Thursday, March 31, 2022

Guitar Ted Lube-Off: EcoSheep Lube

New, freshly cleaned Shimano 11 speed chain.
 Okay the next contender is up in the Guitar Ted Lube-Off! The Lube-Off is a totally unscientific comparison of lubricants to find the best dry lube for gravel road riding for me- Guitar Ted! If you draw any conclusions from these posts, well, that's on you! 

I also have a bit of an update on the SILCA Super-Secret lube. 

But first, let's get to Lube #2 in this round of the Lube-Off, the Eco Sheep Mountain Bike Chain Lube. This is a lanolin based chain lubricant that is 100% natural and eco-friendly. It contains the aforementioned lanolin oil, sourced from sheep's wool, and vegetable oils. Could you cook your morning eggs in it? Maybe.....but let's not find out, shall we? 

Besides the touted natural benefits and "high performing chain lubrication" claims, I have to take the Eco Sheep people to task a bit for a lack of instructions on just how they recommend using this stuff. Obviously, I have the privilege and benefit of having been a bicycle mechanic for 29 years. I have a few things figured out. But for the vast majority of folks, this is a severe oversight in marketing. So, be aware that there is little to go on as far as application techniques, when to reapply, etc. 

That said, I found the product easy to use with its integrated brush/can cap vessel the Eco Sheep stuff comes in. Now looking at their web site, it seems as though the company is transitioning to traditional drip style plastic bottles, which I understand from a marketing perspective, but this is disappointing for those who want to be able to up-cycle or recycle the older can style container. 

The unique can style container has an integrated application brush.

I applied the Eco Sheep lubricant with the brush, basically "painting" it on the chain and then I worked it in to the rollers with my finger tips. Then I back pedaled the chain several minutes. I followed this up with a shifting of all the gears. Then I let it sit to either dry out (?) or have it take a set to the chain (?) - I am not sure how the lubricant adheres to the metal in this case. So, there is another question the site could answer, but I have no idea at this point. 

Well, there it is! Eco Sheep Chain Lube. Hard to tell I did anything, right?

The oil is thin, not too runny, and coats on in a thin layer. It never ran or dripped off, like some other lubricants will do. It seemed to "soak in", if that makes sense, and even after I was finished, I barely got a thin film of the stuff on my finger after running it across the chain rollers. 

So, the plan is to let that sit for a day or more until I can get the Raleigh out to ride it. That may be later into next week at this point. I might try to get out on a quick test loop before that though. It should be interesting to see how lanolin oil does on a bicycle drive train. 

SILCA Super-Secret Chain Lube Update: After I posted earlier this week about the SILCA Super-Secret Chain Lube, I got a comment from Josh at SILCA. (Yes- the owner of the company) He mentioned that I might try to do another application of the Super-Secret lube and use a micro-fiber towel after it dries up completely for even better lubricant penetration into the chain. 

I thought that this was a valuable tip and I wanted to share it outside of the comments section where many would never have seen it. I also suggested to Josh that these tips and recommendations should be on an instructional paper which could ship with the product and live on the website as well. 

Okay, that's it for now. Look for updates coming soon!

 I bought the SILCA "Super-Secret" Lube and the EcoSheep Mountain lubricants for this round of the Lube-Off. I was not paid nor bribed for these posts and I try to give you my honest thoughts and opinions throughout.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Gravel Events And Thinking Outside The Box

Who said you had to have number plates, timing, or categories?
 NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

Recently, a "Velo News" article authored by Betsy Welch came across my radar here and some folks in the gravel cycling community were marking it as a 'good read'. So, I took a gander. 

I had to stop a minute at one point, because there was a huge assumption made which the rest of her veiwpoint pivoted on. Points which I do not agree with, and I think her take is a bit too far up inside a "box" that defines an entire world of traditional cycling events. Points which many folks assume are true, even when there is ample evidence at hand which points outside that box in terms of gravel and back road events. 

Here is the quote first:

" Not only must event organizers provide a worthwhile experience for professional athletes, but the races should be challenging for age groupers, non-intimidating for newer cyclists, and fun for the party in the back. Add in affordability and priority given to underserved populations, and that’s a lot to put on one plate. "

What is ironic to note is that the context here is that new event promoters have a lot to learn from past promoters. I think that had the author spent some time digging into the history of gravel and back road events, that this quoted paragraph would have looked a lot different than it does. 

There are many assumptions made about what constitutes an "event" here. What says "event organizers (must) provide a worthwhile experience for professional athletes'? Sheesh! It would seem as though you cannot even have a gravel event without professional athletes.  Hmm.....we must not have gotten the memo here in the 2000's when we were running our gravel events here. 

GT at the 2011 CIRREM event- Was it an event if we had no Pro racers?
Okay, so maybe the author is not being 100% inclusive of all types of gravel events. That could be. But whatever. The next point was one concerning challenge, non-intimidation for newer cyclists, and about fun for all. 

Challenge is up to the promoter, and it can be "intimidating", because if it is not intimidating, is it a challenge? I mean, that's kind of a prerequisite for something to be a "challenge". It has to 'push your boundaries' and that is, in fact, a bit intimidating. What makes the experience so enriching is finding out you can overcome the challenge, go beyond what your preconceived notions about what your limits were, and then NOT be intimidated anymore. 

The experience of doing the thing- the challenge- is what brings about the overcoming of those feelings of intimidation. (Amongst other good things) Besides, there are more than one kind of gravel/back road events today. Newer cyclists and experienced cyclists have a plethora of event types to choose from, many of which do not even have Pro racers at them, (which in itself can be intimidating in a negative way) with varying distances and terrain types. I figure that there has to be around 650-700 events on back roads and gravel these days. Surely you can find something without looking all that hard to do that is acceptably challenging and fun.

Oh yeah, the fun factor. A lot of that is inside the individual rider. You bring it with you. Promoters can (and often do) provide the venue and the means, but if you bring a crap attitude, well, then who is at fault there if you didn't have any fun? And again- pick yer poison- carefully. Research the event. Most events are not happening in social media vacuums anymore. All that you need to know can be found out in ten minutes of internet searching. 

Almanzo 100 2018: Affordability? How about free entry, free food, and free fun?
Now on to affordability. This is one near and dear to my heart, because as you all know who regularly read this blog, I have run several events for well over a decade which had zero entry fee. Nada. None. 

Is that "affordable"? 

Maybe it is, but here's what I think now, and it also ties into the "under-served communities" as well. Don't stop at free entry. Go further. Bring those people to the event for free, lodge them for free, and take them back home again, for free. That's breaking down barriers. Especially today when we have high gas prices, high food and lodging prices, and people are just barely keeping their heads above water. Find those folks who may want to try out a back road event,and don't make them pay a thing. The big, high priced events could have this service for sure. But again- sometimes you are best going to the under-served. Put on a back-alley event. Make it comfortable for them, close to home as possible. 

And of course, all that is predicated on individuals wanting to do this. I can knock on a thousand doors, but until someone wants what I offer, I am simply wasting time. Not everyone wants to do gravel. And that's okay.....

Which brings me to my final take on the article, which is the overriding idea put forth that these gravel events have to cater to everybody. Says who? While events like the Mid-South are lauded for how the event director treats everyone the same, there is only so much of "Bobby Wintle" to go around, ya know? Someday he is going to reach his limit, and then what Hinging any event's success on being all things to all people is not necessarily a good thing. 

Maybe catering to specific groups would be better. An all women's ride. Why not? Have a gravel event exclusively for LGBTQ+ folks. Again- why not. Sometimes folks just want to be with their "tribe". Gravel events could do well to cater to that desire. You don't have to be all things to all people, and maybe that should be where these bigger events go with their satellite events. 

 Have gravel event promoters got a lot to learn and a lot to think about? Yes! Without a doubt they do. However; reading that article I was left with vision so narrowly focused that it reminded me of why many of us promoted gravel and back road events in the first place- To get outside the box many were in regarding how to do events in the first place. Just remember- You don't have to do a gravel event to please everyone, or in any certain way. That's what made gravel events attractive for the first 17 years of this modern day gravel thing. Let's not codify how a gravel event is done now. Keep it weird, keep it fun, and you do you.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Guitar Ted Lube-Off: SILCA "Super-Secret Lube"

No! It is NOT a hazy IPA!
Okay, it is high time that I kick off the next round of the "Guitar Ted Lube-Off". A totally unscientific comparison of lubricants to find the best dry lube for gravel road riding for me- Guitar Ted! If you draw any conclusions from these posts, well, that's on you! 

Now with that said, the first lubricant up is the Silca "Super-Secret" stuff I got in here to try out. (Keep in mind that these lubricants were purchased by me and not provided to me for this post. SILCA has no idea what I am doing here and maybe I don't either!) 

First things first- I needed to clean my chain. I chose the Wippermann chain I got a while back now for the testing which is on my Black Mountain Cycles MCD right now. The Connex link is super easy to remove so I could take the chain off and manually clean it in soapy, warm water. (I used Dawn dish detergent) This solution was in an old pasta sauce jar and I shook it up and drained it three times. I then rinsed and scrubbed the chain with a toothbrush. Then I followed that up with a clean rinse. I removed the chain and fully dried it out using a combination of forced air flow and centrifugal force. 

The result was that I found out that the Wippermann chain's gold plated, well.....whatever that was, has worn off to reveal a coppery colored metal and then steel underneath that. Woo! It's more worn than I thought! So, I'll likely run this test and then get a new chain soon afterward. In the meantime it shifts great and seems to not show a lot of wear in terms of the chain gauge. 

Now it was time to apply the "secret sauce" from SILCA. Based upon their instructions, they seemed to say "one drop per link", but do that twice, (??) and in the video, it was plain to see that they had the chain swimming in lube. So......what gives? I did exactly what the video said and my thoughts are that this is waaaay too much lube! I ended up basically polishing off a lot of excess stuff from the chain with a cloth. I mean, I couldn't see the color of the metal through the wax! And I know what that would have led to- a really big mess. So, in retrospect I am of the mind that the "Super-Secret" lube should be used sparingly. Like one drop per link and that's it. Not slathered in the stuff, like the video showed.  

That waxy lube attracted minimal dirt on the first test ride.

So, I got the chain lube on, let it dry for a couple of hours, and then I went for about a 45 minute test ride over dirt, crushed pea gravel, deteriorated gravel, and city streets. Afterward I noted some dirt particles and sand attracted to the chain, but it was very minimal. 

The "Touch Test" revealed basically nothing.
Long time readers know what the "Touch-Test" is, but for you who are unfamiliar, I drag my index finger across a few rollers on the chain, rotating them, to see how 'free' they turn and if I get any residue on my finger. The results from my initial ride on the "Super-Secret" lube showed a surprising result.

First off, the chain felt dry. As in slick, but dry. Then I looked at my finger. Basically there was nothing to speak of. Not anything of import. Wow....

Riding and shifting seemed quieter with the "Super-Secret" stuff on the chain. So that was a positive of the lube so far as well. Now on to longer rides on gravel where we will see how the "Super-Secret" lube deals with copious amounts of limestone dust. 

And......That will happen this weekend at the Gents Race where I will get in a metric century. Well, if I don't bonk, get too inebriated, (it's happened before) or if I don't get stopped by some other calamity unforeseen. Then I'll report back on this stuff and we'll see what I find.

The sheep oil lube will be going on the Raleigh Tamland Two soon. Stay tuned for that coming up as well. 

I bought the SILCA "Super-Secret" Lube and the EcoSheep Mountain lubricants for this round of the Lube-Off. I was not paid nor bribed for these posts and I try to give you my honest thoughts and opinions throughout.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Choosing: The Final Decision

 So, last week I went over what my choices were going to be for this coming Saturday's Gents Race down in Slater, Iowa. (Small town in between Ankeny and Ames Iowa.) 

Well, I had to make a choice and this post is going to reveal that choice. Like I said, I was going to go with my single speed, but with minimal riding time under my belt this year so far, well I thought better of that. And one other thing- My left knee, which I damaged slightly being a mover, is pretty much 100% now and I don't want to do a 65-ish mile gravel grinder and trash my progress so far. Maybe a 20 miler, a 30 miler maybe, to start out with, anyway. But a metric century? Probably not a great idea there.

So that idea was discarded right away, and then it was just a matter of choosing one of my other capable bikes for the ride, and I asked for some advice in that post last week. Well, MG will be happy to know that I went with his advice, and my gut feelings, and chose the Black Mountain Cycles MCD.

The Black Mountain Cycles MCD on a recent outing.

 It isn't like I haven't ridden at all. And I have been doing some aerobic walking on the side as well, so I'm not a total couch potato here. I probably will be okay, but yeah.... Considerations for this event are the gravel, the weather, and our team. First, the gravel.

It is a sandy area down there and it is reflected in their gravel. It is sandy, not very chunky, and a wider tire helps with that. Secondly, the weather is generally cool and windy. That course is pretty flat, but a wide range of gearing can help you work through what can be 10 mile stretches of really bad headwinds. Finally, our team is not what I would consider "fast" or "in it to win it". We are in it for fun and a good ride. So, taking the most racy bike I have isn't necessary. 

The pink BMC has the Redshift Sports ShockStop Pro seatpost and stem, so it'll be comfortable. It's got a wide range of gears, and wide, 47mm tires from Teravail. So, yeah.... This should go well enough if I remember to bring something to eat!

And so I chose the Black Mountain Cycles rig for the ride and we'll see how it goes this coming weekend.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Trans Iowa Stories: Changing Gears On The Finish

The last load out for a Trans Iowa

 "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!  

So, as the day for the Pre-Race Meat-Up approached all was coming together rather smoothly. The weather was even cooperating and it was forecast to be warm and Sunny all weekend. But all I had on my mind was how I was going to say what I was going to say about Trans Iowa's ending. I had a speech all figured out, then I'd waffle and revise my thoughts, and then I would go back and forth that way. This went on for days. However; something happened right before T.I.v14 that gave me resolve to change course a bit. 

Sarah Cooper, who was to be riding a tandem with Steve Fuller, ended up having to drop out. She had sent me an email with the news ahead of the event, but in her message to me she related that there was something else going on with the Trans Iowa community. She mentioned a "..... rampant rumor that this will be the last Trans Iowa"

Ah! Well, I just shrugged it off as being talk I hear every year in my reply to her. But I was thinking that maybe the word was out. Maybe that inadvertent publishing of that final announcement on my blog had reached others who were whispering the news around. Then again, maybe someone that knew had leaked it out. It could have been that. I can see where that would happen. But I didn't know then how the rumor got started and to this day, no one has come clean with me if they had seen that post or if they got word somehow. So, that bit remains a mystery, and really, at this point, it doesn't matter anymore.

My view from the last T.I. Pre-Race Meat-Up ever.
So, I had a bit of a decision. Should I tell them the night before, or should I wait until the morning? My thoughts were that if I were to release the cat out of the bag- at least officially - the night before, what would stop a last minute rush of onlookers and hangars-on from showing up? We weren't that far from Des Moines, and we were right off Interstate 80, so it would not be out of the question to see hundreds of people show up for the last Trans Iowa ever. 

But I wanted the riders to know that this was it. We were over and out and Trans Iowa wasn't coming back. So, after some deliberation with myself, I decided to put it off until we were just about to blow the horn at 4:00am for the event start. Then the word could spread, and since no one but myself, MG, and a very few others knew where we were going, the spectaorship of the last Trans Iowa would be very difficult. 

I let Matt know that I was going to do things this way, and I may have told Jeremy as well. But as I got into the day of the Pre-Race, I was out and about in downtown Grinnell. I ran into a fellow who tagged me and asked me about another guy wanting to document Trans Iowa. He was here, and "...he'll do a really good job!...", blah, blah.... I didn't really hear the rest. I basically blew this off and told the fellow that he should have asked me prior to this and he needed permission. Well, later on, in front of Bikes To You, where we were to start, here the guy was. Someone pointed him out. He began his pitch, but if I recall correctly, I cut him off and flatly stated that he was in no way welcome to film the event. And I turned and walked away. 

This pretty much made up my mind that I wasn't going to say anything about it being the last Trans Iowa. It was a deal that, if I had said anything, it was sure to cause me grief. I just knew it, and that guy confirmed it. Plus, I reasoned, what if someone is on their last bit of gas out there? Do they, as a rider in the last Trans Iowa ever, decide that they had to keep going, at the risk of damage to life and limb, because they would never get another chance at it? My thoughts were that - Yes- people were willing to go too far. That was all I needed to just keep it all to myself. Besides, my blog post, scheduled to go up at 2:00pm on Sunday, when Trans Iowa v14 was scheduled to end, would certainly be enough to get the word out.

Moments before the start of the last Trans Iowa.

So, when Matt expected me to make an announcement, I did not. I jumped in the Subaru and we hit the road. Not far out of town he expressed his surprise and disappointment in my decision. But after I explained to him that my concern for what riders might do to push themselves too far if they knew it was the last time we'd have a Trans Iowa - that this might cause problems, he understood. 

And that was how I ended up not saying anything at all in the end. Was it the right way to do this? I think it was. I heard from riders after T.I.v14 that did not finish that told me that their decision making would have looked different had they known that they would never be able to line up at a Trans Iowa again. So, I felt justified by this information after the event. 

I'm not saying it was ideal, or the perfect way to do Trans Iowa's ending, but it seemed to work, and that was what was important. The event generally went off like any other Trans Iowa, (with the usual surprise issues, that is) and that was what I had wanted to have happen all along. I wasn't in for a big 'goodbye' or whatever. I just wanted it to stop after v14 with no fanfare, no sappy goodbyes, none of that. So, maybe I'm selfish, but I felt that was the best way to do this. 

And of course, there were some 'moments' and 'goodbyes'. It was just amongst my 'inner circle, if you will, and I will get to that when I tell the stories behind v14.

Next: Missing Persons

Saturday, March 26, 2022


Building wheels, amongst other things.
 Well, after my ride last Monday the weather certainly took a turn for the worse. Cold, rain, and even some snow showers! Not the sort of weather I want to get out in to. 

So, in place of that bicycle riding I would have done, I have somehow landed a few jobs from local folks wanting things done. I mentioned that earlier this week as well. Anyway, the timing on getting the work has been good, considering the weather. 

The jobs have been fairly time consuming, and when I could squeeze in a moment or two to get them going again, I did. That had to be between running my two kids around, neither of which own, or even could drive, a car. They use public transportation when they can, but that is so hard to do because of the bus routes and times the buses run that I end up being "The Bus". 

Anyway, getting to do these repair/wheel building jobs I have is not as easy as you might think. Then if something needs ordering- well that's a big delay too. Like I say- I'm not trying to get jobs from the area, these folks are seeking me out. I'm not wanting to step on anyone's toes here that does bike business, and I don't have the necessary connections anymore to get stuff I might need in terms of wholesale. I have to buy the parts like any ol' person would. So, I try to patronize the local-to-me shop for those things. 

And all of this is pushing off the next phase of the Guitar Ted Lube-Off. Which, as I look outside and see everything wet, cold, and dirty, is probably okay as well. I don't want to test for dry conditions performance when it is like this out there. So, if you've been wondering where that test was at, that's what is up.

If the weather people are to be believed, this cold, damp pattern is to persist for a bit too. So, I may be putting this 'Lube-Off' for longer as well. I'm sure it will be cold and windy a week from today, at any rate. It's the Gent's Race weekend!

Friday, March 25, 2022

Friday News And Views

Fox AX TaperCast fork (Image found on Internet)
 Fox To Update Gravel Suspension Fork?

According to several social media accounts and some endemic cycling media, Fox is set to announce a successor to their original gravel suspension fork, which came out in 2017. 

Reportedly this fork will have a three position damper setting, 40mm of travel, and Kashima coated stanchions. Price is rumored to be $1400.00 or so. 

Comments: Pffft! Really?! This seems like a big miss to me. I've covered this ground here before, but for those in the back, or who are new to this....

Forty millimeters of travel does not a suspension fork make. In other words, why have an expensive, heavy fork with minimal amounts of travel when you could be riding a trail bike, you XC hard tail MTB? get you 100mm - 120mm of suspension travel that actually doesn't bottom out when set to be supple? I don't know, maybe I'm the crazy guy here, but a drop bar bike with a measly 40mm of constantly overwhelmed travel (if it is set to work all the time) is not sounding too ideal to me. 

Especially when you can bolt on 20mm of really effective vibration eating travel that doesn't claim to be anything else but just that. That fork may have 40mm of travel but how much does it weigh? And what will it cost me to maintain that fork? And does all that disappear during the other 80-90% of the time I don't need it? No? Yeah....well then.... 

If we are going to ride drop bar bikes with suspension, here's one great option that has been around for years. Quit trying to make a gravel bike something it is not. 

More Bike Parts Thievery In The News:

According to a "Bicycle Retailer and Industry News" article posted on Monday, March 21st, there was a theft of PNW branded bicycle parts from a truck on March 16th somewhere in San Bruno, California. The parts were valued, according to the story, at $500,000.00 USD and were headed to PNW's warehouse. 

Authorities and PNW ask consumers to be on the lookout for PNW components at suspicious pricing and to report any suspicious product offerings to PNW Components. PNW makes dropper posts, dropper levers, stems, and other service parts. 

Comments; Supply chain shortages, the increase in demand, inflation, and the ease of internet sales makes piracy of bikes and bike parts a potentially lucrative criminal activity. We're seeing it again now with this latest report of PNW stolen bike parts and the recommendation to look out for "suspicious pricing and product offerings". 

This really hurts the niche brands like PNW who have had shortages for over a year while demand outstrips supply due to several issues out of their control. When they finally get a resupply, then this happens to them. It could be a devastating blow to a smaller company like this. 

Tubolito Announces X-Tubo CX/Gravel Tubes:

Tubolito announced Monday that they have a new re-engineered Tubolito CX/Gravel tube, (which I reviewed last year here) and have named it the "X-Tubo CX/Gravel. 

Tubolito tubes are made from thermoplastic polyurethane, and so they do not have the same traits as a butyl rubber tube, like a susceptibility to punctures, and they do not have the same weight issues as butyl rubber tubes. 

The Tubolito can therefore have very similar low rolling resistances as would your latex rubber tubes, and very nearly that of tubeless set ups without the hassles of tubeless sealant. Now with the X-Tubo, Tubolito is offering those who purchase and register their Tubolito X-Tubo tubes a one year replacement program. If you were to puncture an X-Tubo tube within that year, you could mail in the tube for a replacement from Tubolito. 

X-Tubo CX/Gravel Tubolito tubes can be purchased online here for 29.95 Euros/$35.00USD each. 

Comments: I don't have a lot more to add to the Tubolito opinions that I have already expressed here, but this new version might be a great alternative solution for those who cannot get into tubeless tires for whatever reasons. The one year replacement policy is a pretty decent deal, in my opinion. Again- I am a tubeless guy through and through. After nearly fifteen years of doing the tubeless dance, I have the processes down and I've done hundreds of tubeless set ups on more tires than I can count. So, my experience leads me to success more times than not. You may be new to tubeless, so if it doesn't feel like something you want to mess with, these Tubolito tubes are "next level" tube technology. I would strongly recommend that anyone in that situation take a look at them.

From my perspective I would probably rely on these most as a bail-out solution when and if I had a catastrophic tubeless failure in the field. These Tubolito's weigh next to nothing and pack up to slightly larger than a golf ball in size, so they do not take a lot of room in your repair kit.

Ashton Lambie (center) and MG at the '19 Solstice 100.

Ashton Lambie Joins Jukebox Gravel Racing Team:

World record holder and track cycling champion, Ashton Lambie, is set to join the Jukebox Cycling Team

On the team's page for Lambie, it says, "And this season, he plans to focus more on gravel racing, one of his first loves in cycling, while giving his track bike a break "

Comments: Lambie is kind of a hero to us here in the Mid-West. Generally speaking, cycling champions of the World don't come from here, or from America, really. So, he's kind of a "big deal". In fact, Lambie says in a "Nebraska Public Media" story that he is held in high regard in Europe where people ask him to autograph his hero cards for track cycling. 

What I found really interesting about this development is what Lambie says about the future of cycling team organization. He claims that the old ways won't work anymore. Jukebox Cycling employs a rather individualistic approach to sponsorship and racing programs for their athletes. Riders can bring in their own sponsors and focus on events to their liking rather than have to be a part of a multi-member team and ride according to team tactics. (Not that Jukebox Cycling couldn't employ team tactics in an event

So, with that I want to wish Ashton Lambie all the best. There are reasons Lambie is highly regarded that go beyond his obvious physical prowess. He happens to be a really nice, down to earth kind of person, and I think this contributes greatly to his popularity. 

Well, that's a wrap on this week! Get out there and ride and thanks for reading G-Ted Productions! 

Thursday, March 24, 2022

WW4M: Fyxation Mesa MP Pedals

 Note: What Works For Me, or "WW4M", is an occasional post here and there where I share what I have been using for a long time and that just, you! Also, the Standard Disclaimer applies here. Again- this works for me. Your mileage may vary.....

Fyxation Mesa MP pedals
Back in 2012, a decade ago now, I received two sets of pedals from Fyxation to review on my old site, "Twenty Nine Inches". Thus began my love for these flat, metal pinned pedals. 

I suppose that when I think about these pedals I think about two things. "Longevity" and "Value". See those black Mesa MP's there? That image is from 2012. Those pedals are still kicking ten years later after several Winters of abuse, dirt rides, gravel rides, and single tracking. 

So, durable and long-lasting equipment for cycling is a good thing. But add in the fact that the Mesa MP's have stayed below $100.00 a pair for a decade and that makes them even that much more impressive. And when I say "under $100.00 a pair", I don't mean 'just under'. No- I mean that these pedals are currently listed at $62.95 a pair on the Fyxation site right now. 

The Mesa MP's have removable and replaceable pins, which makes them even that much more of a deal. Now, I will tell you that these are not the massive 'daggers of death' pins, the like of which many MTB pedals have out there now. No, they do not stick out that far and there are maybe not as many pins as some have, but there is enough to get me by in Winter with boots, so, yeah.... Like I say- this works for me. 

I also like the impact grade nylon body with its sealed bearings. It's NOT a metal bodied pedal, and this is very important to me. Metal pedals suck the heat from your feet when it is really cold out. I can feel the difference and this is why my fat bikes all have Mesa MP pedals. (It's also why I use carbon handle bars on my fat bikes, but that's another story)  The only nit I have about these is that the metal pins can rust. But if that bums you out get the Subzero Mesa MP's which have stainless steel metal pins. I have those as well.

So, inexpensive, great grippy pins, long lasting bearings, and a durable, warm-in-Winter nylon body. That's what works for me. This set of pedals has been so good I bought a couple more, and Fyxation sent me a couple more as well a few years back here now. I have these on several bikes and I don't plan on riding my fat bikes without them. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2022


Could it be the Tamland Two?
 So, a disclaimer first: I have a LOT of bicycles that are pretty nice and this entire post is probably not very relevant to many of you readers out there. So, understand that I have nothing to worry about in terms of "what bike to use". I have what many would say is a 'first world problem' I fully understand that. But I am writing a blog post and this is the subject, so....

Gents Race. It is coming up real soon, and I have not many miles in my legs yet. Well.....that's not news. generally I don't have much for miles by this point in the year due to event planning. That is not an excuse this year. 

So what? Well, this plays into what I want to go with for my Gents Race rig, and mind you, this is the last Gents Race that they are putting on. Or so they say. I mean, they could pull a 'Tom Brady' on us all and have another Gents Race next season. Who knows? I have no other option but to believe them now. I guess I'd better be careful what I put my faith in, right? 

Or it could be this one.....
Anyway, I was originally thinking of pulling out my Twin Six Standard Rando v2, but..... It is a single speed and riding that with geared riders in an event where you are supposed to be sticking together may not work so well. Then there is the highly likely possibility of strong winds the day of the event. I've ridden in this event many years and can think of maybe one- maybe two years that it was not really windy. Some years it was ridiculously windy. A single speed would be no good. 

Not when I'm not really ready to grind out 65 miles, or whatever they have for a course there, in poor conditions. I'd need to feel more confident than I do with my fitness to go single speed at this point.

...or maybe this bicycle.

Which is kind of a bummer for me because I think I rode the first one on my Black Mountain Cycles when I first got it and that was when it was still a single speed bike. I thought maybe I'd grab that one for old time's sake, but yeah..... Single speed. 

I could do it anyway, but I don't have to when I have other gravel bikes. Back in 2011, the BMC was my gravel bike. As in- the only one. I know we forget sometimes, but a specific bicycle for gravel did not exist when I did the first Gent's Race in 2011. 

Now? Pfffft! You cannot turn around and not knock over a gravel bike. They are everywhere! And I have.....gulp.....five gravel bikes! Five? Well, add in my Fargo, my Pofahl, and my old Karate Monkey to that list, and maybe even my fat bikes, because all are up for gravel use in my mind. But 'gravel specific'? Well then- Five. That's nuts! 

Since two of them are dedicated to single speed use now, I''ll choose from my three geared gravel bikes. Any one of them would do fine. Any one of them would be an advantage to me in my sorry state of fitness right now. So, don't go feeling sorry for me. I have it covered, and I am privileged, I get it. But I still have to do one thing.


Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Country Views: Wind And Rock

Escape Route: Sergeant Rd. Bike Path
With all the snow gone now and temperatures into the 60's-70's on occasion, I think "Brown Season" is over. While it may not look much like it from today's post, Spring is afoot and "The Greening" is happening again. Just like every year I've been around here. 

So, I've now switched gears to "Country Views" for the remainder of Spring, Summer, and most of Fall. With that out of the way, let's get to the ride....

The weekend saw me working on a couple of bike repair jobs that have come my way. Now- I don't actively seek this sort of work out, mind you. So you local wrenches can relax. But, having spent well over two decades wrenching, my name comes up here and there as a resource for repairing bikes and well, sometimes the customer asks about me. I could use the extra resources I get in trade, so..... 

If you are a local to me wrench and are offended, well- do a better job of customer service and advertising then. If these people ask me to fix their bikes, I figure that they turned over a few rocks to find me, and if they are willing to look that hard for me, well then...... 

Nuff said......

The point is, I didn't get out for a ride on the weekend, because of work. Monday I took some time off to ride, because Tuesday and Wednesday the weather is supposed to turn colder and wetter. I'm not passing up a Sunny day in the 60's every time for work. Just some of the time! 

What you cannot see here is the wind. It was brutal.

Farmers are starting to get things lined up for planting season.

Well, Monday was supposed to be gloriously warm. Up into the 70's by later in the afternoon. But this time of year it gets cold at night and it takes a while to warm things up. So, it was in the mid-50's when I left for my ride. That meant a light jacket and gloves. But by the time I got about seven miles into the ride I had to stop and peel off the jacket and gloves because the temperatures were already into the 60's. 

And of course, it is March after all, so it was windy. 20mph with 30+ mph gusts out of the South. Good times! I, of course, rode straight South into it.

Aha! What do we have here?

I see! The County maintenance road grader.

The wind wasn't the whole story either. It seems that the County is certain that Spring is here to stay as the maintenance of the gravel roads has commenced. I ran across a county maintainer, and I saw where several places had fresh gravel dumps. 

Some of that rye grass cover crop is greening up nicely out South of Waterloo.

The steed of choice for the day.

Riding South was a total chore. I must have gone about nine miles straight into that wind and that was enough. But, I needed that. See, I am trying to get ready for the Gent's Race in a couple of weeks, and I am woefully out of my reckoning when it comes to riding long rides right now. 

That work was good, and I kept a steady pace. Coming back with that wind was ridiculous. Despite running up on some of the most chunk-a-licious fresh rock dumps I have seen in a while, I was carrying some speed. I was really glad I didn't choose that road to go out on! I had fresh gravel going out, but this- whatever it is they are using- is insanely chunky. 

Two hours in the bank. Better than nothing......

Monday, March 21, 2022

Dropper Post Madness

Seen on social media Sunday.
 The "dropper post". That thing mountain bikers came up with to make descents and cornering more stable and safe. If you are a mountain biker, know. I don't have to convince you of the benefits. 

But when it came to other disciplines of cycling, dropper posts were, well.....'that mountain biker thing', and many were not going to give that component a chance because....'mountain biking'. Really, what other reason is there?

Weight? Hmm..... maybe. I could see that, but if you wouldn't even try one just based upon that reason alone, well, why would you ever ride a time trial bike, aero wheel sets, or use wider tires? All weigh more than their traditional roadie counterparts do, (in the case of a time trial bike, it is a sum of the parts, but a "real road bike" still weighs less). 

So pushing off the dropper post just because it weighs more than a traditional post is taking the easy way out of thinking about this component. I mean, mountain bikers would never be using suspension if the weight argument wasn't quickly put aside due to the overwhelming benefits of suspension in many cases. 

The Otso Cycles Waheela S was one of several new gravel bikes outfitted with a dropper post in 2018.

 I tried a dropper post on a gravel bike in 2018. It was a component that was being pushed forward, yes- by mountain biking- but gravel folks were somewhat more open to trying that idea. Anyway, I gave it a go, and at that time, I said that the dropper post was an advantage on descents for gravel riders, and probably roadies too. It wasn't even close to a subjective opinion. I had demonstratively proven that a dropper post was a clear cut advantage on descents by my using it on a Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational that year. 

I was easily cruising away from my riding partners on descents due to the aero advantage lent by getting lower on the bike. This is why the UCI outlawed the "Super Tuck" as riders were using the position to get more aero and have more control over their bicycles. So, on one hand the advantage was clear, but on the other hand, why roadies didn't figure this out several years ago is a mystery to me. 

They used dropper posts, yes. Mavic even had them on their Service Course bikes at the tour one year. But they weren't there to make riders more secure on descents and more aero. They were there so riders of different leg lengths could be fitted more quickly. (What?!!) Talk about being in denial......

But now, all of a sudden, this dropper post thing seems all new and real because some guy won a "monument" of cycling with it. It would be high comedy for many of us out here who have known this for years if it wasn't so seemingly daft. But - there ya go! Roadies using dropper posts for what they were meant for.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Trans Iowa Stories: Keeping The Secret

  "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!  

One of the things I felt bad about during the lead-up to Trans Iowa v14 was all the times I had to dodge the fact that this was going to be the last Trans Iowa. You'd maybe think that wouldn't have been a big deal, and honestly, I thought it would not be a big deal either. That is, until you get things like a book idea thrown at you, or requests for interviews. 

I also had to deal with sponsors speaking to me as though they were in this for the long haul and that really was awkward for me internally. Especially when dealing with WTB, the Grinnell Steakhouse, and my contacts in Grinnell. I hadn't thought about those angles either. Actually, it ended up becoming a stressful thing towards the end of the run up to v14. It probably doesn't help that I am not good at keeping secrets either. 

Bar Yak sent out these cue sheet holders pre-v14 as prizing for the event.

One of the more regretful situations I found myself in was something completely unexpected. A book about gravel events was being put together by author Nick Legan and he was featuring Trans Iowa as one of the 'bucket list' events in the nation at that time for gravel riders to do. 

This got really sticky as the book was set to come out right when I was going to kill off Trans Iowa. I felt like my event shouldn't have been included, but how could I say that and not give myself away? I didn't know how and so I played along, even helping to promote the book along the way pre-release. Uggh! That felt pretty dirty, but I was sticking to my guns regarding my decision to keep the secret. 

Nick Legan's "Gravel Cycling" came out the year T.I. ended.

Another unexpected uncomfortable situation arose when I was asked by "The Path Less Pedaled" for an interview. This occurred just before Trans Iowa v14 and again, I had to keep it real and not give any hint as to the fate of Trans Iowa. In the end, the interview came out after Trans Iowa, so it was even more odd and basically, I felt that was a train wreck. But again, I didn't know how to avoid that either. 

Maybe I should have politely declined the interview and  risked coming off as aloof or worse. I don't know. But that was another regrettable situation I found myself in. 

Speaking with my volunteers was another tough thing to do without spilling the beans. Especially with Tony, as I stated in the previous edition of this series. But occasionally I was in contact with Ben, or Matt, and I could speak freely, or communicate without worry. That was nice. But it didn't happen often. 

Speaking of Ben, he was doing these coffee mugs and stainless steel flasks as promotional gifts which he engraved with event logos and the like. He offered to do up a bunch of stuff for me, via our Riding Gravel partnership, and so the Trans Iowa v14 bottle opener was planned for all those who attended the event. I also got cups and flasks for the volunteers as special gifts. That was a nice gesture on Ben's part and I was able to give some nice things to my inner circle of supporters. 

But back to "The Secret". Remember that I mentioned my blog post I had been crafting to announce the end of Trans Iowa? Well, in March of 2018 I was tweaking on it for the umpteenth millionth time and when I went to hit "Preview" I accidentally pushed "Publish"! I was immediately aware of my mistake so I hit "Return To Draft" and I think maybe the post was live for like three to six seconds. But that was all it took for a few who subscribed to my blog to catch it and I actually got an email from a reader who had thought he had read this but it was gone. I came clean with him, but I asked him to keep it under his hat, which he promised to do, and he really had no horse in the race anyway. I was horrified. How many others had seen this? I did not know....

So, with THAT hanging out there I lived for about a month not knowing who- if anyone- might post on social media that Trans Iowa was ending and that I would end up with that mass chaos I was trying to avoid all along. But meanwhile I had to keep a stiff upper lip and carry on. I couldn't let on to anyone that this was anything but another edition of Trans Iowa.

Next: Changing Gears On The Finish

Saturday, March 19, 2022


Thanks to N.Y. Roll for the new shop hat.
 Since I've started working at the Cedar Valley Bicycle Collective I've had to learn and unlearn several things. The mission of the collective is a lot different than a normal retail bike shop's mission, and after having worked retail all my life, a non-profit situation is a challenge.

It's what I wanted too. Challenges and learning new ways. I mean, I could have had a regular bicycle mechanic's job in town by now. There was an opening or two I was aware of, but I didn't pursue the leads I heard about and obviously no one came knocking on my door either. 

And I'm okay with that. 

This all has become even more pronounced lately since we've gotten busier. I've met many of the 'regulars' by this point and several new folks as well. Because of the nature of the CVBC and it's mission to certain segments of the local populace that are, quite frankly, under served, I am seeing a different person than I have most of my years in retail. Besides economic and social differences, I have been most struck by one characteristic of the customers I've met so far. 

An attitude of gratitude. 

Sure- Many of the folks I've served along the way have been grateful. I've experienced many good returns for my hard work in terms of praise, thanks, and goodwill. But those were outliers in my experience. Most of the time, I felt like I was seen as a thief, an opportunist, or worse. 

But I've seen another side of humanity since working at the Collective. Many of our customers speak their gratitude, and several show it by, of all things, bringing us soda pop. I know, kinda odd, but it seems to be the currency of thanks that these folks are comfortable and familiar with. They even go out of their way to ask what flavor I want, and then they bring liters of the stuff, (literally) to the shop in a show of their gratitude. And it isn't like these folks have a lot of resources either. 

Conversely, back in the old retail shop days, I rarely got a show of gratitude and mostly these folks that came through those shops I worked at were well equipped to show their gratitude, but their attitude wasn't such that they could even think like that. Which I don't miss, by the way. That gets really tiring. 

To those of you who have always shown and expressed your gratitude- Thank you! You know who you are and I remember you. But I think that the example of the customers I have seen in the CVBC are an inspiration to and for us all. 

If I could only aspire to be half as grateful and expressing of such as those folks are. Well.....

And that has made this new job worth more than I could have ever imagined so far......

Friday, March 18, 2022

Friday News And Views

 A "Trans Iowa" On Foot?

The online news source, "Axios Des Moines" reported Monday concerning a runner's attempt to beat the FKT across the state of Iowa. The runner, Paul Noble, started in Muscatine, Iowa last Sunday and was hoping to reach Sigourney that day. His itinerary from there: Sigourney to Indianola, Indianola to Messena, Messena to Council Bluffs. 

The route followed Highway 92, for the most part. Noble hoped to be done sometime on Wednesday. The time to beat? His friend, Taylor Ross holds the record to beat at 4 days, 15 hours, 32 minutes, and 41 seconds.

And Paul Noble pulled it off. "Axios Des Moines" reported yesterday that Noble made it to Council Bluffs with a total time of 94 hours and 50 minutes. Congratulations Paul Noble!

From Cannondale/CX World's social media feed.

Cannondale/CX World Ends Cyclo Cross Efforts:

On Monday a bombshell was dropped by Cannondale/CX World Team that they were ceasing operations immediately. The team had contested cyclo cross races in North America and Europe for 16 years. 

Comments: Pretty stunning news when you consider that this team was a stalwart of the North American scene and was the last big outfit doing cyclo cross in North America. 

One has to wonder if the gravel scene's rise to prestige in North America, the UCI recognizing gravel with a series, and the series like Life Time's Grand Prix are taking away riders and focus from cyclo cross now to the point that marketing is switching gears to gravel. 

If I had to venture a guess, I'd say that this has something to do with it, but there probably is more to it than just that. Supply chain shortages generally mean that niche, low selling items get cut to make way for higher value production. (Noticed a Twitter pole asking when CX riders last bought a complete CX bike at a shop. Average answer? Five years ago, and most said they never had, preferring to build up their own from frames or they bought used) Inflation pressures certainly have to be considered here. Travel and staffing costs for the team have probably been a heavy burden of late. 

But a lot of athletes are turning to the gravel scene now. So, you have to think that this- especially here in North America- is a really big issue for cyclo cross.

State Bicycle's 4130 Alouette is a fixed gear gravel bike.
Would You? Could You? Go Fixed?

State Bicycle announced this past week that they have a new fixed gear gravel bike called the 4130 Alouette. It is steel, (natch!) and can take up to a 42mm tire, comes in four color schemes, and in either a flat bar or drop bar configuration for sub-600 bucks. 

Comments: Fixed gear gravel riders are nothing new. Rare- yes - but the fixed gear gravel rider has existed for a long time. I came into contact with fixed gear via gravel during Trans Iowa. In fact, it was a bicycle you probably would never have pegged for an appearance at Trans Iowa. It was a fixed gear Rivendell with a rack and panniers ridden by Ken Yokanovich. And he finished the 300+ mile T.I.v3 course in 15th place out of the 24 official finishers that year.  

That was back in 2007. We had another fixed gear finisher in Ben Shockey two years later, and finally, the last guy to pull off the feat on a fixie in Trans Iowa was Jay Barre in T.I.v10. All did 300+ miles fixed in less than 34 hours. 

And fixed gear riders have appeared in several other gravel events as well. So, while it may seem really crazy and odd, I get it, and it is not a new thing. That State Bicycle has come out with this should only help propel the idea and I expect at least a few more folks will take up fixed gear gravel riding. 

As far as the bike- it's good enough,but the geometry they chose is just too steep and high for my liking. Too 'track-ish', if you will. I still want a fixed gear gravel bike, but it would have to be done in the geometry I prefer: Low bottom bracket (I don't lean in corners enough to worry about clipping pedals) and a slacker head tube angle. The State 4130 Alouette has a 65mm bottom bracket drop. No thank you! I'd have to have at least a 70mm drop for my way of riding, but that's just me. 

Mid-South overall winner Cole Paton (L) with Bobby Wintle (Image courtesy of Orange Seal)

Mid-South Goes Off With Dry-ish Year:

Uncharacteristically cold morning temperatures gave way to warmer, but windier weather for the Mid-South 2022 event which led to a dry-ish course for the assembled riders. Cole Paton, of the Orange Seal Off Road Team won the event overall.

Comments: Two years ago the Mid-South event marked the end of "normal affairs" for quite some time. With the COVID-19 virus moving from 'pandemic' status to 'endemic' status, the return of the Mid-South was welcomed by many gravel riders and I could sense a joy and happiness from social media posts I saw over that weekend which communicated somewhat of the atmosphere surrounding the event. 

Oddly enough, or maybe not...Mid-South doesn't crack the door open much in the endemic cycling media. Mid-South, for as 'big' as it has gotten, still seems to carry that stigma of being a 'not-a-race' race where there is certainly worthy competition for media coverage but it gets either zero (Velo News) or it gets pushed down the page in a hurry. 

Whatever. I'm here for it and I hope that Mid-South keeps it real. If anything, I think it would be great to see that event take an even more focused slant toward the 'everyman' riders and the Pro teams and riders can go do those other fancy-pants events. But I know that is probably a very unrealistic viewpoint these days. And furthermore- It isn't my event. So, my opinion here- that's all....... But I do appreciate Bobby Wintle's efforts to celebrate everyone and not just focus on the prestigious front runners.

SILCA Tubeless Tire Sealant Announced:

Sporting a foaming latex formula laced with 6mm, 9mm, and 12mm carbon fibers reclaimed from carbon wheels, F-1 racing parts, and airplane carbon fiber, SILCA Ultimate Tubeless Sealant claims to easily seal up to a "6+mm" puncture. 

The sealant is so effective at coagulating that it must be introduced to the tire by pouring the sealant in at the time of tire mounting. SILCA claims it will easily plug up any injector or valve stem.

Comments: Hmm.... " Must be poured into the tire during tire install!" (Copy quoted directly from marketing material provided by SILCA) Okay, well that means that I'd have to crack open a bead after the claimed wet period for this sealant which is 160-180 days to reintroduce more sealant? That is about six months, which I would be surprised to find to be true, but let's say that pans out. Well, can you wear out your tire in six months? Maybe some of you would,but for those that would not, then you have to go through the hassle of remounting a bead, and sometimes that can be a crap shoot. Tires stretch, and sometimes rim to tire fit is loose anyway. Sometimes you have a puncture protected belt that makes mounting a nightmare anyway. 

If you could just crack open that valve stem and reintroduce sealant, it would alleviate any potential headaches. But if you buy into the SILCA Ultimate sealant, well, sorry..... Now you have that trade off. Maybe for some it will be worth it. And one has to wonder- Will this clog my valve stem more easily anyway? I'd recommend airing up with your valve stem at 10 o'clock or two o'clock to help prevent just that.

Meanwhile, there are at least six other really good sealants that you don't have that compromise to deal with. That leaves me to think that this is for that person that wants to feel like they have the ultimate sealing sealant, and the marketing guys at SILCA made sure you will with the name. (See what they did there?)

Hmm.... As for me? I just don't see the advantage for my riding here. 

That's a wrap for this week! Have a great weekend and get out and ride!