Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Virtual Turkey Burn Ride Report: Jon Duke

You never know what you'll come across out in the country!
Hey Everyone! Here's our next Virtual Turkey Burn Ride Report! This time it is from Jon Duke, of Grinnell, Iowa. Jon may be familiar to some of you as a gravel rider and the man that did the images for the last two Trans Iowa events. Jon also helps promote weekly rides in Grinnell and the annual Prairie Burn 100 event in Grinnell.

Now on with the report! 

"Thank you so much for the subtle kick in the pants to do a longer ride this holiday weekend. I definitely rode farther this weekend with that as a motivating factor. "

Ride details: "63 mile ride from Searsboro to Oskaloosa and back. Planned the route with Ridewithgps and during the ride only looked at the map/cues- no time, distance, speed, heart rate, time of day or anything like that. Just focused on living in the moment and not worrying about anything else."

Jon's ride route which is mostly in South Central Iowa.

 " Only negative was a high stakes encounter with an enormous mastiff outside of New Sharon. I stopped, dismounted, walked by the barking giant with my bike as a shield while I spoke kind words. After I passed the edge of the property I thought I was safe to remount but the dog then took chase and it took every fast twitch muscle fiber I could find to get out of the way of his mouth. I will now remember my pepper spray when I am traveling on unfamiliar roads. Overall an absolutely fabulous ride, especially this time of year."

Thanks again for putting this on!
Jon Duke

Comments: As I stated in the opening paragraphs, Jon did take images for Trans Iowa, and he is a talented image taker. Following are some more of his images from his ride over the weekend. 

I've no idea on the locations for any of Jon's images, but that Level B Maintenance Road is fairly typical of the Southern and Eastern parts of the state of Iowa. So, you shouldn't have a lot of trouble finding something along those lines to ride, if that is your thing. 

Here's a resource for Iowa roads by county. If you use the "colored PDF's", the green roads indicate dirt. Have fun, but keep in mind that these maps are not 100% correct either, especially when it comes to the status of Level B Maintenance Roads. Anything that has been reverted backward to Level C is not open to the public, despite what some cyclists may believe. Here is a post I wrote explaining that

Thanks Jon for that report and for letting me know that the Virtual Turkey Burn Ride was a motivation for your ride that you shared with us. That means a lot to me and was just what I had in mind when I put that challenge out there.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Virtual Turkey Burn Report: Pedro Of El Puerto de Santa Maria

 Welcome to our first submission for the Virtual Turkey Burn Ride Reports! I was floored to receive this one from a "long time" blog reader from El Puerto de Santa Maria, Cadiz, Andalusia Spain! 

Pedro did his rides in segments on different days. Following is a bit more that Pedro sent to me to share with everyone here:

"I am in the middle forties, studied chemical engineering and after working as a environmental inspector, process engineer for combustion processes, I jump into a completely (different) industry because this allows me to have more time with my family. Now I make closures for spirits and olive oil.

I’ve been riding bikes all my life except for some years when I changed for motorcycles. Fortunately, the passion was always there and I returned to cycling sooner than later.

I have never been in the competitive side of cycling. Although I like watching the Tour the France, Tour of Spain, Giro, and the classics, Flanders, Paris – Niza, etc. I am happier just riding my bike for excursions.

With this in mind, I discovered bikepacking and start learning about Tuscany Trail and Tour Divide.

"The place where I live is a gravel paradise. I send you some photographs. But the rides I usually do combine gravel roads with some more rough ones. If I choose a gravel bike, I am afraid that must be more in the dark side near mtb… I don’t know."

Looking at Pedro's images, I can say that I have to agree with him- this does look like a gravel paradise! The roads look fantastic, and being located in Southwestern Spain, I am sure that the predominant Continental-Mediterranean climate provides ample opportunities for gravel travels. 

Pedro has two bikes he typically uses for the rides he does there in Spain. I'll let him tell you a bit more about them:

" Let’s talk about bikes a little bit. I name the first one, my “pensioner bike” just because one of my friends when he saw me on this bike shouted: You look like a retiree!!!  

(It) Is my gravel and road bike but because I bought it at the early 2000, in Spain was call “Hybrid bike”. Conor is a Spanish low cost brand that make cheap aluminum bikes mainly for commute or start point into mtb. I bought this bike as a present for one of my uncles because he loves cycling. Unfortunately, he died because COVID during the pandemic, and I decided to keep the bike. The bike is too big for me and I tried to make some adjustment on it. I change the handlebar for a Jones, (totally Jones Bikes convert), and I plan to go to friction, and some drivetrain changes when the components fail. In my head, I will try to move the bike to a Rivendell style bike, Sam Hillborne or Platyplus "

Pedro's Conor branded hybrid shows that "any bike can be a 'gravel' bike". I love it!

It is a bike I use for going with my children, grocery, commute as much as I could, and town moving. It is very practical and not very nice to thieves, so although I would like that the bike was a Rivendell, or a Gemeni Croix de Fer, Singular,…, I am really happy with it. And of course the personal reasons."

Pedro's Jones Space Frame LWB.

"My second bike is a marvellous steel Jones Spaceframe Lwb, this time with 2.6 rubbers on it. I am completely in love with this bike. I use it as it is for bikepacking, going to the pub sometimes, excursions, gravel, mtb, races (just for riding in different places, not really for compete)… everything!! I also plan to go friction with it."

Some of what Pedro has at hand to ride is more MTB-ish, but can you blame him when it looks like this?

"My friends here think that I am completely crazy. In Spain is more common to have a super mtb (or road) race machine and as many bikes you could afford. Everything is about training or compete. Then, if you’re on this thing of DH, Freeride, ... or any other sector to specialized, you also need that kind of bike. It is not my cup of tea.

About having more bicycles… I do not mind. I would like as I said a Riv, and a Croix de Fer (or any other gravel bike), probably a road bike also… you know, n+1. But I think that having two of them that complement, and that I use a lot, fit better with my life. That’s it. Thank you very much for the opportunity, for your blog

Pedro's distance accumulation he sent me for the Virtual Turkey Burn.
Comments: I was pretty floored by this submission, mostly because it came from Spain. I think that it is really great that I, and all you who read here, remember by way of Pedro's story that "gravel" is not just a U.S.A. thing, or a special bike, or on certain roads. I was floored that Pedro so completely summarizes what it is to be a "cyclist" that seeks to have fun and adventure. And that is what it is all about. 

So, what a great story and I want to thank Pedro here for his contribution to the Virtual Turkey Burn Ride reports. I so appreciate the message Pedro shared and his examples of his bicycles. I hope that you all reading this get as much excitement, inspiration, and motivation from Pedro's story as I have. 

Stay tuned for tomorrow's post as I have another Virtual Turkey Burn Report to share.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Gravel Amplifier: Heywood Ride, Winston County Gravel Cup, Hogback Gravel

 Hey y'all! It's another edition of Guitar Ted's Gravel Amplifier Series! Read on to check out today's offerings for your consideration. I have checked out these and they pass my standards, so you can be pretty sure these will be gravelly good times. 

However; please understand the following: I am not PROMOTING THESE EVENTS! I am amplifying them. In other words, I am acting here, (quoting the meaning) " to make larger, greater, or stronger; enlarge; extend." these events bandwidth in terms of their message. That's it. That's all I am doing here.

So, if the site goes dark, the dates change, if you cannot get a hold of the race director, or if there are issues on your side with attendance, etc, I AM NOT THE PERSON YOU SHOULD CONTACT.  I will not reply to such queries. I am merely informing you of the existence of an event. Period. 

So, today I have three events, Iowa and Minnesota based ones, and these came from my trolling of social media. I'm not going to "amplify" everything I find on social media, only events I think look interesting to me. So, again- this only works well if readers and riders engage. If this is going to rely on myself finding events to "amplify", it won't be nearly as effective. especially so as I start to use social media less as time goes on. So, now you know! On with the amplification.....

The Heywood

Location:  Northfield Central Park Northfield, MN 55057

Date: May 20th 2023 (Long, 380 mile option starts earlier, see event site for details)

Why It's Cool: The Heywood Ride is the direct evolution of the venerable, early gravel scene event , The Almanzo. When Almanzo founder and Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame member Chris Skogen moved the Almanzo 100 and satellite events to Northfield Minnesota, he eventually asked that the name be changed. The inheritors of the event, Marty Larson and Ben Witt of Northfield, Minnesota, now run the ride as "The Heywood". 

So, essentially this is a relocated, rebranded Almanzo, sort of. You'll have to check it out to see what I mean. Low cost to enter and there is assistance for those in need to be able to join in the fun. I know these folks that put this on and I highly recommend the event. 

Caveat: Almost none, but May in Southeastern Minnesota can bring variable weather, so be prepared for wind, rain, excessive humidity, heat, or maybe even a late frost in the morning! 



Winston County Gravel Cup

Location: Houston, Minnesota

Date: September 23rd, 2023

Why It's Cool: This is one I came across that is being held in an area I toured through by bicycle in 1994. It is a beautiful part of the Driftless Area. The website claims the routes, (three choices of 40,60, or 100 miles) is "mostly gravel with a touch of pavement", so if that holds true, this will have steep climbs and high-speed descents which will keep you on your toes. This event is in a similar area to the Spring event, the Ragnorok, so if you are familiar with that route, you'll understand what I mean. 

Caveat: Those aforementioned climbs and descents. If you question your ability to conquer high speed loose gravel, or if you don't like really steep roads, this won't be for you. Also, the website isn't updated as of this posting, so I don't know what the costs are for this, but judging from the tone there, I feel like this should be a good time for not a ton of cash. 



Hogback GRVL: 

Location: Waukee, Iowa

Date: May 6th, 2023

Why It's Cool: This, to my knowledge, is a brand new event in an area known for awesome gravel riding. Essentially, this is a route that takes you over the Hogback Covered Bridge in Madison County, Iowa. The route is 70 miles and uses some of the same roads used in Trans Iowa v13. (Note: Not to be confused with the "Hogback Divide" which is a gravel event in Virginia.)

Caveat: It's a brand new event, so I cannot vouch for how it will be run. Again- big hills mean lots of climbing and speedy descents. The weather could be all over the place too, which will dictate the difficulty level of this event to a great degree. Be prepared! 


That's a wrap for this edition of "Gravel Amplifier". Got an event you think needs amplification? Hit me up in the comments or at

Sunday, November 27, 2022

The GTDRI Stories: A Year With No Summer

T.I.v4 pre-race: Steve Fuller is to my right here.
"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!

During Trans Iowa v4, I had a request from one of the early readers of this blog, Steve Fuller, to allow him to be a volunteer for Trans Iowa that year. Steve brought a laptop computer and tabulated results for me, which was an unprecedented thing for Trans Iowa. So fancy! But the important thing for this story is that this is how I began my friendship with Steve. 

Once the time came up to do the GTDRI again, I was contacted by Steve as he wanted to come through from Des Moines, pick me up, and head on North to Echo Valley State Park for the ride that year. It had been an oddly cool, overcast year for the most part, and "Summer", at least how we understood that season in Iowa, seemed a whole lot more like Spring. 

This meant that for the camp-out, I had to bring some warm clothes because it was supposed to dip down into the 40's at night, an unprecedented cool overnight temperature for July in Iowa. Steve came through and picked me up at around 5:00pm on July 19th, a Friday, and we headed up HWY 63, which was under construction or repair at that time. The right lanes of the 4 lane highway were blocked off for some reason. 

This meant that we were stuck behind slower vehicles with no way to pass. At that time Steve was following a pick-up truck pulling a utility trailer with a brand new mattress on it. The mattress was unsecured. You guessed it......the mattress flipped up into the air! We watched it sail off into the blocked off lane, skid down the pavement, and stop. We slowed down as the vehicle towing the trailer noticed the issue and stopped in the right lane. We pulled over to assist if we could. 

While that scare was no big deal in the end, it turned out to be the highlight of the trip up. Which was a good thing, you know. We had enough excitement for one trip! Now it was time to set up camp and get a fire going as it was cooling off in a hurry already as the Sun was going down in the West.

It was hard to get a good fire going until David Pals showed up with some real campfire wood!

Once again, I fell into the trap of having a few too many beers before bed and a big ride the next day. But these were rare occasions and prudence wasn't a part of the plan. Having camaraderie and conversations was the thing for me. I did not get to experience such things often in life and I wasn't going to miss any opportunity. 

I remember having a conversation with David Pals later on in the evening where we both agreed that we needed to move the socializing to after the event and maybe then we'd actually have a decent start to the ride. Ha! It would take many years for that idea to work itself out. 

I ended up spending my time talking with then co-worker, Craig Severson, until the wee hours of the night. This was going to put me in a bind as far as riding, but as I said, I knew these times were precious then, and since then, I've only been proven correct on that point. 

Next: The Fourth GTDRI

Saturday, November 26, 2022

No Burn For You!

Somewhere in New York, N.Y. Roll was Turkey Burnin'
 A week and a half ago now I posted regarding the second attempt at a "Virtual Turkey Burn". A poke in the ribs to those who might enjoy a bit of a challenge to get out and ride over this holiday weekend here in the U.S.A. 

Well, as it turned out, a week ago I started feeling a cold coming on. A typical head cold, for sure, and it deepened as the weekend progressed until on Tuesday this week when I felt horrible. I have not had a cold like this for several years. (Are masks to blame? Social distancing?) Anyway, the lingering effects of this are slow to wear off and well, it isn't wise to go out into cold weather and stress your body when it is fighting illness already. 

So, I had to sit and watch this short window of beautiful weather go by and miss getting in a Turkey Burn ride to boot. (sigh!) But at least I know folks like N.Y. Roll are out there trying to get in as many miles as they can over this period of time. 

He was in New York visiting family right after that wicked heavy lake effect snow they had up that way. His native grounds "only" received around two feet of the white stuff. Fortunately for N.Y. Roll the weather cooperated up that way as well and some of that snow has melted off allowing for some road cycling up his way. Today's image is courtesy of N.Y. Roll's Instagram, by the way.

I'm not sure if anyone else is "participating" in this endeavor, I only know that I will not be doing any country riding until I am healthy again. It's getting better every day, but the experts claim that the typical cold takes about 12-14 days to recover from. If that is true, I can expect to start feeling a whole lot more like myself around Wednesday or Thursday of this coming week. 

Just in time for it to be frigid cold again. Of course!

Friday, November 25, 2022

Friday News And Views

The "Anti-Black Friday" Edition: 

Yeah, this whole "Black Friday" thing is getting long in the tooth, isn't it? I really hope that someday it just goes away.... 

But until then, I am all "anti-Black Friday". What's more, I am not doing any "holiday gift list" stuff this year either. Let me tell ya, the marketing departments aren't liking that decision. They are sympathetic to the anti-Black Friday idea, I feel, but - ya know - it's tradition! Or something like that....

All you need to know is that I am being leveraged to do the whole thing, and I just am not feeling it. So, I won't be shoving discount codes, "deals", or any "holiday gift ideas" down your throats here. You're getting bombarded enough by that garbage by this point anyway, most likely. 

So, I've dug up what I could of some interesting things I've found across the innergoogles for your reading enjoyment today. And as always, Thanks for reading the blog! 

Forget shopping! Get out and ride!
Hopefully You Are Riding!

Of course, the perfect antidote to excessive consumerism is a good bicycle ride. Be that 'round the block or out in the 'burbs', getting out and pedaling is good for you.

But you know that!

Need some motivation? Well, I put out this challenge last week. maybe that would be a nice way to kick off the weekend? Maybe. 

However; don't let that challenge and distance hold you back. Just getting outside and pedaling, or even walking, if you are stuck in the snow like N.Y. Roll is in New York now, is a good idea. Just get outside, breath the air, and move. I like to do that with a bicycle, but you do you. Besides, you probably ate too much yesterday anyway, yes? (If you didn't, good on ya!)

Are More Batteries A Better Thing?

Recently Magura announced a new Vyron dropper seat post that is activated by a wireless Bluetooth remote. The system is pretty technologically advanced, with the wireless thing, of course, but there is also a servo motor which controls oil flow in the post as well. 

Naturally, the system works on a battery, a Lithium-Ion battery, (two, actually), which is replaceable. And when that battery needs replacing? 

Why do we consistently (a) need to turn everything into a "device" controlled by radio waves and batteries with (b) environmentally toxic materials? These batteries typically are not disposed of properly, especially when they are of such a small size, as in the Vyron post. These disposed Lithium-ion batteries contain metals such as cobalt, nickel, and manganese, which are toxic and can contaminate water supplies and ecosystems if they leach out of landfills. 

I mean, bicycles are bad enough in terms of their carbon footprint, environmental impacts due to manufacturing, and in terms of the high-end bicycles, a further reliance on electronics, but a dropper seat post with disposable batteries?   

True- each seatpost mounted battery lasts a claimed year of service, but eventually, these all will probably end up in the landfill. Not to mention the CR 2032 battery used for the remote, which assuredly will not be handled properly at disposal.  That is- unless a concerted effort is made to persuade riders to do otherwise, and I haven't seen that yet. Meanwhile, mechanically operated droppers are working just fine without such concerns. 

Something to consider....

An Acknowledgement And A Lesson:

I read an article the other day that claimed that the youth out there feel that hand written notes are a "waste of time". Yeah.....that was the term used. 


That's too bad, because these folks are missing out on something wonderful, if, in fact, that article is representative of what the youth out there really think. I am choosing to not believe this at all.

I think people really appreciate being thanked, recognized, encouraged, and well.....noticed. Doesn't a hand written note do those things? Yes, I am here to tell you that a hand written note does those things, because a recent hand written note has done that for me. Although, perhaps I am disqualified from being an example, because I am old. That's really dumb, by the way, if true.

That's my acknowledgement of this particular note. You know who you are that sent it, so "Thank you!"

The lesson? Anyone can do this to help another. It can be a text, a phone call, or a simple note like the one I received. Don't believe for a second it is a "waste of time". 

Update: Okay, this is kind of funny. A day after I wrote this about "Thank You's" I saw the following which is related. As quoted from an Axios Finish Line newsletter I receive nightly:

" Another study by researchers from Kent State University tested the effect of writing letters of gratitude to other people.

  • The results were clear: Taking the time to say thank you in writing made people happier, more satisfied with life and even decreased symptoms of depression."

So: On the very unlikely chance that writing a "thank you" doesn't do anything for the recipient, it does something for you.

Reminder: If you are an old reader here, you know what is coming. If you are fairly new, maybe not so much. Here's the deal: The "End-OfYear"posts kick in starting December 1st with my first of many "Bikes Of 2022" postings. There will be four "Rear View 2022" posts, a "Top Ten Posts of 2022", and a "best-of" photo review for the year, all coming up.

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

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Happy Thanksgiving!


I hope you are all well and able on this day. If you are celebrating Thanksgiving, I hope that you are doing so with loved ones and focusing on them today.

I am very thankful for:

  • My health
  • My family
  • Riding
  • All of you readers of Guitar Ted Productions!
I hope that you all have a great day!

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Fargo Gen I: Winter Project

My Fargo Gen I bike has gone through several permutations. The latest one has been taking shape over the course of this year. I added a new crankset not long ago and the Ti Regulator seat post and Brooks saddle, (which - honestly - that may have been done in 2021.)

Anyway, it was a good move all around and my only quibble was that the wheels, a set of old Sun Ringle' Black Flag hoops, was a bit on the flexy-narrow side. Flexy in that the aluminum extrusion and low-ish spoke count wasn't giving enough lateral support, and narrow in that the inner rim width was narrower than many current "gravel" wheel sets. 

I have some Velocity Blunt SS rims just waiting to be laced up to something, but I was held back because I remember when the Fargo had a carbon hoop set and how that literally transformed how that bike rode. I had sold those wheels several years ago, and honestly, that was a good move for me because those wheels were not tubeless and those rims were also pretty narrow internally.

I wanted wheels with a decent inner rim width

Yeah, so maybe some day I'd lace up those Blunt SS rims for the Fargo, but I'd need new hubs and those would be costly, because, well.....I'm not going to use just any old hub! So, that all got put on the back-burner. I mean, the Fargo was rideable as is. First world problems and all......

Then one day this past Fall, Grannygear, my friend and contributor to my work since the late 00's, pinged me with a  message. It went something like this; "Hey, I've got these old Roval carbon wheels that I want to move on. They need some work though, and since you are a wheel man, maybe you might want to fix them up?"

So, one thing led to another and I received the wheels the other day in exchange for a minor amount of cash (digitally, natch!). Grannygear was correct. These wheels are not perfect in any way, but with a bit of TLC and time, they should come out nicely and I think they will suit the Fargo well. 

From the days of painted spokes... Roval MTB wheels.

Near as I can tell these are 2011-2012 vintage 29"er hoops. They were reviewed by Grannygear for the old "Twentynine Inches" site I used to run. They have DT Swiss internals, DT Swiss spokes and nipples, and the wheels have swappable end caps, so I can use QR compatible end caps to retrofit these to the Gen I Fargo. No "boosty" nonsense either, which is good for that old green bike. 

They are 10 year old carbon wheels, so they need the previously mentioned "TLC". Cleaning, replacement of a couple nipples, and retensioning should put them back into order. I did not note any corrosion with regard to the nipples, so that was a good sign. 

And to boot, these won't be seeing any hard-core MTB action. They will enjoy "retirement" from Grannygear by being put to use here on the gravel roads. I should say also that the only thing these wheels will be subjected to is excessive dust, which probably is not a whole lot difeerent than their previous life in SoCal's environment, which was dusty with a different type of dust. 

I checked out the bearings and they are worn, but serviceable yet. I'll run them until they die and re-rack when the time comes. The star ratchet free hub should last a long time, and I'll take a peek at that once I remove the stubborn end cap that is on the drive side. That cap needs replacing anyway, since I am going with the quick release set up for the Fargo. 

Grannygear said these were pretty stiff laterally, and with a healthy 32 spokes tensioned properly, I bet these will straighten out the handling of the Fargo to my liking and previously held standard. The slightly wider internal rim width is welcomed as well. With an under 1400 gram wheel set, the Fargo should feel fantastic. 

I'll keep those old Black Flag wheels for the Fargo also. Those will go on when things get gnarly weather-wise. But the Rovals will live on and they will be a very welcome addition to the Fargo.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Visiting We-Cycle

On the road to pick up some bicycles.
Since I've started working for the Cedar Valley Bicycle Collective, I've had some pretty interesting days, but my favorites have been the two days this year that I was able to connect with two other "collectives" in Iowa that serve a similar mission to what our mission is at the CVBC. 

My first experience was with the Des Moines Street Collective, and that was a real eye-opening experience that taught me a lot. This time I got to visit We-Cycle in Ames, and that was a very different, but no less enlightening experience. 

The day started out cold, blustery, and with a little Sun out as we headed out to the South and West. Curt, a board member for the CVBC was driving again, as he had for the Des Moines trip. The countryside looked like it was in the grips of mid-Winter, not the beginnings of the season! Drifted in ditches with various wavy, overlapping folds of snow were everywhere and snow was even blowing across the roadway in spots. That along with the low temperatures made it feel more like January than late November. 

We actually did not go to We-Cycle first, but to a small town where the CEO/Director of We-Cycle Ames, Val Nehls, lives. She had an overflow of donated bicycles there which we were there to help clear out. We made a small dent in the pile, and then we moved on to Ames and the We-Cycle location, which was in part of an old grain elevator/co-op business.

We didn't pick up all the bikes from Val's house, but we made a dent!

The road from Val's home to We-Cycle was treacherous!

I'm not a big fan of heights, so when we arrived at We-Cycle I was a bit concerned about the exposed wire mesh staircase bolted to the side of the building which was the only way to access We-Cycle for us. Think "industrial" stair case and you'll get what I mean. I was amazed, by the way, at how Val just bounded up and down those stairs like it was no big deal. She could shoulder a bike, and almost run down the steps, light as an elf on her feet. I remarked to her that perhaps she should give cyclo cross a try!

We-Cycle is located in the second story of this warehouse above a coffee shop.

We-Cycle occupies a small corner of this sprawling space.

Val was very kind to us and her volunteer, Allen, who showed up to lend a hand, and bought us coffee from the coffee shop in the lower level. It was a bit of an odd place, since I could not really see any reason to suspect that there would be a coffee shop in that space. But there it was, and it was a bustling place Friday morning with college aged folks coming in and out on a regular basis as we were loading up bicycles. 

Then it was time to bid Val and Allen farewell as we headed back with our load of goods to Waterloo and the CVBC. I enjoyed getting another look at a place that is essentially doing the same thing as the Cedar Valley Bicycle Collective and getting low-income and at-risk individuals on reliable two-wheeled transportation while helping the communities that we serve to move old bicycles from garages, sheds, and barns which might otherwise end up in a landfill someday. 

I know of one other place in Iowa like this that I have yet to visit, and that is the Iowa City Bike Library. I need to make a connection there as well. I think it would be pretty cool to have all these organizations interconnected in a relational way to help further our missions in Iowa.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Gravel Amplifier: Funk Bottoms, Solstice 100, Flint Hills Gravel

 Hey y'all! It's another edition of Guitar Ted's Gravel Amplifier Series! Read on to check out today's offerings for your consideration. I have checked out these and they pass my standards, so you can be pretty sure these will be gravelly good times. 

However; please understand the following: I am not PROMOTING THESE EVENTS! I am amplifying them. In other words, I am acting here, (quoting the meaning) " to make larger, greater, or stronger; enlarge; extend." these events bandwidth in terms of their message. That's it. That's all I am doing here.

So, if the site goes dark, the dates change, if you cannot get a hold of the race director, or if there are issues on your side with attendance, etc, I AM NOT THE PERSON YOU SHOULD CONTACT.  I will not reply to such queries. I am merely informing you of the existence of an event. Period. 

Funk Bottoms Gravel:

Location:  Glenmont Park 108 Main Street, Glenmont, OH. 

Date: Saturday, June 17, 2023

Why It's Cool: Billed as Ohio's toughest gravel grinder, Funk Bottoms Gravel has been around for a while. I recall adding this event to the old gravel calendar I used to keep, so this is a veteran of the gravel scene. In fact, 2023 will be Funk Bottoms' 13th year. 

This one is a big loop course that you can do once, or if you have that crazy itch for climbing, twice. each loop is the same 100K course. There is a claimed 7000ft of vertical in the 100K course, so get on yer climbing gears! Self-supported means you have to be prepared for any issues. There is a secret checkpoint and chances for resupply in smaller towns the route passes through. Low entry fee of $40.00 (for now) which raises to $50.00 later and then $60.00 later on closer to the event. 80% gravel course.

Caveat: There are field limits for males, but none for women, single speed, or for the 200K


The Solstice 100

Location: Beatrice Nebraska

Date: June 17th, 2023

Why It's Cool: TheSolstice 100 is a grassroots gravel event put on by some great folks I have met, so I can vouch personally for their care and passion for this event. In fact, I rode this one back when it was located in Malcom, Nebraska. Two distances, including the Solstice Fiddy, which is as it sounds, a 50 mile version, and a 31-ish mile "kindler" version of the course. Self-supported with chances for resupply in pass-through towns and checkpoints. $60.00 reg for the long course. Nearly all gravel course. 

Caveat: As the name would suggest, this event occurs near the Summer Solstice, so it is HOT! Be prepared to get a lot of Sun and experience high humidity. 


Flint Hills Gravel Ride/Run

Location:  516 Locust Street, Americus, Kansas

Date: April 8th, 2023

Why It's Cool: This event is run to give folks a chance to experience the Flint Hills on a bicycle or on foot (the "Run" part) It is a very low-key, grassroots event run by a passionate race director named Bobby Thompson. Three distances ranging up to a crazy 100+ mile "Adventure" category, but Bobby offers shorter, more manageable distances as well. If you have a hankering to see what all the hub-bub is about the Flint Hills but "that other event" is too much for ya in terms of cost and hoopla, then this is your Huckleberry. 

Bonus: Bobby Thompson just announced an insane ultra-distance challenge dubbed the "Flint Hills Ultra", a 1000 mile (!!) permanent route you can do anytime. There will be a competition held on teh route as well.

Caveat: The Flint Hills are tough on tires, so be prepared by using puncture protected tubeless tires and bring a boot, extra sealant, and a reliable inflator. 


That's a wrap for this edition of the "Gravel Amplifier". If you know about an event that you think should appear on the "Gravel Amplifier", please send me a web address for that event at I'll check it out and if it passes muster, it'll appear in a future "Gravel Amplifier" post. Thanks!

Sunday, November 20, 2022

The GTDRI Stories: Reversed Influence


The recon for the 4th GTDRI was fun.
"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!

As the calendar turned to 2009, I was finding myself at another crossroads in terms of the website stuff I was doing. The entire network of sites I was a part of at the time was falling apart, I started another new blog about gravel grinding, and plans for a third outlet for cycling reviews was being laid. Of course, Trans Iowa, another "Big Wheeled Ballyhoo, and the next Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational were also events I had on my "to-do" list. 

Somehow or another, I found the time to throw this route together that I had begun to conceive of around 2007. That was a big loop in Northeast Iowa. The whole idea stemmed around a suggestion for a starting point from a friend at the time. He had told me of Echo Valley State Park near West Union, Iowa. 

This time, instead of the GTDRI routes influencing Trans Iowa, Trans Iowa routes influenced the GTDRI. We had come through this area in 2008 and I had gotten a lot of great feedback on certain roads that were in the vicinity of West Union. Plus, there was a big chunk of road that never got used in T.I.v4 because it had been truncated before we got back to Decorah. So, with that already all looked at, and a bit from T.I.v3 added in, I had the majority of the course figured out without too much trouble. 

All I had to do was stitch together the loose ends of the route into a cohesive whole and then check out the bits I had not ever been on before. That mainly was the first 40 miles and maybe another 20 or so of the back half of the route. Of course, a trip to Echo Valley State Park was in order as well. 

The roads of Clayton County are pretty spectacular

I had to ascertain how camping might work out for the event. That trip also included a truck drive of the mostly flat section from Echo Valley to Elkader, which also passed through Elgin, a distance of about 25 miles along the Turkey River. 

This sector was pretty flat, and I didn't consider how brutal the rest of the course was until I had seen the bit I had to look at from Edgewood to Strawberry Point. There was, essentially, no where to rest from the hills other than the section along the Turkey river. 

This gave me pause. I decided that my including the flat portion at the end, by running the course anticlockwise, was not in the group's best interest, (if there was going to be a group, I never really knew!). So, I decided late into the planning stages to reverse the direction of the course and put the flatter part first. 

This kind of went against my initial vision of the route which had I ran it the originally conceived of way, it would have followed the T.I.v4 course exactly where I used it. But, as it turned out, the way we ran it was perfect. And we couldn't have chosen a better Summer to do this on either.

Next: The Year With No Summer

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Like And Subscribe: Do You Really Want Print Media?

Back when print was still a thing: Article from "Dirt Rag"
 NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

I'm old enough to remember when getting the latest "Mountain Bike Action" in the mail , or when seeing the latest edition of  "Dirt Rag" in the bike shop was the definition of a great day. Print media had no real 'predators' in the realm of information and creative writing for cycling. 

There were no online forums, no social media, no You Tubers spewing a video out every other day to keep their content "fresh". Because let's face it folks, today it is all about content. Realize that this content doesn't have to be good. It just has to be mostly free and coming at you like water out of a back yard garden hose. 

So, how did we get here? Well, I gave you a snapshot in the previous paragraph, but let me give you another glimpse into when the paradigm shifted. I just happened to have been there. 

It was my first trip to Sea Otter in 2007 with the "Crooked Cog Network", a self-titled, self-aggrandized "media" group consisting of several blogs. The newfound power of the internet and online streaming of content almost as soon as it was created was just getting going. This happened to upset the apple cart in a very visible and tangible way at the Trek/Fisher Press Camp we were invited to in Santa Cruz, California. 

Up to this point, press camps were the realm of "traditional print media". Remember, they had no "natural predators", but now with forums like growing by leaps and bounds over the previous 5+ years, traditional print media was facing new competition- a predator had arrived which was eating into their normal way of doing things.

Rumors and industry chit-chat was freely shared across digital devices, mostly PC's at that point, and you didn't have to wait a month for the news, like you did with print media. An evening scouring the forums yielded more than enough news to make print look lame, and you could dig into it every day, if you wanted to. "Fresh" content was what the masses craved, and while forums were cool, and all that, there was now a new presence on the scene- real-time bloggers. 

Images and info straight from the show floor to your PC- all in a day's work

The Trek/Fisher marketing guys held a meeting to go over all the new bikes and tech for 2007. In the first two rows were all the heavy-hitters in the print media world at that time. James Huang, the "Angry Asian" was there. Editors from "Velo News", "Dirt Rag", and other prominent print media were there. "Real" websites were represented as well. But us bloggers? We were at the back. Sneered at by the front row, and mostly they wouldn't even speak to us. 

Crooked Cog Network founder Tim Grahl set up his MacBook lap top, a camera, and a line out to the internet. As the presentation was given, Tim screen-shot each image shown on the screen at the front of the room, wrote a few lines quickly to accompany the image, and boom! Posted to the site we were pushing content to. I was flat out amazed. I'd not even imagined such a thing in 2007. 

When the presentation was over, the lead spokesperson for Trek/Fisher, Travis Ott, said that he would allow a bit of time to let the media get their notes in order before we moved on and hoped that stories would be published "soon". That's when Grahl piped up next to me and said. "We've already got the story up on our site". I'll never forget the half disgusted, half amazed look James Huang shot him as he jerked around to see who was speaking. 

Print media was doomed after that point, in my mind, because the masses became ravenous for constantly changing "fresh content" and online purveyors of information were only too glad to give it up for free. No subscribing to a periodical. No waiting a month to see what's new. You could see what was new minute-by-minute. Literally.

That's how we got here. Instant upload to the internet, everyone has a computer/receiver in their hands now, and content gets pushed without ceasing, 24-7 these days. How does a print based ideal even compete? It cannot do what it used to do, and to my way of thinking, traditional media has missed the boat. The traditional cycling media seems bent on trying to replicate the analog days of print media digitally, and from advertisers to content consumers, that is a dinosaur that died a long time ago. 

Companies use social media to promote product now.

 So, Outside kicked several Cyclingtips and Velo News creatives to the curb the other day. It's a hard reality for media who try to make a living creating content in long form for websites. Ad dollars are scarce to non-existent. Companies that once spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in print/website based advertising now have "influencers", Instagram stories, and sponsored content. Their own media content is self-created for these brand's social media and You Tube channels. Companies and brands have "marketing firms" that get product out to independent reviewers and niche websites (Like myself) and target audiences instead of the old ad in a magazine that might not ever get seen by a core customer of a brand.

Pre-packaged content is offered all the time to me to post on my blog and on I must get offers to post "sponsored articles" daily. I just deleted another offer for a "guest blog post". Seriously. It's like pulling weeds, these guest post offers. They just keep popping up everywhere. I have never looked into any of these offers, but I am sure they come with click-through ads so the guest poster can make a few pennies.

But do we still need a magazine? Do we need to have any form of print media? If not, do we need a web based site that isn't in the traditional vein? Could that even be supported enough to pay a living wage to a creator these days? 

That's a tough nut to crack as well. Think about myself and the old story from Sea Otter I posted above. I was a part of the dismantling of traditional media, in a way, and for 17+ years I've blogged here, at no cost to you, nearly daily, spewing fresh content at ya like water from a back yard garden hose . So who am I to pontificate on this media meltdown? 

Well, it isn't just me. It is "everyone", really. It used to be that there were journalists and then everyone else that read what journalists wrote. Now days anyone can post any "news" they want on several platforms. Usually consumable for free.   I mean, "why not me" when it comes to being an expert on issues? That seems to be the big problem with anyone trying to make a buck now writing. Since the writer's craft, talents, and professionalism mean little more than the average person's opinions these days, it's harder to get any value out of a traditional media product. Add in to that most "truth" is broadcast for "entertainment value" and this problem is even harder to tackle. 

Getting a print/digital magazine thing going is possible, I think, but it cannot be anything like the previous offerings and it cannot be corporately owned. It probably would be best if the publication was very niche, stayed smaller rather than bigger, and catered to an audience that craved having stories told to them. You're probably never going to see a wide-ranging, racer focused, gear focused, review type publication make it on a national scale anymore since that sort of publication needs a LOT of cabbage to keep the doors open. A low-overhead operation? I think that type of curated, simple, focused approach is best these days.

But like I said, I'm just one of those hacks in the back row. What do I know?

Friday, November 18, 2022

Friday News And Views

 Inventory Builds Up As Consumer Demand Cools:

You've already seen the ads on your feeds, most likely. The discounting of bicycles and cycling gear is full-on once again. This marks the final swing induced by the pandemic which will affect us all going into 2023. 

Riders will enjoy more choices and bargains on those choices as time marches on toward the holidays. Inventory levels have reached critical mass in some categories with the result being that shipping costs are being forgiven at lower ordering levels for shops and from what I heard, some folks even lost their jobs due to ordering too much stuff at a certain distributor that shall remain nameless.

The inflationary climate has doused the fires of consumer demand as well, sending retailers skittering toward big sales and discounts as we head into the New Year. Some prognosticators of the cycling industry are claiming the fall-out from this may be that retail will suffer and seeing closures is not out of the question. 

Interesting times, to be sure.

The Esker Lorax in titanium (Image courtesy of Esker)
Ti Lorax Introduced:

Last week Esker Cycles announced a couple of new titanium frame offerings- The Walden fat bike and the Lorax gravel bike. 

The Lorax was a steel offering in Esker Cycles previous incarnation, Advocate Cycles. That was back in 2015, but now the Lorax is not Reynolds 531, but titanium. 

It has several mounting options for accessories, as you would expect, tire clearance is a claimed 2" wide for a 700c wheel, and the geometry is pretty good. 75mm bottom bracket drop, 71.5° head tube angles, and a top tube that isn't sloped super crazy so it won't need a really long seat post. The adjustable "Portage" drop outs are cool in case you have to do the single speed bail-out mission. Price with a Wolf Tooth head set, seat collar, and rear through axle is set at $2300.00 USD.

Comments: Not bad, Esker, not bad at all. I always felt as though that the Lorax was a take on the Vaya from Salsa Cycles, and this titanium version does nothing to dispel that notion for me. That's a good thing, because the Vaya is a great, and very underrated, gravel bike choice. I would suspect that this bike would handle very much in the Vaya's vein, which I welcome. 

The price is more than reasonable here, and with a double butted tube set, I would bet that this bike would ride like a dream.

Riding Gravel Radio Ranch Episode #105: The Gravel Amplifier:

Monday afternoon N.Y. Roll and I met at The Stone Castle Estates and recorded the Riding Gravel Radio Ranch Podcast #105. We're calling it "The Gravel Amplifier". 

This goes along with the post I made Tuesday which also is about the same thing. But do make sure you click through to the podcast, because there I list a few more events than I did on Tuesday. (See those in the Show Notes)

So, going forward, this could become a series, but that is entirely up to you- the readers. If I get submissions and they pass the sniff test, boom! Amplification happens. If I get radio silence? Then I move on, and nothing gets amplified. I'm not doing the search and destroy for this anymore these days. Here's why......

You'll hear a bit about this if you listen to the podcast, but when I started the Gravel Grinder News calendar in 2009, there was no one else doing what I was doing. As gravel became more popular and more lucrative, players came in to capitalize on my work, and much of what I had dug up and compiled ended up becoming their "content" with no recognition or acknowledgement for where it came from. 

I get it- It's all public knowledge, but it was a cheesy, classless way to obtain a calendar which I did not appreciate. So, I am not going to publish and maintain a calendar to benefit other sites. They can dig up their own stuff. But I will take submissions for certain events, amplify them, and spread the word as best as I can on my channels. So, no calendar of events, but I will help to push those events that otherwise would not get any publicity in cycling media. 

If you are a fan of an event, or like what is happening at an event and want to see it succeed, let me know. Likewise for event promoters. I am here for ya.....

Lay-offs Affect Cyclingtips:

Late on Tuesday afternoon word started to spread via social media that several cuts were made at Outside and especially at Cyclintips, which is a news/technical review site that employs some very well known cycling media personalities. There were several social media posts claiming that Outside had released up to 12% of the staff. (Now confirmed) One person that was confirmed as a lay-off was Senior Editor, Caley Fretz who had joined Cyclingtips in late 2017. 

Lead technical writer for Cyclingtips, James Huang, who retained his position with the company, Tweeted the following on Tuesday evening, "To be clear, I’m still at CyclingTips. But given everyone who was let go, it still feels like I lost a close friend today."

Outside, who had acquired Cyclingtips, Pink Bike, and Trailforks in 2021, also made cuts to Cyclingtips and shut down the mountain bike title, Beta, completely earlier this year in May. 

Comments: As I said, back in May, I don't trust corporations that own a bunch of media titles. But, on the other hand, what should they do? It would seem that most people consume their "news" on social media, podcasts, or on YouTube these days. It would seem that "real", physical magazines are now dinosaurs. It would also appear that trying to get people to give up money to get behind a paywall is not drawing the money/numbers that some thought it might. Advertisers are looking for max-clicks, and apparently, Cyclingtips wasn't drawing big enough numbers. (For a more in-depth look at the situation see this Cycling Industry News article or this from AdWeek)

Interestingly, Pink Bike, which is said to be Outside's biggest draw digitally speaking, is a massive success. It would seem that we are in an era of consolidation/ending of titles and singular, monolithic entities will now control recreational media and, perhaps someday, even your events. (See both Outside and Life Time for examples) 

Lauf, Gravel Worlds, PCL Debut Collab On Seigla Gravel Bike:

Wednesday big news came from the gang at Gravel Worlds. They have partnered with long-time sponsor, Lauf Cycling, to bring a PCL themed Seigla to the masses. 

The Seigla is the newest incarnation of a gravel bike from Lauf  which features the unmistakable Lauf Grit fork, now in its third generation, and clearances for up to 57mm tires. 

Comments: This is a cool collaboration. I like the bike but for its high bottom bracket, which is something I cannot compromise on, but that's maybe just me. 

I love that Lauf and the folks at Gravel Worlds arrived on, what I consider to be, the classic PCL colors of army green and black. I recall that in 2011 at Trans Iowa v7, second place finisher Troy Krause had on the original PCL Army Green/Black jersey and that I just loved that combo. The PCL came out with a reissue of that design which I snagged right away. So, this scheme on the Seigla is a really great idea, to my mind. 

Want one? Check out this link. 

 That's all for this week! get out and ride! (Layer up, y'all!) Thanks for reading Guitar Ted Productions!