Friday, October 20, 2017

Friday News And Views

The Spurcycle Multi-Pouch
High Tech Sandwich Bag:

Okay, I have a preponderance for using the "dirt bag way" when it comes to a lot of things. Take Trans Iowa, for instance, where I have used plastic shopping bags from various stores we frequent as recycled race bags for the Pre-Race Meat-Up. Or my penchant for using a sandwich bag for my cell phone and money when I go out on a ride.

I'm not here to go in to a deep psychological search for the reasons why I am the way I am, but I will say that when something comes around that purports to be better than a "dirt bag way", then I am skeptical. I was quite skeptical when Spurcycle sent over this "Multi-Pouch" dealio to me to try out. I know sandwich baggies have limitations. The lifespan of a sandwich baggie isn't long, but they are el-cheapo, so I can forgive that flaw. Where you have sandwich making going on for school children, there is a steady supply of those plastic thing-a-ma-bobs. But, some aren't very durable and leak. Some have malfunctioning zipper locks. But......they are so cheap and plentiful! 

Actually, I once got a hold of a couple of those heavy duty baggies that Skratch Labs was sending along with their product. Those were awesome when phones were smaller. Not so much now. I have had some other phone holder thingies but none of them were exactly what I wanted. For one thing, in my humble opinion, a cell phone is to be buried as deeply into your kit as possible, not prominently displayed on your handlebars. Better to leave it behind, in my opinion. But that's me being all dirt-bag-ish.

Well, hat said, the Multi-Pouch is pretty cool, if a bit on the spendy side for a high-tech sandwich baggie. Check out the review I did on it on RidingGravel.com here


Gentrified Fat Bikers rejoice.. Behold! The $345.00 boot from 45NRTH
 45NRTH Collaboration With Red Wing Yields Expensive Boot:

Wolvhammers are one thing, but make the outsole out of leather sourced from Red Wing and add a gauche white sole and you have the latest money-separating-from-wallet item for fat bikers this season.

The style statement from the 45-ers up nort will cost you $345.00 big ones. That's a lot of cabbage to look fashionable. But.......at least you can clip in to your Spuds! 

Look, I'm not a big believer in clipping in for Winter rides in real snow and ice. Flats work well, remove the possibility of a "heat sink" effect on your feet, especially if you use nylon composite pedals, and you can get a foot down and get going a lot easier with flats. But that's me. It just makes a lot more sense to my mind to use flats and in my experience, it has proven out. But you could use this fashion statement on flats too, couldn't you?

Yes, you could, but if that's how you are going to roll in Winter, you could arguably buy two pair of boots for the price of these, keep your feet as warm if not warmer, and look mahvelous dahling! 

Meh! Fahgeddaboudit. It's probably just the "dirt bagger" which is coming out in me here.

A Note On The Rookie Registration:

One thing I forgot to mention in yesterday's Trans Iowa v14 update on Registration. I wanted to say that since the outcome of the Rookie registration will certainly be a lottery drawing, I am not posting names of Rookies on the Roster page. 

I will provide a page where Rookie names will be listed so you know if the card sent made it and who is in the running for the 50 available spots.It will also keep tabs on the number of Rookies in the running.

So, stay tuned for the updates and look for the link to the Lottery Page on the Trans Iowa v14 site.  

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Trans Iowa v14: Registration Update

New and improved now with date and place!
Okay, the second phase of registration is over! The first was for past Winners and people who had done more than six Trans Iowas, dubbed "Plus Six". Then it was those who had finished a Trans Iowa or were a veteran rider of the event who got a crack at it. Both folks in each group had to be "active" Trans Iowa riders- meaning anyone that had ridden post-T.I.v8. Anyone having ridden in an older TI and never past V8 would have to reapply as a Rookie, winner, finisher, or veteran.

So, here's how things shook out. The Winners/Plus Six group left six spots on the table. Those got kicked down to the Vets/Finishers group who then left 10 spots on the table after yesterday's registration period for that group concluded. That means we have 70 folks signed on and 50 spots left for the Rookies, whose cards should start showing up today. Rookies have until October 28th to get a card in.

We have some stellar folks signed on already and it will be fun to see who will throw their hat into the ring for the first time at a Trans Iowa. Interestingly, this may be one of the biggest Rookie classes at a Trans Iowa, if they all show up in April. But.......they won't. Historically, most drops on the roster for a Trans Iowa come from the Rookie class. Last year had the potential to smash the Rookie class record at the start of a Trans Iowa, but that didn't happen by a long shot. And that's how it has been all along.

Surely some Vets/Finishers, and Winners won't show. That's inevitable, but attrition on the roster from those groups combined never equals how many Rookies drop off in a given year. In fact, there have been Rookies that have made it through the lottery two years in a row now that still haven't shown up in April. That's kind of crazy, isn't it? Oh well........

Obviously I did not have to instigate the lottery clause for the Vets/Finishers, but that definitely will happen for the Rookies. It has for the past two years and I do not see that changing this time. Of course, this is all predicated on whether or not the cards I get are filled out correctly and legibly. Last year I threw out several cards that were either not correctly filled out or that I could not read. So, if I get 50 plus readable, correctly filled out cards from the Rookie class, there will be a lottery. But then again, maybe not, if many cards are screwed up.

By the way, the penmanship on the cards I have received is "next level" stuff, for the most part. Y'all have really raised your game out there and I am impressed! I knew you folks could do it! So, the Rookies best have their "A game" on for penmanship because the bar has been set pretty high by the Winners, Vets, and Finishers!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Dirt Home From Work: That Light

Mid afternoon light in the woods.
Fall- The shadows grow longer and the days grow colder and shorter in October. This is the time of year we get "that light". The Sun is in the right part of our sky now so that the light gets that diffused, golden hue during Sunny days. It gives everything a much more ethereal, dramatic look about it.

Maybe that is why Fall is so loved by many around here. It can be achingly beautiful at times. Yesterday was one of those days here in the Mid-West. In fact, we're supposedly going to have a string of days like that. Best to get out and enjoy this while the gettin' is good, because we're days away from freezing cold, and if we are to get snow, that is only weeks away, most likely.

I rode home without a jacket through the woods on my way home from work. It was perfect. 70°, no wind to speak of, that golden light, and a peaceful countenance was on the land. That won't be the case later as the winds of Winter are sure to get cranked up soon enough and the leaves will be chattering in the streets as they scurry by bare trees where they once thrived.

The only negative thing I can see about the day yesterday was those dratted Japanese beetles which are flying around all over. They look like lady bugs, but they are not, and they are far worse than those. But other than that, this weather is going to be some of the best we'll have until next Spring, in terms of warmth and comfortable bicycling.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Light 'Em Up: Part 2

Economy mode @ 150 Lumens
Yesterday I posted about this new Lezyne Power Drive 1100i light I bought. Well, I had a couple of obligations last night, but I did finally get out to buzz around the neighborhood and see what this light could do.

Of course, street lights and what not pollute the darkness so I sought out the nearby bicycle trail which is canopied in trees and gets pretty black at night. I toggled between a few of the settings and decided I liked one of them that I could live with for a lot of my gravel rides. I didn't know how powerful it was, because in my mind, knowing the numbers influences you to think you have to have "such-and-such" amount of light if the number is too low and you go higher because you think you should. The thing is, you can ride off of less light on a gravel road than you think.

Back in the day, I did a lot of light testing. I was using cheaper commuter type lights that were the norm unless you went in for the ultra-powerful mountain bike lights and their attendant expensive prices. I found a hack by getting a camping light meant to be worn on the head which I modded into a head light for my bicycle. It was rated at 110 Lumens and it probably was that for the first 10-15 minutes, then it gradually got dimmer. I did plenty of night time gravel with that light. I also used a Cat Eye and Blackburn commuter lights there for a while which were similarly powered battery units with similar light outputs.

Then I got a hold of some light, I cannot recall what it was, that had 150 Lumens, and it was so much better that I determined this is all will ever need. Of course, brighter and brighter lights have come out for very reasonable prices. I have gone up in power and still toggle back to medium settings on most lights for gravel travel.

650 Lumens here, but I don't need that much light.
I tried the higher settings but I knew I didn't need that much. I ended up settling on the third from the brightest, (This was still not counting the "Overdrive" mode, which I never did try), and I rode through some alleyways to check out if that middle setting picked up the terrain clues which I need to find the "good line". I could, so I think the middle setting was just perfect. High speed downhills might require something different, but around here those don't last all that long and generally go straight anyway.

I also have to consider that I most often would be supplementing the handle bar light with a helmet mounted one, which would also help with speedier downhills.

So, despite my having three higher settings, including that "Overdrive mode", I don't think I'll often use those. What did I end up with? Well, 150 Lumens! Just like I did a long time ago. That setting is listed as lasting 9 hours and 30 minutes without the extra battery pack. I think I'll be pretty happy with this light, and I suspect night time riding will be fun with it. Also, I should mention that the light features a mode which you can use to toggle between the Economy mode, (the one I liked best), and the Overdrive Mode, which might be useful in certain situations where max light might be necessary or advised.

Finally, a comment about the light pattern not being "car friendly" yesterday in the comment section made me think. You know, most vehicles I see are trucks and SUV's, which have higher headlights than most cars. In fact, I noticed last night that most of those vehicles headlights are only slightly below my eye level. So, I am not concerned about "blinding" an oncoming driver with 150 Lumens of light when their low level lights are almost at eye level and are more like a 1000 Lumens in intensity. Plus, I don't live in Germany where that is forbidden. And I hope to be traveling gravel at night, so traffic is almost nil out there in the country. Maybe for urban commuters, that is a concern, but it isn't for me.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Light 'Em Up

This is what I have to punch a hole through the night, only mine is silver.
Tis the season for night riding. That means you need to have a good light. The thing is, these days is that you don't need to settle for a "good light", because there are now so many great lights. 

Case in point is this new Lezyne Power Drive 1100i that I just got the other day. This light has an 1100 Lumen output at maximum output for one hour and fifteen minutes. Now, that may not sound super impressive, but that is from a self contained unit. Compare this to a Magicshine light I have which came to me via review duties about four years ago, and the Magicshine at 1100 Lumens doesn't even come close to the same form factor or in as efficient a design as the Lezyne unit.

That Magicshine light, for its day, was really a good value, at something like $200.00, while this Lezyne light costs $179.99. Okay, so.....? Well, the Magicshine light has a separate battery pack and charging unit, plus the light head is fixed in position and cannot pivot. The Lezyne light costs more, but I have a separate battery to supplement the internal battery in the unit, it charges via a simple USB cord, and the light head is positionable. Plus, the spare battery pack can be used to charge other USB charging type devices. Or I can use the external battery to lengthen my run times on the light.

The Magicshine simply cannot compete with that. The Magicshine is still produced, by the way, and its basic feature set and limitations make it less expensive today. You can get one for a little over $100.00.

That's just one example, and the lighting color, intensity, and the heat given off are all improved as well with this newer technology. It's amazing to me because I remember the day when you had to shell out about a grand for light this intense and it came with a ballast and a water bottle sized battery. That wasn't all that long ago either. Now you can spend a little over a hundred bucks and light 'em up all night long if ya want to. It's just crazy how good lights for night riding are these days.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Trans Iowa v14: Quick Update On Registration

As registration rolls on I wanted to get an update out there as a way to explain the situation as we sit now and what could happen. 

The Vets/Finishers segment is limited to 61 entrants this year since we kicked down 6 entries from Winners/Plus Six category. As of today, there are 34 entrants in the Vets/Finishers segment. This segment's window closes on October 18th. That's three days to come up with 27 cards, which wouldn't be out of the question, which would fill this category. If I get 28 more cards, or more, there will be a lottery for the 61 spots

So, if your name is on the roster, don't get too comfy. There may be some more to this if I get 62 cards or more and someone is going to get booted and someone is going to get lucky and get in who didn't have there name on the roster for a few days.

I marked all Vet/Finisher names with a "V/F", just to help make things clear.

Questions? Hit me up in the comments.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Minus Ten Review- 41

The Lenz Lunchbox I got to ride at Interbike in 2007 thanks to Mike Curiak
Ten years ago this week on the blog I shared an image of the Lenz Lunchbox belonging to Mike Curiak that he brought for me to ride at Interbike. This was the bike with the "super-secret" tires on it that Niner Bikes mistakenly showed on the floor of Interbike that year when they were not supposed to.

In a fitting irony, the testers of the then unnamed tire decided that this design wasn't cutting it and a new design was worked out instead. Unfortunately, by the time the eleventh hour decision was made to change directions, the first design was tooled up and ready to go. This first tire was known as the "Kodiak 2.5"" tire.

The second design, deemed much better by nearly all who ever had ridden both designs, was called the "Descent 2.5"" tire. So, what about the Kodiak was it that became ironic? Well, the very company that exposed the design too early ended up buying the entire production run of the Kodiaks. Niner sold them on their long travel 29"er. They also sold them separately.

I remember asking Curiak why the first design was panned and he said something to the effect that the Kodiak was too much of a "one trick pony". It was only really an effective design in one specific condition and area where the Descent was a much more versatile tire. In the end, the Kodiak and the Descent were too far ahead of their time. Only now, ten years down the road, are we finally seeing a push to make big, tough, voluminous 29"er tires for trail riding on long travel 29"ers.

The Trek Slash 9.7 29"er. See any similarities to the Lenz?
That Lenz bike was also ten years ahead of its time. Of course, we now have better wheels, tires, and forks to make the idea work. The "geometry du jour" is different, yes, but this Trek Slash owes a lot of its DNA to the groundbreaking work of Devin Lenz and Mike Curiak. Lenz and Curiak were doing stuff in '07 that many in the industry were saying was impossible to do. Yet there they were, largely ignored, and yet making a fully capable, high performing platform which was doing the job with big wheels that others could only pull off at the time with 26" wheels.

Looking back on that day I got to ride that bike, I had little idea that I was riding something from the future. The tires, the deep travel, the capable geometry which, by the way, was so different from the then current thinking on geometry that it could be thought of as being from another planet. Curiak purposefully held back any specific geometry information from me until well after I had ridden the bike, because he knew that had I known the numbers up front it would have colored my impressions of the bike. He was right, because those geo numbers, which would be considered tame by today's standards, were so outside of the box, circa 2007, that I would have laughed at him had I known what they were ahead of time.

It is no small feat then, and in no way hyperbole to say that the Lenz Lunchbox was a game changer. Devin Lenz went on to make a 7" travel bike dubbed the "PBJ" and it further pushed the boundaries of 29"ers. Now everyone is being taken aback by all this big wheeled intrusion into DH and enduro territory, but the mold was cast ten years ago, and I got to ride the prototype.

Thanks Mr. Lenz and Mr. Curiak! I never would have believed it then, but you two helped usher in an era of big wheelers that is nothing short of amazing.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Friday News And Views

T.I.v14 Registration Update:

The first phase of registration for the 14th Trans Iowa was completed Wednesday. There were six spots available which were not claimed, so I am pushing those down to the Vets & Finishers classes which now will have 61 slots available to fill before I would require a lottery. Last year I didn't have to do that. Maybe I won't have to do that this year. Hard to say. But if the Vets and Finishers don't add up to more than 60, there will be open spots getting kicked down to the Rookies. I'll know more on October 18th when the Finishers and Vets window for registration closes.

So.......yeah! Did you see that Dan Hughes, (T.I.v13 winner), Greg Gleason, (T.I.v10 overall winner, T.I.v 12 co-winner), Walter Zitz, (T.I.v12 co-winner), and Eric Brunt (T.I.v8 overall winner), are on the roster? Plus Mark Johnson is signed on in the SS/Fixed category, as always, and is a threat to win the overall as well as the SS/Fixed category. Sarah Cooper is signed on, but she will not be racing for the Open Womens category, as she is going to give it a go on a tandem with veteran/finisher/super-volunteer Steve Fuller.

Interesting field so far in terms of the competitive, pointy end of the T.I. field. It will be cool to find out who amongst the finishers and Vets comes back, and ultimately who will be the new gun coming out of the Rookie class.There is always someone or two that ends up pushing the front of the race every year.

"Ultra-premium" tire levers "optimized for carbon fiber rims"? How did we do tire removal without these?
Spendy Levers:

Silca is now a US owned and operated company and when they came out of the gates with that track pump for $400- plus dollars, I figured it was just a stunt to get attention and then they would go back to being reasonable. But ohhhhh nooooo! I was very wrong about this. In fact, everything Silca has proffered since then has made me shake my head in disgust and disbelief. The latest is a pair of $18.00 tire levers.

Eight. Teen. Dollars!

The marketing blather may as well not exist after I saw the price. Look....... I've been a mechanic in a bike shop setting for nearly 20 years. Tire levers are not an issue for carbon fiber rims unless you are using metal ones or are hamfisted. I've been working on taking tires off and installing them on carbon rims for well over a decade. Any ol' lever will do the job, (again, as long as it is not metal), and my current favorite is the Pedros levers. Did you know that you can buy three sets of Pedros tire levers for the price of a pair of Silca ones? Oh......and if you can mount a tire without levers, you should. Many times you can.


Question: When will the Wallmart family buy Silca like they did Rapha? These two brands were made for each other.Those Walton boys oughta look in to that. Otherwise I don't see the point here. That sort of money for tire levers is just goofy.

But they will probably sell out by the caseload. Meh!

Ignore that "Clement" branding. It's "Donnelly" now.
 Big Gravel Tire:

So, many gravel tires that exist are in the 35mm-45mm size range and for good reason. Most "gravel/all road" bikes won't fit anything bigger than that. At least in 700c sizes. Cyclo Cross bikes? Fahgeddaboudit. 

However; now there are a few rigs sporting capacity for up to 2" wide 700c rubber. And let's not forget that many Fargos and the like are used for gravel travel and those bikes might benefit from a bigger tire which is a gravel specialist. 

So, there are not many tires that fit the bill for fast, voluminous casings, and that have a modicum of traction for the hard packed dirt sections. The MSO tread design does have what many riders like, and about a year ago, Donnelly Cycling introduced the 700 X 50mm MSO with a tubeless ready casing. Then it was still Clement, and the tires I have to test are branded as such. That said, going forward they will have Donnelly branding, but they will be the same tire. I don't have a bike with a "gravel specific" geometry that fits these so they will likely go on the Fargo Gen I bike with a tubeless set up.

I hope to get that done this weekend but I also will be testing a different sealant combination so I may not have everything in hand until next week. Hint: It will be a competitor to Stan's Race Day sealant.

Okay, more soon..... Have a great weekend!


 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Getting Back On It

The Fall colors haven't quite come in yet.
Wednesday and I was feeling better, so I went for another ride. Over the weekend I was too busy, it rained a lot, and I felt awful. I relapsed, in fact. But since then I've been on an upswing and I think I am coming out of this funk. Finally.....

Anyway, I ran out of time for, and thought better of, an attempt at doing a big gravel ride. I probably need to take some baby steps first here. It has been a good month since I have done any hour plus long rides on gravel. So, in an attempt to not over-do it, I stuck with a fat bike ride in the Green Belt.

That made sense also from the standpoint of doing some work on Marky-Mark Trail. I wanted to make sure it was still clear, number one, and then I wanted to scout out an extension. First I had to get out of the house. I know that sounds so simple to do, but for some reason, I feel like a tractor beam gets turned on whenever I want to get away from the house for a ride.

Either I cannot find some essential, wanted bit of kit or gear, or I get interrupted. Yesterday it was interruptions. Not "bad interruptions" mind you, but time stealers all the same. I had to take care of these details first before I left to ride. Sometimes it is much more frustrating than that, especially when I cannot find a wanted item.

It is nice to see water running through the Green Belt again. Still- we could use more rain!
So anyway, I got out there on the Ti Mukluk with a clip on rear fender, you know,  just in case. We have had a lot of rain of late which I know may have made a mess of things in the Green Belt, but with it having been so dry previously, I was betting on okay conditions. I was mostly right. The water crossing at the dike was a hike-a-bike. It probably will erode to become far worse, and in my opinion, it will eventually end up as deep as the section we used to cross for years. So much for moving it, but then, I could have told you it would go like this.

Things are still mostly green out there.
I went out to Marky-Mark Trail and stopped to do a bit of recon. I feel like there is a lot of potential here. The land that Marky-Mark traverses is higher ground, and to my knowledge it has never flooded. Well.....maybe it did in '08. That was the record flood year, but the point is, this land does not flood out very often, if at all. A trail would be sustainable and easier to maintain through there, as evidenced by Marky-Mark, which sees so little maintenance it isn't even funny.

I think I am going to eventually do two new sections, but for now I am only going to work in one. It won't take much, I feel, and my preliminary scouting trip revealed a nice flow and some good area to punch it through on. Some deer trail will be utilized, but the underbrush is very similar to what I remember dealing with in 1997, so I know what needs to be done here to establish this new section. It will mean that I will have to dedicate much of my late season and early next season riding to "burning it in", but once that gets done, I think it will stick.

The fat bike felt odd yesterday since I was trying out my new Keen boots which I hope to use most of the Winter. They are insulated and waterproof, so they are built to take it, but heavier boots and thicker soles just make your bike feel different. I think it took two thirds of my ride to get comfortable with how my pedal stroke felt and to figure out my gearing. Plus I always feel more restricted with Winter stuff on, and Fall starts me down that road again.

Stay tuned for more on the Marky-Mark trail extension coming soon......

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A Pirate Sets Sail

Corey "Cornbread" Godfrey giving last minute instructions at the first Gravel Worlds
When I think of certain parts of my life there are those iconic people that were a big part of things for me. People that always rise to the forefront of my mind. Sometimes there may even be a group of people. In the context of the gravel scene, I feel that one of those groups of people are the "Pirate Cycling League".

The folks that make up this group are many, and I am sure that I don't know all of them. That said, the PCL guys were a really big influence on me and Trans Iowa. I know for a fact that the early support of riders like Matt Wills, Corey "Cornbread" Godfrey, Matt Gersib, and others was a big facet of the early success story for Trans Iowa. They took the story of TI back to Lincoln with them and they became "super fans" of the event. I will not easily forget the van full of Pirates from the truncated TIv4 finish line in Edgewood, Iowa.

This support and goodwill affected me directly when in 2009 I attended and raced in the last "Good Life Gravel Adventure" out of Lincoln. I stayed at the infamous "D Street Motel", a huge, rambling old Victorian era home near the Nebraska State capitol building that had been the college home for many of the PCL members in the past. One of the most notorious of these was a guy that went by the initials, "CVO".

I hadn't met Christopher Van Ooyen (CVO) when I first went to the D Street, but I had heard of him. If you were going in with the gravel cycling crowd in Lincoln, you were sure to find out who he was. Back in the early 00's, there was no Facebook, so everyone blogged. Well there was a Lincoln Blog about the local cycling scene which was pretty much dominated by CVO. I read it and followed the story of CVO as he led various group rides, raced, and then passed from a broken relationship into a time of living in Mexico. By the time I came to my second gravel adventure in Lincoln, the inaugural Gravel Worlds, CVO had returned and was living again at the D Street house.

  In Memory of Christopher Van Ooyen - 09/28/1972-10/10/2017
That's where I met him. We retired to the upper story of the house where we spent the evening before Gravel Worlds chatting and hanging out with other PCL members. The day of the first Gravel Worlds, CVO was a volunteer and I recall him writing my racer number on my calf in black marker. Just like a triathlete or runner might have, but this was a gravel race. Weird. I don't think I've ever seen or heard of that again in gravel racing.

Then, later on in to the first Gravel Worlds event, CVO was seen by many out rambling around in a beat-to-shit white GM car of some sort with two coolers of drinks. One Monster Energy, the other Bud heavy's. Here's a bit of a snippet from my race report:

"It was as I was stopped alongside the road, (where I had sat on a cockle burr bush by accident and was pulling the thorny devils outta my "nether regions"), that CVO appeared out of the haze like an angel. He didn't see me until he was right by me, slammed on the brakes, skidded to a halt, and backed up the car to see how I was doing."

CVO got me two Buds and a Monster. Then he did something I'll never forget.......

"As I stood and swilled the beers and energy drinks, CVO grabbed his clubs and some rogue balls and began to profess his love of golfing to me as he took a few swings at the "gravel fareway". Unwittingly, (or maybe not), he invented gravel road golfing in front of my very eyes. This CVO cat is brilliant!"

Craig Schmidt holding up the first Gravel Worlds jersey design at Yia-Yia's in downtown Lincoln
 He was brilliant, that CVO character. He made me feel good about my miserable finish as I climbed into his beat up car that day. He hauled me back to Lincoln, chatted me up like I was always one of the gang. Honestly, CVO was one of the reasons that Gravel Worlds has been cemented into the gravel cycling culture as one of those events that is at once "real", grassroots, and fun, but has that same cutting edge competitiveness that the pointy end of the peloton craves. CVO and his PCL cohorts really set the bar high back then, and to the Pirates credit, it still remains high.

The seas have been stormy of late around Lincoln and the Pirates have been particularly hit hard. First it was Randy Gibson, who was hit by a driver under the influence of alcohol and was killed. Now CVO has succumbed to a rare disease that took his life Tuesday morning. That's just devastating right there.

The Facebook pages I follow are rife with stories about CVO, his creativity, his kindness, and his influence upon cyclists. It is obvious that CVO influenced and touched so many lives. Even the life of a crazy old blogger/cyclist from Waterloo, Iowa. I mentioned in the beginning of the post that there are certain iconic people that I will never forget. Even though I only knew CVO a minuscule amount, his impact was huge. He definitely will always be a bright spot in my life as I think back to Lincoln, the PCL, and Gravel Worlds.

Sail on, my friend! May you find calm seas and clear skies.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Say What You Want About Them

Count 'em! Yep! There are 14 cogs there.
If you cruise the innergoogles you may have come across this story about how Shimano has had a patent on 14 speed drive train parts for a bicycle since 1999. Yep, it isn't #fakenews either. In fact, I've known about this for six or seven years now myself. That 14 speed exists is only a tiny bit of the story too.

So, first off, I have to give you a bit of background here. I was a former member of the "He-man's Shimano Haters Club". It was quite fashionable back in the 90's to hate on Shimano. "The Big Bad Guy" of the component world was quashing the hopes and dreams of would be cycling companies with thier CNC operators who were churning out anodized bits and baubles by the thousands. Many of which were of questionable quality. But that didn't matter. Shimano was evil and you had to hate them. It just was how things were back then.

But over the years as I became more attuned to what worked and what did not work, I realized that Shimano was a quite clever company with some solid products. Yes, they had their hiccups, (Bio-Pace, Octalink v1, original "push-push" Rapid Fire- to name a few), but by and large whatever Shimano laid their hands to worked really well. Take any XTR group, or XT group, and it can be considered "the best" of its day. Road stuff is someone else's beat, so I won't go there.

So,about six or seven years ago, Shimano did an unprecedented "tour". They invited several shop owners and mechanics to join them in certain metropolitan areas to meet with factory representatives and Shimano "Skunk Works" riders, who were the "secret" product testing team of riders who worked for Shimano. My visit was in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The XT DynaSys 10 speed group
 Shimano made a big deal out of this "opening up". They admitted to being distant and not very good at marketing since they were very focused on research and development instead. Nice story, but yeah.......whatever. Sing me a song, ya know? But then later on during the meeting I was availed the opportunity to speak with Skunk Works rider, Paul Thomasburg.

I thoroughly enjoyed speaking with Paul. He was immediately engaging and enthusiastic to have a willing listener. Throughout our 40-45 minute conversation Paul laced his tales with so many new bits of information it was mind boggling. I learned about completely handmade, $15,000.00 chains that he tested, I learned about which Shimano Dual Control levers were actually the best, (hint: not XTR), and that there was a top secret "warehouse" that held secrets so incredible that Thomasburg was literally shaking with excitement just thinking about it. Of course, he couldn't reveal much about it, but he did tell me that Shimano had working prototypes of every speed group through 14 speeds. 

So, think about it: when you heard about SRAM's 12 speed Eagle group, you were shocked that SRAM had pulled off a fast one on Shimano. Well, no- not so much. That is old news to Shimano, who have working 12 speed, 13 speed and 14 speed groups in "the warehouse". And of course, they are all patented.

So, when you hear people bagging on Shimano, keep in mind that they have stuff that you've never seen that would blow your mind. They are waaay ahead of the game, and when they do pull the covers off what will sure to be their 12 speed groups soon, you can bet that they have tested the bejeezus out of it years ahead of SRAM or anyone else. That counts for something to me. It makes sense when you realize that Shimano stuff seems to work pretty darn well most of the time.

Oh.......and they make some pretty good brakes too.


Monday, October 09, 2017

Spotted Hoarse

Young horses on the field: The team my son is on- West High Wahawks
You've probably read here that my Spotted Horse entry was passed on since I wasn't prepared to ride the 200 miles I signed up for. That was because I contracted a bad cold early in September which saw me only doing a few commutes by bike for about three weeks straight. So, I called off my attempt at that long gravel event.

Well, in the meantime, last Thursday, I attended my son's freshman football game. I yelled a lot, since, well, that is what I did when I played football. I yelled a lot of encouragement. A few other fathers in attendance were also of like mind, so we were quite the "chorus" of encouragement. Anyway, during the game it rained as well. So, I also got wet.

Friday my voice was toast, and I felt drained. Yep.......relapse. Sunday it was even worse. I had a headache, lightheadedness, and  a lack of energy. Yeah.......it's a really good thing I did not go to the Spotted Horse. Had I tried to ride in that, who knows how bad I would have ended up.

So, I actually didn't do any Trans Iowa business, other than to post the names from post cards I have received, and I didn't even work on my bicycles. Too tired to. I did drink lots of lemongrass tea and honey to nurse my hoarse voice . I did rest all day Sunday minus the walk I took just to get out of the house.

Hopefully y'all had a lot more exciting weekend than I did!

Sunday, October 08, 2017

October Monsoon

Iowa radar on Saturday morning. It rained heavily across the state all evening Friday.
I posted about my fat biking experience earlier in the week last week and told you all about how dry we'd been over the Summer and into Fall. We hadn't had a good rain since July and only one decent rain at all in August. Dry atmosphere was also an issue. Typical humidity here wasn't oppressive in August as it usually is. In fact, outside of a few weeks this past Summer, it has been rather pleasant here in Iowa.

But that which is great for cycling is bad for the land and that affects us all. The Black Hawk Creek was one of many indicators that we needed some rain badly. Well, we got it! In spades. It started on Thursday, but Friday was a day where it rained hard off and on all day and most of the evening. Saturday morning it continued. Some spots in Iowa were to receive well over 4" of rain during this period. It was like going from 0 mph to 100 mph in 3.5 seconds. Weather whiplash! Holy cow!

And of course, this happens right when the Spotted Horse gravel race happened. I'm sure the roads were impacted negatively for that event, although as of this writing I haven't heard anything yet. Suffice it to say that the weather over the Summer likely lulled riders to sleep in terms of wet weather preparations. Scrambling for the wet weather gear was probably a common theme amongst the riders going to that event.

Black Hawk Creek is hopefully filling back up with the latest rains
But we needed this rain so while it threw a wrench into those rider's plans and basically hampered any cycling related activities for me as well, I am okay with that sacrifice if it means restoration of water levels to a bit nearer to normal around here. Honestly, I was rather concerned that we were heading for a severe drought, and really, we still could be. We're going to need consistent moisture until it freezes otherwise this will only put off things for a while. Of course, Winter snows and whatever happens next Spring could put all of this away as a distant memory.

But that's the future, right now, this is a good thing. Even though I had planned on doing a bit of Trans Iowa recon. There is no sense in slugging it out on saturated gravel roads in a steady rain when next weekend may present drier, more favorable conditions. Of course, looking at any dirt roads would be quite out of the question as well. So, I will be puttering around the basement Lab and tweaking on some rigs. I have a couple of things coming in for testing/review for "Riding Gravel" and I want to be sure I am all ready to go when the components get here. Stay tuned on that.....

And speaking of "Riding Gravel", I can always while away the hours by working on the site's calendar of events. Or I could start in on my copy of Nick Legan's "Gravel Cycling", a book I plan to review for "Riding Gravel" and here as well. So, I've got plenty of stuff to keep me busy during rainy days.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Minus Ten Review- 40

Jeff Kerkove's work here. I miss his "digital flyers" for his gravel rides.
Ten years ago on the blog here I was giving a debrief on what I saw at Interbike. This was the year that the 27.5"er mountain bike idea was floated and it had a bit of a buzz going.

The thing was, that buzz kind of went away after awhile as the general population kind of gave that wheel size a general "Meh!" and was ready to move on. What we didn't know at the time was that the industry took this idea and planned to make the 26"er obsolete by creating their own "you gotta have it" product in 27/5" wheels and marrying that to long travel mountain bikes, whose sales were lagging circa 2007 due to the rise of the 29"er. Plus, by 2007 many brands had felt that they had "missed out" on a bunch of new bike sales that the Gary Fisher brand was taking away in the form of 29"ers. These brands wanted a piece of a pie that they could create buzz for, (long travel 27.5"ers), and not have to become "me too" 29"er brands and fight for an ever decreasing sized slice of that pie.

It worked out that way too. At least for a few years, but since that didn't happen for about 4 more years past 2007, I won't delve in to all of that right now. That said, there is a lot more to say about that time period.

Then there was one of the last Jeff Kerkove generated gravel group rides held here. He was, for all intents and purposes, moved to Colorado, but he had some loose ends to take care of back here. Since he was coming back, why not have a "swan song" gravel group ride? I never got to go on one of these Friday night deals, but I understand that they were well liked rides. Locals and the larger gravel community really needs to thank Jeff for being one of the pioneers of promoting gravel as a venue to hold group rides.

Finally, I wrote a post, that looking back on, I find it held the seeds of my discontent with "Twenty Nine Inches" work and what was going on with that. Honestly, I probably should have cut my losses after 2007 and got out of the deal, but my sense of responsibility and my loyalty got in the way there. Both a good and a bad thing. Whatever...... It is what it is now, no sense in going back and fretting over it. I just wanted to point out one idea from that post that I feel we as cyclists can get wrong easily. Here it is as seen in that post:

 "Take my eyes off "cycling" for a bit, and put them on people.

Yep! Sometimes you get too focused. I think that it comes at the expense of some people that should get that attention. Family, friends, acquaintances, and just people that you meet that deserve being paid attention to. Time is too short to miss out on opportunities that might not repeat themselves in the future. It's nice if you can combine that with cycling or cycling related activities, but that's not always possible. Sometimes you just have to let go and spend some time away from the bike and all it's related stuff, ya know?"


Yeah.....wise words and all. Sometimes I am amazed that kind of thing comes out of my brain. Crazy! Then a couple days later I wrote a "Part Two" post to that and had this to say about our device driven, data acquisition centered lifestyles:

 "I like to think of it like we did about television back in the day. "The Idiot Box" we called it. It seems that the more information we have available to us, the more we get sucked into the hypnotic allure of staring at the monitor to find out more......and more........and more..... Like an addict, we lose sight of the "good" of the internet and how we are supposed to "enhance" our life experiences with it. Instead, it becomes our life, to some degree, and virtual reality takes over from what we used to go outside and experience for real.

Now it may seem mighty ironic to those of you who pay attention to what I do that I would be writing such stuff. I do benefit from the internet for sure, I won't hide that fact. However; it is a curse that has to be beaten back like a prowling beast, or it has the potential to take over my life too. I'm not immune. So I do something that I would prescribe to any of you. I ride whenever I can."


Still relevant ideas ten years down the road. I should take heed of the guy who wrote those things more often! 


Friday, October 06, 2017

Friday News And Views

And so it begins..... #TIv14 registration started this week.
Trans Iowa v14 Registration Begins!

The post cards, which Trans Iowa has utilized as a way to register for the annual event since V3, are beginning to roll in to TI headquarters. (NOTE: If you want to know all the registration details, check the "Featured Post" on the right margin and click the title, "Trans Iowa v14 Registration Details") The first two cards rolled in on Thursday, and I suspect many more are on their way and will arrive today and tomorrow. 

The first wave of registration is for the past winners and riders of six or more Trans Iowas to get in. There aren't too many of them, and of course, not all will avail themselves of the opportunity to join in all the gravel games planned for next April. So, I suspect perhaps a few spots might roll over to the next wave of registration, which begins Wednesday next week, and will be for past Veterans and Finishers of Trans Iowa post Trans Iowa v8.  I decided that if any individuals hadn't bothered to be back and try Trans Iowa since Version 8 that they likely weren't coming back. That said, the third wave of registration, also reserved for Rookies to Trans Iowa, is for them. Enough has changed since v7 that the event will be pretty new to those older racers anyway. 

The registration won't be as exciting on my end as it was in those days when people were sending me flowers, gifts, and booze, but the post cards are all I really need anyway. It works, it is tradition, and it is simple. I don't see that the process is broken and I don't get many complaints about it either. So, it still is fun and as long as it does what I need it to do, I'll keep doing it that way. I'll post some finer examples if I get any soon.

27.5 carbon fat bike rims from Whiskey Parts.
Will 27.5" Fat Kill Off 26" Fat?

About two years ago now Trek decided to roll out 27.5" fat bike wheels. It was an introduction I didn't see coming, but then again, I haven't gotten much right about fat bikes anyway. I said 170mm rear ends were going to stick around and well.......y'all know how that has gone. I said that we would probably never see single wall, cut out carbon fat bike rimes and well.......they exist now. So whatever I thought about the 27.5" fat bike wheels is probably not worth my talking about and not worth your reading about.

But now that they exist, and now that other companies are jumping in, I have to wonder if that eventually spells the end of 26" fat. I am really curious about how 27.5" is going to work out, but I have heard it can be the bees knees. If other riders start choosing that bigger size over 26" fat stuff then I think the days of 26"er wheels are really going to be numbered. 

But that will take time, if it ever happens. In the meantime, just go ahead and assume I am wrong about that too. 

In the meantime, I was made aware of a new 27.5" carbon fat bike rim from my friend, Ben Witt, who happens to be the head honch over at Whiskey Parts. The No. 9 carbon rim is typical of many of the other Whiskey Parts rims, double wall, and tubeless ready, of course. These would lace up into a really sweet set of wheels for a 27.5" wheeled fat bike set up. I'm looking in to maybe switching over to 27.5" fat bike stuff, and these rims could be a good start on my way to that. 

We'll see........

Better than your Zip-Loc baggie? It's certainly more high tech!
 It's A Pouch Thingie:

I was just made aware of a high tech "pouch" gizmo that basically does what a sandwich baggie does, only, I guess, even better? That's what they say anyway.

It's called the "Multi Pouch" and comes from Spurcycle. Yes.......the same company that does those bells. This does the job of keeping your smaller, flatter valuables, like bank or credit cards, or that anachronism called cash, from getting wet and from getting lost. 

It's light, bieng made from that Cuban Fiber stuff, and it can be folded in a couple different ways, making it a versatile choice for packing with other things. It's light, and it is somewhat transparent, soyou can actually see what you packed in there. Anyway, I thought it might actually be a better deal than going through Zip-Loc baggies left and right. Those don't seem very durable to me.

I could see this being useful as a wallet, or a small paper map case, or as a place to stow smaller bits and pieces for........whatever, that you don't want to lose in a bigger bag of stuff. For under $30.00, it is a lot more expensive that the "dirt bag way" of using Zip-Locs, but it seems maybe a bit smarter. Maybe. 

Have a great weekend and get out there and ride those bikes.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Tree Wrasslin'

A trail runs through it.
Just about this time every year since, oh I don't know when, I go on a ride through the Green Belt to check on the Fall colors. Sometimes I have to go a few times to hit "peak color". That's why I decided to try and see what the trees were up to yesterday.

The Green Belt isn't a place that gains or loses much elevation. A few feet, I'd wager, is about what it amounts to since the Green Belt contains Black Hawk Creek. Plus, this part of Iowa isn't known for its hills. It's got some hills, to be sure, but they don't help you with views of the Green Belt. Back in there, it is very flat! 

There is one place; however, that does offer a vista of the trees in the Green Belt and it is where there has been a meadow for a long time. The trail has traditionally just skirted this meadow, and recently a walking path has been mowed into the grasses there so you can get a good, up close look at things. While the trees haven't taken over this area yet, they are encroaching upon the meadow and it won't take long for this vista to be choked with trees. I would like to see the City do a prescribed burn back in there. It is getting very close to critical mass for a few places back there in regard to tree encroachment.

Well, anyway, the vista was reached and the trees are not quite ready yet for prime time.  I think in about ten days or so, it will be at the peak colors, so I will have to come back and check this out then. For now, I have a couple of shots to share.


So, moving on from there I wasn't very far from the Western entrance to Marky-Mark Trail. This year marks the 20th year of its existence! Man! I can hardly believe it  has been that long since I and another "Mark" worked to put this in. Essentially, for those locals that don't know, Marky-Mark runs roughly parallel to Ridgeway Avenue between the main entrance on the north side of the road and the secondary trail entrance further to the East on the same side of the road. There used to be more to it than there is, but the Eastern section was lost long ago and the only part that other riders seemed to be interested in was the connector bit, so it is all that is left now.

Cleared trail. I moved two dead falls here.
So, anyway, about 20 years ago I started clearing trail back there and I had a little assistance from a guy named Mark as well, which is ironic because he was a dyed in the wool roadie. But be that as it may, I did most of the trail back there. I was a bit frustrated when riders only seemed interested in the connector bit, but that's the way it goes sometimes. At least that bit got burned in and lasted the last 20 years.

There were a couple of times that Marky-Mark nearly disappeared. As recently as a few years ago was one of those times. Someone else decided to take up the mantle for clearing it and saved it. I still am not sure who that was. Today I found three deadfall trees on the trail and one more that will require a saw. I decided the other three were things I could tackle. Well.......wrassle would be more like it. Tree wrasslin' is one of my specialties!

So, I got off my bike and assessed the situation first. After determining what to do, I started in, and the duff, rotten branches, and insects were flying! The first one was an easy "slide job" off the trail. The next one was actually a hangar. It was laying across the trail about five feet in the air suspended by other smaller branches and shrubs. This one was a little sketchy. I easily could have dropped this one on myself, gotten injured, and had been in a world of hurt, but it went my way instead. No harm to me and after a bit of wrangling, it was clear of the tread of the trail. The last one took a lot of effort, and I was not sure I would win, but in the end I did by swinging it to be parallel to the tread of the trail.

I have a plan to extend the length of this section of trail in to some unused area of the Green Belt up along Ridgeway Avenue. I'll probably keep it short and manageable first. The Fall is an excellent time to do trail work, so I think I'll get in to that a bit again here and see how it goes.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Rolling With The Changes

From my "DK My Way" ride last June
Registration season is in full swing it seems. Trans Iowa v14 registration went live yesterday, the Dirty Kanza 200 registration details, which weren't supposed to have been put out until the 10th, but some eager gravel related site slipped up, (No- not RidingGravel.com) went out yesterday, and some mountain bike events opened up registration for next year's events as well.

This post will focus mostly on what is happening with the DK200's affairs as I see them. so........

NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....
 
First and foremost, all of what you and I have witnessed over the past five years in regard to the Dirty Kanza 200 is due to the event's successes. Those successes are because of the riders. Yes, the demand, (in other words, the riders who want to come to Kansas every June to ride) has caused all of the changes you have seen in recent years with this event. The changes are reactions to this higher demand. So, anyone who balks at the price of entry, the new lottery system in place for choosing riders, or has any beef with not having full support stations or what have you has to keep in mind that nothing would have changed at all had the demand remained the same or went lower. 
 
 The beauty of the Flint Hills is stunning
So, if you don't like it, then simply don't participate. Vote with your dollars. Otherwise, in my opinion, any grousing folks do is a moot point. The DK Promotions team are not the "bad guys" in this. They are just keeping their heads above the water and reaping a bit of benefit in doing so. I would suggest that if the "dollar per mile" entry fee for the 200 is too rich for you, then your decision is simple. It isn't like there are no other gravel events in Kansas, or the Mid-west, or the nation. No, there are over 400 other events to choose from 
Those chasing the "grail cup" for 5 DK200 finishes may have a beef with this new way of doing things, but the DK Promotions folks are saying that they are taking those folks into consideration for spots in their lottery process. So, that shouldn't be at issue if the DK folks can make that work. 
Changes are tough for many of us, and the DK200 has been changing every year for.......well a while now. It seems that nothing stays the same with that event from year to year. Maybe this is their problem. A public relations issue. Perhaps. I really think it boils down to something else which I have noted over the course of 13 years of putting on Trans Iowa. 
In my opinion, the issue is that participants want things to be easier and guaranteed. Especially when the event is set up in such a way that chance occurrences, weather, or other factors beyond the control of anyone can play a huge role in the outcome of a participant. Take the lottery that the DK200 is going to instigate. Folks want some reassurances that past participation and goal seeking will be recognized. The DK200 is saying that they will do this in some manner. It's a sticky wicket that I feel might be a landmine unless their process is transparent and expectations are set up in advance. That is yet to be seen. Folks want to know that they can get in as a group, so the DK has had to instigate a policy for that as well. 
Then there is the "easy button" everyone wants to be able to push. The biggest deal the DK200 has to rekon with is "aid" for riders out on the course. People want regular "aid stations", such as you might find in running events, which, in my opinion, waters down the challenge of the DK200. Look.....honestly, there are tougher courses. Take Gravel Worlds, for instance. Take what was "Odin's Revenge". That was way, way tougher. I'm sure other events are as well, and many, if not all of them have no outside support allowed. But that doesn't stop the folks from demanding aid stations, and at $200.00 a pop for the 200 miler, they are going to expect some "bennies" on their investment into the event. 
Changes. Many of us don't really like them, but they are one of the only guarantees in life. I suspect that the DK200 will sell out once again and after a year no one will be ruffling any feathers about this change anymore. It will just be the way it is now. People get twisted and angry up front but generally speaking, this goes away in the end. 
 But the constantly changing entry fee and calls for more benefits from riders are probably going to come to a head at some point. Obviously, the DK200 cannot expect to continue to increase the entry fee in such a dramatic fashion unless there are some features that are coming with it. Otherwise, I would predict some blow-back from participants, and honestly, that has already happened to a degree. Of course, this is all just my conjecturing and opinionated opinioning on things, so take it for what it's worth.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Trans Iowa v14 Registration Details

Okay folks, this is it. Your details on how, when, and where to send in your registration cards to get a chance at being in Trans Iowa v14. Read this very carefully, as I will not be answering questions about "how can I can get into the event ?" this year, or anything like that after this posting. Those emails will be trashed. There should be no need for them after you have this info in hand. Okay- with that stated, here we go.....

Concerning The Post Cards: Everyone will be using post cards for registration. I don't mind home made ones, but they cannot be multi-layered, or have things sticking off of them, or be anything other than paper. Size is limited to standard post card size, which is approximately 5" X 7" or smaller. All post cards from the USA must be sent by US Mail! Overseas post cards may be sent airmail to insure a timely delivery. There will be specific information required for each class, so please make note of this as you fill out your cards. NOTE: Illegible writing or missing information will disqualify you from the lottery. I threw out at least a dozen cards last year due to these two things. Don't let that be you. I don't care if you are a Pro, have done the Ironman ten times, or are a so-and-so athlete that thinks that they don't need to follow my instructions. It doesn't matter to me. Most riders figure this out fine and have for a decade. You can too, or if not, you won't get in. Period.

Plus Six & Active Winners List: <==Click that link. If your name is on that list, and you want to ride in Trans Iowa v14, simply send me a post card with your Name, e-mail address, Class entering, (Mens Open, Womens Open, or Single Speed/Fixed), and address it to:

Guitar Ted
311 Baltimore Street
Waterloo, IA 50701

Get that out to me anytime from now until October 11th when your window closes. If I do not receive your card by next Tuesday, you won't get in.

Veterans And Finishers: <=== Check that link. If you find your name on it, you cannot enter Trans Iowa as a Finisher or Veteran this time. You must register as a Rookie. Sorry, but that's what I've decided. See HERE for why that is. Now, if you are not on that list, and have finished or participated in a Trans Iowa, you can register in the following manner.  Fill out a post card with your Name, Class desired, (Open Mens, Open Womens, or Single Speed/Fixed), your e-mail, and Rule #3 from The Rules. The whole thing, legible, and complete. NOTE- YOU WILL SEND YOUR POST CARDS TO:

Europa Cycle & Ski
C/O Trans Iowa v14
4302 University Avenue
Cedar Falls IA 50613

Your cards must not arrive before October 11th and you must get your card in by October 18th to be eligible for the Lottery For Vets & Finishers which will be held October 19th live via Periscope. A link will be provided just before the lottery if you'd like to tune in. There will be a minimum of 55 spots up for grabs here.

Rookies & Inactive Rider List Folks: <==  IF YOUR NAME IS ON THE INACTIVE RIDERS LIST you will follow this procedure along with anyone new, (Rookie) that wants to try Trans Iowa v14. Rookies & Inactive Riders must have their Name, Class desired, (Mens Open, Womens Open, or Single Speed/Fixed), E-MAIL ADDRESS, along with Rule #1 from the Race Rules page in its entirety, written legibly, completely, and spelled correctly. No joke. Get this wrong and your card will not make the lottery for the 40 spots up for grabs here. 

Your window for registration is October 19th to October 28th. Send those correctly sized and filled out post cards via USPS to -

Europa Cycle & Ski
C/O Trans Iowa v14
4302 University Avenue
Cedar Falls IA 50613

That lottery will be held October 31st, via Periscope. A link will be given to tune in and watch prior to the Lottery drawing.

NOTE: All decisions on legibility, content, post card size, post card deadlines, and all lottery functions are made by Guitar Ted and his decisions are final.

Good Luck!

Monday, October 02, 2017

Low Water Crawling

The Green Belt, the Ti Muk, and Fall. A great combination!
With the Spotted Horse off the table as a possibility for me, (See yesterday's post),  the focus has been on trying to take some small steps toward getting my legs and lungs back in to shape for the remainder of the year. I had planned on trying to sneak in a century on the single speed on Saturday but other obligations, long put off, had to take precedence. Plus, a century ride certainly is not a "baby step" towards wholeness! I suppose I should have written off September long ago, but I held out hope even through till the last day.

With the financial set back due to an unforeseen shortfall, I wasn't going to travel anywhere to ride. That's okay as we have the Green Belt right near where I live, and the water is low. Really low right now. That meant that I could pull out the Ti Muk and make a go of circumnavigating the lake out there without going outside the bounds of the normal shoreline.

I'd done this feat once, maybe twice before. It doesn't usually come without the lake being really low because there is one place in particular where the bottom slopes down severely and unless I want to swim, this is the spot I would usually have to retreat above the shoreline's normal boundary. But we've been in a drought the latter half of Summer and this lake is woefully low. Not just this lake either, but all the streams and rivers in Iowa are at, perhaps, all time lows as far as levels go. It's pretty bad around here.

I grabbed the Ti Muk, aired the tires to a good level for muck crawling without sacrificing hard pack performance, (about 8psi or so), and I headed off to do battle with sand, muck, and mire. I approached the lake coming from the North on the Green Belt where I entered the trail at the dog park. Man.......the dog park. I know it is a great resource for the dog owners in the area, but ever since they put that in, the dog walkers on the Green Belt trails have increased by 1000% over the years past.

What gets me is how some of them looked at me with an annoyed look on their face because my presence made them have to stop and restrain their mutts. I call it "The Alone So I Own" attitude. Hey.....even I have suffered that in the past. But whatever. I was pleasant and whether or not they responded in kind was their deal. I just find it amazing that these dog owners would think they (a) should be out there thinking no one else is, and (b) that it is okay to let their dog defecate anywhere they want out there. At least one person I saw had a bag for poop and everyone had their dogs on leashes. That hasn't always been the case. I recall earlier this year a young woman with a free ranging dog gave me a look that could kill when her mutt about caused me to crash. Yeah......my bad! All of this since that dratted dog park opened. Hopefully Saturday's bunch, with their dogs on leashes, will be the normal and not the exception.

I took this shot looking down Black Hawk Creek to the South while standing on dry ground in the middle of it!
The Green Belt is now alternatively harder than a rock or sandy. Big stretches of sandy trail exist out there now so a fat bike really makes for a good ride at the moment. Of course, that could change, but that isn't likely until Winter when we will have to see how the weather treats us. I've seen big promises of more snow than last year, which, honestly, wouldn't take all that much to accomplish!

The Black Hawk Creek is as low as I've ever seen it. Sad to see this, but I took the opportunity to take an image or two while standing on dry ground in the middle of the creek's normal run. Hopefully I never get that chance again. The lake is also as low as I ever can remember it. Circumnavigation was no issue except at a couple places where abandoned beaver lodges were. there I had to scramble over the top of a dilapidated pile of interlaced branches. At least the beavers made it so strong it easily supported my weight, despite the fact that the branches were so dry.


The ride went off without a hitch and the circumnavigation of the mucky shoreline was fun, but a sad chance all the same. I'd rather that the lake be full and at normal water levels. Low water crawling is fun on the fat bike though. I gotta admit that. I'm glad I got out and did it. But with rain in the forecast, perhaps things will start to turn around for the better now.

And perhaps things will turn around for the better for my health as well. The symptoms of this illness seem to fit in with what I am hearing many others are suffering from in this area. I understand this strain of crud seems to hang on and on. I can confirm that, yes, it does! But it is time to forge on and see if I cannot make a little headway against this and regain my abilities to do some longer rides.