Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Has Gravel Outgrown Its Britches

Saturday Peter Sagan and Specialized announced that he will be at Unbound Gravel
 When I was a kid, hanging out with my  relatives who were mostly farmers, they would often admonish me with this maxim when I was getting a little bit too proud or self-assured in a bad way. It was this, "You're gettin a little too big fer yer britches, young man!

Maybe that was old parlance for "Stay in your lane", or something, but it stuck with me and I think about this when things that started out simple, and easy to understand become more complicated, bloated, and over-the-top. 

And I think the whole gravel scene has gotten there. I mean, Pro riders coming to a lottery based event which is almost impossible for the average 'Pete' to get into and if they do, it costs an arm and a leg to do the event? When that happens? Yeah... I'll circle back to this later.

And yes- you can even argue that having a Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame adds to this image of gravel cycling getting too big fer its britches.  Although I'd argue that if it is kept to being a historical/influencer/documentation resource that it isn't out of line to have such an organization. If it gets to be a popularity contest, then yeah....it's lost its relevance. 

The recently announced Warbird AXS Rival bike costs $7999.00 Image courtesy of Salsa Cycles
But more than that, the price to get into cycling has skyrocketed. It doesn't help matters when media pushes the bling out into our faces and makes us feel as though you have to have an eight thousand dollar bike, or shoes that cost hundreds of dollars, and power meters, or an expensive navigation device, or you will be off the back when you come to your local gravel event. 

It doesn't help matters when you go all 'ga-ga' when a former World Champion Pro road cyclist comes to a Kansas gravel event. It's as if your masses of riders who make up 99% of the field don't matter a whit.  Kudos to Gravel Worlds, and unPAved by the way, who are leading the way with social media to turn the tide in these matters. To be fair: Unbound has promoted a couple of average racer Instagram posts in the last week, but you don't see cycling media showing that.

And all of that highly visible narrative just flies in the face of the social missions many gravel events proclaim to be behind. Inclusive? Not much by the signs we see from cycling media, especially. Events and media could do well to damp the high-end, Pro racer, big-ticket items, 'suffer-fest' narratives, and focus on budget priced, average persons stories, and maybe how small businesses in these big event venues are benefiting from said big events. I dunno..... I'm just spit-ballin' here. There are plenty of great human interest stories in gravel. We don't need to recreate the Pro Road racing scene in gravel more than it has been so far. In fact, we need to back far away from that. 

In a bit of a satirical ranting I did along with N.Y. Roll, I suggested that we start another event, have a single category: "Human", and stipulate that the bike/gear used in the event has to cost less than 2G. And there is no entry fee, and if anyone doesn't have a bike, or means to get to the event, they get a free bike and travel/lodging. Inclusive? That's how I would do it. 

But I'm retired from event promoting, so someone else can take that idea and claim it as their own. And remember, that's a bit of satire there, so don't get all wound up about it. 

A Quick Note: I will be gone tomorrow, (Wednesday) and Thursday for the induction ceremonies for the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame. I have scheduled posts for both days ahead of time. I'll have a special report on the ceremonies, the trip in general, and perhaps some items seen at the "All Things Gravel Expo", which I hope to run through on Thursday morning before I peel out for home. 

That will likely take over the space normally reserved for the weekly "FN&V" post. Thanks for reading Guitar Ted Productions! 

Monday, May 30, 2022

Country Views: My "Rule Of Three"

Escape Route: Pavement >>Gravel (In the distance)
Interestingly, there has been a format for events which has gained a bit of popularity recently which entails using multi-surface routes in a loop course. For instance, a course that has pavement, gravel, and single track in it. That was the recipe for the recent Arkansas event called "Rule of Three". there is going to be a similar event in Iowa soon called "Core 4", and we assume that event will have four surfaces on its course. 

People that have been around events for bicycles a long time will be quick to point out that multi-surface courses are nothing new and that major cycling events which feature several surfaces on their courses have existed for quite some time. However; as far as I know, none of those were promoted as having that as its main drawing point, like Rule of Three did, or as Core 4 is doing. Correct me if I am wrong, please. 

Marketing. It strikes again! 

Anyway, I did my own little version of a "Rule of Three" ride on Friday, a couple days ago now. I started out in town. (I do that a lot) And my original goal was to capture the decorations at local cemeteries. Only thing was that none of them had anything up as of Friday morning when I rode. Weird! I guess maybe it was the cold, rainy weather we experienced most of the week that postponed their efforts. (?) At any rate, my original mission was a dud.

A dandelion seed manufacturing facility just South of Waterloo. (I'm being sarcastic!)
An unusual steed for gravel grinding? Perhaps. The Ti Muk 2

I was riding my Ti Muk 2, because it was the best choice for places in Waterloo where there is no infrastructure in place for pedestrians or cyclists. Bumbling alongside busy traffic on the grassy strips between roads and properties where the City never really had a vision for how things grew. They just kind of happened over time, and the next thing ya know? No room for sidewalks or bike paths and the roads? Converted years ago from their original dirt pathways into narrow two lane blacktops which, at one time, were out in the country. 

Wasburn Road looking West

New calves and their mothers grazing some fresh, green Springtime grass.

In fact, a lot of the pavement I used on my ride, at one time a couple of hundred years ago now, was Native American footpath. Waterloo being one of- if not the only- place where the Red Cedar trees and Maples gave way to a clear, grassy prairie and led down to the rapids of the (Red) Cedar River where Waterloo was eventually founded. The Native Americans crossed there and then went on Northwestward to the Big Wood to hunt game and gather syrup from the forest in Summer.

This path I was on, to the Southwest of the prairie crossing, was a major pathway beaten into the ground by the Native Americans which went toward where Des Moines is now. Early European settlers here turned it into a road. It connected the towns of Waterloo and Eldora, and then points on Southwestward to Des Moines. That ended up becoming a State highway, and eventually was a part of Highway 63.  Highway 63 was eventually relocated along a different course, so what remains of the 'original' route is 4th Street out of Waterloo to Eldora Road, which is broken up into bits due to intrusions of farmland.

The storage bins make this enormous Ag sprayer look small.

On the same farm: This planter is going back into storage for the year after having done its job.

Since the cemeteries were behind on their decorating, I knew of a farm that would provide me with the proper patriotic look I was searching for. So, off to the gravel! I went South and West until I was about a mile from Hudson, Iowa and the particular farm I had in mind, which always flies an American flag from its mailbox which happens to be right on the road.

The county maintenance grader was out on this day.

A tattered and faded Old Glory flies over Holmes Road.

It was a really great day out. Lots of sunshine, big, blue skies, and yes- there was a stiff Northwest wind. I had to push against that a bit, but my new route plan had me in a place where the wind would not be much of a concern. 

Barns For Jason

Barns For Jason: As seen along Eldora Road

But to get to the wind break route, I had to actually use a bit of that former stretch of Highway 63 which was along that ancient Native American and Pioneer trail. It is called Eldora Road and it stays on the high ground between Waterloo and Hudson.

Out of the wind in the Leonard Katoski Green Belt.

The meadow/prairie grass preserve just North of the Ridgeway Avenue access to the Green Belt.

So, now into the Green Belt and out of the wind! Single tracking where I learned how to in the late 80's. The place has changed a lot over the years, but in many places it is exactly the same as it was. I hadn't been back here for a long time and, by the looks of things, neither has anyone else. The City has mown the strip of trail through there in their typical, brutal, wide, and crude style, but at least you can ride through without fear of getting into anything you'd rather not get into.

It wasn't the ride I thought I was going out for, but it was a great ride with pavement, gravel, and dirt all represented. A "Rule of Three" that worked for me!

Memorial Day


Memorial Day

Today we solemnly remember those who gave their lives so we can be free.

"Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die."

G.K. Chesterton 

"Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices."

Harry S. Truman

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Trans Iowa Stories: Lessons Learned - Part 2

(L-R) Riders Scott Sumpter, Nathan Griffee, and Corey Godfrey during T.I.v14 Image by J. Duke
 "Trans Iowa Stories" is an every Sunday post which helps tell the stories behind the event. You can check out other posts about this subject  by clicking on the "Trans Iowa Stories" link under the blog header. Thanks and enjoy!  

Part of the reasoning for Tony to have us stop at that preserve where we were hanging out was to observe riders going by. The Coffman Wood Preserve was situated such that it was the only way on gravel you could go after the cues which he knew were going to provide a huge challenge to the riders of Trans Iowa v14. If someone missed a certain set of cues, he knew, and so did I, that if they did not pass the drive way we were standing on, that they did not get it right, and that we had an issue. Good thing Tony suggested this, as what he and I feared did come true.

Trans Iowa was a gravel event, true enough, but it was much more than just a gravel event. One of the challenges of the event was the time cut-offs. Another was the self-supported nature of the challenge. But one other challenge inherent to the overall Trans Iowa experience was navigation. This was done manually by cue sheets and, if you've never done cue sheet navigation, it is very mentally taxing. Especially when you are dealing with a fatigued body and mind running on little to no sleep after around 200 miles of riding on chunky gravel roads. 

I happened upon a delicious little twist set up happenstance by how roads were named and laid out in two adjacent counties. I knew it would provide a serious challenge to navigation, but my cues for this were unquestionably spot on, so if a rider actually paid attention to detail, they would sail through the sector with no issues. If they assumed what was happening, well...... That was what bit a lot of the riders and ended up changing the face of the event for three riders in particular. 

Detail of the area in T.I.v14 that caused navigational issues. Red arrows define correct route.

I wouldn't normally go into fine detail on such a thing as a route and cues for it, but in this case, it bears looking at because this detail derailed a lot of riders and caused many to miss Checkpoint #2's cut-off time. Also, this is what tripped up a few riders and got them disqualified from the event, which I will get around to later.

The riders were traveling Northbound on Keokuk-Washington Road, which is pretty much the county line road. Now adjacent counties often do not use similar naming conventions, and situations like this where roads cross borders don't often happen, but in this case, there were two 120th Streets in close proximity to each other both stemming off of Keokuk-Washinton Road.  One was a right choice, the other was not. 

The cues said: "BR (means "Bear Right") On Keokuk-Washington Road". Then the next cue was "L (for Left turn) On 120th Street

What tripped up many riders was that "BR" isn't usually critical. Just - you know - follow the road. it bends to the right. No big deal. Many riders would instead skip over cues like that, focusing on only the directional turns "L" or "R". So, the next turn after they got on Keokuk- Washington Road was a "L" at 120th Street. They skipped over the critical "BR" on Keokuk-Washington Road. Because of this, many riders made the mistake of turning onto the first 120th street they saw, (despite it not matching up with mileage, which was given to the nearest tenth of a mile on the cues), and fell afoul of that navigational difficulty. Many riders caught it right away. They backtracked and found the correct way. Many riders got it on the first try. Three riders forged onward, not backtracking the course, and ended up getting caught. 

(L-R) Greg Gleason, Stefano Tomasello, and Waletr Zitz got burned by the "120th Street Cue" issue in T.I.v14. Image by Celeste Mathias

The situation was that Luke Wilson had approximately an  hour, maybe a few minutes more, lead out on three chasers. They were Walter Zitz and Greg Gleason, co-winners of Trans Iowa v12, and Greg being the winner of Trans Iowa v10. With them was rookie to Trans Iowa, Stefano Tomasello. Behind those three was Matthew Kutilek, trailing that trio by about 45 minutes. 

As we stood in that driveway on that beautiful day, soaking it all in, we were also being vigilant to watch for riders. We observed Luke Wilson riding by. Then we waited. And we waited! Where were the three chasers? After what seemed like an eternity, Matthew Kutilek went by driving a steady cadence. Tony was the first to call out that the three chasers must have cut the course at the 120th cue.

What he meant was that by missing the second, and correct 120th Street, riders could cut off a 'lolipop' of the course by going directly West and not to the North, then West, and then South. It was this Southern road on the course where we were standing, and it was the only way, due to the way the South English river disrupted the normal 'grid' of gravel roads, to get by and find the next, correct part of the course. 

We assumed at that time that by going directly West that eventually that trio of Gleason, Zitz, and Tomasello found a correct road on the cues, decided that they were back on course, and proceeded on toward Checkpoint #2. 

On our way to Checkpoint #2, Matthew Kutilek (the dot ahead in the distance) was the only rider we passed.

We had a situation. Tony and Mike were hoping to get to the checkpoint, tell the three riders that we knew they went off-course, and ask them to rectify that mistake or be disqualified. However; they were too late.  One of the checkpoint volunteers, Dave Roll, texted me and said that Luke Wilson had been through and that three chasers were also through at 8 minutes behind Wilson!  Wilson had an hour-plus some lead before. There was no way that the chasers had put that much time into Wilson, unless the trio had short-cut the course.

Now that the three chasers had gone through CP#2, there was no going back to rectify their mistake, and we were going to have to disqualify the trio for short-cutting the course. Why Gleason, Zitz, and Tomasello were the only ones that decided to do this out of the entire field was something I never did find out, and it doesn't matter anymore. They made a decision. There were consequences for that decision. 

While Tony and Mike had gone directly to Checkpoint #2, Matt and I drove the actual course. By doing this we hoped to verify that the three had, in fact, not done the correct course, but Dave's text basically made that point moot. 

Now we had a difficult job to do.....

Next: Lessons Learned - Part 3

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Bike Shop Tales

Scrap haul (Image by Jim Thompson)
The other day, my co-worker at the Cedar Valley Bicycle Collective, Carl, asked me what I thought about working there so far. I told him, as well as anyone else that asks me, that it is a night and day difference from my 25 years of retail bike shop experience. 

The mission of the Cedar Valley Bicycle Collective is not to turn a profit, and that right there makes everything very different. We also are not a service and repair shop, which doubly makes things different. No RAGBRAI tune-ups. No last minute, desperation repairs for racers, forgetful vacationers, or trail bombers. 

We do help people. There is a very vibrant and active cycling community that rides because that is their primary form of transportation. There are folks who cannot afford new bikes that can get good, solid, serviceable options at the Collective. 

We have service programs that help the community, like Bike Valet, Earn-a-Bike, and bike rodeos. We will be doing a few clinics as well coming up. And this all thanks to the Otto Shoitz Foundation Grant which funds operational costs for the Collective, (amongst other grants), and is allowing for us to open up for these clinics and established programs on nights we aren't already in operation. 

We also help the environment by diverting bicycles from landfills and into proper recycling pipelines. Just Wednesday of this last week we probably took nearly 3,000lbs of scrap bicycles and parts to get recycled. This makes me feel good about what I do, and is a big help to the community at large. 

So, back to that question: How do I like working at the Cedar Valley Bicycle Collective? Well, I like it a lot. It is a very rewarding job experience and about as far as East is from the West from where I was before. It will be good to push forward and do even more things with this organization in the future.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Friday News And Views

Tweet from Neil Rogers seen last Thursday
Outside Media Lays Off A "Significant Number" Of Employees:

Within the last few years, Outside Incorporated had annexed several publications under its media umbrella, including Cyclingtips, Beta, and VeloNews. Industry rag, Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, and registry company athleteReg were also gobbled up within the last few years. I was hoping that the typical thing that happens to media conglomerations wouldn't happen, but it appears that it has, indeed, gone down as many had feared. 

Since COVID hit the scene, a lot of upheaval has occurred in the economic landscape and publishing was not immune to the effects. BIKE Magazine folded in 2020 due to the pandemic, but many of the staff were invited to start up the publication called, BETA, which was online only and subscription based. Sounded like a great idea, until- apparently- it wasn't. In the thread under the Tweet I have shown here, a commenter mentioned that BETA had been shut down. It also was reported in the Tweet thread that Outside Incorporated is planning on reducing print media by 60% or more.

It also appears that Ben Delaney, a columnist for VeloNews, was let go as his Strava post was also shared on that same Tweet thread. Corporatization of media has traditionally led to such blood-lettings of talent, and - it would seem- Outside Incorporated is no different in that regard. 

Comments: I'll be honest and upfront here: I don't like mergers, I don't trust big corporate boards, and media conglomerations under one roof are never a good idea. Now we have less talent, and apparently less outlets to read from, and the 'narrative' will only get more monetized as we go forward. Sorry for the dour outlook, but really? I'm not sorry. We should know better. 

More details emerged later Thursday regarding the lay-offs.

As far as digital content, I am not sure how that will work. Obviously news and features will get cut back since attention spans are measured digitally and when someone clicks out, they note that time. That is conflated to mean that the person is not reading through long form articles, so that style of news and features gets cut. Whether or not that is actually true, or merely self-fulfilling prophecy is not known. I know I'll read a longer piece in a magazine at my leisure, but trying to read from a phone, or tablet, is not pleasant, and you get distracting pop-up ads, prompts, and mayhem of all sorts on many of these sites. Paper is 'calmer', and I think, easier to read longer times with. 

I notice this with this blog. My stats show the vast majority of you read this on a PC. Some tablets are used and almost no one is using a phone to read this blog. Guess which sort of device most people use to engage digital content with now? 

Phones don't lend themselves to comfortable, longer timed reads, so mass media gets this, and you get more sugar-coated candy with a side of pop-up ad and distraction. Have fun with that and those 'empty calories'..... 

Another interesting perspective on the current print media landscape and this Outside Incorporated layoff can be read here: https://www.adventure-journal.com/2022/05/thoughts-on-outsides-layoffs-outdoor-media-and-adventure-journal/

Ere Research "Tenaci" grip system

ere Research Shows Drop Bar Grip Idea:

Scrolling through the innergoogles, as one does, I came across this new company called 'ere Reseaerch' which I had never heard of before. Looking at tires first, I came across a more interesting product offering from this company called Tenachi Handlebar Covers.

I gather that the bottom part, which goes on the extensions and up into the drops, is one piece and then the rest from the lever perches on up to the tops is pretty much standard tape. ere says, "They are designed to give as many pressure-relieved hand positions as possible and are exceptionally suitable for long days in the saddle."

Comments: So, this is kind of like track grips and bar tape together. Not a bad idea, really. I could see where this idea could not only provide a better, more secure grip in the drops, but that with the right materials, that it could be a vibration damper as well. I did actually test something similar years ago but those were stick on pads, and did not encompass the handle bar

I actually tried to order some of this but apparently the company doesn't ship to the United States. (??) I couldn't find that option in the drop down menu, at any rate. So, maybe later......

2022 Cutthroat, Warbirds Announced:

Salsa Cycles released the new colors and specifications for their 2022 Cutthroat, Warbird, and Warroad models. I won't bother with the Warroad bikes as they are not my cuppa tea and are not really all-road/gravel bikes. (They kind of are, but....they are a weird niche bike, in my opinion)

2022 Cutthroat GRX 600 (Image courtesy of Salsa Cycles)

Colors and specifications on bikes that have not fundamentally changed in what? Four years now, Five....? Not that it matters much. I mean by that to say this: The Warbird and Cutthroat don't really need to change much, if at all. The designs are pretty dialed and unless you are going in for some radical change, (and why would you?), these bikes seem to be pretty much at the pinnacle of their design evolution. 

Not that Salsa Cycles is not working on something. I am sure that they are, it's just that it would be hard to understand them dropping Class V VRS or carbon, or all the versatility in these bikes as they are set up. Refine the bikes? Maybe. Ground up redesign? Hmm...... If they can, I guess they will, but it would be hard to imagine what they would do. 

I have seen comments by folks pining for steel drop bar bikes, titanium drop bar bikes, and the same in MTB/bikepacking from Salsa. Here's the thing- they did that and you folks didn't buy them. Not in enough numbers to perpetuate bikes like the titanium models they used to make, like the Ti Vaya, (a KILLER gravel bike, by the way), or the Ti El Mariachi, a quintessential bike packing rig. And steel? Yeah, they dd that too, but you almost couldn't give them away. Only the venerable Fargo has really sold in any significant numbers for a Salsa model that is made from steel. And frankly, I am surprised that Salsa still offers that model in steel!

Finally, availability on the Shimano equipped 2022 models will be delayed until Fall, according to the information I received. That would probably be a good indication of what to expect from other brands as well, but what can be said for sure is that if you want a Warbird or Cutthroat now, it will be a SRAM equipped bike. 

Old Glory waves on a farm North of Waterloo.

Memorial Day Weekend:

This is a long weekend for many and the first holiday which is considered to 'kick-off' Summertime in the Mid-West. The weather, while not having been very Summer-like", has been okay of late and this weekend looks clear so far. 

Of course, it is a busy weekend for many of us as well. Graduations, vacations, and just recreating can eat into your time in a hurry. maybe we get so tied up in the fast-paced activities for three days that we tend to forget why we even have this holiday.

I suggest a slowing down, disconnect, and some introspection might be appropriate. Spend some quiet time considering this holiday, and consider showing some gratitude where appropriate. 

I'll maybe have time on Monday to do a bit of a ride. I hope that you all have a wonderful, safe, and meaningful weekend. Thanks for reading Guitar Ted Productions.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Copy-Cat Or Coincidence?

Which one is a Byway and which one is a County tire?
 The world of bicycle parts manufacturing is a strange brew of behind-the-scenes manufacturers in Asia and branding companies that pay for designs and product to be made. It isn't very often where you are actually buying from the folks who made the product and designed it. Usually it is one or the other. 

This was never made more clear to me than when I started attending Interbike, the old industry trade show, back in the late 00's. At that time 29"ers were just getting off the ground, and many of us riders were looking to lighten up our bikes with carbon legged, aluminum crowned forks. 

There was a bit of discussion and controversy surrounding a certain model of carbon legged, aluminum crowned fork. One was sold by a known, reputable brand. The other, which looked all the world exactly like the branded one, was being sold online at a much reduced cost under a Asian company's name. Some said they weren't the same. Some claimed that they were exactly the same thing. What the heck was going on here?

Well, I happened to cruise by a booth at Interbike one year in the Asian Pavillion, and I saw a vendor who was displaying no less than a dozen of these forks. They all looked the same, but they were not. The carbon layup differed for the legs, and the crowns were machined slightly differently, and forged differently, one from another. This was all done to offer solutions to meet a brand's price point. You want a cheaper fork than your competitor's fork that looks like this? They had that. 

So, that's just one example of how the bicycle industry can work which can lead to confusion and speculation on the consumer end. Things are still somewhat this way. Take for instance the tires I got in for test and review for Riding Gravel. There was something very familiar about them. Then it dawned on me. They looked very close to the WTB Byways I have here. 

So, are they from the same factory? Could be. Are they the same tire, just modified? Probably not, but who is to say that the overall idea wasn't , you know......borrowed. Asian manufacturers are well known for copying other designs and selling them as their own. 

I tried to get to the bottom of the Goodyear County tire's manufacturing company in Taiwan, (No- these are not really made by Goodyear, they just license the brand name to another company and they operate as the "bicycle arm of Goodyear") I couldn't sus out the relationship that the factory may have with other brands, which is not surprising. Suffice it to say that you are probably riding tires that are not Goodyear tires that came from the factory that makes Goodyear tires. 

Sound confusing? Yeah......it is meant to be that way. So, a copy-cat or a coincidence, but these two tires are too close in design, in my opinion, for this to be just happenstance.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Tires You Should Know About: Hutchinson Touareg Tires

The Touareg tire may be hard to find in the US, but it is well worth seeking out.
Hutchinson Touareg: Tubeless Made Easy-

 Many people still are reticent to try out tubeless tires for their gravel rigs. If you are one of these folks, I recommend finding a set of Hutchinson Touareg tires. You will not find an easier to live with tubeless tire than this. 

Now, I admit, finding these tires may be difficult. I almost did not include this tire on my list but for the fact that I did find an online source for them recently. Hutchinson, if you did not know, is a French based tire manufacturer that was making a push into the US market right about at the same time the pandemic hit. Then after about a year, they made the curious decision to pull out of the US market. So, it may be hard to find a set of Touaregs, but they are well worth your time to search for.

So, why the bother? Well, if you don't like the sound of all the tubeless goop, failures, and hassles you may have heard about, the Touaregs will put all of that behind you and your mind will be at ease. The Touareg holds air as well as a tubed tire, maybe even better, and sealant seems to last longer as well, at least in my case. In other words, you'd be hard pressed to say that running a tubeless Touareg was anything but a positive experience. 

Bonus points for the Touareg are that it rolls fast and has a really long wearing tread.

 Okay, but how is it as a tire for gravel? Actually, it holds its own on gravel, giving up very little to the best rolling and riding feel tires. The mini-blocks roll fast on pavement, and the rounded casing profile make this tire quick on smoother dirt and gravel. The ride feel is pretty good if you bump the pressures down a few psi from your normal settings to offset the stiffness due to the puncture protection belt the Touareg has. 

Negatives are that this tire doesn't do well in mud at all, it tends to get a bit squirrely on loose, deep gravel, and it isn't the lightest tire in its class. (But at just under 500 grams each, (as I tested them, it isn't the heaviest either) The Touareg is also a bit of a 'gravel flinger' in that the small blocks will toss up small pebbles and squirt bigger chunks of gravel sideways at times. This can be annoying depending on the state of your gravel. 

You can read more in the long form review series on this tire on Riding Gravel. From that link there are links back to two previous posts on that site which will give you a long, detailed look at these tires.

These are still some of my favorite tires. They are tough, long wearing, and as I say, really good at being tubeless. These are not the best riding tires, the fastest tires, or the best feeling tires, but if you are not sold on the tubeless idea 100%, these tires will change your mind on that. Plus, if you just want a tire that does its job and does it well without worry on your part, look at the Touareg. Had these not been available at all, I would have been disappointed that I could not share these with you. And yes- they may be really hard to get a hold of. But in my opinion, these tires are worth the effort. 

Keep in mind that the Standard Disclaimer applies to these tires. I'll come back next week with another tire you should know about.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Tires You Should Know About

Vittoria Terreno Series tires: These are some tires you should know about.
 One of the things I am very privileged to be able to do is to ride a LOT of different tires from a LOT of different manufacturers. One of the things people talk MOST about in regards to bicycles are tires. 

So, this got me to thinking when I see threads on social media concerning tires and in specific, the ubiquitous question: "What tires are best for....?" 

First of all, there are no 'best tires' for anything. There are just too many variables to have anyone tell anyone else what is 'best' for them. I mean, what does 'best' even mean? That could be one thing for you, and a total 'feel' thing, and no one else is going to get that feeling, that sensation you are after, but you and you alone. So, unfortunately, there is no 'easy button' here. 

But the good news is that there are a LOT of really good tires out there. Some that you might think are really great for you, but maybe you are not aware of them. Maybe you just haven't heard much of anything about how they work, even if you have heard about them. In this series I am going to share a bit about some tires I think you should know about. Tires that may be new to you, or that you've heard of, but that you haven't heard much about. 

What this series is not going to be about are the tires everyone out there seems to already have a handle on. Tires like Panaracer's popular Gravel King series. I'll have some mainstream brands here, but I am going to avoid tires that are already talked about a ton online and on social media. What else you won't find in this series is a 'magic tire' that wears forever, is super-light, and has the easiest tubeless set up. Why? Because many traits we look for in tires are mutually exclusive, one from the other. That's why.

Also, this series will concentrate on gravel tires, although I can say that a few could be touring bike tires, or mountain biking tires. However; if you are looking for anything outside of the realm of gravel usage, then this may not be a good read for you. I'll pick on a few traits like which tire I think is best for ease of tubeless use, which tires wear like iron, and which tires ride the best. (See! Three different "best' qualities which may appeal to three different types of riders!) Finally, the Standard Disclaimer will apply to many of these tires I will be talking about in the series.

Okay, that's the idea I have for this series. Got a tire you think I should know about? Hit me up in the comments section. Otherwise, I have a set landing today that may make this list, and I will start out with my first in this series tomorrow. Stay tuned and thanks for reading "Guitar Ted Productions".

Monday, May 23, 2022

Country Views: Windy Again

Started out with clean, blue skies......and WIND!
 Sunday I managed to get out in the morning, but I did wait until the temperature had recovered from the low 40's and had gotten up into the 50's. No, this isn't March, or a chilly April day. This is late May. Crazy! 

Anyway, the idea was to push out against the wind, which was coming strong out of the Northwest, and then head over West a bit, and then come back with that wind. I decided to try a run up into Bremer County, and I also had decided to roll with a single speed, my signature Pofahl. A bike I haven't ridden in far too long. In fact, it has been maybe an entire year. 

Some late planting activity here.

It may look beautiful, but it was chilly and windy for a late May ride. 

I had packed up my Winter gear on Saturday, but I held back my 3/4's knickers and my Twin Six Ritual wind vest. Good thing! While temperatures in the 50's aren't too bad, the wind, which was blowing around 22mph and gusting upwards of 30-ish mph at times, made it feel a lot cooler than that. In fact, my feet in my Shimano RX-8 gravel shoes were chilly to almost cold for the entire ride.

The vast expanse of farmland makes this tractor and sprayer rig loo like a toy.

A passing pick-up truck leaves a long 'contrail' of dust as it crosses Schenk Road

I went North up Schenk Road and it was a slog against that wind. At one point I had a blizzard of last year's corn leaves and dust blow across my path, nearly blinding me and almost knocking me off my bike. Fortunately that kind of blast only happened a couple of times during the ride! 

An old Pepsi Cola hauler out back of a farmstead along Schenk Road.

A small flock of sheep near the intersection of Schenk Road and Gresham Road.
Big, puffy clouds started rolling in with that Northwestern wind and it sure looked pretty out there. I was enjoying the views, but suddenly a dog drew a bead on me and I had to stop. It was a medium sized mutt and the owner finally called it off with an apology to me and a promise of a ball playing session to the dog. That dog heard 'ball' and was off like a shot! 

The Gnome Sanctuary along Schenk Road just before crossing into Bremer County.

A look North into Bremer County on Oakland Avenue.

Now I didn't know how far I was going to go North when I started, but I knew I wanted to get into Bremer County a bit. Once I reached the county line, I was really getting tired of the wind. It was loud in my ears, it made pedaling my single gear a chore, and there was almost zero coasting at all. I was ready for a change!

But since I am not really familiar with the roads up there, I ended up stopping and checking my map to see which way I wanted to go. I also took the opportunity to sit on the edge of a ditch and eat some beef jerky I had along with me. Eventually I settled on going one mile West, which I figured would still be a wicked chore, and then to turn South on Navajo Road. 

Barns For Jason: On Navajo Road in Bremer County.

Looks like a full house at Mt. Hope United Methodist for Sunday services.

I turned South on Navajo in Bremer County which turns into Sage Road in Black Hawk County. Needless to say, the tailwind was magnificent. Finally, I could coast some! That was a big relief, as was the quiet in my ears. No more roaring wind! 

Looking West at Mt. Vernon Road in the distance.

The Pofahl at the Big Rock

I got a nice, decently hard ride in, and it was fun coming home, bombing some of the bigger rollers at speed. That old Pofahl just rides so smoothly. I don't normally get stuff that can be reviewed on that bike, so when I am busy doing that, this bike sits. I have had a window of opportunity to ride my odd-ball rigs of late, so I've been doing that, but this will be coming to an end this week. 

It sure was nice to have some time to spend on this bike though. I really have enjoyed it over the years.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Trans Iowa Stories: Lessons Learned: Part 1

Unidentified volunteer and rider seen at the construction zone during T.I.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!  

We stuck around to see how the reroute at the mis-signed corner was being accepted and how riders were negotiating the road under construction out of Kalona for a while. I just wanted to make sure that riders were not getting confused here. Fortunately this was all during the daylight hours. Had this occurred when it was dark, it would have been a lot more confusing, and dangerous when it comes to that road under construction. 

Once I was satisfied that everything was going to be okay, Matt and I decided to head on up the course toward where Tony and Mike would be meeting us at a wildlife reserve South of North English, Iowa called Coffman Wood Preserve. I was looking forward to settling in for a nice, relaxing moment or two as we had earlier that day together on that old bridge deck. 

A group of three women during T.I.v14. We had the largest women's field ever for v14. Image by Celeste Mathias.

T.I.v14 riders resupply in Kalona Iowa. Image by Celeste Mathias

Meanwhile the riders were getting along down the course behind the leaders. I wasn't getting the drop-out calls as often anymore as riders became accustomed to negotiating the everlasting miles of fresh gravel roads. It had become apparent, however, that the fresh gravel would be the thing that was going cause many riders not to finish. It was that difficult for this, the last Trans Iowa. 

Even though the riders had probably the best weather ever for this event, and winds were minimal, it was still one of the most difficult Trans Iowas. So you just never know. As my co-creator for the event, Jeff Kerkove used to say about his solo 24hr racing, "Everything has to come together to finish". One small detail left undone, or one wild card out of your control could be all it takes to wipe out a year of training and get you that unwanted ride back to the start area. But that was Trans Iowa's unique twist on gravel racing. It was a HUGE commitment, and it could all come undone in a minute. 

Riders battled fresh gravel on roads with no good lines all day Saturday of T.I.v14. Image by Celeste Mathias

Riders pick their way through the worst of the road construction. Image by Celeste Mathias.

Matt and I pulled into the short gravel driveway which led to the wood preserve. Tony and Mike were already taking their leisure and had beers in hand. Matt and I grabbed a couple from our stash and we gathered around in a small circle and began to chat. 

Meanwhile, in my head, I was wrestling with how to spill the beans to Tony and Mike that this was the last Trans Iowa. I figured I owed it to these two faithful, stalwart supporters of mine to let them in on the secret. Suddenly I found myself blurting it out, and the reaction I got was surprising.

"Oh! We already knew about that!, retorted Tony, as he handed me another beer.  I sat with my mouth agape at the revelation. The others were then engaged in some other subject and left the end of Trans Iowa story go. It was not how I thought this would be received, but as I stood in silence listening to old friends, I realized a couple things. No more needed to be said about Trans Iowa ending, and that I was a very blessed man. Very blessed.

It was a lesson learned. Friends and supporters are worth more than fame and riches. I was amazed, full in the heart, and I will never forget that moment either, as long as I can remember things. It was the medicine I needed for a rough afternoon of event directing. What I didn't realize was that it was these moments which I needed to be able to deal with the next situation. A situation which was unfolding as I stood there that sunny, beautiful afternoon at the entrance of Coffman Wood Preserve. 

Next: Lessons Learned: Part 2

Saturday, May 21, 2022

It's Getting Real

This seems so weird.
Well, in a week and a half I (hopefully) will be in Emporia, Kansas getting inducted into the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame. Talk about weird. This feels really weird.....

Things got a bit more 'real' in regard to this as I heard a "Gravel Family Podcast" featuring one of the GCHoF founders, LeLan Dains. (Oh! And Lelan should be in the GCHoF as well! That needs to happen....)

And then MG, who is tasked with writing up profiles on each inductee, sent me a draft to look over for approval. Talk about humbling..... So, yeah. This is feeling more like a thing than it ever has before. 

You know, these are deals you never ever think about. Hall of Fame? Pfft! Whatever! So, when they announced this thing, and that I was probably going to get into it, and then I did, well, I just thought, "That's nice. Thanks!", and you know- That would be it. I'd keep on going along, doing what I do, and it wouldn't really affect me in any way. It just did not seem real. 

But I think this is real. I scheduled a rental car, so I'm pretty sure it is happening now, and so it is starting to sink in. People are congratulating me and saying that this is cool. I'm getting ribbed by people who used to barely know anything about what I did in the past, but heard about this deal, and suddenly are looking at me......in a weird way. Not a 'bad way', just differently. I've noticed it. 

I heard on the podcast I linked above where LeLan said that, to a person, every inductee this year was very humble, and said that it was about the people, not about them. That's definitely where I am at with this deal. That link takes you to my April 5th post when I found out that the GCHoF had selected me to be inducted into the inaugural class. I think I may draw from that post for my "speech", which they said I get 3-5 minutes to deliver. (Gotta get to work on that)

Anyway, I just wanted to say, "Thank You" again to all of you readers and supporters of mine and by way of Trans Iowa. You people are why this is happening, and I appreciate each and every one of you very much.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Friday News And Views

Apidura Racing Handlebar Pack Image courtesy of Apidura.

Are Handlebar Packs becoming A Thing For Racing?

Last year I tested a handlebar bag from Craft Cadence which wasn't listed as a product for racing, but I suppose you could use it for that. It was a nice handle bar bag, but it had one issue I did not appreciate. The bag rested on the head tube on its bottom edge causing paint rub-through. 

I didn't think about it again until I came across this idea for a handlebar bag from Apidura which is listed as a product for racing on gravel.

I have no axe to grind with Apidura, and the idea for a bag like this is a valid one which I think is interesting. However; it would appear to my eyes that Apidura made the same mistake that Craft Cadence did with their design and allowed the bottom edge of the bag to contact the head tube of the bicycle. I really have a hard time thinking that this Apidura bag would not provide similar results to the Craft Cadence bag I tried. 

And furthermore, Apidura suggests that this is a good idea for racing? Hmm...... Not from an aerodynamic perspective, it isn't. I think perhaps long, unsupported cycling trips are where something like this shines. Somewhere that aero issues are not such a big deal. Or- Maybe the "racing" part of the name is merely there to make us think we are faster if we use such a bag? Anyway, I don't see this idea catching on with folks that are at the start line of gravel races. Top tube bags and half frame bags make more sense to me if you need storage space off your body. 

And yet there is that paint rub-through thing happening (possibly) with a bag design like this. Hmm.... Fix that and I'm interested. 

Update On Trans Iowa Stories:

As I wind down the telling of the tales behind the final Trans Iowa, I am starting to see where this is heading as far as exactly how I will wrap up the Trans Iowa Stories series. 

Originally I thought I would be done.."by late Spring or June", but that was overly optimistic, as it turns out. I think I'll blast right through June and July will probably be the month when I wrap up things. Maybe this will dip into August.

Then it is going to be a deal where I have to figure out a book, or someone suggested an audio reading of the series. That could easily be done via podcast. We will see when I get there. I have to wrap things up first.

I wanted to give you readers a heads up who have found that series interesting. The end is near! Ha! Anyway, after that series wraps up I am going to do one on the Guitar Ted Death Ride series of events which won't be quite as long, I dare say, but no less interesting. So, don't despair if you like gravel road riding tales. I have more and the GTDRI will have several interesting ones. I may even delve into routes and route finding philosophy. The other feature that many do not know about the GTDRI is that the ride figured into recon for Trans Iowa several times as well. 

So look forward to that later this year.

The Esker Ti Japhy frame.
Esker Goes Ti:

News broke on Tuesday of this week that Esker is releasing titanium versions of their Japhy and Hayduke titanium models. The following is from their press release:

We focus on building the best riding bikes, continually improving, and tuning our ride quality with the various material and design components. When we decided to bring out our hardtail models in titanium, we concentrated on keeping the qualities that riders and reviewers love but took it a step forward by designing the bikes from scratch and using seamless, butted, and cold-shaped 3/2.5 titanium tubing." Said Esker Founder and CEO Tim Krueger.

The Japhy is the 29"er model and can take tires up to 2.8" wide. The Hayduke can do either 27.5 or 29"ers, but is aimed more at the 27.5" user. Both titanium frames will feature 'versatile braze-ons', a custom titanium chain stay yoke, and will come with a bead blasted finish with rainbow anodized graphics. Frames will ship with a Wolf Toth through axle, rocker style "Portage" drop outs, Wolf Tooth seat collar and head set. Cost for a frame set is $2300.00USD and both bikes can be set up as completes. Learn more at www.eskercycles.com 

News photo image showing container broken into.
Another Theft Of New Bikes:

Authorities reported that on May 12th a 40 foot container filled with new bicycles from Merida was broken into at a trucking facility near Felixstowe, Southampton, UK. Thieves broke the seals on the container and reportedly made off with 133 bicycles. 

Several bicycle industry media companies reported on the theft. It is another in an alarming trend seen since the pandemic-induced demand and supply chain issues have made getting bicycles difficult. Furthermore, those issues and the current inflationary climate make it so that thieves can turn these bicycles over on the black market for a handsome profit. 

Authorities are asking consumers to look out for any suspicious listings of Merida models including Big Trail 400 & 600 models,Scultura 400's, and Speeder 100 bikes.  

The facility where the theft occurred has security cameras and everything was done according to protocols concerning the container handling. Thieves still made off with most of the 210 bicycles in the container. 

DeMarchi Dues Ex Machina Portals jersey. Image courtesy of DeMarchi
Is This The "New Rapha"?

My opinions and impressions of Rapha in the beginning of their run as a cycling clothing provider were that they had a penchant for romanticizing  the 'classic' road cycling past. Their clothing was a reflection of that, being a stylized interpretation of classically inspired clothing, but with a modern take. 

Let me know if you think I got that wrong, but that is my impression of what Rapha was all about. 

Now days I feel like that feeling of romanticized classicism of mostly European road racing has been muted, if not lost, in Rapha's presentations of recent times. They still have a premium price, that hasn't changed. To be fair, Rapha has its own look and feel. They sponsor current semi-Pro and Pro road teams. And they offer fully modernized looks alongside their very simple signature looks. Good stuff, I am sure, but it is different than it was in their beginnings. 

So, I bring this up because DeMarchi, and Italian manufacturer of high-end cycling wear, just launched a US portal for their merchandise. Ironically their Heritage Collection is kind of what Rapha was hearkening back to with their original range, but Demarchi isn't taking an inspiration, and trying to interpret that. DeMarchi is just presenting their past, which is, perhaps, a bit more authentic. 

They are expensive as well, but I think the historical look is interesting and a fun way to enjoy the history of cycling. Of course, DeMarchi has a full line of cycling clothing to choose from, including stuff listed under the ubiquitous "Gravel" category. So, if you aren't into the historical deal, then you have other choices.  

But come on now- You gotta admit wearing a jersey that says "Dues Ex Machina" is pretty cool. 

That's a wrap for this week. I hope you all get in a ride or two and stay safe! Thank you for reading Guitar Ted Productions!