Sunday, June 30, 2024

Podcast Stuff

 In case you missed it, there is a new podcast episode up now which covers the high cost of entry to cycling, distractions that can affect new cyclists, and the complications introduced by devices and social media. 

That episode is HERE;

The previous episode to this was about my thoughts regarding how the UCI does gravel versus everyone else, pretty much. That episode is HERE

And the last one I'll plug is about how I am thinking about the innovation vs evolution aspect behind tech and bikes. You can listen to that one HERE

Now just a bit about how things are going with the podcast. I don't write much about this here, but maybe I should do more of that from time to time. Anyway, here goes in no particular order....

Episode length: We typically try to keep episodes to around an hour in length. Lately we've been doing a shorter length, and one was an hour and a half long! We're trying some different things there, and as of now, I cannot say how this is working or not working with listeners. 

Interviews vs N.Y. Roll and I: In the past, interviews we do have not done great. Things N.Y. Roll and I talk about have done very well. That is until we interviewed 'shiggy' about tires. That one blew up and it took us by surprise a bit. Well, then again, it was about tires and anything having to do with tires for bicycles draws BIG numbers. Always has. Anyway, there will be more interviews in the future despite the lower turnout we get when we post those. 

Future Episodes: So, I've been thinking. What would folks think about us doing interviews with former Trans Iowa racers? Maybe good, maybe not? I'm also open to what it is you folks out there might want to listen to us jabber about. Let me know in the comments or email me at 

And thank you if you listen to the podcast already. We appreciate that!

Saturday, June 29, 2024

The 3GR

 In celebration of the twentieth year of this blog, I have a few tales to tell. This post is one of them. This series will occur off and on throughout this anniversary year, I hope to illuminate some behind-the-scenes stories and highlights from the blog during this time. Enjoy!

A revamping of the longest running blog header here for the 20th Anniversary Year.
Gravel group rides are a dime-a-dozen these days and are attended by up to 100 riders weekly during the season, in some cases. Group rides are also a featured activity ahead of many of the biggest gravel events as well. Group rides and gravel go together like pie and ice cream these days. But at one time, it was not like that. 

Back at the end of 2011 I had an idea. I needed to get out and ride on gravel roads more, but it always seemed as though my reviewing responsibilities were getting in the way of doing anything on gravel. I'd have to visit Ingawanis Woodlands, or get out in George Wyth State Park to work on 29"er things. I was part of a website that reviewed 29"er bikes and gear back then called "Twentynine Inches" and I also reviewed other gear for a site called "The Cyclistsite". If gravel was to become a part of my riding, I would have to be very intentional about making it happen.

The "Wolf Creek Wall" West of Traer, Iowa.

I decided in the Winter of 2011/2012 to start doing a weekly gravel ride. I decided it should be a group ride. I was excited about this gravel thing, and I wanted others in the area to join in the fun. I had already put on seven Trans Iowa events by this time and there were many popular gravel events all around at that time like the Almanzo 100 and Gravel Worlds. There were a ton of smaller "pop-up" type events like the Moonlight Metric, the Farmhouse Classic, and a new format called the Renegade Gentleman's Race that first occurred in 2011. 

I figured it was high-time to do gravel on a weekly basis. So, I announced on this blog that every Saturday morning during the season that I would do a 40-ish mile gravel group ride. I decided that I needed to start the ride in Cedar Falls because I had gotten push-back about starting rides in Waterloo back then. The plan was to end the ride at a coffee shop for some fellowship time. 

A Level B Road South of Traer Iowa.

I was excited, but it seemed as though not many others were as excited as I was. I would get two, maybe three folks to show up for this and almost all were Trans Iowa connected riders. I guess it made sense, but at times this was disheartening. Was it me? Was gravel still seen as taboo for bicycles around here? I did not understand it. But I also did not stop trying. 

This dog ran 3.5 miles with me before something caught her nose and she was gone.

Not every ride was a bummer. There were a lot of good times and I got to know a few folks better. There were down times, like the time I had to move the ride out of Cedar Falls due to their city festival called Sturgis Falls Days. I moved the ride to Traer, Iowa but no one else showed up. I rode anyway and ended up having an excellent adventure that day.

Oh! Yeah, about that name - "3GR". That stood for "Gravel Grinder Group Ride". Three "G's" and an "R". 3GR? Ah...... I thought it was clever!

Anyway, I announced the rides on the blog here and afterward gave a ride report for each one. I did this for three years straight. Then after getting nowhere with participation I let it rest for a year, 2015, before doing a final year of 3GR rides in 2016. I think the most people I ever hosted on a 3GR was maybe ten. Most of the time it was three to four riders. I did a handful of solo 3GR's as well when no one showed up. 

Looking back on the 3GR I would say that it was a pioneering effort. I don't think anyone else in the area picked up on gravel group rides until 2018. And ironically I think those folks thought they were the "first" in the area to do that. Crazy if true, but it doesn't matter....

The point is that the gravel riding thing was always a big deal here on the blog despite my - at that time around 2012 - being known as "That 29"er guy" and anything relating to gravel riding was not very well known about me back then. 

Personally the 3GR was very gratifying in that I got to know several people fairly well through doing that. I got to ride gravel roads which don't exist anymore or that are truncated due to major highway projects since those days. I also got into pretty decent shape a few years there, and it really helped me out in many ways. 

Of course, now a 3GR would be impossible for me to do with having this Saturday morning job at the Collective. That said, I would do a gravel group ride thing again if I could find the time to get that in. My current schedule just doesn't work for getting along with other's times to ride.

Friday, June 28, 2024

Friday News And Views

Image courtesy of Garmin
 A "Fair & Balanced Computer News" FN&V

Garmin Announces Flagship Cycling GPS Device:

Tuesday Garmin unleashed their latest GPS device, the 1050, on the masses. The news here is a brighter LCD display, new touch-screen abilities, a speaker, an electronic bell, and ability to pay for your coffee. 

The device is available now and costs $699.99.  You can see more on the 1050 on Garmin's site HERE.

I watched a pretty comprehensive YouTube video on this device and it is impressive, but do we really need all this? To my way of thinking, wouldn't it be cool to have the bright LCD screen, great navigation, a few of the safety features, and basic cycling computer metrics and that is it? A 'stripped down' version of this with the same battery? 

I don't need a speaker, an electronic bell, or the ability to pay for a latte'. I'm not saying this is 'bad', I'm just thinking many of us don't really need such a complex device. I know it would never be offered, but you have to wonder if a simpler version of the 1050 wouldn't be wildly popular and cost a lot less than 700 bucks. I mean, when DC Rainmaker's review snippet on YouTube says "Garmin Edge 1050 In-Depth Review 21 things to know.", I'm thinking that is about 15 things to know too many.

Then too, the recently announced Coros Dura, if that company gets that device squared away, is going to put a lot of pressure on this device as it costs a little less than one third of the Garmin and does some pretty neat stuff as well. But then again, Garmin is the 'king' of GPS devices, despite Wahoo and Hammerhead. Time will tell, but at what this 1050 thing costs I'd rather buy something else that wasn't so complex and feature laden, but had the nicer screen and good navigation. But that's just me.....

Image courtesy of Planet Bike

Planet Bike Offers New "Blinky Squared" Taillight:

Planet Bike announced a new blinking taillight for your bicycle recently called "Blinky Squared" It is a 1.25" square unit with 15 LED's arranged in a circular pattern. 

The Blinky Squared has four modes. Two steady modes and two flashing modes. The light has an onboard Lithium-polymer battery that has a run time of up to 15 hours. The light is rated at 30 Lumens. The light recharges via the included USB C cable. Cost for the Blinky Squared is a reasonable $19.99.

The mount is adjusted for use on a seat post and attaches via a rubber "O" ring type strap. Planet Bike suggests that the Blinky Squared is good for daytime usage as well as night for better visibility to motorists. 

Comments: The pace at which lighting technology for cycling has advanced is something I never get over. I mean, twenty bucks gets you this? I find that amazing, and I think it isn't alone in the marketplace at that spec and price. In fact, my favorite taillight currently is the Ravemen TR30M which costs about the same and features 360° visibility with about the same run times. 

It's crazy how little you have to spend and how easy it is to use these lights which can aid in bringing better visibility of cyclists to motorists on roads and in cities. 

Image courtesy of OneUp Components.

OneUp Gets Into Hubs:

OneUp, the company probably best known for its dropper post, has announced a new hub set for Boost spaced MTB's and Adventure bikes. 

Now that DT Swiss' ratchet design mechanism patent has run out, we are starting to see a lot of companies adopt that design and offer hubs using the proven technology. 

OneUp is another of those companies doing this. Their hub comes in a variety of anodized colors in 32 or 28 hole drillings. The cost is pretty reasonable as well. You can buy the hubs separately or as a set. Check out the details on the OneUp site HERE

Comments: Wait! Is this the mid-1990's again? It seems like every week I have seen another anodized bit introduced by another company. One might think it is a trend. I, for one, am fine with this as years of black, black, and more black have been pretty boring. Now let's see some silver component groups and we'll be talkin'! Or on!

Image courtesy of MicroShift.
MicroShift Debuts 9spd Affordable Gravel Groupset:

MicroShift, the component company that makes hay living in the spaces that Shimano and SRAM have left behind, has announced a new "gravel groupset" called Sword Black. 

The groupset was heralded by multiple outlets releasing the news on Wednesday of this week in a coordinated marketing plan, not unlike what many industries are utilizing these days. (That's a story for another time)

The deal here is that we have an "entry level" 9 speed component group which can be purchased as a 1X or 2X set that features low gearing, a square taper bottom bracket interface for the crankset, and a low price of (reportedly) $350.00. That garners you a crankset, levers, cassette, rear derailleur, and in the case of 2X, a front derailleur. 

Comments: It's probably fine for the price. MicroShift have "borrowed" several details from Shimano's GRX groupset even down to the chain ring bolt pattern. It is a mechanical group, obviously, and the marketing makes a big deal out of this fact. It is true that mechanical group sets are fairly straightforward in terms of set-up and adjustment. That said, not everyone understands or can do set-up and adjustments on any bicycle, so this supposed "feature" is perhaps lost on many cyclists. 

And take a look at how MicroShift got to that low gear on the 1X group. Holy "big jumps", Batman! Then you have the 17 tooth disparity between the big and small chainrings on the 2X crankset. I'm not a fan because when you select either front ring you have to make a few compensatory shifts in the rear or you find yourself spinning out or mashing a big gear. 

You know what would cure that? A triple crank. But no one is going to do that. Maybe it is where I live, but these 2X cranks with huge gaps between the rings and cassettes with 4+ tooth jumps are not a 'good thing', in my opinion.Finally, Shimano CUES is only for flat bar shifting now, but I have a feeling that when, not "if", Shimano adds drop bar levers to CUES it will blow this MicroShift stuff out of the water.

That's a wrap on this week. Have a great weekend and ride those bicycles! Thank you for reading Guitar Ted Productions!

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Country Views: A Visit With Ben

Escape Route: Alleys of Waterloo
The last several days have been ridiculous with rain, severe weather, and high humidity. I don't have to ride in those conditions, because I have done that, and I have done that too much. Enough is enough. So I waited until yesterday to get out because the humidity was a LOT lower and the air was less warm as well. 

It is funny because I had no idea at all where I wanted to go on this ride until the moment I stepped outdoors and felt the wind. "Out of the North? I guess I'm heading North then!", I said to myself, and off I went through some alleys and eventually to the Martin Luther King Jr. trail. 

The ride was on the Noble GX5 and this is a bike I haven't changed much on at all since getting the original GRX stuff and then a few other details that fell into place on it made the bike a stable, unchanged rig for quite a while now. That said, in typical "Guitar Ted" fashion, nothing remains original to the bike but the frame, fork, and head set.

The cresting Cedar River seen off the 6th Street bridge.

Climatologists are still saying we aren't out of the "too dry" stages yet.

The flooding Cedar River was raging through downtown Waterloo as I crossed the river going out on my ride. We're seeing minor flooding down here, but other spots in Iowa have seen incredibly devastating flooding, and so too has Southern Minnesota. 

But despite all the rain, climatologists say we received upwards of 200% of normal rainfall for June in many places, we are still considered "too dry" here. You can tell on the gravel too. It's still very dusty. A crop sprayer passed me by going out and I almost couldn't see it after it passed by due to all the dust getting kicked up by its tires. 

Extensions deployed and ready for service!

This place had an outstanding flower display along the road.

While we may not be quite out of the woods when it comes to water table levels this is about as good as it has been for several years. The plants show it. The wild flowers are popping. People's flower gardens look magnificent. And the corn is a deep shade of green such as I cannot remember seeing in a while. 

Some places out here can make you feel pretty small and alone.

The corn is about waist-high now.

I have a book that details the ways people moved throughout what became Black Hawk County since indigenous peoples were the only folks that crossed this area by foot. The book claims that even the indigenous peoples had to use landmarks to navigate the vast grassland prairies that once dominated the landscape here. Only along waterways were there any trees, so often the trails followed these rivers and streams. Going "cross-country" was not done, because you'd have the distinct possibility of losing your way and dying. Unless there were outcroppings of rocks, groves of trees in random places, or something of note, most of the county was not used as a way to get anywhere. It was a vast, green sea of grasses. 

I have a feeling that Eastern Black Hawk County was such a place. Even today it feels 'empty' in a way. There are no major streams or anything really notable that occurred naturally out here. Maybe a glacial erratic here or there. I suppose "pilot grove", which got its name as a way for early settlers to navigate out here, because that grove of trees stood out above the prairie, was another such landmark. Today's "Pilot Grove Road" takes its name from that long-gone ancient landmark.  

St. Francis Catholic Church

I made my way to St. Francis Catholic Church on Airline Road and decided to stop for a bit. Just before getting there I went by the place where several years ago I had an encounter with a dog and its owner that was not interested in calling his mutt off while I stood there pinned where I stood on the roadside. Eventually the guy called his dog off. It was rather unsettling as that stands to this very day as the only time a dog owner has done anything like that to me. 

Long time blog readers may recall that incident and how that I met a man further down the road who hailed me and when I told him about my encounter, he recognized the owner. I will never forget how the man said "What a dick!", when he realized who owned the dog I was telling him about. As I left St. Francis Church I wondered about the man and was thinking about that day. 

I have a theory about this tree.....

Stealth camper

I left the church and headed up toward Big Rock Road as that is the only East-West through road on gravel without going too far North. As I rode West on Big Rock, I started to wonder which place it was that the kind man lived at. I couldn't clearly remember, but I thought one looked like the place, when just then a man exited the door of the home there, waved his hands (yes - both of them!), wildly and asked where I was going, where did I come from, and how far I was riding. It was the same guy, I was sure of it. 

Yeah....sure! Iowa is "flat". Right.

The Noble GX5

Of course, the man did not remember me. I had to retell the story again, and then he lit up, "Yeah, that's Neil. He can be a dick sometimes." I smiled. Then we fell into conversation. We talked about the flooding, of course, and the recent tornadoes in Iowa. The man then told me about the "tornado of 'oh-eight'..." that devastated some farms North of him and how he was "gun-shy" whenever tornadoes came around. 

Then he said he'd better get busy. He was a week behind on field work, and that due to "some tractor trouble" he had. But I suddenly remembered to ask his name. Surely such a random event required that I now get to know this guy better. He said his name was Ben. I told him my name. Then Ben said I could stop by anytime, have a "cold one", or just visit. 

As I rode away I started to think about that term "visit". I remember my older relatives saying that back in the day. "Hey, we went down and visited with the relatives last weekend", and maybe it was, "Old Marvetz stopped by to visit the other day to see how we were doing." 

Visiting. A lost art, I'd say. Today we "visit" with a text, maybe, if we do anything at all. But physically visiting each other? I guess we are too busy these days for any of that. But I'd say we should change that. Think about "visiting" someone soon. 

This is Iowa

I think about the Victory Ride we had recently. Sure, it was a bike ride on gravel, and that sure didn't suck. But it was more about visiting. Seeing people and interacting with them. People you may not see again for awhile.....or ever again. Visiting is a lost art, but it is a blessing waiting right there for you. You can do it....

Don't let that opportunity pass by.

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Review: Ritchey Design SuperLogic Carbon Venturemax Handlebar : Mid-Term

 Ritchey Design sent over a SuperLogic Carbon Venturemax Handlebar for test and review at no charge. I am not being paid nor bribed for this review and I will always strive to give my honest thoughts and opinions throughout. Also, make sure to read the newly revised "Drop Bar Terms Defined" section to better understand this review.

I've been riding this new Ritchey Design SuperLogic Carbon Venturemax handlebar for several weeks now and I have some impressions to share. The technical data and a close look at the bar can be seen in my introduction post by clicking HERE. If you have not read that you may want to check that out as well.

Briefly, I have been sent the 46cm width to test and I have it mounted to my Black Mountain Cycles MCD model as you can see here. This is the first handlebar I have used on one of my own bicycles that has integrated routing. That made for a bit of an interesting installation. 

Installation: The MCD has a full-run cable housing set up for both the brakes and the rear derailleur. I did not want to have to replace all the housings just to run the cables through the handlebar. So, I removed the inner wires and decided it would not be a bad idea to replace those. I then was able to do the routing of the front derailleur cable and front brake at my bench. I had to "back-feed" the rear housings through the bar, which ended up being a bit of a juggling act with everything still connected to the bike

It might be a job best left to the professionals....

In the end, I was successful and everything came together just fine. Again, as I mentioned in my introduction, the hash marks on the bar are a godsend for getting the levers level without driving yourself crazy. The textured areas for the stem and lever clamps is also a nice touch here. 

Wrapping the SuperLogic Carbon Venturemax (Can I just shorten this to SLCV?) was no big deal. The "bump" in the extensions is nothing to fear when it comes to wrapping this handlebar. Getting around the bend to the flattened tops will use up more tape, as does the flattened top section, so a box of tape with a good stretch and longer length is advisable. I used some MSW tape which worked fine and is relatively inexpensive. 

First Ride Impressions

Well, I have the aluminum Venturemax and I have been putting in a lot of miles on that handlebar to be able to compare these two together. Ritchey mentioned something about adjusting the ergo-bump in the extensions in their press release on this new SLCV bar and yeah..... I can feel a difference. It hits the palm of my hand a bit differently than the aluminum bar's ergo-bump does. 

Now, this is a highly subjective take on this bar, and you may find yourself on the opposite end of this, but I like the ergo-bump on the aluminum bar a bit better for my hands. The SLCV's egro-bump is fine, it is just that the way the aluminum bar fits into my hand is more perfect, again - for my hands

The flat tops of the new SLCV are really nice. This is a position that works for climbing longer grinds, crusing, and anytime you just need to sit up and relax the back and hands a bit. That bit of backsweep, while not noticeable, is something that will put you more at ease as well, allowing for a bit more relaxed ergonomics there. It's a subtle but effective detail on this handlebar. 

One negative aspect of flattened tops is that most accessories will not mount on a flattened cross section bar. You get a tiny amount of space either side of your stem, and that may not work well. See in my image how the light is slightly canted? That is because the base of the light housing is against the stem's "out-front" computer mount and I cannot straighten it out perfectly. Is it good enough? Yeah, probably, but this may be an issue for some accessory items. My GPS has a place to sit, at least! 

Okay, but what about how the SLCV rides? Is the juice worth the squeeze? I will say that this bar is more forgiving from a flex standpoint. It definitely has a bit more going on there than the stiffer aluminum bar does. The other big deal is the ergonomics. You cannot do some of these shapes in aluminum, not yet anyway, and so having leveraged carbon fiber to do the things you can do with it yields some neat ergonomic benefits. Things like the extremely flattened tops, sharp transition from tops to ramps, and the ported cable routing. 

These things add up and make the SLCV a nicer Venturemax than the aluminum version. Now there is cost. The aluminum Venturemax costs $109.95 at the time of this writing. The SLCV? $299.95. That's quite a difference there. Well, what about the weight differences? The SLCV is 35 grams lighter, on average, depending upon the width of the bar. 

So, why not choose the aluminum version? Sure! Why not? If a somewhat heavier, stiffer bar is okay with you, and if the ergonomic differences between the two make no difference to you, then you would be right to go less expensive. 

But sometimes marginal gains are just what you may need, and/or appreciate, over the 'not quite so nice' version. Or - Maybe you are one of those folks that think carbon fiber has no place in use for a handlebar. Gotcha! A completely valid choice for you. 

So Far... From my saddle, the SLCV is a nicer bar than the aluminum one. I still haven't quite settled into the ergo-bump on the SLCV as being as good a perch as my aluminum Venturemax's is. To that point, I have heard from others after introducing this review that they like the Venturemax and really wish it did not have the ergo-bump thing in the extensions. And I can see their point as well. You do kind of have to make a concerted effort while switching the hand position from resting on the extension to braking so you can get up on the elevated section of the extensions and into the drops. 

I guess it isn't as annoying to me, but perhaps Ritchey would consider making a Venturemax sans ergo-bump to satisfy those folks who are not into that kink. 

Beyond that? Yeah, there is not much else to say at this point other than this is a nice carbon handlebar with some unique features and feel. I'll be riding more on this handlebar and will return with a final word on it later this Summer. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comment section and I'll get back to you. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Wahoo Take Two

Longtime blog readers will remember my struggles to get along with Hammerhead's Karoo 2 and the Wahoo Elemnt ROAM GPS devices. Well, just before the Victory Ride, weekend before last, I decided to try to give the Wahoo a second chance. Out of all the GPS stuff I've had my hands on so far it was the best experience I'd had. 

I also figured that there had been enough updates since I had parked the unit last year that I may actually have a decent experience with the unit. And - spoiler alert - I did have a decent experience. 

First thing was to update the unit and recharge it. Surprisingly it still was holding a pretty sizeable amount of energy. The update did take a bit, but I expected that after having not updated the unit for many months. Then I download the route file N.Y. Roll had sent me earlier on. That went just fine. 

Only thing left to do was to ride. I had a fit trying to get the route to start, and I ended up having N.Y. Roll start the route navigation for me. But after that I was doing fine. A few notable things as I rode, in no particular order. 

I must have inadvertently turned off the sound for notification of turns because my Elemnt ROAM was quiet while everyone else's GPS units were beeping like crazy. Huh....... This wasn't an issue as I had the directional arrow to watch on the screen. 

It took me a while to get used to the subtle difference between how the map displayed when I was on route versus when I was not. I'd prefer that distinction to be easier to discern. Maybe there is an option within the unit that will allow for this? 

When I went off-route due to N.Y. Roll having a different final route, (I guess I downloaded an earlier version of his route), the ROAM did not go nuts trying to reroute me. The arrow just pointed in the direction of where the route was in reality, like a compass needle. Weird.....

When I returned to the route, the course showed up again and turns and all were spot on. That is, until the end and the Roam never did say I was back on the route again, despite the fact that I knew we were off route from Brandon until just outside of Urbana. By that time it didn't matter, but that shouldn't have happened. 

The Climb function was there and worked. I liked how it wasn't this screaming "CLIMB" alert but was quiet, (again, I must have turned off the sound?) and then the climb was these little roundish dots on the route that my arrow was "eating up" like I was playing Pacman. I thought that was fun.

My data was spot on for mileage, temps, and all of that. I was able to review the ride data later much like I used to do with my Lezyne Super GPS. I liked that. 

So, that is the story so far with the second go-round with the Wahoo Elemnt ROAM. I'll be trying it out more this Summer and I will report back.

Monday, June 24, 2024

Who'll Stop The Rain

Hot delivery
Since the Victory Ride it has been a hodge-podge of weather related issues that has kept me out of the country. Thunderstorms, heat, and flooding. Yes.....flooding. After two years of severe drought we are back to flooding around here again. 

I did a delivery to the Collective again on Thursday when we had 90+ degree temperatures and high humidity. I haven't ridden in that for a while. First time this year, most likely, and it showed. 

I purposefully went slow to minimize the heat build up in my body, which I think I did well enough. The thing was that even with the easing on the pacing (loaded up, mind you, for a good portion of the ride), I still came home zapped by that heat. 

Look, I've drained the tank in hot weather while riding one two many times, times five. Maybe times ten. A LOT of times, okay?! So, heat isn't something I'm good at anymore. Not that I ever was good at that, but now? It's bad. 

Then the thunderstorms have been many and at random enough times that you only get these short, super-humid windows of time to race around the neighborhood to get in some testing or just to blow off some steam. Saturday it was the same. Only adding in tornadoes in the area. Then there is the flooding, and we're just getting started on that here, although compared to Northwestern Iowa, which has already suffered too much as it is now, we've gotten off easy.  

NOAA flood prediction for the Cedar River at Waterloo, Iowa.

We are not going to get slammed, but this will mess up the soft trails for quite some time, and make mosquito factories out of the backwaters in the area. That'll be nice. Anyway, gravel travel usually is not impacted too greatly by this, but there may be some damage out there, and the dirt roads will be gooey for a while. Best to stay off those for a bit until we get a stretch of drier weather. 

I hope to get out there soon to investigate. I bet this humidity has super-charged the corn growth!

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Looking At Gravel Racing With A UCI Viewpoint

Image courtesy of UCI Gravel World Championships Series.

Over the past decade and a half I have spilled a lot of digital ink here concerning the UCI and gravel events. Maybe you'd rather listen to me rant about this instead? The new podcast episode "UCI vs US Gravel" is for you then. Okay with my digital ink? Here is some more of that then...

I was recently pointed to a podcast by 'shiggy', who I interviewed recently for the "Guitar Ted Podcast" (episode is HERE) . He asked me to take a listen to this podcast and so I did.

 It was an episode of the "Marginal Gains" podcast by SILCA. (HERE) The episode was an interview with Erwin Vervecken, who was a three-time cyclo-cross World Champion and is working with a company called Golazo. This is a Belgium based corporation that does event activations and owns its own portfolio of events. Via the discourse on the podcast, I was able to learn a few things and make some important notes. My comments follow...

It is important to note that the UCI does not put on its own events, it merely charges a fee to sanction an event and have it licensed by the UCI as an "official event". Golazo helps the UCI connect with promoters and other entities to facilitate the production of these Pro and amateur road and gravel events. 

Image courtesy of Gravel Worlds. (The USA based one!)

This is an important distinction to make from how events are done in the USA. In Europe, a promoter will typically lean on a government entity, such as a tourism department, for the monies to pay the UCI, afford infrastructure, fees, and the like, to put on a successful event. In the USA, this is either afforded through entry fees or by association with a company like Life Time Fitness, or as in the case with Gravel Worlds now, by its association with Goodlife Brands. Sometimes events in the USA are getting sponsorship dollars from cycling companies to help facilitate events. Sometimes there is a long list of various backers for an event combining cycling and local businesses. 

The main point here is that because the money has a specific origin, in general, and due to how events are "legitimized" in Europe, (guaranteed to be "professional", executed at a certain baseline/high level) the UCI has found it difficult to crack the US gravel scene. That's because here, in the USA, independence and creativity, especially in the gravel event sector, has birthed a varied palette of events, and each director, or company that owns/facilitates these events has a vested interest and exerts its own controls over their events. This independence and individualism has stymied the UCI, who work in a much more standardized, rigidly set way, from gaining any inroads with US based gravel events. 

Not that they haven't tried. According to Vervecken, the UCI and Golazo team have been in contact with several high-profile events here in the USA since 2019 in hopes to convince the leaders of these varied US gravel events to come under the umbrella of the UCI's Gravel World Series. Obviously that has not been a successful endeavor. Vervecken claims that there have been meetings with all the big gravel events you would know about such as SBT GRVL, the Belgium Waffle Ride, and Unbound/Life Time. 

This would explain the obvious omission of North American based events on the UCI's Gravel World Series calendar of events and why there has not been a Gravel World Championships, (UCI version) on US soil. Firstly, because the UCI does not put on its own events, and secondly because no event worthy of a "worlds" will work with the UCI.

While the UCI's presence in the US gravel scene is lacking, that may change in the future.

Vervecken hinted at the possibility now that there will be UCI Gravel World Series events coming to the USA. He hinted that there are promoters, connected to "up and coming" events, that would be willing to leverage the UCI's capabilities to bring a high-profile status to their event by associating with the UCI. Thus bypassing established large and prestigious gravel events currently entrenched in the US gravel calendar. 

That is a pretty big deal, and if the Vervecken/Golazo/UCI team can actually pull that off, the media and cycling industry will get sucked right into the draft of that move. Keep in mind that this would not necessarily need any "grassroots" help to get off the ground because it would be focused on the Pro racers, primarily. That and ....... Yeah, the biggest question mark here is where does the money come from? In Europe they would leverage a governmental entity, but that is not happening in the USA. Not any time soon. So, there are hurdles yet for the UCI, but they are definitely going to try to make something happen here in the USA, because the legitimacy and authenticity of a "gravel series" or "gravel world championship" is pretty much contingent on the UCI holding at least one, or perhaps more, events here. 

The women's sprint to the finish at the recent UNBOUND 200. (Image courtesy of Life Time)

The way that the UCI sees gravel events being done is perhaps one big stumbling block for US based promoters and certainly will be a big hurdle for fans to jump if the UCI holds true to its values. Those values seem to be driven by tradition and perhaps by media to an extent. 

Mr. Vervecken made a few interesting comments on the podcast I listened to which made me do a double-take. Especially in light of recent events at Unbound in the Pro women's field. That event saw high praises for its level of competition and the unprecedented 9-up sprint finish which was, arguably, the highlight of the event weekend. The separation of the Women's field was something Vervecken could get behind and seems to be where the UCI would go with a gravel event here, even to the point of having women race on a different day. However; that's where the similarities end.

Vervecken said that, for one thing, women are not expected to race the same distances as men because the women's event, in his words, would start out being "an endurance event" until getting closer to the finish. Not the tactical, sophisticated style of racing seen on the men's side in Europe. Vervecken claims a shorter women's course would make the event for women be more like the men's racing. 

Then further regarding overall distances for gravel events, expect the UCI to not go as long as many gravel events here are. Vervecken mentioned that he would rather see a 3 - 4 hour time limitation on the event length, (spoken as a media person, it would seem), which would be a pretty short distance given that the Pro men were averaging well above 20mph at the most recent Unbound 200. Based upon Vervecken's comments, it would seem that a 100K-ish event is what he is speaking to here, and then shorter for the women

Image courtesy of Unbound

Vervecken claimed on the podcast that he is in touch with 4 - 5 organizers in the USA and would eventually like to have an East coast event, (he mentioned New York), a more centrally located event, and one in California. His goal was to end up with events that draw three to four thousand participants in the USA. Vervecken promised that these events would have a much more professional look and feel. 

Of course, we've thought that the UCI was coming into gravel for years. This was evident when the UCI sent the cease and desist order to the Gravel Worlds event directors nearly ten years ago for their use of the rainbow stripes on their winner's jerseys. The activities behind the scenes has been percolating and increasing in intensity and consistency ever since. 

Now will we see the UCI finally crack the barriers to the US gravel scene? Will new events pop up to rival the Unbound, SBT GRVL, and Belgium Waffle rides? Are thousands of people going to flock to events to ride the same courses as the UCI Pro racers? It could happen. Of course, the money to do this has to be a huge obstacle, and the peccadilloes of Euro gravel/road racing must be forgiven by US racers if that is going to happen as well. 

Are these barriers insurmountable? No. But keeping in mind that history has shown us that the Euro road racing model has had a difficult past here in the USA, There have been many tries at having Euro-style events here only to have them fade away.  Gravel, in particular, has always been built upon a renegade, independent platform here in the USA which is not conducive to oversight by a sanctioning body. In fact, it is one of the reasons for the creation of gravel events here in the USA - To escape that sort of oversight. 

Time will tell, but one thing is for certain, we have not heard the last from the UCI in gravel events yet.

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Review: Velo Orange Burrito Supreme Handle Bar Bag

If you look closely you can see the Burrito Supreme on my bike here.
Note: The handle bar bag mentioned in this post has been paid for out-of-pocket by Guitar Ted. Velo Orange has no affiliation with Guitar Ted Productions, nor are they aware of this review. Hey! Maybe they will get tipped off to it later, but all I know is I am independently conducting these reviews and I will give you my honest thoughts and opinions throughout.

I recently gave a first impressions of this bag HERE, in case you missed that. Please check that out as I won't go over some things I wrote about there in this Final Review. 

I used the Burrito Supreme on two different bikes. The last ride before this review was done on my Honeman Flyer custom steel single speed gravel bike. The bag fit fine with just a little interference from the front brake cable. It wasn't a big deal, but it was there. This is something that comes up a lot with front handle bar bags that dangle off the bar and have no solid connection to the bike other than straps. I noted that the Burrito Supreme did sit without contact to the head tube though, which is important if you want to preserve your bike's finish.

The ride I used the bag for on this bike was a 52 mile gravel ride with some pavement thrown in here and there. The bag was stable and never caused me any concerns, The only time I knew it was there was when I had to bunny-hop a few transitions from asphalt to concrete due to the different levels of the two surfaces and then the contents of the bag would get rattled. But other than that, this bag was not a problem at all. 

Between using the Burrito Supreme on the Raleigh and now my custom bike, I have some "Good" and some "Not-so Good" to share about this accessory bag. 

The Good:

The Burrito Supreme sits under the handlebars in a way that makes sense. The opening is where it should be. The straps to attach a front light or other smaller bags is facing forward. These details are important and the Road Runner made bag is done correctly. 

Speaking of the construction, it is impressive and the bag should hold up for years if treated with a due amount of care and respect. The zipper is sewn in very well and the seam-work looks to be done at a high level of craftsmanship. 

I had my doubts about the plastic buckles, but so far those doubts have been unfounded. If the buckles were prone to opening or allowing the straps to loosen I would have experienced that by this point. I have noted none of that sort of thing here at all. 

I did also like the size of this bag. It is big enough to stuff an extra layer in but not so big that it gets to be in the way. As a for instance, if the Burrito Supreme were longer, it might be an issue for a person with narrower drop bars. If it were mounted to a bike with a short head tube and the bag was larger, it wouldn't be a good fit for smaller bikes. I think Velo Orange spec'ed a perfect size here that should accommodate most rider's needs and fitment situations. 

The Not-so Good:

The beefy zipper is a little difficult to operate one-handed while riding. Especially when trying to close the bag. I opted to not try opening it while riding because of this. The other things that were a bit of a negative here was that the opening of the bag was a bit tight for my average-sized hands. The stiff zipper and the double stitched border were not helping here either. That construction gets a big thumbs up from me, but it does become a bit of a hassle to get your hand in the bag to grab stuff because of that.

Finally, because the bag was made with a dark colored fabric in the interior, it is harder to see what you've got in there. I would have preferred a brighter and lighter colored fabric which would have contrasted the items I had in the bag in a better way for me to to be able to see what I had in there. 

Then there is always the issue with any bag that uses the "marsupial pouch" approach to carrying accessories and nutrition. You'll have to fish around to find what you want which may not be right where you thought it should be. Things in the interior of the Burrito Supreme are apt to shift around while riding, so it is simply something that is inherent in this sort of design. 

Final Verdict:

The Velo Orange Burrito Supreme is a fine bag, well-made, and should serve its owner well for years. The bag is designed well and does its job quietly and without any need for concern from the rider. I think it holds a good amount of stuff. Not too much, and the bag is neither too small or too big, in my opinion, for its intended purpose. 

But I don't think it is a bag you can access things from easily while riding due to the very well made zipper and how it is attached to this bag material. That and not being able to see in the bag from the saddle of the bike makes this more of a bag to stash stuff you'll only need to get at while stopped. That's okay, but if you wanted a handlebar bag that you can access while riding, I don't think the Burrito Supreme is 'that bag'.  

I think this bag is perfect for bikepacking and storage of nutrition or clothing which you might want along for the ride but won't need for the entire ride. Things like wind jackets, vests, and maybe lighter rain wear would go in here. Arm warmers, and that sort of thing, which comes on and off during rides in the mountains or during "shoulder season". 

You could use it to store anything that fits in it, of course, but keep in mind it is hard to see in the bag and smaller items could get lost in a sea of swirling accessories easily in the large, open interior space. I still feel it is really a good bag, but it isn't a bag for everybody, and the Burrito Supreme is better suited for some purposes than it would be for others. 

If it is "right" for your purposes, I don't think you'll be disappointed in this high-quality bar bag choice.

Friday, June 21, 2024

Friday News And Views

Coros Dura GPS computer. (Image courtesy of Coros)
Time to Navigate Through Another FN&V!

Coros Finally Unveils The Dura GPS Computer:

After teasing this GPS device since April the Coros Dura finally has been unveiled. This new entry in the GPS device market for bicycles has a big claim and looks to unseat your Garmin, Wahoo, and Hammerhead GPS devices from your handlebars. Is it really a contender? 

Well, Coros claims that with all systems on, and with no benefit from the solar charger, (more on that in a minute) you can squeeze 70 hours out of the device for run time. They claim that you can extend that to 120 hours, still without using the solar recharging function. Pretty impressive if true, and if you've already seen DC Rainmaker's review, it probably isn't quite there yet.

As stated, there is a solar recharging function. Coros claims that in full Sunlight, a rider going out for an hour will gain 2 hours of battery time. Again, very impressive. But that solar function comes at the cost of  space on your handlebar. (And the recharge rate hasn't been verified by independent reviewers yet.)

According to my quick measurements of my Hammerhead Karoo 2 and Wahoo Elemnt ROAM sitting here, the Dura is larger both in length and width than those two computers. The touch-screen of the Dura falls in between that of the Wahoo and Hammerhead with the Hammerhead edging out the Dura by just a hair. 

The Dura combines the touch-screen with a dial as well, so I'm not sure how the user interface will be here, (Again - not the greatest yet) but all this comes at a fairly reasonable price of $249.00 USD. Coros is taking pre-orders for July delivery now. By the way, the Dura has a lot more value if you also buy into the Coros smartwatch ecosystem. So, if you have not chosen a path in regard to a GPS device, this may alter your decision. Might want to wait until the bugs get worked out first though.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments. By the way, I'll have an update on my Wahoo experience coming soon. Stay tuned....

Gravel Worlds Announces Live Coverage Of 2024 event

From the press release:

"For the first time in the event’s 15-year history, the Garmin Gravel Worlds gravel road bicycle race will feature live-streamed video.

2024 Garmin Gravel Worlds event coverage will begin before the Men’s Pro 150-mile start Saturday, August 24, and end after the final rider has finished late into Saturday evening. The live coverage will include lead and follow motorcycles for both the Men’s and Women’s Pro fields, as well as a fifth camera focused on riders deeper in the pack. There will also be live commentating from beginning to end. The live stream video will be free for viewers worldwide.

Thanks to expanded sponsorship from Goodlife Brands, the event has also added $10,000 to its Women’s Pro prize purse, while adding a fresh twist to the racing. The first twenty Pro Women to arrive at the second race checkpoint ahead of riders from the general race field, which starts 25 minutes later, will receive $500, regardless of where they finish the race.

Gravel Worlds will employ staggered start times, much like Unbound has, for thge event which is scheduled to take place on August, 21 - 25, 2024 in Lincoln, Nebraska from their recently announced new starting area. 

Other recent Gravel Worlds news can be seen HERE and HERE.

Have You Heard About This?

I was sent an email on Wednesday informing me that some ultra-distance cyclists would be coming through the area soon. Like right down my local bike trail! 

Apparently it is all around a race called The Great American Wheel Race. Here's the description from the registration page for the event:

"The 2024 inaugural Great American Wheel Race is a 3,600 mile self-supported race that begins at the landmark Seattle Space Needle on June 9, 2024, and ends at the Washington Monument in Washington D.C. This fabulous and scenic route across the U.S. utilizes established Great American Rail-Trails across the U.S. while linking other bike trails and the safest less traveled roads possible. The route consists of gravel paths, paved paths, gravel and paved roadways, with a goal to be separated from vehicle traffic as much as possible with gentle grades. Come “Get Some” and enjoy this phenomenal race crossing the U.S. from the West Coast to the East Coast."

You can "dot watch" this event, but for whatever reason, the tracking page on the event site is not functioning. However; THIS ONE on does work. I'm going to try to see if I can intercept a racer or two on their way down through here. Stay tuned.... 

Image courtesy of Hope Tech.
Hope Tech Offers Durable Gravel Wheel Set:

Often times we all get caught up in the latest aero, carbon fiber, light weight wheel set for gravel and I even can forget about the riders that aren't looking for that. Thankfully companies like Hope Tech from the uK haven't forgotten that some folks would like a wheel set that they can actually ride on without having to worry about weight limits, durability, and still have some nice features. 

Hope offers up the RX24 wheel set for your consideration. I thought it was interesting that this wheel set can be ordered up with 32 spoke hubs and rims. That's getting rarer to find these days as what constitutes a "high spoke count" wheel in pre-builts now days is 28 holes, maybe, with 24 hole rims being the average anymore. 

The rims are 24mm inner width, great for most gravel tires. (Hope recommends up to a 60mm tire) Plus the total system weight (rider and gear) is 284lbs. That's not going to cover everybody, but it is better than a lot of the bling carbon wheels will allow. 

You also get the reliable, rebuildable Hope hub here, which I have ridden in the older Pro 4  form, and can vouch that they do well. But again, Hope does support their hubs with parts and even their legacy hubs are still supported. 

Prices are reasonable. Depending on spec you'll spend somewhere around $600.00 - $800.00 USD. Check them out here.

Guitar Ted Podcast Update:

We have a new podcasts up now and it is about the evolution of gravel bikes and how they are not really innovating anything. That one went up last week. You can listen to it HERE. Then N.Y. Roll and I decided to hit up another episode before he vacates the area for New York for a couple of weeks.

I may be putting out a solo podcast yet today at some point, so if you see another episode up, you'll know I decided to do that. Otherwise it may be a while before the next episode is out unless I can get an interview I've been thinking about doing. We will see.

That's a wrap for this week. Thanks for reading Guitar Ted Productions! Get out and ride those bikes! The days are getting shorter starting now!