Sunday, April 30, 2023

The GTDRI Stories: The Eighth GTDRI


The 2013 GTDRI was a monster developed by the Slender Fungus
"The GTDRI Stories" is a series telling the history, untold tales, and showing the sights from the run of Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitationals. This series will run on Sundays. Thanks for reading!

This was a difficult day on the bike for me. I had been frazzled by the preceding Odin's Revenge event a month earlier and I never really recovered from that. Then I did not get a good night's sleep and I woke up really early to make the start across the river and just down the road from Sabula a few miles at a converted rural church. 

I had unwittingly brought the wrong bicycle to boot as I had no idea what the difficulty level of the terrain would be and the Black Mountain Cycles Monstercross wasn't really an ideal handling bike for those Jackson County roads. Additionally I had a poor tire choice to make things even more dicey handling. Uggh! But it wasn't all bad! 

Once we got to the Jackson County Iowa Tourism building, the aforementioned converted church, we gathered in the dim twilight of morning and as I gazed out I kept seeing little bluish lights and cars descending upon the gravel parking lot. The surprise "rider" this time? Well, it was all those who came to swell our numbers to something over 20 riders. Jeremy Fry, in his usual fashion, showed up late to eventually swell our numbers to 24 riders. It would be the largest gathering of GTDRI riders for many years. I was overwhelmed by the response! 

The gathering horde at the Jackson County Iowa Tourism Center

My nemesis rises above the Eastern hills.

The first bit was straight West, more or less, and featured a couple doozies for climbs, but there was plenty of time to recover on the flats, and it was still cool and damp. So overheating wasn't an issue.....yet! We had to stop a few times to gather the strung out line of riders with differing skill and fitness levels. Fortunately everyone was chill about that. 

At the summit of this very steep climb we were treated to this view looking back East.

At Maquoketa the group split between short and long course riders.

Looking back on this day I should have swallowed my pride and went with the short course riders. But.....I didn't. Thinking that I needed to represent, since the ride was "my ride", I went with the longer option group and suffered the consequences of my poor fitness at the time. 

Admittedly, I underestimated this course as well. Eastern Iowa has some of the hardest riding anywhere I've been. The hills are steep, unrelenting, and the downhills are not straight shots, making bike handling skills a premium asset to have. I was simply overwhelmed by all of it, and then it was hot and humid to boot. 

You don't soon forget kindnesses the likes of what was shown to me by Michael Lemburger

Bailing out with Chris Paulsen. Again- I do not forget the kindness shown by him that day.

I ended up frying myself and making an abrupt left turn to follow another rider who was bailing out early named Chris Paulsen. He and his wife were local veterinarians who lived not far from Bellevue, Iowa.  Chris showed me a great deal of patience and a great deal of kindness that day. He took me into his home, fed me, and gave me a ride back to my truck where I bid he and his wife farewell and headed back home

My ride was fairly unremarkable. I maybe got in what? 75 miles or so? Half of what the long haul group did. I've heard stories about their last half of the ride. It sounded epic, but that is their tale to tell. I wasn't there for it.

I felt pretty down about it all, not being able to "show up" for the entirety of "my ride", but I got over it eventually. At the time though, I wasn't very proud of my efforts and I felt like I had let a lot of people down. 

On to the next one.....

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Tis The Season

From the 1st day of Trans Iowa v10
 Once again, the ol' Facebook machine has been pumping memories back into the timelines of several folks concerning Trans Iowa, and obviously I get a lot of that as well. The last week of April will always be "that time" for me as long as I'm able to remember. 

It won't always be social media, and it hasn't been that, which will, and does remind me of those times. It is the way the Sun hits, the sounds of Robins and Cardinals in the trees, and the crisp evening air that brings me right back to those days when I was bounding around Iowa in an old beat up Honda, or a Volkswagon, or maybe a Subaru. Sometimes by myself. Other times with cherished friends. Of course, I still have that old Toyota truck, so I get reminded of Trans Iowa every time I sit in that thing. But it is really the season, this time of year, that gets me nostalgic, and maybe even a bit misty-eyed when those old memories come back to haunt me. 

The weather too. Wind, rain, wild temperature swings, and maybe even a whiff of snow. (Remembering the start of Trans Iowa v4 in Decorah there.) Sometimes I think about what the weather was at certain junctures of Trans Iowa. We rode some storms out! We had some beautiful weather as well. Springtime in Iowa. What can I say? 

Somewhere North of Mason City, Iowa during the night of Trans Iowa v1

Personally I experience a lot of emotions when I think about the hours and hours that I spent alone in the country, especially at night, over the course of Trans Iowa's run. No one knows about those times, and probably no one else really cares, but for me? Those were some very memorable times. 

I remember how hard those times were to get through. I remember being really "alone", cut-off from the world, and wondering what the heck I was doing out there anyway. I had a lot of time to think things through. It was good. It was not fun at times, but it was good. 

Matt Gersib serenading me on his ukulele during Trans Iowa v12 near Melbourne, Iowa.

 But there were awesome times spent with companions during the nights on certain Trans Iowa events. David Pals was invaluable as a companion on some of those long, cold nights. Matt Gersib too. He was a life-saver, and I shared my last Trans Iowa overnight with him, which will always be one of my chief memories of doing that event. We saw the good and the bad and we still get along with each other through it all. Gotta say that means a lot to me. These are the things that get to me when I start remembering things at this time of the year. 

From T.I.v8. Image taker unknown.

Then I think about all the mini-chaotic situations we probably caused over the course of 14 years. Mainly at convenience stores. Riders would come in at all-hours, muddy, dirty, sweaty, with weird clothing on, and looking half-dead. Wandering aisles for who-knows-what grub to fuel the next one hundred miles. On gravel? What?!! Yeah.... I missed most of that, but I've heard the stories. 

And of course, the people and their love for Trans Iowa mean a lot as well.

 I did hear a lot about what the riders thought about the ol' event. I have to admit that it is amazing to me that the love shown the event, and to me, has been amazing. It still is amazing to me. Of course, I appreciate it greatly, and this time of year brings that back to mind again as well. 

A comment on Trans Iowa and its influence sent to me in 2020

What's weird is - at least it seems weird to me - is how Trans Iowa still inspires people to this day. People that weren't ever in the event even. They sometimes get a hold of me just to say that T.I. did something to them that inspired. It's uncanny to me that some weirdo event on gravel in Iowa that I was a part of did anything inspirational after it was over. I mean, I figured it would get forgotten almost immediately. 

And when that happened, well I would just as well have been a ghost as well. But nothing could have been further from the truth, even though I was at peace with fading away, people aren't letting that happen. 

The whole Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame deal now has pretty much ensured that I am remembered by at least a few folks, so I may as well give up the idea that I was going to become "just another guy" in this life of gravel riding. Ha! And that's fine with me. It's nothing I can do anything about anyway. Not that I would, know! 

A tribute to Bill Pontious, who was a Trans Iowa rider that died unexpectedly in 2014.

 I cannot live through the last week of April anymore without thinking of those who were part of Trans Iowa that are no longer with us. I feel privileged  to have met these folks via Trans Iowa, honored that they chose to ride in my event, and sorry that they lost their lives too soon. Bill Pontious, Paul Black, Joel Dyke, Kyle Platts, and Joe Mann - Thank you and God Speed! 

So yeah.... This week! Almost all the Trans Iowa events, save for T.I.v5 which was held the first weekend in May that year, are packed into this last week of April. That's a lot of memories coming home to roost at this point for me. It can be overwhelming. Almost to the point that I want to shut it all out. But that would be an unproductive attempt at blocking out things that, really, should be celebrated and considered. 

So, forgive me this one post to help me tie a bow on this last week of April. I needed to write this probably more than anyone out there needed to read it, so thank you! 

I hope you all have a great weekend!

Friday, April 28, 2023

Friday News And Views

Jones Bicycles Debuts 29" X 3.25" Crux Tires:

Back when fat bikes were getting hot there were rumors that a 29" fat bike tire might get produced. That wasn't really a very soild thought though, since mold making machines were barely able to crank out 2.5" width 29"er tires at that point and the over-all diameter of such a tire as a 29' X 3.25" tire would easily exceed anything that could make a tire at that point. 

That said, tire companies that weren't necessarily the biggest dogs in the performance bicycle marketplace started doing odder sized tires just to gain a foothold in the market. (See reference to an example below) Vee Tire and Duro Tires are two brands that, while you may not know it, make tons of bicycle tires for lower end bikes and other brands. They just do not have their name front and center when it comes to tires made under their company name. 

You've likely heard about Vee Tire, and you may have used them on a bike, but they are not a "Maxxis" or "Kenda" in the marketplace. Duro is almost unheard of in the performance tire market for bicycles, although they have made popular DH tires in the past. 

So, it wasn't too surprising then when Vee Tire made there Bulldozer model into a 29" X 3.25" tire, which then Jones Bikes adopted as their featured tire on many of their Jones Bikes builds for bikepacking. Now Jones has worked with Duro Tires to bring another, tubeless ready 29" X 3.25" tire in the Crux model. You can check them out here

Ultima Multipath Long Range (Image courtesy of Ultima)
Interesting Molded Composite HPC :

Electrified two wheeled contraptions are a dime a dozen, so when I see one that I actually am interested in, you can bet that there is a good reason why. This bike by Ultima from France is just such an example.

It features technology borrowed from automobile manufacturing and uses an injection molded composite technique to create a unique, monocoque, single-piece structure for the frame and the fork is made in much the same way. I've chosen to highlight Ultima's "Long Range" version of their bike to show here because it has the most radical fork design and is meant for all-roads/terrain. 

Essentially a trekking bike, the Ultima Long range has a single-sided fork, ala a Lefty, with a unique parallelogram linkage suspension, which as far as I can discern is based on a "blade", or leaf spring design. (I could be wrong, but the website isn't 100% clear without me doing more digging)

The disc brake arrangement is kind of interesting. It would allow for the rider to remove the front wheel without removing the caliper, but since the caliper is basically upside down, I cannot imagine that debris would not want to collect in the pad area, not to mention moisture. 

But besides this odd design choice, it is a very interesting bicycle. Typically any injection molded type designs in the past have not been successful due to breakage or a lack of stiffness which led to poor user experiences. Examples of this that you may have heard of are GT mountain bikes from the early 2000's and Ross, who were resurrected briefly in the early 2000's and used an injection molded hard tail frame for a few models. 

Ultima is using recycled plastic in this frame and fork and their goal is to use 100% recycled plastic for the French produced frame and fork by 2025. Hopefully they can pull it off, but time will tell. 

The bike weighs a claimed 45lbs plus a little and costs well North of 4K, which in light of many offerings on the market is not bad at all. It's just going to come down to how this frame and fork technology holds up under daily usage.

Drunken Rhino (Image courtesy of Nextie)

Drunken Rhinos & Mammoths: What?!

The world of fat bikes just got a little fatter recently  when Nextie, the Far East carbon rim manufacturer, announced that they have made a 128mm wide carbon fat bike rim with a 120mm internal rim width. Following is a bit of the announcement as seen on Facebook:

"We thought the Xiphias 105mm rim had been compatible enough for the biggest tires currently on the market. But according to the needs of one of our loyal customer fans, who is a fat-bike enthusiast, the Xiphias 105mm is still not wide enough, especially for the ground with very thick snow. Wider rims are much more beneficial. So we decided to design and to develop the world's widest carbon bicycle rim - the Drunken Rhinoceros 128mm. Even though it's an extremely niche product, it's our duty to push the boundaries of carbon fiber cycling if one product could meet the needs of our wide range of customers from all the world."

The identity of the "loyal customer" wasn't hard to figure out for me. That would be Mike Curiak, who is solely responsible for this product's existence. He typically has been the driving force behind fat biking in "trail-less", ungroomed areas where there have been less people and more solitude. You can see Mike's bike he tested these on and read more about how to get the rims here

In the Facebook comments on Nextie's announcement a link was made available to a bike that probably has the widest Over Lock Dimension (OLD) of any production bicycle that I am aware of. The Mammoth Empire, apparently available from the Philippines, has an over 200mm bolt-on rear hub. 

Snip from a YouTube video on the Mammoth Empire fat bike
Okay, so you've got these huge rear traingle widths, a big, wide carbon fiber rim, and what tire? Well, actually, the big tire came first. That would be the Vee Tire Snowshoe 2XL at 5.05" in width, and it is at least that wide. I've seen side by side comparisons with the Bud and Lou Surly 4.8"ers and the Vee 2XL is noticeably bigger. 

But......could we be on the verge of seeing something even wider come out? 

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

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Country Views: Looped

Escape Route: MLK Bike Path
Late April weather can be all over the place, but this year April has been shying away from the warmer side of things. We had a dose of Winter over the weekend and Monday I was too busy to get out, so Tuesday had to be the next chance which fit into a nice, Sunny window of weather. 

I was kind of happy that it was on the cool side though, because I just got my Pirate Cycling League 15th Anniversary wind jacket. So, at least the weather stayed cool enough long enough into April that I had a chance to use it. 

This ride would head Northeast as that was the direction that the wind was coming from. While the weatherpeople were saying the wind would be a mere breeze, it was in fact a pretty stiff wind. The flags were standing straight out, and that made the going a bit tougher. But wind isn't an unknown around here, so I was fine riding into it. Besides, the tailwind back home would be nice!

A county maintainer made much of my ride a bit more, shall we say, "interesting"?

I rode out straight into the teeth of the wind on Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard which just so happens to run at a diagonal out of town to the Northeast. That gets you out to the industrial area where Tyson's meat packing plant dominates the landscape. There are semi-tractor trailer rigs all over out there. A side benefit of this is that the county made the road shoulders as wide as a lane of traffic to accommodate these rigs as they often pile up out along the road waiting to get in to load and unload cargo. A gravel bike then can navigate this easily and not be in the roadway where traffic can be speeding by at 60mph at times. 

This brings me to Newell and a right turn to the East to get me outta that craziness and out into the country. On this ride I immediately came across a county maintainer who had scraped a big pile of gravel, dirt, and grass in a long pile right down the center of the gravel road. 

Nice doggie! This one stayed in the yard, at least.

This John Deere was pulling a huge disc rig, although with all the dust you cannot really see it.

The maintainer had been down both sides of the roadway and due to that, Newell was covered in a loose layer of dust and gravel. Good thing then that I rode the pink MCD with those 700 X 45mm Pirelli Cinturato M tires on it. Those things just made the road ride like it was perfectly normal. 

Some fields are really green with this cover crop, which I believe is rye grass.

But most fields were either brown or being worked up for planting. That's Pilot Grove Road in the distance.

The navigational plan was to head to Poyner Creek bridge, have a rest for a minute, then come back to Pilot Grove Road, head North, and then back West on Big Rock Road. In my head, the distance from Newell to Big Rock was two miles. In reality, it is three miles. 

The dust was kicked up pretty badly by the UPS truck up the road here.

Looking back at Pilot Grove Road. This is where I made a wrong turn.

So, I ended up turning on East Donald Street instead and I thought I was on Airline Highway. If I had been on Airline I was going to go a mile West, turn on what would have been Ordway Road, went one more mile North, and then left on Big Rock. Instead, I ended up in Dewar, Iowa!

I knew I was off-track when things weren't looking familiar, like this barn.

Going back the way I came out!

Once I saw Dewar, I knew that all ways out of town ahead were pavement. So, I opted for the left turn, which would take me right back to Newell and gravel back into town again. So, that worked out and I got a nice two hour ride in from the house. 

Not the loop I had in mind, but it was nice to see East Donald Street's gravel section again after two years. I may have to add that into the regular rotation of routes I do from now on.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Review Briefs

 As many of you know, I get in a fair amount of stuff to review on Riding Gravel and sometimes just to give feedback on/test for others. I figured I may as well shoot a few words this way on some things being currently tested and reviewed by giving a few, brief thoughts on those items. As always, The Standard Disclaimer applies.

WTB Gravelier Saddle:

I've already mentioned this one last Friday, but in case you missed it, I have been riding this saddle for a little over a month now.  

I have to say, it really is a pretty nice saddle. Not every saddle will accommodate every butt, however; if you have a fairly aggressive seated position on a drop bar gravel bike, this is worth looking in to. 

I would liken it most to a Silverado WTB-wise, but if you've ridden anything that is meant for high performance road/gravel riding in the last 30 years it is about that same family - fairly stiff, not overly padded, and it provides perineal relief. Its 143mm wide and pretty short, but I have to say that it fits me great and that's coming off a 143mm Silverado. 

I rode this for around six hours at the Gents Race, so if that didn't kill me I think I'm good to go. In fact, it felt pretty darn fine to me. 

Pirelli Cinturato Gravel M Tires: Looking at that same image above you can see the Pirelli Cinturato Gravel M tire I have on my Twin Six Standard Rando now. This one is a 40mm and I also have a set of the 45's on my Black Mountain Cycles MCD at the moment.

This has risen to become one of my favorite tires. If I were going to ride somewhere that called out for a puncture protected tire, this one would get the call. I like it a little better than the Vittoria Terreno Dry in this size only because it rides a bit better, but that's a good puncture protected tire as well. 

The Easton EC90 AX Carbon drop bars here on my T6 Standard Rando

Easton EC90 AX Carbon Drop Bars:

These are pretty much a set of road racing bars. They are uber-light, carbon, comfortable, but......they are road bars. Not gravel handlebars. No flare to speak of here, although Easton claims there is 6° of it, you cannot tell there is anything flared here at all.

I mean, they are fine bars. They ride well, but I miss my flared drops and in rougher terrain or on looser gravel, a flared drop just is easier to control. I would recommend these to recovering roadies and those who have to have no-flare bars because "aero" and "watts" and well, you know who you are if that means anything to you. 

These handlebars are nice though. Smooth feeling, even in rough stuff, but you sacrifice control in rougher, looser terrain with them

Shimano SPhyre Ridescape Sunglasses

These were newly designed Sunglasses which were supposedly going to help with line definition and contrast on gravel rides in bright Sunshine. The magnetically fixed lenses were of the wraparound, shield type and frameless. They are light, very comfortable, and look good on my face, in my opinion. 

 When I first tried these, and every time I used them afterward, I had the uncanny feeling that my vision was clouded. Could be. My old eyes ain't what they used ta be, that's fer sure! But was something else. I almost felt like there was a fine film I was looking through when I wore these, and the colors as seen through the lenses were greenish-yellow and, well, not very pleasant. 

Finally I got out some older eyewear I have that I've always been very happy to look through. A pair of Spy "Happy Lenses" equipped casual glasses and an older than dirt pair of Oakley Jawbones. Once I sat down and compared, it was immediately apparent what the problem was. It wasn't just the SPhyre's weird color tinting, but these glasses were making glare worse instead of better. I was seeing everything with a haze of yellowish glare, and that was the "film I was looking through" thing after all. It was readily apparent that the Spy and Oakley glasses were far superior at cutting glare, rendering true colors, and had my eyes seeing things as they could be only without the burning sensation of the Sun in my retinas. 

So, yeah. The Shimano glasses? Not good. 

That's a wrap on reviews in brief for now. Stay tuned for more in the near future.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Two Things Tuesday

 Two Things: Number One - Iowa Wind and Rock:

I would be remiss if I did not mention something about the past weekend's events at Iowa Wind and Rock. This is the event that is heavily influenced by, (some would say it is an outgrowth of ), Trans Iowa. So, of course I feel a connection to the event every year. Once again I paid attention to the goings on over the weekend and I also did a Twitter thread on the event as it happened in case you saw that, or want to. (Twitter @guitarted1961) 

The weekend here was pretty much marked by Winter-like weather. It was sub-freezing for a significant time during the event with strong Northwest winds and there was even snow and bitterly cold rain for a bit. The threat of this weather caused IWAR some no-shows, as this sort of weather will do in an event like that, especially a free to enter event. They ended up with 60 hardy souls taking the line. 

Attrition was high in the beginning with most of the event's abandons happening before the first of two checkpoints. The progression of this year's IWAR was a very familiar one for me as the remaining riders were whittled down to a final finishing total of 13. 

Cory Rood was the overall winner in a time of just under 28 hours. That's about "right" for an event like that, with those conditions, based upon my experiences. Congratulations to Cory and all the other 2023 IWAR finishers, riders, volunteers, and race directors for another successful event. As anyone that has read this blog over the years knows, the stress and complexities of an event the magnitude of IWAR/Trans Iowa is immense. Hats off to one and all for this edition of an Iowa classic gravel event. 

Number Two: The Latest Guitar Ted Podcast & News:

As you all that read here are probably aware, I do a podcast with N.Y. Roll that posts about three to four episodes a month. We've got Episode #12 out right now, and we should have another recapping Sea Otter and more coming out later this week. 

We've been getting a lot of feedback on our efforts and I really appreciate that. It has all been encouraging and constructive, which is useful for us and spurs us onward. 

Speaking of "onward", the near future should prove interesting as we move closer to the second installment of folks into the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame, which I have planned to be in attendance. Since I will be there and several interesting folks will be around, I may try to grab some soundbites and/or interviews which will be appearing on future episodes of the Guitar Ted Podcast.  

Meanwhile we should be getting some more interviews in from other folks as well. So, all of that to look forward to on that channel as we keep trying to get better and put out content that folks find worthwhile. Finally, I wanted to give a shout-out to The Spinistry, the Texas based gravel event promotions entity which has been a big supporter and sponsor of the podcast this year. Check them out for interesting gravel events, bikepacking routes, and more.

Monday, April 24, 2023

News Season: Sea Otter 2023

I still haven't seen much about this since Thursday last week.
 Sea Otter is over for another year. This was probably, and arguably the first "real" Sea Otter since 2019. Vendor participation was almost back to pre-pandemic levels. So that meant that a lot of new items debuted throughout last week and at the show in conjunction with the festivities. 

And let us not forget that there was racing, and Life Time's "Grand Prix" kicked off there this past weekend. Of course, if you haven't heard, Life Time owns Sea Otter now, so they can do what they want in that regard. 

Okay, this will be a post of things I thought were interesting using images caught by my friend Grannygear who was in attendance at the show and forwarded me the images you see here today, except where indicated. We also collaborated on a post on Riding Gravel, so you may have seen some of these already.  I'll stick mostly to the gravel stuff and commentary here, but there may be an oddball thing or two that I post also. Okay, here we go.....

BlackHeart titanium gravel bike.

BlackHeart Bikes: I'd never heard about this company before seeing the image here. Cool looking bikes and all. The company mission statement I read said that they wanted a bike that struck a middle ground between gravel and road bikes. (??) Hint: A "gravel bike IS a road bike. 

Anyway.... Checking the specs on the three thousand dollar frame and I see that it is, in fact, a road racing bike. "Square" geometry in the most classic road bike style, it has a 72.5° head angle and a pretty shallow bottom bracket drop with a maximum tire clearance of 40mm. 

Not an "all-roads bike". I mean- you can ride this down your local single track, for all I care, but this is not "all-road" bike geometry for the masses. So, looks good - not gonna cut the mustard around here. 

This was seen on a Fezarri gravel bike

UDH Ready: Trends? How about UDH, the SRAM acronym for "Universal Derailleur Hangar". Seems that a lot of smaller companies are moving toward using this as it cuts down on expenses and, probably more importantly, is a sign of a future sea-change in drive train technology. 

I expect more will become clear on this in the Fall of this year. Stay tuned....

Another USA based aluminum rim maker? Yes!

Boyd Cycles Starts Up US Rim Production: News broke at the onset of the show that Boyd Cycles, the wheel purveyor from the East, was working on a manufacturing facility in South Carolina while COVID was going on and now that facility is up and running. This is pretty good news, I think.

Of course, it brings us up to two rim manufacturers in the US with Velocity USA having been here cranking out rims for quite a few years already. Boyd included in their press release that they are open to doing rims for other companies as well, so hey! Maybe a renaissance of sorts is happening with US based wheel making? Perhaps. 

You might have spied out above that the wheels set shown is $425.00 for the set, so they aren't just making high-end stuff there. Nice!

Hunt To Sell Straight Pull Hub Sets:

A lot of pre-built wheels come with cool hubs that you only can have if you buy the entire wheel. Sometimes you might want the hub, but maybe you want a 650B wheel, or even a 26"er. Well, now you can buy a Hunt Sprint SL set of hubs for that purpose and more.

Of course, they are disc and through axle only, so there is that, but most modern bikes are those standards anyway. You can get a couple different bearing types and the prices are not too bad. The "Ceramic Coated" bearing versions are $249.00 for the set. 

Straight pull spokes are not real commonplace, so I checked the innergoogles and found that I should have no fear. Lots of choices. Mostly DT Swiss and Sapim. Both solid choices there. 

The only caveat? You can only get these hubs in 20F/24R or 24F/24R spoke drillings. That probably limits these hubs appeal to the racing and lightweight freaks. But if that is you, hey - there you go!  I might keep these in mind for converting some older wheels I have to through axle and a better freehub system. 

Kenda "4titude" Tires:

I've opined on this channel about how those in the industry on the one hand are trying to pull gravel biking into mountain biking territory. Well, as with the BlackHeart bike above, there are those that don't understand "gravel" as a niche/type of bike and want to pull it back toward road racing. Another example is the Kenda "4titude" tire, developed in tandem with riders of the Belgium Waffle Ride. 

You might be thinking, "But wait! Isn't BWR a gravel series?" Well, BWR would love it if you thought so, but many of their events have higher than 50% pavement courses. That's NOT gravel, my friends. 

Not that it is wrong, but if you ride mostly pavement, you end up back in a road racing mindset, if you are in the cycling industry. It's like they cannot help themselves.... 

Anyway. The tire. Back to the tires! 

These will be available in a 35mm and a 40mm. I happen to actually like the tire by the looks of it. This type of tread pattern can be very fast around here at times. Probably not if it was like last Summer in Southern Black Hawk County, but maybe elsewhere and hopefully this year! (I can hope!) 

I have a set of Donnelly USH 40's that look similar to these Kendas that I think are great. So, I welcome tires in this vein. Big, poofy road tires, any road tires, are always a good deal. 

American Classic is now offering 700 X 45's

American Classic Offering A 700 X 45mm Tire Now: So, here's another smoother treaded tire I like a lot, the American Classic Kimberlite. They were offering it in a 700 X 35, 40, and 50mm sizes. But now you can get a 45mm! 

This is great. American Classic tires took a step up when they did their redesign last year and I tried Kimberlites in the 50mm size. The 45mm would be the deal for folks on a budget. The American Classic Kimberlites in this size should fit a ton of bikes out there and should roll like a champ. 

This isn't what I expected from Salsa back in the day, but now? Yes. I understand.

And A Few More Opinions On The E-Salsa Bikes:

I still think the shocker of the show was the Salsa e-bike deal. However; you hardly saw anything on this from mainstream cycling pubs and sites. Weird! Maybe there is a hidden reason for that? I don't know, but typically Salsa sends out press releases ahead of big announcements like this. I do not think that they did that this time.

Comments I saw regarding this on posts I put on social media and here ranged from quiet approval to outright disdain. There once was a Salsa Cycles that stood for ideals that many folks that I know were attracted to. And you'd think something like an e-gravel bike would fit the old "Adventure by Bike" philosophy that was once the province of this brand alone for a time. But something has changed since those days.

I think it is a lot of things, and the evolution of this brand has left a bad taste in the mouths of some. People have left the brand since those days, and that certainly has had an effect. The parent company has changed, and their values have changed, and that certainly has had an affect as well. Is any of this negative or positive? That's for you to decide.

But it "is". That's the point, and of course, the entire electrification of bicycles and the sea change in retail has affected this brand to a large degree as well. Like I said, it's a LOT of things all together that have brought Salsa Cycles to a place that has the brand at a bit of a crossroads in my opinion. I think this is what you see reflected in the comments on the electric Confluence gravel bike. The bike itself is neither here nor there. It's just a signpost of the brand and where it is at in 2023. 

UPDATED: 4/24/23 @ 12:00 NOON CST:

A Salsa eMTB as shown from Sea Otter on a QBP employee's Instagram page.

An anonymous source tipped me off to the existence of a Salsa eMTB, still in development, apparently, with a Bosch mid-drive motor. The source also confirmed that the Confluence is indeed real and was also puzzled by the lack of media interest. 

So, how about them apples?

Thanks for reading Guitar Ted Productions.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

The GTDRI Stories: Bombfire


"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 story of the 2013 GTDRI was, for me, about a hang I had with a few other guys the evening before the event in Sabula, Iowa. As with most really memorable things in my life, it was completely unplanned beyond the fact that I was supposed to stay with three other guys in a motel room across the Mississippi River on Friday evening. 

I remember the drive over, which was quite unconventional and, as many of my solo drives tend to be, through areas most people would never choose to drive through. Unfamiliar gravel roads, two-lane County blacktops, and small villages. I remember some of that drive to this day because of how I routed myself. 

Then there was the "hang". I met the guys I would be staying with, who all came down from Madison, Wisconsin for the event, and we decided to go eat at this eclectic, quirky little pizza joint in a run-down looking brick building named "Bombfire Pizza". I'd heard about the place before from my friend Ari, who was part of the planning committee for this version of the GTDRI. He and "Cookie", (Jay Barre), would often do training rides in this area together, thus the reason for this GTDRI to start here. 

Bombfire was one of their "must-stops" whenever they came to Sabula, and Ari had raved about this place to me for several years. After the Bombfire pizza was consumed, we wandered around Sabula taking images in the light of a setting Sun. It was almost as if we were documenting the town for some coffee table top magazine spread. We all were getting creative and taking wild shots which in my opinion was a blast. I guess camera nerds would just shrug and say "street photography", and think it was no big deal. But for me, it was maybe the most fun I had that entire weekend. 

When time sort of slows to a standstill and you aren't in any hurry to go anywhere, when the peace of a still, Summer evening falls and you are near the mighty, ancient Messipi, something magical could happen. I think that's exactly what happened that evening while we were hanging out in Sabula. 

It's a time I won't soon forget, and in the story of the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitationals, it is an experience that has no rival. This version of the GTDRI was a weird one anyway. In fact, it was maybe the one that generated the most "legends", and to think I missed most of that. Well, you'll learn why soon. 

Anyway, somewhere I have all those Sabula images tucked away, but I haven't been able to find them yet. Someday I'll come across those and re-post them. But maybe that doesn't matter so much as the memory of the magic of that evening. I guess maybe that's really the bottom line here.

Later that evening we arrived back across the river in Savanna, Illinois and Ari was there with his wife and Mike Baggio in tow. They made off for Bombfire not long afterward while I tried to settle into an uncomfortable sleep with a 3:30am wake-up call. 

Next: The 2013 version of the GTDRI was one for record books.

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Search & Rescue Mission

Black Hawk Creek near the Ansborough bridge
Friday was another cloudy, very windy, and rainy day. I had thought I might get outside for a bit in the afternoon for a brisk walk perhaps. But then I noted a post on the Nextdoor app and saw that a Board member of the Collective had lost their glasses in the Green Belt which is very near to where I live. 

So, that ended up becoming the excuse for me to round up my Dorado townie and go schlepping through the woods for a while looking for something I thought might end up being a bit of a wild goose chase. The person indicated where they thought the glasses might be, but, you know.... Weeds, dirt, underbrush, and whatever else might be out there could easily conceal something as small as eye glasses and the chances of them being right on the tread of the trail was probably really low.

I figured it probably would end up being just an adventure, and it was going to be okay. But then again, I believe that if you listen, there is a Spirit that can guide you. So, why not?

The Dorado has a rear rack now.

 This would be a great chance for me to see how the Dorado would do as a bike to plunk around on in the woods. I've found that the front end geometry is really interesting in that you can track stand the bike quite easily and it does slow speed turns really well. It has stability that is uncannily good, not the kind that causes you to feel the bike is sluggish or a tank. But yes, it is not light! It rides "light". 

Anyway, I tried to listen for that "still small voice" and let myself be guided by that and I ended up near the area that the person had indicated that they thought they had lost the glasses, but then you have to actually find them. And that was when I found myself staring straight at them. You can say what you want, but I'm pretty sure I know why I found the glasses. 

Well, after that was done I thought, "Let's see what this ol' bike can do!", so I pointed it down a short chute of single track that headed toward the dike. Once I got to the steeply pitched dike I tackled it by taking a bit of an angled line up, but I found that the low gear was good enough and I actually turned into the incline a bit more. 

So, the bike climbs alright, and I think it actually probably would be okay for lower speed plunking around woodsy thing. I'll think about maybe doing that for fun someday. One thing about the bike - Rollercam brakes, when set up right, feel about as powerful as disc brakes do. It's amazing. I can see why they ended up getting spec for a couple of years in the 80's.

Oh, yeah- the glasses.  I made a connection and got them returned to the happy owner. Search and rescue mission: Success!

Friday, April 21, 2023

Friday News And Views (SOE)

 NOTE: Today is Day Two of Sea Otter which is happening at the Laguna Seca Raceway near Monterrey, California. The "FN&V" will feature several news bits from the show as a result. 

State Bicycle Company partners with Taco Bell (Image courtesy of State Bicycle Co.)

State Bicycle Company And Taco Bell Collaborate On Bicycle & Apparel:

Taco Bell - You may have downed a few products from this fast food joint after a ride session or two over the years. I remember Taco Bell as being my mainstay food source as a young mechanic back in the 90's. ("Bean & Green"!) Well, jokes and anecdotes aside, the restaurant chain has a new collaboration out as of yesterday with the State Bicycle Company. They used their "DGAF Klunker" as a canvass to do a livery on reflecting the purple, yellow, white, and pink colors of Taco Bell. The bike will also be available with accessories like the $69.99 tank bag, (shown), and even a bib short and jersey set will be for sale along with the bike. (The kit actually isn't bad looking, by the way)

Comments: No price on the bike. Hmm... Anyway, this probably will sell out. While I no longer am a fan of Taco Bell, due to an unfortunate experience in their Waterloo, Iowa outlet, I suppose the popularity and novelty of this will help sales along just fine. You don't see a lot of collaborations that aren't (a) done on the worst quality bicycles, or (b) that aren't extremely expensive to buy. This is one that actually makes sense and is (kind of) cool. 

WTB Introduces The "Gravelier" Saddle:

You've seen this saddle before. No, really! You've seen it several times here on the blog before its "official" release yesterday. This is the saddle I currently have on my Twin Six Standard Rando v2 since, oh, mid-March, I would guess. 

That aside, the saddle was released to the public yesterday at Sea Otter. I have a review of it already along with some input from MG who also got one of these to ride. That can be found at Riding Gravel. 

Comments:  Well, I resisted the "wide-short" saddle thing for years thinking I had already found what I wanted in WTB's Silverado saddle in the medium width. However; last year I grew to love that new Ergon saddle which is one of these new breeds of saddle and now that I've tried this one, well.... 

It's really quite good. I think that the Ergon saddle edges this one out only because the foam that Ergon uses for padding gives you a bit more comfort than the WTB one does, but had I never ridden that Ergon one, yeah.... It's the bees knees. 

As a side note, WTB sent me the carbon railed version, which is something I'd not tried before. I guess its okay. I mean, it's crazy light! It isn't any stiffer, really, and maybe it does something to attenuate vibrations, but I don't know. I mean, I don't get on it and think, "Wow! These carbon rails are the bomb!", because I simply do not notice them. AND - I hope I never really do, if you know what I mean!

Chris King re-introduces 3D Violet (Image courtesy of Chris King)

It's NOT Purple! Chris King Makes 3D Violet Available Again:

While not technically a Sea Otter release, Chris King has announced that you will now be able to get any of their current component offerings in the famous 3D Violet hue once again. 

This includes the reintroduced 6 bolt disc hub line. So, anyone out there that doesn't like Center Lock, well there you go! 

Comments: Did you know that, according to the press release I was sent, that Chris King made their first 3D Violet parts back in 1988? It was in response to what was going on in the BMX world, where the anodized color was taking off. I did not know that until I received that presser. 

I just remember "violet" (purple) anodizing being a huge deal in the early 1990's MTB scene. Of course, then there were the other colors that followed. Probably the next most famous being turquoise ano, (blue) which dominated for about a year. Ah! Those days were the days, right? You could get anodized bits in all the colors of the rainbow. And now? Well, quietly, colored components have made something of a comeback, and I can't say that this makes me sad.

Limar Air Atlas (Image courtesy of LIMAR)

Limar Introduces Revamped Helmet Line:

Limar helmets have revamped their entire helmet line and there are several enhancements to the new helmets. The most "gravel" of the choices being the "Air Atlas" helmet which is Limar's aero, super-lightweight offering. 

It features their "Fidlock" magnetic buckle, seven front air vents, four NACA vents, six rear vents, and six inner air channels. 

There also is an optional aerodynamic fairing attachment for the rear of this helmet that Limar calls "UFO". It helps with airflow over the helmet and Limar claims that in wind tunnel testing that it can save up to an additional 0.7 watts at 40K/hr over just the bare Air Atlas helmet. 

Price for the Air Atlas is $319.95

Comments: I know that for a lot of you this aero thing seems like nonsense, that you are not going fast enough to benefit from it, and that it is too expensive. You are only right on one point. Aero is a thing and if you ride long distances in the country, this is where you will see a big difference. Hey, you can ignore it all you want to, but the science and physics are right there for anyone to check out.

But yeah, at three hundred, nineteen bucks? Woof! That's a lot for a skid-lid. And a lot of aero stuff is also very spendy. So, I get it. Plus, a general rant here on helmet sizing: Ya know, some of us out here have large noggins. I cannot use a Limar helmet as their size Large only goes up to 62cm and my head is 63cm. No go... I guess big-headed folks are out of luck here. (Hint: Bontrager makes a helmet which goes up to 66cm in their Starvos and their aero Circuit Wavecell goes to 63cm. Both fit me perfectly) 

The Salsa Cycles e-gravel bike, the Confluence

Salsa Cycles Surprises At Sea Otter With Confluence E-gravel Bike:

My friend Grannygear is at Sea Otter again this year. He lives near enough that he can drive a few hours and attend, so he generally agrees to do me a favor and scour the show for gravel stuff. Well, this year he came across a surprise find at Salsa Cycles booth.

The booth featured an e-bike called the Confluence which is an aluminum framed gravel bike with a hub drive motor and GRX components in fkat or drop bar versions. Kind of like a high-end Journeyer idea here. Unfortunately, I don't have any more details at this time about the bikes. 

Comments: Salsa Cycles seems to be making a big move toward e-bike models with this introduction, and no wonder, these electrified bikes are all the rage in Europe where it is said that over half of all bikes sold at retail are electric now. Previous to this, Salsa had no real presence in the e-bike area. My instincts tell me that we are due to see a whole lot more electrification from Salsa going forward. 

The booth was festooned with "Salsa Cycles Electric" banners which tells me that the focus going forward will be electric for Salsa. This was kept under wraps pretty well, as I had no inkling of this release, but it does make a lot of sense for Salsa's Euro dealers and the REI Coop customers that Salsa sells to.

The IWAR Team and I in 2020

Good Luck To The Iowa Wind And Rock Riders & Promoters!

This weekend marks the running of the fifth Iowa Wind And Rock event (IWAR). The forecast for the festivities is looking like a typical late April deal. Chilly at night, decent during the day, and yeah, most probably windy. This is Iowa after all! 

The event is run by Sarah Cooper, Steve Fuller, and Dori Jansma. They will be starting out of  the parking lot of a Fareway Grocery store in Winterset, Iowa at 4:00am. Yes.... That's four in the morning! 

I wanted to extend my best wishes for the event, the riders, and especially for the Race Directors and their Volunteers. This event is obviously a take on Trans Iowa, an extension of it, perhaps, and since that is the case, I understand intimately what it takes to do such an endeavor.

So, here's to all involved! May you all see success and gain something you did not have before you started after it is over. I'll be watching from afar.....

That's it for this week! Have a great weekend and get in a ride!