Sunday, July 31, 2022

Trans Iowa Stories: After All Was Said And Done

 

Goofing around at the end of T.I.v8 on Slender Fungus member Gumby's Pugs.
"This is the final entry in the Trans Iowa Stories series which ran every Sunday from mid-2019 until now on the blog. Thanks for reading Trans Iowa Stories and look for a new series to start next week!" 

It was a Wednesday in late February of this year, 2022. I was about to drive my daughter to her job. You know, she never took after me in regard to cycling, but she also never has learned how to drive a car......yet! Anyway, it was an ordinary day. I was about to walk out to that old truck I used to use for Trans Iowa recon when the phone pinged me. The now familiar 'ping' of a text message. It was an unexpected message from an old acquaintance about something that had ended years ago.

Ending things. I sometimes would stop to consider how I was going to end this series. I have had difficulty doing that in regard to Trans Iowa. Even this series was an excuse, in may ways, for me to relive the past. Writing about Trans Iowa events flowed from one into another these past three years. I delved back into the archives and felt those old emotions again. I was reminded of things forgotten, and things that stung. I was reminded of stress and worry, and I was reminded of good times and memories. Memories I will cherish 'forever'. At least as long as I am able to conjure those memories back up again. 


 I was reminded of great people. Athletes, volunteers, friends, family. I was reminded of Life. How it changes constantly. This whole experience writing up these stories seemed like a nostalgic high that would never end. 

But it is ending. While I wasn't ready for it to end, Life has reminded me that endings are a part of the journey. This was made manifest in other 'endings'. Many more than just the ending of this event. I had important family members die during Trans Iowa's run of events, and shortly after - My grandmother, my father in law, my own mother and father. I lost some Trans Iowa related people to death. Bill Pontious, Joe Mann, Kyle Platts, and Paul Black come to mind. Trans Iowa and Trans Iowa's ending is nothing in comparison to the losses of those lives to many of us.  

A comment from Joe Partridge, a two-time finisher of Trans Iowa.

In light of those things, when it came to writing a post to end this series, I was a bit hesitant. Trans Iowa..... Yeah, it was important. I get that. Many lives were changed, relationships were formed, and Trans Iowa was a stepping stone to even greater heights for many of those who came to Iowa to participate in my silly little gravel event for bicycles. So, on the one hand, I cannot belittle what Trans Iowa was to many of you. That isn't for me to explain or define. 

And I believe there is something to all of that. It's just that I do have issues with accepting gratitude shown for what I did to provide this platform for the people that came to Trans Iowa, to be shaped by it and all. But I try to be gracious. I struggle with it. Sometimes I think at the "End of It All", maybe none of it will matter, but for you? I cannot say.

 So, as I set that task of writing up this closing piece on the back-burner, I tried to stay grounded. I tried not to let this get too emotional or puffed up. I didn't want to get down and melancholy. Things haven't been better or worse since Trans Iowa ended. I believe every day is a blessing, and even more so when I get pinged by an unexpected text, like I did that late February day I mentioned above. It was no ordinary text message....

For some people, like Al Brunner, Trans Iowa literally left its mark in more ways than one.

In fact, that text solved a problem for me. It pretty much sums up everything Trans Iowa was all about in a nutshell. Here's what it said:

 "GT, I drove to Cedar Rapids today and came across the road that crosses HWY 30 that was on TIv5. I want to thank you again for the memories. It is one of the top ten accomplishments of my life and I thank you."

Memories and experiences that changed, and still change, lives. Even after 13 years, this fellow named Paul Jacobson felt compelled to let me know how this affected him. I think there are many more folks who did Trans Iowa that probably would be nodding in agreement with Paul here. Maybe, in a manner of speaking, Trans Iowa's effects never have an ending.

From my perspective?  Here's what I thought in early 2006, after we'd only run one Trans Iowa:

"It's all about people and what relationships you build. It's about the stories, the lessons, and the inspiration you receive and give away during the process. .............I got to meet a ton of really interesting and inspiring people through this event. I cherish that. That's why I am involved in Trans Iowa.

Of course, Trans Iowa will end some day, just like it started. Nothing like that lasts forever. Maybe it'll be this year. I don't know. I just know that I'm glad I got to do it from the standpoint of dividends that I reaped from the people involved. That's what makes it worth it...... It's about the people. 

 At the end of it all, it was worth the effort. It was, and it still is, about the People. I was really - really blessed to have known and worked with the people I had the privilege to come into contact with because of Trans Iowa. I'm sure glad I didn't shrink away and say "no" to Jeff that day in 2004 when he said, "Let's do it!". I am so happy and glad today that I said "Yes." And now I can look back and say, "I did do that". 

It's all over now, but it isn't. The Journey continues. There is no more Trans Iowa for me, but it will never cease to be an influence on me as long as I live. 

Thank you for reading this series.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Karoo 2 Take 2: Part 1

Forget the past- This is a new unit = new review.
 At the end of June I fired off my original Hammerhead Karoo 2 unit back to the Mothership because I had been frustrated beyond belief with the device and was at my wits end. You can read why that happened here if you missed that. In the return box I sent along a hand written note detailing my frustrations and advising them that they 'could' send a new unit out if they wanted to, but that I would not be upset in the least if I never saw one of their products again. 

Yes. I was upset.

Anyway, a nice representative got in touch with us and spoke to my wife on one occasion, (because she actually purchased the unit as a gift for me, so they talked with her) and she explained to them that she thought the unit was defective. So, the Hammerhead rep said that a new unit would be shipped out ASAP and that he would like to walk through the new one with me when we got it. 

Well, that was uncommonly fair and a pleasant interaction, which I totally appreciate. Hammerhead didn't have to do anything. So, kudos to their customer service and willingness to make things right.

However; as I stated in the linked post above, I don't think it is fair in terms of what anyone should expect from a device from any company to be asked to do a walk-through with a representative unless you require that of every new user of your device. Hammerhead does not require this, or even suggest this as being an option, when you receive their device.  So, if it is supposed to work without technical advisers, then it should work. Period. Therefore I did not contact the representative for a "walk-through" this time. I am taking this as a 100% reset as if I never had a Karoo 2 before. That's where we're starting off things here....

There were some set-up issues.
Okay, out of the box and the first thing I noted was that the USB cord was a completely different version of the same format USB connector the old unit had. This cord was a definite upgrade. It is a cloth covered cord with what feels like a much more robust wiring. It was much longer than the previous USB connector as well. Okay then. That was nice.

Firing up the unit revealed the next difference. The welcome screen image was of a rider going down a road in a rural area. It was animated, and I know the old unit did not have this. Okay, that's different as well.

Then I had to have Mrs. Guitar Ted enter the top-secret, "no-one-else-can-know-it" WiFi password for the house here. Man! If something happens to her we're screwed when it comes to a LOT of things, and WiFi is just one of them! Talk about closely guarded secrets! 

Now, on to the set up. After entering my password like three times (Arrgh!) I get in to my dashboard and the set-up procedure. I had to download maps according to the unit. No surprise there as Karoo 2 units don't come pre-set with maps downloaded. I chose my preferred maps from the menu and continued to download them. Okay, so far, so good.

Now on to measuring preferences. Easy-peasy.  Next- Bluetooth pairing with my iPhone. Hmm..... Would not do it. Tried several ways. No-go. After 15 minutes of that I decided, "You know what? I don't HAVE to have a phone tethered to this thing." Moving on then, but noted that I could not get the iPhone and the Karoo 2 Bluetoothed together. (Note: I don't really need to have push notifications on my GPS device. In fact, I'd rather not. So, if it doesn't matter for anything else, I won't pursue this. You may find that to be a negative here though.)

Okay, on to checking routes. Obviously there was nothing there and the unit asked that I login to the Hammerhead dashboard on the unit. More wrasslin' with the login procedure (Arrgh!) Okay, now it wants me to download maps again?!! Whatever. I do this and wait. Then the routes I had saved previously show up. 

Allrighty then! We'll see how this goes....

Okay, so that all took 45 minutes and I did not get a Bluetooth connection to my iPhone. Honestly, that is the least of my worries, but I still note that as a bit of a concern for the device as a whole. 

Next up will be a ride test of the Black Hawk County route I tried to use on the last unit I had. That should happen soon, (if it hasn't by the time this posts), and I'll be back next week with some more news on how it went.

Keep in mind that the number one reason I even wanted this sort of a device is to be able to follow GPS file routes from others. Events use these almost exclusively now, and many popular rides are in this format. Unless I have a GPS enabled device that allows turn-by-turn navigation, I will be effectively shut out of several events and routes without doing some of my own cue sheet research. That may or may not be possible with many events now days.

Many people get these to instantly share data on social media, or to monitor sensor driven data from power meters, or heart rate monitors. I don't do any of these things currently, (although, at my age, monitoring heart rate might be a thing to consider). So, I'm "over-deviced", you could say. To be completely honest, this isn't a thing I necessarily would get if it weren't for GPS routing. Because of this you are going to find a lot of "I don't care" when it comes to things like Bluetoothing my iPhone and similar things when it comes to the Hammerhead Karoo 2. 

Basically, the success or failure of this device is founded on how it performs in the expected manner for me, and that's a narrow range. So, there are the expectations and we'll see how this new unit holds up.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Friday News And Views

 NAHBS Show Canceled For 2022:

In a reecent "Bicycle Retailer and Industry News" article, it was revelaed last week that the North American Handmade Bicycle show was not going to happen in 2022. The show, scheduled to occur in Denver Colorado, was cancelled by the organizer due to a claimed "lack of interest by the vendors ". 

A long Facebook thread was posted afterword, mostly bemoaning the cancellation of the show, but there were several interesting comments. Some claimed that they were interested in showing at NAHBS and had tried to get information on the show, but were left with dead ends and unanswered e-mails. The show's director, Don Walker, claimed to have been having health issues which were also making it difficult to put on a show of such magnitude.

MADE To Occur September 2023:

As if on cue, a new gathering of frame builders and attendant cycling component and accessories brands have committed to a new "show" called MADE. This hasn't been 'officially' announced as of this past Wednesday when I found a mention of the gathering on Instagram stories. 

The show site claims the following:(Note- Use of shouty all-caps is from their site)

  • MADE CELEBRATES THE ART OF BUILDING
  • MADE SERVES BUILDERS, MAKERS, MEDIA AND THE CUSTOM COMMUNITY
  • MADE LIVES AT THE INTERSECTION OF BIKE AND CULTURE
  • MADE IS DEDICATED TO SHARING STORIES OF BUILDERS AND MAKERS TO THE WORLD

Furthermore the site informs us that this is a 'multi-day trade event" and that there will be consumer and 'industry-only' days where media can gain access to brands for content creation and 'community building'. 

The gathering is set for Portland, Oregon and the site claims that this will be mostly held outdoors. UPDATED: Story on MADE appeared on the "Bicycle Retailer and Industry News" site HERE.

Comments: The timing of this comes at a point right after the NAHBS announcement. Make of that what you will. However; in the previously mentioned Facebook thread, there were mentions of a possible "alternative" to NAHBS, or that there should be one. This appears to be that alternative. It also is highly likely that the Portland custom builder scene had a hand in getting this off the ground, since the event is in Portland, Oregon. 

There were a lot of criticisms leveled at Don Walker's NAHBS organization, and well, now you have people setting up a show which I am sure they feel addresses all of those concerns.One of the big criticisms of NAHBS was that it got away from the custom builder/component cottage industry types and became a de facto Big Corporate show where the "little guy" was overshadowed by the bigger entities like SRAM, Shimano, and more. That's my take from what I read about this situation. If I have that wrong, I'm all ears..... Time will tell all. I'm keeping an eye on this. 


Sarah Cooper and myself at Trans Iowa v12
Trans Iowa Stories Series Ends:

This coming Sunday the Epilogue for the Trans Iowa Stories will post marking the end of the series I have run every Sunday since June of 2019.

The idea was sparked at the close of Trans Iowa v14 by a commenter here that suggested that I probably had a lot of good stories from 'behind the scenes' about the event over its 14 year run. 

It's been difficult in many ways to tell anything 'new' about Trans Iowa. The Trans Iowa related posts here on the blog probably number into the 100's. But the thing is, after a decade plus of posts, you cannot assume that everyone has read the blog that diligently all these years. So, while it is true that the Trans Iowa Stories series has a lot of 're-told' stories, it does have a fair amount of stuff in there I never told before the series. 

I tried to be conscious of that all throughout the writing process. I hope that some of that was noticed. And now the writing process is through. Now what

Hmm.......that's a great question. Initially the idea was to make this a book. The thing is, there is just far too much material here. You have no idea, for example, how many images I have that I collected for the series which have not been used, and deserve to be seen. The visual history of Trans Iowa could literally fill volumes. Then there is the written text....... Whoa! That would be a pretty thick book if I were to publish this series in its entirety as a book. 

So, a lot of decisions are needing to be made. The direction of the book, if there is to be one, needs to be determined first. Should it be culled down to the most amazing stories? Maybe 30? That would be a long read in itself. Or, maybe this is best told in images, so a photographic piece, which would have some captions, maybe some light commentary. As I have said, I couldn't possibly even use all the images, so again- use maybe 30-ish? 

Lots of questions, no answers yet. Stay tuned..........

And Don't Forget: The "GTDRI Stories" series kicks off on Sundays starting in August.

EVOC shows new bikepacking range: Image courtesy of ©EVOC / Baschi Bender

EVOC Shows New Bikepacking Range:

Late this year EVOC will have a new range of bikepacking bags on hand which have been improved over the outgoing range. 

Improvements include an upgrade to the BOA closures, new hidden vents which allow roll-top bags to close easier, and the range is now fully waterproof with waterproofed zippers, welded seams,and waterproofed  materials.Velcro straps have been replaced with cut-to-size hypalon Velcro straps.

The range consists of two different sizes of seat packs, a half-frame bag, top tube bags, and a  handle bar bag. They come in two colors, a "steel" and a "carbon grey". These EVOC bags should be available this Fall. Prices range from $40.00 for the smaller items in the range to $150.00USD. https://evocsports.us/

Comments: I have not used EVOC bags before, but they seem to be very popular with some of the ultra-endurance cyclists in Europe, in particular. I imagine that they are now fully waterproof that their popularity will only increase. Good looking colors that should appeal to most riders and look fine with most paint schemes. The pricing seems fair as well. 

Personally, I have not ever liked the look of a half-frame bag when it hangs down away from the frame. I don't have any technical or performance reasons for that, it's just my personal opinion. So, that makes the EVOC half-frame bag not very appealing to me. But maybe you don't care about that? Then this might be a good deal. The rest of the range looks fine to me.  

Patent drawing image from www.wheelbased.com

 SRAM Patent On New Rotor Design:

The "wheelbased.com" Instagram page which showed patent drawings submitted by different bicycle companies had been dormant for some time. However; suddenly it is back again and boy! Have the floodgates opened! If you like to ferret out tech and future developments in bicycle design, this account is worth a follow.

Well, one of the more recent postings that seems realistic for production is this new composite rotor from SRAM. It uses a "spray-on" steel coating over an aluminum core. The advantages are that brake temperatures can be reduced. Shimano has been doing something similar with their "IceTech" for several years already. 

There are some other pretty far-out electronic things happening which may or may not come about. But this brake rotor deal will likely be produced for SRAM's higher end brakes in the near future, I would think. Anyway, check out "wheelbased" on Instagram if you haven't already. It is a good account to 'nerd-out' on, if you are in to such things.

That's all for this week! Have a great weekend and we'll see ya back here soon, I hope. Thank you for reading Guitar Ted Productions! 

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Crank-Crankity-Crank-Crank: Revisted

I'd run this crank on my Gen I Fargo for what? A decade?
 Last year one of my most read posts was one I did in January titled "Crank-Crankity-Crank-Crank". In my review of the most popular posts for 2021, it ranked #7. I said about it at the time: "This is a paean to the triple crank, on one hand, and a severe criticism of 1X drive trains on the other, all tied up at the end with a whimsical prediction for the future".

 Well, being a strong believer in triple crank sets, I am always on the lookout for them. We had a road bike, mind you, come in with a total mish-mash of parts on it down at the Collective. It was obvious that it was going to have to undergo a complete transformation, because, amongst other things, you simply do not put a MTB triple crankset on a road bike. 

Whilst tearing the bike down, I noted that the crankset was an XT from around the late 90's, maybe. 110 BCD, 5 bolt, square taper kind of gives it away as something not from this century. Anyway... As I took it off I noted that it was in great shape for such an old crank set. Maybe some marring due to bouncing around in various bins over the years, but no heel marks or snubbed crank ends like you'd expect to find on a well-loved MTB crankset that is around 25 years old. 

Huh! I'd forgotten that my old crankset was a 170mm!
Then I flipped it around looking it over. "Hmm....I wonder what the length is.....HOLD ON! 180mm?!!"

Yes, a super-rare 180mm triple crank from the halcyon days of 26"er MTB. How these escaped being converted into a single speed crankset, I will never know, but I am betting these were bought on close-out and then never put to use. Well, until they ended up on this 80's era Vitus! Ha ha! What a deal!

So, I purchased them from the Collective and brought the set home. At first I did not have a plan for them, but since they were square taper compatible, that led me in a certain direction.

I knew that my Gen I Fargo was overdue for a drive train maintenance. Everything was pretty old on it. The 9 speed chain was tired, the cassette, an old one from the late 00's, needed swapping. That old chain set I was using, a rare Deore cassette style with a square taper interface, (most of this series of Shimano crank sets were Octalink), had been in service for at least a decade. This better condition, XT 180mm armed crank set was a shoe-in to replace that old Deore one. Plus, the XT has the far more commonplace 110/74BCD pattern chainrings.

The XT crank is appealing for its more common chain ring sizes.
While that XT crank very well could be an 8 speed model, a 9 speed chain will work on it just fine. Well....for me it will. Your mileage may vary. I seem to get away with mismatched stuff far better than most. That's not a brag, it's a warning. I don't want anyone coming back here and blaming me for their mismatched components failure. So, don't do this...

Anyway, the main point here is that I had 170mm cranks and now I will have 180mm cranks. Many, many theories exist concerning crank length. I'm not doing this for anyone else's benefit, but I am sharing my experiences as I go along.  Once all the parts are replaced in my drive train, I'll let you all know how it goes. If you find crank length discussions interesting, well this could be for you.

The proof.
Another interesting nugget here is that the ring sizes are 48T/36T/26T. This replaces my 42T/36T/28T set up. I checked the chain length and while it goes into "big-big", it should really have one more link than the current, worn out chain has. Making a note here....

So, I'm going to end up with a wider range than I had before, and a longer crank by 10mm, which an old school touring jockey would tell you affects the gearing range too. Yeah..... That's over my head. If I had to guess I'd say longer = more gear inches/higher speed and shorter would = lower geared/slower speed. 

All I can say now is that a longer crank set articulates my legs more, makes for a slower cadence, and a more relaxed heart rate. That's just me maybe. I just notice this with my 180mm crank set single speed bikes, which I have three of, at least, maybe four. I also have one single speed set up with 170mm cranks and I can spin faster than all get-out on that bike. (Just rode that one two days ago)

As installed on the Gen I Fargo.
So, I have to source a good 9 speed cassette and a chain, then I'll be good to go. I'm excited to give a geared set up a whirl with 180mm cranks again. I had a similar set up on a 26"er back in the 1990's when I used to race MTB. I loved that set up and I am hoping it works out on the Fargo. 

I'm even more excited that my Fargo will be good to go in terms of drive train stuff for quite a while again. I probably should redo the brakes and get new pads installed, but that can wait as the brakes are okay right now. 

Interestingly, the stock gearing on the Fargo was similar to this old XT set up. That too was an XT crank, but a HollowTech one with a 104BCD four bolt set up. I still have that crankset, by the way. 

If you are thinking I have a 180mm triple crank in silver from earlier, you would be correct. That is the one that Steve Fuller gifted me this past Spring, so that one is destined for the upcoming Gryphon build, which probably won't happen now until next year. The Gryphon frames and forks have been pushed back to December now.  

Yes, I like my 180mm crank sets, but I use all lengths. Most of my gravel bikes stuff is 172.5, I have some 175mm arm stuff, and then the 170mm and 180mm stuff. Got any questions? let me know, otherwise, stay tuned....

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

An Unpopular Opinion

From the last day I rode RAGBRAI ever. July 2005
Well, it's THAT time of the year again. And it is THAT time again after two years of really nothing going on. RAGBRAI is back full tilt, and my social media feeds are full of the goings on. 

I've escaped having to answer this question now for two whole years, and now that this certain question has come back into play again, I realize how nice it was to NOT have to answer it.

The question? "Why aren't you on RAGBRAI?" followed closely with the follow-up question, "Have you ever done RAGBRAI before?"

Well, about that...........

Yes:  I have ridden RAGBRAI before. The entire route twice in 1996 and 2002. I've ridden parts of other RAGBRAI's in 2000, 2001, and 2003-2005. I have also been a mechanic on two RAGBRAI's- 2002-2003. So, this opinion doesn't come from someone who doesn't know what they are talking about. I've been there, done that, and the answers to "The Questions" come from experience. 

Why don't I do RAGBRAI? Well, there is a very good reason for that. It isn't for me. That's why.
 

Long lines for you name it: Food, drink, toilets, everything. (Image from 2005)

Long Lines: Waiting....... You will do a lot of that at RAGBRAI. Long lines of sweaty people waiting. Waiting for food, drink, to use a Kybo (Porta-jon, or whatever you call them in your part of the world) Waiting is NOT fun. Especially under a hot Sun. You can have it. 

Pipped from the Des Moines Register's reporter, Kyle Munson's social media 2022

Traffic: Look, I love riding bicycles. I do not like traffic jams. I don't like living on the edge wondering if so-and-so ahead of me is going to suddenly swerve into my line or not. I don't like picking my way around riders who suddenly decide, You know what? This climb sucks! I'm getting off right here!. Which usually is right in front of you while you are climbing at 12mph. Brilliant! I LIVE for that! Why don't I go on RAGBRAI? (sarcasm alert)

A mechanic on location during RAGBRAI 2005.

Exorbitant Pricing & Regulations: RAGBRAI is not a bargain. In fact, it is very expensive. Try getting anything done on your bicycle, for instance. The licensed repair shops charge boosted fees, because, let's face it- they have to make hay while it is time to bale. I get it. I benefited from it, but that doesn't mean I would like being on the other end of that as a consumer. And of course, food and beverage is no different. 

True- you can score some sweet accommodation pricing during RAGBRAI, and it can be "free" if you are willing to compromise a bit on things, but otherwise, this isn't a budget friendly deal. I'm better off doing my own tour than doing a RAGBRAI. 

And while I am not affected by the authorities shutting down businesses and chasing riders up the road, that rubs me totally the wrong way. I do not like it, and I wouldn't support that activity by doing RAGBRAI.

Again, all of the above is MY OPINION. Your mileage probably varies. I am just putting this out there because I get asked a lot about RAGBRAI and my lack of participation in it. 

Let it also be known that I always tell people they should do it at least once. To me it is like going to Las Vegas. You should do that at least once as well. Then decide if it is for you or not. 

So, there you go. RAGBRAI has been tried. More than once. I don't get on with it. I've listed the reasons why that is. You? You do you. (You probably aren't reading this if you are a RAGBRAI fan anyway, since it is RAGBRAI week)

Oh, and one more thing. People used to get on me for criticizing RAGBRAI because "I benefited from it".  Well, I used to. Not anymore. So, that's not a valid criticism of my take now. And honestly, I am happy to be out of that rat-race of repairs for that ride. That had its own set of negatives. But that doesn't matter since I've left that sort of work behind.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

The Closure Tour: Experimental Phase 3

The set-up was tested on gravel on Monday.
 I've gone through a complete tear-down/unpacking of my bags and re-packing them and remounting them on the bike. That part went pretty smoothly, but I still need to get a few items and place them in the bags properly. It is a close-to-a-full-load as I can get now. 

That is important since I wanted to ascertain how this all was going to ride like. Loaded bikes are a different animal to ride. If you've ever given a ride to another person, or carried something heavy on your bicycle, you already know that it radically changes how a bicycle handles. 

Testing my set-up then was a critical step to undertake before I blast off on this mini-tour. Especially so since gravel can vary so much. And while I have toured, I've never done it on gravel roads. So, I wanted to gain some experience before the tour date. 

I added a full water bottle to mimic some food weight I don't have on there, but this was pretty close to max load. I also wore some clothing I think I will use, which is important for other reasons I'll get to later on. I was a bit disappointed that the weather was so moderate Monday. I was hoping it would be hot and humid because the advance forecast for my dates for the ride are looking to be hot and humid.

There was a good mix of deeper, fresh gravel, like this shown here, and smoother gravel.

I was pleased to find out that I could adapt yet to a very different feeling bike rather quickly. After about two miles I was settled in and riding smoothly. There were some pretty rough areas that had some fresh gravel dumped on them. That made for an interesting riding experience. I think that the 700 X 40 Ritchey Speedmax tires are a bit overwhelmed in the chunk, but not unrideable. I may swap out to a bigger tire before I leave, but on pavement and smoother gravel this tire is okay. 

It's the load that makes the tire act a bit skittish in the rougher stuff. Otherwise I wouldn't mind these tires at all. So, I may or I may not swap. It's going to have to be done soon, though, if I decide I am switching. I don't have a lot of time to waffle around with this. 

Other than that, the load stayed put, which was great to see. I stopped once to see how tight the toe straps were staying and I did not see anything untoward. So, I figure I'll be fine there. 

The ride was a short one, but I liked that I found some varied conditions. Loose, deep gravel, smoother gravel, and pavement helped me decide that I was on track here for a successful attempt at this tour. 

So, now all I really need to do to be ready, barring changing tires, are little details. I have to get some food to add to what I have. I need to decide on exactly what clothing to pack. I need that lighter, or matches. I need proper stove fuel yet. Logistically I need to get my cues written and find the sleeve I want to use to keep them safe. I need to finalize the exact time of departure, although as of now I have targeted the first two weeks of August to try to get this in, weather depending. 

The Redwing Blackbirds are fixing to leave. So, at least they won't be a bother!

It will be an interesting trip on gravel. I have not ridden many of the areas I am going to, although I have been on many roads around the loop I am taking in cars and trucks and on tractors. Climbing shouldn't be an issue, but winds might be. Anyway, it will be good. 

The Redwing Blackbirds are gathering now to leave, so that's a bonus. I won't have to do battle with them for a while now. I noticed many corn fields have not only tasseled out, but have grown ears and silked out as well! That was surprising. It will be good to see how things look North of here. 

Stay tuned....

Monday, July 25, 2022

Monday Randomonium

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

Additionally, Sunday was my son's 19th birthday, so I stuck around the house to hang out and mark that momentous occasion. Therefore I was not out and about on the bike. 

Current status of the "rack" at the Cedar Valley Bicycle Collective.
Shop Update;

Not long ago I posted on the trip we made to Des Moines to pick up approximately 60 bicycles from the Des Moines Street Collective. (Thanks again, Bobby!)

Well, that has helped us to fill out the rack, plus some, down at the Collective now. That's been a good thing,as we continue to sell bikes, and we were getting pretty low on viable candidates for refurbishing. 

Now that the inventory issues have been addressed I will be shifting my focus to the community service aspects of the Collective and getting our Build-a-Bike and Earn-a-Bike programs back online. It's been a slower than I'd have liked process, but it is going to happen. 

Again, this gig is soooo different than retail, service oriented bicycle shop jobs. I have to educate some folks on that from time to time, as I get asked to do service work, which is not what we do. It kind of confuses some folks and the way the place had been run by the previous Head Mechanic sometimes manifests itself in folks who are now having to re calibrate how the Collective operates. Challenges are part of the new gig, but I have found this job to be immensely satisfying so far.

A New Group Raises New Issues:

 So, I alluded to this earlier, but here's the deal: Shimano gifted me a new GRX group to celebrate my induction into the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame. There- now that's been said. I really don't like keeping things I have out of the limelight if it affects my cycling oriented writing here, and this new parts group definitely has me in a bit of a conundrum when it comes to "What To Do". 

You see, this is the new silver edition stuff, and well....I just cannot stick this on any ol' bike. Not to mention, it won't work on a couple of bikes I have. Here are the details of what I have here:

  • Noble Bikes GX5: This is a 1X only bike, and the group is 2X. So, that option is a no-go.
  • Raleigh Tamland Two: The group would be fine except for that the bike has IS standard mounts for disc brake calipers, and the group is flat mount. Adapters, you say? Well, the rear rotor max size on the Tamland is 140mm. Cool! The GRX rear rotor I was gifted is 140mm! Boo! There are no IS to Flat mount 140mm adapters- at least that I can find. 
  • The Twin Six is a single speed, yellow, and did I mention it is a single speed? No-go.
  • The Black Mountain Cycles MCD is pink. Hmm..... Black looks waaaay better on this bike, and I don't really want to mess with this set up as I really have it dialed in. But I could go silver here, it's just that I'd rather not. Black looks better. Oh! I already said that, didn't I.....ha ha!

I really would have liked this on the dark navy blue of the Noble GX5,  and I could, I suppose, if I ditched the 2X, front derailleur, and set up the crank as a 1X. ..... Anyway, so, I started looking at new frame sets. gah! Prices are pretty steep now. I found this, which would be spectacular in the Diffusion Black, but 2+K..... Yeah....

This option seems more doable. (Note- Link was bad before. Fixed now) I could buy three of those for the price of the other. Both choices are in a geometry I find right up my alley. Anyway, there is my conundrum. (sigh) Definitely First World Problems. I'm not sweating this, just so you know.... 

Rewind To The Riddler:

This whole reviewing gig has me on one sort of tire, then another, on a pretty consistent basis. I never have a tire on long enough to actually wear it out. So, sometimes I think about tires I once kind of liked, or cannot even remember how they rode, and wonder how they might work. 

I've gone back to checking out the Resolute from WTB several times, so that's been one tire I fall back to, but what about some others? One I recently dug out again from the 'tire pile' and remounted is the WTB Riddler 700 X 45mm tires. 

These are tires I have tried out a few times. I used them for a GTDRI once, and they were the tires I first used on my Black Mountain Cycles MCD bike. But the first bike was a test bike and went back and the MCD ended up becoming a test mule and there has been several sets of tires tested on that bike since. 

The bike I don't tend to swap wheels out all the time on, (and tires with that), is the Raleigh Tamland. So, I mounted the Riddler 45's to that bike. I noticed how much those tires have that nice, flattened crown to them. They tend to have been very comfortable tires on gravel for me in the past. The knock on them, at least in my view, is that they feel draggy on harder, paved surfaces. But I may have a foggy memory on them. That's a big reason why I wanted to try them out here again.

Stay tuned, I'll be back on with my thoughts on the Riddler soon.....

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Trans Iowa Stories: Acknowledements & Credits

Images from T.I.v9 by Jason Boucher
 Acknowledgements: In this post I want to acknowledge and thank those individuals and companies that were integral to the 14 year run of Trans Iowa events. I will split these up into categories.

Influencers: Jeff Kerkove, Mike Curiak, Richard, "Deke" Gosen, Jason Boucher, Joel Dyke, Jim Cummings, and David Pals.

Hosts: Pizza Ranch, Hawarden, Iowa,  West Sioux Public High School, Hawarden, T 'Bocks, Decorah, Iowa, City of Algona, Williamsburg Community Center, Williamsburg, Iowa, The Malt Shoppe, North English, Grinnell Steakhouse, the owners of "The Barn" (Rob Versteegh), Grinnell, Iowa, Lonski's, Grinnell, Iowa, City of Hawarden, City of Algona, City of Decorah, City of Williamsburg, City of Grinnell, City of West Union, City of Wadena, City of Earlville, City of Edgewood, City of Washington, City of LeGrand, City of Monroe, City of What Cheer, Village of Ira, City of Lynville, Village of Guernsey, Village of Hartwick, City of Baxter, City of Pella, City of North English, Village of Attica, City of Montezuma, Village of Webster, City of Deep River, City of Traer, and the City of Brandon, Iowa. Bikes To You/Craig Cooper. Special mention for the family that hosted Jeff and I for the first two Trans Iowa events in their home in Hawarden. Unfortunately their names are lost on me now. 

The movie poster for "300 Miles of Gravel" by Jeff Frings. The short documentray won a regional Emmy award.

Media Credits & Thanks: "Silent Sports" who ran the first article about Trans Iowa in a monthly magazine. "The Waterloo Courier", who ran a story about Trans Iowa before it ever happened. "The Quad Cities Times", who also ran a story on three athletes who were coming to ride in T.I.V1. The story published before the event as well. Thanks to all the athletes who blogged about Trans Iowa experiences back in the early years of the event. 

A quote from author Zach Dundas pulled from an e-mail to GT concerning Zach's book, the "Renegade Sportsman"

Thank you to Zach Dundas, author of "The Renegade Sportsmen" for coming to Trans Iowa v3, shadowing myself and the event, and writing what might be the best narrative of the early days of Trans Iowa ever put to digital and analog media. Thank you to David Story for the first professional image spread on the event that painted a picture for those fortunate enough to see that gallery back in the day of an event unlike anything else out there. Thanks to Jeff Frings, who through his insistence, unwavering passion, and long enduring efforts brought the essence of Trans Iowa to the movies in his awesome documentary, "300 Miles of Gravel". Thanks to Dave Mabel for his reporting on Trans Iowa for his own publication, "Iowa Momentum Magazine". Thanks to the now defunct "Bicycle Times" who ran a story on Trans Iowa in their issue #10. Thanks to Josh Patterson, then editor of "Dirt Rag", who having participated in the early gravel scene, understood its importance to cycling and allowed myself to write a couple pieces on that and featured a story on Trans Iowa.

Special Thanks to Wally and George. Wally Kilburg, and his close friend, George Keslin, were the image takers par-excellence of Trans Iowa for many years. They also figured heavily as partners in route verification and as a sounding board for ideas. 

An image sent to me by Jeff Frings showing the Emmy he received for the documentary, "300 Miles of Gravel"

 A Special Thanks to Steve Fuller, who not only was a volunteer off and on dating back to Trans Iowa v4, but finished the event as a rider, and was the main photographer for T.I.v7, and T.I.v8 which has produced a number of iconic images used in publications since then. 

A Special Thanks to Jason Boucher, who took some crazy-good images of Trans Iowa, but who also championed the event, featured it in his work on a personal and professional level, and who also furthered the reach of Trans Iowa's influence by doing those things and more during his stint at the helm of Salsa Cycles.

Thanks to Jon Duke, a very talented image taker and a Trans Iowa volunteer who filled in at a critical time for the event and took some really iconic images which will not soon be forgotten. 

A Special Thanks to Celeste Mathias, who took some really great images of the last several Trans Iowa events.  Also, a shout out to her husband, John, who along with Celeste volunteered at Trans Iowa after finishing and participating in the event as a rider. 

A Special Thanks to Jeremy Kershaw, who as a rider in the event did an amazing job documenting it as he went along. His story on Trans Iowa from his blog was picked up by the now defunct "Bicycle Times". Jeremy is now the director of Heck of The North and its related events.

Thank you to the now defunct "Dirt Rag" magazine who allowed me to write a couple of pieces up on Trans Iowa, one even was featured in an issue (#157). Thanks also to "Bicycle Retailer and Industry News" for a feature story the publication ran on Trans Iowa. 

One of Trans Iowa's most iconic images. Greg Gleason leaving Guernsey, Iowa during T.I.v11 by Jason Boucher.
One of the few images I have from David Story's images from T.I.v3. This one featuring "Team Polska".

Thanks also to "The Des Moines Register", "CX Magazine", "Grit.cx", "XXC Magazine", and other publications that ran stories about Trans Iowa in the past. 

Acknowledgements & Thank You: I cannot leave this post until I have mentioned a few key figures in Trans Iowa's history, who without their influences, help, and support, the event would not have happened or lasted as long as it did. My first person on the list is my wife, Phyllis Stevenson, who stood by my side and supported me, despite her misgivings about the event and its effects on myself and my family. Secondly, Jeff Kerkove, without whom this never would have ever gotten off the ground. I did not see myself as an event director, but he obviously saw something in me that I did not. 

Next, I have to thank Mike Curiak and Richard, "Deke" Gosen, without whom the event would not have been molded into what it finally became. Their direct hand in shaping what became Trans Iowa indirectly influenced the gravel scene going forward in a very core way. 

I then would move on to Jason Boucher, without whom I would have been lost, and Trans Iowa would have been done after T.I.v3. His motivation was critical to the successes I enjoyed regarding Trans Iowa, the bicycle industry, and media afterward. Thank you!!

Next, David Pals is a person that has a great deal to do with gravel cycling, and Trans Iowa in particular. David was not what you would call "The Face of an Event", or a strong, forward personality, but his actions, ideas, and influence loom large not only on Trans Iowa, but on the DK200 and gravel cycling in the early "modern times" of its existence. Thank you!

Jeremy Fry, (L) helping riders at the "Secret Checkpoint" during T.I.v8

Of course, I have to mention Jeremy Fry, without whom I would have had a far more difficult time in producing Trans Iowa, and without whom I would have had a poorer experience. His help in reconning courses, and cue sheet production in particular, helped forge Trans Iowa as the leader in written cue sheet navigation. I'd put our cues up against anything ever done in the gravel scene. For the length of our courses, it was nothing short of miraculous to have the level of perfection and detail that we put into those cues. Thank you! 

Matt Gersib, or "MG" : This is a person I consider my brother. He and I have seen the lowest of lows and the highest of highs through the mutual sharing of Trans Iowa experiences. I owe Matt a great debt of gratitude and thanks which I could never repay him. Love ya Brother! His driving me around the course, as invaluable as that was, pales in comparison to what our relationship forged out of this event means to me now.

Volunteers: Wow..... This is too long a list for this post, but I will just say that the Trans Iowa experience was molded and put into action for those that rode in it by the volunteers. From Dave and Linda Kerkove to Mike Johnson and Tony McGrane and everyone in between, the fourteen years of Trans Iowa was made possible by your selfless dedication and service to this event and those who participated in it. 

Joe Meiser (#29) at T.I.v5

Sponsors: Trans Iowa had some amazing sponsors over the years. Surly Bikes was an early one, along with Stranahan's Whiskey, perhaps the first whiskey company to have sponsored a gravel event! But I have to single out three very important sponsorships that not only affected the event in a impactful way, but the cycling industry as a whole. 

The first in a chronological viewpoint, was Salsa Cycles. We didn't get a 'direct' sponsorship from the company, but in a way, Salsa Cycles influenced riders who attended and they used Trans Iowa as a testing platform for their bicycle ideas, most notably from T.I.v5 - T.I.v9. In the sense that they sponsored Trans Iowa, what that entails is really who Salsa Cycle's employees influenced to come to Trans Iowa. Trans Iowa winners Joe Meiser (T.I.v5) and John Gorilla (T.I.v4) were direct results of Salsa Cycles' influence on the event. From a cycling industry perspective, they influenced other riders by using Trans Iowa to refine what a 'gravel bike' would eventually become. So, in 2012 we saw the first gravel production bike, which was the Warbird, which was a direct result of Trans Iowa events which Salsa Cycles participated in, which became a major marketing story that Salsa used to help, amongst other things, influence Trans Iowa participation even more. 

Josh Lederman, after finishing T.I.v12, helped sponsor Trans Iowa for years.

The second sponsorship I want to cover here is not really a company you'd associate with cycling. Lederman Bail Bonds, and in particular, Josh Lederman, sponsored Trans Iowa by giving significant financial aid to myself for the production of the event. This happened over the course of the last half of the Trans Iowa events and was integral to the workings and therefore, the overall influence of Trans Iowa on riders and the gravel cycling scene. Without this important sponsor, I may well have had to stop Trans Iowa earlier than I did. 

Will Ritchie, then of WTB. (Image by Celeste Mathias)

Finally, there was Wilderness Trail Bikes, or WTB as most know the company by. Their dedication to developing a gravel tire moved them to sponsor Trans Iowa in a way that, at least to my knowledge, has never been done for an event like Trans Iowa. They air shipped prototype tires for the winners of T.I.v12 to the event, they sent their employee, Will Ritchie, himself a major influencer on the participation by WTB in Trans Iowa, to ride in the event. They drop shipped tires for finishers of Trans Iowa which even dealers and local bike shops could not get at the time. I cannot over-state how much WTB did for the event, or overstate their commitment to Trans Iowa to make it more special for the participants. They spent more money and more resources on this event than I can ever imagine. And of course, Will Ritchie's love of Trans Iowa has to be noted as well, which made this even more of a special sponsorship for me, at least. 

Matt Gersib's Subaru after Trans Iowa v13 Image by A. Andonopoulous.

Finally.... To the 530 individual riders who came to Iowa to test themselves against Trans Iowa's challenge, I thank you. There is no event without participants and you humans were the best! I count it a privilege and a distinct honor to have met all of you and to have shared Trans Iowa with you over the years. Whether that was just one time, or for a decade, I owe all of you a huge debt of gratitude which I could never repay. You enriched my life beyond measure, and your participation in Trans Iowa helped transform my life, your lives, and influenced thousands of other lives all across the world. It is no small thing, and we all did that together. Thank you!

I want to extend my deepest condolences and sincerest sorrow at the loss of some of my Trans Iowa participants over the years. Bill Pontious, Paul Black, Kyle Platts, Joe Mann, and anyone else I may have missed due to lack of knowing about their passing.

Next: The last post in this series......

Saturday, July 23, 2022

The Closure Tour: Experimental Phase 2

With my bicycle set up mostly figured out I moved my focus to the important overnight accommodations and just how that would work. Logistically, I needed to identify a place where I could overnight. My initial thought was to do a 'bandit camp' in the woods adjacent to a cemetery along the route, but then I decided to check out camping opportunities in the area where I was riding through.

I found a good alternative in Charles City called "R Campground". I'm riding through Charles City, so I only had to tweak the route a small amount to make this work. 

It's a bit longer of a stretch to get there on my loop at about 84 miles in, but I think it shouldn't be a big concern if I get shoved off before Sunrise on the first day. Plus, that leaves a shorter distance on Day 2 for me to finish off the trip, and Charles City is a good point to resupply at, or source a meal from, so I think that's set in stone as my overnight spot. 

 Next on the agenda: How the heck do I set up my tent? This may seem like a silly question, but keep in mind, I haven't used this tent in many years. I'd forgotten what it even looked like. So, off to the back yard to do a dry run of set up and tear down.

Oh yeah....it's coming back to me now....

The Sierra Designs tent I have is a two-man, backpacking affair with a built in rain fly and shock-corded poles. It's free-standing, but I can stake down the fly and corners to keep it from becoming a man-made tumbleweed. 

Once I had it out of its cocoon that it had been in for years, I began to remember what it was about. I was timing myself on set up as well, so when I was able to have it completely ready to move into within fifteen minutes, I was pretty happy. 

And there it is! Ready to be slept in.

Once I had it set up I was also pleased to find that the interior was not musty or stinky at all. I let it air out for about an hour anyway. Then I decided to see how long it might take to pack it up. Ten minutes! I think it will all go smoother next time I try this out. 

So, that was a major hurdle which I cleared with no issues. Plus I have identified a good place to stop overnight on my route. Next up I need to refine what I am taking along with me. Staying in Charles City will modify my plans somewhat, as food and drink will be readily available to me there. That will put less of a burden on me as far as packing up stuff. I'll really only need to worry about snacks and food for the trip up,as I won't be going through any towns with a convenience store and there is only a gas station at Mile 62 which might have some refreshments. 

Water shouldn't be a problem there, so I can find a source to refill bottles at that point and make the final 20+ mile run into Charles City where I'll plan on chowing down. I only will then have to concern myself with water and nutrition to go about another 50+ to get home. 

Stay tuned......