Friday, May 31, 2024

GCHoF Trip Report: Part 1

I'm going to guess that this rig wasn't going to Unbound Gravel!
This is the report from my whirlwind trip down and back again from here to Emporia, Kansas over three days to attend the GCHoF 2024 inductions ceremonies. I'll have a three-part report. The "meat" of which will be seen here tomorrow where I go over each of the new inductees. 

Mrs. Guitar Ted and I went down on Tuesday and stopped short of Emporia as we wanted to get her some "real" Korean food in Kansas City. That turned out to be a somewhat successful venture.

I will leave it at that, as far as the restaurant. We stayed overnight there in KC which left us a short jaunt to get down to Emporia and get me delivered to the GCHoF group ride which was to set sail at 11:00am. Mrs. Guitar Ted and I arrived early enough that we had time for coffee, so we went over to the Gravel City Roasters shop and then we had to wait....

Seems like we hit "peak coffee" time!

This delayed us and well, I had but ten minutes to switch out my shirt for a jersey, my shoes for cycling shoes, throw on a helmet, and get my tires pumped up for the ride. In a hilarious twist of fate, Allison Tetrick was also running behind, so we conspired to arrive together, so if we were late we would have at least each other to keep company as we tried to catch back up. 

As you can see, we made it. Barely! They were clipping in and rolling out as we pulled up. Crazy timing, but hey! It worked. Then it was spinny-spinny-spinning the single speed Honeman Flyer along city streets until we made the right turn onto gravel to do the same loop we did last year. 

We stopped at the "Bird Bridge" again.

The stop at the bridge where the famous murder took place happened again. We all stopped as Jason Strobehn started in on the historical aspect of our stop and then asked for all the GCHoF'ers to come onto the bridge for photos. Just then, as if on cue, a black pickup truck came rumbling down the hill from the West and right into the throng of riders. The driver was being waved through kindly by us riders, but then the truck stopped right at the approach to the bridge. An older, skinny man with straw hat on sat behind the wheel of the truck with a dog at his side. He leaned out of the window and pointed a bony finger at the bridge and asked if we knew what happened, "...right over there!"

This occurrence was not planned!

The man, who had married into one of the families involved in the ordeal, began to tell us the details of the murder from his viewpoint. It was a chance meeting, but so on point that some did not believe it wasn't a plan, but Jason insisted it was just a random happening. At any rate, it was appropriate and an extra bonus for what otherwise would have been a "routine" outing for us. 

The humble beginnings of a physical presence for the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame. 

After the ride I had a nice chat with LeLan Dains who is on the board of directors for the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame. There is now actually a "hall" and some physical specimens on display there. It is just getting off the ground now and there is a lot to be done, but it is at least a start.

A picture of Allison getting her picture made.

Then I talked with Steve Domahidy of Viral Bikes for a bit. I'll have more about that in a follow-up regarding bicycles later. Then I had quite a long conversation in two parts with Allison Tetrick. Mrs. Guitar Ted and her really hit it off, by the way, and we spent quite a while chatting about this and that over the course of an hour or so at a venue which is normally a hatchet throwing place but had been "taken over" by Specialized Bikes for the Unbound weekend. 

Allison's 2023 GCHoF plaque.

The best story out of that conversation was Allison's leaving her GCHoF plaque in Emporia last year and finally being reunited with it this year! Anyway, it was great to get to know Allison a little better. She's got a special fundraiser going on now where you can buy one of two custom bandanas she had designed and made and the money goes to supporting youth MTB. Check it out HERE.

And with that I will close out Part 1. Stay tuned tomorrow for the breakdown on each inductee, and a surprise. Then Sunday I'll have the final report with some bicycle hardware and a new article I am going to be featured in will be revealed as well. Stay tuned.....

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Notes From The Road

These snippets of information are place keepers for me and a way to fill in a post for today. In no particular order....

More Gravel Beef: Besides the grousing the Pro women riders are voicing concerning the mixing of the Women and Men Pro fields, now there appears to be an issue with the number plates. 

Last week, Unbound sent out a missive to all the registered riders proclaiming that any modifications to the number plates was strictly forbidden including bending the plates for an aero advantage. According to the notice, the chip timers can be damaged by doing any bending to the plates and disqualification for riders can result if plates are modified in any way.

GRX Pedal: Didn't know this existed until I saw it on Shimano's Instagram. I need to find out more about these. If you haven't seen them they look like fairly standard SPD's with GRX badging, but I imagine there is more to it than that. Or not..... I see some folks are saying they are re-badged XT pedals. Maybe I can get to the bottom of it....

GRX pedals. (Image courtesy of Shimano Instagram.

End Of An Era: This isn't related to my trip, but I learned this week that Craig Cooper has sold Bikes To You, the shop we used for Trans Iowa and started the event in front of for nine years. 

Craig was a huge supporter of myself and Trans Iowa. I cannot list or even remember all the selfless acts of kindness Craig performed over the course of those years for Trans Iowa, the racers, my volunteers, and myself. 

All the best to Craig going forward. I'll likely have a special post concerning this and Trans Iowa later. 

Perspectives: The Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame purports itself as a placeholder for gravel cycling history. I'm not convinced of that.....yet. But I did see another solid reason why it should be exactly that. That is very well illustrated in a thread I was reading concerning gravel cycling on Facebook. One of the commenters mentioned that "the gravel bros were doing that 5-7 years ago..." referencing how the 'old school' of gravel cycling had been doing something in an old school way, using a year range that, I suppose, sounded righteous to the author, and it was not challenged. 

This, in my opinion, is what the majority of gravel riders think. They see gravel "history" starting around 2017. A decade-plus after the genre got its start in reality. As we go on, that "5 to 7" year range will slide forward a bit. Mark my words. People will think "old school gravel" was when there wasn't a UCI Gravel World Championships (started in 2022, by the way) 

Spirit of Gravel: Another train wreck of a post from "Cycling News" on  the "Spirit of Gravel" was noted on Tuesday of this week. Every time I see one of these the author tries to equate the "spirit" with a "style of competition" or the hardware used in competition. In my opinion this totally misses the mark. Anyway, the author tries to make the case that Pro level racing enhances the "Spirit of Gravel".  Whatever dude.....

More Spirit of Gravel: This topic was a main theme during the induction ceremony. And not amazingly, the inductees that addressed this nailed it  more on that in my report  

The first class of inductees to the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame. Image by Crystal Wintle.

Chaos Ensues: Upon reaching Emporia a stop at the local Mall Wart was in order. I was there maybe thirty seconds and I heard, “Is that Guitar Ted?”  It was Joe Reed, owner of Mulready’s bar on Commercial Street. He told me that the community was expecting 25,000 additional people in town for Unbound  Twice the city’s population . He was expecting chaos to ensue . The local residents seem a bit uneasy about how this will go  

Hall of Famers: The Hall of Fame group ride was pretty well attended. Got a chance to chat up Allison Tetrick, Jay Petervary, Dan Hughes, and finally got to meet Miguel who was inducted last year  

Pinion Box: I saw the Viral Bikes Pinion gear box bike and talked with Steve Domahidy quite a while about it  

Much more to come….

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Some Brief Observations

 NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

Today I am in Emporia, Kansas for the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame gig. It is the "kick-off" event for Unbound gravel week and so there will be a lot going on in Emporia which I will be bringing to you over the course of the next few days. 

Tomorrow will likely be a short post with some notes about the goings on here which will get fleshed out in my reporting proper when I get back. That means there will be no "Friday News And Views" this week. 

I'm writing this ahead of the event and going into today's induction ceremonies and with Unbound this weekend I thought I would share a few observations regarding both things now. My impressions may change a bit afterward, but........probably not. Anyway, in no particular order....

Unbound has been ballyhooing its "star-studded" start list over the past several weeks. Last week, a mere eleven days before Unbound, the Life Time folks announced that a highly decorated Pro rider was announcing that he was coming. This struck me as being preferential, elitist, and as a person who has run events before, self-serving for the event promoters as a way to raise the prestige of the event in the eyes of..... Who? This is the salient point here. Since the whole thing about "rubbing shoulders with the Pros" for the amateur riders is being left behind at Unbound, I don't think Life Time sees that as the main purpose for having these elite athletes show up at the eleventh hour to bolster the already "star-studded" entry list. No, this is about "growing the event" on the Pro side. 

Is Life Time angling to get into the UCI World Championship Gravel Series? It would make sense for them to put Unbound up as the event that the UCI should include in North America, Or is Life Time going to try to have the biggest Pro field in gravel to be able to proclaim that they have the "gravel world championships" there in June? Whatever this portends or leads to, you can bet that elevating the folks whose shoulders this was all built up on is not the main focus anymore at this event. 

Then we have the inductees for tonight's shindig. I wrote about this in February when the new class was announced. I was questioned in the comments, for that post in February, about a statement I made concerning how people were nominated for the GCHoF, which I will post here: "Added to that is the way the Hall guides you in electing people which is going to lean toward "famous/well-known" and not so much on "historical impact". 

You can listen to N.Y. Rool debate this with me HERE.

Amanda Nauman, a board member for the GCHoF, didn't seem to like that comment. She questioned me about that and I think it is as obvious as the nose on one's face. If the GCHoF doesn't provide the historical backstory of gravel and expects that story to be told by democratic nominating procedures then we will get a bias toward "famous/well known" and the hidden stories, the ones of the pioneers of the sport, will get overlooked. This is such a paradox that it screams out - to me, at any rate. How in the world do you make a Hall of Fame that is set up to tell the "untold stories" of the history of the sport of gravel, so that people can understand where it all came from, when you are leaning on the very people who don't know the stories? 

The GCHoF "guides" people into this nominating of "famous/well known" folks by way of neglecting to provide the means for any other way for people to focus on the very history that the GCHoF claims to want to preserve. It's the perfect way to promote oversight and have the average person have to choose local heroes or folks that they know/have heard of in the media. A media, which I will add, that is not at all interested in uncovering the stories of gravel cycling's beginnings. 

So, I'll give an example here. We have a photographer, Linda Guerrette, being inducted tonight. She's a very talented and well known photographer who is probably best known from a "gravel perspective" as being the photographer at Rebecca's Private Idaho event. No issues with her getting in from my viewpoint. However; were you aware of Eric Benjamin?  

Probably better known as "The Adventure Monkey", Eric printed some of the most iconic early images of the gravel scene, especially of the DK200, that have been made. His artwork was given away as prizing at the DK200, he had his own magazine promoting gravel, and promoted cycling on gravel via his blog and website which was very influential. But will Eric Benjamin's story ever get told? Will he ever be honored in the GCHoF? 

I'm going to say that is a big, fat "no" unless I am proven wrong and someone picks up the reins here. He, along with many other early influencers, racers, and promoters are being left behind because many of today's gravel fans started riding years after these folks part in the story of gravel was over. Keep in mind that unless you are over the age of 30 years now you've likely no idea where gravel got its start. That history is hidden, and in a vacuum of knowledge people will fill in that vacuum with what they do know. Therefore you get "famous/well known" nominations versus those stories that are quickly falling to the wayside but were highly influential to the beginnings of gravel. 

How should the GCHoF handle this? They need to uncover these stories themselves by way of providing a venue - be that a blog on their site, social media, a You Tube channel, or all of that - and they need to get these stories out there so people can nominate based upon knowledge, not relying on mere random chances that someone will uncover these gems of gravel history. Cycling media will not do this. People who gravel cycle are mostly too young or have no knowledge of the beginnings of the sport.

And that's my opinion on the matter. Hopefully things change in the future regarding my views and the GCHoF, but as of now I see no evidence for that.

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Country Views: Memorial Day Ride

Escape Route: West 2nd Street
The recent rains relented and on Memorial Day it was supposed to be clear and decent, as far as weather was concerned, at least until early afternoon. So, I figured that after feeding the cats I should hop into some clothes for cycling and head out for the countryside. 

It was very Sunny with little to no clouds in the sky. But it was cool and there was a Northwest breeze. I ended up wearing a long sleeved wool jersey and my wind vest. I think it was in the mid-50's when I left. And I left at 7:30am! Pretty early for me. 

I grabbed the Raleigh Tamland Two for this ride as I needed to wrap up my look at the Top Shelf Bar and get some more time with the Velo Orange Burrito Supreme Bag. Plus I used the Camp Snap camera on the ride. (Images will appear in another post) So, a little business to attend to on this ride as well.

I chose to ride in Eastern Black Hawk County despite the fact that this would require me to ride into a headwind on the way back into town. I was tired of riding North of Waterloo. So I went out on the Martin Luther King Jr. bike trail and hopped over to Newell to get to gravel.

"Mama always told me not to look into the eyes of the sun, but mama, that's where the fun is."

Headin' East on Newell Road.

Now we've had so much rain our rivers and streams are out of their banks. Quite the turnaround from a month ago when every small stream was dry and lakes and ponds were dangerously low. There was water standing in fields and yards of farmsteads everywhere out East of Waterloo. 

Standing water in this field may hurt crops if this field was planted before the rains.

Crops have emerged in many fields and they are turning the fields green.

Along with all the rain, the gravel roads have firmed up and cleaned up to the point that everything is fast and smooth rolling. I was using Donnelly USH tires, a tire way ahead of its time, by the way, and I was flying Eastward. No chunky gravel to slow me down! I was loving this difference from what we had to ride on for the past two years. 

Flags were standing out at nearly every farmstead I passed by.

A stop at New Barclay Cemetery

I decided to roll on Eastward to New Barclay Cemetery to see what, if anything, they may have going on for Memorial Day. I figured on then riding South and then back West on Young Road. But first, a moment of silence to honor those who gave their all for this country.....

After snapping off a few images, I stood still to take some time to reflect on the matter of Memorial Day. The wind gently lifted the US flags and I could hear them flapping in the breeze. The pine trees, standing like sentinels, whispered as the air moved through their needles. A lone mourning dove softly cooed. 

I stood frozen for a moment. I won't hide that a tear rolled down my cheek. 

Then it was time to move along.

ah.....Maybe I should get a move-on!

Those clouds and the slightly stronger winds said, "Rain is coming soon!"

I suddenly noted that there were clouds on the Western horizon. It wasn't supposed to rain until afternoon, but this looked like rain was coming sooner than that. I figured I'd best be heading back to Waterloo. The wind seemed to pick up too. Not good signs here for me! 

Looks like almost two inches there.

I had to find a spot for a nature break. I saw a line of taller trees along what looked like an old fenceline ahead which was far away from any surrounding farms. I decided to hop off there and do what I had to do. 

I noted what looked to be a rain gauge on a fence post. I decided to check it out before I left that spot. I had heard from some rural residents that they had seen five inches in a 24 hour period earlier last week. This gauge had nearly two inches of rain water standing in it. I don't know if it is checked regularly, but I assume so, since if it had not been checked regularly it would be overflowing with just the rain we've had in the past week. 

Some fields haven't been planted at all. It may be getting too late now....

By the time I got just South of Raymond, it didn't look promising!

I ended up zig-zagging my way back toward Waterloo instead of riding straight to Young Road and facing a six to seven mile slog into a stiff Northwest wind. This helped keep my legs fresher and my mind more positive. Plus I got on some roads I haven't been on in a while because of my angular approach. 

Another planting rig. It's almost time for these to be put away for the year.

The Cedar River looking quite full once again.

By the time I got to the Eastern fringes of Waterloo I could feel occasional drops of rain in the wind. Then it was a full-on sprinkle. By this time I was within a mile from the house and it was 10:30am in the morning. I ended up with just over three hours out and a nice ride before the rains came back. 

Ironically about an hour later we had bright Sunshine again. But clouds ended up coming back and we had showers throughout the remainder of the day. It was nice to know that I had gotten a ride in during the nicest part of the day. 

The next ride? Hopefully in Kansas. Stay tuned....

Monday, May 27, 2024

Memorial Day 2024


Memorial Day

Today we solemnly remember those who gave their lives so we can be free.

"Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die."

G.K. Chesterton 

"Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices."

Harry S. Truman

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Getting Ready To Go

A Moment of Silence
This trip is coming up fast and I spent much of the past few days getting things done so I could leave town on Tuesday. Mid-week trips are so weird. In a way, it is better to travel mid-week as long as you avoid bigger cities during their rush hours. I know. I went through Kansas City at the wrong time of the afternoon in 2022 coming back from the GCHoF thing and paid the price! 

I had a bunch of bicycle stuff to attend to Thursday last week and then Friday was initial packing after doing the laundry. I've been pre-writing some stuff for this blog, including this post, so the blog will not be interrupted while I am busy getting ready or when I am gone. 

During one of my test rides through the neighboring cemetery I noted the cemetery volunteers were having an "end of season" meal/party. These volunteers do a ton of beautifying and lawn work the week before Memorial Day weekend. The place is a bee hive of activity which goes unmatched the rest of the year. This is the cemetery's biggest weekend, and once the workers got everything in order, I suppose blowing off a little steam by having a beer and some food was in order. 

So, if you go visit a cemetery this weekend, you might say a little prayer of thanks for those workers who give of their time to make these places of honor look the part. Judging from what I've seen, this takes a lot of hours and work. 

Thursday was also the day I was contacted by Sakamoto-san, a  Japanese journalist who wants to write a 10 page feature on the history of gravel cycling in the USA and gravel culture. He was tipped off to me by Kae Takashita, who won the woman's C.O.G.100 N.Y. Roll and I put on back in 2019. We chatted via Messenger a bit and set up a meeting in Emporia on Thursday coming up. This man is doing Unbound as well, so he's in town for that also. Should be a fun meet-up.

Anyway, today I am taking the day off to rest, and tomorrow I hope to get some riding done. Look for a report on that on Tuesday. I've got a special post ready for Wednesday. Thursday I may have some notes from the road, and Friday the full-on GCHoF report will begin.

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Weather Changes Plans

Scene from Butler County on Wednesday (Image courtesy of KWWL socials)
Well, darn it! I had plans to do something with N.Y.Roll this weekend but now those plans have been washed away like the Iowa topsoil is washing away right now due to flooding across the region here. 

Scanning some social media posts mid-week, it was easy to see that Iowa was going to be flooded, remain wet, and cause me a lot of problems when it comes to gravel travel in the near future.

Six plus inches of rain in one 24 hour period, plus whatever came last weekend and after Wednesday adds up to swollen creeks, rivers, and waterways. Those cross Iowa gravel roads all over the place. Normally you wouldn't notice this, but when it floods? Then you realize how many places are vulnerable to heavy amounts of precipitation in a short amount of time. 

So, instead of doing some bandit camping somewhere along the Cedar River with N.Y. Roll I am probably looking at piecing together some long gravel ride on something - or some things, I should say - that recently showed up at Guitar Ted Headquarters that I cannot talk about just yet. Pretty exciting stuff, but stay tuned.... The reveal will happen coming up in July. 

Of course, then I have to get ready to leave on Tuesday morning so I can go to the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame induction ceremonies where I will be doing a speech for...... Again, I cannot say just yet. It will be something fun though. Nothing too serious or earth-shattering here. And there will be a report as well once I get back, so don't fret. You'll all get to see what the deal is with my appearance. 

I hope everyone is off to a great weekend!

Friday, May 24, 2024

Friday News And Views

Happy Industry News, Aggro Birds,  & "Wild" Anodized Stuff:

Kona Bicycles Back In Founders Hands:

Monday morning news came out that the beleaguered Kona Bicycles company that was being shut down and put up for sale by its owner, Kent Outdoors, was bought back by the brand's founders. The brand was sold in 2022 by Kona founders Jake Heilbron and Dan Gerhard, according to a news story published by "Bicycle Retailer and Industry News" on Monday morning.  

Apparently the originators of the brand were let down by the Kent Outdoors group which they thought would uphold the culture and status of Kona which they had crafted over the years. That didn't turn out to be the case and when the company went up for sale Heilbron and Gerhard bought it back.

According to the article, Kona has ceased direct to consumer sales and is saying that they will work through current inventory through established dealers only. 

Comments: First it was the British brand Orange, and now Kona, which has come back from the brink of extinction. Can Heilbron and Gerhard regain the former stature the company enjoyed with consumers in the past? They have a chance, but the deep discounting, direct to consumer sales, and recent turmoil set the hurdles pretty high.

Image of GT by Jason Boucher

You Already Knew This, But.....

Another story was posted on a study of cyclists and health benefits recently. The story on this study appeared in an NPR article which you can read HERE

This time it has to do with your knees and arthritic issues. Apparently the motion of cycling helps distribute an essential lubricating fluid for joints and builds muscle strength around knees which may help prevent arthritic issues from arising. 

The article doesn't say anything related to nut-jobs on single speed bikes though. (HA!) It is a commonly held thought by cyclists that single speed riding is bad for your knees. I've seen evidence that would say otherwise, but as with most topics, there is more gray areas than there are black and white ones when it comes to a subject like this one. All I know is that single speed riding big miles, or pushing a "big gear" on a geared bike, or hard riding into the wind, (or snow, or mud) for too long can be a problem for knees or any other parts of the body as well. You've gotta do things in moderation. Balance. Rest. It all can be good in the correct measures. 

New Podcast Episode Out Now!

I had the distinct honor to have Sam Alison of Singular Cycles on the latest podcast episode. It was a pleasure to speak with him since I have interacted with Sam since the mid-2000's in online forums and via emails. 

We chatted about his company, Singular Cycles, and we walked through a bit of how Sam saw his bikes and what they should be used for. Remarkably, it fits what the "gravel" bike should be in a more universal sense in my opinion versus the specialization that is occurring in that sector now. 

We also get into a bit of flared drop bar history as Sam was tabbed by cycling component and bicycle designer, Brant Richards, to be involved in the design of the Luxy Bar. A handle bar that Sam rightly points out has influenced a lot of what we see now in flared drop bar design for the gravel segment. 

Give the episode a listen. I also get into a bit of opinion on the upcoming Unbound gravel event at the end of this one. A more detailed look at my thoughts can be seen in a post from this blog HERE if you are interested in taking a deeper dive on that. Thanks for checking out the podcast, if you do, and as always, thanks for reading here!

A Red-winged Blackbird. (Image courtesy of Wikipedia)

Those Devilish Scourges Of The Sky:

Tis the season, as they say, for what has become an issue for many who ply the back roads on their bicycles. I'm speaking of the ever-vigilant Red-winged Blackbird. 

I wrote a post back four years ago about my tactics for dealing with these sometimes aggressive animals during cycling outings. It seems to have become an annually "most clicked on" article here, so I thought I would point it out again for anyone who was not aware of the post so that you can check it out if you want to. Just click HERE to go read that.  

And if you have any ideas that differ from mine, please add those in the comments here on today's post and I will make an update to the original post if those ideas seem to check out as good ones. Thanks! 

Wilde X Paul Zebra Splatter Ano Parts:

Wilde Bikes announced Thursday that they have done another collaboration with Paul Components on some crazy "splatter" anodized parts. This time in black with white looking strips of color in random patterns. 

These parts are in very limited quantities and being Paul Components, not exactly "budget friendly" either with prices varying from $170.00 for a stem to $350.00 for a set of brake cantilever arms. 

There may not be anything left in some cases but here are the original numbers for manufacture from Wilde's press release: Stems: 70, Brake sets: 6, Seat posts: 10, and Love Levers sets: 5. 

The product page is HERE if you are interested in taking a look.

 That is a wrap on things for this week. Thanks as always for reading the blog! Have a safe and wonderful Memorial Day Weekend - for those who observe this - and get out and ride those bicycles!

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Gravel Grinder News: Shimano Introduces 12spd DI 2 GRX

Note: All images and information for this post were provided by Shimano.

Today Shimano, not surprisingly, introduced its electronic version of the new 12 speed GRX. While it may seem a forgone conclusion after last year's mechanical 12 speed GRX intro, there are a few very interesting details in the new DI2 GRX 12 speed group that are new and notable. 

As many suspected, the new `12 speed GRX follows in the footsteps of its road 12 speed DI2 siblings and has new wireless shifters. The shifters work wirelessly while the derailleurs are still tethered to each other via the battery. Shimano feels that a more reliable, stable connection between the derailleurs is necessary at this point. 

The shifters are all new with a raised hood to help prevent rider's hands from slipping forward off the hoods in rougher or less than ideal conditions. The hood covers are, again, ribbed for better grip for the same reasons. However; what might be missed here is that Shimano has profiled the grip section to fit in the hands better when these shifters are mounted on the flared drop bars so commonplace with gravel riders. 

Shifters/calipers weigh a claimed 830g grams/pair.

The shifters operate using two coin type lithium ion batteries located at the peak of each shifter under the hood grip material. Note the inner shift button.

Battery level can be checked at the shifter. Lifespan of the batteries is estimated at 3.5 to 4 years.

Furthermore, the shifter button/levers are ergonomically designed with rounder edges and larger area for the fingers to find more easily. The big news here is that there is now a third, inner button that can be assigned to do several tasks via Shimano's E-Tube app. These user customizable buttons can be utilized as shifters, computer screen scrollers, or can turn on or off lights that are Bluetooth enabled. 

Interestingly, the third button can also function as a control for Shimano's new FRONT SHIFT NEXT technology which, when enabled, allows the rider to hit a button to shift to whatever front ring they are not in at that time. This means that a rider only has to press a singular button while the front derailleur is commanded to go into whatever chain ring is "next", inner or outer. This should simplify front shifting for riders and theoretically one could customize their shifter to operate front and rear derailleurs from one side, leaving the other side to do other tasks like turning off/on lights, or changing computer pages, for example. 

The FRONT NEXT SHIFT will also be available as upgrades to previous DI 2 Dura Ace, Ultegra, and 105 12 speed groups as well. 

The new third button on the RX 825 levers can be assigned to do several tasks.

Derailleurs And Gearing:

GRX RX825 Di2 compatible gearing options:

  • 48/31T RX820 crank
  • 46/30T RX610 crank
  • 11-36T HG710 cassette
  • 11-34T R9200, R8100, R7100 cassettes

Note: At this time there is no word on any 1X group. (See my "Comments" section below)

The new GRX DI2 rear derailleur is the communications hub for the new GRX system.

The new Shimano RD+ Shadow Rear Derailleur features the chain stabilization system which is switchable on/off via a lever for easy wheel removal. It also has the system's charge port and can communicate with the E-Tube app via Bluetooth from any smart phone. Riders can customize settings using this app, check battery levels, and enter adjustment mode for each derailleur. Weight for the rear derailleur is listed at 310 grams. 

The front derailleur features the now standard for GRX 2.5mm offset of the chain line to accommodate larger tires used on gravel bikes and for better mud clearance. Claimed weight is 142 grams. This derailleur can be configured to operate in the aforementioned FRONT SHIFT NEXT mode and in the other more common DI2 modes.

 Comments: Following are my own comments on this introduction and these comments may not reflect Shimano's or anyone else's opinions. 

This was expected, obviously, especially after the introduction last year omitted the DI2 12 speed GRX, which everyone was expecting would be released first. Thinking about this, the omission of any 1X DI2 news may also be a planned thing with a later introduction to follow this one. 

I know some will quibble about the lack of pie-plate sized rear cassette cogs and that front derailleurs are antiques that should be relegated to the dust bin, but I think that is flawed thinking for several reasons. Let's just say that there are alternatives out there and that - generally speaking - most brands have both flavors, SRAM or Shimano,  at your disposal. You don't HAVE to buy this new GRX 825. And don't forget that there is a mechanical 1X GRX 12 speed that does support those big gearing ranges.

Also, and this may come as a shock, but since GRX 825 is geared toward racing, and racers tend to like 2X more, you might not see 1X until later, if it is coming out. 

I also am thinking that Shimano is carefully walking out these new introductions so as to not overwhelm an already 'drowning in inventory' marketplace that needs to find its footing yet. Had we been in a normal economic cycle I think that the mechanical and DI2 groups would have been launched simultaneously. 

But another theory is that this new FRONT SHIFT NEXT is an alternative to 1X. Think about it: You already have to operate a shifter anyway, so by simplifying the front shifter to being a one-push operation with no resistance to doing that, and then combining that on the lever that also operates the rear shifter, which can be done via the E-Tube customization, one could theoretically gut the left shifter, (assuming right handed rider, or you could do the opposite for Lefty's) save weight, and have a "1X Plus" set up which could utilize two front rings, keep your chain line straighter, and allow you to choose when the front switches gears. 

Whatever the case may be with the lack of a 1X GRX 825 at this time, the DI2 option is definitely welcomed and should find fans easily. 

PRO Discover Aero Carbon Handlebar:

In conjunction with the new release of the GRX Di2, PRO brand has released the new aero carbon bar which brings the benefits of Dyneema infused carbon, aerodynamic profiling, and semi-internal routing to gravel riders. 

The handlebar will be available in 40cm, 42cm, and 44cm widths with matching PRO Discover alloy stems in seven lengths ranging from 60mm to 120mm in length. These stems have a flippable -10°/+10° configuration for a great compliment to the current PRO stems which are featuring plus/minus six degree design. The PRO10 Stems are made in alloy to match perfectly with the new PRO Discover Aero Carbon Handlebars. 

These bars have a 12° flare and feature minimal drop at 100mm. The tops are flattened and sweep forward a bit for more comfort and areo purposes, of course. All components are based on a 31.8mm clamping diameter and should be available now from PRO dealers. Furthermore; these new PRO offerings are the first to be tested with a combined Road and MTB testing protocol that is being called  the PRO Gravel Standard. Look for Professional rider Lauren ten Dam to be riding these components at the upcoming Unbound event in Emporia, Kansas.

Thanks to Shimano for providing this information.

Is The Drought Over Yet?

Image courtesy of Channel 7 News Waterloo.
Remember all the writing I've done over the past two years here talking about how dry we have been? Well, I think it is safe to say we are out of the woods in that regard now

It has rained a LOT this May and especially in the last few days here. We received around five inches of rain over Monday and Tuesday alone. In fact, the thunderstorms have been so persistent that I haven't had good nights of sleep many times in the past ten days. It's "BOOM!" and lightning flashes, and wind, and..... Keeps a guy awake at night, it does! At least this guy!

On Tuesday the flash flood and "areal flood warnings" were popping off all around us. The road I typically run into town on from the South, Hoff Road, was under water. Prescott Creek must be out of its banks down there. I suppose that road is all torn up. It also got Orange Road where it crosses Prescott Creek as well. That section is closed too. 

I know the farmers hate it when the rains come so heavy right after planting as that can wash out seedlings easily. Hopefully all this new no-till practice where farmers plant straight through last year's trash will help with that. (Right Mr. Dave Pryor?)

At any rate, I think it is safe to say that we are over the worst of the drought of 2022/2023. This mass infusion of moisture should tide us over for quite some time now, or one would hope that would be the case.