Sunday, November 30, 2014


Saturday was beautiful. Messy, but beautiful.
This past weekend was a great example of what the Winter has been like so far. It got quite warm Saturday, and then Sunday it plunged back to quite chilly and freezing temperatures.

I had a bit of a test to complete with the titanium Mukluk, so I headed out in the afternoon after we did a bunch of house cleaning and got into the mucky-muck. It was quite the mixture of slushy snow, ice, mud, water, and sand. It was perfect for what I was wanting to achieve with my testing, (which I cannot get into publicly here), so I was rather pleased with that fact. I was also having some fun as well.

I made a loop that took in a spur trail to the lake, around the lake after messing about on the beaches, and then a pass through Marky-Mark, back to the lake and back down the spur trail and out of the Green Belt back home. The entire time I was dealing with constantly changing trail surfaces and conditions, which made the ride doubly interesting for me. Not that this loop is bad, but part of the fun is how sloppy the Green Belt can get and having to deal with that. I used to go out here after rains on my old 26"ers until I found out that just served to tear up the equipment. Fat bikes and modern technology have overcome a lot of those former issues I used to have to deal with. However; you still have to clean up the bike afterward!

It almost seemed like Spring in places where the Sun's light hits directly for longer periods of time.
You don't need to go to Alaska to ride beaches!
I'm a little concerned about water levels. Black Hawk Creek normally covers up that sandy beach there.
New components- New position.
Sunday the weather was changing rapidly. A strong push of Arctic air had entered the region and the Spring-like warmth was replaced by the bite of the North winds. I still wanted to get out and I decided that it would be a great idea to swap out handle bar, stem, and grips on my son's Mukluk. He had been complaining of sore wrists and I thought he looked a little cramped now that his saddle height has come up to keep up with growth. I scrounged up an old Easton stem and an old, but nearly unused standard bar. I also found a pair of modified Ergon grips for Grip Shift that I used on my old Snow Dog build. A few minutes of twisting Allen keys and I was done with the transformation.

Up from the Lab and with his bicycle in hand we tried out the new position. He seemed pleased by the grips, but never noticed the bar and stem until I pointed those out to him. Funny!

Well, we had to test it out, so we bundled up and headed out for however long he could stand the weather. I needed to tighten a few things a bit more after we figured out his preferences, but within two blocks he was crowing about how much better he liked his bicycle than before. Okay, so now let's pay attention to where you are going! He was checking out the new stuff and not looking when he nearly KO'ed a fence! I think the new, upright position suits him well and his wrists shouldn't pester him any more. That was a good thing.

The cold, on the other hand, was not a good thing. It was one of those North winds with teeth in it. Our faces were numb and my fingers weren't too happy in my gloves. Should have brought out the lobster mittens. The air temperature was hovering at 20°F, but it felt a whole lot colder than that! We ended up making a short loop of the neighborhood and heading back after 40 minutes. Not a very long ride, but now the boy is stoked on his bike again since it doesn't hurt to ride it as it did before. That bodes well for future longer rides. I'm calling it a success.

Trans Iowa V11: A Look At The Rules Part 12

Jeremy Fry riding off into the night of T.I.V7 (Image by W. Kilburg)
Last year I did a historical overview of each Trans Iowa up to T.I.V9. This year I am going to revisit something that I feel many folks have overlooked for a long time; The "Race Rules".

Last week we took a look at a couple of common sense traffic rules and conduct deals This week I'll briefly discuss the rule dealing with the night time portions of Trans Iowa, Rule #13, seen here in its entirety:

13: All racers must use and carry with them a flashing red taillight and front light, and a back-up light source, i.e. headlamp. A cell phone is also a good/great idea.

Obviously, you need to see at night to ride effectively, or at all. Besides this, it is an obvious safety issue. However; we were advised to put this rule into the event by Mike Curiak because he said to us at the time that people would actually try riding at night without lights. I know, crazy, right?

However; Mike was so adamant that folks would try to do this stupid human trick that he advised us- strongly advised us- to start the event at night so it would force people to use their lights out of the gate. Plus we would be able to detect "stupid" more easily. Of course, we didn't listen the first year. The first Trans Iowa started at 8:00am in the morning. Imagine that, current Trans Iowa vets and finishers! Imagine the sleep you could miss!

Trans Iowa's starts have become rather spectacular. Image of T.I.V9's start by H Wince
The first night time start to a Trans Iowa was during T.Iv2. It was drizzling rain, and slightly breezy, but the lights of the 50 or so riders were spectacular to behold. It was at this point that I decided I liked the night time start just because it was so cool to see all these bicycles and riders lit up like Christmas trees, if for no other reason. However; there were other reasons.

The biggest thing was being able to cut off the event at 2:00pm on Sunday afternoon to allow for travelers to get home and be with families, at jobs, or back in schools by Monday. We both, (at first Jeff and I, then David, then all the volunteers...), needed to be at work on Monday too. So, it was mostly out of a need to adapt the start to allow for some modicum of rest and allow for travel times so folks could be back integrated into the "real world" without missing a beat. In fact, I haven't missed a Monday at work after a Trans Iowa until I started taking Monday off after Trans Iowa V9's completion.

When things break- Who ya gonna call? Image from T.I.V7
The second part of this rule deals with cell phones and our urging riders to carry them. We were concerned that as riders became stretched out over the 300 plus miles of the Trans Iowa course, some would not make it due to physical issues, mechanical breakdown, or both. Our intentions were that riders should call for a ride to be extricated from the course in the event of something happening which would prevent further progress.

Back in 2005, not everyone was down with cell phones, and even today, there are a few holdouts. We still get some folks that don't have any support and have had to ride themselves out of a Trans Iowa that didn't go well for them. It is an issue that should be considered very carefully by anyone attempting a Trans Iowa event.

So far, we've only had a couple of issues with knowing where everyone is at the end of an event. It has been several years ago now, but on one occasion I had a gentleman who shall remain nameless call me from the comfort of his home on a Monday after Trans Iowa to let me know he had dropped out. So, just getting folks to call in a timely manner, much less convince them to carry a cell phone, has been a challenge for me in the past!

An interesting anecdote: I have used my personal cell phone number as the "DNF Line" for years now. It has always been the same number. Maybe that has helped over the years to get folks to call in, since- if they have done Trans Iowa before, they likely have my number already! At any rate, the call ins have been used by riders when they drop out to a high degree so that now it is super rare for me to know who is and who isn't out of a Trans Iowa. Granted- things get fuzzy with my memory after 3am Sunday morning, but the system seems to work great nowadays.

Next Week: Navigation!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Trans Iowa V11: On Volunteers Part 2

Trans Iowa's first volunteers were Dave & Linda Kerkove. That's Dave on the right.
Last weekend I wrote on the situation this year concerning the volunteers for Trans Iowa V11. The aftermath of that was mostly positive, but I also received several responses from the volunteers I have who- for the sake of brevity- "get it". You know who you are and what I mean by "getting it". Anyway, I wanted to publicly thank you all, first off, and say that last week's rant on the use of volunteering as a gateway to riding a Trans Iowa, (and not really just to volunteer in a genuine sense), was not at all aimed at you folks. I think maybe some of the responses I was getting were, in part, defenses of those particular individuals intentions, and I wasn't intending that anyone should feel compelled to do that. I apologize for anything that smacked of that.

Now I want to do a bit of bragging on my past volunteers. I know lots of events have great volunteers, but Trans Iowa seems to gather some of the most selfless, kind, considerate, encouraging, and intelligent volunteers I have known of or seen at any event. This has only been getting better every year that Trans Iowa has been in existence. From the very get-go, when our only volunteers were Dave and Linda Kerkove, we have had great success with our volunteer corps. Some memories that jump out at me concerning volunteers.....

Checkpoint volunteers for T.I.V3
  • T.I.V3: The first time I had a "corp" of volunteers was for T.I.V3. These guys were so good and in a way, they helped calm me down, relax, and let go of one of my main worries going into that first time "solo" production of a Trans Iowa. I just remember being so amazed and impressed with this group. 
  • T.I.V4: Some of the previous year's members were on this group, but we had another checkpoint as well that year, so I was a bit concerned. Once again though, my worries were unfounded. Of particular note here was Steve Fuller showing up with a lap top and running results on a spread sheet program, (I think), which was kind of shocking to me! 
  • T.I.V5: Now we had three checkpoints! I remember going to CP#2 in Traer, and not seeing anyone there yet. Being a bit overly concerned, I called the two fellas that were supposed to be there and they cheerfully informed me that they were down at the pizza joint and would be there promptly. I saw them arrive on bicycles and of course, they did an awesome job. Scott Ronken and....cannot recall right now. (Was it Ken?) Somebody help me out here. Also- this was the T.I. where Matt Maxwell rode over from Ames Iowa to LeGrand Iowa just to volunteer and then afterward turned his bike Westward and rode back home!
  • T.I.V6: The ill-fated, rain shortened event was run well again by volunteers. I remember especially the hoops we jumped through going back and forth on the phone with Paul Jacobson. (Thanks for your patience, Paul!) But what many do not know is that CP#3 was manned by Paul Buchanan and his wife, I believe, and of course, no one got there. We called Paul and he graciously came to the arranged ending at the North English Malt Shoppe and not only that, he drove some of the wet riders back to Grinnell, then drove in the torrential rain all the way back to Waterloo. Talk about yer selfless volunteers!
  • T.I.V7: The volunteers impress again, and even on Easter weekend! The thing I am most grateful for here is the selfless volunteering I saw done by Craig Cooper of Bikes To You, Rob Versteegh, and other riders that had dropped out but stuck around to assist after the fact. None of these folks were prearranged for and they just jumped in where needed to give an assist. It wasn't the last time this type of thing would happen. 
  • T.I.V8: Remember the almost luxurious CP#2 set up by Wally & George? The main memory for me here is the work that Jeremy Fry and Matt Gersib did to run the "secret checkpoint" that year. MG's way-beyond-the-call-of-duty looking for an errant Charlie Farrow was a true lifesaver from my standpoint. I'll never forget that, Brother!
  • T.I.V9: This was another "lifesaver", but this time it was Bent Irish who, when finding out that we may be short of cues, arranged to have some of the other volunteers fan out in the small village of Ira to see if we could get copies made. Mind you- this was early on a Saturday morning in a village of maybe 100 people! I believe Chad Quigley was involved in this as well, but we did get copies and we had no issues. Just a great example of how the volunteers for T.I. are self-starters and can think on the ground for the event's best interest. 
  • T.I.V10: How about Jeremy Fry, his friend Matt, and Scott Redd hanging out in gale force winds all afternoon in the middle of nowhere? Or consider the Slender Fungus, who sent up a crew to man the unexpected re-route in an unbelievable lightning storm with sideways rain. No riders got crossed up, and they manned that post until 4am for me. 
Let's not forget the barn, Trans Iowa's finish line the last couple years. RV brings a crew to assist with that. That's him in the red coat. (Image by Wally Kilburg)

So, I hope you can see that Trans Iowa lives or dies by its volunteers. Without them, the event doesn't get run. Many times- really folks, I cannot stress this enough- the help comes undirected at all by me. I know a lot of you think I am all on top of everything, but face the facts folks- the Trans Iowa volunteer corps over the years has been mostly undirected and uncontrolled by me. I give them a minimal set of tools and instructions and these smart folks just rise above my short comings and essentially make the event what it is.

So, I thank them, of course, but I sincerely hope that you all do the same. Profusely. Without ending.


Friday, November 28, 2014

Friday News And Views

Thanksgiving morning. Marky-Mark Trail. Unfiltered
My morning started rather early yesterday when I awoke at 5:11am to get up and kit out for an early morning ride before we had to leave as a family for Thanksgiving dinner at my parents place.

The snow we got was barely enough to cover the ground again after most of what we had melted in the previous day's heat. However; now it was down into the single digits and there was a slight Northerly in the air which had a tremendous bite to it this time. I had all my wool stuff down to launder since it has been worn several times and I was left with synthetic stuff. I layered as best I could, but let me tell ya.... Wool is where it is at folks. While I didn't get uncomfortably cold, I never was warm, and I was not going to stop for anything short of total mechanical failure (or a quick pic!), because lingering and "smelling the roses" on this ride would have left me freezing to death.

Of course, I rode the Blackborow. Low range this time. It was just fine too. I climbed the dike and I had to get out of the saddle, but the big ol' Lou tires clawed at the surface and never slipped out. All I had to do was to keep the pedals turning. I swapped out the stock grips for some Ergon GE1 grips, but I think I am going to swap out to the GP2's that I have because I really feel that the paddle shape and the stubby bar end are more conducive to Winter type riding than the GE1's are. I like the GE1's a lot, but those are for faster, more technical moves. Not so much for Winter slogging, long spins on the flats, and slower speed stuff. Other than that, everything has been great so far.

Surly 1X1 Update:

I have been tinkering with the "family bike", the shop tradition Surly 1X1 that I was bequeathed recently by its last owner, Brian. I'm kind of shooting for a classic "silver and black" look with the parts. So far I have an old silver Bontrager seat post, a chromed Mountain Goat "bull moose" bar/stem combo, and three out of four old Deore cantilever brakes have been dug up. I need to scrounge the Lab for the fourth and final piece of that puzzle!

Wheels are generously being donated to the cause by the Slender Fungus. (Thanks!) I traded for a set of old, silver, 110BCD LX square taper cranks, and that will be set up with a Surly stainless steel 38T ring and a 20T rear Surly cog that I have laying around. I'd rather go with a 16T, or maybe a 17T, but all I can find is the 20. Oh well.....

I still am thinking I will be putting on a sprung Brooks saddle on this, but I just picked up a black Ergon SM3 that I stuck on there. I think the Ergon would definitely work, but I like the idea of the sprung Brooks and will likely go for that at some point.

Trans Iowa Clinic:

Next Saturday on Dcember 6th the Trans Iowa Clinic is happening at the Krunkwich Ramen House, (the first Tacopocalypse location, and the same place we were at last year), which is at 621 Des Moines Street in Des Moines, Iowa.

If you cannot access the Facebook event page I linked above, just leave a comment here that you will be attending and we'll make sure we have a chair for you to sit on. Here is a short list of what you can expect.

  • An Expo: We'll have bicycles set up as if they were going to be used in a Trans Iowa attempt and we will also have a tire display on hand which you can peruse of options we have found to work well at Trans Iowa.
  • Women's Perspective: We'll have two top gravel racers who happen to be women at the event to answer any questions you may have as a women rider that wants to attempt or learn about gravel riding.
  • Expert Panel: Besides Andrea Cohen and Sarah Cooper, we'll have an expert panel of Trans Iowa veterans who have finished and failed to finish the event in past years. Their expertise and knowledge base in gravel riding will be available for you as a participant to draw upon. 
While the event is aimed at Trans Iowa rookies, anyone is invited to show up and we'll be glad to have you. The event is free of charge and all I need is confirmation that you will be coming so we can make chairs avialble for everyone to sit on. Please leave a comment here today so I can add you to the list.

That's it for today. Stay warm and get outside and burn off some of that turkey!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Dawn Patrol on the Blackborow DS
Happy Thanksgiving from Guitar Ted Productions!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanks Steve!

Steve Hed discussing his Adventure rig with Byron of Bike Hugger at I'bike '13
Las Vegas, Nevada 2013: I am wandering around the Mandaly's convention floor in a snarl of nearly unnavigable booths when I am stopped by someone who asked me if I had seen the bike in the HED Wheels booth. Now I had heard of HED Wheels, of course. If you are a cycling geek worth your salt at all, you knew of HED Wheels. "All about aero" HED Wheels. Tour de France winning wheels. Triathlete wheels, time trials, aero road, yada,yada,yada.....

Okay, so what? HED has a bike in their booth. Not my monkeys, not my circus. I am about mountain bikes and gravel road stuff at this show. Not triathlon. Not time trial geekery. But this person insists that I should check it out and that Steve Hed wants to meet me. (!!!) Uhh......okay, I guess. So I didn't make much of that and went about my way trying to navigate through and find something exciting. This show was a big let down for me, until the moment I actually found the HED Wheels booth and saw the bike. But that wasn't the biggest surprise for me.

Now I should add that I knew HED was getting into the gravel bike scene. Heck, I had already been riding some HED Ardennes+ wheels, which I had reviewed for Gravel Grinder News. That wasn't anything new, really, and maybe Steve Hed just wanted to say "thanks", and maybe they had something else up their sleeve for gravel road riding. You know, it was kind of a "thing" at Interbike that year. Lots of new "gravel specific innovations" were being introduced. I wasn't too expectant of anything "big".

Beautiful fork crown as done by Eric Noren of Peacock Groove for Steve Hed's adventure bike.

 That was until I saw the bike. It was by far and away the coolest bicycle at Interbike '13. Nothing else even came close. A fully customized rig torched up for Steve Hed by Peacock Groove's own Eric Noren. Then a man with a long mane of silver-ish hair with glasses approached me. He was smiling, and his name tag read "Steve Hed". He introduced himself, and what followed during the next 45 minutes or so pretty much blew me away and became the highlight of my Interbike trip.

The sticker on Steve Hed's bike says it all.

You know, I am as guilty as anyone when it comes to preconceived notions. I was found most heinously guilty of this when I met Steve Hed. I figured he was all "aero this- drag coefficient that", but what I learned during our spirited conversation couldn't have been further from that notion. Steve Hed certainly changed the world of aerodynamics when it comes to bicycles, and his contributions are numerous, but his heart for cycling was not to be found there. No, he was a true wanderlust. A guy that totally understood what the gravel riding scene that has risen up was all about. He understood that even better than I do.

There will be stories written in the coming days of Steve Hed's innumerable contributions to cycling and lamentations will be given for his untimely death. It is a very sad thing, certainly, and my condolences go out to his family. That said, I won't be surprised if there are no mentions of his love of riding gravel roads and how Steve Hed wanted to help push gravel racing and riding along. Steve was very active in helping Minnesota based gravel road events get going and stay going. HED Wheels supported the Almanzo 100 and attendant events, the Filthy 50, and were supporters of Trans Iowa and Gravel Grinder News as well.

I will never forget Steve Hed and his passion for the back roads of Minnesota and elsewhere. He surprised me with his stories of his rural upbringing and riding dusty roads. His view of the triathlon scene, the fixie fashions, and all the Pro road racing stuff was eye opening for me. He was a strong advocate for the gravel road rider and his influence will be felt going forward as a passion that will be carried over by those he influenced.

Rest In Peace , Steve. Today, I give thanks for having gotten the chance to meet you.

Happy Thanksgiving Day to all the readers out there. I hope that you all have a blessed and safe day.

Blackborow DS: How To Change Gears & More

My new Blackborow DS size Large.
Today I wanted to answer a question I received yesterday concerning how one changes gears on a Blackborow DS. Obviously, there are no shifters and it must be done manually. I will show how it's done in some images and with words. Then I'll have a bit more to say about my impressions concerning the bike.

The Blackborow DS was ridden in the "high" ratio set of gears today, so I will demonstrate here a switch to "low range". It takes all of about three to four minutes to accomplish a gear change. You do not need any special tools and I would recommend a rag to clean your hands since the chain will likely be greasy when you do this, although mine is pretty good looking yet since it is so new!

By the way, you shouldn't, (and cannot), cross chain the bike. I also will add that the rear hub has a full range free hub body, so if you should decide after getting a DS that you have to have gears, all you need are the parts plus a through axle, driveside, derailleur compatible Alternator plate. The cable stops are all there to run the cable to the rear derailleur should you decide to add that dangly bit. Okay, enough about all of that. Now I will get into how to change the gears here.

A closer look at the cogs and drop out. This is the side the axle screws in to. 
Here's the Maxle lever which you flip open like a normal QR, but then you use it like a wing nut and unscrew it.....

....until you can start to pull the axle clear of the wheel/hub. Leave the bike on the ground at this point. 
Then lift the rear of the bike straight up. This allows for some chain slack. See below for further instructions.
  • Once the rear of the bike is up and you have created some chain slack, reach down with your hand and starting with the rear cog, grab the chain at the top of the cog, lift and move it over to the next cog. In my case, the inner one.
  • This next step is crucial to an easy, smooth gear change. Reach down to the bottom run of the chain near the crank set and guide the chain onto the chain ring of choice, (in my case, the inner one), and push the chain "backwards", as if back pedaling, since the crank and cogs will free wheel backward while the wheels remain static. Make sure the pedals are free to rotate! Guide the chain carefully from the bottom up around to the top until it is on the chain ring.'re still holding the bike up, by the way. 
  • Once the chain is on the set of gears you want, gently lower the rear of the bike, making sure the rotor passes between the pads in the caliper. Line up the hub and the inner drop out "hoods" and then set the weight of the bike on the hub end caps. Replace the Maxle, screwing it into the drive side drop out snugly, but don't reef on it! Then close the lever. That's it!

The gears swapped and the wheel sitting on the hub end caps before reinstalling the Maxle. 
More Impressions: 

The Blackborow DS was ridden to work in "high" range and that makes a speed sufficient for brisk travel. It can be a chore in fluffy, slushy snow though, and going up longer inclines can get a bit wearisome. I'd say anyone used to a stout gear for mtb should be okay with it. My commute, about 4 miles or so, is mostly uphill and if there is any amount of fresh snow or a stiff wind, I'll probably be dumping it back into the low range. The high range was a chore yesterday, but it should make me stronger if I can get used to it. 

The wheel base feels shorter, but I'll have to confirm that. I feel that it is the reason it is really easy to pop a wheelie or loft the front end of this bike. Stand over is definitely what Salsa says, "the best of any" of their fat bikes. That's by at least an inch over the Beargrease and Mukluk. (Large vs Large sizes)

This is my first time on Clown Shoe rims with any of the bigger tires. I noted that this combination is "flatter" crowned than what I have seen with Surly tires. My titanium Mukluk has a Bud on a Rolling Darryl and is noticeably rounder in profile. This flatter profile manifests itself in a bit of self-steer at lower pressures and at similar pressures to the Bud/RD combo, the Clown Shoe/Lou combo is always a bit more prone to the self-steering feel. I'm okay with that with this bike since I got it for the maximum flotation of its tires and rims. It is also worth noting that the barely 4 inch wide Sterlings (made by Vee Tire) have far worse self-steer feelings at these same pressures than do the Clown Shoe/Lou combo. So, it isn't bad with the Blackborow DS, but it is there.

More on this bike later.....

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Blackborow DS: First Ride

I was finally able to scratch up enough cabbage to get the Blackborow out of hock from the bike shop. The maiden voyage included many icy city streets, a large portion of single track, and some grassy traverses. We got a nice crunchy coverlet of fresh snow Sunday night/Monday morning, and it was snowing during my ride.

The Blackborow DS is a parallel single speed drive train package with a "high" ratio of 30T X 18T and a "low" ratio of 26T X 22T. I ran my first ride in the "low" range, just to see if I could tolerate it on a longer flat ride. Well.....mostly flat. 

 We'd been tooling around on this bike at the shop ever since it came in. James and Todd both seemed to really think it was something special, but I wasn't going to give it my stamp of approval until I could get it off road and into some slippery, technical stuff. Fortunately, that's exactly what the conditions were. Slippery streets were met with a solid, confident feel. Of course, I wasn't tossing it into turns and manhandling it, because while it was stable, it doesn't have studded tires. Ice must be respected! But the grip level seemed pretty good so far.

The initial section of the new trail in Sherwood Park is pretty twisty, undulating, and has a few technical moves over rock piles and what not to negotiate. The Blackborow felt like it was Velcro'ed to the surface and I had no problem at all going through here. Further on, I had to make the short, steep climb out of the area to the bike path, and also up the hill at Northland Oil, (Both maybe 20-25ft high at 15% or so with snow on the trail), and both were cleaned with no issues. The ratio was fine for trail riding, and "okay" for spinning down the streets, but I probably will opt for the "high" ratio on days when the streets are clearer.

Initial impressions are that this bike is indeed maneuverable, and it feels more nimble than a Mukluk with 3.8"ers. The ride quality is somewhere between my Titanium and aluminum Mukluks. Not too harsh at all. Smoother than I expected. Tires grip like mad. Interestingly, this bike coasts and rolls freer than any of the other fat bikes I have had.

Modifications and component swaps will be minimal. I will swap to Ergon grips, and at some point a titanium post is going on here. Another Salsa Regulator. But for now, this'll do juuuuust fine! More on this bike later.....

Monday, November 24, 2014

Sneaking One In

Melting snow, warmer air, and a chance.
This past weekend here we finally got a respite from the Arctic air that had plunged us into a January weather feel. It came around at the same time that I finally had started to feel better after having been down and out for three days with some sort of a sinus like malady that had sapped me of my strength and was giving me these pounding head aches. Well, I wasn't one hundred percent, but this chance was not to be missed. I had the added pressure of having to review this bike that came in recently for Twenty Nine Inches, so there was that as well.

The Plan: Ride as easily as I could to that new trail someone cut into Sherwood Park, do that loop, and get some impressions. Then take it easy on the way back. Maybe I'd not knock my health backward and I could get done what I needed to get done, with the added benefit of getting a bicycle ride in after having missed that the past three days before that.

So I got out late in the morning, or "fore noon", as my grandparents would call the hour between 11:00am and noon, and did what I had planned. I took it nice, smooth, and slow. The good thing? No pounding in the temples. Still, I wasn't pushing things yet, which I planned on doing once I reached the trails. What condition they would be in was anyone's guess at this point. The temperature was rising quickly and was forecast to top out at the 50 degree mark. At the time of my ride it was in the upper 30's and cloudy, with the slight hint of fog lingering in the air from earlier in the morning. It quickly got warmer, so I ditched one of my pairs of gloves for just the liners and opened the zippers some.

Not a lot of elevation gain, but a lot of twisty turns, obstacles, and snow covered single track.
A partially frozen over Cedar River was clearing again with the warmth. 
The ride was good. I couldn't really go as fast as I was planning because of the slicker conditions with the snow melting, but I did get what I wanted to know from this ride and that was the main goal. The secondary goal was met as well- no bad feelings and I didn't knock my health backward as a result. In fact, Sunday I felt even better than I did on Saturday.

On the way back to the house I saw that where there had been snow on the way out that it had melted and it was gone. Things were wetter. Water was trickling down the streets and alleys as if it were a Springtime melt. The Sun even popped out after I got about halfway to the house. The chance I had for a decent ride had passed. By the time the Sun appeared in the sky, the trails would have started to become a mire of mud and slush. It would not have provided the opportunity for me to get what I needed out of the ride. I guess I got lucky and hit the timing just right.

The next day was rainy and still warm, but trail riding would have been out of the question, so it only confirmed that I had hit the timing spot on for what I needed on that ride. Late Saturday and again on Sunday I got in two longer walks with my family as well, so I felt somewhat back on the road to health too. I'm looking forward to this short week and sneaking in some other rides soon. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Trans Iowa V11: A Look At The Rules Part 11

Ira Ryan & Brian Hannon crossing a county blacktop in Wadena IA on T.I.V3
Last year I did a historical overview of each Trans Iowa up to T.I.V9. This year I am going to revisit something that I feel many folks have overlooked for a long time; The "Race Rules".

Last week I discussed the "single speed rule" and this week we take a look at a concern Jeff and I had about our course which was taken into account with the next two rules seen here....

11: You are completely on your own. Use your head. Look and yield for traffic. There will be no course marshalls to hold up traffic. Don't be a dumbass!

12: Riders must wear an ANSI or Snell approved helmet, must obey city, county and state laws and Rules of the Road, and conduct themselves in a manner that will not bring discredit to the event.

As I was doing the mapping for the first Trans Iowa to be held in 2005, I was alarmed by the amount of North/South county roads and state highways we were going to cross. It seemed as though there was pavement every five miles or so. Stop signs aplenty! I knew traditional road races had lead cars, maybe a sweeper car, and in many cases, a closed course. There was absolutely no way we were going to be able to pull any of that stuff off, at least in any traditionally understood way. Jeff told me not to worry, that he'd take care of it, and he did that with these two rules.

Rider- Matt Maxwell T.I.V7: Image by Steve Fuller
The first rule is purely Jeff. This was the rule that was to point out to riders that they needed to be careful at road crossings. The second rule was likely something Jeff copied over from somewhere else. The wording of these two rules would indicate that. It's easy to see that the wording is completely different.

In my opinion, these two rules are the second most important rules behind the self-supported rule of Trans Iowa. Riders must use discretion and caution at every crossing and especially going through larger towns and villages. Without riders being at their best, Trans Iowa cannot exist in its current form, or at all, really.

Finally, I always thought that the part that says "...conduct themselves in a manner that will not bring discredit to the event" was kind of weird. I suppose it would be easy to enforce this rule, say if someone was pitching a hissy fit in some town in front of a bunch of folks. However; I have no idea what most of the riders are doing when Trans Iowa is happening, so it is almost an unenforceable rule. Well.....until after the fact. I suppose. Then I could enforce banishment. <==HA! 

Next Week: Turn on the lights and charge up them cell phones!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Trans Iowa V11: On Volunteers

Okay, since Trans Iowa V11's Rookie registration has ceased, I have seen and heard from several would be riders that they would like to see about volunteering in Trans Iowa. This is all well and fine, but when I see suggestions from friends of folks that missed out that they should volunteer because they would be guaranteed entry into the next T.I.?  Well, that raised a lot of red flags with me. 

First of all, I have all the volunteers that I can use now, so there will not be anymore bodies added. All that I contact in the Spring and actually show up to volunteer will be given a free, nontransferable pass into a possible Trans Iowa V12. Realizing that isn't a guarantee, by the way, just that if it happens, these folks have that grace to utilize.

People are "hungry" to get into Trans Iowa, I get that, but the thing is, now volunteering is seen as a way to get into the event, not so much as a will to actually help with a free, grassroots event on rural roads. It used to be that I had very few actually use their "free pass". Obviously there were a lot of volunteers last year and only three are coming back to use their opportunity to ride in T.I.V11. That's typical. I bet if I didn't already have so many volunteers I could staff the event totally with a group that had their eye on being in the event next time. That, to me, would be a shame.

You see, there are folks that want to be a part of the Trans Iowa experience that would never ride in it, either due to physical issues, or they just aren't motivated that way. However; they do want to get an up-close look, or are just altruistically interested in helping. I'd like to keep the door open for those folks. So, if there is a T.I.V12, there will be a limited number of free entries into a possible next Trans Iowa event. I'm thinking that number is three. That's about the average from the past, and I think that is a fair number.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday News And Views

Trans Iowa Clinic

Last year we did a Trans Iowa Clinic and it was quite well received so it was decided that we should and could do this again. The basic format will be similar. The focus will be on the Q&A session with former Trans Iowa Veterans and Finishers including Steve Fuller, Mike Johnson, Dan Buettmer, and Sarah Cooper. Some of these folks are actually going to be in T.I.V11 and some are going to be volunteers. We may be adding a couple more folks, but this is a solid panel. If you are coming into Trans Iowa as a rookie, or thinking of doing some other longer gravel events, (which all of our panelists have done as well), please consider attending.

  • What: Trans Iowa Clinic: A gravel grinder question and answer session with seasoned Trans Iowa riders. There also will be an expo of several bikes set up to do a Trans Iowa. Attendees will be able to get a close up look at the bikes and gear used in a Trans Iowa along with an opportunity to pick these athlete's brains to your heart's delight. 
  • When: December 6th @ 5:00pm
  • Where: Krunkwich Ramen House, 621 Des Moines Street, Des Moines Iowa.
  • Why: To aid anyone curious about Trans Iowa to learn more about what it takes to get 'er dun!
  • Who: Anyone. You do not have to be registered to do Trans Iowa. You just have to be "gravel curious"!
What You Need To Do: The clinic is FREE but we will require a preregistration only so we know how many chairs to rustle up and who to expect. Simply e-mail me @ to give me your names. Expect the clinic to run until 9:00pm or so depending upon how the questions flow. Sorry- no children please!

Plenty of room
27.5+ For Winter:

I think that in many cases I could get away with a 2.8-ish sized tire for many snow rides. I used to do many rides on snow "pre-fat bike" on a single speed Dillinger with Blunt 35's and 2.4" Ardents. In fact, I have Duallys with 2.4 inch tires on there as well. I may even be doing something with that bike, but the Sawyer with the 27.5+ wheels and the original rigid fork should be better since it is a single speed with a belt drive which is supposedly better for durability in poor conditions. Maybe we'll just have to see about that.......

If the experiment turns out to be a positive experience, I would then be very interested in getting one of the 170mm OD Rohloff hub. That would go into the titanium Mukluk with a chain drive at first, and maybe a belt drive later. I feel that would be a great set up. Maybe it wouldn't be the best for everything, but one thing I do know- it would be super expensive! The hub alone is $1800.00.

That's a short post but I am a bit under the weather here and need to rest. Have a great weekend folks and get outside!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Meeting In The Middle?

Less "fat"- more "mtb".
As I look at what is going on with off road bicycles, I see a lot of things being tried. It is almost as crazy as it was in the early to mid 90's when so many small manufacturers were putting out dual suspension ideas and components were being turned out of small machine shops at rates none of us could keep up with at the time.

This is almost the case again, only now it isn't about which suspension design is going to end up being "best", but what wheel size, and even more than that, how wide and voluminous a tire are we going to end up with. 

Fat bikes are part of this, but so are the 29+ and the 27.5+ bikes. Big, voluminous tires on wider rims are all the rage now. Regular 2.4" tires, which were considered huge only 5-6 years ago, are now seen as "ho-hum" skinnies. Even I have caught myself looking at 3.8"-4.0" fat bike tires and thinking they were "small". Then I remember when I built up the Snow Dog in 2011 and thought those 3.8" Larrys were humongous!

So, what the heck is going on here? Do we really need these monster truck tires? I've been having several interesting conversations with folks in different parts of the cycling world that have given me a lot to think about. Here's where I think all this is coming from and going to......

29+: Fat and TALL!!
First of all, choices in what you can have in tires, widths of those tires, and in the rims you can mount them to have never been better. You had one choice in the 90's that was wide enough to get you by for mountain biking, and nobody thought twice about it. The reason? No choices. It was simply ludicrous to entertain thoughts of differing wheel sizes and widths of tires when there simply was zero chances you'd ever see it in your lifetime. Or so we thought......

If there was one thing that 29"ers existence did for mountain biking, it was to show the mtb tribes that there might be better alternative wheel and tire sizes to consider. Several years later, the 27.5er size was floated, then fat bikes rose to prominence, and it was on from that point. Surly has been a rabble rouser in the alt tire size scene with its 27.5 sized 26 inch based tires and of course, the 29+ tires which debuted on the Krampus.

Things in the mtb world tend to be cyclical with regard to vast choices. It seems you see tons of innovations and then a weeding out process. For instance, has anyone seen any Allsop stems or Boulder Defiants lately? I rest my case...... well, not really! 

This just to point out the folowing: Expect the tire sizes to weed out to something "in the middle". Fat bikes and 29+ are on the extremes. XC sized rubber in 27.5"er and 29"er sizes is on the conservative end. Somewhere in between I feel things will settle out, and that "somewhere", in my opinion, is 27.5+. 

Vee Tire Trax Fatty 27.5 X 3"
Already we are seeing fat bikes being pushed as "mountain bikes", which they can be. However; do you really need a huge, 3.8" tire that requires a special frame, and what is more, a really wide bottom bracket?

What if you could get some of those "fat bike benefits" in a slightly lighter, more traditional bike dimension friendly package? Fat tires have inherently attractive qualities for the off roader. Volume means lower air pressures which gain you comfort, traction for days, and stability which bodes for more confident, faster railing of terrain. However; fat bike tires, rims, and their dimensions push the weight limits and biomechanic boundaries a bit too far for some folks. Not to mention the special designs for frames and suspension bits.

29+ showed us that going slightly skinnier was a great idea to cut down on the "fat" and super wide bottom brackets. However; the huge diameter of these wheels, (something over 31" in most cases), is ponderous and just too big for a lot of people to have a bicycle designed around them. Enter B+/27.5+ tires and wheels.

Understanding that 29"er wheels have already had every conceivable type of mtb designed around their diameter, the 29-ish diameter size of the 27.5+ wheel is an easier thing to accommodate for. It would fit a wider slice of the mtb populace than 29+, and it can be had in 2.8"-3.0" widths already. Many current 29"er hardtails already exist which would work with the wheel size and full suspension designs could be executed without too much trouble going forward.

Plus sized benefits with fat bike tire traits in a package that is already somewhat familiar to current mountain bikers? Sounds like a plan to me.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Where It All Began

From a 1980 Des Moines Register article

What you are looking at here represents what is pretty much one of the major reasons Trans Iowa got started. This article is the story about four road riders that decided to try to cross the state of Iowa in a single day on road racing style bikes. I happen to work for one of the four men who did this, know another, and have met the eldest one just recently. They are all nice guys, but you'd never know they had done this unless they told you. It's one of those forgotten "feats of strength" that not too many folks know about.

That's a shame really.

So, how did this forgotten ride that happened 34 years ago help to spawn Trans Iowa, and arguably, the whole gravel scene that followed? Interestingly, it was because a couple of mountain biking fans got fed up with hearing the story a few times too many.

An old story of road riding tripped the trigger for the idea of Trans Iowa Image by W. Kilburg
I mention it in the film "300 Miles Of Gravel" when I am talking about how Trans Iowa got its start and I allude to the "riding across Iowa in a day on road bikes". Jeff Kerkove and I were mechanics together at Europa Cycle & Ski, and Russ Clarke, our boss, (and still is my boss!), used to regale us with stories about road riding when the business was slow, which it typically is during November. After one particularly long assault on our mtb leaning minds, which ended with the riding across Iowa story, Jeff asked the now infamous question, "What if we rode across Iowa on mountain bikes....?"

 Of course, we wouldn't be able to do that on dirt. Iowa is, after all, a very agrarian state and most of the countryside is plowed and tilled. However; there are a claimed 70,000 plus miles of gravel roads with some dirt ones sprinkled in for good measure. You know the rest of that story......

Now, there were other influences on Trans Iowa, certainly, and the whole gravel riding scene may have popped up without us at some point, but if you ever come to do Trans Iowa, or have ridden in it, or ride other events inspired by T.I., then you have these four humble gents to thank for it. At least in part. I cannot imagine Trans Iowa ever happening without them.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

How To Dress For The Cold Weather Commute

Those "things" on my handle bars are essential for successful cold weather commuting.
There isn't any "bad weather" for riding bicycles, just "bad clothing choices".

You've likely heard that and thought to yourself, "Yeah.....whatever Buddy! I bet you don't ride when it gets really cold out there!"

Well, as a matter of fact, I do- and so could you.

Here's how I tackled a 7°F commute straight into a 22mph Northwest wind, (so wind chills were, ya know....ridiculous!), and returned when it was a bit balmier. If you can call 12°F "balmy"! I'll walk you through my equipment choices and clothing here, and then you'll have to decide what will work for you. I am not saying to anyone that my set up is "the set up", but I am saying it could be a guide for you and I hope this encourages you to stretch your boundaries of what you think is possible for bicycling in Winter.

Equipment: I choose to ride my titanium Mukluk in Winter because my commute crosses several snowy sections, places where snow drifts, and several places where there is ice. Fat bikes are inherently stable beasts, and of course, they have tons of traction, so they are a good bicycle to use for Winter commuting, but you can use a fixed gear bike, hybrid, or a mountain bike if you want. Just make sure that it is in good running order, with great winter tires for traction, (maybe consider studded tires), and that everything is lubed and in order. The last thing you want is to have a break down when it is cold! Finally, I highly recommend "pogies". These are the fabric "covers" over the bars which you insert your hands into on the open end. Think of them as big, warm "hand socks" which block the wind, and you'll get the idea. If you suffer from cold hands, these are indispensable. I got mine at Blaine's Farm & Fleet as a gift. The "ATB" pogies, or "bar mitts", are cheaper, and oversized for bicycles, but they typically sell for less than $20.00 a pair. "Real" bicycle pogies are smaller and less apt to catch the wind but are higher priced.

Take me to your leader!
Clothing Choices: Starting with the feet, I used some heavy wool boot socks and my Keen Brixen boots, (out of production) which are lighter Winter boots. Obviously, I don't use clipless pedals, but instead I use flat platform pedals with traction pins. This works a trick in Winter since I don't have to worry about getting into or out of pedal bindings and I can wear footwear that actually keeps my feet warm!

On the bottom, I opt for wool long underwear and a pair of Dickies 874 work pants. That's all I need to stay warm on the bottom, but if I weren't so warm blooded, I'd maybe add a pair of rain pants to block the wind. Your call....

Up top I use a wool long sleeved base layer, my cotton t-shirt I have to wear for work, and then a hooded jersey. Mine is an old Nike thermal hooded jersey, but you might find other brands or even wool ones now days. I put an old Zoic Black Market jacket over this. It is a windproof synthetic jacket that fits fairly loose. Choose something windproof that is similar and you should be fine. On the head, besides the hood, I put on a Challenge Tires branded fleece cap and then my Bell helmet. On the way to work, into the wind, I used a Craft balaclava, which is thin but does a wonderful job of keeping the wind off your face. That goes on first, by the way. On my eyes I used Spy Optic Daft glasses with the amber tinted lens. The rimless design with mucho coverage works like goggles without the bulk and weight. On my hands I used some Polarfleece gloves that are MallWart cheapos. Under the pogies, you can get away with almost nothing on your hands. And.....that's all. 

Keys To The Kingdom: Whatever you decide to wear, you should always be a bit chilled to start out. Working the pedals and if there is any wind, or hills, will cause you to build up heat and you'll be fine. Start out all warm and toasty and you'll end up overheating and getting sweaty, which will end up freezing your butt off, amongst other parts. It might also be wise to pack extra clothes to switch into later in case you have a longer commute or need to look "presentable" when you get to your destination. Whatever you do, don't choose your commuting/cycling Winter clothes primarily based upon looking good. Function over fashion here.

Okay, hope that helps get you started on tackling a situation on your bicycle you thought was undoable. Ride on!

Monday, November 17, 2014

White Is The New Dirt

On the "Marky-Mark" trail.
Saturday we got our first good dosage of snow. It didn't come until well into the afternoon, but I was not able to get away until then due to dog-sitting duties and other situations. Once I got freed up, I set out to go make some tracks.

Of course, having big, voluminous tires with crazy tread makes even this two inches or so of white fluff pretty much nothing. It isn't any different than riding on dirt. Kinda like "white dirt"! It wasn't until I went up the steep incline of the dike that I even noticed the tires working hard at all. Up until that point I could disregard that this was snow I was riding on. It was simply not challenging at all.

That isn't to say that I was not having fun, because I was. Ripping through the corners as fast as I wanted to go despite the conditions was cool. Hidden sand and branches don't affect the big tires either, so while I may have been upended on a skinnier tired bike, this seemed almost like cheating. If we get to a point where we have a deeper base and it has been walked upon, skied upon, and what not, that is where these behemoth tires will earn their keep. There and on the deeper snowed in trails and snowmobile tracks.

Black Hawk Creek is just starting to ice over.
I hadn't been out to "Marky-Mark" for a while, but I see someone with a chain saw came through and cleared it up. It doesn't have any logs to test your bunny hopping skills on anymore nor is it closed in upon you in that section between the ponds. Gee.......its almost as if it were a legit trail now. Next thing ya know the City will run that stupid end loader through there, straighten out all the corners, and turn it into a path for the elderly.

Anyway, for now it seems okay, and obviously, it is easily found and you can clear it without fuss. I don't mean to come off as "unthankful", because it was a good deed, but ya never know where that might lead if ya don't know who has taken on the job of trail custodian. If it is the City, well....... I'm not confident things will stay as fun as they are now. Let's just leave it at that.

It isn't like I own that trail or anything. It is Public land, after all, and I have no say. Just like I stated a while back when speaking of this trail- I truly am amazed any of it is still there after all these years.  In fact, there used to be an extension of Marky-Mark that went Eastward past the original trail and came out by the lake. It was a much longer trail and in the middle it was susceptible to flooding. I had a laugh Saturday when I came out of Marky-Mark because you cannot even make anything out of that former trail now, whereas Marky-Mark thrives in comparison.

It was snowing pretty good by the time I got home and had the lights on. The trails will be beaten in by traffic by now, but it was fun to be out while it was snowing when the single track looked like a white line instead of like dirt. That doesn't happen often around here. It may not last either, as not only the traffic but warmer weather is supposed to arrive in about a week. We'll see........ For now it is going to feel like a walk in freezer out there!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Trans Iowa V11: A Look At The Rules Part 10

Charlie Farrow struggles against the wind and hills of T.I.v10. Image by W. Kilburg
Last year I did a historical overview of each Trans Iowa up to T.I.V9. This year I am going to revisit something that I feel many folks have overlooked for a long time; The "Race Rules".

Last week I picked the series back up with a discussion of Rules #7 & #8, which can be seen here This week I will discuss Rule #10 which reads as follows.....

10: All singlespeed/fixie category racers must start and finish on the same gear. So, that means don't stick 10 assorted freewheels/track cogs in your bag. You CAN run a flip-flop hub, but both gears (freewheel & cog) must have the same number of teeth.

One would assume that a "single speed" means just that- one cog to rule them all and in the Darkness bind them.... Oh! Wait a minute..... Anyway, you know, it is assumed that you cannot switch your gear ratio as a single speeder, right? Well, let me tell ya......

See, ya got yer flip flop hubs and yer dinglespeeds, and yes- some even pack the tools to swap out cogs in the field. We were getting questions during the lead up to the first Trans Iowa about "what was a single speed?" What was our definition? Jeff wrote the rule to address that.

Fixed finisher Jay Barre- Only the third one ever in ten years.
We've never had any issues with the single speed class since the beginning. Maybe this rule is unnecessary? Probably not, so it stays. We lumped the single speed freewheelers in with the fixie guys. However; it has become very evident throughout the years that doing 300 plus miles of Springtime Iowa gravel is.......difficult. 

I don't have any hard numbers for fixed gear attempts, but I feel pretty sure that since V3 there has been at least one rider in the field that has taken the start on a fixed gear machine. Maybe there were guys in V2 running fixed? I'd like to know.....Updated: I remember now! One of the LaLonde brothers attempted T.I.V2 on a fixie and was running up front in the event until the mud and rain just became too much for everyone.

Anyway, the very first fixed gear finisher and the very first guy I was ever aware of that attempted a Trans Iowa on a fixie was Ken Yokanovich. His bike even had panniers! Then I know that in V4 Eric Brunt was on a Steamroller but had to stop since he didn't make the cut off for CP#1. V5 saw Ben Shockey pull off a fixed gear finish, which was pretty amazing due to the tough course that year.

That was it. There were fixed gear attempts, but no one even got close until last Spring when Jay Barre pulled off an incredible, highly unlikely finish in what I have said is probably the toughest Trans Iowa ever. How he managed to survive the hills, winds, storms, and mud to reach the end was unfathomable to me. But....he did. 

The "freewheelin'" single speeders have always fared well at Trans Iowa. Almost every edition has seen a single speed rider in the top five and a single speed rider has finished Trans Iowa in second place three times out of the ten run.  One of these days a single speed rider will win it all.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Trans Iowa V11: Registration Daze: Final Words.....

While the roster was settled on Monday, the Rookie registration for Trans Iowa V11 caused the biggest stir ever since the Rogue Seven of Trans Iowa V2's registration. I got more suggestions to "fix things" than ever and a ton of questions. I wanted to put out a definitive "final word" on this situation to settle the subject once and for all. Okay? Here we go....

  • Letting More Folks In: Short answer- NO. Longer answer: This format, the way Trans Iowa has been formulated carefully and thoughtfully over ten years time, will not support more riders in the event. There are two main reasons for this. One is convenience store supply options. I cannot expect that having more people swarm a convenience store will be good for the competitors, the businesses, or Trans Iowa in general. We are already seeing and hearing that certain situations regarding convenience stores and the riders coming in are stressing the limits of what these stores can reasonably supply. To go "bigger" would require a different way of supplying the riders and would fundamentally change the way I would need to staff and fund Trans Iowa. Secondly, it would cause more issues with traffic, people needing to relieve themselves, garbage, and more. So far, Trans Iowa has not been adversely affected by such issues, but I know other events that got "bigger" and have these sorts of challenges. Again- I could find a way to take care of all of these things given more money and manpower. That isn't in the cards, and I don't want to fundamentally change Trans Iowa into another Dirty Kanza 200, or like event. Like it or not, Trans Iowa is as "big" as I am willing for it to ever get.
  • Making Things Fair: There was a fair amount of comments complaining about the way that some could drive their entries in, be waiting at the door, or that had access to local folks who could drop off cards for them. Others had delivery nightmares with over night packages coming either too early or too late. Hear this: IF Trans Iowa happens again, the registration for Rookies will change to eliminate differences in how I get the post cards. I will say no more than that, but I have a plan, and I won't have to use it if I cannot/will not do another Trans Iowa event. Stay until next year sometime. Don't ask me again now!! I'd like to focus on THIS Trans Iowa, if you please. 
  • Qualifying Event(s): This idea was independently thought of by myself and another T.I. rider. It basically would entail that if someone that had never ridden a Trans Iowa finished a certain event, they would have a free pass to take on a Trans Iowa, if that should happen again. I am intrigued by this idea, but I am not fully sold on it either. This will go into the "think tank" for now, but I would entertain comments and suggestions on the merits, or lack thereof, on this concept. 
  • And Finally: As in anything related to Trans Iowa, folks typically want whatever they are concerned about in regard to the event to be made easier. So, the obvious thing to do is to make it harder to get into Trans Iowa. So, after the dust settles, and T.I.V11 is in the rear view mirror, and IF I get the itch to do this madness again, you can pretty much guarantee that I will tweak the registration qualifications or process, (or both), to make it more difficult to get into Trans Iowa for Rookies. It's basic economics. More Demand = Higher Prices. I know I see a LOT higher demand for spots. The spots available are EXTREMELY limited. Makes perfect sense to me. 
Comments and suggestions are always considered. Please e-mail me or hit the comments section. Thanks!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday News And Views

The Blackborow DS
It Came Early!

The Blackborow bikes were due to be delivered by late November. The geared ones, that is. The Dingle Speed ones were not supposed to show up until December. I wasn't thinking I'd see mine until then or later. I know the usual drill with bicycle companies- over-promise, under-deliver. I was fully expecting something along those lines.

However; I walked into the back door at work Thursday and there it was! The "Forest Service Green" Blackborow DS. Oh boy........I was excited but I also was in a pickle since my financial house wasn't quite ready for this. That's my problem, so I'll just tell you all what you really want to know- how does it ride? 

Two things: Smooth and nimble. The tires I figured would be horrible rollers, and while there is no escaping the tell-tale rumble of the Lou's tread, it rolls far better than I figured it would. Then there is the handling, which is really dialed and the shorter rear end is definitely noticeable.  This acts more like a "regular" mountain bike than you'd ever expect. I was cutting turns at slow speed in the shop that were eye opening from the standpoint of how easy it was to steer and maneuver. Kicking the pedal and popping the front end up is far easier than on a Mukluk. I can also see where putting a Bluto on this would be a really great idea. Stuffing the front wheel into a rocky rut for rain drainage out back showed me that much to be true.

The shop also received this geared Blackborow
The dinglespeed thing was intriguing, and I purposely put it in the "low" combination for my brief test ride to see what I thought. Honestly, it is pretty spot on for any single speeder's trails. It isn't that "super low" gear I might need for slogging through deeper stuff, but it'll be fun to see how far I can go. The higher gear should be perfect for commuting in the slop and on snowy streets.

The bike has all the braze ons for a geared set up, I'd just need a new drive side Alternator plate and I can gear this up no problem. I figured I'd try this set up for Winter and then decide where to go from there. I really feel that this will be the smart way to go for at least the Winter time. Last year I trashed a chain and many of my drive train bits were really put through the ringer along with the brakes. I had a piston seize up on a caliper and rust set in on the rotors as well. It was a rougher year last year, but still. Wasting decent 9 or 10 speed stuff on roads for commuting really doesn't make sense when this dinglespeed set up is made to resist that sort of corrosion. Time will tell how that works out.

Trans Iowa Clinic:

We're all done with T.I.V11 registration so now we are announcing that the Trans Iowa Clinic will again be happening. The date is December 6th. The place will be the same as last year's venue, which was then called Tacopocalypse, but is now dubbed Krunkwich Ramen House. Of course, this is all in Des Moines Iowa.

We're working on bringing some gear out all set up for Trans Iowa and the panel will consist of a few women and men that have finished Trans Iowa who will be available for a Q&A session. There may be a couple of slides and we may be doing something for those who will not be available to attend, so that the riders who live far off can maybe pick up some pointers.

One question: Does anyone want to see the movie "300 Miles Of Gravel" again? Give us a shout out here so we can add that in if there seems to be enough interest in seeing that again. More details will be released soon as far as specific times and hopefully we'll have a sign up list going soon. Stay tuned......