Friday, September 30, 2022

Friday News And Views

 The Ships Are Coming In:

I have mentioned before in this space that when the inventory hit the warehouses that we'd go from zero to overstocked in a big hurry. Well, it has started already. 

I have seen several sales promotions recently within the last two weeks, and I bet there will be many more on the heels of this starting now. (Ditto for other segments in the economy)

The image here is all taken from promotions I have seen online. 15% - 30% off is not uncommon to see, and I suspect that deals will be available throughout the Winter as bicycle season wanes in this hemisphere. The big question is, "Will there be any takers?" Inflation is eating up discretionary income at an alarming pace. Given that utilities and necessities to make it through Winter will likely be somewhat of a burden on many, I would be surprised if sales were anything but tepid. 

But I could be proven wrong there. Time will tell all.......

Apologies for making you read upside down!

New WTB Vulpine 700 X 40mm Tires;

 I guess no one noticed that the tire I used to demonstrate the tubeless mounting techniques I posted earlier this week was a new WTB Vulpine 700 X 40mm tire*. Well, I guess I slipped that one by y'all right out in the open! 

Anyway, yeah..... New tire day again and I always am excited to see how tires will turn out once they are mounted. The anticipation of the process, the outcome once I am done, and then that first ride. Good stuff! 

But I have to say that I was a bit deflated, (sorry for that pun!), by the tire as it was evident to me at the onset that the casing didn't look like a 40mm casing. It's funny when your mind and eyes can hone in on details after you've done something so many times. I just knew this tire would be a bit narrow, and once I had it on, (at 40psi, by the way), I was saddened to find that my suspicions were correct. This wasn't a 40mm tire. 

Now with a few days under the tires and a couple of short rides, one tire measures just shy of 40mm and the other just shy of 39mm. Ehhhh!  Yeah, close, but not quite. Quibbling over a millimeter? Yes. And what is more, the promise was 40mm. And maybe these will get there. We'll see. 

At least they are fast, supple, and smooth. I liked the 36mm Vulpines, and these should be a bit better. Still, I'd love a wider one of these. (*Standard Disclaimer)   

The new Litespeed Ultimate G2 frame Image courtesy of Litespeed

Excuse Me- GT Bikes Would Like To Have  A Word With You:

Litespeed made a splash this week with the introduction of a titanium ('natch!) frame which they dubbed the "Ultimate G2". A new platform which they claim is "..a bike that accelerated and climbed with the targeted stiffness found in premium carbon gravel bikes.."

Whoa! Big claim there. So what did they do? Well, Litespeed says that; "It starts with the new visual signature of the Ultimate G2: Interlock Dropped Seatstays." What's that mean? Well, just think of GT Bikes' "Triple Triangle" design and you'll be there. That's really all this is. Also- I am not claiming GT developed the design first. I realize that others did a similar thing as well previous to GT Bikes. That said, it was GT that made hay with this and put the design on the map.

Look familiar? Image courtesy of Litespeed

Comments: So, how does a triple triangle thing make a bike stiffer? It effectively shortens the top tube and seat tube, thereby making those lengths of tubing less flexible than they would have been. 

This should make the rider 'feel' faster because the tubing will be less effective at absorbing vibrations than it would have been without the triple triangle deal, and let's face it- what a rider feels has a lot more to do with 'speed' than the stopwatch does. (Cue high tire pressure believers here)

Not only does this new Litespeed bike have the ol' Triple Triangle' signature here, but they have some pretty backward geometry going on as well. Larger sizes have less than 70mm of bottom bracket drop, a 72° head tube angle, and 50mm of fork offset. Wow! Talk about a 2015 gravel bike design, this is it in spades. 

But it will sell and some folks will think it is the bee's knees. Ride on then.....

British Gravel Ride Book:

I know that this has been out a while now, but I just came across it on social media of late and thought I'd get a few opinions from my U.K. readers on what they thought about this. 

So, what does the "greatest gravel rides in the U.K." even mean? How do you contextualize this thought?  Well, for me it starts out by knowing that the U.K. is 1.7 times larger than Iowa. Okay, we have about 70,000 miles of gravel and dirt roads here. According to what I can find on Google, the UK has approximately 33.528+ miles of unpaved roads. I'm not sure that is close, but that's still a LOT of unpaved road ways. To distill that down to "great gravel rides" in one book? I don't think that's an easy task. But you folks in the U.K. know better than I.

I think it would be fun to go find out though! I'll have to see to it before I get to aged to pedal! 

That's a wrap for this week! October starts this weekend! Wow! better get out and ride before Winter comes!

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Guitar Ted's How To: The Rim Taping Reference Post

Okay! You asked for it, now you got it! (Well, a couple of you asked for this) This stems from the comments from my last "How To" post. Anyway, this post will be a reference post more than anything since I have written a bunch already on tubeless tire taping procedures and how I do this.

As with anything, quality materials are everything when it comes to successful outcomes. So, make sure you use a tubeless rim and really high quality rim tape with great valves. Never assume that you can get away with using a not-for-tubeless rim, a duct tape variant, or old, used up valves. 

Want to save money? That's cool. We all do. Read THIS POST for great tips on how to get high-quality rim tape or sealant for your set up. Make sure you read the comments at the bottom for more great tips. 

Side Note: If you are re-using a tire with a lot of old sealant in it, READ THIS POST for tips on how to remove old sealant. 

For more on the preparation of you tire, rim tape installation, and valve core tips, read THIS POST. This is an over-all look at tubeless tire set-up, but the rim taping thing is in there.

More Tips:

Actually putting tape on a rim is an arduous task. My number one tip is to get prepped properly (cleaned rim, great tape, right tools) and use plenty of patience. Taping two rims is not a race. The ordinary rider should expect this to take up to and over a half an hour of your time. I know mechanics that will scoff at that, but they do things trying to be fast and efficient. People that are not mechanics don't have that constraint or need. Take your time taping and get it right.

Tools: I'll say it- a truing stand is your best friend here. You can tape a rim "free style", out of a bike, and you can tape a rim in a bike with it upside down on the floor. But a truing stand, properly affixed to a bench, makes taping a rim waaaaay easier. Obviously a truing stand is good for more than this, so seriously consider that as an upgrade to your shop. 

Technique: The next big thing to add here is technique, and what I do is almost impossible without a truing stand, that's why I recommend a truing stand for your personal shop. I pull the tape gently with my right hand and hold the starting end down with my left thumb in the inner rim well. I pull maybe three inches, carefully align it, and pull it down toward the rim well. At the same time I start sliding my left thumb downward, but this is tricky as you have to not let the wheel rotate. 

Once I lay the tape down on the rim then I use my left thumb or I'll use my right forefinger to press the tape down starting at the furthest point from the roll and working toward the roll. I only push it down in the center of the tape. I don't bother worrying about the edges until later. 

I always put two laps of tape down on a rim. This is to help the tape withstand air pressure at the spoke holes. You could also use something like these Velocity Rim Plugs which would do the same thing. Another product that aims to alleviate the same problem is the WTB Solid Strip. By using these you might get away with one run of rim strip. However; I'd still use two runs of tape, because saving whatever weight using one run would give you, it is not worth it. 

Rim tape should be wide enough that it covers up to where the bead of the tire will sit at a minimum and up to the rim's inner edge if at all possible. Never try overlapping tape to make it "wide enough". Get the right width rim tape instead. 

Other than that, I always start taping at the point 180° from the valve stem. I've seen tape jobs that start near the valve stem, but in my opinion this invites a possible failure. Tape ends are prone to lifting and letting sealant seep between layers of tape or the tape and the rim well. If this occurs near a valve stem, a perfect place for pressure to escape, then you have a big problem. So, why not avoid that possibility and start your tape end at a point the furthest away from that big hole in the rim for the valve? 

That's it. Did I miss anything you wanted to know? (Don't forget to check the links!) Hit me up in the comments.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

650B For Gravel: Dead, Dying, Or Dormant?

Back in 2016 WTB shocked the gravel world with the "Road Plus" idea. It was a 650B sized tire, but not in the traditional 42mm size. This tire was a 47mm width and brought with it more volume than the skinnier 650B tires did for road bikes. 

The first tire they debuted, the Horizon, was a slick tire, but it did okay on gravel. Then the Byway came along, and the Venture, and the Sendero. Meanwhile, other brands jumped onboard. Panaracer, Terrene, IRC, and others all started offering 650B X 47-50mm tires. 

The gravel bicycle manufacturers responded with advertising for swappable wheel sizes. Salsa Cycles Journeyman was sold with either wheel size, as an example. Other brands advertised their versatility in that they could support 650B wheels.

Wheel manufacturers came onboard, of course, and many company's press releases contained new information on wheels including that smaller diameter wheel, the 650B size. But in the last few years, the heat for 650B has seemed to cool off some. I've noted less tire news. I've noted fewer 650B alternative choices in wheel news. I've noted less talk about 650B in new bicycle introductions as well. 

My old T-6 Standard Rando with 650B Terrene tires.
Now, we have to take things in some context here. The past two-plus years we've seen economic weirdness. Supply chain issues still persist, and those issues certainly have affected the more niche categories of cycling than others. So, we can probably point to the pandemic as a reason we are not seeing more 650B news. 

That said, I still find it odd that the marketing talk has cooled way off for 650B. I'm not sure we can read a lot into that just yet, and more time will be needed to really get a handle on what is up with this wheel size. 

However; if I had to make a comment on where I thought 650B was in terms of relevancy to gravel/backroad riding right now, I would say that 650B is definitely waning in popularity. At least on the high-end, and on the OEM side. There are riders committed to the size, I am sure of that, and I don't think that this tire size will go away for gravel, but I also do not think it will be as prominent or an option many times going into the future. 

I do think 650B has a place in cycling. Rando riders like that size. Smaller statured folk need that size. So, I think the 650B wheel has its place, but I also believe that most adult humans should ride the biggest wheel available for their size, and for most of us that is 700c right now. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Guitar Ted's How-To: Mounting Tubeless Tires

 I'm going to start sharing some tips from time to time in a series I'll call "Guitar Ted's How-To". This time I am going to share with you how I mount tubeless tires. 

Now, this isn't the only way to do things. It is the way I do things. So, I'm not implicating anyone else's techniques as being "less than good", bad, or great. Nope! This is how I do it. If you can draw anything good from this, then great.

I will say that I've been a bicycle mechanic off and on for the better part of 30 years and a car mechanic for five and a half years. So, in my opinion I will tell you that this way works well. It's not the only way to mount tubeless tires, but I think it is the easiest way. 

Before You Start: I've done hundreds of tubeless tire set-ups over the last 10+ years. I've made a ton of mistakes. So, when I say "do this before you start.", it probably is me telling you, "Hey! I've tried skipping this step. Don't do it!". But - ya know- I can't make you do anything here. Just don't complain to me when things go pear-shaped on you. 

Use a quality sealant and make sure it is fresh.
Use New Tubeless Compatible Components Wherever Possible: Obviously not everyone can use new stuff, but I will tell you NOT to use non-tubeless stuff. We used to have to do this. Now there is no reason at all to use non-tubeless tires, rim strips, sealant, or rims. It's BEST not to re-use valve stems, old tape jobs, old tires, and old sealant. At a minimum, you should use NEW sealant, NEW valves, and re-tape your rims. Not doing that means a BIG chance for a failure resides in your wheel like a ticking time bomb. 

If you try to re-use old stuff, and there is a failure, you can almost bet it is because your tape failed, a stem leaks due to corrosion, or the sealant was too old. Rarely is it anything else. Well......unless you did something wrong or you punctured beyond the sealant's abilities to repair the leak. 

  • Tools & Supplies: With that out of the way, you need to use the following items:
  • Work gloves- preferably those annoying, tight fitting rubber ones. 
  • Safety glasses 
  • Isopropyl Alcohol
  • Rags or Shop Towels
  • Plastic injector tool or a small scoop.
  • Valve Core removal tool
  • A really good floor pump (One of those tubeless compatible ones is even better)
  • Sealant
  • Tires
  • Tubeless Rim Tape (If you haven't done it already. Taping is a separate task from this post, so I won't get into it here. Skip if this is a new wheel with a new tape job..)
  • New valves, or at least new valve cores.

Not necessary, but it would make life easier: A small air compressor, a bicycle repair stand, and a truing stand. 

Procedure: I will assume that you've thoroughly cleaned the rim's inner well and that it is free from dirt, adhesive, old tape, and that you cleaned that inner rim well with isopropyl alcohol. I assume then that you installed a quality tubeless compatible rim tape that is appropriately sized for your rims. I also am assuming you are using new valve stems, or at least good valve stems with NEW CORES. 

Now that is a LOT of assuming, and you know what that makes me then right? Okay, carrying on then....

Make sure that your tires do not have big patches of dried up sealant sticking in one end of the tire, and clean off the bead seat, making sure there is no layer of dried sealant sticking to the bead area at all. The rest of the inner tire carcass? I don't care what you do there, just don't leave anything on the bead area or anything in there that could cause a wheel imbalance at high speeds. Best to use NEW tires, but again- not everyone can afford that.

Tire Orientation: This is EASY to miss and get wrong, so pay attention closely to how your tire is supposed to be mounted.  Most tires are "directional", meaning that they are intended to be rotated in one direction for best results. This will be indicated in tiny, hard to read lettering which is molded into the tire sidewall. Sometimes all you get is an arrow. Sometimes words AND an arrow. Just pay attention to this,or you may be sorry later.

For further instructions, read on and refer to the following images.... 

Here is where you start, and if you do it this way, you should not need to use a tool to mount your tires. Place the new tubeless compatible tire so that your wheel rests inside the casing. It should look like this image to the left all the way around. 

Now you can double check your correct rotating direction. Then align the branding patch, or "hot patch" as I was told to do this many years ago, so that it aligns with your valve stem. is a meaningless "Pro" thing to do, only it isn't meaningless and there is a very practical reason for doing this. I don't have the time to get into all of that here. You can accept that or not, but there is a reason for this to be done.

Okay, now you can start moving one side of the tire up and over the rim and into the rim well. I like to start at the valve stem to make sure the tire sits in between the butt end of valve stem and the inner rim wall. Then, look at that grip I use to the left there. This is THE grip you want to use with BOTH hands. (I had to use one to take the image, so....)

Use your thumbs to push the tire up and over, starting with your hands together at the valve stem and working outwards and downwards to the "six o'clock" position as the wheel sits. Use your grip with your other fingers and your palm as a foundation for your thumbs to work from. 

The tire bead can sit in the inner part of the inner rim well which will make this side of the tire easier to get on the rim. Now you are ready to work on the opposite side.

Using The Grip, shown in the previous step, you can again start at the valve stem, making sure the tire bead is exactly in between the valve stem in there and the rim edge. If the tire bead sits up on the valve stem, or if you get two beads on one side of a valve stem, (don't ask.) you may not notice this and setting up the tire will become impossible. So, pay attention here! 

Work the bead of that tire up and over the rim edge using 'The Grip' . You may actually now want to fold the tire over the rim, (see top image in this section), which will allow you maximum grip on the tire, and maximum leverage over that bead. You still want to use your thumbs to push up and over, but by rotating that tire carcass over the rim, you will gain an advantage. 

The next image shows how I stand and use my leg to brace off of as I use my two hands to push the tire over the rim edge. (Again, only showing one hand here as I had to take the image with the other) Now, it is important to note that I do not mount the entire tire. I leave a little bit out over the rim edge and then I inject sealant. You can go ahead and put the tire all the way on here. Sealant can be introduced through the valve with the core removed, but I've found that method to be less than satisfactory for a few reasons. So, I don't do that. 

I use this cheap but effective injection tool.

The red arrows indicate the space I leave to inject sealant into the tire.

Sealant installed and now I am ready to seat the remaining portion of the tire.

A couple of notes on the images above. First, I have gravitated to these smaller, more nimble, but very effective plastic injectors meant for veterinary usage. They have a nipple perfectly sized to fit into a valve with the core removed, fit inside wheel's space between the hub and rim well at full extension, and have excellent sealing properties as far as the plunger goes. This makes these great at sucking up sealant when I want to recover it from a tire I am removing.

The plastic tub is where I keep recovered sealant. While I recommend that you use new sealant, I switch out at least a couple of pairs of tires every month, sometimes more than that. So, it makes sense for me to keep the "old" sealant and reuse it. You? I'm guessing you don't change tubeless tires very often. 

By the way, I use about 100ml of sealant in a gravel tire. Use whatever sealant you believe in. Most are pretty darn good. I use WTB's stuff nowadays. 

Yes, I used an image twice. Deal with it!

That final bit of tire can now be pushed up and over the rim edge and you'll probably have to fold that tire over hard to get it to go. Your thumbs may hate you, but you will be successful without using a tool, and not using a tool is better because it means that you pretty much cannot damage the rim tape, tire, or rim. 

Now you can air up the tire. You may be really lucky and just be able to use a floor pump. You may need to remove the valve core and use a floor pump.These two scenarios are what I see from my experience 90% of the time now. The other ten percent I need a blast from an air compressor, but that is getting more and more rare now days. 

Once you get ALL the tire bead up and into its position on the rim, you are set to go for a short ride to help seal the tire to the rim. It takes about 15 minutes, and then you are good to go. Clean up the tire and rim with isopropyl alcohol and a rag when you are done.

Final notes: Loud snapping and popping when the tire is being aired up is normal. You may think it is a violent, scary sound, (and it is), but it is okay. This is just the bead of the tire finally snapping up into the shelf on the rim's inner wall where it belongs. You can check for this after you think you are finished by spinning the wheel and watching the line where the tire and rim edge meet. There should be a fine, molded in line on the tire sidewall visible at an equidistant point from the rim edge all the way around on both sides. If the tire is not correctly seated, this will appear - or rather disappear- as the wheel spins, as a low spot in the tire. You just need a bit more air pressure to POP! that out. 

The red arrows point to the "line" I am referring to in the previous paragraph.

Typically I find that tires will sit into place at about 40psi. However; sometimes I have had to go as high as 50+ psi, but those times are getting rarer as tubeless stuff gets more dialed in. Oh, and if you had to remove the valve core, make sure you don't let all the air out. Be like the Dutch boy with his finger in the dike until you get the core snuck back up in there. Snug the core up- don't crank on it. Refill to the desired pressure. Ride.... 

Hmm.... I think that's about it. Got questions? Have ideas for other posts like this? let me know in the comments, please.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Gravel History With Guitar Ted; Night Nonsense

This event was tough on equipment
 Last week I mentioned in my last "Gravel History With Guitar Ted" that I had done an event called "Night Nonsense". It being the other night based gravel grinder that I had done. This was an event put on by then World of Bikes mechanic, Adam Blake, out of Iowa City. The event was only ever run once and that was back in 2010.

This was still back in the times where we all were eager to go try other events and especially Iowa based events, because there weren't many back then. Adam was putting this on in the traditional "grassroots" way with zero entry fee and a very homespun approach. If I recall correctly, we actually left on this adventure from his place in Iowa City. If it wasn't his place it was someone elses house, because I recall being in a garage prior to leaving on this really wild adventure. 

I used the Gen I Fargo on this ride, and as I detailed in my post about lighting, my lights were really not very effective. Add in that it rained the entire time I was out, and that was for eight hours, and you can see why this event was a testament to perseverance in many ways. Lighting was certainly one of those areas I was challenged in. 

Ron Saul and Mike Johnson prepare for some "nonsense" on gravel at night.

 I don't have any images from the actual event. I was either battling navigation issues, blinding rain, or fatigue. Fortunately, I wrote a ride report that helped me recall details and, for some reason, I have this way of remembering road names. That odd 'superpower' I have allowed me to somewhat help with this story to tell you about where I was on this ride. 

This bit of Johnson County map to the left shows some of the roads we took back then out of Iowa City to the Northwest. We used a LOT of blacktop roads. Gravel roads we used were Jordan Creek Road, Quincy Road, and then we got dumped on HWY 1 into Solon and that ended up becoming a real mess. 

By this time into the event I think I'd been off-course three times and I was dealing off-and-on with a few foreign speaking riders who were being followed around by a support car, (very uncool), and were more lost than I was. Being that this was a self-supported event, the entire vibe surrounding this group of folks was off-putting to me, so I was in a big hurry to ditch them off as soon as possible. This part of the event also marked the heaviest rain and lightning part of the event as well. I remember now, it was really crazy!

But reading my report, I had forgotton all about being on Seven Sisters Road and eventually coming into an aid station promised on the route. As far as I can figure now, in 2022, this was in an area of confusing streets in an area called "Western College". Not only that, but some police activity and an automobile accident only added to the surreal nature of things. 

Leaving the aid station, I came across a burning car! Wow! Somehow I do not recall that. (Good thing I write this blog!) That makes this likely the most wild, crazy gravel event I've done right there. But gets weirder! 

I recall a bunch more pavement crossing I-380, it seems, and then I definitely recall going right by the Eastern Iowa Airport with all of their runway lights blazing in the night. That was quite a spectacle, and this road made me feel as though I was trespassing on airport property. Whether or not that was a fact, I still do not know now. 

After the airport I recall going through Swisher, Iowa, which is a small village I lived in back in the very early 1990's. A place from which I used to ride gravel roads to the Amana Colonies and back on occasion. Well, this route took me on some of those same roads. That was a fun part of this event.

Getting to the Amana Colonies at night, after 2:00am, and with not a soul in sight, was something else I will always have a sharp memory of. All the lights were on in the streets, businesses were lit, signs were on, but no one was there. It was like an empty movie set. Actually, I was a bit creeped out by this, and since the event was in late October, all the more so. 

Then it was across the Interstate on busy HWY 151 to a hard left on 160th Street, a Level B Maintenance road which, after all the rain, was a quagmire of clay and mud. Of course, I was forced to walk the distance of approximately two miles to the next stretch of gravel. This is a remote, forsaken bit of Iowa with no residences on it until you get closer to gravel on the Eastern side. 

As I approached the first home I'd seen since leaving HWY151, a chorus of howling dog's voices split the silence asunder and scared me half out of my wits. It was closing in on 4:00am, after having left the start at 8:00pm, and I was delirious with fatigue and pain by this point in the event. So that whole road traverse and then the dogs wailing, yeah.... Just a crazy ride!

The Fargo just before we loaded it up to go home.

I found a van full of guys about this time and they were with the the event. They were out feeding riders pizza and beers and sort of doing ride recon for the event. Apparently, I had been missing on their 'radar' for a bit and was supposedly the last guy out there yet. Everyone behind me had retired and most of the others had finished. 

I bailed at this point when I found out everyone else I was with had finished already. To make them wait in wet clothing in chilly temperatures for me to finish in a couple more hours seemed pretty selfish of me. And I'd had enough adventure for the evening anyway. So, I climbed in the van and went back to the start. 

So, there's some more of the story there I hadn't told all of about this event. It was a pretty good event, which could have gotten better with refinements, but it wasn't to be. I thought we had run through some pretty interesting territory and some ideas for future Trans Iowa events were actually spawned by what I'd seen of the territory we were on. 

I thought that there were just too many paved roads, but in this part of Iowa, the I-380 corridor, it's tough to get much of the gravel to connect for a paved-free route. I recall that this was more of an issue getting into and out of Iowa City, and once we had escaped that we were in areas where gravel wasn't hard to find. 

I found traces of clay and dirt from this ride stuck on the Fargo Gen I for years after Night Nonsense was over.

This event and the "Moonlight Metric" seemed to my mind to be really unique, fun events that could have had a place in the gravel scene yet today. But for whatever reasons, I just don't see a lot of night time gravel options. Maybe I'm the weird one, but that seems off to me. 

The "Night Nonsense" and "Moonlight Metric" were two unique Iowa gravel events that disappeared far too early. 2010-2012 were years where I felt like Iowa was going to put itself on the map as 'The Gravel Road Riding Capitol", but the opposite occurred and for many years Iowa was far behind the neighboring states in terms of quality gravel event choices. That has always baffled me, because Iowa has some of the craziest, toughest, and most scenic gravel anywhere, but it is what it is. 

Fortunately Iowa has caught up in the 2020's with nice gravel events and hopefully that stays that way for years to come. But c'mon! this whole nigh time gravel deal is a thing! Let's go!

Sunday, September 25, 2022

The GTDRI Stories: Take A Load Off

The blog header for the second GTDRI by Jeff Kerkove.
  "The GTDRI Stories" is a series telling the history, untold tales, and showing the sights from the run of Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitationals. This series will run on Sundays. Thanks for reading!

The 2006 season was a big season of change for me. In less than one year, I went from being pretty much anonymous to having a blog following, industry people haunting my blog for what I would say next, and to having my name on the internet sites for 29"er bike and parts reviews and news in two places. I went to Interbike for the first time in a decade, and I was running a gravel event or two. Basically, I went from 'zero to sixty' in such a short span that my life did not resemble anything I had known before May of 2005 when this blog started.  

In retrospect, it was too much too soon. I had two young children and a wife whom I had just married eight years previous. I had a busy schedule taking care of those people, plus a job which now demanded more of me than ever since Jeff had departed the shop and had started with Ergon.

To add to this miserable situation, I had let myself get talked into putting on a 29"er MTB festival in Decorah, Iowa. While the idea wasn't bad, (it was actually pretty cool), it wasn't what I needed to be doing. It was just another brick on my back and I was getting pretty loaded down. I needed to jettison something and initially, Trans Iowa was it. However; a very important email from a friend changed all of that, and Trans Iowa was back on. 

David Pals bike seen on a recon of the T.I.v6 course. He did a lot of recon by bike for the second GTDRI as well.

 In the meantime, that friend I mentioned who went with me to the first DK200, David Pals, and who had come along for the inaugural GTDRI, was communicating with me about what the next GTDRI might look like. He was excited to show off some roads in his neck of the woods, which for him at the time was Marengo, Iowa. We mutually agreed that David should take over the route planing of the next GTDRI, which I was glad to have off my plate at the time. 

I guess I should point out that while I was feeling overwhelmed on one end, I was also feeling extremely blessed on the other hand. I had several new friends and acquaintances. I had industry support, mentoring in the area of writing, and opportunities galore for consideration. So, I don't mean to make this seem as though this was a dark, gloomy, unwanted burden in terms of the happenings of those days. It's just that I should have been wiser and more judicious as to what I allowed myself to get wrapped up into. 

Jeff Kerkove at Europa Cycle and ski circa 2006.

I can say on one hand that "I wish I'd never had done that!", and then on the other hand I can see where all of it led me to where I am now, and without those questionable decisions, I may not have landed where I am today, which is a pretty good place, if I am honest.

Back then though, I was dealing with an increased workload, as Jeff had vacated the mechanic job at the bike shop we worked at together and his replacement, a young man who's name I do not recall now, left the job in June, right as the workload ramped up. I was inundated with repairs and working my tail off. 

So, having David step in to take care of the second route for the GTDRI was a huge blessing. He would email me updates on occasion and let me know how things were progressing as the Summer of 2007 went along. Since I was keen not to be gone during the lead-up to RAGBRAI, the second GTDRI was scheduled for August 4th. This wasn't done so much out of consideration for the endurance freaks as it had been the year previous. As you may recall,  they were not wanting my event to happen during the 24hr Nationals event in Wisconsin, which was earlier in the Summer. But by now I knew that gravel riders and endurance MTB people were two different groups. I just decided that we had carved out a space in August and that was pretty much the reason the ride ended up around this time period afterword. Keep in mind that Gravel Worlds was not a thing yet, and the Good Life Gravel Adventure, which Gravel Worlds sprang from, wouldn't happen for the first time until a year after the second GTDRI. So, at this point, August was wide open.

While I was glad that David could be relied upon to do some of the course finding, and allow me to focus on the festival, review work, and the shop, I was missing riding out in the countryside badly. Suffice it then to say that one of my bigger regrets is that I let work and this other business I detailed earlier take me away from the nascent gravel scene. That would be a big internal issue for me from this time until about 2014. But getting back to this story, I was eager to see where David would take this idea, and we ended up having a few interesting recon rides, and a GTDRI in 2007 which was very memorable for me. 

Next: How The Second One Came Together

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Country Views: Paint Shaker Ride

Escape Route: Hess Road from Hawkeye Tech College
A teacher cancelling a class was the catalyst for the latest "Country Views" ride Thanks to my son's humanities teacher, he only had one class on Thursday, and since he doesn't quite have his license yet, I am "The Driver". His one and only class was about an hour and a half long, so I figured that sticking around was better than making another round trip. And if I was sticking around, why not go for a ride? 

So, plans were made, I got dressed for a ride, and I grabbed a bike and threw it in the truck bed. After I dropped off my son at Hawkeye Tech, I switched out shoes, slapped on the skid-lid, and rode off about a quarter mile to Hess Road and South out into the country. 

It was another banger of a day. Beautiful blue sky smeared with high cirrus clouds being hurried along on a Northwestern wind. But we have had an injection of cooler, Fall-like air, so it was a bit chilly, actually. Enough so that I felt it best to wear a vest over my jersey, and I was glad that I did.

I got dusted by a large garbage truck

More evidence of harvesting here.

I had in mind to do a loop, but I ended up doing a sort of out-and-back thing instead. This was due to the fact that I was riding South of Waterloo, and was deep, chunky, loose gravel again! I wondered if the County had maybe gotten a pandemic stimulus check for road maintenance that they needed to burn up. I dunno.... Something is different this year.

I chose the Noble GX5 for this ride.

Hess Road was bad, and I was hoping that my return trip on Hammond Avenue would be nicer, but....of course, it wasn't. Actually, it was worse, if that is possible. My hands were getting shaken like I was holding a jackhammer, or trying to control a hardware store paint shaker. It was nuts how rough the gravel was. 

The thing which I found sort of ironic about all of this was how much less this struggle with the gravel South of town has become since the beginning of Summer. While the conditions haven't changed much at all, I think my attitude about this has, and as a result, I found myself smiling at one point during the ride.

I was riding, and all of a sudden it struck me that I was going along at a pretty good clip, despite the deeper loose gravel, and all the while going into the wind. Huh! Yeah, it would be nice to have smoother roads, but I was now in a mental space where it wasn't a drag anymore to be doing this. Again- I was out riding! That was all I needed out of this deal. Rough, deep gravel? Okay. So be it......

Check out that solid carpet of loose gravel!

Maybe there is a reason that the rides I have been on this year have been the way that they have been. I know I have learned to be appreciative of every one of them and to be less of a complainer. So the road is trying to shake me and my bikes to bits, but I am still here and riding. 

And that is a good thing.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Friday News And Views

WTB Adds 40mm Vulpine gravel tire range. (Image courtesy of WTB)
WTB Adds Wider Vulpine To Gravel Tire Range:

 Late last year I was able to review the WTB Vulpine 700 X 36mm tires for Riding Gravel. (HERE) I really liked them, but I was so hoping that WTB would make a wider version, because our gravel here really demands a 40+ size tire, maybe up to a 47mm tire. Anything in that range would be best here, and honestly, most riders want a 40-42mm tire. It is the "sweet-spot" for width on a 700c diameter wheel. 

In the linked review I mention, I had this to say about the 36mm Vulpine: "The Vulpine is- by far– WTB’s best riding tire for gravel yet." I can only imagine that this wider version will not only ride as well, but handle a whole lot better than the 36mm one did. 

And maybe I'll be getting the chance to find out. Stay tuned on that one.....

For now all you need to know is that the 700 X 40mm is available in a 60TPI folding skin wall and the 120TPI black wall SG2 puncture protected version. Available now at 

Redshift Sports Announces The Kitchen Sink Handle Bar Bag:

If you have paid attention to my bike set up and read thoroughly here you already know I use a Redshift Sports Kitchen Sink Handle Bar.  One of the comments I made about it back then was that it might make sense to have the space the loop outlines from the front of  the handle bar be a space for a bag.

Well, I am not going to say that I had any influence here, but that is exactly what Redshift Sports has done. They call it- not surprisingly- the Redshift Sports Kitchen Sink handle bar bag. 

Redshift sent me one to try out a while back and I have a review of it on Riding Gravel here. I will say that it is about perfect for this handle bar. Not too big, but not so small it might have been not useful. There are two magnets for the 'flip-top' lid or you can zip it up. I unzipped the top and just used the magnetic closure. It is very secure, very easy to use, and well made. The loops on top can be used to lash another bag, or a jacket to the bag top, or there is an accessory computer mount that wedges into the webbing that might be of interest. 

Anyway, I like it. Standard Disclaimer applies. 

Need A Loop But Want Carbon?   

The new Merit Rodla carbon fiber flared drop bar might be a good choice if you like a Kitchen Sink bar type of idea, but want a lightweight version of that. Merit claims this one is about 365 grams, which is around 200 less than an aluminum Kitchen Sink bar. 

The price is not terrible either at about $220.00 direct from Merit. That seems pretty reasonable for a carbon fiber drop bar. It's got a claimed 25° flare and 110mm of drop with 75mm of reach, so it is pretty spot on with the geometry. 

Comments: Question: Would the Kitchen Sink Handle Bar bag work? Maybe..... Probably not perfectly, if at all. It'd be cool if it did though. Anyway, how about that angle to the extensions? That's the thing though, right? Any of these loop extension drop bars, or with any handle bar that predetermines stem/bar relationships for you, you get what you get. There is no adjustability once the pieces are fixed permanently in space. Might agree with you, might not.

While the bar is reasonably priced, that experimentation with fit is not possible, so it is a big risk to try bars like this when they are this expensive. Get it wrong and good luck getting anywhere close to your money back on it. Plus, you'd have the hassle of hawking it on the innerwebs. Fun!

Otherwise this is a cool idea, and I like the flattened tops too. It would be interesting to try one out.

Riding Gravel Radio Ranch Podcast Episode #101:

The latest podcast is up and ready for you to listen to. As of now I am still working on Apple podcast service but you can access this from Google Podcast, Spotify, or for now. 

Here's the Link

Thanks for listening, if you do, and for your support!

That's it for this week's "FN&V"! Have a fun weekend and get in some riding!

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Gravel History With Guitar Ted: Moonshine Metric

A rider silhouetted in the distance on the Moonshine Metric, 2012
 At the end of September, a decade ago now, I was headed to an event out of Mount Vernon, Iowa set up by Craig Irving, a gravel rider at the time who was a Trans Iowa veteran and had come up to ride with us on my 3GR gravel group ride a time or two. 

Craig had a blog called "Project Backroads" which was a site highlighting his efforts to try and ride every Level B road (unmaintained dirt roads in Iowa) at that time. He also had an idea for a "get-together" type gravel ride at night. This event was, in my view, one of the many at the time which, in my opinion, were the catalyst for the exponential growth of gravel cycling which would start in the years following 2012. 

The event Craig ran out of his garage and home was called the "Moonshine Metric". I always had the inclination to call it the "Moonlight Metric", which was incorrect, but I couldn't get that out of my head back then. In fact, when I went searching for images for this post, I had to search both names to find what I wanted! 


The "Moonshine Metric" was a snapshot of what "gravel" was a decade ago. Many events happened then that were "homegrown" affairs run out of people's homes and small businesses. Typically there were meals, or backyard parties involved. There was more than the ride, there was a true fellowship going on that was sorely missing from most cycling events. You got to know people, and connections were made. Sometimes life-long friendships were forged before, during, and after these rides. 

The pre-ride hang at the Moonshine Metric. Craig Irving is on the right here.

It was also a great look into what was used for gravel riding back then. Remember, this was the year that the first dedicated gravel bike was commercially available, and that was rare to see anywhere yet. It was also the year that the first dedicated to gravel tires were available. I was on a fresh set of Clement (Donnelly now) MSO 700 X 40mm tires, tubed ('natch!) and most folks were on heavy-duty touring tires, or 26"er MTB's yet then. 

I think the Moonshine was run at least one year prior to my attending the event in 2012. I am not sure how long the run was for this event, but I know it wasn't long. This and the one-off "Night Nonsense" event, held in 2010, were the kind of home-cooked adventures that were held at night which I think are missing in today's gravel grinding scene. 

2012 was a dusty, dry year. That's a hanging dust cloud on the road ahead during the Moonshine Metric event.

One of my chief memories of the "Moonshine Metric" was the dust. 2012 was a dry year and the roads had turned into a powdery, dry limestone fluff by Fall. I recall many a ride that year where my legs below the knee would be caked with white limestone dust after a ride. At the "Moonshine Metric", the wind was not present at all. It was one of those rare Iowa days with a still atmosphere, and this was a big problem for us who rode in that event. 

Any car that passed us, especially early into the event, would leave us in a thick fog of hanging dust which was impossible to see through. I mean, like less than a few feet visibility! It was truly scary at times because you could only detect cars and other cyclists around you by sound. Fortunately for us, traffic ceased to be an issue after the Sun set and we were not having to navigate by feel!

Moonrise on the Moonshine Metric.

Of course, Craig timed the ride to be close to the full moon for that period. So, we had a clear sky, fortunately, and this gave us some respite in terms of visibility issues for the night-time portion of the ride, which was at least 3/4's of the event's distance. Good thing too, because our lighting at that time was dismal. I wrote a post earlier this year detailing our evolution with lights which you can check out here

The Orange Crush immediately after the Moonshine Metric event in 2012.

As far as bicycles went, most of us were on some form of a cyclo cross bike. there was one fellow on a 26"er MTB on this ride out of the ten riders total. I remember that I almost took the Fargo Gen I on this ride, but by 2012 I had been deep into thought on developing my own version of a "gravel specific bicycle" and I was considering having a custom built frame and fork at this point. Only the promise of Raleigh doing what I asked for was stopping me from moving forward with that plan. And you know how that came out if you are a regular reader here.

Besides the sketchy lights we used back then, (I used THREE different lights on this ride!), I was wanting my bicycle to be very different than what I had at the time. While I have never run into conditions like we had at this event in 2012 since then, (fine, deep "cocoa-powder" dirt, deep dust, and loose gravel), the experience forged my desires for a stable bike which could be decently light and sturdy. A bike which could carry water, food, and gear necessary for a crazy ride like the "Moonshine Metric". 

Fortunately we have those bikes now. I am glad that we do. That said, we need more night time crazy adventures on Iowa roads. Don't you think? 

You can read my ride report on the "Moonshine Metric" here and the follow-up bike/gear review from that event here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Country Views: Every Ride Counts

Escape Route: 2nd Avenue, Waterloo, Iowa
I have a friend that rode a century this past weekend and I was very happy he got out to do that. However; it is hard not to also feel a bit inadequate here, as I have not been able to get out on such a long ride myself, and comparisons are hard to avoid. 

So, I inadvertently found myself having an inner dialogue which was basically an apologetic for my not doing a big ride Monday. Then it struck me: I don't have to apologize to anyone for whatever length this ride is going to be! 

The ol' innerwebs try to smash it in your face though. Big, "epic" rides in far off places are featured by the influencers and media. Social media lights up when someone in the gravel community does a big ride. But go out for a 20 miler? Yeah..... No one seems to care and this can leave you feeling a bit "less than" if you let it.

I had to do a hard reset in my mind Monday. Yeah.....this wasn't some big adventure ride with tons of distance. It was a very good ride in terms of my mental health and physical well being though. That's probably right up there with someone riding the Silk Road event in whatever far-off place that event takes place in. At least it is for me and my family. 

So, whatever.....

It was an absolute stunner of a day out in the country.

The gravel was tamed down by recent rains, but it was still pretty rough out here.

Once I escaped the grasp of the city and all its hustle and bustle, I was out in the peaceful rolling country North of Waterloo for a bit. The dichotomy between the city and the country is jarring at times, and the peacefulness I felt out there was definitely the antidote for the crazy city madness. 

The Gen I Fargo at the Big Rock

So, I think this might be the second time I've had the new crank set (to me) out on the gravel which I put on the Fargo. The 180mm XT crank set is a bit different and will take some getting used to. I finally had the front derailleur tuned in with this crank and now it all works really well. I need a new chain and cassette soon though. Being 9 speed stuff, it shouldn't be all that expensive. 

You probably wouldn't know it unless I told you, but I held the camera high above my head for this shot.

The Fargo really could use a nicer wheel set. I have to get on that here. I do have some rims hanging in the floor joists down in the Lab that I could use. Velocity Blunt SS's, as I recall. I may hold out for a set of carbon hoops though. The Gen I Fargo rides and handles a whole lot better with a really stiff wheel. 

Headed back home....

So, it was a good ride. A great ride! I needed that ride, and whether or not anyone else knows it, my family needed me to get that ride in. My friends and acquaintances needed me to get that ride in. I'm better for it, so everyone else I touch in some way is also better for it as well. That's important. As much or more so than any influencer's "epic" ride on social media. 

So, if you find yourself, like I do sometimes, being all down and out about your riding because of what you see on social media, then remember this: Every Ride Counts.