Thursday, June 30, 2022

Hammerhead Karoo 2: Final Word

I did get the Karoo 2 to function 100%- for a little bit!
Hammerhead Karoo 2 Review Short Version: Not a good GPS unit. Read on for the longer take, if you want to know more.

Longer Version: Last week I got two bits of help after posting my "Part 3" of the Hammerhead review. Apparently, you cannot work an upload from a PC computer to the Karoo 2 head unit. You have to do it by your WiFi connected phone, or phone-like device of choice. 

One would think that would be front and center in the set up for the Karro 2, but neither my wife, nor I, saw this. We had to find out via other people who had gone through this. That's not right. This is not how you sell a device and have it be used by a consumer. Not such an expensive device as the Karoo 2. THAT should have been communicated during the set-up procedure. Had I known that, one of the several strikes I have against this device would have been mitigated. But I still would have nixed this in my review as being a bad product. At least the example that was purchased by my wife for me. 

Second strike? That I had to back out of a turn-by-turn ride to keep the unit from randomly shutting down while riding. In other words, if you choose a saved ride and want turn-by-turn directions, you choose it from your "Collections", and the Karoo 2 says it is preparing the ride for you. Then the screen pops up with the map and icons ready for a ride. You roll off, and everything seems okay. You get a prompt to turn, and the map is showing your progress and the data is compiling. All good, right?

I got this message repeatedly until I bailed out and started up the unit again.

Nope! I kept getting the above message and despite restarting the app, I had to completely back out, by using the power off button, refire the unit, and then it would behave. But only then. Does that seem right? Is there anywhere in the instructions that details this? No. there is not....

And then to top it all off, I got everything working Friday on my ride, but the map froze, so the tracking was stopped at a couple miles into my ride. I was still getting correct and punctual audible and readable turn-by-turn prompts, but nothing on the map was moving. Oh,. and time, speed, and whatever else was fine as well. 

On a stop I rebooted again, and then the evil message prompts came back, and well, I had had it by this time. 

Final Words: When one buys a device, one should not have to hop through hoops and have to spend hours to "figure it out" to get it to work. That is simply not an acceptable way to have consumers deal with any electronic device. There is no reason a device shouldn't be intuitive, easy to figure out, and run smoothly. For instance, Hammerhead touts the "smart phone" power that the Karoo 2 has. The "app" style navigation with a swipe is supposedly intuitive and makes for a great user experience. I say that is simply not the case at all with regard to this unit I have had. 

I recently had to learn a new smart phone for work. A Motorola phone. I use an iPhone and have for years, yet it took all of about 15 minutes for me to figure out how to operate the Motorola phone. Now that's intuitive. Additionally the Motorola phone doesn't randomly shut off, require me to visit a website to "research my problems", because, well, there aren't any. Furthermore, there is no need to dig through hundreds of queries from other dissatisfied users on the company website to see if your question has been asked before. Contrast that to the literal hours I have spent online, in Hammerhead's FAQ, on their user forum, and dinking around with the unit itself, and I still do not have a clue as to how it works. 

My contention is that this is not tenable. I shouldn't have to be running around trying to find out how this unit works after all the hours I have tried to interface with it. The company should have a cleaner, easier to understand interface, and their FAQ is literally useless. The user forum is fine, but if this unit is all that and a bag of chips, why are there literally thousands of queries- many with no answers? 

Speaking of no answers, I sent in a question to Hammerhead and still haven't seen an answer. Nice customer service there....

 Yes, I am upset, and I am frustrated, and this unit has been shipped back to Hammerhead with a note. We'll see what happens...... Frankly, at this point, I don't care if I ever see one again, but we'll see. 

I suppose it goes without saying, but this was not a sponsored product and it was bought by my wife as a gift to me. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Gravel Grinder News: Gravel Worlds Achieves 1000 Women of Gravel Worlds Goal.

 Today it was announced that Gravel Worlds, whose presenting sponsor is Garmin, achieved a goal of signing up 1000 women to their event in August. This commendable effort was done in a certain way to be free from calls of "sponsored riders" or from any other untoward motives that might be laid up against the Gravel Worlds team. 

Instead of using the leverage of sponsors, media, or advertising, Gravel Worlds used their social media platforms to spread the word and - as organically as is possible these days- raised awareness to the point that the achieved the goal set for themselves. 

And furthermore; it wasn't like Gravel Worlds didn't already have a higher number of female identifying participants anyway. Check this quote out from the press release:

 "According to Garmin Gravel Worlds co-promoter, Jason Strohbehn, the movement started from conversations with sponsors, who said 28% women’s participation at Gravel Worlds 2021 was nearly double the industry average. 

“Initially, we were embarrassed by our women’s participation numbers, and it then became embarrassing to learn that it was double the industry average,” Strohbehn said. “We quickly set a monumental goal to triple the number of women we’ve ever had at Gravel Worlds and obtain more than 35% women. We wanted a goal that was not only going to push ourselves, but also be big enough to encourage an entire industry."

Comments: Well, I think Gravel Worlds has set a pretty high bar for other events to follow and they did it in a way which, in my opinion, was harder to do, but also- believable. In this day and age where riders appear who are "comped" in, and sponsorship dollars and company marketing can be leveraged, (Think what Garmin could have done to help this happen), and it becomes apparent that Gravel Worlds wants to keep things as grassroots as they can, yet be "big" as well. That may seem like two things which are at odds with each other, and in my opinion, it does cause Gravel Worlds some issues with how they put on their event. But this achievement should be seen as monumental in the gravel going niche. (Is gravel riding still a "niche"?) 

So, yeah- If you run a gravel event, and you want more women participating? Here's your example of not only how to do it, but that it is possible to do it. And when I think about gravel events and gravel riding in general, that's been one of the core elements of this sport- "You can do it!". Gravel Worlds is showing us another way that can be interpreted.

Guitar Ted "Lube-Off": EcoSheep Lube - Final Thoughts

  NOTE: The Guitar Ted "Lube-Off" is an occasional series here on the blog where I pit chain lubrication products against each other to see what- if any- chain lubrication products are good for riding on gravel. These reviews are my opinions only and are not meant to be taken as the final word on any of these products. 

Okay, I finally got the EcoSheep oil lube out on some dusty gravel and finished up this test. I probably actually have far more than six hours on this lubricant, but the chances to use the bike it is on for a dry, dusty ride hadn't presented itself until last week. So, anyway, here we go with a final look at this unique, 100% natural lubricant. 

One thing before I get to my final thoughts here. I don't know for sure if this is a wet or a dry lubricant, or none of the above! EcoSheep does offer a "road version" of this and a "MTB" version, (tested) and I assume that should be interpreted as 'road = dry', and 'MTB = wet'. 

That said, I assume I have wet lube here and that's how I am judging the EcoSheep "for mountain bikes" product.

So, typically you would never want to use a "wet" lube on dry gravel roads. it is a recipe for a bad result. Gunky build-up, gritty, grinding noises, and accelerated wear as a result are what you'd most often have happen. but I think EcoSheep will surprise you a little bit here.

So, as you can see, there is a fine coating of dust on the chain. However; you can still read what is embossed on the side plates of the chain, and the rollers look okay. No "gunky build-up" here. 

The "Touch-Test", where I roll the chain rollers on my index finger to see what, if anything, comes off, showed little but some dust and maybe a bit of dark residue. Interesting! 

The chain shifted great, by the way, and it wasn't noisy at all. Not anything above a typical chain noise that I would consider 'normal' for a derailleur based drive train. I do think it is high-time for a reloading of the EcoSheep, but I have to say, this stuff wasn't as bad as I thought it would be! 

The cassette is about the same as the chain.

So, is the EcoSheep good stuff? I would put it this way- If you ride a lot of places where stream crossings are common, or if you live where it rains a fair amount, this might be a great all-around lubricant choice. For me? No. It is not good enough compared to DuMonde Tech, SILCA Super-Secret Lube, Muc-Off C3 ceramic dry lube, or even some others I've tried. However; I'm keeping this stuff around for our sometimes wet Springs and I want to test this on my Winter bikes. 

Conditions on my last, 2+ hour ride were horrendously dry and dusty, so if this lube can come through that and not totally fail, well, I think that is impressive enough. But it is 100% natural, won't harm the environment, and it is a byproduct of sheep shearing, so it is a renewable lubricant. Add that all up and I think it is definitely a player in the Wet lube category.

Again- EcoSheep did not sponsor this review. I bought and paid for the EcoSheep with my own money. See the "Standard Disclaimer Page" for further explanation.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Guitar Ted "Lube-Off": Update On Super-Secret Lube

 NOTE: The Guitar Ted "Lube-Off" is an occasional series here on the blog where I pit chain lubrication products against each other to see what- if any- chain lubrication products are good for riding on gravel. These reviews are my opinions only and are not meant to be taken as the final word on any of these products. 

I know I just gave my final thoughts on this SILCA Super-Secret Lube not long ago (HERE), but I have a bit more to add to the story now that I think is interesting. So, read that link and then consider this post an addendum to that one. 

Last weekend's "Hall of Fame Ride" saw me use the Black Mountain Cycles MCD I used for the Lube-Off test featuring Super-Secret lube. After the initial test period, I felt like I probably should reapply some lubricant as the chain felt not-so-slick anymore. It wasn't noisy, per se', but the chain wasn't as quiet as I'd have liked either. 

So, I wiped that chain down really well, until I was hardly getting any residue off of it, and I liberally applied Super-Secret to the chain rollers, manually turning them with the tip of my index finger to help pull the lubricant into the chain pins. then I wiped off the excess and let it sit for a day. 

When I came back, I could not see any evidence of the Super-Secret Lube on the chain, but I could feel it, and the chain was quieter. So, I took it on the Hall of Fame Ride last weekend which was approximately 44 miles and change of mostly very dusty gravel. Following you will see the chain and results from the "Touch-Test" of the chain afterward with no modification to the chain whatsoever, no cleaning, nothing. This is what it looked like right after the ride.

The odd dark marks are where the chain is worn and the gold treatment is gone.

Mostly dust here!

Okay, so as you can see plainly, the chain was mostly just dusty. The "Touch-Test" brought out a lot of dust from the chain. Most of this will wipe away with a soft, micro-fiber cloth and the chain will be fine. 

Here's another view showing where that dust is hiding and what the cassette looks like.

Yeah, pretty impressive! Considering the fact that the cassette and chain are just about toast, as far as wear, this looks really good here. I have to admit that Super-Secret Lube is as good as the DuMonde Tech at this point. I know I'll be using it all up, (I got a special "double your order deal" when I ordered mine), and that will take a while. 

The thing is, I think this is better from the standpoint of reapplication where it works exactly like it did on the first application. DuMonde Tech is a bit finicky in that regard. However; my initial reaction is that I will have to reapply this Super-Secret Lube more often than I do with DuMonde Tech. So, a give and take, which to my mind equals the two out a bit. Nothing I can think of makes either stand out as  "better" than the other yet. 

So, Super-Secret Lube from SILCA is a worthy one for you dust-eatin', gravel-grindin' fiends out there. I'll report back if I have any further observations, but I just wanted to give my latest experience to you for your consideration.

Again- SILCA did not sponsor this review. I bought and paid for the Super-Secret Lube with my own money. See the "Standard Disclaimer Page" for further explanation.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Country Views: Focusing On The Good & Not The Bad

Escape Route: West 5th >> West 6th>> Bike paths.
 It was a ride that started Thursday and got interrupted and finished Friday. That was just part of the many frustrating things about the ride, but I'm getting ahead of myself here. So, let's just get back to what happened on Thursday. 

There was a little bit of excitement as I got ready to ride on Thursday. I did not have to ferry anyone anywhere, (both my children have no drivers license yet), and I had a beautiful, Sunny day to ride as much as I wanted. That doesn't happen much this year, so I was stoked about that. 

There was also the fact that I thought maybe I had the Hammerhead thing figured out. (Stay tuned for the complete details of that saga) So, I had made a route and was hoping to follow the prompts on the device and see how that was to use. 

I got the Raleigh Tamland Two out so I could do a bit of testing on some tires, but also to finish up this round of the Guitar Ted Lube-Off testing, (look for that later this week). It was all coming together, and I was out of the door by 2:00pm and figured on not being back until 5:00pm. Then things kind of went downhill

I'll spare the details on the computer bit for a dedicated post, but yeah, it didn't work.....again. Then I was about to make the right turn on the riverfront bike path and the phone rang. It was Mrs. Guitar Ted. She forgot to tell me we all had dental appointments and that Jacob and I had to be there by three. It was about ten after two at this point. So.......

I didn't get here until Friday morning
The Cedar River from the CVNT bridge. Looked like it might rain, but I was going for it!

So, I made that appointment, by the way, after a bit of an outburst of frustration on the ride back home! But I had a window to get it done the next day, Friday, so I made a plan to get out and to try the testing again. Things weren't as nice weather-wise as Thursday, though, as thunderstorms were forecast to hit by late morning into noon. 

Finally! Gravel headed South on Foulk Road

This is not one of the biggest sprayers out there, but I still gave way to the extreme right side!

So, the computer was working, well, until part of it wasn't, but I decided that I wanted to ride, not futz around with a GPS device, and it was still giving turn-by-turn navigation. So, I pushed onward down Foulk Road into a pretty stiff wind. 

I like this farm on Miller Creek Road. It is pretty unique as far as outbuildings go.

That climb ahead on Cotter Road is one of N.Y. Roll's favorites in the immediate area

I had a chance to take a mile East on Miller Creek Road which broke up a long slog South into the wind. I was glad I put that into the route. Plus I got to see one of my favorite farms in Black Hawk County. Then it was South again, but only for four more miles. Then I was hoping that the Westward stint on my route would provide some relief from this wind I was bucking up against. 

A semi-tractor trailer rig leaves what looks like a jet contrail of dust behind it as it traveled North.

A stop on Quarry Road at Miller Creek to attend to a few things.

So, I turned West, and I could tell that yes- the wind would be less of an issue, but Quarry Road was full of deep, fresh gravel, and it went all across the road. There were no beaten in tracks yet, so bumping along on that was a slog continued. Now it wasn't the wind, it was the gravel. No relief! 

I was feeling something rattling that shouldn't be rattling. So, I figured a brief stop to check over the bike and futz with the GPS was in order since I was approximately half way through my 33 mile loop. What I found, I found by accident, actually. I had checked over a bunch of things and when I couldn't find what I thought I was hearing, I chalked it up to the slightly sloppy lever pivots on the TRP brakes. So, I grabbed the bike by the bars and the saddle to yank it off the bridge railing and....

What?! A loose saddle! The Salsa Ti Regulator has two 6mm bolts that clamp from the sides and both had backed off enough that the saddle could slide back and forth on the clamp easily. Wow! I was glad I found that, because had a bolt backed out all the way, well, you just cannot get that bolt anywhere. 

The sky continued to look iffy all the way back on Quarry Road.

That wasn't all. I decided I wanted the tracking to work on the GPS, and that maybe I knew how to get it going, since it was frozen. But once I got the thing going it would stop everything completely at random, and I'd have to go back and push buttons until it went back again, and the vicious circle continued for about four revolutions before I got frustrated and just shut the dang thing off. 

Then my free hub started slipping. Gah! And the gravel was still super deep and loose, my saddle wasn't right, and my GPS wasn't working, and this ride was going to........

I stopped myself right there.

This corn was pretty lush and dark green.

Another one of my favorite farms to ride by in the county.

Yes, I had a lot of legitimate things to be bummed about. But instead of focusing on all of those things, which were undeniably there, I also decided I needed to find the things that were going right, and there were a lot more of those things than there were things that weren't right. 

Whew! That actually made things a lot more tolerable, and you know what? I started to enjoy this ride I was on, for the first time the whole ride! The free hub hiccuped a few more times, but then it stopped and didn't do it again for the rest of the ride. I thought it was going to fail, it was so bad there for a while, and of course, it still needs looking after.

The gravel got better once I turned North on Ansborough. A lot better. And I had a tailwind. I didn't really need a GPS, and my saddle wasn't perfect, but it was okay. Better than okay, actually. I just was getting too caught up in my pity party. 

That oncoming truck was kicking up a lot of dust. Also- No GPS- No Problems!

Oh! And I never did get rained on, despite the darkened skies.

So, I ended up coming home well under three hours for 33 miles, and that was with stops. So my riding was above average for me, despite the wind and the deep gravel. I was pleased with that too. But then our washing machine and dryer went on the blink.

It never ends! But we'll be okay. there are a lot more things going right that I can look to and the things going bad are usually not that big of a deal.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Trans Iowa Stories: A Sunny Day In The Park

Waiting on Luke Wilson to finish T.I.v14 in Miller Park Image by Craig Groseth
"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!  

I used to think I had to stay awake all night. Trans Iowa required all my attention for the full 34 hours. And it really was that way for several years in the beginning. But by the fourteenth one? No.....I could have taken a nap. But by this point I just wanted to stay awake all night. It was a challenge of sorts, and since this was the last time I would get to do this, I was aiming for a PR on staying awake. 

I know. Dumb idea. But it was part of how I did the event and I wasn't going to change it up at this point. But this decision did not go without its consequences. I usually got to a point during Trans Iowa late into the event where I was pretty much in robotic mode. Emotions were not coming through because I was so tired and worn out emotionally anyway. This last Trans Iowa was no exception. 

Luke Wilson pounding out the final miles of Trans Iowa v14. Image by Jon Duke.

So, the early morning hours are somewhat of a vague memory for me. I was pretty much 'not really there', but apparently doing well enough to fake it. Luke came in and I shook his hand. I kind of remember that. Amazingly, I was on point enough that I was able to remember to shoot an image of each finishing rider. I guess I felt it was important to document the last people to ever finish a Trans Iowa. 

I do remember something about second place finisher, Mark Johnson. He was, as usual, riding a single speed. He wasn't too happy about the 120th cue thing before Checkpoint #2. I think I recall saying something to the effect that 'well, obviously you figured it out.', but I don't really remember. I just remember he wasn't happy about that. But we shook hands and he did thank me for the event. So.....

My picture of Mark Johnson from the finish of Trans Iowa v14.

I remember Matthew Kutilek looked flat-out destroyed upon finishing third. He said something about feeling 'near death' out there in the freezing cold. That made an impression coming from a man who nearly died in the Middle East as a Marine. 

I remember Jana Vavra finishing later on. To my way of thinking, what this woman had done at Trans Iowa was amazing and is one of the most underrated stories in gravel riding history. She finished four Trans Iowas, more than any other woman, but this last one was really something. 

See, we had the largest woman's field ever for a Trans Iowa. 21 women in all. Jana was the only one to finish! 

And I have to also say this again- We had begged and pleaded with women to come and do Trans Iowa for years. Many times we would have a single female, or maybe three. The year Jana first finished we had 'a record women's starting field of five'! Five women! 

So, when I had over 20 women coming to start I was ecstatic. That was one-fifth of the entire field. But when Jana was the only one of them that made it to the finish, I found that to be really quite amazing. Of all the things that happened during the last Trans Iowa, I was most proud of that finish. That made me very happy.  

Jana Vavra gets a handshake upon finishing Trans Iowa v14 from GT.

Then, well......I don't know.... Things kind of get blurry there for a while again, but this was when things were winding down. many of my volunteers and friends had left by now. It was getting on toward 1:00pm. One hour left of Trans Iowa, then it would be gone forever.....

Jason Sheerer, (R) was the second to last person to finish T.I.v14 at 1:04pm. (Image taken by bystander)

The second to last finisher, Jason Sheerer stands out in my memory. He was a rookie, first timer, and I recall that he thought Iowa was "boring" in terms of visuals. I remember being hurt by that statement, but I smiled and had my picture made with him anyway. Funny what sticks with you and what does not....

Not long before this, a very special person to Trans Iowa, and myself, Will Ritchie, who was working for WTB at the time, showed up at the finish area with a brown box and a handful of coffee cups. Coffee in a box, would I like any? Man! It was like an angel had come from heaven and brought the magic elixir. Will, in his typical low-key, almost sheepish manner, was my savior that day. That coffee was a godsend, and Will, well...... His being there at the end of it all was just poetic. Perfect timing, although he did not know it at the time. WTB, and Will Ritchie in particular, were so important to the success of Trans Iowa, and such a huge part of the event, that somehow this serendipitous appearance by Will and his brown box of coffee was just a given. It just was something preordained. And I loved that he was there, but I couldn't say anything about "The End". And that sucked, but it was what it was....

From a stop along the way home from the final Trans Iowa.

And in the end, after everyone was gone, I was left at Miller Park alone. I never got the chance to share that Trans Iowa was over with anyone, except Tony, MG, and Mike, of course. I was okay with that. I made that decision. Before 2:00pm, I stood and just looked over the few people who were still hanging out. They were spread out on the green April grass under the Sun. Just hanging out, enjoying each other, and sharing stories of the weekend. 

This was how I wanted it to end. With people enjoying the moment. Not sad that it was the last time. Not being forced into some kind of weird, 'gotta say goodbye to Ted and this event' situation. No, I wanted it to be like this. Like when Will just walked up on his own to do an act of kindness for me and anyone that wanted a cuppa joe. 

I stood there and really concentrated on what I saw. It made me happy that this would be my last memory of Trans Iowa. Not some melodramatic goodbyes, not some issue with a negative person, and nothing premeditated due to the event ending. After all the hand-wringing over how to do it, I was here. And I thought about it all. Was I sad that I didn't chose to share the news at the Pre-Race, or at the start line? No, this made me happy. 

And you don't often get to write your own script. I was super-blessed to have it end on such a high note. This is one of the main reasons I'd never entertain doing another Trans Iowa event. I could probably never end on such a note as I did. 

And then it was over.

Two o'clock came. I turned and looked at my truck and it dawned on me that no one had consumed any beers at all at the finish! So, I walked over to the truck, got in, grabbed a cold Dale's Pale Ale, and toasted the end of fourteen years of putting on a Springtime ultra-gravel event. Then I drove home. 

Next: The Fallout

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Chipping Away At The Build

This is what the Singular Gryphon Mk3 will look like.
I've taken a bit of a turn on my thoughts for my upcoming Singular Cycles Gryphon v2 build. I've also been scheming up a build and I have procured a very important bit for the bike. This post will be a progress report. 

So, originally I was thinking this build would be easier if I did it as a single speed. However, after looking at all the parts I have available to me now to complete this, I have taken a different approach. This will end up becoming a 1X bike.

This became the reasonable way to go after I got it through my thick head that this bike was a 12mm through axle, non-Boost spaced bike. Once I realized this, the wheel choice became an easy one to make. 

The wheels will end up being the "Project Wide Gravel v2" wheels which were a failed attempt at making a wide interface for gravel tires. But for plus-sized rubber, which is where I want to be with the Gryphon? They were perfect, so that led me down another path. That is because the DT Swiss rear hub I have has a SRAM XD cassette body on it. That is perfect for a wide range 1X set up. So, I think I am going to use those, an 11 speed XD cassette, and that led me!

I searched around for a tire with about a 2.6-2.8" width in 29'er size and landed on the Teravail Coronado.  Looking around for a decent price I noted that Lacemine 29 owner, Mike Curiak had posted a list of tires on his Big Wheels Deals page. I contacted Mike via email and he responded quickly. Next thing I knew my tires were in the 'mail' and I received them last weekend. So, now I have the rubber, the wheels, and the next thing will be the drive train. I have the cassette I think I'll need, so no worries there. 

I have an SLX crank set that could be converted to 1X or I could use that older XTR crank set which is silver and would go with the rest of the build. The stem, handle bar, and seat post are all silver. I'll have a Brooks C-17 saddle in Wheat color on it to start out with, and those wheels have black rims to make the tan sidewall 'pop'. It should be a pretty handsome bike when it gets all put together. 

That won't be until this fall when the frame and fork comes in. Stay tuned.....

Friday, June 24, 2022

Friday News And Views

UCI's Version Of Gravel Worlds Set In Italy This October:

 Last week it was announced that the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) was going to hold its inaugural "Gravel Worlds" in the Veneto Region of Italy on October 8th - 9th according to a report on "VeloNews". (Note- I have also seen a report saying the date was the week before, October 1st-2nd)

The exact location will be announced at a later date, but it may have something to do with working around, or with the promoter of Serenissima Gravel, which is set to take place October 14th in the same region of Italy. 

The UCI World Gravel Tour dates for 2022

Comments: The UCI Pro Gravel Tour has already had a few races completed, but there is not a lot of chirping about it here in North America on traditional cycling outlets. Most of the coverage here has been focused on the Pro road tour, which is fully underway after two years of truncated, or no racing at all on the calendar. 

It will be interesting to see if that tour gains any traction with fans, media, and Pro level racers in the future. The race coming up in Fayetteville, Arkansas may generate some interest. So far, it has not really turned any heads here, and any Pro level gravel coverage has been mostly focused on things like the Belgium Waffle Races and Life Time Fitness' Grand Prix of Gravel races.

Image of a rescue of a TD rider from Fernie Search & Rescue last week.

Trouble On The Tour Divide:

I haven't written much on the Tour Divide in recent years because it has become something other than what it used to be, and I think it just isn't quite as impressive these days because of technology/social media. That's my take, might not resonate with you, and that's fine. It is just why I don't feel the need to feature the event here much anymore. 

However; this year it seems that extreme weather conditions have caught out a lot of riders. According to this story published on "", several racers have had to be rescued on the Tour Divide route who were suffering from 'hypothermia to broken ribs.' 

Comments: Interestingly, the story linked went to the Tour Divide website and copied and pasted the 'rules' for rider safety which pretty much exonerate the event from any responsibility or oversight by the event director. I'm guessing that was a pointed attempt to portray the event in somewhat of a negative light here. It doesn't help that reports of riders disregarding officials warnings and the report of a trashing of a room by some divide riders in Whitefish have been noted.

At any rate, the accessibility and popularity of Tour Divide as a "bucket-list" thing to do has about the same connotations as an ascent on Everest these days. So many success stories and little cautionary tales make it seem as though just about anyone could pull this off, and maybe, in the case of a decent weather year at Tour Divide, that might be true. 

But now, with extreme weather conditions happening more frequently, and with the extremely remote nature of this route in many paces, it might prove to be wise to come prepared for the worst. In fact, things are so weird this year that riders could face extreme snow/cold, flooding, and excessive heat conditions, wild fires,and drought all along the route this year. For more on risk taking and my thoughts on that, see this post from earlier this year, and pay attention to the closing paragraphs.

Trek is marketing a digital or print magazine to consumers.

Direct To Consumer Marketing Takes Form Of Magazine:

Trek has taken the challenge of direct-to-consumer marketing and are offering their own magazine. The "Performance Issue" was just released last week in digital form and a print magazine is available upon request. 

The issue details Trek sponsored athletes from road, gravel, and mountain biking with a look at some of their inclusivity programs and the Trek Travel arm of the company is also featured. Along the way you get the obvious adverts for Trek products.

Comments: With the homogenization of media in the cycling niche and the media corporatization which affects the number of independent media outlets, companies are left out in the wilderness when it comes to avenues to advertise and have reviews posted which show their products off in a good light. (Like they used to when companies would buy ads in publications to insure 'good reviews') Of course, there is social media. However; Trek seems to have moved on from the "influencer" marketing strategies employed by some companies which utilize athletes and their social media platforms and audiences. Trek now has taken control directly in terms of their narrative and with this digital release and print publication, they seem to be making their own path to consumers when it comes to marketing. A "Direct-To-Consumer Media", if you will. 

In fact, I've been told that at Trek dealerships it is required by salespeople to obtain "contact information" under the guise of "making an account for receipt" purposes. This data harvesting might be how Trek intends to grow its reach for the digital publication they have launched.

Interestingly, the issue I viewed online featured female athletes, people of color, and an indigenous cycling initiative with almost no "traditional cycling media" type stories at all. It's obvious that Trek means to make headway into the social changes advocated by those who criticized the company's messages heavily over the past few years. 

This is what amounts to the "catalog style" marketing from the 20th Century, updated for today's audience. In fact, Trek calls it a "catalog" and prompts its email subscribers to "Browse the catalog". It will be interesting to see if this catches on and if - or how- it affects traditional cycling media. Will there still be independent reviews of Trek/Bontrager gear, for instance? Or, will all that disappear and will you have to access the Trek "catalog" issues to see tests/reviews of their products by their sponsored athletes/influencers? Hard to say now. But it is an interesting take on marketing in the 21st century. 

From the Summer 2017 Geezer Ride

Geezer Ride Reboot?

During the Hall of Fame Ride last weekend the subject of the Geezer Ride I used to put on came up again. Specifically it was Martin Bunge who brought it up and said that he'd strongly consider doing it if I were to bring it back. Then later on Josh Lederman expressed the same, and after the ride he tried his best to give weight to his suggestion. Then, unbeknownst to those two, and independently of them, N.Y. Roll said that bringing back the Geezer Ride might be a good fundraiser for the Cedar Valley Bicycle Collective. 

Okay, now this has gotten me to thinking....

First, many of you probably don't have a clue as to what it is I am speaking of here. So, a 'geezer ride' is an easy, casually paced, no more than 40-ish mile gravel course. It's prime aim is to provide a fun, relaxing, non-competitive arena for anyone that is curious about gravel riding and would like to try it out. 

The secondary purpose was to provide a shorter route which could be ridden without too much training or effort and have good company, a fun time, and a hang out opportunity afterword. 

I started the Geezer Rides in 2014 and they ran up through 2018. Of course, that was when I "retired" from events productions. And I had intended on keeping myself out of doing this entirely, which included even organizing group rides, (like last weekend's Hall of Fame Ride), and I was just going to do whatever rides I wanted. However; the suggestion by N.Y. Roll to make the Geezer Ride a benefit to the mission of the non-profit Cedar Valley Bicycle Collective has merit and I am interested in perhaps doing another Geezer Ride. 

So, what do you think? Comment below.....

Have a great weekend! Thanks for reading Guitar Ted Productions!

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Hammerhead Karoo 2: Part 3

After a promising beginning, things went downhill.
 Readers may remember that at the end of last year I got a Hammerhead Karoo 2 GPS computer from Mrs. Guitar Ted for a gift for Christmas and our anniversary. There was the introductory post here, and a follow-up here, but I haven't written about this unit in quite some time, and there is a good reason for that- Specifically, it has been a very frustrating, very complicated device to use in the way that I want.

The first strike was when I did the Gents Race back in April. Supposedly you were capable of having turn-by-turn directions with the Karoo 2. Well, I got the device to upload the route ahead of the event, and I figured I was good to go. However; the device did not work as I expected and the route would not load. In fact, the head malfunctioned and I ended up turning it off. Here's a bit of what I wrote about that experience last April concerning the issues Ihad.

"I tried starting it as we rolled out of town, but it wasn't very intuitive to use (in my opinion) and so the Gents Race course I had would not start. I bailed on that and tried to just start a ride. The ride screen would come up, start compiling data briefly, then the screen would go blank. Meanwhile the thing was randomly barking out turn prompts (with the screen totally dark) and I got frustrated and just canned any notions of using it for the time being."

That experience soured me so badly on the computer that I put it on my desk and forgot about it until recently. The Hall of Fame Ride would be a good reason to use it again, right? So, I went to Strava, where N.Y. Roll had the route, and tried to upload the file for the ride to my Hammerhead. Nope! Gotta be a Strava account holder for that! Well, I don't want to open a Strava account for any reason, so I copied the route by hand over to Ride With GPS which I do have an account on and which is linked to the Hammerhead dashboard. 

No problem, right? Wrong! I had to go through all the Hammerhead prompts and it still wouldn't work. I finally figured out you have to restart the computer you are using to get the file to upload. Yeah....thanks for not telling me that, Hammerhead! Well, now, THAT should have done it, because Hammerhead claims that you do not have to do anything else. Your route, once uploaded to your dashboard, will automatically be found on your Karoo 2. Right?

WRONG. No route for you! Despite trying all the tricks, nothing would show up on my Karoo 2 head. I spent three to four hours on this and nothing to show for it. 

I remembered liking this page. It was gone in June- couldn't find it.
Well, I remembered a page on one of the ride files that I liked as a computer and it showed elevation, speed, time of day, and kept a graph of your climbing. Kinda neat, right? 

Well, that was gone in June. Was it an update that took it away? Did I somehow erase that page? I don't know, but what I did have to work with was garbage. I did not like anything about the readouts, and I had not edited anything. 

Then I had Mrs. Guitar Ted look into my problem. She was able to determine that the unit was having issues staying tethered via Bluetooth to the computer, and this perhaps was why my route was not getting uploaded to the Karoo 2 head. NOTE: This is the same computer I used back in April when the route for the Gents Race did auto-upload. After spending about 45 minutes trying different things, she gave up and suggested that perhaps the Karoo 2 has a bad chip.

I also had Hammerhead sponsored athlete Amanda Nauman chime in via Twitter asking about my problem and once described to her, she was at a loss as to why the dashboard and head unit weren't communicating with each other as well. She suggested I contact Hammerhead, and so I have sent them a query as of Monday this week. 

So, the Hammerhead Karoo 2 has been a very frustrating, very disappointing experience. Initially it was seemingly easy to set up, but turn-by-turn navigation did not work, uploading route files was problematic, or not possible at all, and the dashboard was overly complex. The entire experience was maddeningly empty and devoid of any accomplishment or sense of knowing you knew how to make it work. I'm not sure if Hammerhead's recent sale to SRAM has anything to do with this, but I am extremely disappointed in what I have now. My old Lezyne Super GPS was a thousand times easier to use, but it did not support turn-by-turn navigation without it being tethered to a phone, which, at that point, I may just as well use a phone app. 

 More soon....

Note: Hammerhead did not know I was reviewing this and I was not paid, nor bribed for this review.  

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

The Six String Side: Sully Conspiracy Series Stardust

My new Sully Conspiracy Series Stardust
 When I started this blog over ten years ago, I stated that it was a "Bicycle and guitar oriented elixir....". Well, the "guitar" part sort of got pushed out by the bicycle stuff, but I've always been playing. In an older post, I mentioned playing my '90 Strat, and someone suggested I detail the fleet, so here ya go. Hopefully ya'll enjoy the change in pace. I'll post something periodically whenever it makes sense. This is #11

Three years ago now, almost to the month, I received my first Sully Conspiracy Series guitar. That was Sully's Raven model, and I have really enjoyed this guitar since then. I have also been smitten with Sully's (Jon Sullivan is the company owner) use of sparkle finishes and with his Stardust design, which is very unique. The Raven could be seen as a reverse bodied Gibson/Jackson Guitars Firebird derivative, but the Stardust is completely Jon Sullivan's design, and I really like it. 

Jon Sullivan described the Stardust as a reverse, sort of, take on his other unique design, the '71 Trella. But I think this Stardust is even less like anything out there, yet still very tasteful and it doesn't look oddly proportioned or too weird. In fact, I'd go as far to say that this design is something you could easily have seen in the heyday of electric guitar designs of the late 1950's and 1960's. It's sort of an offset, yet it still has that single-cut feeling too. I envision this as a sort of evolution of some Japanese designs I've seen from the 60's. But maybe that's just me. 

This Stardust features a bolt on, roasted maple neck

Other than that, this is a lot like the Raven I have with a few small differences. This Stardust has a bolt-on neck instead of the glued in neck of the Raven. The neck itself, while still a three-piece maple neck, has a roasted treatment. That's exactly what it sounds like- they roast the wood to drive out moisture and stabilize/age the wood. It's supposedly "better". We'll see....

Of course, the Pop Life Sparkle paint is different. I always wanted a sparkle finish guitar, and when Jon released details on the last run of the Conspiracy Series, this finish was offered on the Stardust, so between the facts that I like the design and the finish, well, I had to get it! 

And, I think it is important to remember that I ordered this guitar last February! That was a different time for me. I was working at Andy's. We were headed into what we were hoping would be a big year. I had some cash coming in from bicycle parts sales, which is how I generally fund stuff like this guitar, and I had no reason to believe that what ended up happening in November would happen. Fortunately, by November I had the vast majority of the guitar already paid for. All I had to do was wait until now to get it! If I were in the situation which I have been in since last November until now? I wouldn't have this guitar. So, a lot of things had to come together for this to happen, and somehow they did. 

This Stardust has the same pick-ups, electronics, and other hardware that my Raven does, just in black instead of chrome/white. I was a little hesitant about the black hardware, but it is fine, really. 

Oddly enough, while the Raven has a much bigger body, this guitar feels heavier. Just by a little bit. I don't mind, because neither of my Sully's are as heavy as my Les Paul, or my Gretsch. Those are beasts and I get tired of wearing them after a bit!

While I have not plugged in yet with the Stardust, (my amps all need servicing!) it plays and feels like the Raven, which is great. The fret ends are dressed impeccably well and the fit and finish is top notch. It balances perfectly on my Couch Guitar Straps Racer X strap. I am really pleased with the guitar I received. 

Since it took well over a year to get the guitars in, Jon Sullivan offered to sign them.

So, there ya have it. I am now the owner of two Sully Conspiracy Series guitars. I'm probably good on electrics for now. (I know- I say that and then another guitar pops up in my life!) I definitely count myself blessed to have these two Sully's because by the way it sounds, the Conspiracy Series may be taking a hiatus and no one knows for how long. That series was the only reason I was able to afford to get a Sully. He has a semi-custom line which sells for well North of 2G a piece and his full-customs are well above 3G. That's outta this poor mechanic's league! Especially when I have bikes to attend to.

So, I think I am set now. The next thing is to get to gettin' on those amps I have and turn them into sound reproduction machines instead of places to put things on around the house. I have- let's see..... A Marshall mini-stack from the Silver Jubilee series, an old Peavey I bought in 1984, my Blues Junior, an AC-30, and a weird old tube Univox head I need to get up and running. So, that should keep me busy if bicycles don't! 

Thanks for reading Guitar ted Productions!

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

What Is A "Gravel Race"?

Found on Twitter Monday
 Back when I started "Gravel Grinder News" here on the blog in 2008, I started gathering events that were "gravel events". Racing, training, fun rides, and group rides. They all were on the calendar, but you couldn't just get on my calendar if your event was, let's say, sprinkled with "gravel sectors". For instance, Paris-Roubaix, the event a lot of early gravel races tried to emulate, would never have made it on my calendar because it was made up of sectors of cobbled farm roads interspersed with big chunks of regular ol' pavement. 

Sorry- not sorry! That's not going to cut the mustard with me. 

Another thing about gravel events and myself- Single track is okay to connect gravel roads, but too much is mountain biking- not gravel. So, I had stipulations about that as well. In my opinion, your course had to have 75% gravel or more, or it wasn't a gravel event. And I think that is being lenient. (Remember- we were trying to encourage gravel events/riding back then) 

Of course, I'm not a governing body, but it was my calendar, after all, so I set a standard. Trouble is, now there is no "standard" for what a gravel event constitutes, as far as a course, so it is truly a case of "wild, wild West" out there in the gravel scene. And the trouble with that is that someone is going to get seriously injured, and maybe die, because "gravel" apparently is also big chunks of highly trafficked paved roads. Or it could be a long, paved run-in to an in-town finish, which crosses busy roads. Or- It could be that there is just a lot of pavement and not a lot of gravel, and the roads are not 'closed to traffic' during an event. 

Another Tweet about the same event, showing.....pavement?

Look, I get it. Everyone wants to be the next DK200 success story. (NOTE: Unbound/Life Time bought into that success, they did not grow it.) So, they try to do things like they do in Emporia by ending the event in the town or city, despite all the pavement, and despite all the troubles that brings. 

Or it is a case of people thinking in the old road racing ways, where an event is not "legit" without a big, showy start/finish on, you guessed it, pavement.

They are emulating the old European forms of road racing structure,and let me tell ya, that ain't what we were after in the early days. 

Really, as far as 'modern' gravel events go in 2022, the biggest one with the smartest layout is Gravel Worlds. You literally run maybe two miles of pavement out of town and back in, and you do not cross any major roads. There is a HUGE run-off area after the start/finish, and people are pretty cool about not getting in the way of racers. 

There may be another event with big attendance numbers that has this, but I am not aware of it. 

But leaving start/finish areas out of things, another part of the whole gravel event deal early on was that the thinking was that you probably couldn't put on a safe, mostly gravel road event just anywhere. Roads that are dirt or gravel often don't link up at major road crossings, or where rivers and lakes interfere with the road layout, or in mountainous areas due to the geography. For instance, I would never have considered a scene as you see in the first image as anything I would seriously consider putting into a gravel road event's course. Never. And if that meant you couldn't come up with a safe course? So be it....

But the allure of "gravel" is such that people cannot resist trying to make a buck off of it. I get it.... But that's rather sad in my opinion. And, it probably will speed the demise of 'gravel' events up since it will not be an 'if someone gets hurt', but a 'when someone gets hurt' by an interaction with a motor vehicle. That's where it is going to turn the nut, when people start suing, and governments have to step in and ask for road closures and all that goes with that. 

Hopefully I'm wrong about all of this, but I'm afraid that I won't be......