are taking registrants as if nothing is going on. It's a very odd situation. 

I'm not saying we are (the USA) wrong or right, but you'd think that some mention of protocols for the health and safety of riders would still be alluded to, if in fact anything is going to be done at all. We'll see..... It is interesting to note that the industry get together called "CABDA", to be held in Chicago next month, has been cancelled. Meanwhile, the Iowa Bicycle Expo, to be held in Des Moines, Iowa, is full throttle, and will be held this month. Confused? 


The Enduo Track chain ring and chain. (Image courtesy of New Motion Labs)
Enduo Evolve Chain Reminds Of Skip-Tooth Chains Of Past:

Recently a new chain and chain ring design caught my eye as it reminded me of something which looked similar used pre-WWII on many single speed bicycles. The "Enduo Evolve" chain is a bit different take on how a chain works. the company which makes this new chain is called New Motion Labs and they claim a significant energy savings over conventional chains. 

Essentially what a 'normal chain' does when it interfaces with a sprocket is that the chain slides in the 'valley' between the teeth of a sprocket, which causes friction. Furthermore; the roller on one side bears most of the load for energy transfer, and that gets concentrated at the point where the chain pin is inserted into the outer chain plate. All of this wastes energy, according to New Motion Labs. 

They solve the problem by utilizing a 'skip tooth' design and interfacing two links of chain in a 'valley' which then spreads the load against the sprocket teeth and eliminates the sliding of rollers against chain rings. Therefore; it is claimed; the Enduo Evolve chain saves watts.  

Comments: Looking through the New Motion Labs site, their claims make sense. However; it is obvious that this is a single ring/cog drive train set up only. The Enduo Evolve chain is not designed for side loading/shifting and is obviously far too wide anyway. But perhaps for track racing and BMX? It could be pretty good there. I'd give it a whirl on a single speed gravel bike. But I think where this is really meant to go is in the electrified bike, motorcycle, and manufacturing directions. 

Okay, that's a wrap on this week! Stay warm and get outside if you can this weekend!