Thursday, June 30, 2016

Country Views Part 4- Man High By The 4th of July

Bennington School #3 seen from the North.
There used to be an old country saying that went like this: "Knee high by the 4th of July". It was said to be the measure of a good corn crop. Shorter than that, and the corn crop probably would be poor. If the corn was knee high, or higher, it was considered to be a "good omen".

That was back when individual corn plants were planted in hills that were on corners of imaginary squares, so that the corn could be cultivated in rows or diagonally. Things weren't so genetically modified for swift growth either. Make no mistake- corn "hybrid" plants by definition are a "GMO", just not necessarily an "intentionally modified" plant. But I digress..........

The point is, that these days with the hybrids the farmers use, "knee high" happens far before the 4th of July, so the old saw needed modification too, I figured. That's why I am saying "Man high by the 4th of July" to describe a good year for corn so far. I hadn't been out North for almost a month, so I saw that the corn had grown a lot, and indeed, it is "man high" already. Maybe I need to modify the saying further to say LeBron James high by the 4th of July".


A wild area alongside the West ditch on a section of Burton Avenue.
In England they have these "hedgerows" along fields, and places in Europe do as well. We really don't have that exact thing here, but sometimes you come along these "wild rows", so to speak, where vegetation has been allowed to run riot for decades and create its own little ecosystem. These are rare in a day where every inch of tillable land is monetized and made to turn a profit. I stopped by for a short visit and saw some neat things.

A lady bug and another insect busy doing whatever they are doing on this budding plant.
This "wild row" was a riot of different vegetation. Notice the wild asparagus on the left. 
If you looked closely enough, you could find little treasures, like these wild berries.
I moved on from the "wild row" eventually, and after a while I noticed several new blooms that weren't out yet last time I was up this way. There are always a few flowers I see every year that I swear I've never noticed before. This ride proved to be no exception to that rule for me.

Notice the "busy bee".
The weather here has been absolutely stunning. I haven't seen a good stretch of weather like this in a long time. So, there was no way I was staying at home on a day that featured light winds, blue skies, and temperatures in the 70's. That would be insanity. Now I did have some obligations to attend to, but I allowed for a decent stretch of time to get away and enjoy this fantastic weather.

I did have a spot of dog bother though. I was traveling East on Marquis Road East of Highway 63 when a big black lab came bounding out of a farm yard. I had no gas to out run that animal, so I planned to stop and stand my ground. I made a mistake in trying to unclip from the right as my brakes locked up and sent the bike in a slide to the right. I was leaned a bit to the left, to keep from totally losing control. However; my attempt at getting unclipped from the right was misguided and slow which caused me to lurch backward to try and get my footing, which I did not do. So, I toppled over backward, which was obviously the right thing to do because the dog turned tail and ran for the house! I was a bit embarrassed, dusty, and I punctured my left shin, but otherwise I was none the worse for the wear and I avoided having to deal with a dog after all. So, I remounted and slowly ground away up the road.

The ditches were lined with Lillies on the way back to town
Country home.
The Tamland with "B" shoes on.
I rode the Raleigh Tamland Two with the 650B Velocity Aileron rims and WTB Horizon tires. These are really interesting wheels and tires. I decided to try something ridiculous as far as tire pressures go. Really, really low. I read the bit about the current Silca owner and his experimentation with tire pressures while he was at Zipp Wheels and I decided, what the heck! The rear was a bit too low, so I went back on that, but the front stayed where I put it for the entire ride. I'll have more on that later.

I was laughing out loud at one point during the ride because I had stopped and I looked back at my tracks. They made me think of these Horizon tires like grain wagon tires. You know the ones with the slanted, "gravity bottom" beds with the tires being big, bulbous deals with reversed lines in them for tread? Well, those tires float over the gravel and kind of compress it, so when you see those tracks later on the gravel roads the gravel looks smashed down, like a rolling pin went over it. Well, that is what these Horizon tires do at really low pressures.

More coming soon......

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Adventure By Bicycle Simplified

Gino Bartali circa 1936- Showing not much has changed in a long time.
Bicycling has a problem with being an activity that on one hand wants to include more people and then tells you on the other hand how you are not doing it right. Bi-polar references aside, I often have to shake my head at how even the mainstream press in cycling does thing like this. Divisive, counterproductive articles that not only are not helpful, they also are not even close to being right.

Here is a newsflash for y'all: nothing is new in cycling. Yep. Nothing. The whole deal concerning one of my favorite cycling activities- gravel grinding- isn't new. Roadies started it, and it has been going on here for decades. I haven't advocated that this is a new, awesome genre' of cycling, but I have asked that we look backward to previous cycling eras for some ideas that work well for riding on gravel. So that we can have equipment much better suited to doing this activity than we've been able to get. And now we are getting that, and it is an awesome thing.

The other part of the whole marketing who-ha that is happening now is the debate about what to call this thing, this "not road racing", not "mountain biking", not "hybrid biking" thing that we are doing with these bicycles. Some are saying it isn't what people are calling it, while some try one name or another, and others throw their hands in the air in exasperation. Sheesh! How do we expect to invite new folks along for the ride when we cannot even agree amongst ourselves what it is we are doing or how we are doing it? Heaven forbid you bicycle and not know The Rules! Yeah........ what a freakin' mess cycling is! 

Just, you know.......having fun!
So you might ask if I am going to do something, offer an alternative, or am I just another whiner? Fair enough. Actually, I feel I have already done some things about it, to be honest. The Geezer Ride concept has successfully been done four times in four different locations. The rides attracted several cyclists, many first timers to longer rides, and was hailed at every ride as a great time. I saw another concept for a ride where folks are going to ride in the country, get back to a central place to barbecue, and play vinyl records while wearing old concert t-shirts.

So just what is it that makes these rides so attractive? Is it the specific bicycles that we are using? Are we following rules? Does it cost a bunch of money and have aid stations? What is it? I'll tell ya what it is that is going on here.......

These things called "adventure" and "fun" are central to these rides. You know......those things that made you want to ride as a kid? Freedom, a calming feeling, or a thrilling one. Whatever, but they all were not tied to what a gravel grinder is, or if an adventure bike is really a mountain bike. Bah! Phooey! 

The fact of the matter is that all two wheeled, human powered, bicycles are adventure machines. There is no need to argue. There is no need to tell me or you that we are doing it wrong, or that this bike is that kind of bike, not what you think it is. We don't need "The Rules".  No, we do not need all of that and more. We just need to be pedaling, having fun, and doing that in a way that doesn't get us killed just for having fun.

I just happen to think it isn't really all that complicated. Just go ride. Have an adventure and have fun. 


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Riddler Riding

The WTB Riddler 37 on a Velocity A23
Okay, so here we go with the WTB Riddler tires. I mentioned these last Friday and said I was going to try them on my Velocity A23 rims, which I have done. You can read all the details on that HERE.

I am going to try to stay away from repeating myself between the stuff and here, so this post should have some different information than that linked one does. Okay, so as far as this tire goes, here are some thoughts I have.

It has the oddity of being what size WTB says it is. Tire companies have, for years now, said such-and-such a tire is "x" inches wide and you could easily win bets by saying that the tire would not be that width, but skinnier. Almost every single time, this was the case. However; now it seems that, for whatever reasons, tires are more than likely going to actually be the size printed on the sidewalls, or be bigger than stated width. The Gravel King 40's are an example where I don't think anyone has measured one of those tires at 40mm. It is always reported to be wider than that.


Don't get me wrong, I love that things have switched around in that way concerning tires. It makes you feel like you got more for your hard earned dollars when your 40mm tire turns out to be more like a 42mm tire. That said, your now 42mm tire may not fit the bike you had intended it for. That's the flip side of this tire deal, and it can be a bummer. But just know that as far as the gravel bike tire class widths go, you should be getting what you paid for, and you'd better have the room for that tire in your bike!

The Riddler 37 is just such a tire. 37.2mm average width across both tires I measured, and that is on a "roadie width" A23 rim. I really feel the 36-37mm width tires are the sweet spot for most gravel. Not too heavy, but just wide enough to give you most of what a heavier 40mm tire would. Not as skinny and as low volume as a 33-35mm tire either, which you are more likely to get a harsher ride out of because you can't go so low on the pressures. Plus at that width, around here, tires start "hunting lines", cutting into and not rolling over gravel, and that's wasting energy.

More soon.....

Monday, June 27, 2016

A Note From The Artist

The finish line for T.I.v12 featured the banner made from my original artwork.
Today I am going to share the story behind the original artwork for the header for the Trans Iowa site that represented Trans Iowa v12. The reason I am doing this now is because I was asked via a text message yesterday what I had intended with this version of the Trans Iowa header. Well, here is the answer, and it might be more than was asked for, but this is the story. Here goes....

My daughter, Izabel, is into anime and the Japanese art that goes along with that. There are a fair amount of dragons associated with this genre' and so she likes dragons quite a bit. When she found out that I used to draw dragons back in my high school days, she begged and pleaded with me to draw her one. I resisted until one day I decided that I could maybe do a dragon for the 12th Trans Iowa.

The  connection to Trans Iowa came along because ever since the race has existed, I have heard stories about how riders had to "wrestle their demons", or sometimes one or two folks would put it as "slaying your dragon". A sort of medieval reference to knights and their quests, I suppose. Well, at any rate, that all is kind of a mystical, spiritual sort of imagery, and that also fit in with my personal take on Trans Iowa, or any endurance event I do. In the end, drawing a dragon not only satisfied my daughter, who absolutely loved it, by the way, but it fit perfectly in with what I think several folks think of when they come to do Trans Iowa. That is, they come to "overcome" and what better way to represent that than with the idea of a dragon to slay?

Mike Johnson, (L) shares a laugh with MG. The dragon was made into a hat for the T.I.v12 volunteers.
Artwork for Trans Iowa used to be done by Jeff Kerkove. He had that task up through T.I.v9. When it came time for Trans Iowa v10, which I was pretty damn sure was going to be the very last Trans Iowa, I decided to draw my own artwork on the computer as a "swan song" of sorts to the event. Because of the importance of this to me, I decided to render up a couple of different designs, and actually, I ended up with three. I ran one, the original T.I.v10 header, until I was satisfied with what ended up becoming the T.I.v10 logo and that year's t-shirt design. When T.I.v10 was done, and I was convinced of running another, I just popped up the already finished artwork I had done as an alternative T.I.v10 logo with a modification to make it read "V11". Meanwhile, a t-shirt idea for the volunteers, (see Mike Johnson's shirt in the image), got me to do another design. Okay, so by now my old artistic ambitions have been rejuvenated, and I decided to take on the T.I.v12 artwork task. So, that is where I was coming from in regard to taking up the gauntlet and meeting the challenge of the artwork needs for T.I.v12.

That design was placed on a light blue background to represent a water color sort of backdrop, something often seen in Eastern art. Then I used a Chinese themed font for the lettering, and there ya go. T.I.v12's art work. Meanwhile, a benefactor to Trans Iowa was asking if I wanted a banner made using the original artwork, and hats using it for the volunteers. I agreed to allow this, and then the artwork was digitized, which is what you see on the banner up above. I, of course, was thrilled to have such a contribution to Trans Iowa, and I still am. The benefactor has asked to remain anonymous, or I'd be writing the name all over this post. Thanks again, and you know who you are!

It's kinda hard not to get a little verklempt as an artist when you see your work getting this sort of attention.
So, we had this banner at Checkpoint #1, to more or less identify us and make us more visible to the riders, then we carted it around to the other checkpoint, where honestly, I have no idea if we displayed it there or not. Anyway, it was at the finish line. Someone asked me if we should display it, and I tossed out the idea of attaching it to two of our wooden stakes right at the "finish line", such as it was. Trust me, I had not given this any thought whatsoever previous to opening my mouth and giving the command. Sometimes things don't go well when you don't pre-plan them out. Most of the time, I'd say. Trans Iowa is pretty well orchestrated by this point in its evolution by anyone's measure. But again, there are things I leave to a moment's notice, which may surprise some of you. In fact, sometimes I plan and plan only to have to think on my feet. (Like the meeting notes I "lost" for the Pre-Race Meat-Up that I had all along!) I think a balance of both is ideal. Anyhow.... All that to say that the banner deal at the finish couldn't have worked out more perfectly.

So, why was the dragon drawn like it was? Well, that is a "style" I have employed in drawings for years where I want to convey some sort of spiritual element. Thus the "fire"/"smoke" sort of look to the thing. Everyone's "dragon" is going to look different to them, and I wanted a somewhat ethereal appearance to the dragon to allow for personal interpretation. Hopefully that happened to some degree, but I don't know.

So, there you have it. The story behind the logo/artwork for Trans Iowa v12.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Clean The Machine

Cleaned up and ready for its close up, Mr DeMille!
I got the WTB Riddler 37's the other day, and I purposed to mount those on the Black Mountain Cycles rig using the Velocity USA A23 wheel set I have. No big deal, right? Just get it done. Wealth of bikes and first world problems aside, I had to do some cleaning of the beast, because I had "ridden it hard and put it away wet" one too many times. The old steed was in desperate need of a good, thorough cleaning.

The bike was last extensively used during the Winter and early Spring testing of three or four different tires. That meant I had done some muddy rides. I had to practically do an archeological dig to uncover the bottom bracket area! Besides that, there had been contact with oil, road spray, and whatever else one might find on city streets, so there was quite a lot of "elbow grease" applied while the cleanup continued through the mid-afternoon yesterday.

The old Bontrager bar tape was also pretty grungy, so I had this Origin 8 bar tape to try out, which is pretty close to "Safety Green". It's really comfortable and grippy, but I'll have to see how it holds up. The "Hi-Viz' thing is not really me, but hey...... I was given the stuff to try out, so I ain't complainin'! I'm sure after a few sweaty, dusty gravel rides it will tone down a bit. After that was put on, I was almost done. Two hours later! I still have to clean up the drive train some more and perhaps put on a new chain.

Then it will be time to give these Riddler treads a go. Stay tuned.......

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Minus Ten Review- 25

A peek at the original GTDRI course from a recon in 2006.
A ten year ago look at this blog from the week of June 19th-25th reveals a long look at the "Great Divide Race". Remember that? It was the precursor to the Tour Divide, which just saw Mike Hall finish in a record, sub-two week, time.

Well, ten years ago, the Tour Divide did not exist, but the roots of the race were being laid by Matthew Lee. That's right, this is the fellow you have to thank for the Tour Divide as it stands today. Here following is a snippet from a post I did ten years ago which better explains what the situation was back then......

"Hey enduro freaks! One of the most epic; if not the most epic, long rides is about to set off from Banff, Canada. It's the "prologue" portion of the Great Divide Race, otherwise known as the "GDR". This event is fully self supported, back road mountain bike touring/racing/ time trialing down the Great Divide Route as laid out by Adventure Cycling and utilized as the race course. Although "officially" the event doesn't start until the junction with the U.S. - Canadian border, the intrepid Matthew Lee, a veteran of the event, utilizes the Canadian section as a "prologue" to the event proper in hopes that one day the entire Great Divide Route will be utilized as the race course."
So, the original intentions Matt had were to keep the race as it was then, but to add the "prologue" portion, so as to make the Divide route complete. Dissenters to this suggestion were against Matt's vision due mostly to traditions and rules set as they were. Eventually, Matt's idea had to be set in a separate event format, and for a year or so, the GDR and TD events were run congruently, but when it became apparent that the TD was more popular, the GDR dropped out of the scene and ever since Tour Divide has been the way we've known this event. Interestingly, in 2008, there were 17 TD riders. This year there were 170 starters for the TD plus some in other categories.

Finally, I had a Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational recon ride.  It went about 80-ish miles in a day where I got rained on, blown away by the wind, and was delayed by an odd man on a Huffy asking weird questions about cycling related numbness of the nether regions. Yeah.... Just what you would want to discuss with a total stranger!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Friday News And Views

And the hits just keep on coming....
More WTB:

As if the Horizon 650B tires weren't enough, and as if the Nano 40TCS tires weren't good enough, now WTB has made another tire in the Riddler which gravel road enthusiasts can look forward to trying out. Of course, this was the tire WTB brought two samples of to Trans Iowa v12 and gave away to the Womens Open winner, Sarah Cooper. There will be a 45mm version coming in August, but for now, these  37's are here and will get tested on

I saw these tires only briefly at T.I.v12, and of course, I had other things on my mind that weekend, so I didn't really get a good look at them back then. However; I have obviously taken a closer look now, and I think these will make some good gravel going treads, if I am right about them. First, they have a decent weight, at about 460gm/470gm for each tire. Secondly, the tread pattern is minimal in the center and the edge knobs look decent and I feel that is the way a gravel tire should be. If the edge knobs give lateral stability, and the width is true to spec, then I think these will be winners.

They are a TCS tire, so coupled with a WTB TCS rim, or a Velocity rim, they should pan out to be something that works really well tubeless. That's based upon my experiences with the TCS Nano 40. In fact, I will likely start out these tires with my A-23 wheels and stick them on my trusty Black Mountain Cycles Orange Crush. Later on I think I'll try them on the PWGW wheel set and stick those on the T-6 Standard Rando. Anyway, I am expecting great things from these tires since they are from WTB, and the Nano 40 and, so far, the Horizon 47's have been very impressive tires. I'll be very disappointed if these tires don't at least come out as well as the Nano 40 has.

Wish I was here.....but then again, maybe I don't. Image by Wally Kilburg
 Odin's Revenge

This weekend is Odin's Revenge, a race that I have participated in several times now. I've never been able to pull off a finish there. There are many reasons for that, one of the biggest being that it is an insanely difficult course and usually the event is run when it is very hot. I don't do well when those two factors come together.

Still, it is a "vision quest", a "sweat lodge", or maybe it is a Don Quixote kind of a deal for me. Perhaps it is all of that. I love the event, I really enjoy the people that put it on and how they do things, and I absolutely love the area. I wanted to go this year, and I fully intended to until just after the DK200 trip when I found out that my sister had planned a little something and it requires my attendance, so I had to back out. Honestly, it bums me out that I am not on the road with my friend Tony, headed west to the hills and canyons of West Central Nebraska.

Then again, I am also kind of glad I am not going. It's going to be brutally hot there this year. I'd have a really rough go of it, I am sure. Still........ I'll miss the deal. But the reason I am staying is undeniably a good reason. Can't argue that. More on that after the weekend.......

Tour Divide Track Leader board as of 6/23 @ 10:27pm

Tour Divide:

Looks like sometime today we will have a Tour Divide winner, and it will be in under two weeks time.

That's pretty amazing.

I think the pointy end of this event has been pretty typical of years past, only, ya know.......faster. Anyway, Trans Iowa veteran Chris Plesko looks to nab second and set a new single speed record in the process. A record he currently holds, by the way. Amazing X 2!

Okay, I'm gonna warn y'all.....this is going into retrogrouch territory, probably. But......this TD is weird. Facebook updates? It used to be that you had to hang on waiting for call ins on the TD site, or on wherever that was being hosted, if you got anything but the ubiquitous blue dot. Google Earth lets you look right at the trail, the buildings they are staying in, and it leaves everything void of any imagination or wonder out here as a follower. I don't know, but I bet someone is live broadcasting their ride. Don't tell me if they are, please. But I bet someone is. Is that wrong? I don't know that it is, but for me, it's weird. 

Am I guilty of doing social media too much? Yes. I probably am. However; I always thought the spirit of the TD was that you dropped off the face of the (Google) Earth and went on your own vision quest, with little to no (outside of locals) contact with the outside world. I thought it was a solitary pursuit and that there was zero broadcasting of your whereabouts to get the maximum out of doing this route. Sure, we might have gotten the occasional "he's made it this far" update in the past, but not a blow-by-blow accounting of what you've done for the day, every day you are on the route.

A couple of years ago, a local rider did the TD and we couldn't wait till he got back so he could tell us the stories. we won't have to sit around and listen to stories. Some of these folks have told their story while it happened. I don't's just weird to me. It takes a certain something out of it that,'s hard to explain it right now for me. It just doesn't feel right.

So, like I said. I'm probably being old and in the way. Carry on.........

Hey, I want to wish all those riding and running the Odin's Revenge a great, safe, fun weekend. Everyone else- Have a fun, safe, enjoyable weekend too, and have a cycling adventure, why don'tcha?

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Trying To Kick Start It

I've got a project involving this bike that has been over a year in process!
Too many projects, not enough time. Maybe that sounds familiar to some of you out there. I know I have an ever revolving door of project bikes and things in need of maintenance. Oh! The stuff that needs worked on! Bah! 

Take the case of both of my fat bikes. They both need work and for different reasons. The Blackborow is the one that doesn't need much, but I have had a plan in the works for over a year to try to transform it into something else for Summer uses. I might have almost all the parts.....finally...very soon here. Then there is my Ti Muk which needs a complete drive train overhaul and I am thinking about converting it to a 1 X 10 or 11.

Actually, I have two more fat bikes that need attention. One is my forlorn Snow Dog, which is basically sitting as a frame and fork right now. I maybe have the wheels for it, if I swap a few things around, and enough drive train bits exist that I could probably get it back up and going again. The long term goal there is to do a 27.5+ wheel set for it though. Then there is a more "front burner" project and that is my son's new fat bike. He out-grew the Mukluk he had, but he has made me promise I'll never change it. does fit my wife, but..... I digress, anyway...

I have parts to get that done finally too, but I have to get at it. You know......kick start the thing. Once I get going on it, I am sure I'll get it underneath him.  Can't wait to show that one off. It's gonna look great.

I haven't even touched on my Vaya, or my Inbred, or my bikes that need some tubeless refreshes, or.........

It never ends!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Road Plus Experiment: The Good and The Bad

Gee....Is that a track from a mountain bike tire?
The Horizon 47mm tires on the Raleigh Tamland have been something of a unique experience in many ways. That said, there were a couple of things I thought might happen that did not, or at least are so insignificant that I cannot really feel them.

The tubeless nature of these tires is really good. They set up so easily it was ridiculous, and they have really good air retention without being overly heavy and/or stiff in the casing. The casing was actually pretty flexible, I thought, and the ride feel shows it. In fact, over rough pavement and whoop-de-doos on chip seal, the tires almost make the bike feel like it has a bit of suspension. On the gravel, it is more of a mixed bag.

Maybe I need to change the pressures a little bit more. I found that with bigger volume tires, like the Fat Fargo has, the air pressure is critical. My 1x1 Surly, with the tubeless 2.5"er Extraterrestrials, has to be within about 5psi of optimal or it makes the bike feel awful. I think these Horizon tires will be similar, since I am finding really noticeable differences by adjusting by 3psi or so. By the way, I have never gone above 30psi with these yet. I have tried as low as 25 psi in the front, and it seems that about 27-28psi is a sweet spot for me in the rear. 30 psi rear is about maximum for what I would deem acceptable on gravel. Too much higher and the rounded casing shape would just start cutting in and slipping out on climbs.

Anyway, one area where I was amazed was on Petrie Road. That has turned into some churned up sand/silt and the Horizon tires made short work of that by floating over the stuff like a fat bike would. However; deep, fresh gravel made the tires slip out sideways and they felt kind of like a tire going flat. Weird.

More soon......

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational: Update

Modified the '07 header for this year.
Okay folks, it's time to start talking a bit more about this ride again, since it is a little more than a month away. The first thing y'all need to realize is that this deal is really just a no drop group ride for fun. Would you like to join? Then you are "invited", get it? Plan on an all day long ride of about 140-ish miles. If you are at all interested, here are the details you need to know to make it happen this year.

When: July 30th, 2016

The Starting Place: We are mustering at Prairie Grove Park, known amongst locals as the old "Dinosaur Park", and the parking lot there off West 4th Street at Shaulis Road is where you can leave your vehicle. Or, it is an easy ride from George Wyth State Park if you'd rather camp. There are bike trails all the way to Prairie Grove Park from the State Park, so you could ride over if you wanted.

Lodging: As stated, there is the State Park, or you can motel it choosing any of the several motels in Waterloo/Cedar Falls. Most are near to our network of bike trails, so again- you can ride out if you'd like.

Schedule Of Events: Friday Night: Anyone coming from out of town should plan on getting here by Friday night. If anyone has a mind to get together, I can be available and we could pick a place to have a beer or whatever.

I'll be riding the Gen I Fargo for this ride.
Saturday: The ride will depart from Prairie Grove Park's parking lot at 6:00am sharp. We will ride approximately 27-28 miles to Traer, Iowa and stop at the convenience store there for breakfast grub, such as they have there. Usually they have a good selection of sandwiches and typical convenience store stuff. Approximately at Mile 60 we should get to Gladbrook and the Casey's store there for lunch. Then we will go North and West toward Steamboat Rock by about Mile 92 or so. I still have to see what we can get there. Stay tuned on that. Finally, I am modifying the original route to take us back to our starting point, so we will hit Dike, Iowa at about Mile 127 or so. Then we should pass through Hudson, Iowa about five miles from the finish, so we can stop or not depending on the need.

Folks will likely want to bug out after such a long day, but I might be persuaded to sit around and have a cold one somewhere, who knows. The route will likely be about 140 miles, but as I have said, a lot of this is pretty tame, in terms of hills, so unless the weather is brutal, we should be okay. By the way, there are a lot of ways to shortcut the route up until about Mile 65, where you'll have to make a decision to commit since the route takes a big swing West and further away at that point.

There will be another update coming soon and I will post cues for this ride previous to the event so you can download them and print them off. Old school. Just like we did in '06. I have heard from a couple of guys saying they want to make the trip out to ride this, but if you want to declare your intentions, that would be great. Maybe if you have questions, you need answers, and I may have them. Either way, hit me up at

More coming soon........

Monday, June 20, 2016

Country Views Part 3- More Flowers

Saturday was a time for a quick morning ride out into the country. It was a great day to get out for a couple of hours of riding. I rode the Raleigh Tamland Two with the Velocity/WTB Horizon wheel/tire combo. Here are some views I had during the ride......

Pertrie Road looking West, the way T.I.v12 came through. 
Lots of clover along the road in certain spots.
Usually not seen until late Summer, these Coneflowers were in full bloom already.
The Day Lillies are popping, like I mentioned they would last week.
Chicory along the road in Southern Black Hawk County
Barns For Jason
Rouselow Farms has a couple of nice restored tractors flanking their farm signage.
More soon......

Sunday, June 19, 2016

New Life For Twenty-Nine Plus?

WTB Ranger 29 X 3.0
The feeling I had for a long time here was that 29+, the size championed first by Surly with their Krampus trail bike, was a dead end, mostly, and that there were no really good tires out there supporting the size was a good indication I was on the right track. Then Trek came out with their Stache 29+, and I feel that kind of kept the life in the tire size, but still, no one else was biting. Surly was definitely supporting it, but without some other major brand name tire companies getting behind the size, I feel that it was only a matter of time before the size was a forgotten niche, kind of like 650B tires back in the 90's/early 00's.

That's why when last week a new 29+ tire was introduced, I was brought to attention. No, it wasn't anything by Vee Rubber, and yes, they make tires in this size, but historically anything they do hasn't been a good indicator that the market is behind a trend. So, I don't pay a lot of attention to Vee Rubber.

No, this tire is from WTB, and that should make you think. Why? Because lots of bicycle brands spec WTB tires on their models, and if WTB is making an oddball tire for sale in their line, it is my opinion that something is happening on the OE side that makes this profitable for them. So......

While the Ranger is a cool tire, and I wouldn't mind trying them out in the 27.5 X 2.8 size on my Fat Fargo, perhaps, I think the 29+ version of this model might point to something coming in 29+ soon from a brand tied to bike packing, or one that wants to be. That's my take on this tire.

Time will tell.........

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Minus Ten Review- 24

The classic Raleigh 29"er. The XXIX
Ten years ago this week on this hear ol' blog I was yakking about the Raleigh XXIX, which was their first 29"er effort. Looking back I feel this was a really interesting debut in that it had a non-suspension corrected look and it handled great with this configuration, but it also could be a 80mm travel suspended bike using the then few forks available. That kicked the head angle back to an almost current day 69°. Had we the ability to put on a 46mm offset or 51mm offset fork on there, it would have been perfect. That whole offset thing was still locked in at 38mm back then. Hard to believe it now, right?

I had one of these, but I got it in a Medium and I never could get it to feel right. I should have popped for a size Large and I think had I done that, I would still be riding the thing. Oh, and by the way, my old XXIX is still kickin' it locally here. I sometimes get an update on her from its current owner when I see him.

I also was surprised one day at work to find out that Jeff Kerkove, my former co-worker, had cooked up another blog for me to herd. It was the Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational blogsite, which is still in operation to this day. Originally, Jeff had made this awesome header and the "links" in the right hand margin were all fake, humorous titles that Jeff came up with. It was all really cool and I have him to thank still all these years later for that.

Speaking of Jeff, he was/is a pretty special guy, and in many ways, you'd be surprised to know how he was in private, or if you got to know him well enough. I think a lot of folks thought he was just this dedicated, very disciplined athlete, with no real "fun" or social life. Almost a machine, if you will. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. Take this question he asked me ten years ago which I blogged for all to see:

"If you were stranded on a desert island with only one choice of bicycle tool that you could have with you, what would it be?"

Okay, so that's random, but think about that for a minute. It was obvious that Jeff had a lot of thoughts going around in that big ol' noggin' of his and sometimes crazy stuff would come out if he was comfortable around you. You know.......

.................stuff like Trans Iowa! 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Friday News And Views

Looks weird, rides great.
Road Plus Experiment: Update

So, I have a few rides in on these corpulent tires in the slightly diminutive diameter and........

There is something to this.

The whole "plus" tire movement tends to make riders draw lines and get their pants all wadded up claiming it isn't anything new, the claims are false, and yada, yada, yada..... Well, like I say, there is something to it all, and if there weren't, well, don't you think that by now all those "plus sized bikes" would be sitting on dealer's floors not selling? The thing is, while maybe they are not selling like hot cakes, they are selling. The customers are voting with their dollars, and apparently the riders feel that, yes, there is a benefit here. 

So, WTB takes an age old idea, repackages it, brings modern tubeless tire technology to bear, and we have something that they call "Road Plus". Ya know, I suggest that we all just don't get hung up on the name. It is something different, (tubeless), and the format isn't well known in gravel circles. Maybe it should have been, but that was yesterday. Today, we're looking at this for gravel travel, and I have seen that these wheels and tires hold some promise. I'll have more soon.

Just like 100 years ago- Looking less "bike", more motorcycle.
Trading Fossil Fuels For Electrons:

For years now on this blog I have said that any motor + bike = motorcycle. Readers scoffed, said I was out of touch, and that this was the way to get non-cyclists out on "bicycles".

I still don't believe that, not for one minute. All you have to do is hop on Facebook, type "e-bike" in the search box, and start scrolling. You will see at least 60% of the results are going to be more "motorcycle styled" than looking anything like a bicycle. Which doesn't really say anything necessarily, that is, until you start looking a bit closer.

Then you will find things like "cruising speed of 28mph" , "thumb actuated throttle control", and you will see LOTS of videos where riders are not pedaling at all. Did I remember to write that these are motorcycles? How is it that if the vehicle in question has a gasoline powered motor, it is a motorcycle, but trade that for an electric motor, and somehow it isn't a motorcycle anymore? Who cares if you have to pedal some to make it work, there still is that pesky motor, and by the looks of the search results I am seeing, you can get something very electric, very "motorcyclish", for the same, or as in some cases, less than a "pedelec".

Ya know, if Honda, Suzuki, or Yamaha decided to go full bore into electric motorcycles they would blow these pithy "e-bikes" out of the water and it will be game over for the vehicles with those "pedal thingies" on them that were called e-bikes. Just like old 1900's era motorcycles were bicycle based, and a lot like the moped craze of the 80's, e-bikes will morph into electric motorcycles and this nonsense about getting non-cyclists to pedal via an e-bike will finally be shown to be the bovine excrement that it is. I've seen the evidence out there and that's the way this looks to be headed.

That's my take.

Sarah Cooper (L- obviously!) and me, GT

I heard some old bike racers yakking it up at my first Sea Otter years ago, and one of them mentioned a really good female rider and said that he had gotten "chicked" by her because she beat him. I'd never heard that term before then used in that manner.

Sarah Cooper has done Trans Iowa a couple of times, and she has done really well. Winning the Women's Open category this year handily, she has also won Odin's Revenge, and she's done pretty darn good at these ultra-endurance road biking gigs. This deal called Sebring is one, and by the time you've read this, Sarah Cooper will have won the overall in the Race Across The West, a 930 mile ultra-cycling race in record time for the Women's category. Yes.....she beat all the guys and gals.

Sarah is obviously a tough gal, but you won't meet a nicer person. She's the mother of four and holds down a job as well as being a wife. I tell ya, when they say, "I don't know how they do it", I think about Sarah and her accomplishments.

Hats off to ya, Sarah.

Have a great, safe, and fun weekend, y'all. Keep the rubber side down.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Country Views: Part 2- Flowers

Summer is here, despite what the calendar says, and flowers are popping out all over out there. I decided to dedicate this "Country Views" post to one of my favorite things about riding gravel- flowers! 

This is just the beginning of the Tiger Lillies. The ditches are about to explode with these things. 
A close up.

These were found only right on the edges of the roads.
While the thistle is considered a bad weed, it sure has a pretty blossom.
The Iowa Department Of Transportation often plants these lavender colored flowers for ground cover in the ditches.
It was pretty hot out yesterday, but it wasn't oppressively humid. The wind was a pretty stiff breeze out of the Southeast and I ended up just doing a shorter loop yesterday. I just didn't have the gas to go longer for whatever reason.

I am still experimenting with the wool jersey and with that Brooks Cambium saddle. They are both showing a lot of promise, so I may actually stick with the saddle and add more wool to the Summertime riding wardrobe. The jersey isn't hot at all. It doesn't really feel one way or the other. However; when you compare to a "traditional" synthetic jersey, it doesn't sit on your skin and feel sticky or uncomfortable when things get sweaty and the air is humid. The saddle is wonderful compared to what came off before it. I do detect a bit of give but more so on pavement than on the gravel. I was a bit surprised by that.

So, I found out a little while ago that I had to switch focus in terms of my upcoming events. Odin's Revenge, one of my absolute favorite events, is now off my calendar due to a special date. I have to attend a special family function that weekend, so I had to send in my drop out notice the other day. It kind of is a bummer, but it is for a very good reason, so I am not upset.

First cutting of hay has been baled. 
So, that leaves the upcoming Guitar Ted Death Ride Invitational to get ready for. I need to verify a few things so longer rides to do that may be happening. I do know one thing, and that is that I will likely be using the Gen I Fargo for this gig since I found out during my "Kanza Ride" that this configuration didn't bother my recovering left shoulder at all. Yesterday, during my shorter ride, on the T-6 Standard Rando, it bothered me a lot. So for whatever reason, a traditional drop bar isn't feeling the best yet. We will see how I fare as the time draws closer, but I really think the Fargo is the way to go here.

More Country Views coming soon!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Off Road Drop Bars 101: The Importance Of Frame Design And Stems

"Drop bar" bike. Purposeful design to accommodate a drop bar here.
This time I am going to cover the final pieces of the puzzle when it comes to off road drop bars- the frame and stem. Many folks do not consider the design choices which are made to manufacture a "drop bar specific" design. It's a given that "road bikes", and "gravel bikes", for the most part anyway, are going to have drop bars and therefore you do not have to jump through any weird hoops to get these drop bars to work on these drop bar designed bikes. Obvious, right? Well, maybe too obvious. 

The issues arise for drop bar users for mountain biking, and to some degree gravel riding or other "non-traditional" uses for drop bars, because the frames maybe were not envisioned for use with a drop bar. This causes no end to confusion for those who want to try a drop bar out. The main focus of our attention regarding the understanding of this issue has to be on where we want our hands to be in space.

Imagine that you are on a flat bar mountain bike that fits you well. Your hands are on the grips, and the bar runs perpendicular to your wrists, for the most part. Now imagine that your hands stay in the same plane as before, but the bar runs in a line that is more parallel to the stem. You just "twist" your hands by moving the thumb clockwise a bit, but in the same plane, same height off the ground. This is where you want your drop bar's extensions to be when you finish mounting your drop bars. Well.....ideally, this is true. In practice, that may be difficult, and this is something I want to illustrate in this post.

My Singular Gryphon. Note the relationship between the saddle height and grip area, denoted by my shaky looking lines. 
In the case of a bicycle designed with drop bar use in mind from the get-go, like a Salsa Cycles Fargo, or like this Singular Gryphon shown above, the designer has made choices which will help put the drop bar in a place that makes sense from a riding feel and performance perspective that also does not require odd stem selections. "Normal" stems can be used, which opens up a lot more choices when it comes to dialing in a good fit and feel for many riders.

Note that I have a typical Bontrager stem with a modest amount of rise in a length that is a pretty common one- 100mm. I could easily find a stem with a shorter, higher rise, a shorter, lower rise, or even the opposite. Choices with which I could make the bike feel and ride just the way I want it to. Singular's Sam Alison did this by shortening the top tube's effective length, lengthening the head tube, and using other subtle geometry tweaks which, as a whole, make using a drop bar on this bike a very natural thing. But what if you have a bicycle which doesn't have these design cues?

Using a bicycle meant for a flat bar makes fitting a drop bar much more difficult and limiting.
Well, let's use my 2003 Campstove Green Karate Monkey as an example here. The first thing you might notice is that the head tube is shorter and the top tube is longer than on the Gryphon. This is critical in looking at fitting a drop bar to a bike like this. Drop bars add length to your cockpit and need height to get the drop section up to where your normal flat bar grip would be at. (Remember the third paragraph above?) This means you are probably going to be looking at a short reach, high rise stem to get where you need to be, or close to that, with a drop bar retrofit on a bike designed for a flat bar.

Note the lines I drew on the grip area and where the saddle height is on my Karate Monkey. Comparing that to the Gryphon, you can see how my saddle to handle bar/grip area drop is greater on the KM than it is one the Singular. This is using the shortest reach, highest rise stem I could find easily. There are other choices, but they are few, rare, and you'd better hope that they get you where you want to be in the end with the drop bars you have chosen. Velo Orange is supposed to be coming out with a better stem for this application, and when they do, I'll get that and this set up should be better then. In the end view, a custom stem is almost your best bet, and you'd better love the bike you want to convert to drops for off roading, because that custom stem will not be cheap.

The same bike with the same stem and a Gator Bar resulted in a too low extension position.
Let's come full circle now. This all started out with the Gator Bar review when I showed how that bar had too deep a drop, amongst other flaws. Sure, if you wanted to get a custom stem, you could alleviate that issue, but with other, better drop bar offerings, why would you spend that kind of money to get that bar? I just cannot justify that solution to make that handle bar work.

In review, a drop bar for off road use should feature sweep in the extensions to a degree, flare to the drop section, enough to clear the wrists and forearms, and then it really needs to have a shallow drop and a short reach. This allows riders to have an easier time of it when retrofitting a drop bar to a flat bar designed bike. Weird, oddly proportioned bars don't make that job easier and sometimes they make it impossible without resorting to rare stems or going custom. Finally, the radius of the drop bar's bend must not be such that it makes it difficult to make the hoods and the drop section usable. Bars like the Gator Bar and the Woodchipper are good examples of what not to design into a drop bar's radius.

Here are the links to this series: