Wednesday, May 31, 2023

WTB Sealant Update

About a year and a half ago now I received WTB sealant to review for Riding Gravel. (Standard Disclaimer) As with most sealants, it initially worked quite well and I liked its life span in my tires. WTB also has seen fit to supply me with their sealant back then, enough so that I still have plenty of it around. 

So, it has found its way into every tubeless tire I have around here by this point. Now, typically we don't see a lot of issues with sidewall cuts, big punctures, or the like, especially with gravel riding. But I've had valve failures, punctures from glass that would not seal up, and sealant that dried up quickly and gave me issues. (Looking at the color "orange" here.) 

So, the other day when I was in my shop I discovered something that is highly unusual and impressive. I was looking for something entirely unrelated to tires and wheels down there when an odd looking feature jumped out at me and caused me to pause my search for the other thing. It was a wet spot on an otherwise dry, dusty tire sidewall. 

This was on the 700c X 45mm Pirelli Cinturato M tire I just reviewed recently. My first inclination was to think that the sealant had started to weep through the sidewall, but in one spot? No.... Then I saw spattered bits of sealant on the carbon rim. Could it be that I punctured?

That wet spot sure was unusual.

Upon closer inspection I saw that the tire sidewall had been cut and that the sealant was actually coagulated outside of the tire casing. It must have sealed up almost instantaneously, because there wasn't much residue on the tire and rim. Then I recalled a moment during the last ride on this bike where I was kicked sideways a bit off a rock, or was it something else sharper than that? 

I am guessing that is when the puncture/cut occurred. So, this is really impressive to me. A sidewall cut is not easily sealed as that is the part of the tire that flexes on every rotation the most. That makes sealant "plugs" want to blow out, but this WTB sealant not only sealed up quickly, but stayed that way for the duration of my ride with no indication that anything had happened while I was riding. 

A close-up of the damage and the sealant poking out there.

Well, I suppose I should take the tire off and boot it from the inside with a patch and then I probably could continue to use this tire, but that puts the wheel set out of commission until I do that, and this was the bike I was going to take to Emporia. 

Hey! It isn't as if I don't have other choices and wheel sets! So, no worries. I found a way around this. But yeah...I am impressed. Now there are a couple of things I don't like about this sealant and chief of those is that it is darn near impossible to keep a smaller syringe clear when setting up a tire with this sealant or when recovering sealant after dismounting a tire. And this sealant needs to be thoroughly shaken before use because if you don't those additional particles settle to the bottom of the container and are a real tough deal to get mixed into the sealant when that happens. It also isn't recommended for really cold usage so fat bikes and Winter commuting may not work with this stuff.

But yeah, this has been an enlightening experience, and it gives me a reason to recommend this sealant if you are searching for a new sealant product.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Country Views: Gathering The Gravel

Escape route: 4th Street, Waterloo, Iowa.
 Last Thursday I decided I'd better get this chore done that I had been putting off for several weeks. It was a very odd job to fulfill a strange request. A request from the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame, as a matter of fact.

They are trying to build displays for each individual already in the GCHoF and requested a few things from each of us. One of those things was a 20 ounce jar of our local gravel. yes - a jar of rocks. 

I suppose it will be somewhat interesting to see all the rocks and dirt people will eventually contribute in the years to come. We will see that "gravel" is not only diverse in terms of the people that participate, but in its very nature when it comes to what we ride on.  

I searched the house for a canning jar but could not find one. I ended up using a jar from spaghetti sauce instead. I wrapped that in a shop towel and bubble wrap and then I put that in my Campagne Bag on the Karate Monkey. That would insure that I wouldn't break the jar on the trip. Of course, I had to do this by bicycle, and I used the KM not only because that big bag is mounted on it, but this bicycle was my first "gravel bike". It was the bike I fell in love riding gravel with over my first several years of riding gravel. 

Once again, things are VERY dry in the country.

I saw a weather related article before I left that stated that due to this run of very dry air with no rain for days that where I live is on the verge of being rated "moderate" in terms of drought conditions. Once I reached the gravel, it was plain to see. The gravel is very dusty, and the dirt looks pretty bad around the North side of Waterloo. 

Looking North up Sage Road you can see how it veers left to get around the Big Rock

Looking West over to Big Rock Road

I decided that the place I would scoop up some gravel for this GCHoF deal had to be at the intersection of Big Rock Road and Sage Road where The Big Rock is beside the Southeast corner of the intersection. I stopped and leaned the Karate Monkey against the huge stone and stepped over to the intersection, stooped down, and scooped up a few handfuls of crushed limestone. 

As I stood up I felt oddly. Like this was a significant gesture and I felt a wave of emotion. But just then, a car's tires were heard on the rocks coming from the South up Sage Road. I didn't have time to process those feelings and I stepped off the road to allow the car to pass by. 

The jar of crushed rock on The Big Rock

Old and new technology coexisting on the farm

I snapped off a few photos to mark the occasion and remounted the bike after packing the jar of gravel away carefully in the Campagne Bag. Heading East down Big Rock Road, I was feeling a lot less work on the pedals. Heading Eastward was very bad since the wind was strong out of that direction. The air was super-dry, but otherwise it was an awesome day with zero clouds in the sky and warm temperatures. 

Riding the Karate Monkey in this new configuration is so-not aero and I could tell the difference. It was super-slow going heading into the wind and even without that it was slow. Much slower than my "true" gravel bikes are when riding out in the country. Slow isn't necessarily "bad", but if I am trying to get miles in this bike won't do. 

Anyway, it was a ride, I got my chore done, and today, sometime this day, that jar will get delivered in Emporia.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Going To Kansas

Well, tomorrow I am off on a trip to visit Emporia, Kansas once again. If you had told me that I'd be going to this Kansan city almost every year for nearly 20 years when I was younger I'd have said, "Emporia what?!", and I would have laughed at you. But I am now kind of forever tied to that town and its Hall of Fame for all things gravel. 

I can still remember cruising around the forlorn looking downtown area of this city back in 2005 with David Pals, who joined me and gave me a ride down to the inaugural DK200. There were more vacant buildings than not on Commercial Street, and no one had ever heard about a gravel road cycling competition that would later help transform this city from a relatively unknown spot at the junction of the Kansas Turnpike and I - 35 in the Flint Hills. 

Now things are a heck of a lot different, and gravel is a big deal in cycling. Emporia, Kansas is arguably the epicenter of gravel riding for the USA with its UNBOUND event holding the premier position and status amongst the hundreds of gravel events here and world-wide. Who'd have thunk it in 2005? No one, that's who, if we're being honest here. This is all an amazing transformation for cycling, Emporia, and its people who live there and are connected to this city. 

So, here I go. Me. A guy who never would have figured I'd be a part of anything like this. Not in a million years. And I am very, very  grateful for what has happened. So, I am going down there once again to celebrate the next class of inductees. 

We did a podcast about the 2023 class and gabbed about some other stuff on the "Guitar Ted Podcast" which you can listen to at the LINK HERE. Check it out if you care to and tell your friends. Thanks!

I'll have a write-up on my trip starting here Thursday. 

Thank you for reading Guitar Ted Productions

Memorial Day


                                In memory of those who sacrificed all to protect our freedom

Sunday, May 28, 2023

The GTDRI Stories: The Ninth One - Part 2

"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!

It's always fun going back to read these old GTDRI reports and find things I had completely forgotten about. Things about what we saw or went through during the day. Looking at the images, getting clues as to the weather. I'm sure glad I wrote those rides up like I did. 

I remember now how I really did not like the first part of the ride. I had to route us on some highway to get us into Strawberry Point and since this was so early into the ride it was, well......pointless. We did not need to go through town, but we did. I guess I'd change that bit now looking back. 

But, since we did go through town we exposed ourselves to the derisive comments of the locals who were setting up for RAGBRAI to come through that day. Apparently, we were "going the wrong way", and we got a few chuckles and waves. sigh! The entire "You must be doing/training for/going on RAGBRAI" thing (because if you ride a bike in Iowa, you know...) gets really stale really fast. I was very happy to have left Strawberry Point in our dust that day. 

Some of the first gravel after leaving Backbone State Park, before Strawberry Point.

A bit of the old "Mission Road". A trail developed for military purposes in the early 1800's.

This was a super-humid day. One of those where you are wetted out within the first mile of riding. It would be a very taxing day for a ride for most anyone and especially for me as I have not had the best of luck with weather like that. Fortunately the course wasn't particularly hard right out of the gate. 

We had a big delay early on when one of the riders punctured who was in the back and we who were ahead of him didn't see or hear that he was having issues. Jeremy Fry, (who actually joined us for the start this time!) and Michael Lemberger finally showed back up, but that all raised my anxiety level up a notch as I had a schedule for time in my head and long delays weren't planed in. But eventually we were on our way. 

This was a pretty cool barn along our route. Michael Lemberger is the rider here.

The land just South of Volga is hilly and you can experience spectacular vistas like this.

The course eventually got really hilly coming to Volga, but there was relief in the form of a long downhill run into Volga from the South and then leaving there we were taking a nice, flat and winding road which followed the Volga River for many miles. 

And then it got hilly again! 

By this point into the ride the Sun was beginning to burn off the clouds and haze we had been protected by most of the early morning hours. It was getting beastly out, and I remember thinking that it was way too early for me to be suffering. 

A much welcomed rest stop in Wadena, Iowa.

A friendly cur. Too friendly! One of my favorite "dog stories" too.

This dog, shown above, has woven its way into the annals of the GTDRI by not only appearing once, but twice through the years. Both times it was the same story. This dog came out, cavorting and just wanting to run amongst the cyclists, and would show no signs of being aggressive. However; the dog was a danger as it would dart from rider to rider, crossing paths of the bikes and nearly taking us down a few times. Stopping, yelling, trying to chase it away - all fruitless. The course finally made a quick left, then right and down about a mile on a steep hillside. This allowed us to outrun the dog and it finally gave up. I suppose that went on for about five miles or so.

Both times this happened it was the same deal. We were going the same direction, and we did not ditch the dog until the high-speed downhill was reached. 

Echo Valley Road is a gorgeous bit of Iowa gravel.
One thing about this route- It is stunningly beautiful

Once we had distanced ourselves from the Velcro Dog, we found ourselves on about 25+ miles of fairly flat terrain, passing through Elgin on our way to Elkader along the Turkey River. This would be our last respite from the brutally steep hills for the day. 

Join me next week for the surprise ending of the Ninth GTDRI.

Saturday, May 27, 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. 

Showers Pass Ultra-Light Wind Jacket

Showers Pass Ultra-Light Wind Jacket:

I just received this Showers Pass garment to review for Riding Gravel and it is a redesign of their popular wind jacket which is packable and very lightweight. 

Typically cycling apparel for guys and gals that are not "athletically shaped" is difficult. My wide shoulders and barrel-shaped chest often do not play well with many items made for cycling. 

Then there is sizing. It can be all over the place for me and I have XL, XXL, and XXXL sized jackets, as an example, all which "fit" me. 


Yes- sizing for cycling garments, (or any clothing, really), is pretty much a crap-shoot. I really appreciate sizing charts on sites and many utilize these, so that does help tremendously. I get into all of the previous stuff because whenever I get a jacket like this Showers Pass one, even though I've tried several of this company's products, it is always an adventure whenever I slip something on. 

In this case, this jacket, while a 3X was recommended, is very generously sized. I think the shoulder width and arm length is spot on, but the body of this thing is probably big enough that I could layer underneath this with insulating layers for really cold Winter riding. In other words, this ain't no athletic cut here. And maybe that bodes well for you if you are a person with a bigger belly than most. 

I'd be fine with the extra room, but there is no waist draw string, so on me this fits like a blouse. Not sure what to think there, because sizing down might help the abdominal area but would shoulder width be too constricted? I'm thinking so. Especially when the sizing chart puts me dead in the middle of 3X. 

Oh, and this is ninety-nine bucks. More on this one on Riding Gravel soon.

Cardiff grips are available through SOMA.

Cardiff Cork Composite Grips:

When I got the Karate Monkey set up with that Velo Orange Utility flat bar, I needed a classy looking set of grips and my local bike shop happened to have a set on hand that fit the bill. The rubberized Cardiff cork grips

These are "rubberized" meaning that the cork is ground up and mixed in with rubber and then formed into a grip. So, they weigh a little more than a typical fully cork wood grip, and they have a better feel and damping. 

The grips have a closed over end which makes for a nicer look and overall are a bit darker in color than a typical all-cork wood grip would be. I also found that they were a bit of a bear to slip on the Utility Bar which may be an issue with a slightly over-sized bar or under-sized grip. Not sure on that, but a liberal dose of WD-40 made them go right on. 

Riding with them on the steel Utility Bar gives a bit of cushion to the hands and grip is excellent with the rubber part lending a lot of paw-traction there.  The shape is a classic curved one which fits the hand nicely. For 15 bucks its a winner. Plus it'll likely keep your hands warmer in cooler weather due to the cork content. Oh! And I bought these with my own money, so there! 

Pedros Tire Levers:

 I've written about tire levers before in a post from last August, but I wanted to revisit my absolute favorite tire levers in my mechanic career, the Pedros Tire lever. 

Why is it my favorite? Because of the shape of the tip, its strength, and it is easy on the hands. Because it doesn't break under extreme pressure. Because they are cheap and not some fashion statement, or weird revision of a simple idea.

Because when you are a service mechanic and you need to get the job done quickly and efficiently with the least amount of resistance, you find what does that for you and you are not swayed off that choice easily if at all. And I feel that way about the Pedros Tire Lever. 

Ironically Pedros is responsible for possibly the very worst tire levers ever made in the old "Milk Lever" which was a tire lever made from recycled plastic milk jugs, or reputably so. This was in the 1990's, so my memory may be vague on that detail. Anyway, I do remember that they were about as stiff as a wet noodle and that they were functionally useless. So, to see Pedros have a lever these days that is superior to just about everything else I've seen or used is quite the turnaround. 

Get some, put them in your bag. You will never need any other tire levers.  (Note: The levers shown were gifted to me by an old employer.)

Friday, May 26, 2023

Friday News And Views

The new KS Suspension Ether Carbon Gravel Bar. (Image courtesy of KS)
 KS Gravel Ether Handlebar- A Mystery:

I saw last week a cycling news site pushing a post about a KS Suspension gravel handle bar. What?! KS Suspension?  The company that does dropper posts? Yes - Them! 

So, I tried to check this out and it seems that information is a bit all over the place as far as the details go, and even when the bar came out is somewhat in question. In fact, it may not even be available......yet!

Here's what I could find out: There are two widths- 42cm and 44cm. There is flare, but I cannot find where any site has that information as to the degree of flare. The riser section is 18mm, which comes off the 31.8mm clamp diameter and then takes up all of the tops section. The bar specs for reach are also not online that I could find, but the images seem to show a bit more than most gravel bars. 

Weight was listed in one place at 270 - 275 grams but at another site it was listed as 230 - 235 grams. ??? Price?? Seems like "Ether" was an apt name choice for this handle bar. 

A new version of the Getaway is out. (Image courtesy of Challenge Tire)
Challenge Tire Introduces New Getaway XP:

The Challenge Tire Getaway model, which I reviewed for Riding Gravel here, has now been upgraded with an extra puncture protected layer which runs sidewall to sidewall. It also is available in a 45mm or 40mm width. 

Sorry! No skin wall in this version. The cost is $94.99 for each tire. 

Comments: Seeing as how the Getaway with a single layer of puncture protection was about the most difficult tire to set up tubeless that I've tried, I cannot imagine this being any easier to set up. If you buy, get a bike shop wrench to do the mounting. Whatever they charge will be worth it. 

And how about the price?! Challenge tires are always pretty dear, but this is a bit surprising, especially with regard to surplus discounting on many items everywhere in the cycling world right now. That said, I really enjoyed the Getaway tire's ride, lightweight, and speed. I did not like that Challenge specifies their sealant, and they weren't wrong to do so, because when I tried something different it immediately started leaking through the sidewalls of the tire. So, that's a bit limiting and there are just too many great tires out there that are easier to mount, cheaper to buy, and can use many brands of sealant without issues. 

Maybe this one is different than the Getaway I tried? Hope so.....

Image courtesy of Gravel Worlds
 Gravel Worlds Athletes Promote Rainbow Bands On Their Jerseys:

Many of you may not know that in 2017 I received a cease and desist letter from the legal consul for the UCI. That's right. Me. Why?

Because the UCI thought I/Riding Gravel were the promoters of Gravel Worlds, (Another reason I quit doing the race calendar. It made people think I put on ALL those events!) and the UCI wasn't digging that Gravel Worlds used the rainbow stripes on winner's jerseys and in promotional material on their website, etc. They threatened me with legal action if I did not comply and take down those stripes. 

Well, my Riding Gravel business partner sent back a quick note explaining that we had nothing to do with that, and I took the opportunity to forward that to the Gravel Worlds team. Subsequently Gravel Worlds took the stripes off the website and jerseys. So, if you noticed, there are no stripes on the 2018-2022 jerseys. That's why.

Well, now a solution has been found which turns the stripes into "bands" and the former winners of several Gravel Worlds categories are now sporting their "bands" on their jerseys these days. The press release states the following:

 "The Pirate Cycling League, host of the annual Gravel Worlds gravel cycling event, announced today that current and former champions are leading a movement by choosing to wear the Gravel Worlds rainbow bands on their jerseys in 2023. This new initiative signifies the wearer's status as a past or present Gravel Worlds champion."

Comments: I love it! I'm not saying this is what the PCL/Gravel Worlds team thinks of the bands, but it is kind of an "in your face" gesture to the UCI after all these years since 2017 and for what the UCI is doing now with their "Gravel World Championship Series".

Spinergy Offers Wheel Trade-In Program:

I received a very interesting press release the other day from Spinergy. It is concerning their new wheel trade-in program where Spinergy will take off $200.00 from normal retail for the trade-in on an alloy wheel set or $400.00 on the trade-in on a carbon wheel set. 

The presser states the following:

" In these tough economic times, finding the
resources to upgrade your bike is challenging to say the least. With the unprecedented inventory levels the cycling industry is experiencing, selling off
your old equipment isn’t an option. Spinergy has decided to help out by offering to take your old wheels, and that means any old wheels, in trade for credit towards a new set of Spinergy Road, Gravel, MTB or E bike wheels.

Comments: Well, at least someone is saying the obvious part in the industry! I read that inventory levels are at unprecedented levels and this promotion pretty much confirms that to be the case. What is bad - beyond the obvious - is that this will only further entrench the idea that the cycling industry is "on the take" and everything has always been somewhat of a rip-off in terms of pricing. That couldn't be further from the truth, but I am betting that this will take years to overcome in the marketplace, if we ever get over it. 

As seen on social media. RAGBRAI sandals are back!
RAGBRAI Sandals Are Back:

Years ago now, maybe back around 2002/2003, a Shimano rep told me that Shimano only sold its SPD compatible sandals in Iowa and surrounding Mid-West states and only before RAGBRAI. So, when they said they were discontinuing them, it was because Shimano thought that they weren't popular anywhere else and the small amount that they did sell just was not worth the bother.

And then the hue and cry went up. Shimano reissued the model, but with several unpopular changes. They stuck with it for a bit, but then they went away again. 

A few years back, they did a limited edition run, and that must have lit a light bulb in Shimano headquarters because now they are purposely making a short run again with the RABRAI logo right there on the sandal. I mean, it only took them 20+ years to figure this out! 

I'm of the opinion that sandals went out with the Romans. I kid! But seriously, they are not my style at all. But hey- if you ever wanted sandals for gravel riding, there ya go!

That's a wrap for this week! Thanks for reading Guitar Ted Productions!

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Going Flat: The Bag

Used Velo Orange Campagne Bag
 I was able to finally complete my vision I had for the Velo Orange Utility Bar/Handlebar and the Karate Monkey recently. This post will detail what I had to do to make it all work. 

The former owner of this bag, a Velo Orange branded handle bar bag, offered me a ridiculously low price for it. In fact, I ended up doubling his offer and at that I still think I came away with a bargain. Most decent handle bar bags like this that I can find are well over $100.00 and I paid less than half of $100.00 for this bag which I cannot hardly tell has been used. 

So, with that score I came home and tried to figure out just how to attach this thing to the Utility Rack. This bag is meant to be held by a decaleur and I did not buy that since the decaleur would not have worked with the Utility Rack. The good thing was that the bag was drilled, or had holes, for the decaleur mount. I was able to kind of make my own mount which came out pretty well. 

Warning: If you are offended by roughed out fixtures and bits, please skip the next section.

If you like tinkering and finding parts to repurpose for other means, as I do, then read on....

Doing a bit of fab work

I searched around for a suitable material or bit to make a set of hooks. I also kept an eye out for something to use as a "backbone" across the back end of the bag to give it some place to be attached to as well. In the end I found an old steel fender brace for a cruiser style bike that gave me inspiration. 

The steel was rigid for sure, and the ends already had holes, which I could use. My mind went to work, and using a hack saw, a hammer, some drift punches, a bench vise, and some files I was able to fashion a brace and hooks from the old fender brace. 

And there ya go!

I won't bore you all with the nitty-gritty details of drilling holes, deburring, filing, and attaching the bits to the bag with hardware I had saved over the years. Suffice it to say that the plan worked out and the bag isn't going to randomly come off the bike now. I'll show you why in a bit here.

It's uncanny. This bag is perfect for this rack in terms of size. It fits the base like a glove. No overhanging at all, and comes up high enough on the Utility Rack's backstop that the lid opens and closes on the bag with no interference from the rack. It was as if these two items were designed for each other, in a way. Well, besides the fact that the rearward facing pockets are next to unusable and that I had to pretty much invent a way to attach the bag to the Utility Rack! 

A look underneath.

The bag originally had a sewn in leather bit with a slot that ran perpendicular to the bike's centerline. The old owner had two plastic cable ties through this slot loosely enough that I could run an old toe strap through them and then through the slotted tabs on the Utility Rack. This will keep the bag from bouncing off the deck of the rack. 

And here you can see what is going on up top.

The hooks and "backbone" I fashioned out of the old fender brace bolted to the bag with water bottle bolts and Nylock nuts and washers. Then I toe strapped the "backbone with downward pressure toward the lower brace of the Utility Bar, drawing the bag down which puts pressure downward on the hooks which are gripping the rack. 

By the way, that's a sleeping bag in a dry bag inside the handlebar bag. Lots of "bag" talk there. Sorry! I may put some Presta Valve caps over the ends of the exposed water bottle bolts just to ward off any possibility for those threads to tear something up, but for now, it's not a concern. 

Loaded up for a test ride.

I loaded up the handle bar bag and went for a ramble around the neighborhood. I rode on gravel, in alleys, on pavement, and across some grassy spaces. Nothing seemed to upset the bag on the rack, so I think this is a go for the time being. 

The next test will be a run somewhere to make coffee and then back again. I want to go by gravel to a place I have in mind, but if time gets short I can always run the Green Belt route. We will see. It may not happen right away and if it doesn't next week is a busy week so it would end up getting pushed back into June. 

Dang! Half the year gone already!

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

I'm Eighteen

This is not the first header, but it is the first designed,"on purpose" header. Artwork by Jeff Kerkove.

I don't always remember these milestones, but as of May 11th, this blog ticked over the 18th year of its existence. That's a long time now. I have to wonder if there is any blog related to cycling that is older and has consistently published posts over its span of existence. Anyone know of any?

There is Dicky's blog, of course, which has had a long, long run as well. He had a "ded" blog which preceded the currently viewable one, so I've no idea when he started scribin'. Maybe someone can chime in on that in the comments. 

I did a short "blog history" back when I reached a decade of doing this. The first of a short series of posts is HERE.

Anyway..... A belated "happy birthday" to the blog here. Looking ahead I will have to start thinking about what to do if I reach 20 years, and if Blogger will still be supporting this technology then. Something has to give, you'd think, but if it doesn't?

Well, there will need to be a celebration of some sort.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Brake Job

A slotted fastener? C'mon Shimano! Really?
 Not long ago I had a weird thing happen on a ride on the Noble GX5 where I applied the brakes hard to slowly descend a flood control dike. There was no issue there, but later into the ride I had the rear brake lever come all the way back to the bars with little braking power. While a brake bleed may be the initial diagnosis, it has been my experience as a mechanic working with Shimano hydraulic brakes that worn pads can cause this same effect. 

But all at once? I had great rear brake feel, then bad brake feel all in the same ride. Well, I decided to hedge my bets and I got both the brake bleed kit, mineral oil fluid, and a new set of organic pads. 

I figured on changing the pads first as that is the easiest fix. As I sat down to work on this, I discovered that the brake pad retention bolt had a slotted head. Not a hex interface, not a Torx interface, a slotted interface. What?!!

Warning! Rant Alert: As a mechanic it is my opinion that slotted interfaces should be banished from Planet Earth. There is no reason to use that anymore when superior technology exists and is extensively used in the industry. Why do I feel this way? Because a slotted interface fastener is super easy to damage, harder to work with, and just is not a good choice anymore. As stated above, better ideas exist and are readily available to any manufacturer. Okay....rant over. 

Once I had carefully selected the proper size flat blade screwdriver, the fastener came out undamaged. Whew! That was the worst of the job right there, and the rest was a breeze to finish up. I buttoned up everything and went out to bed in the pads to the rotor. 

And how did that go? Well, the brakes are better. But they are not what they were yet, so I may do a brake bleed anyway just to see if I can't bring the lever feel back to what it was. I mean, I can lock up the rear wheel and braking power, modulation, and all is just fine. It's the pad contact feel that is lacking and it seems to me that the lever travel is just a bit much yet. But here again, I've had Shimano road brakes on many bikes in my workstand where you couldn't get the rear to feel like the front no matter how much you bled the brakes.

And I had zero evidence of brake fluid leakage, which would indicate that the system is still sealed, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything here. It just points to the fact that it was mostly the pads that went away, but there may be something else going on here. 

Stay tuned. I may end up bleeding the brakes after all.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Country Views: Moving On To Summer

Escape Route: Shaulis Road bike path
The weather has now transitioned to warmer temperatures for the daytime and Spring has sprung to its limits now. The dandelions are white and seeds are wafting in the breezes. Smaller wild flowers are in bloom in the ditches. 

And the Red Wing Blackbirds are starting to get aggressive already.

Signs of Summer, I'd say, and with everything moving quickly to peak "greenness" here, the seasons have changed once again. So I'm back to Summer attire, riding to work with no jacket and back home with no lights on, and cold temperatures will likely be far off  now, at least for a few months. 

I got in a decent ride on the pink BMC again, this time South of town, and right into a stiff Southwestern breeze. It was pretty warm. Almost hot, with upper 70's and tons of Sun with wispy white clouds in the sky above. Perfect for a country ride. 

This is another glacial erratic on Holmes Road. We've got a lot of these in Black Hawk County.

The roads were strewn with a decent amount of gravel as I headed South, but not terribly so. There were lines if you looked hard enough. It's nice to see that things are not as bad as they were last year down this way, at least so far.

Those Red Winged Blackbirds are at it again already!

I was tooling, along minding my own business, when I heard a chirping noise getting louder and louder. Then I saw the shadow on the road. Red Winged Blackbird! Already?! Seems kind of early for this aggressive behavior, but it doesn't matter what I think. 

They are not super-aggressive just yet, but the old area between Washburn Road and West Orange Road on Aker is going to be a hotbed for those really nasty Red Winged Blackbirds again this year. When I passed through Sunday they were the worst there - far more aggressive than elsewhere on my ride. 

I had planned on visiting the dirt section of Petrie Road but a slow moving vehicle ahead of me that pulled into the adjacent farm to that section of road made me think twice. As I passed the farm, I noted that the vehicle was sitting there with the driver's side door open. So, the driver was watching for me, as they had a clear view of either Petrie or Holmes from their vantage point. Hmm.... I know that this landowner is a bit waspy about folks driving or cycling up that road as they really want the County to vacate it so they can take full control. 

Well, whatever.... I kept riding down Holmes and left them to their devices. 

I'm afraid this barn isn't long for the world. It keeps getting worse looking by the year.
Meanwhile this barn seems to be still in consistent usage.

As I rounded the corner and headed back North, the tailwind push was quite evident and welcomed. It wasn't going to take too long to get back to my truck with that at my back. I felt pretty good too, so I cranked out a few miles in the big ring and made some good speed. That was fun.

It was a great time to be out and while we really still need some rain here, other than that, it was about as good as it gets. Hopefully the bike and body work this well on the Hall of Fame Group Ride in Emporia in less than ten days! 

Sunday, May 21, 2023

The GTDRI Stories: The Ninth One - Part 1

"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!

I know I keep saying things like "This GTDRI was a classic!" and similar things but as I researched this one well..... You'll see. This one was one for the ages and not just because of the ending, although that was definitely the most impactful event for me, in many ways, over the years. 

Let's see.....2014 was about the time I started to feel a deep seated animus toward my boss and job which was going nowhere. I had pretty much exhausted all my efforts to impart some sort of reason and wisdom upon my former boss and I went from not caring to maybe a darker place. This affected me in ways that even to this day I am still learning about. But suffice it to say that I was keeping an eye out for a way out, only there wasn't a clear choice and staying still, where I was at, was the answer for that time. I suppose this may have manifested in the start date for the 2014 GTDRI which was on the last weekend of RAGBRAI that year. I was so far disconnected from that ride that I didn't even realize that my route and the Saturday route for RAGBRAI overlapped at one point and the routes crossed each other at another point.

The Tamland Two as I rode it at the 2014 GTDRI.

My bike was the Tamland Two, probably the second gravel specific bike ever produced on a large scale and definitely the first that was not "race-specific". I had changed a few things but I was so busy before this GTDRI that I never swapped out the gearing, and boy! I should have. This was my downfall #1 going into this one.

Downfall #2 was being too busy and not getting proper rest before this one. I had thought I was going to go ahead and spend the night there on Friday at Backbone State Park and get a good night's rest, but instead I thought I'd just get up really early and drive over. That meant I got very little sleep and I paid the price there also. 

Downfall #3 was my worry that these ideas of mine that went into the Tamland Two were going to not be good ones. Now- I had heard that the bike was very well accepted, But you know - I didn't believe those reports, and instead I worried that this was going to be a poor bike. That's one reason I bought the bike - To prove these ideas out - and also I needed to be able to test it on a known course I knew would really push the bike to its limits handling-wise. My anxiety over these things was unfounded and unhealthy, but you know.....that's where my head was at then. 

A good customer of the shop I knew had died shortly before the 2014 GTDRI. This was an entry on the GTDRI page that year.
Yeah, my head was all over the place and, of course, I had done zero specific training going into this one. But that's been kind of the M.O. for me concerning this ride forever. Since the beginning, it was about riding myself stupid, and boy, did that ever come true on this one. 

This time there were a couple "surprise" riders in Dan Buettner and Aaron Schnee. Dan had come up from Des Moines the evening before and camped out while Aaron was in the area to visit relatives and decided to join in. We ended up with a total of seven including myself. A good, strong group too. I was for sure the weakest link and I proved that for most of the ride. 

Of course, it got really hot and humid. Of course it did! And with the 10,000 feet of climbing on tap it was going to end up being a brutal day. The way I now had the course clocked to start at Backbone State Park actually ended up shaving off 2 miles from the original course so we were looking at 116 miles. 

I remember driving over in the truck. I was anxious, as always, and I was excited too. This was going to be a great ride, was what I was thinking, but I had no idea that what was about to happen would happen. It was a day I'll not soon forget, and probably never will.