Monday, October 31, 2022

Brown Season: End Of A Rough Week

Escape Route; Cedar River Bike Paths
Well, I am glad to have muddled through that week. Last week kind of hit me harder than I expected it to. You see, last week marked a year since my mother died and we had the "services" for her. (It's a loooong story, no need to drag y'all through it here.) 

The point is, I was not very motivated to ride, or do much of anything really, without a great force of will being exerted. I managed to get done what I needed to get done, so I'm counting it as a win. 

Sunday morning was coming and I felt as though it was a chance to crawl out from under the pile and go for a ride. Nothing spectacular, just a ramble on down to some little used gravel and dirt roads Southeast of Waterloo. The weather was cooperating, and so the ride was set for a Sunday morning. I left the house just after Sunrise and rode the Gravel Bus again. 

It was a grey, very still day. It was unusual that there was absolutely no wind at all. But that was fine with me. I just wanted to get out for a couple of hours and ride to get back on the horse again after a bad week. In that, I was successful.

The Cedar River at Evansdale.

McKellar Road

As I rode along the Cedar River, I was struck by how low the river's level was. I knew that September had been one of the driest on record, and I am betting October has been right in that conversation as well. We are headed for some bad drought weather in 2023 if things do not turn around in the next six months.

The gravel end of McKellar Road

The Gravel Bus kind of blends into this dried out corn, don't you think?

With no wind noise, it was amazingly quiet on Sunday morning. I could hear the four-lane highway 20 for blocks until I actually reached it and crossed the Cedar River. The countryside was still and peaceful. 

I found the dirt roads were mostly dry, but not fully dry. We'd had some rain last week, but for the most part, it was very dry out there on the gravel. They have laid down some chunk recently, but it wasn't too bad. 

Bin it!

The dirt end of Weiden Road

It was fun to try to navigate Weiden Road's slightly muddy, very rutted out dirt road sector. While this doesn't have the elevation of Petrie Road's dirt section, it is still a good run of dirt to ride on. 

It was good to shake off the blues for a while.

I ended up riding shy of two hours and a bit over 20 miles in total. That was a good start towards getting out of the rut I was in last week. Like I said, I wasn't expecting that to happen, but it did. I guess I should be a bit more wary come this time of year next year.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

The GTDRI Stories: Pre-Ride Festivities

Jeff Kerkove's last design for the GTDRI blog header
 "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 entire deal with "Black Electrical Tape" and the revealing of that bike previous to the third running of the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational kind of guaranteed that most everyone that was going to be there for the ride would show up the night before. And I think that influenced what happened that evening. It also set an interesting precedent for a few years.

Including myself, six of us were there. Besides Jason Boucher on his 'secret bike' there was Matt Gersib (MG), Matt Wills, their friend Jeffrey Bonsall, and David Pals. I've mentioned before that there were always people I was surprised at by their attendance to this ride, and a late comer that would often make us late to start. This GTDRI was no exception in that way, other than that I think we actually did get rolling right on time. The surprise riders were Jeffery Bonsall, a Lincoln, Nebraska acquaintance of MG and Matt Wills, and the next morning, it was Michael Beck, who I never would have pegged as one to show up at this ride. Not that he wasn't a cyclist, or a gravel rider. He was. But he resided in Colorado. Only a chance visit to members of his family in Marshalltown, Iowa had brought him there in time to join us.

Trouble begins! (L-R) Jason, Matt Wills, David, MG, and Jeffery Bonsall.

The scheduling of this ride also was different than many GTDRI's in that I moved the date to the weekend of RAGBRAI's start. I did this out of my spite for that ride at the time. See, we gravel riders in Iowa were always accused of "getting ready for RAGBRAI" at that time which kind of got under my skin a bit back then. So, I decided that if my big Summer ride was happening the day before RAGBRAI started, well, that meant we weren't going on RAGBRAI, right? Only it didn't work. People we ran into still thought we were getting ready for RAGBRAI because they didn't know when RAGBRAI occurred exactly. Oh well....... 

Anyway, back to this story! The trouble started when we built a fire and all the beer was brought out which people had with them to share. Conversations were had into the wee hours of the evening under a full moon which rode up fat and hazy in the humid night air that July night at Hickory Hills campground. We all were tent camping there, and the plan was to head out the next morning, do the ride, return, and maybe hang out some more. 

This was the first GTDRI where a pre-ride social thing happened the day before. There was the year previous, where we all met for breakfast, but this had a different feel to it since we met the night before. While it gave all in attendance time to get to know one another and socialize, drinking copious amounts of beer the night before a century of gravel miles probably wasn't a wise idea. 

Scratch that! It definitely was not a good idea! 

Badly out of focus, but you get the idea! was a good idea though. I mean, these were times that ended up being pretty precious to me. I usually did not get to spend a lot of time with members of a cycling community that were of like mind to me. People who loved to ride gravel, have an adventure, and people that wanted a challenge. Most of the time I was working on bicycles, or writing about them, and social time was rare for me. 

Of course, I cannot speak for those who showed up at this ride, but my feeling is that they were feeling much like myself. We counted these rides and the gatherings they engendered to be special moments in time. People who would not ordinarily have been together, at a ride that was definitely not a race, but a fellowship of gravel cycling junkies. 

And it was good. At least that's the feeling I got from this ride, and those that followed. So, while getting drunk the night before a big ride in hot, humid weather seems like a really bad idea on one hand, I don't know that we'd have changed anything about how things went down either. 

The full moon over Hickory Hills the night before the third GTDRI.

That said, I do recall having conversations with David Pals afterward that we maybe should dissuade this sort of behavior for any future GTDRI rides. I know we both paid a price the following day! That was nothing to be wondered at either, since we had both consumed more than our fair share of beer that night before. 

Up and at 'em! Duty calls....

The next day came too soon, but I got out of my tent and was rolling since I was the ride leader. Hang over or no, I had to be on point. I got dressed and went down to the main visitor parking to see if anyone had shown up early to join us. I did not see anyone, but just as we were about to head out, as I mentioned above, Michael Beck did arrive and was ready to go in a jiffy. 

And we were off on a foggy morning for a century ride which would be mostly in Tama County. A county I would spend a ton of time in upcoming years for reasons I did not quite know about at that time. Back then, Tama County was a big unknown to me. So, as I recall, even seeing some of the roads I already had ridden was still exciting in that "new" way that roads you don't really know yet can be. I was excited to show them off.

It's kind of funny now when I think about that. Tama County is very familiar ground to me now days. There aren't a lot of its roads which I have not either ridden on by bicycle or car. And that familiarity makes it a bit hard today for me to describe my excitement for that GTDRI in 2008. But I was excited, and I was ready to roll despite the previous evening's shenanigans. 

Next: The third GTDRI

Saturday, October 29, 2022


 New Riding Gravel Radio Ranch Podcast #104:

Just a reminder that I have another Riding Gravel Radio Ranch Podcast up now if you are so inclined to listen in. N.Y. Roll is my co-host and we discuss a wide range of topics concerning the Gravel Cycling Hall of fame, gravel history, and more. Here is the link to the podcast.

I moved the distribution and production aspects of the podcast in order to ensure a timely release of episodes. Unfortunately that meant that I had to start from zero, in terms of access to the podcast, so it really helps out if you not only listen, but share the link as well.

Thanks for checking the podcast out. 

Cold Weather Clinic: 

I am putting my 20+ years of cold weather riding experiences and know-how into an hour long clinic on November 3rd, at 6:30pm at the Cedar Valley Bicycle Collective in downtown Waterloo. 

While it is obviously impossible to cover everything in an hour or so, I am going to download a significant amount of tips and there is going to be a PDF, (I think) of my clinic available to CVBC members. 

Perhaps I will also pull that and a bit more into a mini-series here on the blog afterward. It might prove useful to you readers out there. At least those who are not busy "zwifting", or whatever it is that you call doing that is. (All I know is that ain't fer me!) 

So, if you have any great cold weather tips you'd like me to pass on, just share them in the comments. I'll take those and what I have, share at the clinic, and then I'll post up a series here on what I have as well later in November. 

Header for the Save RAGBRAI Facebook page.

Is The End Nigh For RAGBRAI?:

This week I found out that there was some drama brewing concerning RAGBRAI again. (Remember all the hullabaloo when "Iowa's Ride" split off?) 

It isn't news to hear that the newspaper business is floundering. No one really reads physical newspapers anymore and digital renderings of newspapers don't seem to attract the advertising revenues that the old print newspapers once did. Large corporate news behemoths, like Gannett, who own the Des Moines Register and the sub-corporation, Ventures Endurance, which runs RAGBRAI now, are experiencing deep financial turmoil. So bad are things looking in from the outside that the former director of RAGBRAI, who just left his post recently, has started a "Save RAGRAI" Facebook page to air his concerns. His perspective could be questioned, seeing as he may have an axe to grind, or he could very well be raising red flags which should be acknowledged. I don't know. 

Comments: Claims of overnight towns from the 2022 route not getting paid, claims that RAGBRAI has not upheld contractual obligations, and claims of non-communication from Venture Endurance don't sound great here, but let's be honest- RAGBRAI isn't going to "die" anytime soon. Here are the facts: With upwards of 20.000 registered riders (claimed by Dieter Drake for 2022 ridership numbers), at $175.00 a pop to register, and considering all the business that can be generated out of those numbers in concessions, souvenirs, etc, the economics of RAGBRAI are just too big to ignore. 

The ride isn't going away but it is looking more and more like it may change. It may change a LOT. Think about the whole "Iowa's Ride" fiasco. Had the pandemic not interfered with that, I can totally imagine how that ride may have eventually taken over the spot in July which RAGBRAI has held. It was certainly apparent that a potential was there, and that potential is still there today.

My belief is that despite what may happen to Gannett, RAGBRAI will survive in some form. And even IF it doesn't, something will arise to take its place on the calendar. There is just too much money and tradition on the table for something like RAGBRAI to just disappear now. In the future? Maybe whatever is left over won't be done in a manner that people find attractive and things will fizzle out. That's an outcome I could see happening also. 

But change seems imminent. There has been a lot of upheaval surrounding RAGBRAI in the past five years and I don't think we've seen what the outcome of those forces on that event will be just yet.

Friday, October 28, 2022

Friday News And Views

The Trimm "one lite" GPS computer (Image courtesy of Trimm
 Another GPS Option:

Recently a reader of the blog here tipped me off to another interesting GPS based cycling computer option. The company is a Korean based company called Trimm and the model they sell which I figure is analogous to most Garmin, Wahoo, and Hammerhead users is the "One Lite"

It has a similar "smart-phone" type format and uses a Gorilla Glass screen which puts this in a similar class as many of the top-flite GPS units offered by the companies I mentioned above. This One Lite model weighs in at sub-60 grams though, and is supposedly thinner than an iPhone. And it costs less than $200.00USD.

The unit has a feature which many might find interesting- A solar powered attachment that can keep the computer charged all the time. (You can see a bit of the cord to the solar panel in the image here) There is a short, sub-12 minute review of the unit here on YouTube

Comments: If you look at the YouTube review, it seems as though this thing has a leg up on Garmin's extremely expensive solar powered unit. Even without the solar panel, the runtime is 50 hours if you use their speed sensor on your bike. Pretty impressive. Oh, and for an extra $50.00 you can go with the Trimm One and get an aluminum case in 8 different colors, and color screen with the solar charge feature at only a slight weight penalty of a claimed 62 grams. 

I assume it does turn-by-turn navigation, but the YouTube reviewer doesn't specifically call this out. I think it does or what's the point of importing route files, right? Anyway... That's a reasonable price and if it works as advertised, it could be a big disrupter in this field. 

"One-eyed" Zeke Shepherd.

Kansas City Bike Mechanic Gets Hit:

Apparently in the early morning hours of Saturday October 22nd, Kansas City bicycle mechanic, Zeke Shepherd was involved in a hit and run while riding his bicycle. The person who hit him has not been found at this point, as far as I know. 

Zeke, known as "One-Eyed Zeke' to many of us here in Iowa, is a good guy. I had a tiny slice of time spent with him during a Gent's Race deal once upon a time. Anyway, Zeke is pretty banged up, will require a long recovery, and his employer, "velogaragekc", has set up a GoFundme page to help defray his recovery expenses. 

The bicycle community has been really very supportive of me, and I know Zeke will get a big boost from his cycling brothers and sisters out there. Please, consider donating to his cause, if you are so led. 

Image courtesy of Canyon Bikes

Will "KIS" Be Coming To Your Bike Soon?

Steering stabilization ideas for bicycles are nothing new. You can see them often on cargo bikes, where they are more for self-centering the wheel while the bike is parked. Hopey's steering damper or Cane Creek's Viscoset may also come to mind here. But whatever the level of technology, the idea is to overcome wheel flop in certain situations.

I've followed along with some interest in this because of my affinity for riding my fat bike in deeper snowy conditions. Mike Curiak, being a big influencer in that regard. However; there are other instances where a steering damper, or self-centering steering device, would be welcomed. Canyon apparently thinks so too, and so they are offering this proprietary system they call "KIS". That stands for "Keep It Stable". 

It works internally, inside the top tube of their 29"er enduro model only- for now. It is a coil sprung self-centering device that is adjustable at the "anchor" in the top tube via a 4mm hex head bolt. The other end is attached to the cam which itself is clamped over the steer tube and that attached to the coil springs by a synthetic material in the form of two bands. 

Image courtesy of Canyon Bikes

The effect of the KIS system is that of more stability on loose, off-camber to flat turns and a more stable front wheel during slow speed climbs, according to accounts I have read. So, for those times when your body has to make sudden corrections either at the bars or through the pedals, this KIS thing helps calm that down and therefore saves the rider energy. 

Comments: So, to answer my header for this, the answer? No- This won't be coming to your gravel bike anytime soon, and probably not to most mountain bikes either, although, it may make sense for some of you. In which case, the Cane Creek Viscoset would be the likely choice. Anytime you see something like Canyon's KIS system, you have to figure that most companies wouldn't be interested in the licensing fee to use the technology. That's going to limit how much you see of this as well.

To my mind, as I look at this, it seems like an over-thought self-centering spring the likes of which I have seen on cargo bikes. This KIS thing is far more elegantly done, and no doubt works well. I could see this as standard issue technology for cargo bikes in the future. 

But for most bikes? No. I don't see this as being a thing. You have no idea how much friction in a headset/steering causes weird handling until you've ridden a bike with a severely indexed headset race, or a bike with a head set adjusted too tightly. I have done all of that, and it isn't my cup of tea. Not for regular riding. 

But maybe for the fat bike......

The GR3 Image courtesy of Argonaut Cycles

Argonaut Cycles Launches GR3 Bike:

Argonaut Cycles announced a new bicycle today for gravel racing, the GR3 model. This bike is touted as the custom made, hand-laid carbon answer for specific customer physiology and terrain needs. Claiming that "professional gravel racing is the ultimate testing grounds", Argonaut has focused on high-performance, extreme "GravelFirst" geometry, and their marketing focuses heavily on what they think makes for a great racing bike on gravel with a side of mountain biking to spice things up even more. Although that last bit is inferred, not specifically called out. Just looking at their chosen imagery and descriptions points me in that direction immediately. 

Sporting a very short 415mm chain stay length, a 75mm bottom bracket drop, and a very slack (for gravel) 68.5° head angle probably nudged me to thinking "long, slack, and low", like current enduro bike geometry. The marketing also points to their professional athlete that they sponsor having an experience on the GR3 that "... also enhanced her descending abilities to the point where she has seen multiple podiums atop her GR3 and racked up numerous QOM’s for downhill segments!"

Comments: I received a press release for this bike that made it sound as though that they were eager to send over a review bike. I gotta say, first off- I am honored anytime I get an offer like this. Secondly, I hesitate to review a bike that is super-pigeonholed as a "racing bike" with the force of hype that this release has in it. Thirdly, I hesitate to accept an offer to review a bike that I understand is expensive, but one that most of my audience wouldn't ever be able to afford. I mean, sixty five hundred for a frame set? That's $6500.00 for those who may have missed that.

Look, I get it- Racing at the top levels is spectacular and maybe a lot of us wish we were "those folks" and a bike like this maybe can make you feel like a super-hero at times. Maybe.... But my contention is that this is exactly what we do not need for the majority of the riding public. This bike doesn't put "more butts on bikes", as the saying goes. It caters to Pro racers, Pro racer-wannabees, and people with a  LOT of disposable income. That's not many people. And.....that's not me. 

Oh yeah, and Evil Bikes Chamois Hagar would like to have a word with you.....We've seen this before already. Anyway.... 

That's a wrap for today! Have a great weekend and don't eat all the Halloween candy!

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Local News

Recent recycling haul
Well, I figured that it was time for an update on what is going on with my "day job", such as it is, down at the Cedar Valley Bicycle Collective. I work there at that non-profit business three days a week, but it is a pretty fulfilling three days every week.

We essentially are doing service for the community, keeping bicycles out of the landfill, recycling what we can into good, used bikes for sale, and doing clinics/education type things. It is a far different gig than I've had in years.

I guess one of the most amazing things to me are the people who get bicycles from us, or donate them to us for recycling or refurbishment. Almost to a person, they are gracious, kind, and complimentary to a fault. I wrote that story about Bob recently, you might remember that, and he's just one of many stories I could share about the collective, really. It's nothing at all like retail bicycle shop experiences that I have had in the past. 

Then there is the recycling part. It is beyond crazy how many bicycles are just moldering away out there in garages, barns, sheds, and basements. I mean, we hauled away 900+ pounds of bicycle scrap to the recyclers last week alone with almost all of that having come through the doors in two weeks time. I'm sure we've hauled off around 5,000+ pounds of scrap this year since I've started. And you know we aren't even scratching the surface around here. Imagine what is laying around in a big urban area. It boggles the mind.....

Anyway, I'm still chugging along with the job and it has been rewarding. Not financially speaking, (although I am getting paid, mind you), but more so in terms of peace of mind, fulfillment, and in terms of just being very satisfied in that what I am doing is being accepted with a huge amount of gratitude. I couldn't say that about previous employment. 

I really have a hard time imagining why I would ever want to go back to traditional retail bicycle work at this point.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Nominations Open

Posted on the GCHoF's Instagram yesterday
 You'd have thought that yesterday's post and today's were premeditated to coordinate with each other, but that's not at all the case. It is just a happy circumstance that yesterday the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame announced that their nomination process would open up November 1st. 

Again, I said much of what I wanted to say about the "why" of this organization's existence. Today I will focus on the "how" of the process of nominating an individual or event/organization for GCHoF inclusion. 

I'm going to specifically take the case of Joel Dyke, the co-founder of the DK200 along with Jim Cummings. By the way, these are two guys I think should be shoe-ins for nomination and induction for 2023. 

As a matter of fact, they should have gotten in this year. But things being what they are, that did not happen. So, following is a true example of why that did not happen, and then I'll show you how it should happen. 

Joel Dyke was nominated this year, but to get inducted, you have to convince a panel of "judges" who are a diverse group of racers, journalists, and bicycle company folks. I know it may come as a complete shock to some of you, but the name "Joel Dyke" doesn't do anything for those who came into the sport in the last ten years, and especially since 2019, which is the date many say that this "gravel thing really took off". (Although, in 2019 they were saying "this thing really took off in 2015, so, yeah.....) 

The result of Joel being a person who has already "faded from memory" or was "lost to history" was that the nomination the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame received, and what they had to go on, was a one word sentence. "Joel was the man", or something to that effect, was what I was told by LeLan Dains, the chairman of the GCHoF. That was not anything that moved the needle for the nomination committee. So, Joel, disappointingly, was not inducted into the first class, as should have been the case. But, the process relies on riders to tell the story, so here is how it maybe should have been written up:

Joel Dyke, (L) as seen at Trans Iowa v2 in April of 2006.

 I nominate Joel Dyke for inclusion into the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame. Joel was the co-founder of the gravel event which eventually became the Unbound Gravel event, based out of Emporia, Kansas, home of the GCHoF, in 2006. Joel was integral to the early success of the modern day gravel scene. He, along with co-founder of the Emporia based event, Jim Cummings, forged a new identity not only for gravel cycling, but for the city of Emporia Kansas as well. The event that Joel helped create is now known world-wide as North America's premier gravel event. This would not have occurred without Joel's participation and influence.

Furthermore; Joel was already a well known cyclist and regarded as a fine "underground" events promoter within the Kansas City cycling community. His events drew cyclists from all stripes to get off the couch, move, and become a part of a welcoming community of cyclists. Joel's affable, outgoing personality helped draw in people. Armed with this and his experiences with events, Joel helped create the prototypical "grassroots gravel" experience for those early gravel events he and Jim Cummings put on in Emporia. Joel drew in influences from his participation in other early gravel events, like Trans Iowa, to expand on his repertoire of knowledge and tools to help the gravel scene expand and grow not only in Emporia, but all over the Mid-West.  

Joel Dyke is then an important figure for the early gravel cycling scene, and as a pioneer of the sport, he deserves to be included in the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame. 

So, had THAT been the story the committee got, I have no doubt that they would have nominated Joel. (Not because I wrote that, but you get the idea here...) Of course, anyone who nominates a person for this needs to get their permission to do so, and in this case, since Joel tragically died several years ago, you'd have to ask his widow, I suppose. But there ya go. Write up something like that for Joel, (or anyone else you deem worthy), and send it in after November 1st to the GCHoF. Heck- you can even copy and paste what I wrote, I don't care. 

That's how it happened that Joel wasn't in on the first class of the GCHoF. This is one of the reasons why I wrote yesterday that it is sooooo important for us to get this all written down, recorded, and preserved somewhere so that these fans of the gravel cycling scene can know what the heck actually happened to get them where they are in the future. 

Without the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame, you wouldn't know about many of us that were there. It may seem obvious to you now, but in another 20 years? Yeah..... Without that history being documented, those folks born today won't know about me, Joel, or anyone else who got them on gravel racing and riding in 2042 because of what we did "back in the day". Instead people might still be writing ding-dong statements like "this gravel thing has really taken off in the last few years", which even now is clearly not the case.  

So, it is important for you folks out there to participate and let your voices be heard with regard to what is and what is not important to gravel cycling. It doesn't have to be about certain people, but let's be real here- Without the people involved, gravel cycling wouldn't be worth a hoot. So, you will never get away from that bit. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Another Case For The Existence Of The GCHoF

A week and a half ago or so I was contacted by the event director for an Arizonan based gravel race and he asked me if I was willing to speak to a reporter from the "Arizona Republic" about the origins of the modern gravel scene. His concern was that the reporter had no clear idea about how the scene got going and his thought was that I, a person that was there at the time, could set the record straight. I agreed and I was put in touch with reporter Sarah Lapidus. 

I enjoyed about a 40 minute conversation last week with her and the subsequent article Ms. Lapidus wrote was enjoyable. (You can read it here) Ms. Lapidus wrote from the perspective of an Arizona resident and how "gravel riding" has been becoming a thing down that way. 

Okay, so why does this point out the need for a "Hall of Fame" for gravel cycling? Because someday, I won't be around to "set the record straight" and more reporters, story-tellers, and just interested folk will come along in the future and fill in the blanks if there is no historical record. I feel that gathering that record is the main mission of the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame

You might remember my post from Saturday where I lamented the fact that the author of that article did not do his due diligence and look into Trans Iowa more carefully, nor did he contact me for the article. This is why historical repositories exist for researchers who need to "get the story straight" for anything they are writing, or basing stories around. 

The GCHoF should not exist for reasons of popularity of personas, popularity of events, to feature brands for the sake of their existence, or to do anything besides record historical, impactful moments in the modern gravel timeline. Certainly, you have to look at how the influences of different aspects of cycling, culture, and innovations came to create what we know as "gravel" now as well. 

The pioneers and people who know are already falling away or have died. The days are growing long and shadows increase. Without a historical recording of this scene, you'll have people who invent tales that are not true. And that matters because the narrative going forward needs to remain that of inclusivity, openness, simplicity, adventure, self-support, and community. The things that made the scene tick and that made it attractive to get the attention of people, which lead to the attention of the cycling business, and ultimately to what we have now as "gravel". 

What we don't need is for an exclusive, top-tier athlete, money-driven, team based, intense, closed system type of racing community that has already put a bad taste in the mouths of ordinary cyclists. Cyclists who are not necessarily against that, but don't want or need that to be the dominant, driving forces of the gravel scene going forward. A gravel cycling hall of fame helps us to keep that 'grassroots" perspective alive. 

That's my case for a GCHoF.

Monday, October 24, 2022

Brown Season: Harvest Wrapping Up

Escape Route: Alley ways...
The Mid-West- A place where you can experience Winter weather and Summer Weather within the same week in Fall. 

I know, right? Weird......

But Friday it was nearly 80°F here and on Tuesday morning the temperature in the morning was in the low 20's. It snowed in Northern Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Some would point to climate change, but I can tell you its been like this during Fall for as long as I can remember. 

At any rate, a ride was in order on Friday, and I was ready for that. Amazingly, the wind wasn't insane, which when it gets this warm this late into October, it generally means you have high winds along with the high temperature. Count Friday as an oddball day then, because while it was windy, it wasn't anything out of the ordinary.

This image was taken at about 3:00pm. The light always gets pretty weird at this time of the year.

Note that grey haze along the horizon line? That's all dust.

So, one thing I struggle with is seasonal affective disorder. The way the light hits at this time of the year always triggers the slight depression I have every year at this time. I had a hard time getting out the door for this ride, as an example, but I was sure glad I did about halfway though it. Oddly enough, I kind of perk back up when the ground gets snow covered. Maybe Brown Season kind of adds to the issues I have. Could be......

The Gravel Bus at a stop on Aker Road.

Ironically I actually got passed by a school bus later on!

As I have said in previous posts, Iowa was especially dry in September and that has carried on through this month as well. It is really, really dusty out there! The air was thick with dust. You know it is dusty when the lining inside your nose gets thick and gritty! We sure could use some rain here. Sounds like that might happen Monday,

There still is some harvesting action going on.

Most everywhere it looks like this now though. Barren, brown, and you can see for miles. 

The gravel has been pounded into submission now South of town, no doubt due to all the harvesting activities. The harvest for 2022 is almost wrapped up around here. There are a few more corn fields to go, then that will be it for the rest of this year and the beginning of next year. 

Almost time to put away all the toys for this year.

My riding companion sure did a great job of keeping up with me!

So, this is such a weird feeling. Summer-like temperatures, almost a Winter solstice-like light in the sky, really dry air, and barely anything left in the fields. It just didn't add up to feeling "right". False Summer. It won't last long....

Like I said above though, it was very good that I did get out, despite the oddness of it all out there. The ride did me good. I'll be needing another dose of that medicine soon though.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

The GTDRI Stories: Black Electrical Tape

 "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!

This post won't be so much about a GTDRI, but it has something to do with it. No, this post is about a development in cycling that the GTDRI had something to do with, and was a part of in terms of this particular bicycle's story. 

Back in early 2008, rumors began to swirl concerning a new bike, a 29"er, and something unlike anything else out there at the time. Which, honestly, wouldn't take much. You see, 29"ers were still the odd-ball bike on the block and there were a lot of people, and companies, that were still saying 29 inch wheels were dumb and wouldn't last. 

However; Salsa Cycles wasn't one of those companies. They had already invested pretty heavily in the idea with three solid entrants into the big wheeled world with their Dos Niner, Mamasita and El Mariachi 29"er bike models. Rumors were rampant concerning yet another 29"er or two to come from Salsa. The news was set to be released sometime in late 2008, and we all were figuring that would come at the Interbike trade show in the Fall of the year. Meanwhile, throughout the Spring and early Summer, tantalizing tidbits of information kept being laid out by then Salsa Cycles Brand Manager, Jason Boucher.

Jason Boucher at Sea Otter in 2008.

Jason had become acquainted with me via my association with the website, "Twentynine Inches", my blog, and Trans Iowa. We had frequent email contact back at that time. Jason had dropped on me that he might be coming down from Minnesota to join me for the '08 GTDRI ride and maybe, just maybe, there would be a surprise I would be interested in. 

Clues and veiled leads were dropped to the point that Jason garnered the nickname "Cagey McCagerson" at this time. Such were his communications with myself and online with others concerning the new 29"ers to come. 

But it was this particular model Jason was pitching to me and other gravel riders via the GTDRI run up that was most intriguing to me. Secretly I was anxious and really hoping Jason could make the trip work out, just from a purely selfish viewpoint. I wanted to know what the heck this might be about. But it also shined another spotlight on gravel riding, and in particular, grassroots adventure style gatherings. This new bike was intentionally designed for such pursuits. Jason knew this, and he chose the GTDRI for the 'soft debut' of the bike, but he had to keep the wraps on the name of the model for many reasons. This almost derailed the entire story I am telling, but, in the end, it all worked out.

A dramatic recreation of "Black Electrical Tape" in 2022.

Plans were laid by Jason and he was in constant communication with me. His family was involved in his planning and he had to accommodate them in this situation as well, so everything had to go "just-so" to make this happen. 

Fortunately, it did, and as the third Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational's date drew nigh, on the very eve of the event, Jason Boucher rode this brand new, never revealed before 29'er down from a motel in Waterloo to our meeting campground at Hickory Hills County Park. 

I recall seeing the greenish-gold bike in the evening Sun that day, and when asked what this bike was, Jason smiled broadly and said that he could not tell us yet. But, there it was! In fact, we couldn't even take images of it, and Jason strictly commanded that cameras be put away when he was around on the bike. Fortunately, the gravity of what was happening was felt by all in attendance, and this is why no images exist, to my knowledge, of the bike we saw then which was first known as "Black Electrical Tape". The bike got this moniker from us at that GTDRI because of Jason's use of a simple strip or two of the common tape to cover the model name of the bike, which you've probably guessed by now, is the famous Salsa Cycles Fargo. 

So, there you go, a very little known fact about the Fargo and the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational. The bike that debuted at my gravel grinder, a ride I never thought would host the soft introduction of a very influential 29"er drop bar adventure bike.

Next: Pre-Ride Festivities

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Two Things For Today

I suppose I could have called this one a "Randomonium" post, but really this is just about two things that popped up Thursday in my social media observations. One is about the new Specialized Diverge STR and the other is an article about the so-called "Spirit of Gravel". Okay, so let's go.....

A close look at the workings. (Image courtesy of "Cyclist UK")
Thing 1- The Specialized Diverge STR:

Specialized calls this technology their "Suspend The Rider" technology. Aptly named because it doesn't do what most everyone thinks of when you say "dual suspension". Yet almost every single outlet reporting on this bike used that term. 

That's the state of reporting circa 2022. Give people the wrong idea, because it is just easier to do that instead of tell them what they are really looking at. 

Essentially this is a "motor mount" idea. Damping the vibrations of the road from the "motor" (the rider in this case) and the motions of the motor/rider from the chassis. The wheels will still do what they do on a rigid bike, so this is not "a dual suspension" bike, despite what you might be reading out there. 

It's not a bad idea, this Diverge bike, but it does come at a price. Nearly 8K for the cheapest one, it is 200 grams heavier than the outgoing version, (not that big of a deal), and it is far more complex with a lot of places for things to go wrong in the future. You could just get a Redshift Sports ShockStop Seat post, save a bunch of money, add about the same amount of weight, and put it on any gravel bike. 

Once again- you can solve a problem elegantly and simply, or you can do it with an overly complex, expensive solution that is wholly proprietary. Your choice. The idea, at its core, is a sound one. How this Specialized solution was implemented is a bit goofy, in my opinion. 

Image by Jason Boucher from Trans Iowa v9
Thing 2 - The Spirit of Gravel:

I was tagged on a post on Twitter by Andrew Vontz who authored this article on a site called "Why This Is Interesting" on Thursday. It is a post that looks at the culture of gravel and how the corporate monetization, competitive elements, and social media narratives surrounding the gravel scene today are at odds with the origins of the scene and why it has grown at all in the first place. 

You've been around here enough, most likely, that you already know what I think about all of that. If you take the time to read Mr. Vontz's article, I think you'll see that he does a fair job of laying out today's gravel landscape and why it is that things are in upheaval on social media concerning gravel events and what not. He brought up some interesting questions as well. 

First of all, let me say that I was not contacted about this piece and I was not aware of it until it had been published. Had I been made aware of some of the statements Mr. Vontz had made in the opening paragraph concerning Trans Iowa, I could have easily corrected those minor mistakes in his story there. (Or he could have looked at this written historical record. It's as if I try to hide this stuff, ya know?.) 

Anyway.... I guess I should just shut up and feel blessed that I got noticed at all. 

Now, on to his questions....

"Is it in The Spirit of Gravel to use aerobars: handlebar extensions usually reserved for races where drafting is forbidden, and riders can’t be in packs? "

Answer: If the event director allows them, and you disagree, maybe that event is not for you. Additionally, if the event director does not allow their use, and you disagree, maybe that event is not for you. This is a dumb question and waaaay too easy to figure out. Why is this even a debate? 

 "Is it in The Spirit of Gravel for pro athletes to bring teammates and work in a coordinated fashion to shelter a leader and provide them a better shot at winning, as is common practice in road racing? Or should it be every person for themselves as it was in the early days of the sport?"

Answer: Basically, the same as above. If it is allowed, live with it. Otherwise, don't show up to partake in what you think is "unfair". Riders always want things to be different. Their airing of issues on social media makes it seem that some sort of grievance is valid and has to be addressed or riders are being.....I don't know.... Oppressed? Whatever! The problem is that event directors have no backbone because they fear loss of revenue, poor opinions of their events, and of being "cancelled" or otherwise castigated on social media as having a strong opinion. I'd weight the "loss of revenue" thing much more heavily here. 

 "What happens if a rider in the pro women’s race drafts teammates in the race who are men?" (Or a friend, or a husband, or a guy that is get the idea.)

Answer: Drafting? Who cares? If you can- do it. The real issue here is "winning sponsorships, endorsements, or prize money". Basically, a monetary/support benefit of some sort is at stake. What? You don't think people (racers) would take any advantage to gain a monetary or supportive benefit via winning a "prestigious" or "prize-rich" event? Do actions that are within event rules that allow creative means to gain advantages mean that there is a problem? Yes- The problem is that the people (racers) who didn't figure it out are now feeling "oppressed". Solution: Don't ever go back to that event, or lobby the event director to tighten up the rules. Just don't muddy up the waters with open-airing of complaints if there was no actual rule-breaking involved. 

Additionally, if event directors are not taking this "creative interpretation of rules by riders" thing seriously, then they are failing their position as event directors. One of an event directors number one missions is to figure out how they could cheat at their own event and when they find a way, change the rules, or make a change where needed before the event takes place. Finally, rules decisions must be implemented (DQ's, time penalties, etc.) while the event is happening. Otherwise, you were doing a bad job. Enforce your rules or don't have them.  

There was another question, basically asking the same thing, regarding the "gravel beef" thing concerning hydration packs versus water bottles and not stopping at an aid station...... You get the idea. 

Look, I appreciate the article, but it has nothing at all to do with some nefarious spirit of crushed rock. It has everything to do with the monetization of gravel culture, rider-driven narratives, and weak event directors who are allowing those riders to control the narratives and events. What did ol' Joel Dyke, co-originator of the event now called "Unbound" tell me? "When the money comes in, that will ruin it....", or something to that effect. What a prophet he was! 

Y'all know if you were there in the beginnings that the gravel scene was competitive, racy, and had an edginess to it, but the early event directors and the early participants weren't going to put up with nonsense from riders who thought the events should be run differently. But - ya know - when it means the difference between getting sponsored or not, or in getting that nice boost of prize money or not, or that bump in social media numbers or not, those ol' event directors better let this "Spirit of Gravel" thing go, 'cause this is serious racing now!  


Friday, October 21, 2022

Friday News And Views

Riding Gravel Radio Ranch:

The newest "Riding Gravel Radio Ranch" Episode #103, is out now. (You can get the link here) We're podcasting about once every two weeks now and have the podcast moved to hosting for a better, more timely distribution of the episodes than we experienced it before. 

I've had some concerns voiced over access. Well, we are growing the podcast from 'ground zero' now and that means our old access was gone and we had to start small and grow it. We are now on Apple podcast as of this episode, so that should help. We are also on Google podcast and on Spotify also. 

So, give it a listen, spread the news, and help this thing grow. I'll have more things to offer in the future, so stay tuned for that as I get to it. As always, please make comments and suggestions if you are so inclined.

From Surly's social media on Tuesday this week.

What's Up At Surly?

These days, social media is the prime vehicle for spreading news and for keeping brands in front of people's eyes.You don't have any media on paper anymore to do that. So, there are no ads to read. There are no "catalogs" either. Independent bike shops don't give you any bandwidth since there are far less of them than there used to be. So, the various social media marketing opportunities are all you really have these days. Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Maybe Tic-Tok and Reddit. If a brand isn't on YouTube you seem to be missing something .

This is why what was witnessed on social media on Tuesday was so puzzling. Surly's social media person posted that - apparently- they were leaving the brand, which, in and of itself, is not such a big deal. But the line that indicated that "It is possible this channel will not be monitored for some time.", that was a bit concerning. Without any new content, that "channell" will go dead really fast. People won't see "Surly" and the brand will fall away from the forefront, because if you don't have it shoved down your eyeballs on socials, then it doesn't exist.

This Surly product was intro'ed by the QBP social, not Surly's
Comments: Of course, what that actually means in terms of Surly the brand and business is purely speculation at this point. But if I were a Surly dealer or fan, this would raise some red flags with me. It'll bear watching, for sure. 

Then again, it all could just be a program to bring all QBP's social media under "one roof", as it were. QBP has mostly run each brand it has as a separate company under the umbrella of QBP. But that may be getting streamlined as cost-cutting measures take hold of the cycling industry.  It would seem foolish, perhaps, to run separate social media departments when you could get that job done by a single department, for example. 

QBP has already had a round of lay-offs. Does this point to more? Could be. We're seeing many companies laying off from all sectors. Saris went bankrupt, The Pro's Closet, an online entity, cut staff, Thule cut 34 jobs and moved its R&D to Swedish headquarters from the USA. MIPS, the helmet technology supplier, saw sales dip 39% in the third quarter according to an industry report. So, if QBP has more cost-cutting to do, it would come as no surprise. Or- Is this a result of the recent lay-offs? That could very well be also.

Shimano RX801 Shoes On Test:

Well, Shimano made some big news this week about its shoe line. They updated the RX8's with the new 801's, but what probably was a bigger deal here was the RX8R, a shoe that adds in a feature found on many Enduro cycling shoes. That would be a "cuff" that is supposedly there to keep debris out and your feet dry. 

It may not seem as though the new RX801's are any different than their predecessor was, but upon careful inspection I found several differences. This is more of an 'evolution' of the RX8. A slightly "tweaked" version of the original, if you will.

One thing I didn't like about the original RX8 was that it was a bit of a pain to put it on and take it off your foot. Shimano addressed this by removing that elastic strap that held the top of the upper to the footbed inside the shoe and by separating the over-flap into what is more like two straps over the instep. 

At first glance, this new shoe seems like no big deal, but when you put the old one on one foot and the new one on the other, you feel a tremendous difference and the new one is definitely better. By the way, MG has the new RX8R, the one with the ankle-high cuff, and he says much the same as I am about the refinements. More soon.... (Standard Disclaimer applies

Schmidt Edelux II Dynamo Light. (Image courtesy of Cycle Monkey)

Need A Light:

So, you may recall that my Busch and Mueller IQ-X went belly-up on the Ti Muk II so now I need a light unit for that bike which runs a SON dynamo hub. The logical choice is a Schmidt light to stay with the hub brand I already have. 

I have settled on getting the Edelux II with the Co-Axial Adapter. This new connector set-up looks more durable than the old blade connectors and those fine wires. 

I just have to decide what orientation I want the light in. (You have to chose due to the cut-off beam) So, when I do that, I am going to pull the trigger. That will get me back on the Ti Muk II and that needs to happen sooner than later since, well, you know.  Winter, that's why. 

Otherwise that bike is all good to go. I had just redone the drive train and had just done the hub service. So, having the light go down on me right after all of that was kind of a deflating experience. I guess I was a bit disappointed and, maybe even more so, I was just down about looking at spending a couple hundred plus more than I was prepared to spend. But it isn't as if I don't have the funds now. I just need to do it.

Okay folks, that'll do it for this week. I hope that you all get out for a ride. We're to have our "false Summer" spree here with temps in the 80's for the weekend. The Spotted Horse riders will melt! (Good luck to anyone doing that event this weekend, by the way.) 

Thanks for reading Guitar Ted Productions!