Thursday, August 31, 2023

Old Man Mountain Juniper Trunk, Ponderosa Panniers: Review

Note: Old Man Mountain sent over a set of Ponderosa Panniers, and Juniper Trunk Bag, and a Divide Rack for test and review at no charge to Guitar Ted Productions. I have not been paid nor bribed for this review and I always strive to give you my honest thoughts and opinions throughout. 

Well, this whole bikepacking idea took a turn when back a few weeks ago I got an email telling me that the Juniper Bag and Ponderosa Panniers were available to me for test/review. So, I agreed to have a look and here they are. 

I'm no stranger to the idea of panniers and rack mounted bags. I've done cross-country, self-contained touring before, (it's what we called it before it was called "bikepacking"), and panniers and racks were integral to making that work for me. We carried tents, clothing, food, and other gear on those tours. So, working out of a pannier isn't something I haven't ever done before and I looked forward to getting these Ponderosa Panniers and the Juniper Trunk Bag on my Singular Cycles Gryphon Mk3 to see how this would all work. 

I was informed by my contact at OMM that the Juniper Trunk Bag would not fit on the Elkhorn Rack I already have on the Gryphon, so they sent out a Divide Rack to help me out there. Update 9/12/23: There was some misunderstanding/miscommunication here which led to my previous statement. The truth of the matter is that the Elkhorn rack is not compatible with the Ponderosa Panniers. The Elkhorn Rack and Juniper Trunk Bag ARE compatible. 

Now, let's take a quick look at each component and then we'll see how it all looks once it all is attached to the Gryphon.  

The Divide Rack

The Divide Rack: Okay, Old Man Mountain prides themselves on racks that won't let you down. Translation: This rack is heavy duty and looks bullet-proof. This one weighed in at 700 grams without any stays or hardware. OMM claims that with all stays and hardware it weighs 980 grams. OMM has said this rack has never let them or their customers down and they stand behind it with a lifetime warranty. Oh....and it is rated to carry 70lbs. That's about 20lbs more than most heavy-duty touring racks are rated for load bearing. 

I've toured with big loads using a rack that wasn't nearly this nice. So, I was excited to see this and with all the hardware provided to fit about anything on two wheels, I think this is a pretty impressive bit of kit. 

The Juniper Trunk: Think "Big Shopping Bag With Roll Top" and you are there.

The Juniper Trunk Bag: While it looks like a handlebar roll in my image here, it really is a big bag, much like a grocery bag, only made out of 100% waterproof TPU fabric. It's got a side zip pocket, but other than that, it is a simple roll-top bag meant for a rack deck. 

The Juniper Trunk unfurled. It is a 10L capacity bag

 It attaches via four cam-clip buckles and straps which are adjustable. The roll top is secured by straps and buckles over each end of the "trunk" and on one end there is a handy light mount. The Velcro patch is embossed with an OMM logo which is so subtle I didn't see it until I was attaching the bag to the rack. From the OMM site:

  • 10 Liter capacity per bag.
  • Fully welded and waterproof construction made from TPU fabric
  • HypalonⓇ reinforcements at all attachment points are more abrasion resistant and provide extra grip where needed
  • PFAS/PFC free materials
  • Roll top enclosure.
  • Waterproof zipper pocket on the outside.
  • Minimal branding on Velcro patches.
  • Clip light slots on the back.
  • Great fitment on all racks with a deck. Perfect fitment for OMM pannier racks.

The Ponderosa Panniers

Ponderosa Panniers: Okay, this is the bit that I was most interested in seeing since I have used and worked with many different pannier set ups over my time as a cyclist and shop mechanic. I've seen what works and what is so-so. 

The frame sheet and my foot for size comparison.

The Ponderosa Panniers are made from the same waterproof fabric as the Juniper Trunk Bag and are 13L capacity, per bag, and that's with the top rolled 3 times. The attachment method is done via a cam-action strap mechanism with large Velcro patches to hold everything down while the bottom attachment is a hook and strap affair to keep the panniers from flopping outward on corners or over rougher terrain. 

Inside there are two frame sheets. Basically two pieces of plastic, these give you better compression action and give form to the bags. The outer sheet in each bag is removable if that isn't your jam though. 

The roll-top functions like it does on the Juniper Trunk, but you can decide to arrange the straps to attach over the bag which kind of makes handles for carrying by hand. Might be convenient at times... (See Comments below for more on that) 

  • Removable and replaceable straps
  •  Minimal branding on Velcro patches
  • Lower attachment/compression strap remains under load to prevent bags from flapping around
  • HypalonⓇ reinforcements at all attachment points are more abrasion resistant and provide extra grip where needed.
  • Clip light slots on the back.
  • Great fitment on all racks designed for panniers. Perfect fitment for OMM pannier racks
  • Minimalist weight = 475g (each), 950 grams per pair. Without side compression straps, front framesheet, or side roll top clips.
  • Full Featured weight = 560g (each), 1120 grams per pair

Costs: Ponderosa Panniers: $200.00, Juniper Trunk Bag: $125.00, Divide Rack: $168.00

This was hiding under one of the strap attachment points. Hmm..... I have no idea!

Impressions: The quality of all the Old Man Mountain stuff seems to be at a pretty high level. The Elk Horn Rack I was sent last year is solid and shows no signs of weakness no matter what I loaded on it. When I mounted that rack on my pink BMC? Well, my load was a bit much, causing some "tail wag" with that bike, but the Elk Horn was stellar. This Divide Rack, if anything, is even burlier. I suspect I will be impressed with its performance. 

The Juniper Trunk Bag was sent out with the Divide Rack.  Once again, as I was advised that the Juniper Trunk would not be compatible with the Elkhorn Rack I already had. (See UPDATE above) Once the Juniper Trunk was in hand though, I found this statement to be odd. It looked like it would work.....

The Ponderosa Panniers had a different attachment system than I'd ever seen, but I was willing to give it a go. The size seemed perfect for a bag that would stay "out of the way" yet have enough cargo space to prove useful.

If the hardware isn't in the kit to make it work, OMM sells kits that will work.

 Installation & Comments: Anyway, it was time to start mounting things. The Divide Rack was super-easy to install on my Gryphon. I have 29 X 2.8" tires and the rack mounts on the Gryphon are about an inch or so above the rear dropouts on the seat stays. Still, the clearance was juuussst enough to comfortably clear my Teravail Coronado's. Whew! Close, but not too close.

That said, OMM sells kits to help you fit the rack to almost any bicycle, so there is almost always an option that will make their racks work. Even on dual suspension bikes. Thankfully the copious amount of fasteners, spacers, and washers was enough to make it all work on my bike without extras.

Mounting instructions are sewn into the backside of the bag.

Now with that on and leveled up, I was set to mount the panniers. Interestingly, the strapping method OMM uses with the Ponderosa Panniers requires some dexterous maneuvering to attach the panniers to the rack's cross bar. I quickly realized two things.

 First off, these panniers would be a chore to remove, and then also, they would be a chore to remount, and maybe impossibly so if you had a heavy load in the bag. This is because you have to support the bag and its weight, use one hand to guide the upper loop over the rack's cross bar, and then with the other hand you have to loop the strap through a piece of plastic on the upper loop, pull that through, and then attach its hook and loop material to the hook and loop material on the back of the pannier. So like what? Three hands required? It was difficult enough to hook these up in my shop with empty bags and I cannot imagine trying to do that on a trail with a loaded bag.

With that done the lower stabilizing strap was easily attached. I loaded up the panniers with my sleeping bag in one and clothing in the other. Compressing the load down and rolling the top up revealed a very stable, tight to the rack load that looked like it wasn't going anywhere. So, at least all that hassle with the attachment method was worthwhile. Just don't expect me to remove these bags until I'm all through with them!

Now where to put that Juniper Trunk Bag? Even though I was told that it would not work on the Elkhorn Rack on the front of my Gryphon, I was looking at the rack and at the Divide Rack and thinking, "Why not?" So, I tried it and you know what? It went on fine. While I have a ton of experience with the cam type clips and strapping style attachments, I wasn't 100% impressed with how the OMM ones were working. They are not "bad" in any way,. They work just fine. It's just that if you have used Revelate's cams you will see that there is a difference. It'd be nice to see OMM raise the bar in this area since they are a premium product in the marketplace.

That said, the trunk bag is great and held my sleep pad, an ancient Thermarest one, perfectly with room to spare. I feel good about that since now the pad is protected from the elements and I won't have a dusty or wet pad to deal with once I get where I am going.

And there she be! Fully loaded using the OMM products sent for this review.

A Look At The Set-Up: Here is the final set up. I'll go over everything here to let you know what you are looking at. Of course, the bike is my Singular Cycles Gryphon Mk3 with a three by nine speed drive train running Gevenalle shifters and levers operating Shimano derailleurs and State Bicycle Co brakes. I've also got the Enduro bottom bracket in this bike.

The two-man Sierra Designs tent is on the Divide Rack in that Outdoor Research dry bag with the Ponderosa Panniers on the sides. Up front we have the OMM Elkhorn Rack with the Juniper Trunk Bag up top. On the sides we have one Salsa Anything Cage HD and a State Bicycle Co Cargo Rack on the other both holding a Salsa Cycles dry bag. In the cockpit I have two Bike Bag Dude Chaff Bags and a Cedaero top tube bag. I've got five water bottles to drink from as well. (Option to use seven bottles if I utilize the Chaff Bags as water bottle holders)

First Ride Impressions: To simulate my planned trip, I loaded up the bike with full water bottles, clothing, my tent, sleep system, food, and tools/spares. I maybe didn't have everything there. I might have been missing my stove or something, but I did not inventory my bags, I just know that they were all loaded. Anyway, that's how I rode the bike to test ride the set up. And?

The racks and bags were totally silent, as OMM promised, and they were all rock-solidly attached and they did not waver or seem to move at all. Using panniers may not be familiar to many people these days since the advent of "rackless touring" and the prevalence of seat packs, frame bags, and the like. I had this bike set up previous to this current set up in a "hybrid", rackless/racked configuration. I had the tent in a seat pack and nothing else out back. I had a handle bar bag as well.

The front load isn't really any different than before with the exception of the removal of the handle bar bag and the addition of the Juniper Bag, which is now keeping my sleeping pad from being naked! So what has changed is that now the load weight has shifted a little to the rear, and that rear load is lower, and most importantly, more stable on the bike. This has resulted in a better handling bike with less frame flexing and "tail-wagging" than before.

There is something about a long, big seat pack load that really doesn't benefit handling and makes the bike feel squirrely to me in comparison to a load that is lashed tightly to the bike/racks and cannot sway or move at all. This cannot be ignored, and added with the lowered center of gravity, this is a much more pleasurable ship to pilot than it was before.

I've been cooking up a plan with N.Y. Roll for a sub-24 trip using the bike as set up here. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

The 2023 GTDR: Gear Review, Barns For Jason, Comments

 This should wrap up my comments and images on my ride this past weekend. The images will all be of barns, and of course, these are all barns I had not seen before. Almost all of them being on that section of the ride between Vinton and LaPorte City, since I'd never been out that way before. 

I call those pictures "Barns For Jason" in reference to an old friend and his love of barns. Longtime blog readers are, no doubt, familiar with this. If you are new here and if you like barns, just put "Barns For Jason" in the search box in the header here and hit enter. I'll see you much, much later......

In terms of gear for this ride, I took the Twin Six Standard Rando v2 as my bicycle. There were a few good reasons to do this. First is that I like this bike. But beyond that, it also has a bit lower gearing than my other gravel bikes and I figured that on such a long ride that I may require that lower gearing at times. I was correct on that part! 

The Twin Six Standard Rando v2 (mostly) as I had it set up for the GTDR for 2023.

I did rotate the levers up about 5mm from where they were on the drop bars' hooks which suited me better. I had six bottles of water onboard, which was more than plenty, but at least I never wanted for water. 

The bike has 42mm Pirelli Cinturato Gravel M tires on it which are on WTB carbon wheels. The aforementioned drivetrain is the 2X version of GRX Limited Edition Silver. I did not use the GPS as seen above but instead had a plastic cue sheet holder zip tied to the BarYak Expedition extensions and those were set up as aero bars. The handle bars are Salsa Cowchippers and the stem was a garden variety Easton. The seat post is a carbon Whisky No 7 and the saddle is one of those new WTB Graveliers with carbon rails. Bags are Bike Bag Dude Garage Top Tube Bag and Revelate Designs Tangle Bag. 

I used a Light and Motion VisPro Trail as my headlight and a Raveman rear LED flasher. I think that about covers the bike and accessories. 

 How'd It Do? The bike worked perfectly. There was one point early on in the Old Creamery Trail where I heard odd noises coming out of the chain and rear cassette. I stopped to investigate but found no faults. It may have been an errant bit of foliage or a stick. I do not know. Otherwise I had an excellent performing machine for the day. The amount of water mounting points was more than enough and the bags were perfect. The cue sheet holder did well, but I never used the aero extensions. The gravel was just too deep and sketchy for me to feel comfortable using that accessory. 

What Would I Change? I'd ditch the BarYak system. It wasn't useful and it weighs a lot. The piece itself is well made and works great, but for this purpose it was mostly dead weight, especially on the roads I was traveling. I'd add a Redshift Sports ShockStop Stem. The front fork Twin Six sourced for this bike is just too stiff and my shoulders were aching badly 3/4's of the way into this ride because of that. My headlight was barely able to run two hours, which was just right for what I needed, but it was rated at 3 hours on medium, which is what I thought I had it set to. (I'll have to check on that later) But the quality of the light left a lot to be desired as this light was too washy and destroyed my ability to read the road. The Raveman headlights I have are better at this, by the way. The Raveman tail light was stellar. 

I wore a combination of inner liner, baggie shorts from Showers Pass, and a Voler jersey with an Endura base layer. I used a bandana over my head to keep the sweat off my eyes and to protect my head from getting Sunburned. I also used a Bontrager Circuit helmet and the Rudy Project Cutline glasses. 

My shoes were the new Shimano RX6's and I used Shimano pedals. Socks were some special edition Sock Guy socks made to memorialize Scott Spoo, a Twin Cities area cyclist killed in a motor vehicle crash while riding his bike. 

How'd It Do? Great! I'll dispense with "What Would I Change" because I wouldn't have changed a thing here. By the way, I cleared off the gunk from those glasses before getting to Vinton and then everything was fine there. 

Comments On This Ride Overall: 

So, overall I was pretty happy with the way things went. would have been nice to do the route as intended. That said, that route isn't going anywhere and this ride ended up creating a new route which I thought was worthwhile. 

My fitness and strength was tested, which was kind of the point, and I got to ride for ten hours, which, again, is the point of the GTDR. I bounced back from an early bout with muscle issues, bonking, and from having my original plan nixed by road construction. So, overall I think I succeeded. 

 Going forward I want to build upon this going toward my next chance at a big ride on October 1st which is a 100 mile course with a lot of dirt roads. If I can muster a few nice, long rides from here throughout September I have a good chance of being successful. We'll see. Anything can happen. 

I'm probably going to shift more over to using the Singular Cycles Gryphon, sans racks and all, for that October outing, but the Black Mountain Cycles MCD is also up for bigger tires which I would like to be on for this dirt road course. 

Speaking of the Gryphon, there is a new configuration for bikepacking that will be introduced soon and hopefully used very soon also. Stay tuned on that.

Thank you for reading Guitar Ted Productions.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

The 2023 Guitar Ted Death Ride: "W-V-W" - Part 2

There are two seasons in Iowa: Winter and Construction Season
 The 2023 version of the Guitar Ted Death Ride was going along great up to the point where I reached Vinton. I had overcome a sore muscle issue and beat the issue with falling asleep on the bike with a combination of a quick cat nap on a trailside bench and eating some breakfast pizza in Vinton. Now I felt great. I was wide awake and ready for the next segment of my route.

This part of the course was, by necessity, on Highway 150 out of Vinton. I had to cross the Cedar River, and this was the only option I had within reason in the area. So I made my way over to the bridge out of town only to find that there was major road construction going on. The Southbound lanes were cut off, and there was alternating one-way traffic via pilot car and a signal at intervals for those waiting to cross the Cedar. 

I watched for a bit to see if there was any possibility that I might be able to tag along in the conga line of cars and semi-tractor trailers. But seeing how the cars coming off the bridge were doing 35+ mph, I thought the better of it, because I would only get in the way. Besides, there are two bridges in this area which covers about a half a mile distance. I wasn't up to time-trialing with cars for that long. What to do?

Well, my only two alternatives were to go back the way that I had come or re-rack and navigate a new route on the fly. (The Wahoo would have been completely useless at this point, by the way) I whipped out my trusty iPhone, hit up the maps app, and within a few minutes I had a route out of town and on gravel. I would head West on 59th Street and I had options to go North off of that which I would determine once I reached 19th Avenue. 

Despite some big rains recently, the last week of super-hot temps have kept the severity of the drought in force.

So, you think Iowa is flat, eh?

Headed West now into unfamiliar territory to me. I'd never had any reason or chances to ride West of Vinton much, although N.Y. Roll has spent some time down this way in the past. That said, I did not have any idea what I'd run into out here and that was a bit exciting. I knew that overall my aim was to get to LaPorte City and from there I had deep knowledge of the country roads such that I could ride from memory. 

A view from what turned out to be the highest portion of my circuit.

Looking West on 59th Street

59th started out flat and then it went straight up on to a sort of ridge with a lot of steep rollers all the way out to my stop at 19th Ave to consider my route again. I consulted the phone and determined that heading two more miles West to 17th Ave would provide a better shot at connecting up with 15th Ave which was the road that would take me into LaPorte City from the South. 

It also would provide brief respites from what was now a pretty strong North wind. It wasn't terible, but it would provide enough resistance that it would be annoying at this point. The air was drier though, thankfully, and the air temperatures were in the upper 70's, which made for a stunner of a day. Much cooler than most of last week! 

An unusual big cut into this hillside to allow 17th Avenue to pass through.

17th Avenue where it crosses Highway 218

Just before I crossed County V-66 on 59th Street I saw an unusual sight. A man on a bicycle! He was wearing a "don't hit me" highlighter yellow vest and was riding a flat bar Cannondale. I waved him down and chatted with him for a few minutes. Turned out he owned a stand of timber back down the road, the way I had come, and he was riding out from his residence in Garrison to do some mowing on his property. That was a cool moment during the ride. 

56th Street looking West. I didn't go that far on 56th.

Up 17th, a bit of a jig-a-jog over to 16th, and then the plan was to run that out to a "T" intersection and another left turn to 15th. When I crested a hill on 56th and saw 16th, I was chuffed.

A Level B Road! Yes! 

Of course, with only an iPhone map I couldn't tell if a road was dirt or gravel, and sometimes whether or not it would be a paved road. So to come up on another dirt road was a gift, in my view, and much needed relief mentally and physically by this point. I was about halfway into a 10 mile slog into a stiff North wind by the time I reached this spot, so a bit of a lift was a good thing. 

The actual dirt part wouldn't start for about a quarter mile, just past a farmer's outbuildings.
Summertime dirt roads: I could ride this stuff all day long. 

16th Avenue turned back into gravel and that dirt section was lost in the rearview mirror and forgotten. Now it was back to grinding out hills and loose gravel into that North wind. And I had a lot of miles under my belt by this point into the ride. 

Of course, without a computer, and having gone off-script, I no longer had any idea what my mileage was so far, but I assumed I was well past the 50 mile mark by this point, making whatever I could get done on this day well past my longest ride of the year by far. I had all day to do this ride, and the thought of cashing it in, while briefly coming across my mind at times, was never a real option for me. 

I knew LaPorte City was not far away, and I knew that there was a Casey's there. Another slice-o-pie awaited me, and a bit of time to rest as well. Then it would be roads I knew and a short jump up to Waterloo, and then home. 

Reinbeck Road in Blackhawk County
Amazingly, these wildflowers survived the heatwave. I took this over my shoulder blind,as I had already passed them by.

So, I reached LaPorte City a little before noon and sat down with that slice of pizza and drank the water I had already on the bike, plus I ate a banana I purchased back in Vinton. I was tired, but steeled for the remaining bit of the ride. I contemplated ways to finish it off. One thing I had in mind was to take in the dirt roads Northeast of Washburn. Or, alternatively I could just head straight up Foulk Road, cross the Cedar on the CVNT, and head back to home via bike paths. 

The wind had ratcheted up a few notches by this point, which was not what I wanted to see. That and the likely fact that Southern Black Hawk County gravel roads would be deep, loose, and have no clear lanes was making any additional loops questionable to me. Had I known what I would end up with in terms of miles for the day, I may have added a loop, but looking back, I think I called it correctly. 

It looks as though the drought will have severe consequences for Iowa farmers.

Struggling against a heavy North wind here on Cotter Road.

Clouds started rolling in as the afternoon got started. I had been out on the bike now for over eight hours and I was still plugging along, albeit slower due to that wind and road conditions. Black Hawk County maintenance never disappoints! 

I took a couple of brief breaks during the stretch going North and gathered my strength to continue onward. It was rough, and I am okay with this as I ended up going over twice the distance of any previous ride to this going back now over a year to when I did my "Hall of Fame" ride with N.Y. Roll and the guys, which ended up being shorter than this ride would end up being. 

Crossing the Cedar River at Evansdale. The river is ridiculously low now due to the drought.

The final bit home: The neglected bike path from Evansdale to Waterloo.

I gathered up my strength and made a final push home after stopping in Evansdale to drink and eat one last time. I rode the bike path for a majority of the way in and then took city streets home from downtown Waterloo. I ended up rolling up to the door of my house at 2;10pm, a full ten hours after I had left the house almost to the second. 

Later on I tracked my route into Ride With GPS and it turns out I got 86 miles in. Fourteen shy of the original plan, but I am not upset by that in the least. It isn't a "full century" ride, but it's a heck of a lot better than last year and I have had my "day on the bike" that I wanted. 

Oh! And you may be wondering why I titled this "W-V-W". That is what I ended up calling this route. It stands for "Waterloo-Vinton-Waterloo".  It is not what I had intended to do, but it is a worthy route to consider if you want to do a long ride around here.

Tomorrow I am going to do a mash-up of a "Barns For Jason" post, a gear review, and give my final thoughts on this year's Guitar Ted Death Ride.

Monday, August 28, 2023

The 2023 Guitar Ted Death Ride: "W-V-W" - Part 1

 Escape Route: West 2nd @ slightly after 4:00am.
 I mentioned earlier last week that I had a day off work and that I had planned a "big ride" for that day. Well, it was going to be my version of the Guitar Ted Death Ride for 2023. I used to invite people to come along with me on this, but since the pandemic and since I "retired" from event promoting I don't do that anymore. I just go solo on this deal now. 

My route was planned to be the same that I failed at in 2020. A route that went South to just East of Dysart, through Garrison, on to Vinton, then just West of Independence and then to Jesup and back to Waterloo. The route, as planned, was right at 100 miles from my house and back again. You can read the 2020 report on the failed attempt HERE

This was a "redemption" ride, to finally get that one done. This report will let you know how it all went. I did change up a couple of things this time outside of the route but that did affect the ride. One- I started far earlier and two- I planned better for nutrition. The first attempt failed mostly because I was so amped up about not getting COVID that I forgot to buy food to eat at Vinton. Of course, I bonked. 

This time I took more "on the road food" and I was adamant that I would buy food at Vinton. I also did plan on not eating before I left. I always seem to ride better on an empty stomach, at least for a while, to start out. I planned on stopping about 12 miles in to eat on the road at the corner of Quarry Road and Aker Road. 

Funny, but there isn't a lot to see in the country at night!

The sky was juuuust starting to blush in the East as I took this on Quarry Road.

I also did not take any sort of a computer. I had the route all ready to upload into the Wahoo, and it said it went in, but I could not recall it on the device once I did have it, and what is more, I couldn't find a few other rides that should have been on the device, one or two that were there before. This was discovered mid-week when I did a dry run of my set up. So, I hand wrote my cues, mounted a cue sheet holder, and boom! No worries. (As for Wahoo, and any other GPS, I think I am done with them. More on that in another post)

The other big thing I did was to get up really early and take off. My original plan was to get up at 3:00am. I set an alarm on my phone, but while the app said it was alerting me to wake up, it wasn't. Good thing I woke up on my own at 3:30am. I made it out and was riding by about 4:10am.

Riding at night brings a different sensory vibe. You hear things more keenly, and I noted how there were fewer crickets than usual this year. Probably due to the drought we're in. This drought condition would be a big factor in several ways on this ride. 

"First Breakfast" at the corner was good, and I was moving along at a steady, and a bit slower, pace. Their were no clear "lines" in the gravel, and the Light and Motion light I was using was not a good match for gravel riding as it tended to wash out details and contrasts. I had to keep a firm grasp on the bars to keep the ship pointed in the right direction. 

Headed South, it was getting close to Sunrise.

In the middle of that "S" curve is where Black Hawk County ends and Benton County starts.

The weather was warm, it was still in the low 70's when I got going, and it was very humid. So humid that the moisture condensed on my Rudy Project glasses and my camera lens which then attracted the dust from the roads. This fouled my glasses to the point that they were useless and screwed up a few camera shots until I swiped the lens off. 

There was little wind, which was nice, but what wind there would be was forecast to be out of the North and pretty significant. I was not looking forward to a head wind! 

A super-rare James Greer McQuilken Round Barn on the corner of 52nd St and 11th Ave in Benton County.

A lone silo stands sentinel as the Sunrise is in progress.

It was so humid that I was soaked with a combination of sweat and humidity. I wasn't looking forward to the Sun making things even more uncomfortable. However; as the Sun began to rise it got cooler. The air must have trended drier as well during this time since I started feeling almost too chilly at times, especially in my feet. 

There She is!

There is a very intriguing C Road I wish I could ride down there!

As the Sun came up I saw the roads better and I was able to turn off the light. There were decent lines, but a lot of loose, chunky gravel too. I was starting to battle some issues already before I was 30 miles in. My right trapezius was aching like a son-of-a-gun and I was afraid it might cause me to cut the ride short, but a self-massage while riding seemed to alleviate that to a degree that I forgot about it. 

A fun dirt road and then.....

....A second breakfast at the place I entered the Old Creamery Trail.

I planned a stop at the Old Creamery Tail where I intersected it and that trail is a pea gravel trail which I was to ride all the way East over to Vinton. Here I ate more, took some ibuprofen for the sore muscle, and some electrolyte tabs. Then I was off again on what may have been the most difficult part of the ride for me. 

The Sun made things difficult, but that wasn't the worst of it.

Again, the trail was hard to navigate due to the angle of the Sun when I rode it all the way to Vinton.

While I was able to work the shoulder thing out, I got the "sleepies". I was having a super-hard time staying alert. I ran across a couple joggers that kind of snapped me to for a short while, but I ended up slapping myself, trying to stay awake. Eventually I just had to stop when I found a trailside bench halfway to Vinton out of Garrison. Here I took a brief "cat nap'.

That helped, and I was able to roll into Vinton a little after 8:00am in the morning. I went straight away to Casey's Convenience Store to resupply, and to eat, because I figured that my on-the-road food wasn't cutting it for whatever reason. A slice of breakfast pizza did the trick.

A Monster and a slice-o-pie fixed me right up!

I was pleased at this point and I was about to head out on what I figured would be the hardest part of the route. There would be a headwind and some tough navigation. Plus the Sun would be up and at full steam. Would it get hot and humid? I did not know, but the weather was supposed to be fine. 

Next: "W-V-W" Part 2

Sunday, August 27, 2023

The GTDRI Stories; The Pay-Off

Three weeks after the GTDRI in 2016 I was headed to Gravel Worlds
 "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 run-up to riding in a Gravel Worlds for me usually was not a planned one. I rode a bike when I could ride a bike, and because I had obligations to test product and write reviews, often times the focus was not on training. So, typically my efforts at any gravel event were subject to my priorities I had previous to said event. That meant I usually wasn't trained properly, or at all, for any sort of success. 

I had come close to finishing Gravel Worlds before. Within 40 miles twice, and it seemed to me at the time that a bit more than 100 miles was going to be all I'd ever get in. But I kept signing up for stuff and they were all longer rides. I stayed away from Gravel Worlds for three years or so there in the early twenty-teens, but in 2015 I went back and got cooked again. 

2016 was a unique year. I had done a few longer rides in the heat on gravel, because by this point I was doing gravel reviews only, no MTB stuff. I had excuses to ride gravel, and so I was doing just that. Recon for the GTDRI was huge in terms of a build up of miles and endurance. The actual GTDRI was a full-on dress rehearsal for a Gravel Worlds. Even the heat was spot on.

Late into the 2016 Gravel Worlds. A shot of me by Kevin Fox.

Even the timing was right. That GTDRI being about three weeks ahead of Gravel Worlds, my "taper" was pre-programmed for me, and that was very fortunate. I did NOT plan any of this. It all just fell into place. But looking back on the success I had at Gravel Worlds in 2016, it is easy to spot how the GTDRI was integral to training fitness and bearing up to the miles that equalled a finish at Gravel Worlds. My only finish!

Another shot of me at the 2016 Gravel Worlds by "Gravel Guru"

I finished alongside my good friend, Tony McGrane.

So, I credit the GTDRI and the preparations for the 11th version of that ride for my only Gravel Worlds finish. Somehow, it all worked out to be just what I needed. to have. I don't think that, had you told me I'd finish Gravel Worlds less than a month later, I would have thought that the GTDRI was a good ride for me as I stood in that ditch waiting to get picked up. But I do believe that now. 

So, in a strange turn of events, the GTDRI stories had to include this successful ride as well, because in my opinion, the eleventh GTDRI is responsible for my success at Gravel Worlds, so the story belongs here. I don't know that I'll ever get that done again, so I always celebrate that success every chance I get now days.

Official finishing patches. This image and the one above are by Kevin Fox.

I'll close this out by relating a story about this Gravel Worlds. I found it very strange at the time, and even now I think it is rather curious, but there was a big to-do amongst some folks there concerning my finish before it happened. Somehow word must have passed after Tony and I left the last checkpoint that were were looking like we'd finish. I say that because we came across Kevin Fox several times and the Gravel Guru even tracked me down for an image. 

It seemed a bit strange because, while I get that many were pulling for me, it seemed a bit over the top for just well-wishing me to a finish. But I could have that all wrong. I just found it a bit strange in that it seemed I was getting a bit of a VIP treatment here. Nice, but strange. 

Next: Things changed