Saturday, April 30, 2022

Technology Shifts What It Means To Be "Self-Supported"

(L-R) Troy Meyeraan and GT. Self-supported circa 1995
NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

There was a big kerfuffle involving a bike packing event and a certain individual recently that got me to thinking about "rules", 'self-support', and why those terms don't mean what they used to anymore. 

I made the mistake of reading a Facebook comment thread that went into the depths of several folk's opinions, feelings, and ideas on those terms, (and others) which has helped prompt this post today, but this post is not about that specific situation. Just to be perfectly clear.

I've had the special privilege of having done self-supported cycling before, during, and after the start of the"Age of Information", as we once called this. (Maybe we are in the "Age of Disinformation" now, eh?) The times when if one wanted to 'disappear', it was as easy as just walking out the door without telling anyone where you were going. Now? Good luck with that, because you likely are addicted to a smart phone, and 'getting lost' is about 1000 times harder to do these days than it used to be. 

In fact, we are so inundated with information and 'contact' that we don't really even understand what being 'disconnected' even means, much less what it feels like. Take anyone the age of 25 years or younger. They have no memories of pre-smart phone days, most likely, and for sure, they cannot imagine a world where one would have to wait for information a day, a week, or two months, like we used to have to wait for news back in the day. 

I remember weekly T.V. shows where you had all week to wait until the next episode. Now people 'binge-watch' streaming series in one sitting. Marathon watching season after season of a T.V. series as if they were some sort of content-gobbling, ultra-entertained athlete.  And yet, we want more....

Ryan taking a photo of me. We had to wait to get it developed until after the tour!
And all of this affects ultra-endurance events like bike packing, and some forms of gravel events as well. The changes in society which have occurred run cross-ways with some folks who had some sense of 'the times before social media' and how things felt and were done back then. Some others say it is 'no big deal', while others just cannot even begin to understand why anyone is upset. And even if they are, it doesn't matter. 

This all goes back a decade or more. Events of recent times are just a further manifestation of what happened in the 00's. I recall some individuals who were trying to hold to a certain standard for ultra-endurance events, but eventually, it was of no use. The tsunami of adopted tech, cultural change, and appetite (addiction?) for more content won the day. 

So, who is right? Who is wrong? What is 'better'? Those are great questions to ask, discuss, and ponder. Answers will vary from person to person. I can only say one thing with any certainty- Things are very different now, and you cannot recreate how it was in the past. 

Technology is so pervasive that any notion of doing something- say like what John Stamstad did in the late 1990's when he ITT'ed the Great Divide route- is no longer a possibility. What he had to go through, experience, and overcome is different than how one would experience things now. Was it 'harder to do' back then? Well, if technology makes our lives easier? Then yes, it was harder back then. Both mentally and physically. Again- you can discuss that all day long, but having done things myself on either end of the technology divide, I fall on the side of "things are easier now".

Ted King winning the DK200 in 2016

And now you have people, entities, municipalities, and more making money off this "content creation" which comes out of gravel racing, or bike-packing events. That changes things even more. When Trans Iowa started in 2005, only the small community of endurance cycling fans even cared about the event, or what had happened. There was no 'money' in doing it from a promotions or athlete side. Now? 


You've got to wonder how many athletes would fall away if there were no longer any endorsements, media fame, or salaries involved in participating in gravel events or bike-packing events. Yes- some measure success by monetary and social worthiness metrics. But trust me, that ain't how it got started. 

Of course, I would be a hypocrite if I did not recognize that I have personally benefited from those who have made a living out of the gravel and ultra-cycling/bike packing arenas. The cycling industry made us great products, and that doesn't happen without money being made. Events happened which made some amount of money, which perpetuated the gravel scene, and eventually brought a light to my contributions. Sure, I get that. 

But if no one had noticed us in 2005, or cared, I would still be happily riding my 2003 Karate Monkey on gravel roads here. It is what I love to do, and being "famous", or having had some modicum of "success" is not my central focus for what I do. In fact, it doesn't really matter in the end. By the way, my life would have been way less complicated and stressful had no one cared or noticed us and our little gravel event. That said, there have been a lot of good things come out of this, and I am happy now. So, there is that as well. 

My Karate Monkey which was my gravel sled here shown in 2006.
But what about the whole 'self-supported' ethos now? Well, here's the thing as I see it: Content creation is at odds with what many see as being 'self-supported'. Just how that works is what isn't quite as clear, or as easy to explain, maybe because, as I previously mentioned, most of the youth of today have never experienced 'disconnection', and many adults past the age of 25 have forgotten what that feels like. And then- there is a large sub-set of people who don't give a damn about what it once was like and would rather define what 'self-support' means on their own terms. 

But you have to realize that a lot of what drives the friction we're seeing in gravel events and in bike-packing events, (and in other sports as well) is how changes are being made to accommodate more content for consumption. Film crews, drone shots, cameras mounted to bikes and athletes, announcers, fancy finish-line areas, media access, and in-event reporting via social media has created access heretofore unheard of for cycling events. Even format changes and rule changes are being made to accommodate more content creation to engage more people.  Sure- there are predecessors which one can point to. Motos in big stage events on Pro road tours being a good example. But content extraction during events is pervasive now and people want more. Well, that's what we think and what makes money, anyway. 

And I'd argue that the original philosophy behind 'self-support' is antithetical to 'fame' and/or making coin off your efforts. But that philosophy is under attack, and is changing, and as I stated before, can we ever really go there again? Our addiction to technology would seem to point to that answer being a hard "No". 

Note: I may do another companion post to this speaking about "rules" for events. Stay tuned....

Friday, April 29, 2022

Friday News And Views

Special Ride announcement!
 Gravel HoF Inductee Ride Announcement:

Well, one thing led to another and I have found myself in this Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame deal. I won't belabor that story since y'all probably have read all about here and elsewhere anyway. 

N.Y. Roll decided that there should be a ride to celebrate. So he is putting out this idea. This link is to his blog.

So, here's the deal- This will be kind of like the "Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational". You are invited. This will be a no-drop, casual paced ride with some stopping for, you know- the sake of stopping. 

It is on a Sunday.

The working date we have arrived on is June 19th. The place? Riverside Park in Vinton, Iowa. there is some parking there for cars. Time? Right now N.Y. Roll is thinking 8-9 o'clock in the morning. (I will post about this again when he decides and has other info)

Looks like a metric century is planned. I am not doing the route, but it will be similar to an adventure we had last year in the same area. N.Y. Roll has promised to keep the highlights of last year's route in there. (He better have that cemetery I stopped at on the big hill! Ha!) 

Stay tuned for more details coming soon, or watch N.Y. Roll's blog. Any new posts he publishes will show up in the right side column here on this blog under the "Pedaling Words and Images" header.  

GCHoF Banquet:

And more on this HoF thing.... 

I've been asked to help spread the word about the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame Banquet where the inductees will be feted at the Grenada Theater in downtown Emporia, Kansas at 6:00pm on June 1st. 

Tickets to attend the soiree' are available HERE. You can attend the actual dinner or for a reduced price of ten bucks, sit up in the balcony and watch the proceedings unfold. I'm doing this 'word-spreading' for the event on behalf of the GCHoF's request. 

So there! Request fulfilled.

Supply Chain Update:

I've been watching and reading various outlets in the shipping industry and the bicycle industry trying to get a hold of where we are at with supply chain issues now that we are nearing the halfway point of 2022. 

I also have a bit of a feeling from friends and from dealing with ordering stuff via my local bike shop and through the Cedar Valley Bicycle Collective. So, what is the bottom line?

Well, the bottom line is that bottlenecks in shipping affecting not only deliveries of finished products, but also with regard to raw materials, will prove to make getting anything really difficult. Things will pop into inventory briefly and disappear as fast as they came into stock. And to top it all off, demand is cooling off as consumers get stung by inflation and fatigue from waiting for things. 

One channel I follow on shipping claims that 20% of the world's container ships are sitting in anchorages waiting to unload cargo. I tend to believe this as I saw a post from Sam at Singular Cycles the other day showing a shipment of frames that had been delivered which had been sitting waiting to be unloaded from a container ship for six weeks. I expect that will be the norm for the foreseeable future.  Add in China's 'zero COVID' lock downs, a possible longshoreman's strike on the West Coast, and things could continue to be difficult all the way into 2023. 

Keep you bikes clean, lubed, and maybe out of severe weather conditions. Maintenance is your friend now days! 

When Do You Upgrade?

Time flies, and technology never sleeps, it seems. So it is easy to get the feeling that your bicycle is 'outdated' when in reality, you are just fine where you are at.

Marketing works against you in this regard, however; and it is easy to get that "FOMO" (Fear of Missing Out, in case you aren't hip to the kidz lingo these daze) feeling going which might prompt you into making rash decisions. 

I mean, how many times have I read online where someone posts, "I never should have gotten rid of that bike!". Too many times, that is how many! And look- I am not immune to it either. I was thinking the other day that the Noble Bikes GX5 is getting kinda old and maybe that I should look into getting a replacement frame and fork soon. 

Then I checked into things. The Noble GX5 is only three years old! Three years! That's not all that old. I guess I was thinking it was more like five years old or something. Sheesh! Like I said- time flies, but this might be a case of 'FOMO' more than a case where I really need to do anything. 

And what's more- there is not a thing wrong with that bike! It's a great bike. It fits like a glove, and it rides really well. Why would I- why should I replace it? I'm crazy. Never mind....... Just maintain it, keep it clean and lubricated, and ride the crap out of it for five more years, or whatever. There is no need to fear missing out on anything other than a day to ride.

Speaking of riding- I hope y'all get out for one or two this weekend! Thanks for reading Guitar ted Productions!

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Review; LMNT Electrolyte Additive

Image courtesy of LMNT
A Cautionary Tale About Hydration/Nutrition:

In the world of nutrition and hydration, there are a lot of claims and statements which seem to be contradictory, or confusing, or both. Then when I investigate this stuff, it always seems to me that the basics are the same between any of the contenders. Hmm... A lot of hocus-pocus here, methinks. 

So, when my friend in SoCal did a review on LMNT electrolyte additive for, and raved about it, I figured there had to be something to this stuff. Might be worth a try. 

I received my sampler packet just in time for the Gents Race at the beginning of the month. I was excited to give this new stuff a try. I mixed one packet per bottle and set off for the day. My first impressions were that "Dang! This stuff is SALTY!" But it tasted okay. So, I went on with it and reloaded on it at the checkpoint.

While I never even had a hint of cramps, I did get a bit of that "too much salt" feeling in the gut. And, I also experienced some really bad bloating/gas pains at the end of the ride and going home. Really bad! Now- I chalked it up to eating some stuff I had at the checkpoint. I just had too many variables to say it was 'this' or 'that' which caused my pains in the belly. 

Then I got some feedback from my friend, Grannygear, who was the fan of this stuff. He said that he cuts his packets of LMNT down to 1 packet to 2 bottles. He suggested I might want to do the same, or spread it out into 3 bottles to one packet, maybe. That sounded like a good deal to me. but, in the meantime I got some 24hr bug that made me really ill. I had a lot of diarrhea and vomiting. I used the cut down dosage of LMNT figuring I needed a bit of electrolyte after losing so many fluids from being sick. Once again, afterward I had some gut issues, but.........I was ill. Still couldn't pin it on the LMNT usage. 

Last time I used LMNT was on the ride with N.Y. Roll

Last week I used LMNT on the ride with N.Y. Roll spreading out one packet over three bottles of water. I ended up getting gut issues again, milder than before, but this was the very same pains I had the other two times. Now I can say that- for me- this stuff doesn't sit well with me.

That isn't to say that it won't work for you. In fact, even N.Y. Roll is trying the stuff out, and as far as I know, he gets along with it just fine. same with Grannygear in SoCal who finds LMNT to be almost a miracle additive. 

It all reminds me of what Jeff Kerkove used to tell me back in his "Mr. 24hr" days when he did solo 24hr MTB races. He'd always remind me that you had to experiment to find what works for you. Everyone is different. There is no 'magic formula' that works for everyone. And he used to point out that maybe things that once worked will not work at some point in the future. Our bodies change and age. It is a moving target- this nutritional/hydration game, and we had better get used to it.

And so I am done with LMNT. Is it bad? Is it good stuff? Maybe. You have to try it for yourself and find out. Me? That would be a hard "No!"

Note: I bought LMNT with my own damn money and was not paid nor bribed for this review. So there!

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Guitar Ted Lube-Off: EcoSheep Update

Disclaimer: The Lube-Off is not sponsored, paid for, nor supported by any company, distributor, or brand/marketing group. I do this purely of my own volition and when I do get gifted lube to try I will point it out here in the posts dealing with the Lube-Off.  I may refer you to the Standard Disclaimer Page .This will cover any instances where I get product for free or as a gift.  This is purely for fun and enjoyment. If you get anything worthwhile out of the Lube-Off than that is good, but it is not meant to be a technical, scientific based comparison. 

Essentially all this amounts to is me taking you along on my journey to find what lube works best for me in Iowa on dry, dusty, crushed rock roads. 

This post will be a mid-term update on the EcoSheep Lube which you can read more about in my previous post here. Lubricants in the Guitar Ted Lube-Off are run for a six hour ride time in gravel and rough dirt road conditions before a final evaluation is done. This is a look at how it is going so far about halfway into the time period for this test. 

I have the "MTB" version of this product which I am assuming is a "wet lube" type, but the website for EcoSheep isn't 100% clear on technical details of use, application, or any directions. So, up front I want to make it clear that this is one of my nit-picks about this lube. I'll get to more on this here in the post. First, let's look at how the chain and cassette look so far into the test. 

My chain after about three hours of riding time in varied conditions.

Okay, first I will say that conditions for the Lube-Off so far have been quite the mixed bag. This applies to the other lube in this round, the SILCA Super-Secret lubricant. Both have been tested so far in wet, damp, muddy road conditions. Anything resembling 'dry' and 'dusty' in the typical sense here has been limited. I hope to put both chains through some good 'ol ducty road riding before I conclude my time with either of these lubricants. 

Now, above you can observe some wet looking and gritty looking places on the side plates of the chain. Mostly on the edge bits. A similar outcome was noted with the SILCA Super-Secret Lube which you can peep here. The major difference here being that the SILCA lube felt slick, but dry, while this EcoSheep lube felt slick, but was obviously wet. 

Some of that 'wet' and grit has transferred to the cassette.

So looking at the cassette you can easily see where the chain has been on it. That wet and grit covering transferred off the chain to the cassette teeth. I should note that this cassette and chain shift great, there is no discernible noise while riding, and I don't see any hindrance to performance as a result. 

However; getting back to the "MTB" labeling for this product, I think it is safe to say that EcoSheep MTB is NOT a dry lubricant, so I have to look at this in a different way. I would classify this as a 'wet/bad weather' only lube. I can readily see how this wetter chain will quickly coat with dust in dry conditions and muck-up the works in a hurry. While I've yet to actually do this sort of ride, I am certain that is what I will find here. 

That is not to say that I think the EcoSheep Lube is a failure. This is a great looking 'wet' conditions lube, to my mind. It doesn't seem like a lube that would give up in severe conditions, and it doesn't cake up with grit in wetter stuff. So, I'm classifying it differently, and I will not pit this against the SILCA lube in a test for 'dry' conditions lubricant supremacy. 

However; I will look at this lubricant as a contender for the "Wet Lube" crown and in case you were wondering what I've thought previously to this for good wet lubricant choices, see my "Guitar Ted Lube-Off: History" post here.

Okay, with that I will conclude the testing of both of these lubricants in this round soon. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 26, 2022


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

Thoughts On Iowa Wind And Rock:

Over the weekend we saw Iowa Wind And Rock happen again, which is the evolution of Trans Iowa and follows a very similar format. They had quite the spectacular event, one which I would classify as a 'good 'ol Iowa Spring gravel hoedown'. It was a classic event from my perspective because it had it all- Wind, mud, rain, broken gear, broken spirits, and people hiding out in barns in the middle of the night.

One thing that I endured as Trans Iowa's director that I saw crop up again this past weekend is the rare, but annoying comment that muddy roads don't belong in these events. That they should be removed and the course "sanitized" for.....I don't know.....So it is easier? That's the only thing I can come up with here. 

Here's the thing: If you go to McDonald's and you really like the French fries, and then you try out Burger King, but they don't have the same French fries, and you say, "That should be changed to be like McDonald's!, for whatever reasons you might have, you are just plain being goofy. Burger King does Burger King fries. You want them to be like McDonald's? Go there! 

 Likewise, Iowa Wind and Rock has certain features and ways of doing things. Other gravel events do not. You don't like Level B Roads because they are very difficult and change the outcomes of events? Don't go to those events. The thing is, if you are not aware that Iowa gravel events can, and often do, feature wet, muddy Level B Roads in Spring, you haven't done your due diligence in researching what you are signing up for. It isn't as though these features are secrets. So, go to an event that promises route changes in case of bad weather, or better yet- one that doesn't put Level B Roads in their event. Finally, some people really like that there are these difficulties in IWAR and other like events. Should they be denied the opportunity to test themselves against those difficulties? 

I could go on, but really- those comments about changing events for your own personal preferences, or 'on behalf of other riders', is misguided and not necessary. There are literally hundreds of other gravel events, with many surely better suited to whatever your preferences are. And if you don't believe that, put on an event that does measure up in your eyes. That's what we did back in the beginnings of this gravel thing. 

'Nuff said.

The bike rodeo scene. (Image by Max Paxton)

Bike Rodeo:

I guess I cannot get out of being a part of bicycle related events the last weekend of April! That's because the Heartland Vineyard Church in partnership with the Cedar Valley Bicycle Collective and Waterloo Bicycle Works put on a bike rodeo for some elementary aged kids last Saturday.

My part in it was to fix up 17 donated bikes in my spare time for kids that didn't have a bicycle to participate in the rodeo. I also had to run the kids through the obstacle course and give a brief safety talk.

I must say that it was very rewarding and a lot easier than herding adults over 300+ miles of gravel roads in the Iowa hinterlands. It was a completely different experience, but one I welcomed and that I very much enjoyed. Hey! I get to do it at least one more time (weather permitting) this coming weekend when we do this all over again. 

Besides the free bikes we gave out helmets to kids that did not have them and served walking tacos. Overall, I heard it went over very well. I suspect I'll be doing more of this in the future.

New bottom bracket

Maintenance Done:

I've been nursing along a failing bottom bracket for over a year on this Raleigh Tamland Two which I think finally pretty much made its final cries for help last week when I rode with N.Y. Roll. 

These pipe spindle type crank sets seem to be quite a bit different than the older 'serviceable' bottom brackets we used up until the mid-90's. In my experience, at any rate, it often seems like the non-drive side bearing fails most often. Many times in the old days it was the drive side bearing race in the spindle that craps out first. But in my case it was a drive side cup. I was a bit surprised. 

I've got one other issue to get into with this bike and that is some weird spoke noise emanating from the front wheel. Maybe it is dust and nipples, or ....... Not sure. It is something to do with the spokes thogh, that much I know now. More on that later....

Poor Weather = Not Much Country Riding

This has to be one of the wettest, coolest Aprils we've had for a while. I have a hard time remembering Aprils, mind you, because of the 14 years of doing Trans Iowa where I never really got to ride much during this month anyway due to being very busy with event preparations. 

But since 2018, I have been able to get out and ride more in April, and it seemed to be a great month for it. 2020 in particular was pretty spectacular. But this month has had a few things conspire to make it so that I have not been out in the country anywhere near as much as I'd like to have been. 

That isn't to say I haven't been riding bicycles, but due to a few things I have spent most of my riding time within the city limits here. 

First and foremost of the reasons for that is the wind! This has been an extraordinarily windy month. Winds that could knock you right off your bicycle type stuff. Secondly, it has been cold for this time of year. (It is 36°F on April 25th at 9:00am in the morning as I write this. Brrr!) That in combination with the winds has been pretty brutal. 

Then my schedule is wonky. I'm still adjusting to it, and my kids who do not drive, and rely on me to be their transportation, which cuts into planning rides out in the country. This should clear up later this year when my son finally gets a license to drive. When it has been nice out, many times the transportation issues keep me off the gravel. Last Thursday being a notable exception to that. Everything finally came together that day to make it a good outing.

So, I look forward to May, and hopefully, better weather. April has been a bust, and I regret that as I was really hoping to get in a Springtime century ride, but so much for that idea! Onward.....

Monday, April 25, 2022

Country Views: Rolling With Roll

Escape Route: Burton Avenue with N.Y. Roll
 After what seemed like two straight weeks of chilly, super-windy, and often rainy weather with no Sun, we got a break last Thursday. N.Y. Roll actually texted me and asked me to go for a ride with him that afternoon. So, since it was in the 60's with a light Northwesterly breeze, I got kitted up and we took to the roads North of town. 

On this particular ride I used my old Raleigh Tamland Two since it has that sheep oil lube on the chain and I needed to get some gravel travel on that set up. I also dressed in Stolen Goat Gravel Shorts with an old Zoic liner, a base layer, a Bike Rags wool blend jersey, PCL arm warmers, and my Twin Six "Ritual" wind vest. No gloves and standard bike shoes! Ah! Warmer weather means no more clunky boots! 

N.Y. Roll showed up at my place on his fancy All City flat bar rig and we then took to the winding streets of Waterloo, eventually coming out on Burton Avenue headed North. It was bright and Sunny out. What a great day to be on the bike! 

We did have a bit of a check in our progress out of town though....

The blaring horn of the freight train was deafeningly loud.

Once we cleared the freight train, and the city, we found some messed up roads!

Of course, with all the wet and cold weather we've had lately, the roads got pretty messed up in spots. Ruts, standing water, and even some muddy patches were found out there. At one point we ran across a fresh gravel patch that slowed our progress down and sapped our legs of their strength. Fortunately that was a short lived and not repeated section! 

N.Y. Roll and St. Paul's Church.

It looks like Bremer County is replacing a bridge where the road becomes Kildeer Avenue just North of the county line.

As we got close to St. Paul's Church on Burton, there is a farm just South of there on the East side of the road with a dog that will come out and bark at you if he is out. His name is "Tony". So, if he comes out, a medium sized, brown/tan dog, by the way, just yell, "Go Home Tony!" in your "biggest voice" and he'll leave ya alone. 

Prairie fire!

Just a brilliant day for a bicycle ride.

N.Y. Roll suggested a couple of route options at the corner of Marquise Road and Burton Avenue. I said, "Whatever gets me back home by six!", so we went East toward Moline Road and headed back South. But not before we spotted a fire truck and a fire blazing in an old cornfield just North of the county line off the East side of the North-South road in Bremer County. Farmers often do ditch burns, or burn other stuff during this time of the year. Perhaps a grass fire got out of control? 


Shades of green are showing up in the ditches now.

Looks like another fire way down the road East here. Signs we saw of smoke gave it away.

 I actually rolled back up to my house right at 5:30pm, so I got a good 2 hours and fifteen minutes in on what was the nicest day in the last week. Here's hoping that we start stringing together more nice days than not real soon here. And thanks N.Y. Roll for the ride.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Trans Iowa Stories: A Rough Start Part 2

I handed out some nice flasks and coffee mugs to volunteers for v14
  "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!  

When I sleep, I snore, and when MG was planning on staying in the same motel room with me for v14, I don't know if he planned for that, but it was too much for him. He had to leave and go try to sleep in his Subaru. It probably would have been okay, but for the "lady of the night" who knocked on his window wondering if he needed anything when he was fast asleep. That was about all it took, well......that and me texting him in the middle of it all to see where he was, to ruin any thoughts he may have had of getting a good night's rest before driving me 300+ gravelly miles. 

And what was I doing up in the middle of the night to be texting him? Well, some late night revelers were up above me in a room bouncing.....something. I'm not sure if it was a basketball, or what, but it may as well have been a medicine ball for the loud thumping I was enduring for over an hour in the middle of the night. 

Eventually, we both just gave up any thoughts of getting any real sleep. I know Matt wasn't very happy about it, and I felt angry at the revelers and at myself for being such a loud snorer. But that soon faded as we had to get downtown and hand out cue sheets. 

The cue sheet handout procedure went well enough. (Image by G. Keslin)

The riders showed up as instructed and the cue sheet hand-out went down fairly well. Had I decided to keep on doing Trans Iowa this process would have been refined further, but as it was, I came away fairly impressed with how smooth it went for a first time deal. We did have a couple of missed pages but those were minor things in the end which were taken care of right away. 

So, with that out of the way, the first big hurdle for the event was cleared. I was a bit more relaxed at this point, but we had little time to relax, as 4;00am was coming up in a hurry. Fortunately, Dori Jansma, a T.I. volunteer and later on, one of the Race Directors for Iowa Wind and Rock, had arranged with Craig Cooper, the owner/proprietor of Bikes To You, to have a coffee oasis inside the shop before the event start. I availed myself of a cup, thanked Dori, and walked away wistfully, knowing that it would be the last time that would ever happen. It would be the first of many times during the event I would have such feelings. 

The final Trans Iowa start line image taken by George Keslin

After the riders were all settled with their cues, we lined everyone up for a group shot by George Keslin, Wally's good friend. He stayed overnight to take a few shots, but after we got started he also headed back to Chicago. I was glad that he, at the least, got to be a part of the last Trans Iowa, no matter how small a part it was. 

Last minutes before the final Trans Iowa where I gave my final "Fatherly Advice" and did not mention it was the last Trans Iowa. Image by G. Keslin

The folks were all herded up on the street ready to go when a police car came rolling up slowly. The officer politely asked us to move the lead-out car into a proper parking space, despite the fact we were leaving in minutes and this was how we had done it for the last twelve years here. No matter. We acquiesced, moved the car, and then in about five minutes moved it right back again. Anyway....

Moments before we rolled off to start Trans Iowa v14. Image by G. Keslin

Finally it was time. Matt tooted the horn, cowbells clanged, people were filming the roll-out on social media, and Trans Iowa v14 was off and rolling. I kept looking back at the strung out line of headlights beaming back at me. I tried to take it all in, because I had a very unique perspective which most folks would never in their life experience. And I had this experience for over a decade. Once a year, but no more....

MG and I stopped briefly to watch as a corona of LED light began grow from behind a hill we had just crested. Again- most folks will never see such a sight. It was nice that Matt was willing to not only indulge me with these final looks, but to be a willing participant in the savoring of the situation as well. That made the experience all that much sweeter for me. Suddenly, we were off again, as we needed to keep ahead of the riders.

It had been a rough night, but now the adrenaline and excitement of another Trans Iowa had taken over, and being sleep deprived was not a hindrance to our impending adventures. 

Next: A Chorus Of Bovine Voices

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Well, A Trip Is In Order

The first class will be inducted June 1st in Emporia.
 Earlier this month I gave you all the news that I had been inducted into the new Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame. This means that there is a ceremony and that means I have a trip planned to attend that coming up.

I knew that this was a possibility, so I had put off planning any rides or attending any events previous to and during that time. I have a very limited amount of chances to do things and very limited amounts of funds to do anything with. That said, I want to thank the GCHoF for their travel and lodging offer to get me there, which helps me out a LOT!

Now I have the details of the events and the timing is set. June 1st, at the Grenada Theater in downtown Emporia, Kansas, there will be a banquet at 6;00pm for the induction ceremonies. Tickets will be sold for the event,  (Link here) , and there will be two options- A dinner ticket for the floor level which will be $75.00/person, or an "observer" ticket, which will go for $10.00 and get you a seat in the balcony.

That's a Wednesday night, so I'll only miss a day of work, and that's good! And I'll be back for the weekend, which is also good. So, I just wanted to put this alert out there in case you wanted to check in on me while I am at Emporia. I should get there by early afternoon on the 1st, be at the ceremony, and if all goes as planned, I'll stay overnight at a local Air B'n'B and head out after breakfast the next day.  (Unless they plan a ride or something I am not aware of at this point) 

I'll be posting more as I find out.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Friday News And Views

An image found online of the new SRAM DB8 Mineral Oil brake.
SRAM Quietly Introduces Mineral Oil Based Brake System:

Buried in the news after Sea Otter was a tidbit that may indicate a sea change in brake technology at SRAM. They are introducing a mineral oil based brake system, breaking tradition with SRAM's previous hydraulic brake efforts which have all been DOT brake fluid based systems. SRAM claims that they are making these brakes to meet a lower price point and that their high end CODE brakes, which are still DOT fluid based, are more powerful and a better performer overall. SRAM DB8 brakes are not quite here yet but should start appearing on complete builds soon and when available aftermarket should be a bit less than $140.00/wheel. 

The DB8 is based on the same design as the CODE brake and uses the same pads, but that's where the comparisons end. SRAM,in an effort to differentiate the brake from their DOT line, is introducing a new bleed kit and their mineral oil is green in color and not the same as Shimano's, Magura's, or Tektro's. 

Comments: SRAM making this announcement is a bit of a shocker as they were staunchly in the DOT fluid camp. It also is no news to anyone who works on bicycles that SRAM's history with brakes is a checkered one, to be polite about it. It also is no big surprise that SRAM has yet another bleed kit for mechanics to have to stock. What is that? Four bleed kits now? Five if you count the one for the Reverb dropper post. 

Yeah.... I'm not a SRAM brake fan, and while I am glad that they finally have a mineral oil option, I am withholding any judgement calls until I see that this new DB8 is worthy. I sure hope what this signals is a change away from the very toxic and troublesome DOT fluid based brakes of their past. 

I also am hopeful that SRAM brings mineral oil braking to the gravel/road side as well. We'll see, but this development is a big surprise and bears watching.  

Iowa Wind and Rock This Weekend:

This is the time of year that I get a bit nostalgic. The times the Sun rises and sets, the time of season, the song of birds, the smell of the Earth. It all reminds me of gravel riding and ultra-distance gravel riding at that. The descendant of Trans Iowa, which is Iowa Wind and Rock, is set to take place tomorrow morning. 

I would be remiss if I did not wish all who are partaking in that event tailwinds and much success in your quest to overcome this challenge.

Surly Porteur House Bag:

Apparently this Porteur House bag is a new offering from Surly Bikes which was made to sit perfectly on their 24 Pack Rack. It is made from Cordura Nylon and has inner liners in three of the main compartments to keep your cargo dry. The bag seems pretty reasonably priced at $120.00 USD. 

Comments: This thing is freaking ginormous! Naming it "house" is appropriate here as it might just hold all of the essential household items one might need to become an amateur homeless bike person. 

They also make a "Petite Porteur" bag which goes on the 8 Pack rack. That is still pretty huge, despite its name. I've been looking at something along these lines for my Big Dummy, which can use a Surly rack on there and it would allow me a bit more versatility in carrying capacity and options. I'd not go for that big one though. Too much!

The only thing holding me back there is that those types of carrying options can make the front wheel pretty floppy when trying to park, or just move the bike. I sure wish I could find one of those dual-legged Big Dummy kickstands. That would go a long way toward me going all-in on getting a rack and the Petite Porteur bag.

Police fear this idea could spread. (Image courtesy of SFGATE)

Armed Thieves May Be Waiting For You Trailside:

 I was doomscrolling twitter the other day when a Tweet by @bikehugger caught my attention. Apparently, in the hills above Oakland, California, an "alarming trend" is raising fears amongst local cyclists. 

In a story posted by Amy Graf of "SFGATE", you can read how mountain bikers are being robbed of their bikes and more at gunpoint. Police think a couple of the incidents may be related, but fear that copy-catters may pick up on the idea. 

Comments: I get this to mean that bicycles are so hard to come by that thieves are targeting folks out in the woods and then taking these bikes and profiting off them either by way of reselling or parting out the bikes. It would make sense since we are seeing supply trucks getting hijacked for parts and bicycles. 

My concern would be that this spreads and we start seeing this occur in other places. I can see how it could be appealing with the advent of expensive electrified bikes and normally powered bikes reaching into the 10K+ range. Even I have been chased down a local street here by young people demanding that I give them my bicycle. Those efforts have come to naught- so far - but what if I am approached by an armed person? 

It's a troubling thing to hear about, and a cautionary tale for anyone going on a remote destination vacation near an urban area. 

The Jamis Citizen (Image courtesy of Jamis Bikes)
The New Pricing Reality:

As long as I've been in the cycling industry, (1993), I've always gauged how expensive the sport was by the threshold for entry level pricing at the independent bike shop level. While this model is eroding away due to D2C schemes and HPC bikes, it still seems okay to look at the industry like this. 

So, I've been eager to see anything since the pandemic started which would give a true baseline feel for pricing at the bike shop level for bicycles. Well, now I think I have that sense for what is going on now.

While supply chain issues are sure to affect us throughout 2022 and into next year, I think things are settling out and becoming clearer. I knew prices would go up, but by how much?

Well, I saw a shop advertising Jamis Citizen models which are your garden variety hybrid/bike path bikes. The sort of pavement bike which brands sell thousands of, yet you barely see them mentioned in advertising or in reviews, etc. Yet this "bread and butter" level is the lifeblood of most shops across the nation. This or an equivalent MTB style bike. 

And the price? Well, now what used to cost a bit more than $300.00 pre-pandemic is now $500.00. The Jamis Citizen shown here is a 1 X 7, no suspended bits hybrid, which is your base bike shop level quality bike. (Meaning barely above department store levels) The next level up, the Jamis Citizen 2, a 3 X 8 speed bike, with sus fork and seat post, goes for $659.99, and represents what used to be probably the hottest selling type of hybrid bike at one time a few years back. Those days are gone, but back then a bike like this probably was $150.00+ cheaper. 

So, by that gauge, prices have increased by quite a big jump. I would suspect similar price hikes throughout any bicycle company's range these days.

That's it for this week. have a fantastic weekend and get out and ride if you can.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Ingrid Rear Derailleur Gives Throwback Vibes

The Ingrid rear derailleur is available for mechanical 11 or 12 speed set ups.
Almost three years ago I posted in an "FN&V" that and Italian manufacturer of bicycle parts was working on a CNC'ed rear derailleur. 

Well, that project surfaced again recently looking wildly different and is actually for sale here

According to the Italian based manufacturer, they changed "...all the parts at least 10 time each." since the first prototypes in 2017. It shows too, and this modernized version of the infamous "CNC" derailleur is ready for your bike. It is said to work with SRAM drop bar or bar end shifters in 11 or 12 speed set ups. Maximum tooth capacity is rated at 36T, which on the surface of it, seems a bit off. SRAM cassettes are availabe in 36T spread cog models, but most folks running SRAM are doing 1X drive trains where a 36T spread between low to high is said to be "pretty limiting". 

Stayer Bikes is selling an "Ingrid" equipped model using Shimano based free hubs instead of SRAM's.

Stayer Bikes is getting around that 36T capacity by offering its "INGRID" equipped model with Shimano based free hubs which limit the high cog to an 11T instead of a 10, bringing their spread within the limits on the 11 speed offering at 35T, low to high. I mean, who uses the 10T anyway? Okay....Maybe some of you do. 

At any rate, Stayer pushes the limit with their 10-48T cassette on the 12's which is a 38T spread. Hmm.... CNC'ed and 3-D printed derailleur with a spread outside the stated limits? Okay..... You go! 

But most of us probably are not going for a nearly $700.00 rear derailleur that is not electronic these days, so I have to wonder how many folks are going to get in line for this. (Note: I have confirmation from at least one individual on Twitter that yes- They are getting this Stayer a bike with this set up) 

Oh! And if you really want the retro-vibes, Ingrid is offering a Rasta colored version in May with a very limited run at $800.00. 

Updated: I heard again from the person on Twitter getting this rear derailleur with some further technical information not found elsewhere that I could see: "Just saw your blog post about this. The derailleur also comes in 12spd and—through the modularity of the fin and the cage—can handle a 52t rear cog AND work with any mechanical shifters. I’m going to run it with Campy shifters and an Eagle cassette."  So, that's how Ingrid gets away with a greater derailleur range- they change out the cage.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Before There Was "Gravel": Lighting

Lights have come a long way in the last 17 years
The first look back at what we were doing with our equipment before the "Gravel™" thing took off in cycling went over pretty well. So, I thought I'd delve into another topic which we struggled with back in the day. 

Lighting for bicycles circa 2005 was generally centered around 24hr racing needs. Sure, you had your commuter lights, and I'll get to some of those, but generally speaking, a light only had to be blazingly bright for a little over an hour, maybe two (typical lap times at big 24Hr races were in the 1-2 hour range) and you'd be back at the pits where you'd grab another battery pack and so on.

There weren't really any needs being seen beyond that in terms of run time, different light levels, compact design, or what have you. Commuter lights were, frankly, a joke up until the mid-00's. I recall us selling halogen lights right up to about 2004. LED light technology was in its infancy at this time. 

The Blackburn Quadrant was a popular commuter light circa 2004-2005, but was a poor quality LED light.

I should mention that I will be primarily looking at this topic from my unique perspective in gravel events. At the time, Trans Iowa, The Dirty Kanza 200 (Now Unbound Gravel), and the Good Life Gravel Adventure (now Gravel Worlds) were the only 'big' events that required a light at all. Some smaller events which no longer exist did take place at night, such as the Moonlight Metric, which I did a couple of times, or the one-off Moonlight Madness event, which was an all-nighter as well. But for the most part, it was Trans Iowa that required the most from lighting back in the day. 

From my archived blog posts I was able to pull out a bunch of images and was reminded of how things were difficult for the night time gravel grinder back then. What I discovered overall are a few things. First, lights were pitifully weak and had really bad light throw and patterns back then. Secondly, most 'long-run' time set ups (More than 5-6 hours) needed heavy battery packs which had to be externally mounted to frames, bodies, or put into bags. Finally, there were great lights, but they were very expensive and had short run times.

The Cateye Triple Shot was one of the first really good LED lights

Lights like Cateye's then new Triple Shot, which debuted circa 2005, was a promising light, but it was focused on the endurance 24hr scene, and run times were low compared to what was necessary for Trans Iowa. Still, we could see then that this was where lights needed to go, we just needed longer run times. 

One thing that is overlooked here is that gravel events had unique needs. These typically were not addressed in these earlier lighting solutions where all-out power dominated the feature set with narrowish beam patterns that wasted a lot of the light in its beaming twoard the shy. But as you might know from mountain biking, sometimes your bike is pointed down, but you need the light 'out front', not pointed down at the trail, so these big, halo beam patterns made sense for MTB. 

Another issue we had was the nature of gravel, which has a LOT of higher frequency vibrations, and that would rattle loose mounts, lights, and other stuff! Early on into Trans Iowa riders found that a lot of equipment they attached to their bikes would be jettisoned off into the ditch or onto the gravel unexpectedly due to the severity of these vibrations. Fortunately, that is not an issue with these newer mounts which are much more secure. 

Just before the start of Trans Iowa v5 in 2009

So, above we have the riders gathering for the start of the fifth Trans Iowa in 2009. Keep in mind things like the Cateye Triple Shot have been around a few years already. That said, you can see that riders are opting for lower power, (note- not because they wanted to), options with longer run times. There are not a lot of helmet mounted lights, and the lights that are on are not all that impressive. The reflections of the camera flash from the reflective treatments is a LOT brighter than any lighting here. 

Trans Iowa v7 start line.

Two years later we start to see some seriously powerful lights creeping into use by the riders. By this time, in 2011, lighting technology had taken a bit of a turn. No longer were the lighting choices all about endurance 24hr riding. Now commuting needs were creeping into the picture, and smaller companies were fulfilling needs that the big companies couldn't cover, or wouldn't. Meanwhile, other older companies fell to the wayside as they were passed by in the ever changing LED technology of that time. 

One of the companies I was aware of at the time that was really pushing the boundaries with powerful LED lights and long run times was Ay Up from Australia. While they still required external battery packs, they were minimized in size and were easily swapped out if need be. I know several top riders of the day relied on this company's lights. But they were expensive and you kind of had to be 'in the know' to even be aware of them.

My light 'hack' circa 2009.

Meanwhile people like myself who were looking for lights to last for really long times were left to their own devices. I was wanting a light for six to ten hours of run time, so I ended up buying a head mounted torch from Eveready. It was meant for campers, but it had 110 Lumen output for 11 hours off three AAA batteries. I made a mount for the handle bar using an old Cateye computer mount and stuffed the battery pack into a top tube bag. 

The really cool thing about this light was that the beam pattern could be adjusted by twisting the lens bezel. It would go from a long-throw spot to a wide, washy light that went the entire width of the road. This was the light I used in the Moonlight Madness event where it rained the entire night, but I never wanted for light. The best part?  spent less than $60.00 on the entire set up.

It's hard to believe what we used to rely on a dozen or more years ago for lights. This was from the Moonlight Metric.

Around about 2010 or so I noted that things were changing rapidly. Suddenly there was a cottage industry springing up with light choices the big brands were not offering. Commuter lights began to become more powerful. No longer was 200-300 Lumen thought of as a high beam. Now it was 500 Lumen, or even 800 Lumen, which became the top setting. "Medium" settings of 150-250 Lumen were then making 4-6 hour run times possible. Now we were getting into some serious light choices! 

By T.I.v10 in 2014 lights had become pretty good and reasonably priced. (Image from a film by P. Ross)

The LED light technology became like an arms race. About every six months to a year some new emitter technology would appear, or new battery technology would appear, or both, and the lights one could get would take another leap forward in capabilities and another leap downward in price for what you got. Value per dolar has never been better now in that regard. 

Let's not forget how generator hub and light technology has changed as well. I recal seeing my first generator hub lights at Trans Iowa in 2007. Then, just three years later I remember seeing generator hub technology that blew anything else away. It was super bright, ran without hardly any drag, and would light up at super-slow speed. The only nit here was, and is, price. Plus you have to accept a dedication to one front wheel. 

The new Planet Bike "Dual Blaze"

Now you can have 1500 Lumen power in light with Medium settings that run up at 800 Lumen for hours and hours. We couldn't even get 800 Lumen lights in the early days! Now? Slap down a Benjamin and walk out with a self-contained, lightweight, durable, reliable light that will be all you'd ever need. Something that would have cost hundreds of dollars back in the day, if you could even find such a thing with those run times. 

So, it is easy to forget where we have come from with regard to lights for night time gravel riding. It's a really fun thing to do, and the lights are not really a barrier to the pursuit of the past time anymore. But yeah, about that...... Trans Iowa is gone. Who needs lights anymore for long gravel events, right?

Well, it's funny when I think about this. Obviously, Iowa Wind and Rock is kind of the evolution of Trans Iowa, but right about when I stopped T.I. other events decided this long distance deal was a thing. Unbound did the XL distance, (originally the DKXL), and then Gravel Worlds added a "Long Voyage" distance as well. So, yeah, you need long runtime, high-output lights. If you do those events, at any rate. 

So, there is a brief overview of lights from the earliest "Modern Gravel" era days till now. I hope that you enjoyed that look back at lights.