Friday, June 30, 2023

Friday News And Views

The latest is up now at your favorite podcast outlets.
Guitar Ted Podcast Episode #20: "Give A Hoot":

N.Y. Roll and I sat down at his place Wednesday and recorded another episode of the podcast. Episode #20 contains some inetresting takes on the recent Lutzen 99er race, N.Y. Roll's rant on hunting, and more.

You can check it all out at THIS LINK

This episode is sponsored by the CORE4 event

We will be taking the week of the 4th off and we will probably resume podcasting again sometime in mid-July. Got any requests for guests? Hit me up in the comments. I think our next episode will be on dogs and how to deal with them. Got any good tips on how to handle dogs? I'll share them in our next podcast. 

Enduro Direct Line pulleys. (Image courtesy of Enduro)
Enduro Pushes Pulley Update For Derailleurs:

I remember reading an advert in cycling magazines back in the early 90's for sealed bearing derailleur pulleys. The claim was that drive train efficiency was improved by using sealed bearing derailleur pulleys which took less energy for the rider to pedal through. Less resistance meant more power to the wheels. 

I don't recall that many of us were concerned by the loss of watts to draggy derailleur pulleys, but we did buy into the anodized aluminum pulleys which came in a variety of colors.  These pulleys were about fashion ore than performance. 

As a mechanic I can tell you that derailleur pulleys can really affect not only your performance, but they can affect your shifting quality as well. Most people don't know that the upper pulley is perhaps the most important part of your derailleur shifting performance as it is this component that guides the chain to where you want it to go. If that pulley is not operating correctly, you aren't going to see great shifting performance. Note: The placement of that pulley in relationship to your cassette is also of paramount importance. 

So, upgrading the pulleys on your derailleur is a good idea, since many derailleur pulleys are , honestly, pretty poor. Their Delrin/Nylon bushings can distort, get galled, and they lose their lubricity rather quickly. This is where Enduro has stepped in with higher quality materials and actual bearings, (who knew!) to vastly improve pulley function. Plus, these do not require your cage to be replaced. No, they aren't cheap, but if you are running a high end bike that is fairly new, I'm betting you spent 3K-6K on it, so 300 bucks on pulleys isn't too bad. You can check their offerings out here

Work Continues Despite The Bad Air:

So, Tuesday I was to meet with several Cedar Valley Bicycle Collective volunteers and representatives of the Waterloo Police Department to retrieve bicycles that were released from cases, or which had identified owners, or that had been abandoned in the city. 

The Cedar Valley Bicycle Collective took in 62 bikes of which 42 were not viable for restoration, or that did not have good enough parts to harvest. Those went to the local recyclers where they counted 1,100+ pounds of scrap to our credit which is not going into our local landfill. 

Plus, of the 20 bikes kept, we already have provided one free of charge to a needy person in the halfway house program and sold another to a father for his son to ride this Summer. 

This operation took about three and a half hours of which I was outdoors for probably three hours of that. Our air quality was bad enough that I contracted a pretty decent headache out of the deal along with a scratchy throat. Not good...

And now they are saying the record wildfires in Canada are going to keep burning all Summer long. 


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

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Are Flat Pedals Good For Gravel?

The Redshift Sports flat pedals w/lights installed.
While I do not focus on mountain biking here much anymore, I do pay attention to what is going on with mountain biking. One of the trends I see growing is the use of "flat" pedals. The pedals that non-cyclists would call "normal" pedals. 

Before Shimano introduced the PD-M737 clipless pedals in the early 1990's, "flat" pedals are what all mountain bikers were riding. Well, those pedals weren't the flat pedals of today, but they were not clipless pedals either. No, mostly we were using caged pedals with toe straps.Uggh! Those were truly awful. 

At least they were for MTB, which required a lot of get-offs and remounts. Toe straps were just an impediment to doing what you had to do. 'True' flat pedals existed then, but weren't used widely, at least not around here. I say that because trends were a lot more regionally driven then than they are today. 

Nowadays I am seeing more flat pedals being made and more introductions of shoes for flat pedal mountain biking. Seeing as how mountain biking has an influence on gravel riding, I am wondering if flat pedal usage is going to be a thing in gravel riding. Could it become a trend in gravel much as it seems to be doing in MTB?

New flat pedal shoes from Unparalleled Sports. (Image from their site)

The title for today's post asks if this sort of flat pedal set up is "good for gravel". Well, of course it is! I've already proven that for myself, and in my mind there is no question that for every gravel pursuit outside of Pro/Semi-Pro gravel racing, flat pedals definitely have a space in the gravel riding niche. 

But..... There is always a "but"! This probably won't really take off as a trend for gravel until the shoes are made for it. The current MTB specific shoes just don't quite have "it". 

And right now, I'm not sure what "it" is. But I do know that MTB specific flat shoes are a bit too "heavy duty" and not as thin and breathable as I would want to wear. But I'm also not a shoe designer. Maybe I'll know it when I see it, but for now, I'm just going to say that the MTB flat shoes are not what I'd be looking for. 

I have done 100 miles of gravel on flat pedals wearing.........Vans! Yes those traditional skate/fashion sneakers that are canvas and rubber. They were fairly light, which was good, breathable, which was good, but they let in a lot of tiny bits of gravel and the soles were less than stiff for pedaling. So, not those shoes, but I am thinking whatever comes out, if anything comes out, will be closer to Vans than these MTB flat pedal shoes. 

And maybe this will never happen. I hope that it does, because I think a lot of people would ride more if their gravel bikes had flat pedals and shoes to go with that.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Summer Of Smoke

Tuesday was not a great day to be outdoors
Have you seen how people now will say "I didn't have _____ on my bingo card for 2023"? (Fill in the blank with whatever surprise you want) Well, I'm filling in the blank with "wildfire smoke concerns" as my surprise for 2023. 

Canadian wildfire smoke has been an issue all month here in Iowa and other states in the Mid-West. It has gotten particularly bad of late with our Department of Natural Resources stating that outdoors activities are discouraged for the present time. 

I get it. I was outdoors for a few hours yesterday helping pick up bicycle donations for the Cedar Valley Bicycle Collective and I tell ya what! I had a pretty good headache going afterward. It was bad here. You can even smell the smoke, it is that thick here. 

I sure hope that this clears out soon because we're halfway done with Summer and riding in this air is a no-go for me. I know that for several of my readers this is an issue as well. My heart goes out to all who are missing good days on the bike trying navigate this smoky air. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Leave No Trace

Note: Today's post contains some graphic descriptions and salty language. You've been forewarned! 

Recently the Iowa Gravel Series head honcho, Chris McQueen, wrote a post on the IGS site regarding an incident that occurred at one of his events. The events Chris puts on have signed turns. He uses "real estate" type signage, the sort you might see in front of a property for sale, to mark corners. So, these are valuable and he retrieves them after every one of his events. 

While fetching signage after a recent event he discovered one sign missing and it had been replaced with a handmade sign bearing the visage of a penis riding a bicycle. The directional arrows were scrabbled on each of the four corners, so riders weren't misdirected. On the reverse side, Chris found the message "Tell Your Riders To Stop Being Dickheads To The People Who Live Here Or Find A Different Route!"

As the race director, he was, unsurprisingly, concerned and is seeking to get to the root of things. But as I contemplated this story, I was reminded of past negative, or potentially negative interactions with "locals" and also how the presence of bicycle riders can leave impacts on local residents. Those impacts can be positive or negative. In some cases, my preference would be that no impact was made at all. 

A potentially negative outcome with a local almost shut down this checkpoint location for T.I.v12

  Rural residents are people that are typically very insular and protective of "their" land, (whether or not they actually own said land is not material to the discussion), and suspicions arise whenever a rural person sees anything out of the ordinary when it comes to people, vehicles, or other oddities. Things stand out more in the wide open areas. It's easy to see that the sight of a cyclist is an odd occurrence for most rural residents. 

Rural residents can also be very charming, helpful, and a fantastic resource to cyclists or those involved with putting on events in the cycling realm. Stories of kindness and help unlooked for abound with gravel cycling and I have personally witnessed things like that in my time as an RD and a rider. I recall riding the first DK200 in 2006 and finding a water jug on a card table alongside a dusty road with no farm house in sight. A sign was hastily made and taped to the table's edge that read "Free Water! Take what you need." This was not an outlier either. Folks still do this at many events all across the nation and I hear and see this from gravel events all the time. The kindness and concerns of rural residents is fantastic. 

We can all get along nicely if we try.

But a warning to race directors and gravel event riders or rural riders in general: Ignore rural residents and their concerns at your own peril! Most rural residents will not suffer fools or acts of tomfoolery gently. Trespassing or taking of things is frowned upon and may be met with lethal force if you cross the wrong person. 

Not that I am condoning the reactions rural residents may have, but this is the reality of rural areas. You'd best be aware and ready to be diplomatic, understanding, and willing to compromise. A little grace goes a long way with rural folks. In my experience, a direct explanation of your doings in a kindly tone will smooth over almost every encounter you may have, as long as you are not willfully breaking the law or engaging in other like activity. In fact, I haven't had to really give up anything when having such encounters except some of my time and patience. An inexpensive investment to make to keep the event or ride going. 

Not that every interaction goes swimmingly. You can expect that not all of them will. But the majority of them will if you have the mind to be aware of rural residents concerns and "need to know". Remember, it doesn't help to get aggressive, angry, or combative. You'll only make matters worse. 

Racers that drop garbage chap my hide. (Image by Jon Duke of C.O.G. 100)

The other thing I think is an impediment to racers or riders and rural residents getting along is how racers (especially racers, but regular riders as well) act during events. A few things that I have heard about or personally have witnessed really make me concerned and could be having a negative effect upon the relationship between residents and riders. 

First up is a mostly unspoken concern that happens all the time at many gravel events: People relieving themselves along rural roads. Public urination is pretty much frowned upon almost everywhere you go, but it would seem that many, (mostly male) riders need a reminder that a little prudence goes a long way toward keeping rural residents from crying foul when it comes to your taking a piss. (Shouldn't that be leaving a piss? This never made sense to me....) Anyway... Get behind a tree, out of sight of homes, down in a ditch or something. Or wait till you reach a checkpoint. But don't stand alongside the road in sight of homes and do this. (I feel like I am speaking to children.) 

And finally, why do we even tolerate gel packets, food wrappers, or other garbage being thrown on gravel roads? This is the one that really irks me. I've seen it more and more since "Pro" riders, sponsored riders, and those who think that they are one of those two, got into gravel racing. This needs to be addressed.

Riders will not do anything until race directors take a stand, or...... Race directors have to clean the course after the event. One or the other. The DK200 used to have a Klean Kanza event the week after the 200 where they not only cleaned up their mess, but they picked up ALL the garbage they could find. This was class-leading event operation there. Who does this anymore? 

But if that is not possible, you would have to put the onus on the riders. And you'd have to have a no tolerance policy. In fact, all of the above mentioned issues in this post should be no-tolerance reasons for riders to be kicked out of events. But which race directors have the wherewithal to do that? I'd like to know..... 

I'll tell ya what. If RD's did take a stance as I suggest, you'd see a lot less issues. And yes, you'd see a lot less riders at events in some cases. But does littering and acting a fool make their entry fees worth it? The answer to that says a lot about what is and what is not important in any gravel event.

Monday, June 26, 2023

GPS Take 3: Wahoo Elemnt ROAM - Part 3

 Last time I left you off here concerning the Elemnt ROAM, I had reported that it was a 'waaaay better experience" than my previous GPS tries, and I still stand by that. 

That said: I got the climb screen to freeze up again.

I swiftly swapped over to the normal data page and it went right back to working again, and it never did that again. You might think I needed to do an update. Well, thanks to one of you readers, I did that before the climb page freeze. So, clearly there is an issue there. 

But overall, things are going well. I have had another unique experience that I wanted to pass along here, plus a surprise finding. Maybe it won't surprise any of you, but for me, it was a big surprise and it caused a bit of a data skew that, in my opinion, was funny. 

First, the surprise. I swapped over the mount to my Twin Six Standard Rando v2 bike so I could use the unit with it. I didn't think about how I had two sensors on the bike from the Sigma GPS computer I tried. I had forgotten about them. One was a speed sensor and the other was a cadence sensor. I believe the cadence sensor magnet is dead, as I recall seeing a low battery indication on that the last time I used the Sigma, but at this point of the story, I wasn't cognizant of that fact. I was not remembering the sensors at all.

Check out that maximum speed, baby! Oh yeah!

As I fired up the computer, and waited for the unit to obtain the GPS, it detected the speed sensor and paired with it. Now, I did not know that until the unit beeped and told me a sensor was paired. That's when I remembered: "Oh! Yeah! I have a speed sensor on here that is working!". 

As I rolled off, I may have done something wrong and not paired the sensor correctly or I moved when I wasn't supposed to, but I did something because 83mph! 

What the....??!!!

Then as I rode that speed walked down until after a couple blocks it settled into a believable readout. However; that set the maximum speed and well, the average was screwed up too! Ha! No big deal, but maybe someone can explain what I did , or did not do, there because I have no idea. Oh! And this sensor got those little lights to work on the unit that tell you how far below or above average speed you are going. That was nice too. Apparently you cannot have that without a sensor? (Throw in comment concerning poor instructions here.)

This was also the same ride I got the unit to freeze up on the climb page. Also, I had the unit not tracking me correctly after I made a right hand turn out in the country. This was on the climb page and it was when I was following the "VAM" (Vertical Ascent/Meters). The road was climbing and flattened out right before the corner, the right hand turn went to an ascending portion of the road and after about 50 yards it descended for approximately a 1/4 mile run. 

The turn was made and the climb data showed me waaaaay back on the grade instead of near the top. Then I descended. The VAM went negative as the GPS was still tracking me as traversing the road which was ascending, or in other words, the GPS was showing me traveling underground! Cool! Now I'm a gravel mole!

That was pretty laughable so I switched off that page for the remainder of the ride. That wasn't all the weirdness I discovered either. Nope. My desk was traveling at 9+ mph at one point last week as well. Check it out....

This popped up as I was trying to see if I could edit a page.

Yeah....I have no idea. All I know is that GPS is weird. Weird and maybe not quite ready for prime time, at least not for me, at any rate. Again- best GPS experience for me so far by a mile, but still not without its quirks and mysteries. And is it really accurate then? I don't know, but if I had to bet, I'd say probably not.

And I still cannot get elevation read out in a running fashion as I could with the old Lezyne.  

So, as of now I still have not done a turn-by-turn test, but that will happen once I have a three hour window or more to use for a ride. So, we'll hold off on a final verdict until that time happens. If it comes through as a reliable guide for riding, then it will be useful. If not? 

Well, I will have tried.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

The GTDRI Stories: Gravel Changes

An early February ride selfie.
 "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 entire gravel scene kind of shifted into another gear in 2015. The shift from grassroots, low/no-cost events, simple event productions was being surpassed by highly polished productions and ever increasing field sizes with an equivalent rise in entry fees.

The bicycle industry was catching on as well by this time. There were more "gravel" specific products like bicycles, tires, and some apparel. Writers in the field of cycling were starting to give more credence to gravel as being a serious sport. Ex-Pro roadies were starting to eye events like the DK200 as possible ways to extend their competitive careers. The gravel scene was no longer in the hands of the common people any longer. It was now going to be monetized and made into a money-making venture. Both on the retail side and the career side. 

The Carbon Warbird, introduced at the 2015 Frostbike show in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

 Now event directors at a few races were starting to think that they could make a living off their events. Sponsors were getting to be more high-profile as well. This brought on sponsorship for highly talented riders which spurred on more interest both in the general rider categories and from the industry. 

Meanwhile here I was doing things like I had been doing for ten years already. As more people and companies discovered this "new style of cycling", I could only roll my eyes and remember that many of us had been getting criticized for years for being "beardoes" on rides that "weren't real races". Now those same people were "discovering" this "new" thing. Ha! 

But what continues to amaze me is that some media outlets and writers were saying "gravel is the new cycling trend" for the next eight years after that. It's almost as though we didn't exist for nearly twenty years now. It just blows my mind.....

Anyway... The immediate effect of all of this in 2015 was that interest in rides like the GTDRI was increasing as well. I was getting more interest in the ride, and I started to see increases in participation. Where the ride averaged less than ten people a year previously, after 2014 it averaged 12+ people a year. That's not huge in terms of numbers, but it does reflect that participation was on the upswing overall in gravel events. 

My Odin's entry card for 2015

Speaking of participation, 2015 maybe was my peak in terms of gravel events that I participated in. I rode in the Gents Race, the tenth DK200, Odin's Revenge, Gravel Worlds, and in my own GTDRI, along with several "3GR" gravel group rides and two "Geezer Rides". 

Gravel was changing at a rapid pace, and my GTDRI event was kind of becoming a weird thing since it wasn't really a group ride, an event as most people would define that, nor was it for a specific purpose. I think this and the name were reasons that I didn't get a ton of people wanting in. That and I did not promote it willingly outside of my blog. Although I know it was promoted on a few event calendars. 

None of that really mattered to me though. At this point I was just wanting to enjoy a day riding gravel with friends. The GTDRI did that for me, so I was fine with it not growing into whatever it was people thought these grassroots gravel events should turn into. I saw what was happening to events like the Almanzo 100, which saw some amount of turmoil internally and externally due to certain entities wanting to make it more open to commercialization and others wanting to pull back from that, all the while growing numbers of participants to eye-popping amounts considering that it was free to enter.

The WTB Nano 40 debuted in 2015 signalling more interest from cycling companies in gravel riding and racing.

I was glad that I didn't let any of the commercialization aspects happening back then affect the GTDRI. I kept it as it had been from the beginning in 2006. It was easy to put on, required few logistics, and its success or failure was defined by each person's own experiences on the ride. Not by how much money was pulled in, who of the top riders would show up, or if it got in the online publications or on social media. 

It was fun, but as far as 2015 went, that GTDRI was more of a quest, at least for me. I wanted to put that "thing" that had happened in 2014 to rest once and for all. There was more to it than that, but the main driving force for me was to take my Tamland and ride the entire loop. That was it, pretty much. 

Next: The lead up to the tenth GTDRI.

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Velo Orange Utility Bar & Utility Rack Review

The Velo Orange Utility Rack & Utility Bar
 Early in May I got the Velo Orange Utility Bar and Utility Rack mounted to my 2003 Surly Karate Monkey. Since then I have hauled and carried various items from apparel items, a jar of gravel, books, and tools in a bag I obtained which I mounted to the Utulity Rack. I have also carried my Rodecaster podcast unit on the rack amongst a few other items which I bungeed onto the Utility Rack before I had the bag. 

All along I also had two water bottle cages mounted to the backside of the Utility Bar and usually those bottles were filled up. So, between that and all the various cargo loads I feel I have a good handle on what the Utility Rack can do. 

The Utility Bar has also shown merit as a single speed capable bar which, yes- is a thing. I'll get to all of that in this final take on these items which were provided to me by Velo Orange. (See The Standard Disclaimer

The jar of gravel went in there. The Velo Orange Utility Rack and Utility Bar on duty here in the country.

If you are not familiar with these components, I did an opening review on the Utility Bar and Utility Rack here. The only additional information I have to add here on these components is that they are now available to purchase from Velo Orange. The Utility Bar is $130.00 and the Utility Rack is $90.00.

Okay, so what's the deal? Well, the Utility Rack is a pretty versatile rack for many mid to smaller sized loads. Gotta pick up a small bag of groceries? How about some beer or soda pop? maybe you have a gym bag or backpack you are tired of wearing? Those things and more are perfect items for carrying on the Utility Rack. It mounts pretty securely to the Utility Bar so you don't have rattles, weird mounting issues, or any fear that the thing will move on you in a negative way. If you can lash it to the rack securely, the rack will not let you down. (As long as you observe the spec weight limitations!) 

The Utility Bar is all steel, and it is heavy. I was worried that it would turn out to be a stiff, unforgiving bar that would be painful on my old hands. But, along with some smart Cardiff cork composite grips, it was anything but. The bar actually has some amount of compliance and in the end, some aluminum flat bars I have ridden were far worse in terms of comfort. 

But that doesn't mean that the Utility Bar was a noodle, especially when cranking out a climb or starting from a dead stop as a single speeder. My Karate Monkey is geared a bit on the high side, and with 180mm cranks, I need to stand and mash, leveraging the bar to enable me to stroke the pedals, and the Utility Bar was great in those circumstances. The width is plenty long enough to help you generate power, and you have a lot of leverage over that load which is attached directly to that bar. That's something to keep in mind here also. 

Some folks were wondering about the bottles being mounted facing the rider. Would that cause my knees to strike the cages or bottles? In fact, they weren't an issue. Even wildly cranking out a sprint across a street to beat traffic, I wasn't seeing any contact between my legs and the cages. Of course, this will all be predicated upon your specific set up. A short top tube bike in combination with a lower head tube will cause an issue, perhaps. But on this bike, it was of no concern. 

Negatives or drawbacks? Yes, a couple here I can think of. First, anytime you fix the relationship between components you lose adjustability. So, the rack and handle bar cannot be adjusted for personal preferences without one thing affecting the other. For instance, you cannot level the rack without it affecting how the swept portion of the bar sits in your hands and vice versa. Say you like the sweep of a bar pointed up slightly. Well, your rack base will not be level. That's the thing you have to accept here, the lack of individual adjustability for each part of the Utility system. 

The other thing I found was that my older Avid levers would not fully clamp the Utility Bar, as if it were very slightly undersized. Your levers may work fine, but I was able to move my levers despite the clamp being fully closed on the bar. 

Finally, the system weighs a lot! You cannot be concerned about weight here. If you are, you'd be best to skip the Utility Bar and Utility Rack for something else entirely. These components will never be mistaken for "weight-weenie" items! That said, they are well designed and I have no doubt that these components will be durable and long lasting. I know that they work really well, and so the weight? To me its a good trade-off for functionality and versatility. 

In the end, I have really liked the Utility Bar and Utility Rack. If you can get on with the lack of ergonomic/rack adjustability, which I was able to do, then this should be on your radar if you want a very sturdy, stable front rack and handle bar. You could also just run the bar without the rack and have water bottle mounts accessible from the cockpit of your bike, which is another way to look at the Utility Bar. The Utility Rack could come off and be put back on again, or you could leave it on permanently for the ultimate "utilitarian" bike. (Ha!) 

Thanks to Velo Orange for the opportunity to review these items for Guitar Ted Productions.

Friday, June 23, 2023

Friday News And Views

Guitar Ted Gets Interviewed:

When I was down in Emporia earlier this month I got invited to be on the "Gravel Family Podcast" by Jason Strobehn. He along with co-host  Sofia Gibson, are really getting a lot of great folks on their show and I was honored to have been asked on.

This podcast is a good one from the perspective of history. If you've ever wondered how I got the moniker "Guitar Ted", how Trans Iowa got started, or where I came into reviewing stuff for cycling, this show has all of that plus more packed into less than an hour. 

So, check it out if you have time. The Spotify link is here.  

Thanks to Jason, Sofia, and Lauf Cycles for sponsoring this episode. Thanks to Merchant Cycles in Emporia, KS for the space in front of their shop. Thanks to the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame for the invitation to visit Emporia again. 

Pinion marries a gearbox with a motor

E-Bike Innovations Trend More Toward Motorcycles:

I've said for years that modern motors in modern bicycles would end up losing the pedals at some point and follow the same progression that happened in the early 20th Century with bicycles and motor mixing. Parts would necessarily have to be beefed up, motors would become integrated parts of the frame design, and power would increase to the point that pedaling would be like T-Rex trying to use his forearms. Yeah....pretty much useless. 

 I know bike nerd types will raise heck with those thoughts, but as I review the news and look around me, the evidence of this evolution is undeniable. Take for instance two bits I saw in the news this past week.

One is Pinion's development of a gearbox/motor unit that shifts via electronics and probably will have an automatic version when it comes to market. The rider will simply have to pedal a bit and everything else will run on its own. 

The second bit I saw was from Quiet Cat, a HPC/electrified bike company catering more to the outdoors-man. Their newest bike will have Variable Power Output onboard which will allow the user to run the bike as a Class 1, Class 2, Class 3, or at the maximum output of 1000 watts, by throttle. The rider can use an electronic panel to choose power output level as long as they are stopped.

How is that not a motorcycle? This and a gearbox/motor combo? How far are we away from motorcycles that happen to have pedals? Not very far, I'd say. 

The Bookman "Volume" light. (Image courtesy of Bookman Visibility)

Bookman Volume Light:

This is a bicycle light from Bookman, who I've featured here before. Their product line was mostly about "being seen" lights, not the practical "see-by" lights I need in the darker times of the year. That said, Bookman does combine a nice sense of design and fashion with usability and function. 

Now at Eurobike Bookman has been awarded an Innovation in Design award for their new "Volume" light. An 850 Lumen or 1500 Lumen light that has the potential to be a great light for adventure, long rides, and commuting. 

Not only that, but Bookman have achieved an "out of the box" thinking on design which, to me, is very sensible. For instance, instead of a push button for selecting a light level you may desire, which typically requires a scrolling through all the other modes to get where you want to be, Bookman have utilized a rotary switch. A simple twist of a knob and you get there, where you want the light level to be, more quickly. Bookman claims the idea came from the volume knob on a stereo receiver, thus the product's name. 

Not only that, but they utilize an easily obtainable cylindrical lithium ion rechargeable battery allowing the user of the Volume to swap out batteries during a ride to extend ride times indefinitely. This is much like the old Lezyne Super Drive light which had a similar design. Basically, hearkening back to the old D cell battery flashlight theme from days of yore. 

Then Bookman addressed one of the more maddening idiosyncrasies regarding lights and accessories for bicycles - mounts. They did not invent yet another proprietary mount for this light. Instead, they went with a ubiquitous mount in the cycling world, the Garmin mount. Brilliant! (Sorry, no pun intended!) They even offer a Garmin mount with a GoPro attachment. Now that's using your noggin! I like this light just based upon its design alone. 

Is it any good? How much will it cost? When can anyone get one? I only have one vague answer and that for the last question - Fall 2023. Stay tuned.....

That's all for this week! have a great weekend and get out and ride!

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Gravel Grinder News: American Classic Tires, WTB Saddles

The new "Grus" by American Classic. (Image courtesy of American Classic)
American Classic Debuts New Tires:

With Eurobike humming along over the pond we are getting a few new tidbits thrown our way. Despite the news of a clogged up supply chain, some companies are still showing new stuff.

One such company is American Classic, the company that came back from the dead to establish itself as the value leader in bicycle tires which have good performance characteristics.  They recently added three new tires, the Grus gravel tire and two new 29"er tires. 

The Grus will come in only black, only one size, (for now) 700 X 40mm, and is a claimed just-over-500 gram tire. 120TPI and it has American Classic's Class 5S puncture protection belt. The tire sells for $45.00 USD and can be found on American Classic's Amazon store

The American Classic Cumbre 29" X 2.25" (Image courtesy of American Calssic)

Comments: I'm mildly interested in the Cubre 29"er tire as it looks fast and American classic is claiming it weighs in at around 690 grams, which for a tire this big would be stellar. 

But.....I have serious doubts about that weight. For one thing, this is a 2.25" tire, and I have 700 X 45mm tires that weight that much here in the house. Note: The same press release says that the Grus weighs 550 grams and it is a 40mm tire. Yeah.....

American Classic says the tire is puncture protected too, and even if that is only under the tread cap, that adds weight. So..... Either the tire isn't that light, really, or it isn't that wide. If it is, I'd be pretty surprised by that. 

That all said, the Grus does look fast. Might be a great tire at that price. 

The new WTB Silverado (Image courtesy of WTB)

WTB Updates Silverado, Volt Saddles:

WTB announced recently that they have taken what they learned from designing the new Gravelier saddle and have applied that to their popular Silverado and Volt models. 

The saddles have the new Fusion Form nylon bases where the amount of reinforcing fiber can be manipulated for the best comfort outcomes. the Volt remains pretty much unchanged with the exception of that Fusion Form tech and a refreshed look. The Silverado is where the big changes occurred.  

WTB found through rigorous ride testing that the Silverado was better if it was a tad bit shorter and had less of a "dip" in its midsection. It really looks similar to the Gravelier now, to my eyes, without the cut-out. 

Both saddles will be available in several price points based upon their rail material, mostly. I am a bit skeptical on the Silverado, and I would be really kind of bummed if it weren't for the fact that I know that the Gravelier is a really great saddle. Because if I hadn't have ridden the Gravelier I'd be sad that they changed the Silverado, as it is amongst my very favorite saddles now. But if it is like a Gravelier, I'd be good with that. 

Maybe we'll see about that soon...

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Commuter Blues

This apparel item makes you "less than human" when worn.
 I've been a bicycle commuter steadily since 2002 and before that sporadically since 1993. So, I've built up a lot of knowledge in regard to my interactions with the operators of motor vehicles as I cycle through the Waterloo/Cedar Falls metro area. 

These are my observations only. Your area may be quite different. (I hope it is!) But a recent study reported on by Momentum Magazine online shines a light toward what I have always thought to be true. That being that when I dress in "cycling garb" I am treated quite differently than I am when I wear street clothing to cycle in. 

I have found this to be so true in my experience that - unless I am going for a long ride solo in the country - I wear street clothes to cycle in almost exclusively now. The difference is amazing. 

Of course, there are outliers and times when I get close passed by cars even if I am wearing street clothes and a ball cap, but probably 99% of the time or more I get a wide berth, people defer to me at intersections, and I never get yelled at. Wearing a helmet? That instantly makes my commutes more difficult. I get less consideration, and I have been yelled at. Wearing a full kit?

Fahgeddaboudit. You may as well be a worm.

Yeah, like the study I linked to says, why that is no one really knows yet, but we can guess. I assume that people see a "person" when they see a cyclist in normal garb. But perceptions about "cyclists" in a kit? I imagine those are mostly of the negative sort. Why? Well, I think that can range anywhere from "cyclists are neredowell rule-breakers that are unpredictable and in the way" to worse than that.  

I really don't know, nor do I really care. I just know what works, and what doesn't work, and I have adapted accordingly. Should things be different? Yes. In the meantime, I do what I have to do so I can ride a bicycle. My feeling is that until this culture of car-centrism changes to accommodate cycling and walking at an even plane to automobile usage, or at a higher importance than that, things won't change significantly. We need to see a philosophy of less cars are better, more cycling and walking is better first. 

But I don't think the powers that be are interested in it unless they can make coin out of it. Right now, that isn't the case.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Country Views; A Little Rain

Escape Route: Rain puddle-filled alleys to the West.
 We've had really dry air and no rain for far too long. It was so bad many lawns were dormant and browned. But this past weekend brought some much needed precipitation to the area and we got a little over a half an inch of rain here. Not enough for long term stability, but enough to get by on for now. 

Monday I got out of the house early. This new plan I have for actually going to bed at a decent hour is paying dividends. Instead of wishing I could sleep longer, I woke up before the alarm clock went off wishing it was time to get up! 

So, I was out on the Twin Six Standard Rando early. Like around 8:45am, and I set off to ride South and do a loop. I wasn't sure how good I'd feel so I wasn't planing on any certain amount of mileage. Besides, I had to be at work later in the day. So I couldn't be riding big miles anyway. 

There was a fog in the morning which was still burning off as I left town.

It was otherwise a spectacular day out in the country early on.

The winds were light, out of the Southeast, but they were mere puffs of breath that didn't really have any effect on riding. The humidity was higher, but not stifling, so at least I did not feel like I was baking in the Sun. Actually, it was quite pleasant out. The birds were busy and I even saw a male fox on the road on Aker Road. That was a bit of a surprise. 

It's Southern Black Hawk County. Of course there is a ton of crushed rock on the roads!

Taking a break at the usual spot.

I was using that Wahoo Elemnt ROAM GPS computer and well, I got it to do a couple of weird things. More on that in another post, but overall it worked okay. The gravel is so rough South of town. I began to wonder if all that vibration makes the device act funny. I don't know, but my hands were taking a beating on this ride. 

This Red Winged Blackbird appears to be floating on a sea of grass.

No "good lines" here. Get used to it.... This is how it is anymore South of town.

I felt pretty good so I traveled all the way down to Quarry Road and decided to come back on Beck Road which has some great rollers. Then I'd turn East on Petrie and head on over and back toward town on Ansborough. 

The gravel was pretty deep and there were rarely any good lines to ride. Typical of late. Black Hawk County must be flush with cash for gravel road maintenance, that's for sure! 

One of the higher points in Black Hawk County on Beck Road near the Petrie Road intersection.

Knee-high by the 4th of July? No problem here!

I was a little disappointed that this Wahoo GPS says that Beck Road isn't over 1000 feet elevation. Everything else I've used has said that. Boo! (That's just me, probably) But then again, I'm not so sure that graph on the Wahoo is exactly accurate. So, I'm believing the other GPS units that have measured that hill up over 1000 feet. 

A tractor chugs up the long grade on Petrie Road headed West

The day lillies in the ditches here were rather sad looking.

I've noted that this spell of dry weather has kicked the ditch flowers to the curb. Hardly anything is blooming out there now besides clover, and that sparingly. Normally there would be a riot of orange color out there about now with the day lillies coming on, but those were scarce. 

One white puff of a cloud parked over this road looks kind of odd.

One last stop before heading into the urban nightmare of Waterloo.

I stopped at the small bridge over Prescott Creek, as usually is my wont, and the stream was babbling a beautiful tune. I even remarked out loud that the little brook was talking. Something about running water in Nature. Love that sound.... Anyway. 

Back to reality! I headed back into town cutting through back streets and alleys as much as possible to avoid the distracted denizens of the 'Loo. I made it back home with 25 miles on the day and I was glad I peeled myself out of bed early to enjoy the rain-washed sky. Wildfire smoke was scheduled for a return later in the day, so I wanted to avoid that if I could. 

And I did.

Monday, June 19, 2023

A Story About A Freedom Machine

Yesterday was Father's Day, and for many it is a wonderful time to remember, to honor, and to share with those that are fathers and have touched other's lives. Not necessarily "biological" fathers either. 

But for some of us, days like yesterday are difficult. Not everyone has a "father", and many of us had bad experiences with their fathers, or had tragedy associated with their father, which brings up a lot of emotions at this time of the year. 

I am one of those that has difficulty with Father's Day.

My relationship with my father was troubled from an early age. It was a situation that worsened to the point that I tried to get away from the house whenever I could if I thought my father might be around. 

My method, my mode of escape, was the bicycle. It was a Holiday Station store 20" cruiser with high rise bars, a tall "sissy bar", slick rear tire, and was lime green with a bass boat black sparkle banana saddle. The model name was "Hugger", as I recall. I rode that thing until I was waaaay too big for it! It took me all over my home town. 

Fortunately for me, I grew up in a time where parents weren't hovering over their offspring, trying to protect them from....well, everything, and really, it probably was too far the other way when I grew up. I could be missing in action for hours upon hours. I just had to be home before the Sun set.

Anyway, the bicycle represented freedom from pain. Freedom from abuse. A chance to forget the realities between the four walls of our home back then and just be. That was what the bike did for me back then. It was what I needed to survive. To stay sane. 

So, I fell in love with the bicycle, and it was my main mode for getting around way up into high school. I did the typical 20's thing, like most folks my age, and ditched the bicycle for four wheels. But I had dalliances with bicycles all along for different reasons, and those old feelings of peace and calmness would come back. 

Eventually I bought my first mountain bike and that happened when I was about 28 years old. Been on those two wheels ever since pretty steadily. And through every bad thing and every day that reminded me of a past I didn't want to remember too much, that bicycle brought me some peace of mind, some mental clarity. 

So, yesterday was a tough day for me, but I am a father now, so that part is what I try to focus on and be better at every day. So, I was okay yesterday.

I hope you were too.

Sunday, June 18, 2023

The GTDRI Stories; The Aftermath Of Number Nine

My mangled Oakleys from being hit by a truck in the 9th GTDRI
 "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 immediate effects from having been hit by a truck and tossed into the air like a rag doll hit me hard after this GTDRI in 2014. I had a bout of PTSDI had messed up GI issues, I got really sick. I wasn't hardly riding at all, and I missed most of September because of all of that. 

The bike I was riding, the Tamland Two, was fine. I had to install new handle bar tape, and that was it, amazingly. But I could not bring myself to ride the bike at all for quite a while afterward. It wasn't until October that I was able to get back on it again without feeling afraid and anxious. 

Life changes were coming into effect as well. I had an end to doing 29"er MTB reviews and a beginning in doing gravel stuff as a focus and not as a side gig anymore. Meanwhile I was at a shop wrenching which was showing signs of being non-viable by 2015. My mind was starting to consider what might be my next move. 

I also started co-hosting a podcast back then. Hard to believe its been THAT long ago already, but there ya go. It was exciting at first and so was getting out from underneath the old 29"er gig, but it didn't take long into 2015 to realize I may have traded one bad gig for a not-so-great one. The thing was, gravel stuff was really where my heart was at anyway, so it was "better" from that standpoint.

Meanwhile, things were getting sorted with insurance from the truck hitting us. This kept communications up between a few of us that were on that ride. There was a distinct feeling that there was "unfinished business", and that the following year needed to be another attempt at the same course. So I had that thought and felt that was what needed to be done for all of us that were a part of that incident. Closure might be found if we were able to just get that route done the way it should have happened, and maybe that was more for myself than anybody else. 

There was a bit of chatter in emails and some comments to the blog that the name of the ride should change as a result of the ending of the 9th GTDRI. The word "death" being of particular note here. Well, I understood why people might feel that way, but to my mind changing the name would be giving that man that hit us power that he did not deserve. If the name of the ride was going to change, it wasn't going to be for that reason. 

While 2015 would mark the 10th GTDRI, I wasn't ever thinking about that milestone like I did with regard to Trans Iowa. It's ironic too, because typically I would have made a big deal out of that for the GTDRI. However; the incident with the driver of the truck made me take a different view of matters and celebrating that tenth GTDRI wasn't nearly as important as marking a close to events that happened that humid day near Edgewood, Iowa on a hill on a gravel road. 

Next: Gravel Changes

Saturday, June 17, 2023

GPS Take 3: Wahoo Elemnt ROAM Part 2

 This is the update to my first take on the Wahoo Elemnt ROAM which posted earlier this week HERE.

In that post I had some news about the screen freezing up. In the comments on that post a reader that goes by "Nooge" here thought that perhaps the screen freeze issue was atmospheric related. The skies were heavily overcast that day of my first try with the Wahoo and there could have been a lot of Canadian wildfire smoke in the upper atmosphere that may have led to poor GPS satellite reception. 

Now with my second attempt at using the Elemnt ROAM, I found myself under a partly cloudy sky. This time there were no screen freeze-ups, so I am thinking Nooge was on to something there and that there are really no worries with the unit. 

The thing I wanted to cover today is the Summit Freeride feature which Wahoo added to this new Elemnt ROAM only this past Spring. It is a feature that will alert you to an upcoming climb and then give you data on the climb, its length, the severity of the gradient, and gives you a "time to summit" based on your speed. 

 No hiccups on the latest ride.
Okay, so I did not know that this Summit Freeride feature is more or less automatic. If the unit detects an upcoming climb of any significance, and no matter what page you are currently using, it "interrupts this program" with an alert. "CLIMB!" This is accompanied by an audible beep. '

At that point you are redirected to the special Summit Freeride screen which has gradient, a graphic of the climb, your progress, and "time to summit" which I assume is based upon your pacing. 

It was kind of neat to see your time count down and watch the gradient readout as you climb. I like a bit of distraction when I am putting out an effort, I don't know about you. For me it makes things go by easier and takes my mind off of the pain/tedium/whatever. 

Once the "summit" is reached there is another shout-out on the screen- "SUMMIT!" - and then poof! That special screen is gone and you find yourself back where you were at on whichever screen it was you were using before the climb. 

I like this feature, but.... I could see where you might not like it if you were looking at the map on the screen and then this interrupts that. Especially if you are following a turn-by-turn navigation course. Or perhaps you can override the Summit Freeride special screen? I have to do some more deep-diving on Wahoo's site to see about this. Update: Yes - You can turn off the function that switches to the Summit Freeride page automatically, but according to the app, it still alerts you so you can switch to it. (?) We will have to see how that works now.

As for the rest of the unit - so far - I am good. I like the Elemnt ROAM as much as I did my old Lezyne because it pretty much does what that computer did. Plus, the Elemnt ROAM  has a very crisp color screen, the climbing page, the Summit Freeride, and it should have turn-by-turn navigation. I sure hope that part works out well, because if so, I would consider this product a home run, at least from my viewpoint. Then it would be just a matter of longevity. 

So far, so good. This is - by far - a waaaaaaay better experience than the Karoo2. It's actually a fun product to use with little to no frustrations at all. Isn't that what a cycling product should be able to do? Help you have fun? Well, Wahoo has made that happen up to this point for me. 

Remember: The Standard Disclaimer applies.

Friday, June 16, 2023

Friday News And Views

Inventory Levels High - Sales Low:

Halfway into 2023 and the situation for the bicycle retailing sector has worsened. Unprecedented levels of unsold inventory sits while consumer interests are at a low level. The apathy in buyer interest has caused some heretofore unusual tactics to lure in customers. 

As a for instance, back in Spring Trek dealers were hawking free "gifts" of cycling accessory items just for coming in and trying out an e-bike. Just a test ride could net a potential bike purchaser a water bottle, floor pump, or maybe even a Trek Travel trip, all free, just for trying a bike out. The tactic is still in use up to now, and that just tells you the situation is dire.

Of course, the hope is that when you come in the sales staff will have their game on and get you to buy a bike, but you don't have to. This is a very unusual tactic and one I have not witnessed in my 25 or so years of bicycle retail employment. 

Other outlandish deals exist all over the internet including up to 40% and more off of Rock Shox suspension products, 25% -40% off name brand cycling shoes, and 20% -25% discounts being so common I cannot name them all here. 

But bicycles themselves are the big ticket item clogging the pipeline now, and with no real significant movement in that trade, it will definitely have some negative effects which will ripple throughout the industry. 

6/15/23 Air quality. I'm under the 143 on the map here.
Where There's Smoke There's Big Trouble:

Canadian wildfires have been wreaking havoc on my riding here the entire month of June. I don't know about you, but I am not considering a ride when just breathing air in the house gives me a rough feeling throat. 

Combined with this, we've had a really dry month of June as well, falling an inch and a half plus short on rainfall in this area. My grass in the lawn looks crispy and it appears more like late August out there than it does mid-June. 

It's nothing new to you folks out West, I get that, but this is highly unusual for Iowa, or the Mid-West in general, and the corn and bean crop is going to suffer mightily unless things clear up and get wet soon. That will affect everybody.

We won't be worrying much about riding bicycles if this keeps up because we'll have bigger things to keep us occupied. But for now, I can say this smoke sucks and it is mildly depressing when one cannot get in a bicycle ride because the air is too dangerous to breath in.

Ergon Announces GreenLab Circular Program:

Ergon is announcing a new initiative just befoe Eurobike kicks off which features their SR AllRoad Core Saddle, This new GreenLab Circular program is aimed at creating products that can be recycled into another like-product. In this case, when the SR AllRoad Core Circular saddle reaches the end of its lifecycle, it could be recycled to make another SR AllRoad Core Circular Saddle. 

Ergon partnered in this project with BASF, the company already involved with Ergon and making component parts for their saddles, namely the padded layer in the SR AllRoad saddles. BASF determined that by not using the pigmentation normally applied to the materials of the SR AllRoad Core, that the resulting end product would make for a better material to recycle, thus the pale appearance of the component parts as seen in the image here provided by Ergon. 

The saddle rails are made from TiNox (stainless steel) and can be removed by hand when the saddle is ready for recycling. The top cover is a new material developed by BASF especially to conform to this projects goals. Look for more on this after Euro bike.  

That's me on the left at the DK200 2015.

Podcast Update:

In case you missed it: We've posted three podcasts in the last two weeks (!!) covering the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame inductions and the recently run Unbound Gravel which has caused seemingly no end of debate. N.Y. Roll and I cover parts of the debate in two of the three episodes posted. 

You can find Episodes #'s 17, 18, and 19 on Spotify here, or wherever you get your podcast feed from. 

With the flurry of podcasts of late, we're going to take a little break here and be back in July, (probably, if not the last week of June), and have another podcast, hopefully with an interview guest I have in mind. Stay tuned on that... 

The master plan is to do approximately 15 more episodes which should take us into November when we will plan a longer break and end the "season". N.Y. Roll and I have been encouraged by many of you out there who have listened and given us your feedback. We appreciate you listening in and for giving us helpful feedback that we hope to use to continue to grow the audience. 

SRAM AXS Apex 12 Image courtesy of SRAM

SRAM Debuts 12spd AXS Apex & 12spd Apex Mechanical Groups.

In a totally expected move by SRAM, Apex AXS has been released. 12 speed, all the Eagle MTB mechs can be made to work with it, and it is cheaper. Just like SRAM has always done. 

Same innards, just heavier materials. So, unless you are weight conscious, Apex AXS will do you just fine. 

At 1400 bucks, it isn't too pricey for an electronic group set. I imagine that this will see a lot of OE spec once things start getting made again. There is even a $225.00 power meter upgrade available. Nice. 

Comments: SRAM is a curious company. You can get the same high performing mechanical/electronic performance with heavier and cheaper materials as you go down the range. It begs the question: Why pay more for the upper end stuff? There really isn't a great reason to do so unless, well, you can't help yourself, you've got scads of cash sitting around, or you are a sponsored athlete. With Shimano you have significant construction, materials, and tolerance differences as well as design tweaks as you work your way up their ranges. It make sense to get XT then if you are running Deore stuff now. 

But SRAM doesn't do things that way and they haven't since they came out with road components in the 2000's. I guess that's why I rarely, if ever saw a Red group on a bike come through my repair stand and hardly ever saw anything from the Force group either. Most of the time the SRAM road stuff I saw was from the Rival group, and why not? It had the same guts doing the actual work that Red did. 

It just seems weird to me how SRAM does this sort of undermining of their own upper-end group sets.

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