Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Spring Brings The "New" In For Review

Shimano S-Phyre Ridescape GR sunglasses.
Well, the supply chain is full to over-flowing again and that means review items are coming in hot this Spring. I thought I'd share with you all what I have going on here as a lot of this stuff will be figuring into my upcoming rides. Generally I have shared what I was up to anyway with regard to reviewing product, so this shouldn't be too much of a shock for you readers here.

As always, The Standard Disclaimer applies. 

First up I have these Shimano S-Phyre Ridescape GR sunglasses in for review which has this magnetic lens retention system. It's pretty crazy to see how many uses for neodymium magnets that there are now. 

These have the frameless design, which I like as there are no frames to hinder your peripheral vision. Plus it is big enough not to look goofy on my large noggin. That is a plus! 

Then I have what seems like my most popular review category product of all-time which would be tires. The first proper review I ever wrote was on a set of bicycle tires. So, maybe I was destined for this? Maybe....

Anyway, I have two sets of Pirelli Cinturato Gravel M tires to test now. These are Pirelli's "multi-surface" tires, thus the "M" in the name. 

A couple of odd things I noted about these tires when I first laid eyes on them. One was that the sidewalls on these "Classic" versions of the Gravel M look a lot like a Continental tire sidewall. The second? These Italian brand tires are made in France. Weird. 

These kind of remind me of old ATB tires like the Tioga versions of mountain bike tires from back in the day. Actually, my friend Ari was the first to point this out when he spied my image of them on Instagram. Despite the old-school ATB looks, these are not designed to do anything like those old tires. 

They have a centralized tread block pattern that creates a virtual solid center line which helps with hard surface rolling.The other knobs are there ostensibly for traction and stability in looser soil and gravel. I will have to ride them a bit before I know if that is true or not.

I will say that they set up tubeless well and hold air like a champ. So far, so good.....

Security minded seat collar from Kinekt

Sometimes I get these odd items which sort of defy categorization in terms of "gravel" or MTB or road biking. Maybe commuting? But sometimes it's just an odd deal that someone wants me to amplify that is out there as a choice. This Kinekt  "Anti-Theft Locking Collar" is such a product. 

It's obvious job is to prevent anyone from hijacking your saddle and seat post. The keyed tool, which comes with the $44.95 collar, has a hex key socket on the one side and the 4-pin interface on the other. The tool is tethered which you can connect to a key chain for convenience. it also comes with the proper 4mm hex key as well. 

I dunno..... I guess if you live and ride in an urban or collegiate area that has a higher chance for saddle/post theft, this might make sense. Maybe for a bikepacking trip, or a tour, where a bit of security can go a long way toward peace of mind. I get it. I don't think this is necessarily anything I'd ever need, but there you go.

Now that the snow is gone....

I have even more stuff that I either cannot talk about yet or that is on its way in yet. So, stay tuned for more review items to be mentioned here. Of course, I will also review the Teravail tires on my Gryphon Mk3, as well as the bike, in future posts. 

So, now you know some of what to expect here over the coming months. reviews will be happening. Of course, that also means ride reports will be happening as well. That is, if I ever get over this stinkin' cold I have! 

Monday, March 20, 2023

Gents Race Preview 1

From my ride out in the country 3/2/23
Well, it is less than two weeks until the Gents Race and I.......I am NOT ready!! This Spring , so far, has been a rotten one for riding here in this locale. Things started out great, but they went down a path of more Winter-like conditions and that has prevented me from getting any significant rides in at all. 

Now, a little cold, that I can take. Wind? Not that big of a deal. But throw in snow, ice, and wind chills in the single digits? Nope.... Not gonna do that. And then....

I got sick. Some nasty cold thing. It has been a drainage down the back of my throat that collects until some thick, gooey mass and then I wake up in the middle of the night, cough it all up, and then sit there unable to return to sleep. My sleep patterns are in rags. 

Not that it has mattered much. I mean, with the crap weather, I am probably not going out anyway, but all of this is making me anxious and feeling unready is not fun. I suppose I am not the only one, I only feel that I am the only one. Which is bad enough in itself.

The Raleigh may see duty as a training bike.

All this cold, wet weather also may be lasting long enough that the sandy roads South of Ames where the Gents Race course is may be soft and inconsistent, much like last year. Maybe - hopefully - not as wet at the beginning! 

The good news about that course is that it dries out in a hurry. Give it a bit of Sun and wind and things straighten right up quick. Like last year when it was a mess to start out with and then a bit of Sun and wind straightened things right out. But I expect that whatever the weather is, it won't be "good weather", because "Gents Race" and that should be explanation enough. 

I mean, yeah.....there have been good years, but they are not the norm, and I don't expect that anytime I go into this event that it will be "nice" weather. It would figure in that since I am in no shape to ride a metric century that the weather would also be sucky as well. Why not? 

I say, "Bring it!

At this point, I have to give up any expectations that I will be comfortable, ready, or in any modicum of "fitness", whatever that is, for this event. I will just plan on getting there, riding, and trying to have some fun. If that can happen I will be satisfied and I will consider the event a success for myself.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

The GTDRI Stories: The Seventh One - Part 1

Another year for this as the GTDRI site 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 seventh Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational turned out to be one of the iconic rides in the series. This one had a little bit of everything. Weather, great people, and a great, very memorable route. I cannot claim to have much of a hand in this ones outcome because there are always just too many wild cards in making any ride a "classic". That this ride went to "classic" status, in my opinion, right away, was due to many things far beyond my control. One of the most important parts of that was the people that showed up for this one.

That started out with meeting one of the riders the night before for a nice sit-down dinner in Grinnell. Then the next morning, when bright and early, Matt Wills came up from Lincoln, once again driving through the middle of the night to get there. That's one of the odd things about the GTDRI. The fact that I would draw riders from hundreds of miles away, from different states, yet Iowans were largely ignoring the ride up to this point. That would change in later years, but I always found it odd that Iowa cyclists were either unaware of, or ignoring gravel riding. 

Matt Wills arrived at 5:00am after driving through the middle of the night to ride this version of the GTDRI

The spectacular Sunrise was a portent of the heat, rain, and beauty to come during this ride.

This particular GTDRI had three people drive up from Kansas, (two riders, one photographer), and the aforementioned Matt Wills who drove over from Nebraska. I had two fellow Trans Iowa riders from the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area show up in Mike and Jeremy. Courtney was also a fellow T.I. veteran and was from the Des Moines area. Craig drove over from Marion, and Dennis, a local Grinnell public defender showed up on his Fargo. 

Nine of us riding. I mean, that was okay by me. I was thrilled that anyone should show up at all, but the gravel ride thing was still pretty odd yet in 2012 and I guess it took several more years for many to decide it was something worth looking into. So, pardon me for saying this, but anyone who showed up back then, well they were pioneers of gravel riding in my estimation. 

But it was obvious to me by 2012 that this thing wasn't going away. Gravel riding was here to stay whether or not any tires or bikes were ever made for it. We were having way too much fun to just let this fade away by this point. 

John Mathias cresting a steep Level B dirt road hill during the morning of the 2012 GTFRI

Maybe the 2012 ride was even more special because it kind of marked that moment for me. The time when the gravel riding part became ingrained in the community of riders that were taking part in it then and weren't letting it go. These were the people that made this whole thing start to snowball into a really big segment of cycling. 

Between 2012 and 2018, that six year period, was when "Gravel™" became what it is most like today. Pre-2012 it was an "under-the-radar" deal. I'm not saying one era was better than the other, or that anyone "missed" anything. If you feel one way or the other, that's your decision to deal with. But I saw a sea change, and to me, it all started to gain steam about at this time. 

Mike Johnson (R) and Craig Irving climbing a Level B dirt road just North of Brooklyn, Iowa.

We had a photographer on the seventh GTDRI, Celeste Mathias, who did a bang-up job photographing the ride. That was a first for the GTDRI and her imagery really made people look at Iowa gravel riding differently. I got a lot of comments on her images that I used in my original report on this ride. (I'll share some in my next post in this series)

Things like that made gravel riding look more appealing and fun for those who saw those reports and social media posts. The idea that having a group ride, not necessarily a race, started to take a hold of the imaginations of more people. I'd like to think that this GTDRI was a "classic" for those reasons as well.

Next: Part 2

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Another Viewpoint: Jeff's Side Of The Story

Jeff Kerkove was a recent guest on the Bikepack Racing Podcast.
Monday of this week I saw Jeff Kerkove linked to a podcast he was a guest on called the "Bikepack Racing Podcast". He was a guest on that podcast for a recently released episode. (You can access the Spotify link to the show HERE

My interest was piqued when I read Jeff's description of the show which stated, "Last week I sat down with Ezra and Andrew of the Bikepack Racing Podcast to talk Atlas Mountain Race, how Trans-Iowa got started, my journey thru cycling, the Colorado Trail Race attempts...and much more! "

Jeff was going to talk about Trans Iowa?!  I had to hear this! So, I settled into the show and anxiously awaited to hear what Jeff's recollections and thoughts about the event he and I started up were. You see, we don't talk much and the times when I did see him we just never felt that the Trans Iowa story was worth discussing. I mean, we were both there at the start of it all, so why talk about it? That's not odd, in my opinion. 

But now many years have passed and Jeff, for the most part, hasn't spoken publicly, that I am aware of, about Trans Iowa and his viewpoint of how things got started. There was really no need for him to talk about it. But with this whole gravel thing blown up to epic proportions now, I suppose those who are younger, who never knew those days of cycling, are wondering what the story was with Jeff. His whole story, and that includes 'gravel'. 

I'm not going to give it away here, you'll have to listen in to the first 16 minutes or so to get the T.I. stuff, but I enjoyed Jeff's viewpoint very much. It's obvious to me that he never really thought that Trans Iowa would start this gravel grinding thing nor that it would become so important because he seemed to have a vagueness on some dates and details, but I get it. Trans Iowa wasn't a big deal for him, as he had bigger fish to fry in terms of endurance racing, bikepacking, and getting himself to his goal of living in Colorado. Still, his take on things is really interesting. I learned a few things and Jeff's viewpoint is important to story of the Modern Gravel Era because Jeff gives a great view of where Trans Iowa came from, how the gravel scene got started, and who were the main players in it, which really informed how gravel events were done early on. 

I also enjoyed the podcasts host's view of Jeff, which I readily agree with, and which I have spoken to here and elsewhere before. But to hear the hosts "fanboy" on Jeff was fun for me. Jeff really deserves it, despite his obvious humility around that. 

Anyway, for the Trans Iowa nerds and endurance racing freaks, you should listen to this podcast. It's worth your time.

Friday, March 17, 2023

Friday News And Views

Pinarello Nytro e-Gravel bike. (Image courtesy of Pinarello)
 Pinarello Announces New "Nytro" e-Gravel Bike:

Hybrid Powered Cycles (HPC's) have been getting more and more diverse and in some cases, hard to tell from fully human powered bicycles. That bike that passes you on that gravel climb in the future may very well be a hybrid powered bike featuring a well integrated electric motor which is giving the rider an unseen advantage. 

This new Pinarello Nytro e-Gravel bike is already such a bike. According to Pinarello, it offers a 300watt at peak assistance boost with 50nm of torque, even at high pedaling cadences. The Nytro e-Gravel has a range of approximately 63 miles, but with an additional "range extender", (the press kit does not say what this is, but it most likely is an external battery accessory), you could ride up to 89 miles. 

But does it weigh a lot? Actually, no- it doesn't. The bike weighs in at a claimed 26-27lbs, depending on the size, and that really is not a lot when you consider that this bike has assist. But yeah....no where near a racing bike for gravel which is going to be sub-20lbs by a fair amount. 

At $7800.00-$8800.00, depending on specifications, this isn't a cheap bike either. So, who is this for? 

Well-heeled, not-so-athletic, race-aspiring folks, I would guess. While there aren't many races coming in at sub-metric century distances, there are a lot that are right at that distance, and well..... Let the "Is this fair to have racing with fully-human powered bikes?" debates begin. Because this is coming everywhere and when battery technology gets better, and the motors are already imperceptibly quiet, well, then you've got a big problem on your hands if you are a race director. 

Fake websites are rearing their heads again.

Buyer Beware: Fake Websites & Counterfeit Goods On The Rise:

With the economy turning the corner in terms of cycling goods from a seller's market to a buyer's market, there has been an observed increase in web-based chicanery, 

This has come in two forms; fake websites and counterfeit goods. This "Bike Radar" story is a good primer on what to look for and how to protect yourself. 

Comments: With more and more on-line ordering going on, I think some of what you used to value in face-to-face retail is applicable to on-line retail. You've got to value the relationship over price. When price becomes the motivating factor, you can easily get burned. 

Now, I shop on-line a fair amount. I also support a local bike shop when I can. I'm not going to name names, but I will say I use the same vendors over and over again because they are very well established on-line retailers or bicycle shops. I've seen things cheaper from sites I never have heard of, and - nope! Not gonna go there. Not worth it in the long run. 

So, you do you, but as the saying goes: "Buyer Beware!"

Grizl CF SL 7 Throwback (Image courtesy of Canyon)

Canyon Grizl CF SL 7 Throwback: A Marketing Exercise With A Goofy Twist:

Tuesday of this week Canyon Bikes had a bicycle making the social news rounds. It is a version of their Grizl series gravel bikes called the Grizl SL 7 Throwback.

It is essentially a paint job and marketing shtick. And does the Canyon marketing team ever lay it on thick here! The theme overall is that "gravel bikes are just rigid 1990's MTB's".

Here's a bit of the blather from the bike's webpage:

"The bikes of the 90s didn’t flatter your skill level, skittering over what modern MTB riders wouldn’t even notice. Making ‘mellow’ trails deliver big grins, just like our gravel bikes do now.
But this time with brakes and shifting that work properly.

Comments: Bah! "brakes and shifting that work properly"? Really? What a load of BS. And later into the page they trot out the old saw that "under-biking" will hone your skill level and bring you more in-tune with your terrain. As if people really want that. (Hint: They don't, or rigid MTB's would still be a big category)

This is a perfect example of what I am calling the "mountain bike-ification" of gravel bikes. It's no where close to a 1990's MTB bike, and nothing like a rigid 29"er either, so yeah..... Don't fall for this ruse by the marketing departments. 

(L-R) President G. Bush, Steve Domahidy, Chris Sugai. circa 2011.
Chris Sugai Leaves Niner Bikes For Gates:

Back in 2005 an unheard of company called "Niner Bikes" appeared as the sponsor banner on the then dominant site for 29'er news and rumors, the 29"er page on MTBR.com. "Who are these guys?", was the comment from us, and we were all very suspicious of the intentions of this new player on the scene. The fear being that this company was just a ruse to make a quick buck on a new trend and that they were not a serious concern that would bring more credibility to the nascent 29"er movement.  

Well, as it turned out, Niner Bikes, and their two founders, Chris Sugai and Steve Domahidy were dead serious and all-in on 29"ers. Nothing to fear here! In fact, I learned as much in a "Ted-terview" I did with the pair back in 2006. (Read a partial text of the interview here)

Chris Sugai famously made a statement at Interbike proclaiming the death of the 26" wheel as the dominant wheel size for MTB, going as far as saying it would die out as a choice. And back then, people thought he was off his rocker. But we all know what happened.....

In 2011, co-founder of Niner Bikes, Steve Domahidy, left the company. Several years later, Niner Bikes filed for bankruptcy, and was eventually bought up by the same company that owns Huffy in 2018. Now in 2023, the final original member of Niner Bikes is leaving the company which pioneered and pushed forward the technology of 29"er wheels for the masses. Chris leaves Niner Bikes to join Gates, the belt manufacturer, to work in their mobility department where he will help develop drive train solutions for e-Bikes, e-Scooters, e-Motorcycles, and the like. 

It's a sub-note on the history of 29 inch wheels. I've seen the very beginnings of the genre, its rise, its acceptance as "just a bike", and now this may seem like no big deal. However; there once was a time when what Chris was doing was moving the needle big time in the realm of 29'ers, so I feel as though he, (and Steve) deserve a little respect from the MTB community for his contributions. So, if you ever read this: Thanks Chris! Good luck on your future with Gates and I hope that future is a bright one!  

USAC Announces Gravel National Championships In Gering, NE.:

Well, they finally did it. USAC stakes a claim on legitimacy in the field of gravel racing by announcing that they are holding their inaugural Gravel National Championships in Gering, Nebraska in September of this year. 

Using elements of the remote High Plains area which have been a part of the Robidoux gravel event in the past, USAC is staging this event with no prerequisite requirements for participation other than that you have to be a holder of a USAC license. The price for entry has not been set, but the webpage for the event states that "Pricing will be aligned with other large domestic gravel events." 

There will be several age categories and an Open and Pro/Elite Mens and Womens categories with a further breakdown in classment featuring single speed, para cycling, and collegiate. Both the Mens and Womens Pro/Elite classes will be paid equally with a total prize purse to be $60,000.00 according to the press release. It is claimed to be the biggest single day payout for a gravel race ever. registration opens July 14th. 

Comments: Yeah, I expected something like this, but Gering Nebraska? I was a bit surprised by that.  But this is a plum event landing for the Scottsbluff area. Just for context, the area has close to 25.000 residents. 

Pricing to be "in line with other large gravel events", eh? So, above $200.00 a head? Probably, because USAC is funding most of the prize purse off racer's entry fees. So, those pack-fodder athletes will be paying the people standing on the podium. USAC says they also plan on gaining funds from sponsorships, which in this economic climate may be a bit hard to come by, but we'll see. 

This is a watershed moment for USAC and the UCI in gravel, since this event is a qualifier for the  Gravel World Championships held by the UCI. If they don't get the numbers of folks they need to make it float, it will be a difficult thing to sustain. Don't kid yourself, USAC needs you to buy into this. It's all about money to attract the sponsored Pro athletes, and in the end, the only way they've ever been able to make their system work is to have a LOT of average folks paying money to support the pointy-end of the racer pool. Otherwise, this is going to fail miserably, just like road racing has in the USA under their watch.

That's a wrap on the News and Views for this week! Have a great weekend and get out and ride!

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame Class of 2023 Announced

Joel Dyke, nominated for the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame 2013
 First of all - CONGRATULATIONS to all the Class of 2023 who are to be inducted into the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame this May on the 31st of that month in Emporia, Kansas. 

The new class consists of four members. Athletes, race/event promoters, and innovators of gear are part of this class which includes Allison Tetrick, Joel Dyke, Miguel Crawford, and Yuri Hauswald. 

You can read the well written bios for each person HERE.

Comments: As a voter on the selection panel, I had a hand in getting these folks in this class, so there is some bias, I suppose, in my analysis based upon that. But you all know that anyway. With that said....

I'm going straight in with a similar thought to what I had to say about the 2022 Class, which you can read in its entirety by clicking here.  So what about Jim Cummings? Yes.....I said it. I'll summarize what I said last year by posting my quip about this situation here: "Someday Jim Cummings has to be in this hall of fame, or it will be laughable. Kind of like 'Pete Rose' laughable. But we'll see......"

Okay, let the darts fly if they must, but that's my take on that. I'm glad to see that Joel was voted in this time. That is a wrong from last year righted. Joel and his story deserve a lot more notoriety than it has gotten since he helped instigate the DK200 and his other event and promotional activities in the Kansas City area. Joel epitomized the inclusive, "everybody gets a chance to play" mentality that became integral to the gravel scene. That and his calling me, and others, "sexy-pants" when he addressed you. Man! I miss that man....

Allison Tetrick on the podium for the 2018 Gravel Worlds

Both Yuri Hauswald and Allison Tetrick represent the bridge between the underground days of gravel and its growing up to become the mainstay of North American competitive cycling that it is today. 

Both are also tirelessly advocating for inclusivity, fairness in opportunities, and adventure for all in the cycling realm. Both have had fairly high profile recognition amongst cyclist and have brought their competitiveness and associations with high profile athletes and sponsors in the realm of performance cycling to gravel. It's pretty easy to see how what these two have brought to the table has grown the gravel scene in many ways and pushed the boundaries out in many directions. 

Miguel Crawford is a name that not only most of you probably have never heard of, but one I was completely unfamiliar with as well when nominations for the Class of 2023 opened up. However; when I read his story which was submitted to the GCHoF, I immediately understood his impact when I read that he instigated the Hopper Series of events in California. 

I had the Hopper Series on my radar going as far back as the early twenty-teens when I was busy compiling events for the Gravel Grinder News events calendar. Back then, a certain fellow named "Murphy Mack" would keep trying to get me to come out for one of those or his event series, which was in a similar area of California. I think his deal was the Superhopper Series, and maybe those were the same thing. I don't remember anymore. That was up to ten years ago now!

But I knew that the Hopper was a big deal in West Coast events that were "underground", under-the-radar type things and were gravel-type deals which were developed before gravel was "gravel". These events were very important from the standpoint of influence, and since Miguel was the instigator of this, I felt he deserved to be in the GCHoF.

Looking Ahead: I've said this before, but a LOT of the nomination stories sent in for the Selection Committee to read were so varied and narrowly focused on one area that it was hard to navigate them. My suggestion for future nominations would be for those who are considering nominating someone to read what is on the GCHoF site for backstories on current members of the GCHoF and pattern their stories in a similar fashion. (See the link above if you are so inclined)

My thoughts would be that any future nominee would have to have included in their stories some, or all of, the following points:

  • Influence: Not just "locally", or for a specific group, but in a wider sense. Did the event, performances, actions, or results of this person reach out in a meaningful way to the cycling community overall? Does this person influence through advocacy and ways that are not necessarily via media, race results, or in cycling business? 
  • Historical: You can look at an event or person and determine whether or not anything we have seen in gravel cycling today would exist at all, or in a form as we know it now, without them and their efforts. 
  • Pioneering: Here I would look at pre-Modern Era Gravel or early Modern Gravel era (2004-2012) people and events that made a dent, influenced others, or were significant in some meaningful way to what we know as the gravel scene today. Not all that were on gravel before 2004 made any marks on the gravel scene today, but some did. 

Yeah, I think making real sure your nominee has a strong case in those three areas would make for a solid nomination and if the story was written cohesively and well like the bios on the GCHoF site, well you are going to get better consideration than you would for a "list of accomplishments" only, or some heart-felt but not very influential plea that goes something like, "this person really made a difference for me and so many others". Like- "Okay..... Tell me how, where, when and why". Just saying "it is so" doesn't cut it. 

Again- CONGRATULATIONS to the four new members of the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame!

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

The "Boucher Route" Cabling Method Explained

My cabling routing I use which was learned from Jason Boucher
Earlier this week I received a comment from a reader asking if I might explain what the "Boucher Route" was which I used on my new Singular Cycles Mk3 Gryphon build. This post will help explain not only what that routing is, but the name behind it, and why I use that name for this technique. 

History: When I went to visit Quality Bicycle Products in late 2008 to see and ride the then new Salsa Cycles Fargo, I was invited to tag along with Jason Boucher, who was then the brand manager for Salsa Cycles. 

As we prepared the bikes at Jason's home for the Fargo ride the following day, Jason taught me a new-to-me cabling method for external routing of a geared drop bar bike that was elegant and kept the head tube from being rubbed by cable housing. I found the idea so worth using that I associated it with Jason Boucher and ever since I have called this method of cabling a drop bar bike "The Boucher Route". 

Now, Jason would be the first to tell you that this is not his idea or invention, and that is true. However; this is what I am calling it, and have been calling it for over ten years, so there! Ha! It is what it is....

Besides, I wanted to honor Jason for his friendship and early advocacy of my efforts in reviewing product and events production. These days Jason has moved on from the bicycle business to doing his own line of camera bags. Check those out HERE

My old "Fat Fargo" from 2015 using the "Boucher Route" cabling method.

 Explainer: Okay, so let's dig into what is going on here. I've done the "Boucher Route" on nearly every geared, disc brake drop bar bike I have owned since 2008, but this "Fat Fargo" example from 2015 is a great example since I employed two different shifters on the same bike. Note: this routing only works in its entirety for disc brake drop bar bikes. Cantilever brake bikes will require different front brake cable routing than this example does.

#1: This is the route for the rear shifting which you would use with an external cable housing run for most earlier Shimano STI levers up to about 2010-ish when Shimano started routing the cables under the bar tape. Note that instead of having the right side cable go to the right side cable stop, it goes to the left. The example here is showing a Gevenalle shifter set up.

#2: Here you see the route for the left shifter, which in this case is a bar-end shifter, but the routing would exit the bar tape in a similar manner for STI/SRAM under-the-bar-tape shifting as well. The left side shifter cable housing goes to the right side of the bike.

#3: The brakes. Note that the brake cable route for the left/front goes behind the head tube and fork from the right. So, you do not go from the left brake and try to make a tight curve down toward the left fork leg here, On steel frames you have the option of cable tying the housing to the center hole on the fork crown, but you do not have to do this in every case. The rear/right side brake cable housing goes to the down tube cable mounts from the left side of the head tube

Benefits: The "Boucher Route" keeps the gentle curves which cause less cable friction and also it keeps the cable housings bowed outwards from the head tube in a better way. This causes less paint damage due to its keeping the housings from contacting the paint on the head tube unless you turn the bars enough that the cable housings eventually contact the frame at the head tube.  

Cons: The "Boucher Route" can cause really long runs of cable for the derailleurs and rear brake. I've had to use tandem cables many times, longer housings, and those are more expensive, Also- It won't work on every bike. Typically I have found this is a great idea for steel and titanium bikes. However, many carbon bikes and lots of aluminum bikes won't benefit from this, or they have internal cable routing, or no cables because you have hoses and wireless shifting.

I hope that explains the "Boucher Route", its history, and how it might be a benefit to you. Got any more questions? You know what to do! 

Thanks for reading Guitar Ted Productions!

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Singular Cycles Mk3 Build: Update 4

I had to await the arrival of this part to complete the build.
Waiting. It isn't very fun, but when you get to be my age, you'd better have it figured out as far as how to do that. A day and then I'd have my part. Swap out the DT Swiss XD driver for the HG cassette driver and boom! Done! 

DT Swiss star ratchet hubs are actually pretty easy to work on. So I figured this deal was a slam dunk. But you know, this entire build has been fraught with hurdles I had to clear, and the free hub swap turned out to be no different in that area. 

I started working on the wheel, first removing the SRAM 10-42T cassette, and then I popped the end cap off the axle, which went a lot smoother than I was expecting it to be. Okay, pull that freehub body off now and..... Ah.... Where is the other star ratchet? There is supposed to be two, right? 

Well, one was stuck on the freehub body. Oh! There you are! As I discovered this, the spring, which resides behind the star ratchet, overcame the stickiness of the grease and .....Whee! Off it went with the star ratchet falling to the floor and the spring? Who knew? 


Well, I took a break to calm down and when I was settled down enough to think I went back and decided that the spring couldn't have gone far. I started looking high, and moved down. It only took a few minutes and I saw it under a tool box all covered in dust and spider webs. 


One of the two "star" ratchet rings from the DT Swiss 350 hub.
Once the HG freehub body was swapped I could mount this slightly used 9spd cassette and the new chain.

Since I had the hub all apart and it was looking pretty black in there, I decided to clean it and re grease it. That went smoothly and once I had it all popped back together I mounted the 9 speed cassette and then I put on an e-bike rated 9 speed chain. I used that because it was the longest choice of the ones down at Waterloo Bicycle Works. The Gryphon is a longer bike and I wasn't sure 116 links, which standard chains come in for length, was going to be enough. 

Checking the chain line. Perfect!

The chain was stripped and lubed with the SILCA Super-Secret lube I've been using for a while now. Then after carefully cleaning it all up, I checked the shifting and amazingly I maybe turned two screws a total of a half turn. That was crazy! 

Taking a moment to admire the new rig.

After some admiring in the basement when I finished up all I had to do was get in a test ride. That would not happen until the next day due to it being night and the fact that we had just gotten a bunch of snow the day I finished the build. 

The first test ride went as well as I could have expected it to.

Ride Impressions

This is a BIG bike! Big in that it seems longer and a bit taller than anything else I have. I do have the saddle forward in the seat post clamp quite a ways and I might have to look for a bit shorter stem. Maybe a 10mm shorter one. Otherwise the fit is fine. I did note that I have less seat post extended above the top tube than I do on my Fargo, for instance. 

While this bike did not come in at what anyone would say is "light", I think it has to be pointed out that each tire weighs about a thousand grams and these wheels are not in the lightweight category either. It's a 'monster truck' compared to my other gravel rigs, but that's okay. It isn't doing anything that those bikes do, it does something completely different. But I'll get into all that in another post someday.

Back to the ride- It is a springy frame. I noted that while traversing some potholes in a back alley near my home. So, it will absorb some bigger hits well, I think. With all of this snow and ice, I wasn't able to push very hard. So, cornering, braking, and anything aggressive in terms of handling was not tested. 

All I do know now is that it shifts well, nothing fell apart, and those big tires are grippy! One of my purposes for this bike was to be able to handle mildly difficult snow conditions, which is exactly what we had the morning of my test ride. This bike traversed three to for inches of snow with no issues and showed some grip on some sketchy icy compacted snow, so I think it is a winner there. By the way, I was using right at 20psi set indoors, so something likely just below 20psi outside. 

Of course, I'll have to do a little "new bike" fine tuning. The front derailleur cable needs adjustment already, but that's no surprise. But really, this all came together far more easily and far better than I could have hoped. That all despite the hurdles along the way. 

More on the bike as I get longer rides on it, but as for this build, it is over. It is a success. 

Thanks: I wanted to give a shout out to some people who contributed to this build by sending me some of the parts I used on the bike. Some gave these parts a long time ago, some more recently. In no particular order: Brant Richards, Craig Severson, Jason Boucher, and Steve Fuller. Thanks also to Sam Alison of Singular Cycles for his bringing back the Gryphon in a new and improved state, and for his stellar customer service. Thanks to Mike Curiak/Lacemine29.com for selling me these Teravail Coronado tires. 

Thanks to you, dear readers, for reading this series on my Singular Cycles Gryphon Mk3 build.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Singular Cycles Mk3 Build: Update 3

The Project Wide Gravel Wheels v2 in 2021
Now with a few hurdles cleared there would be another question concerning clearance; That concern being the tires I chose for this build. The Teravail Coronado 29" X 2.8" tires on the Project Wide Gravel Wheels v2 might prove to be an issue. Not because the frame and fork were not designed for a tire that big. It was. In fact, it is supposed to fit 29" X 3.0" tires. I didn't think I'd need anything approaching that big of a tire. 

But my concern was that I was setting the bike up with a front derailleur. Singular lists this frame as having a maximum chain ring clearance of 42t. They don't specifically say that you cannot run a triple or a double crank set, but the implication is that this is a 1X bike. 

That matters where front derailleurs are concerned because of the inner cage plate to tire interference issue could be a problem with trying to run a triple ring crank set. I had no idea whether or not this would work because Singular hadn't given the thought to the possibility of doing this, I assume. I mean, who runs a triple crank set anymore and where would you get a new one? Great thinking there, no doubt, but they perhaps had not considered an odd-duck like myself trying weirdo set ups like this! 

The 29" X 2.8" Coronados on the Project Wide Gravel Wheels v2

 The tires set up on the Spank rims of the PWGWv2 really easily. Maybe one of the easiest tubeless set ups I've done. I aired up the tires, setting the beads at 20psi, with a floor pump with the valve cores installed. I mean, this was as easy as a tubed set up, maybe even better because I didn't have to worry about a bead getting stuck on a tube and not sliding up into its seat on the rim fully. I had to mention this because many have avoided tubeless set ups because of a feared difficulty in setting the tires up. Well, with MTB tires, I think those days are (mostly) gone now. 

Now about that clearance!

All clear here! This is the derailleur setting at its most inward position.
There is tons of clearance around the 2.8" Coronados at both the seat stays and chain stays.

Whew! Another hurdle crossed and another sign pointing toward this whole set up working out! I was set for a disappointment, to be honest, so getting away with things to this point seemed like a victory. But I still had to fit a chain to this, and I had to get the HG freehub body for the DT Swiss 350 hubs. 

The order for the freehub body hadn't arrived yet, so I went ahead with a few things that I could get done. I put rotors on the hubs and tried setting up the brakes. I ran into an issue on the rear caliper but then I realized I didn't need any adapter at all for the 160mm rotor size. Once I realized that it was done and dusted.

However, when I went to install the front wheel to do the front brake, I ran into an issue. The wheel wouldn't attach because I could not get the through axle to pass through the wheel for some reason. What the heck!

Things were not quite what I was lead to believe they would be here.

Upon further inspection and cursing (!!) I found out that the through axle was actually a 15mm diameter one! What?!! I could have sworn the specs on the Singular site for the Mk3 Gryphon said 12mm through axle. Bah! Well, the good news was that I actually had a 15mm end cap set for these hubs in a drawer. But I was a bit flustered that I had to bother with it at all at this point. 

But, eventually I got the wheel mounted and the brake set up. I then checked to see if I was mad or if Singular had the wrong specification on their Gryphon Mk3 page. Turns out the site says "12mm through axle" for the fork. So, I am sane after all! Whew!

This wheat colored Brooks saddle is going to be the perch for the new Singular.

I used the "Boucher route" to keep the cabling off the head tube.

So, I detailed out a few things and fitted a star nut into the slightly trimmed off steer tube. I configured my stem in the "downward" mode, torqued all the stem bolts and checked my saddle height which needed to be adjusted. Capped off the cable ends and wrapped the handle bars with a fresh roll of 'fizik' bar tape. 

All that's left is to get this freehub body swap done, mount the 9 speed cassette, thread the chain on and cut it to length, tune everything up, and double check the build. In my next post I hope to have a first impression ride report for y'all. 

Thanks for joining me on this build so far.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

The GTDRI Stories: The Lead-Up To The Seventh One

Craig Irving (L) and Robert Fry joined me on a 3GR in June of '12.
"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 2012 got on I started to formulate a clearer idea for what would become the seventh Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational. One of my desires at this point was to experience the ride as I had seen others do in the six previews versions of this ride. That being as a newcomer to the territory. That wasn't possible if I reconned all the roads. So, I made a course that was, for the most part, an unknown to me. 

It was a course that had some previous Trans Iowa bits to it, but since we'd only run three T.I.'s out of Grinnell by this point, there were still a lot of unseen roads for me in the area. Not all the gold had been mined, so this route was going to take in things I'd seen on the map, but had never ridden. Originally I was going to leave Grinnell via the T.I.v8 route, but I nixed that idea and did a completely unknown to me route to Brooklyn, Iowa for the first leg.

 I was riding decent distances weekly all throughout 2012 leading up to the GTDRI.

Instead of recon, I rode gravel. Mostly every week, although there were breaks for Trans Iowa and trips out of town at times. The majority of my gravel rides were "3GR" rides on Friday evenings or Saturday mornings. These were done in an effort to get my gravel fix, but I also wanted to grow a community of gravel riders. 

Sometimes my only companion on the 3GR wasn't a cyclist.

Getting a community of gravel riders was not easy in my area. For whatever reason, most cyclist around here at the time ignored my efforts to get a gravel group ride up and running. But despite that, I rode anyway, even if no one showed up to join me, and that happened more than a few times. 

But more importantly for me, I was getting some really good base miles in under my wheels and this would be a boon to me in this year's GTDRI. It was hot, humid, and usually pretty Sunny all through May, June, and into July as the GTDRI date approached. A date, which due to lots of rider pressure, was moved off the RAGBRAI weekend. I was getting told that more people would show up to my ride if I made it earlier or later than RAGBRAI. So, the seventh GTDRI was set for mid-July instead of during the last day of RAGBRAI. 

The Fargo Gen I- Re-imagined after four years and readied for the GTDRI in 2012.

After I had pulled a bunch of parts off the Gen I Fargo and let it sit for quite awhile, I decided that it was high time to get that thing back together and use it as a gravel bike. Once I had it up and running, I used it exclusively as my gravel bike to get ready for the GTDRI. 

I trained on hills like these to get ready for the ride.

The route I had concocted was going to be a doozy. There would be lots of BIG hills and big mileage, of course, which would conspire to make this ride on par with the 2010 version of the GTDRI. That was a route which gave no quarter in terms of climbing once the first 25 miles were behind you. 

This one wasn't quite that bad, but as you will see next week, it was no picnic! I was ready for it though, so I wasn't worried about that. My only concern was how many people would actually show up at this one. 

Since the ride start was in Grinnell, and there was no camping close by, I rented a room at the Super 8. It wasn't my first choice, but since NASCAR had a Craftsman Truck Series event in nearby Newton Iowa the same weekend, all the good rooms had been spoken for. Oh well! At least I had a place to stay.

Next week: The Seventh GTDRI

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Singular Cycles Gryphon Mk3 Build: Update 2

Derailleur cleaning time
 Moving on with the build of this Singular Cycles Gryphon Mk3, my next task after figuring out the brakes and that the triple crank would work was to fit a front and a rear derailleur. 

The rear derailleur was a slam dunk, of course, and I had a good candidate for the job in an old (ancient?) Deore XT model. While I was at it I cleaned up a few other derailleurs and my new choice for a front derailleur. 

You might recall that I had pulled a Deore XT front derailleur for the job but later on I realized it was a "top pull" model and I needed a "bottom pull" design. This "Top" and "Bottom" refers to where the cable "pulls from"- topside or from underneath, thus the nomenclature.  

So, I had to dig through my stash of front derailleurs and lo and behold! Here I found an XTR front derailleur, bottom pull, with the hinged plates in the perfect clamp size! It had been a bit abused in a previous life, but it was serviceable and perfect for this application. I cleaned it up and then I had to do some "thinkering". 

As previously mentioned, there is no cable stop for a housing to terminate on and for a bare run of cable to run up to a front derailleur on the Gryphon Mk3. The down tube cable guides support a front derailleur cable housing though. All I needed to do was to figure out a solution. Easier said than done! 

The 1990's were a fun time in mountain biking for the inventive, chi-chi bits you could buy.

I pondered how I would approach the problem and I started to formulate some ideas. First, I would need to make a stop for the housing, (cable stop) and I was planning on anchoring this to the fender mount on the chain stay bridge, just behind the bottom bracket. I figured my cable could run up between the space made by the chain stay bridge and the bottom bracket shell. 

The bracket I would have to fabricate would necessarily be one that would have to clear the width of the chain stay bridge, but be rigid enough that when a shift was initiated, it would not just bend like a flimsy piece of paper against the shifting pressure. This was a tough nut to crack. But I came up with a beefy bit of aluminum rack stay material that I thought I could make work. 

My bracket would be "L" shaped with the slotted part allowing for adjustment to aim what I would have to come up with for a cable stop. That bit was arrived at by modifying what originally was a bit of Shimano metal brake cable guide for an STI lever into what I needed. 

It may not be pretty, but it'll do what's asked of it.
A view from the rear of the bike looking at the back of the seat tube.

As you can see, I canted the bracket to point directly at the front derailleur, thereby reducing any friction and allowing the cable to have no bends as it travels up to the cam of the front derailleur. I will have to put some blue Loctite on those threads, and I should be good to go. Not shown: I fabbed a Presta valve cap into a 'hood' to cover the exit port of my new cable stop to help prevent the ingress of water and dirt.

Next up I had to do the brakes, and that required some thought as well, since I wanted to add in some in-line adjusters, have smooth cable runs, and then I had a couple used cables from the old bike I was going to re-use. I probably should have just gotten new ones right away, but I ended up spending way too much time trying to make the rear one work, and in the end, I just went and bought a new tandem length one at Waterloo Bicycle Works instead. 

3 X 9 utilizing some Dura Ace bar end shifters and Gevenalle levers.

 So, all of that was promising after I got up to this point. The 3 X 9 thing was looking good. Now.....if the rear tire clears the front derailleur! I had to mount the Teravail Coronado 29" X 2.8" tires on the PWGWv2,(wheels described in the previous build post), stick that into the frame, and that would pretty much be the final word on whether or not this thing was going to be viable in this format. 

Next: Checking the wheels for fit and finishing up.

Friday, March 10, 2023

Friday News And Views

New Guitar Ted Podcast Out:

If you haven't heard it yet, check out the longest Guitar Ted Podcast yet which was published last Tuesday. In it N.Y. Roll and I interview Kevin Lee"ride host" of The Spinistry.

The Spinistry is an organization that has been around in North Texas since 2009. They have put on several classic gravel events like The Red River Riot, The Texas Chainring Massacre, and The Hell of North Texas, to name a few. 

In this new episode, Kevin takes us from the early days of his backroad explorations and how those eventually informed his take on gravel events. The Spinistry's vision for the present and future is laid out and  we learned an awful lot.

In my estimation, The Spinistry has been one of gravel grinding's best kept secrets. Maybe that will change now, but I bet a lot of people have never heard about The Spinistry or their events. Check out the podcast where you get you podcast feeds or at Anchor.fm HERE

The new Ritchey Skyline. (Image courtesy of Ritchey)
Ritchey Announces New Skyline Drop Bar:

Ritchey announced their newest drop bar called the Skyline early in the week. It is an ergonomic bar with a classic road drop style. (No flare - No sweep to the extensions)

Now normally I wouldn't bother with a roadie drop bar in the news, but..... It seems that flare and sweep for drop bars is falling out of favor with the Pro/Elite classes of gravel racers. I have noted a slight swing backward to "classic road drop designs" of late, and a LOT of weirdness surrounding aero bits for cycling. 

Before I get too far in the weeds here, there is a link to the Ritchey bar HERE.  

Okay, so what do I think about aero for gravel? Well, it is at odds with the "mountain bike-ification" of gravel, that's for sure. But there is a point to be made about being aero-concious. I mean, you probably wouldn't consider wearing a flappy jacket on a windy day because it catches the wind like a sail and you know that is sapping your strength. So, if you care about that, you actually do care about being aero. It's just a matter of degrees at that point. 

But sacrificing comfort and control for being aero on gravel? I think that's not a good trade-off. So, there are more times I'd want a flared drop bar - for comfort and control - than I would want a traditional road drop for being aero. Your mileage may vary.

Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame To Announce The 2nd Class of Inductees:

I voted as a previous inductee and I am excited to see who will be announced next week to be inducted into the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame on May 31st in Emporia, Kansas.

So, as I understand it, there will be some sort of ride with the GCHoF members on the 31st as well. (Details TBA) I'm trying to arrange my schedule to attend and Mrs. Guitar Ted may even be coming with me. All kind of up in the air right now, but we will soon know what I can or cannot do.

I have a feeling some of this year's inductees will be a bit 'polarizing' for some and maybe a bit of a 'slam dunk' for others when the list gets revealed. I don't know who is getting in and who is not, but I did see the list we could select from and well, the possibilities for some interesting choices exist, I'll just say that.

At any rate, you'll know as soon as I do, and we can all dissect and comment on the choices made afterward. I think that things will pan out for the best, so I am hopeful that how the GCHoF started out last year will be the direction it goes in this year as well.

Mid-South Kicks Off Gravel Season:

I know, there has been a Belgian Waffle and a few other gravelly events already in 2023, but to my mind, the Mid-South is the "official" start of the gravel season. 

This weekend it happens again, and while I know that Bobby Wintle probably would rather not have this be the case for anyone, but this event will always be a "time marker" for when the pandemic hit in 2020. 

There was a lot of speculation as to whether Mid-South should, or even could, safely hold an event in light of what we thought then, but they did it and got away with it, I suppose. Not that they did anything wrong, but in the context of 2020, it was a huge risk then. 

I know, this may seem unfair to many of you out there, but those two things are what I think of when Mid-South happens in March. It's gravel event time again and I remember what my feelings were in mid-March of 2020 once again. 

All the best to those who are attending the event this year!

 That's a wrap for this week! I hope that you all get out for a ride! Thanks for reading Guitar Ted Productions!