Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Singular Gryphon Mk3: Planning The Build

Singular Cycles Gryphon Mk3 (Image courtesy of Singular Cycles)
 Well, February is on the doorstep and I've been sent an email saying that the Gryphon Mk3 frame set I ordered about a year ago is finally about to land in the UK. Then after a bit of time for turn-around, it should be headed over here. That means I have to get on the stick and start planning this build for real here. 

As I've said before, I have a lot of the parts necessary to get the bike most of the way there. I have identified those parts and I have noted a thing or two I need to get in to make this all work. I thought it might be fun to share where I am going on this build.

First of all, I have had to resist the temptation to go single speed. I have too many single speeds and this bike doesn't have to be another one. So, geared it is, and I am going to lean toward doing a 2X 11 speed system for a drive train.  

I have an older silver LX 104 BCD crank that is set up as a triple currently. Singular says that won't work, but a double will. So, I will likely shed the granny gear and go 2X. This will turn my rear XD cassette on the Project Wide Gravel Wheels v2. Note that if you click that link, the last paragraph states that, "I probably do not have the right bike for these wheels....", and I was contemplating blowing them apart to re-lace the rims to something else. But then the Gryphon Mk3 came along and.....everything fell into place. 

Detail of the paint job (Image courtesy of Singular Cycles)
So the wheels I have will work on that frame. That's a big deal, and since I already have them just hanging around, well, why not just go with them? 

The 30mm inside rim width should support the 29" X 2.8" Teravail Coronado tires I have already too, so the wheels are pretty much a done deal. 

Somewhere I have a set of TRP flat mount brakes sitting unused and I need to get those rounded up. They are cable pull, of course, which leads me to the levers I am using.

Those would be a set of Gevenalle levers in silver with the shifter mounts on them, in typical Gevenalle fashion. I have used Gevenalle shifters/levers for over ten years on various bikes, but most notably on the Fargo Gen I. So, I am very familiar with them. They offer a system that is configurable for 7/8/9/10/11/12 speed set ups, and I think I have the 9 speed Shimano lever on there currently. This leads me to the first thing I need to get.

That would be shifters compatible with the Gevenalle mounts. I could take a chance and use their road shifter which would be a direct replacement for the one I have on the lever I want to use already. However; I may have a bit of trouble getting a 42T large rear cog to work with a long cage Ultegra rear derailleur. So, I also have a Gevenalle GX MTB compatible lever with their 10speed MicroShift lever installed on there. I could do one of two things here, based upon the fact that the road and MTB mounts are not compatible with the opposite type shifter.

Side view. (Image courtesy of Singular Cycles)

I could swap mounts and use the MTB mount with a DynaSys 11 speed derailleur I already have. I would have to order in the appropriate 11 speed lever from Gevenalle. OR I could order a SRAM lever with shifter already mounted and use a SRAM derailleur I already have. 

I'm leaning going toward the Shimano route, just because I like Shimano. But I have to get something nailed down soon and get it coming. 

I have a bottom bracket, head set, stem, handle bars, seat post, stem spacers,rotors, and pedals all lined up. I will need cables and housings, which I can buy from my job at the Collective. Let's see.... That leaves a saddle, (got plenty of those) and handle bar tape. I think I'll get myself something nice in terms of handle bar tape soon, but with the build being mostly nuetral colors, (the "wheat" colored frame/fork, silver components, black rims, tan sidewall tires), I am thinking I may pull that silver-ish looking cloth tape from Grepp which is on the Orange Crush currently, or get some leather tape. Or I could order new Grepp tape as well. 

Stay tuned. This should be a fun build.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Mondey: Two Things

Latest Podcast And An Update:

Based upon the response to the post here "Entry Fees Up", N.Y. Roll and I dove in on that subject for the latest Guitar Ted Productions Podcast called "Anatomy Of A Gravel Event"

While my intentions were to focus on the event fee part, we quickly went down another road which opened up a lot of discussion and probably generated more questions than answers concerning gravel events overall. 

We looked at, well...every aspect of gravel events, and from a historical to a present day viewpoint. After we beat that subject to death we then moved on to another discussion based upon this recent blog post here concerning managed finishes. 

Finally, I added the link to PayPal on the Show Notes page which you can use to donate to the podcast efforts here. Just use "g.ted.productions@gmail.com" as the address to donate to, if you feel so inclined.  Totally not necessary, and this will be the last mention of it here. 

UPDATE- 1/31/23: I changed up the name of the podcast a bit dropping the "Productions" part of the name. It is a bit simpler and hopefully easier for search engines to find. Now look for it as "The Guitar Ted Podcast".

Thanks for reading, listening, if you do that, and for your consideration. 

Roster sheet for the 1st DK200 (Image courtesy of C. Stoeltzing's facebook)

Dirty Kanza 200 Historical Document:

Every once in a while something shows up from the early days of gravel grinding. Three years ago I found the copied pages from the first Trans Iowa website/blog which were in a storage tub out in my garage. Last year a rare in-race Trans Iowa v1 image popped up.

This time it was a cleaning up scenario by someone else. A DK200 rider named Craig Stoeltzing found the original roster sheet for the Dirty Kanza 200 from 2006, its inaugural year. He posted this then on Facebook where it was shared with me by Steve Fuller. thanks to those two fellows for making this post possible.

 Click on the image to embiggin it and read away. The names on there represent the pioneers of the gravel scene. Not all participated as riders in that first one, but it doesn't matter. They all bought into the idea, so they all get credit here, in my opinion. 

Of course, I have the original roster sheet for the first Trans Iowa as well, so someday my hope is that both documents will live in a special place like the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame envisions. That won't be for a while yet, but someday, that needs to happen. 

Sunday, January 29, 2023

The GTDRI Stories: Fat Tires And Zebras

 "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!

There are certain rides one does that always stick with you. Maybe you had such a fantastic time with friends that this ride represents a relational highlight for you. Maybe you overcame a personal barrier and went beyond anything you could do. Or, maybe it was a ride where you got lost and ended up having an unexpected adventure. The latter is why this ride I am going to talk about in this edition of "The GTDRI Stories" sticks out for me.

This particular ride was a recon of the upcoming Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational course. I had been eye-balling some roads North of Toledo, Iowa for quite some time. This was an area we went through for Trans Iowa v5 a few years earlier, but we had just skirted the roads I had a mind to check out. So, I made a run down to Toledo to check out a way to get ourselves out of town using the least amount of pavement possible. 

I decided also to make this a recon by bicycle. So I grabbed my new Mukluk, as it had rained the night before, and I knew I might be in for some Level B Action or soft roads. I also was curious at that time as to how a fat bike might work out for gravel riding. I don't think I was the only person on that wavelength! The new fat bikes from Salsa and Surly were causing quite a stir that year, as they were the first fat bikes you could buy as complete, turnkey bicycles with the 3.8" tires. 

My 2011 Salsa Cycles Mukluk as it appeared in 2011. A triple crank? You betcha!

I drove down a long bit of black top road to the Northwest of Toledo looking to find a connector road to gravel to the North, but I was thwarted by a truncated road and even more so by a few downed trees, maybe leftovers from the recent derecho, or newly fallen after being weakened by that event. I could not say, but the point was, I had to turn around and come back the way I had went out.

I went back and looked at the maps and decided to park on the gravel North of town, just off HWY 63, and ride out on a loop I had tried to memorize which would encompass a few roads I was interested in. These roads were not really "on the grid", so there were a few confusing turns that were out there waiting to bait me into making a wrong turn. You can guess what happened next!

I found some pretty spectacular roads on this recon!

The first bit was fairly flat, and then the road went up this really steep hill with a rural church at the summit. Then it went into this gnarly, rutted out Level B Road which was perfect for the fat bike. This was a unique road in that it had a dogleg in it and no other roads crossed its path for almost two miles. 

Love me some wild flowers!

After that fun, I headed back toward the truck, or at least, I thought I was! I made a turn that I thought was the correct road, but it kept on going on, and on, and on! I had no maps with me at the time, not even on my cell phone. So, I was kind of at the mercy of fate for a while and I just had to keep going. I mean, that road would dump me out somewhere, right?

Finally I decided to take a break where the road seemed to start to tip downward a bit. I figured it would be best to rest at the top of a hill than at the foot of some unseen climb. As I looked around, I noted several outbuildings of a farm. A small barn, some sheds, a corn crib. Wait..... Zebras?!! 

Yes, zebras. 

This farm raised zebras. Okay.....that was so random and cool that I had to figure out where I was and somehow put this on the route! But....where was I? That was the big problem that needed figuring out. So, back on the Mukluk and down the hill. It eventually dumped me out on a flat plain at an intersection. Good! I could memorize the street sign, but just in case, I took a photo of it. Alright! I see a highway! Off I went.

As I got to the pavement, I thought I was West of Toledo and intersecting old Highway 30. If that was the case, I needed to go left and I would be back in town in a jiffy and then I'd have to ride North to my truck. But I went about two miles and I came across the road I had originally parked on! Wow! Was I ever turned around! But that meant that the "zebra road" would work for the route. I was stoked! Now all I had to do was finalize the cues and do the ride the following week.

Next: The sixth GTDRI

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Hard Times Straight Ahead

Jenson USA Tweet on Marin BOGO deal.
 Overstock, supply chain issues, price increases, price decreases, and supply shortages. How can all of those seemingly disparate things all be true at the same time in the bicycle industry? 

Such is the twisted state of retail at the bike shop right now. Several lower to mid-range models are piling up in warehouses. This all while high-end, range topping bikes cannot be delivered because things like XTR cassettes, which are still six months out, are not available to put on those upper end bikes. 

Meanwhile, brands are trying to clear '22 and incoming '23 bikes with huge discounts. Specialized has some models at 40% off. Marin is doing a "Buy One Get One" scheme (BOGO) on select models where if you purchase one of those bicycles you can get a free kids bike or even another adult bike. 

The pressure to survive this madness is immense. Some brands have laid people off (Specialized) and I suspect others will follow. But what may have the longest lasting effect on cycling, and the bicycle retail sector in particular, is what all this is doing to consumer perceptions. 

During COVID, bicycles were in short supply. High demand = High prices. There was no discounting, which has been an embedded sales tactic in retail bicycle stores since, well.....forever. The hope was that the pandemic would allow discounting model years to die. Well, that ain't gonna happen now, obviously. And consumers are not forgetting what happened. 

Many consumers are angry with cycling as they see the current issues and discounting as evidence that they were gouged in 2020, 2021, and 2022. The new discounts, to their way of thinking, are not only justified, but proof that the cycling industry was profiteering from the COVID situation unfairly. Now the businesses are reaping their "just rewards", in their view, and some even hope that the cycling industry suffers loss of brands and business failures. Those scoundrels must be punished!

My thought is that this misconception of what is really happening won't soon go away. The result? People will be less amicable to shop employees, shops will find getting good help will be even more difficult, (because no one likes dealing with angry, upset consumers) and many shops will go out of business as a result. 

Hard times incoming.

Friday, January 27, 2023

Friday News And Views

Trek Dual Sport 2 Gen 5 (Image courtesy of Trek)
Trek Re-markets Dual Sport Bikes As "Gravel Bikes":

The Trek Dual Sport, a hybrid bike developed by Trek in the mid-2000's, is the "bike that saved 29"ers". That's what you'd hear if you talked to anyone at Trek that was there back then. The 29 inch wheel experiment was on 'life support' at the company in 2004 when sales of the wagon-wheeled MTB's were dismal. 

The Gary Fisher brand introduced 29"er MTB's to local bikes shops affiliated with the brand in the USA in 2002. However; retailers and salespeople didn't understand the then new idea of big wheels and how they were a distinct advantage over 26" MTB wheels. The wheel size, which up to that point, had been the standard in MTB riding. As a result, the experiment with these bikes, which was the brainchild of Gary Fisher, were up to be cut from the line-up in 2006. But a new hybrid bike, which was sort of like a 29"er, but wasn't, actually saved the 29"er from what may have been its early demise overall. 

That bike, as stated, was the so-called "Dual Sport", which had 29"er-like qualities, 700c wheels, but was positioned as a more dirt-worthy hybrid bike. Hybrid bikes, which were well understood by salespeople and retailers, were an easy sell, and the Dual Sport was the gateway to 29"er acceptance amongst that important link of the chain. Salespeople had to buy-in, and when they did, the lid was blown off for the acceptance of the 29"er side of MTB and well, you know the rest of that story.

Enter in the Gen 5 Dual Sport, a 27.5" wheeled bike with 2" tires and a very MTB-ish geometry and set up. Only now Trek is marketing it as a "gravel/adventure" bike, because, well.....gravel, don't cha know? That Trek is marketing, what is in all essence a MTB-lite bike as gravel, is fine with me. It's the details that I found interesting. 

For instance, the whole "Gen" thing. Trek has been working toward getting rid of model years for bicycles for at least 15 years now, and has recently enforced that messaging with its retailers. However; Shimano kind of has them held as hostages, along with the rest of the bicycle industry, due to the format of Shimano's component release scheduling. That said, the generational aspect of this marketing idea of Trek's means that consumers won't know that a Gen 4 Dual Sport is a 2022 model and that Gen 5 is 2023. Kind of..... Anyway....

The other thing? The price for this Dual Sport 2 with mostly Shimano Acera and a Chang Star hydraulic brake set is $849.99 (USD- MSRP) Acera at eight hundred and fifty bucks? I'm pretty sure that the bike which was analogous to this Dual Sport, the Trek FX 1, was about 500 bucks in the mid-twenty-teens. That's a big leap upward in pricing, which, as we all know, was expected. But sheesh...... 

The Bookman Monocle (Image courtesy of Bookman)
Bookman "Monocle" Head Lamp:

Recently I was asked to review a product for bicycle lighting by a Swiss company named Bookman. I agreed to take a look and when the package arrived it had another, non-bicycle specific light in there. 

It was a head mounted light for running called the "Monocle". Head mounted lights are nothing new, of course, but with the activity of running in mind, certain design criteria were more important than say, a camp light you might find at the checkout of your local big-box home and lumber supply company. 

And to be honest, I did not know it was a product for running when I received it. In fact, I did not learn that until moments before I wrote this when I researched the company. So, my thoughts on how to make use of this gizmo light were far different than what Bookman may have envisioned. 

Where I work in an old building at the Cedar Valley Bicycle Collective, and considering my workshop at home is in a basement that is over 100 years old and wasn't designed to be a workshop, it is no wonder that the lighting is less than desirable. Especially for my old eyes. So my first thought was to use this at work, and conveniently, the day I received it I had to work. I charged it up, strapped it on my head, and wore it for the next five-ish hours. It lit up dark places on bikes and allowed me to have less frustration in getting stuff done. It's "stepless angle adjustment" allowed me to get just the right aim on my work too. I also used it on the way home to see if it might be a good supplementary light for night riding. 

With its claimed 225 Lumens of light at High, which will last a claimed 1.5 hours, I can say that signs were lit up  and I could use it to read cues easily, if I needed to. In fact, 225 is almost too bright for that. Thankfully there is a half power option which lasts four hours that is a bit less brilliant and glaring to use as "cockpit lighting". My only beef so far is that the button to power it on and tab through its three modes is a bit stiff.

The thing costs about $55.00, weighs 40 grams, and the strap has a lot of little reflective details. So far? Impressed. Standard Disclaimer applies. . (More on this and the other Bookman product I was sent will be posted soon)

Titanium chainring from 5Dev (Image courtesy of 5Dev)

Titanium Chainring Promises Less Wear:

Titanium, that grey aerospace metal of fame and renown in bicycle circles, has not often been used for chain rings. But a USA company called "5DEV" may change that. 

The company, probably best known for their far-out designs for titanium stems and crank arms, now offers a 34t or 36T titanium chain ring in raw, or three other anodized colors including a teal (!!).

Benefits claimed are longer wear life, better toughness, and compatibility with SRAM or Shimano chains. 

Comments: I remember when Boone titanium cogs were the big deal for single speeders because they were (a) cool looking and (b) did not wear very much at all. I have a Boone Ti cog somewhere along with those weird wavy titanium spacers they made. I have to say that the cog has held up well over the years. 

That these are only $150.00 bucks isn't bad when you think about it. I know I could totally get on with one of these on my single speed or on my Ti Muk 2 fat bike with the Rohloff set up. I wonder though, how would this hold up on a 1X set up? That cross-chaining that you have to do with 1X usually wears cogs and chains out laterally instead of in the traditional way. 

Anyway, an interesting, if not a bit limited, option for some folks.

Image courtesy of Classified.

Classified Hub Gets A Big Shot Of Cash:

The Classified hub technology, which I first came across in  the Fall of 2020 as seen here in this "FN&V", has recently been infused with a reported 24 million USD in funding from the CEO of investment firm Active Partners and who is also Rapha's chairman. 

Cycling media outlets and commentators are suggesting that new wheel partners are also coming onboard with this technology. Speculation is that the investors want to see the Classified hub system on the same level as SRAM/Shimano in terms of market share and acceptance by the riding public. 

Comments: As always, anything that disrupts the "standards" which cyclists, mechanics, retailers, brands, and manufacturers hold dear is going to have a tough row to hoe when it comes to proprietary drive train ideas. Just look at Rohloff, Pinion, Gates Belts, or components that are slightly out of the main focus of Shimano's and SRAM's main fare. Sure, they are out there and available, but does anyone think that these ideas have taken a hold in mainstream cycling? I have a hard time believing that anyone would say "yes" to that. 

Essentially, if and until Shimano gets displaced as the de-facto arbiter of what is happening in mainstream tech for cycling, anything like Classified's hub will only ever be like a Rohloff Speedhub, or a Pinion system- Something that is an option for some people, but definitely not "the next big thing". 

That's a wrap on this week! Have a great weekend and get out and ride. Spring is coming soon!

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Entry Fees Up

Entry for the 200m? $290.00
We used to say that gravel riding and racing was a cheap way to enjoy competition or to just have fun. Heck, many of the earliest gravel events of the 2000's were free or had a very low bar to clear to enter. I recall someone saying that it was such a good deal because many events were so cheap to get into and long enough that you could ride your bike all day. Choosing any gravel event as something you put on your calendar was often predicated upon whether or not the travel time was longer than the event riding time, not on race fees. 

My! Times have certainly changed! 

The old way I used to gauge expenses is out the window now. I just got off of BikeReg, which lists a little over 300 events as "gravel" on that site. I just randomly went through and picked out about eight or nine events to check on where race fees are at these days. I was shocked. 

Once upon a time, back when the Dirty Kanza 200 was getting "big" and raised their entry fees to just under 100 bucks, someone piped up and said to me that if race fees went over a buck per mile of the event's course, that they would quit going to that event. Well, let me tell ya, there are not many events you've heard of that are even close to a buck-per-mile anymore!

Would you pay more than a dollar/mile to ride on this?

Now, of course, gravel events are more than just riding on gravel/dirt/whatever roads they use for their courses at whatever events you want to name. You've got timing and scoring. Then you have all the pertinent "furniture"- barriers, finish line arches, podiums, etc. You've likely got insurance, materials to facilitate the event, race numbers, tape, etc. 

And maybe you've got merchandise, you've maybe got an event headquarters you need to pay for, permits to close down streets, police, ambulance, and medical staffers, maybe. I don't know everything about these massive productions like Unbound, but yeah- There is a LOT going on there to produce the event. I get that.

But I've said it before, and I'll say it as long as I am able to- Gravel events don't have to be like that. 

You don't need thousands of participants, you don't need twenty-five categories for race participants, you don't have to have finish line arches and big time concerns with cities, police, etc. The gravel experience exists outside of those confines, but the big events have put all that inside their own boxes and have put the focus on other stuff. Is that what you want? Cool.... Join the thousands of others that are all about that too. I understand I probably am in the vast minority of opinions here, but "big time gravel" has become just like "big time roadie events" and "big time MTB events". Crowded, expensive, harder to get into due to what perceptions are about equipment, and broken into so many sub-divisions of people that it becomes less about overall community and more about individual groups. 

And then you top it all off with really expensive entry fees. 

I took a look at several events, as mentioned above, chosen at random from across the country. Various distances were included. Plus, I also looked at pricing for sub-categories. Following are my 'not-so-scientific', random findings*

  • The more well known the event was, the higher the entry fees were. No big surprise there, but what caught my eye was one of the events that I looked at, which is fairly new, is the most expensive per-mile-of-course I found and the hardest to get into as well. Due to a somewhat convoluted registration scheme where riders can defer their participation to a following year, giving them dibs on a roster spot, and due to this particular event focusing on diversity and inclusion initiatives along with a preference to entry for sponsor's athletes, the "regular person" takes a back seat. But it is their event to run, so.... 
  • The longer the event, the cheaper it is per mile: This seemed to be universal across all the events I checked out. Some made sense, others, not so much. When the featured distance costs the same as all the other distances you offer, that's sort of odd! 
  • Not all events are really expensive. In fact, I found one long-time Pennsylvania event was actually under  a dollar-per-mile of its course. But just by ten cents! 
  • The average cost per-mile-of-course for all the events and categories I checked out? $2.05/mile. The cheapest, or if you'd rather, best bargain event I found, was a sub-event of the Swamp Fox Gravel Fondo which at 177.6 miles costs .28 cents a mile to enter. The most expensive? A 25 mile option at a Vermont based event that was $6.00/mile to enter!

*All figures and information for these findings was culled from currently available data on BikeReg.com for the events I looked at on 1/25/23

Now- Let me say this- I know that many events are cheaper per-mile. I get it. Don't get your hackles all up and come at me with your examples of particular events that don't fit my story here. I understand that for as many events as there probably are, most are not all that expensive. But you are not going to see any of those written up in mainstream cycling media, and many of those I checked on are those events. Some weren't, but most were. But of the events I knew of that are not what you'd call "big-time gravel? Even most of those were more expensive than a buck-a-mile. 

 Image from Trans Iowa v10 by Wally Kilburg
So, what do we make of all this?- Obviously, everything is more expensive as time goes on. Call it "inflation", evolution, or what have you. That's just the way things seem to go. Time goes by, things get more expensive. You can pretty much count on that. 

Well, according to the almighty Google, a buck in 2009 is worth a $1.38 today. So.....yeah. Inflation? I get it, but event fees have essentially more than doubled in the course of 12 years. It's got more to do with than inflation. 

Demand? Yeah, maybe.... That's part of this. I always said that event directors who were trying to make this gravel thing into a career were going to keep jacking up entry fees until they perceived a ceiling had been reached. And rising tides raise all boats to a degree. I mean, when smaller events see what Unbound gets out of racer's wallets then they see an opportunity to match "what the market will bear", I think, and that's natural. 

And again- people are paying these fees gladly. Well, I assume that they are, because I don't see rosters and field limits less than full. So, I have to adjust my expectations as well. A buck-a-mile is dead. Entry fees are up, and they are not coming down anytime soon, or so it would seem. There are still cheaper events- I was invited to such an event in Minnesota a few days ago. Twenty-five bucks to enter and I could ride whatever distance I wanted up to 300+ miles or as little as 25. There are still events that are free, just not very many! So, I have options. 

And I can create my own adventures. The roads are free to ride. I don't need a permit, finish line amenities, or aid stations to do a fun, adventure filled gravel ride. I can even compete on a personal challenge level. You can too if current event prices have you down. The "gravel experience" doesn't have to be a wallet-draining one. It was never meant to be like that. 

But if the thrill of all the things those big events bring to the table tickles your fancy? Go for it. We've got plenty of choices.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Winter Views: Birthday Ride

Escape Route: Green Belt Trails
Well, first of all, I want to thank all of you that bothered to take the time to offer your well wishes and cheers on the occasion of my birthday on Monday. I very much appreciated those comments both here and elsewhere on social media and in messages. 

Many well-wishers advised that I go for a bicycle ride, and of course, that is exactly what I did. The "frosting" we had on the tress and shrubs was still in effect, miraculously so, and with the addition of Sun, which we hadn't had in quite some while, it was a glorious day for a ride.

It was also frigid cold. 

So, I took out my Blackborow DS since it is currently set with pogies, and off I went. Spinning like a hamster because I left the bike in 'low-range', which if you don't understand, well that refers to the 'dinglespeed' nature of this bike. (Click the link for an ultra-nerd-out on dinglespeed gearing) Anyway, "low" range on the Blackborow DS is pretty spinny, but not low enough to winch yourself up a steep incline, such as the dike entrance to the Green Belt. At least not with snow involved.

But once I scaled that and got down the other side, the Green Belt presents no inclines worth mentioning. So, the gear was perfect for negotiating softer, churned up sections of snow and stable as you can get when it came to off-camber bits due to the wide 4.8" tires. 

It is hard to find the best of the trail to ride at times due to the multi-use nature of the Green Belt
Frosted trees overlook a free-running Black Hawk Creek

The low angle of the Sun made the snow and frost stuck to the tress yet glisten and glow like crazy. Again- a super-unusual state for things here and we have had the luxury of living in this wonderland-like atmosphere for several days. However; later on this day that Sun burned off the frosting, so to speak, and things look a little less awe-inspiring now. 

Headed out towards the Green Belt lake.

There were sights to see that just demanded I stop and soak in as much of it as I could.

It turned out to be a perfect day, or at least morning, to be out in the Green Belt. there was not a soul in sight, (other than the ice fisher I saw), and the sky was a clean, washed blue with some wispy contrails from jet traffic here and there. The contrast between shadows and brilliant snow-scapes was spectacular. The dreary, wild, unkempt Green Belt woodland looked beautiful in its new snow-white clothes. 

A lone figure pulls a sledge across the frozen Green Belt lake.

Simply stunning views!

That was most likely the most beautiful, peaceful, and precious Winter ride I have ever experienced. What a gift! And by far the best birthday ride I've yet had. I hope that you enjoyed the bit I was able to share here. 

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Winter Views: Wonderland Ride

We don't often get conditions like these.
We had another snow storm last week that was quite unusual for a January snow storm. In fact, it felt a lot more like something that would have occurred late in February, or even better- early in March. A snowstorm which occurred at the freezing mark for temperatures. 

January has been atypically warmer than usual. Not by a lot, maybe more December-ish than it would be on a typical year. Nothing crazy like we've seen for short moments during past Januarys where it has been in the 50's for a day or two max, then it goes back to under zero or near to that with below zero nights for weeks. 

Last week it had been so warm everyday that almost every iota of snow we had was melted and gone. Then the weather folks were ballyhooing this big snow event with "six to ten inches of snow' which was to fall overnight Wednesday into Thursday. It snowed alright, but only maybe four inches of thick, heavy snow which, due to the high temperatures it fell at, stuck to every tree, wire, and pole it hit. 

This left behind a "Winter Wonderland" effect where every branch on every branching thing was coated with a thick covering of snow. Since there was little to no wind associated with the storm, or its aftermath, this stayed in effect for more than a few hours. Typically when we see this sort of thing it is gone right away the same day. That I could wait until Friday, when it was colder and the snow had set up to ride, was a big-time luxury.

It was colder than it had been, but not bad. 20 degrees is fine for riding fat bikes, and due to the high moisture content of the snow we got, it was easily rideable even without grooming. That said, anywhere there had been compaction it made the snow as fast, or maybe faster on a fat bike, than pavement. It was fun yet still a challenge. 

There is a road here, a two-track. (The downed tree is laying across it)

A view of the recently completed "bridge" on the Sergeant Road bike path. HWY 63 is in the background.

I plunked and trundled along for a bit longer than an hour. Got my heart rate way up there a couple of times! It was fun to actually have fat biking in great snow as opposed to the last snow we had which was all drifted in snow. That stuff is like riding through hour glass sand. No consistency or stability to that sort of snow. This high-moisture content snow is far more fun on a fat bike. 

This might stick around for a while as well since it is not supposed to get too warm for a while. I doubt the "frosting" will stay once the Sun reappears for any stretch of time, but this was a lot of fun to ride through and experience for me. Like I said, this is rare here and this probably won't happen again anytime soon.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Another Trip 'Round The Sun

GT and his cat, Felix The Cat.
 Well, it is that time of the year again, for myself at least, to mark the day as another trip made 'round the Sun. The day when you either pass off things as "no big deal", escape by "celebrating" in some way, or take stock in the passing of time and what it means in your Life. Maybe you do all three in their appropriate measure.

I think as one grows older these special markers of time start to become less frivolous and centered around fun and more serious and considered. I suppose that is only natural. At one time I would have expected a cake, candles to blow out, and presents.Then later on in life I might have thought I should expect drinks, a card or two, and some frivolity with friends. Now? 

I just want to spend time with my immediate family, and then a bike ride on top of that might be nice. I think that's exactly what I'll do. 

It's another day, in the grand scheme of things, and what I do maybe doesn't really matter in the end when it comes to the 23rd of January. But it is my day, and I will mark it as long as I can. 

Hopefully you all out there have a spectacular day and are able to do something meaningful today. Not because it is "my day", but because this day is a gift to you. Make sure you unwrap it and try to give thanks for the things that bless you, because we aren't guaranteed to see another one of these come our way. 

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

The GTDRI Stories: Death Cookies

"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!

After the fourth Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational was over, I was pretty dejected and saddened that I didn't ride the entire route. That loop out of Echo Valley State Park is crazy hard though. And I may have been a bit hard on myself, this is true. At any rate, I was determined to come up with a course that was a bit less arduous and one I thought I could do in its entirety. 

As always, I was busy with a lot of things in 2011, not least of which was the seventh running of Trans Iowa. That was, as I have written elsewhere, a very stressful Trans Iowa and the aftermath of it was stressful as well. This affected the GTDRI to a degree as I didn't get around to doing most of the recon for several bits of my route until July, weeks before the actual event. 

The date of the event was also something that is notable here. For a few years, I had been changing the date around for this event. Early on, I was trying to fill a spot in August, but in 2008, the Pirate Cycling League fired up an event dubbed the Good Life Gravel Adventure. They chose mid-August as their date. I had attended and ridden in the 2009 (and last) version of this event so that made me move the GTDRI up into July. By 2011, that Good Life Gravel Adventure was now a big deal and was called "Gravel Worlds". I tried pushing the GTDRI back into a second/third week of July thing, but that prompted feedback from riders that told me this interfered with their RAGBRAI plans. That event always being on the last full week of July. 

Checking out the route in late June after a derecho had blown through this area.

Eventually I was advised to put the ride on the last weekend of RAGBRAI, if I had to have it in July, because that would likely be a better way to do it for riders that also wanted a big portion of RAGBRAI riding.

So, that's how this ride ended up on the date on the calendar it was held on afterward, with the exception of the very next GTDRI, for years. I got a little gas about it from those who wanted to do the entire week of RAGBRAI, but overall it seemed to work. I remember a few riders telling me that they had done a portion of RAGBRAI and then had a "cleansing" with the riding of the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational. 

The "Missouri crossing" of Salt Creek on P Avenue

Another remarkable thing about this particular GTDRI was that it occurred shortly after a major straight-line wind event that happened across Iowa on July 11th of 2011. It was the first time I ever recall meteorologists using the term "derecho" for this sort of storm. 

This was a bad event in Iowa, but at that time, I hadn't heard about it at all. I discovered the after-effects of the storm on my first big recon of the new GTDRI route in mid-July via bicycle. I started out in Traer, went South, and suddenly I was seeing trees ripped apart, snapped off mid-trunk, and lots of bits of tin roofing, siding, and the like all wadded up against trees and fence lines. 

Now, localized damage from a severe thunderstorm that looks like what I saw is common. But I noted that this seemed to go on for miles. That was weird! It was eerie, and I felt a strange unquiet within, and sensed a bit of despair without, as I saw people cleaning up the mess. Many fires were burning on different farms as farmers were trying to dispose of all the downed tress and branches, and other refuse.  You could see columns of smoke rising all around out on the prairies of Iowa. 

I had to dodge utility poles and wires for miles heading back to Traer on this recon.

This all hit me the hardest as I rode through Clutier where the wind speeds had reached nearly 100mph for a sustained amount of time. Buildings, houses, and grain bins were destroyed. The roads leading into the village were all blocked off to traffic, and big trucks, cranes, and chainsaws were busy helping to clean up the area. 

As I rode through on my bicycle, I was aware of a feeling of guilt. People glanced at me and I perceived their looks as being not very friendly. As if I were an affront to the desperate times these people were experiencing. The contrast between my joyful cycling activity and the efforts of these concerned, sweaty, toiling men and women, was a stark one. I wanted to hide. 

National Weather Service map of wind speeds in the damage area for the 7/11/11 derecho event in Iowa.

That was a very memorable experience and one I was not at all prepared for. On the way back to my vehicle, I saw entire groves of tress which were blown down by the winds. I had to dodge utility poles for miles and crawl under hot lines with my bicycle. It was a weird obstacle course! 

When I returned home I had a message from Tim from North Dakota saying he wanted to know how many people might be showing up. He was planning on coming and was going to bring home made cookies for everyone! 

Death cookies? Sure, why not! 

Next: Fat Tires And Zebras

Saturday, January 21, 2023

"Managed" Finishes: Good Or Bad?

The Gorge Gravel Grinder has three distances
Over the past week a few media outlets in the realm of cycling have been promoting a story about a new "managed finish" (my words) element to an event in the Oregon Gravel series called the Gorge Gravel Grinder

Essentially how it works in a nutshell is that people who sign up for this will get a lead rider who is to set a predetermined pace and there will be a follow-up rider who will help to keep said paced group together. 

This is being done to, "help participants stay on track to reach a specific finish time, help take the nerves out of gravel riding and racing by offering an inviting and inclusive, beginner-friendly supportive riding environment while promoting the camaraderie that makes the gravel community so spectacular", according to an article from Cyclingweekly.com

They call these "pace groups" and they market them as "freight trains of fun". Other objectives of this initiative are to "... ensure participants complete the course and meet their goals", and to raise the level of female participation to 50% of field limits.  

Comments: First off, I was a bit puzzled by the author of the linked article when the so-called "pace groups" were suggested to be analogous to gravel riding/racing because, "The experience of gravel racing is often likened to running a marathon."

I've been around gravel riding and racing for many years and I have never heard this before. If anyone reading this can give me some context for this quote, I am all ears and eyes here. Maybe I am out of touch....

Riders in a group from T.I.v10
Secondly, the idea of "pace groups" in gravel racing is not new at all, despite what the article, the event, or anyone else seems to think.  It's just that previous to this event's announcement, those "pace groups" were allowed to form organically. There never has been any need to make "pace groups" a managed part of an event because event organizers did not make rules against this, and in fact, many early gravel races and rides actually encouraged such behavior. 

Also, having been in these groups inside events before, and having observed how they have worked in Trans Iowa over the course of 14 years, I think I can speak to a few points concerning this effort by Gorge Gravel Grinder.

First of all, let me say that I have no real problem with the idea of "pace groups", but trying to manufacture and manage such things is a bit of a problem, in my opinion. I have done "managed pace groups" while doing several "no-drop" events over the years, and so I think I can speak to this with some authority.

And that's a great point here. That being that, whatever you want to call this which is to occur at Gorge Gravel Grinder, it is essentially a "no-drop" ride within the event. Or, maybe several no-drop rides, depending on how they break things up. No-drop rides are not at all uncommon, and they do exactly what the organizers are after- They help ensure riders meet goals and finish rides. So, really, that's all this is. 

The problem is that if their groups get too big, they are going to need more leaders and more sweepers for each "pace", or speed of group. And I would imagine Gorge Gravel Grinder has a time stamp, (they mention "specific finish times") so you need to herd all these cats within a certain time frame. What is "too big" in terms of a group? Well, for best results? I'd say 20 riders, or less, for a leader and a sweeper. Especially if you are rolling within a larger group. 

But I have even more questions about this idea. How does a time limit affect riders? (Gotta pick up the pace if there are too many stops?) Can groups stop or is that not allowed? What if one or two have mechanicals? Does the rest of the group stop? Do you lose your sweeper if that happens? What about a rider that is having a bad day? Or a rider becomes too slow for the group because they over-estimated their ability to hold the specified pace?  Do you shed riders and leave them to fend for themselves? (Doubtful, given the stated goals here for the Gorge Gravel Grinder)

A "pace group" ride I used to put on called "The Geezer Ride'.

Here's a "for instance" from a "pace group" ride I used to put on called the "Geezer Ride". It was for those who did not want to race, who wanted a "no-drop", no rider left behind experience, and at a casual pace. I ensured people would finish, and at whatever cost that came at, that's what was going to happen.

At one particular Geezer Ride we had a rider that was inexperienced, a "virgin" gravel rider, and was not a finely tuned athlete. In fact, this rider was already telling me to go ahead and leave them behind at the ride's start because they did not expect to be able to keep up. But I was committed to seeing this person finish. And I was successful in managing this for that rider and all the others there that day. 

But we were sloooow! We stopped. A lot! So, because a Geezer Ride had no time stamp, no "finish" to make in a certain time, I could leave that part to chance. But when you have event volunteers, infrastructure to tear down after an event, and after-event things like social activities or podium ceremonies, can you allow a managed group to have that sort of luxury? 

To my way of thinking, you have to game plan for things like slow riders, over-zealous riders, mechanicals, and making time cuts for end-of-event reasons. You cannot expect volunteers to just hang because a managed pace group is slower than they thought they would be, unless.....

Unless you are willing to allow for failure. In my mind, in an event like Gorge Gravel Grinder, the element of failure should be a part of that event. Failure to finish should never be seen in a negative light, and actually, it can be the best thing that ever could have happened for some riders. At the worst, it should be a lesson for a rider to learn from. But, if the goal is to "make sure everyone finishes", then you lose a valuable asset that gravel grinding, and well, life, has in store for us. That being the chance to learn, to grow, and to have clarity from failures that you otherwise wouldn't have gained. 

And that is an essential element of gravel grinding. Without failure, you lose a big part of what makes gravel riding and racing what it was, and has become. That said, I think there is a part to play for no-drop rides as well. It just shouldn't be considered a part of, or analogous to doing, any racing event or challenge. Failure should be an option, and it shouldn't be feared, or held against anybody. That's being "inclusive".

Friday, January 20, 2023

Friday News And Views

The RP Designs "Smart-Cockpit Bar" (Image courtesy of RP Designs)
 Electronic Devices In Your Handle Bar:

RP Designs has announced their "Smart-Cockpit MTB Edition" handle bar which is made from carbon fiber and has an integrated computer with a 5" touch screen embedded into it. 

The website for the product has the following to say about the computer features: "The exposed weave carbon fiber body is completed with fully-integrated Smart-Cockpit custom touch screen computer. Apple Carplay/ Android Auto connectivity and Cytech training app (powered by Strava) are pre-loaded on the system to provide you with all the training information and motivation you need for that next PB."

The bar also features fully integrated brake hose routing and instant cred due to that fancy outer layer of carbon with a weave that will definitely let all those in the car park know that you have a carbon bar. The price for such notoriety and electronic technology? $790.00. 

Comments: When I saw this, I figured this guy would be totally on-board with the idea. (sarcasm alert - "this guy' rants about electronic shifting, et alia, on social media a lot)  Anyway, yeah...... Whoo! I guess if I were really out there doing the MTB thing, my thought would be that this touch screen thing is going to look a lot like a smashed window, and if not that, like a mass of swirly scratches, in pretty short order. 

Troubles On Morgan Hill:

Last week it was widely reported in cycling media that Specialized has laid off 8% of its work force world wide. Reports out of the U.S. and U.K. seem to indicate that the layoffs were across several job types. 

Specialized put out a statement which read, in part, the following:

This past week, Specialized made the incredibly difficult decision to say goodbye to 8% of teammates around the world. With the global economy changing faster than anticipated and rapid changes within cycling, the organisation adjustment will allow the brand to be adaptive whilst still investing in innovation.

One report stated that some in the cycling industry are speculating that signs are pointing to Specialized readying itself for a purchase. The company has brought in several new C-suite people and coupled with the trimming of staff, these signs have many in the cycling world troubled.  Also noteworthy is the severe over-stock situations being noted across the cycling industry which only adds to the negative outlook.

 Comments: With recent news that Giant has asked for a delay of payment to suppliers, and news that sales of bicycles at the U.K. retailer Halfords has fallen below pre-COVID levels, the scene is set for a rocky 2023 in cycling retail and wholesale. What will happen will be affected by a large degree on consumer spending habits come Spring. If we don't see consumers spending on new bicycles and gear at least at the levels we had seen in 2019, as in the case of Halfords, I think the U.S. cycling industry is in for a very bumpy ride. 

Oh! And on the same day the Specialized lay-off news hit, Specialized was also feted in another news article telling of the company's purchase of Pearl Izumi's former digs for a cool 14.9 million bucks. Not a good look there, I would think. 

New Podcast Alert:

N.Y. Roll and I recorded another new podcast and it posted on Monday evening. This time we speculate on the 2023 selling season for the bike industry, we talk about retail experiences, and more. You can check it out HERE

Also- We are trying to amplify under-the-radar gravel events with the podcast, so if you know of a cool event that needs a boost, let me know and we'll try to keep that segment of the podcast going as a standard bit. We also would appreciate any suggestions for interview. You can comment here or, as always, hit me up at g.ted.productions@gmail.com. 

Thanks for checking the podcast out!

IRC Announces Partnerships With Belgian Waffle Ride, UNBOUND:

An announcement in the form of two separate press releases hit my inbox this week letting me know that IRC Tire had become the "official tire" of both UNBOUND Gravel and the Belgian Waffle ride. The presser specifically called out the Boken DoubleCross model. You can see an image from the UNBOUND  announcement alongside here. 

Comments:  IRC said in the release that IRC "designed the Boken DoubleCross for this event". Hmm... I smell "Marketing". 

It doesn't take much sleuthing to find reviews of the Boken DoubleCross going back to 2019, so whether IRC had the Flint Hills in mind when they designed this tire or not is debatable. They could have, of course, but it could also be out of convenience for this sponsorship.The presser makes it sound  like this is a new development. Okay..... 

The other thing I think about here is "What does anything like this sponsorship mean other than money/support for the event?" By my count this is the third "official tire" the Kansan event has had over the years. (IRC, Panaracer, Teravail) The name gets plastered all over the event page, anywhere the event is advertised, and provides a "feather in the cap" for social media marketing for IRC, but does anything like this make a real dent in rider choice of tire? Hmm..... I'm sure IRC would like to know that as well. 

And that little "seal of approval" that the BWR and UNBOUND post on these releases- Does that have any real bearing on what works on their courses? Maybe. Maybe it is fluff. Hard to know since there is no metric to go by on that. And maybe nobody really cares....

Okay, that's a wrap on another FN&V. Have a great weekend and try to get outside and enjoy yourself!