Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Bikes Of The Almanzo

Of course, as a dyed in the wool "bike nerd", I notice the bikes folks are riding at these gravel events. So, I took note of a few rigs and I have some comments to share. Let's take a look at what caught my eye at this year's Almanzo Cherry Grove checkpoint. (NOTE- Obviously there were other cool bikes. Not everyone went by me and some that did never stopped, so it is entirely possible I missed a lot of really cool rigs.)

Okay, this may be the best example of "an Almanzo rig" that there is.......or not.
The Ridley, in my opinion, is the "average" Almanzo rig. A cyclo cross bike with canti brakes. I can't tell you how many bikes like this went by me. It only goes to show you that, at least in the area near the Twin Cities, cyclo cross bikes are gravel bikes. They work fine for that purpose, obviously, and can do a UCI legal cross race, if you are so inclined. But I still say that a bike designed to be super efficient over an hour long event and that has to do what a cross bike needs to do isn't ideal for gravel roads. Been over this a million times here. Maybe someday I'll pin all my posts about that and put a perma-link in the margin or something....

Custom, steel, and different.
I saw this rig underneath Andy Tetmeyer of HED Wheels and I was glad to see him park and dismount so I could get an image of this steel rig. It is the antithesis of the Ridley above. Fender mounts and (nearly) full coverage fenders. Steel, lugged crown fork, disc brakes, and what looked to be a decent amount of bottom bracket drop compared to a cyclo cross rig. Of course, those outrageous HED rims were what most folks noticed, but take note of the non-cross approved frame pump under the top tube. Terrene Elwood 40's (Likely measuring over that), top it off. Andy got a top twenty finish on this rig for the Almanzo 100 category.

Riders were often too tired or couldn't be arsed to park their rigs proper.
This bad image of a fat bike was grabbed on the fly, because I was having my attention drawn elsewhere, but I wanted to get this anyway. It is of the first fat bike we saw Saturday in the event. Note- Steel frame, and drop bars. I thought that warranted inclusion here. Not many folks run fat bikes with drop bars.

Perhaps the perfect drive train for a messy Southern Minnesota gravel ride.
Finally, I saw this Surly with a Rohloff drive train. The massive torque arm on the non-driveside was the giveaway for me. I thought this was a smart rig for a day like Saturday was. Just look at all that limestone crap! You have to imagine that a lot of drive trains died Saturday in the messy conditions. Perhaps this rig suffered a chain replacement, maybe a bottom bracket issue, but the drive train likely is fine otherwise. A lot less expensive to maintain than some of those fancy exposed drive train set ups are. I'm not 100% sure, but this rig was running a chain tensioner and there might be an inner chain ring there......hmmm. 

Of course, I did see a smattering of actual "gravel bikes". There were your Warbirds, Vayas, and Tamlands running out there along with some other gravel rigs from other brands.

Again, not all the bicycles even made it to Cherry Grove. There was the Stiller tandem, which I heard broke down, and likely a lot of other, super cool bicycles, (and people, obviously), that didn't get to Cherry Grove or who just rode on by like Greg Gleason did on his Cutthroat. So, I am not saying this is a definitive listing at all, but it is what I saw.

Thanks again to the Almanzo folks, Penn Cycles, and the Spring Valley Tourism board for letting RidingGravel.com come and be the sponsor of the Cherry Grove stop. We are tentatively scheduled to do it again next year. Let's hope for better weather next time!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Almanzo Report: Cherry Grove Checkpoint

Jacob waiting in the cold rain and wind for things to get started.
The Almanzo 100, probably one of the most classic of gravel road events, was held again this past weekend up in Spring Valley, Minnesota. The 11th running of this event was marked by some brutal conditions. My son, Jacob, and I were up to help with the RidingGravel.com Cherry Grove Checkpoint. This is the tale of the day as I saw it....

Our trip was arranged so that we could ride up and back again with my friend Marty in his Ford Flex. Marty picked us up at 7:00am and we hightailed it up North, raining and blowing all the way. Marty had an intrepid attitude going in to this event and he seemed to be well prepared for the day. He dumped us off in Cherry Grove at about 8:30 am and headed off to find his starting spot in the event.

We were left in the forlorn looking town made even more dreary by the cold, wind driven rain which was slashing down and drowning everything in a heat sucking, watery curse. Only the robins seemed pleased as they hopped about, joyfully chirping as they pulled doomed earthworms out of the water-logged ground. Whomever showed up for this Almanzo was in for a brutal day, that was for sure.

Jacob and I shivered and milled about as best we could, trying to stay warm and engaged with each other. Actually, with the sub-40 degree temperatures, the wet air, and the strong winds, I was already going in to the throes of hypothermia after only being there about an hour. My chest ached and I tried to do some exercises to get the blood pumping again. Fortunately, after a little over an hour, Ben and Matt showed up with all the supplies and we set about to getting the checkpoint operable.

Matt chats with Troy from the USECF Gravel Nationals
Ben scored the use of this fire pit from the local Spring Valley hardware store owner. It was much appreciated!
We set about to getting some shelter up first of all. It  was a pop up tent given to Ben to use by Surly Brewing. The work was welcomed by Jacob and I and it helped to warm me right up. I think had I had to stand out there much longer I might have been in trouble. The work went fast with many hands. We were joined in our efforts by Troy from the USECF Gravel Nationals (If you haven't heard of Gravel Nationals, I recommend listening to this podcast) Matt and Ben also helped a lot to get the checkpoint looking like something within a short period of time. Matt kicked right in to frying bacon and my son assisted him in that task. Meanwhile, Ben and I got a fire going in a borrowed fire pit that Ben had secured from the local hardware store owner in Spring Valley. Not long afterward, the man from Cherry Grove in charge of taking care of the community center stopped by and opened up the place which had heat and a clean, dry place to sit. Now we were ready for the first riders.

First rider through.
The first seven riders trickled through within an hour or so of each other and then it took a long time before we saw anyone else.
Suddenly a call went up that there was a rider spotted. He was all alone and looked a little unhappy, but who wouldn't be in those conditions? Anyway, it was quite a few minutes before we saw another pair, then quite a few minutes more before we saw another lone rider. Finally, we had about seven go through within about an hour or so of each other, then nothing for a long time.

Meanwhile we went in to the community center, which was a country school from the 1880's to 1954, and warmed up by the gas furnace. We "cooked" our wet clothes on top, just like we used to do back when I was a kid at many of my relative's country homes when we would get wet playing in the snow as kids.

(L-R) Sam Cohen, Troy from Gravel Nationals, and Ben Welnak gathered under the tarp behind the RadTour's Sprinter van.
We noted a Sprinter van which pulled up, set out a big, blue tarp, and had a dog cavorting about. It was Audrey Wiedemier and Sam Cohen who were helping support some folks, I believe, on the Almanzo. Anyway, Audrey has a touring business going where she takes folks on short, mixed gravel and pavement routes to farms where the idea is to get local produce and meats to eat. I probably have some of that wrong, but maybe someone could comment on this post and set me straight?

Anyway, Audrey and Sam had tea and were very gracious to anyone who ducked under their blue tarp for shelter. And we needed all the shelter we could get. It blew hard and rained a lot most of the day.

Riders that stopped by at the checkpoint were treated to a warm fire and lots of attention from the bystanders.
Jason O'Mahoney of Gravel Cyclist avails himself of the hospitality at the RidingGravel.com food table.
We were told by Pat Sorensen of Penn Cycles that "everybody is dropping out..." and while we didn't know exactly what that meant, we had only seen about 15 cyclists by 3:00pm! However; a slug of bikers were spotted, and then a slow trickle of wet, weary cyclists were coming by in ones and twos until probably around 5:30 or so. By that time we were seeing a few of the Royal 162 riders, of which there were only seven or so left of that started the event. One of them, the leader, Greg Gleason, went steaming by on his distinctive Salsa Cycles Cutthroat. He looked really strong.

I was told by Joel Raygor that Ben Mullin, who was in Trans Iowa v13 this year, had a "special gift" which he was carrying for me and that I should wait for him to reach Cherry Grove. By this point, Marty, who had abandoned in Preston, was there waiting with our ride back to Waterloo. It was a great thing that Marty was so amenable to the idea of waiting around a bit longer. Thanks Marty!! In fact, Marty ended up giving a local to us rider a hitch back to the starting line. So, it all worked out.

Me (L) and Ben Mullin, who hauled this sixer of beer for 100 plus miles in his hydration pack to give to me. Photo by Martin Bunge
Ben eventually rolled in with a few other riders and proceeded to dislodge six cans of craft beer which he had hauled around the Royal course to give to me along with a movie pass for my wife. What a guy! Don't try this at home kids, because hauling around all that extra weight in those conditions was a handicap Ben didn't need. That was super awesome of him to do and I won't soon forget about that.

Well, a few more riders came around after that, but according to the report we had from Joel Raygor, the last of the riders were to arrive very soon. I have no hard numbers on how many folks went by us. I lost track at 25-30, but I would be very surprised if more than 75 riders passed us at Cherry Grove. (NOTE: Initial Almanzo tabulations show 110. I find that hard to fathom myself.) It was a very difficult day, and many made a wiser decision for themselves and pulled out after shorter rides, or decided not to come at all. Ben Welnak, who was at the start, said maybe 300 folks were in Spring Valley to start the event Saturday. So, obviously this unseasonably cold, wet, windy weather has had a big effect upon the turnout and the finishing numbers.

Martin took us home and we arrived shortly before sunset. Probably about a ten hour day of exposure for myself and my son, but we had a blast and we hope that our "gravel family" had a good time despite the conditions. I look forward to seeing many of you again and more at the Dirty Kanza 200 in a couple of weeks from now. Hopefully the nasty weather will leave us alone!

Thank You: To Ben Welnak and Matt McCauley of RidingGravel.com, to Troy of the USECF Gravel Worlds, Penn Cycles, The Spring Valley Tourism Board, The Cherry Grove Community Center, Surly Brewing Company, and especially to all of the outstanding Almanzo riders. Thanks to all that came to hang out with us at the checkpoint. It was wonderful to have been with you all. #gravelfamily Finally- A big Thank You to Martin Bunge for the transportation and great conversation.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Minus Ten Review- 20

The Badger's plans
Ten years ago on the blog this week I was yakking about one of my "Special Projects" which I had done back then by two different custom frame and fork builders. Yes- I had two custom bikes made at the same time. I've never had any done before then or since.

This was a Badger. Now, if you know anything about that brand, there was a lot of bad blood related to this builder starting right around the time I had this frame done up. I won't get in to all of that, and I am not at all interested in dredging up old hurts and hang ups any of you may have concerning Badger frames or the guy that made them. It was what it was, and it is over now.

But when this was being planned, all was on the up and up, at least as far as I knew. Originally, this frame was supposed to be a single speed, but then things went on, and on, and on..... I had heard a few rumblings of bad news surrounding the builder, and I had no updates for several weeks. I was worried, I'll admit. Then I got a call from the builder. "This was suposed to be a geared frame, right?".

Yeah..... Right. I figured I'd be lucky to get it, so just go with the flow, even though the Industry 9 wheels I had purchased for it were single speed specific. Dang it......

Then there was my last ride with "Mr 24". That happened at the Boy Scout Camp. or "Camp Ingawanis". The North side, of course, because that is where we rode back then. I was on my old black geared Raleigh XXIX+G. I remember my BB-5 brakes came out of adjustment and I about ate it on a fast down hill corner. Anyway, I never have ridden with Jeff Kerkove since then, and if I am not mistaken, it was one of the last times he was around the area to ride.I guess I didn't really know it, but it was his way of saying "goodbye", perhaps.

That weekend ten years ago was the Dirty Kanza 200. I was supposed to go, but I ended up playing at a friend's outdoor wedding. I couldn't get out of that gig. I remember thinking the whole time at the wedding that I'd rather be in Kansas that weekend, and I still do. Oh well. I believe that was the earliest the DK200 was ever run also. It would have been good, but that was not in my cards.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Friday News And Views

Limited supply. Help me clear out my house of these!
Garage Sale:

Some of you may have noticed that I have a "Garage Sale Page" here on G-Ted Productions. I put the odd part or bicycle up there that I need to move on down the road. I don't always "advertise" that, and some folks have stumbled upon a good deal by watching that page. Anyway.....

If you were thinking that the TIv13 t-shirt was cool, you aren't alone. They were a big hit at the event this year. Unfortunately, I was stiffed by several late droppers from the event that asked to have a t-shirt reserved for themselves. Now, I am stuck with a pile of t-shirts that are (mostly) not my size, so I cannot use them. Maybe you could?

I'm not going to lay it all out here, go to that Garage Sale Page and read it. The info is all there. I'm just going to ask you to help me free up some space here and to help me get these on people's backs so they are getting put to good use. The price is right, (basically cost plus shipping), so you cannot go wrong here for a limited run design in three colors on a quality cotton t-shirt. Shirts will be sent out in cardboard boxes and I may throw in a couple stickers there as well.UPDATE: Thanks for the awesome response so far! I am out of size Small and XL now. Plenty of Mediums, and 4 XXL's as of 7:00am.

 I have some other hardware that I will be putting on the page later on this Spring/early Summer. It is low priority on the "To Do List", but eventually there will be some cool stuff popping up there. This would be all bicycle related, of course. Things like frame/forks, maybe a wheel set, or other parts. Stay tuned.....

 Almanzo Weekend:

My son and I will be spending tomorrow up at Cherry Grove, Minnesota to help support the Almanzo 100 with RidingGravel.com. We should be dodging rain drops, by the sounds of it, so there maybe will not be the throngs of riders that we saw last year. Hard to say. It's been my experience that when you have a free to enter event with a bad weather forecast it tends to put a damper on turn out. 

But regardless, we will have fun. I'm not sure exactly what Ben has planned, he just wants me to show up and I'm sure he will have everything in order. I do know we have a RidingGravel.com banner, the signs from last year, and we will be in a Surly Brewing pop up tent. Same location as shown here in the image, so it shouldn't be too tough to find us. You should be going right by us on the road and we will be on your left side, if you are planning on riding this event. 

And if you are riding, and worried about the weather, well, just go and ride. Any day out riding is better than not riding. Have fun, and enjoy the gravelly good times. I hope to see some of you up there, and if you are riding, or just hanging out, please stop by and say hello. 

I'll have a report on Monday, so stay tuned.  

I will be back grinding gravel in Kansas' Flint Hills again soon
The Next Big Ride:

After the Almanzo support weekend I will be dialing in my rig that I will be taking to Kansas to ride the Flint Hills with. As of now I have no reason not to be doing that ride on anything but my Gen I Fargo, but that could change in a couple of weeks! 

I have a route plan in mind, and I probably will be doing a similar ride as I did last year when I was down there. I'll have to start checking the weather and looking at maps here so I have a better idea of where I will be going before I get down there. That said, I wouldn't mind seeing some of the same stuff I saw last year again. It was good and I am sure I will have to include at least a few things from last year's ride. Well, depending on the wind! I should probably plan an alternative route just in case of contrary winds.

 Okay, that's a wrap. Try to get out and ride, and if you are doing the Almanzo, good luck!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Review Of Parts Past: Wilderness Trail Bikes Vulpine Tires

Today we are going to take a look at something you cannot get anymore. Parts and pieces that graced our rides in days past that were noted for some special characteristic, either good or bad, will be featured in this recurring theme from time to time here. I call it "Review Of Parts Past", but that will get shortened to "ROPP", so there! Today's featured part is the WTB Vulpine 29"er Tire.  

My Vulpines are still rolling, but are showing their age!
This review is for a tire called the Vulpine. I never knew what that word meant, actually, until just recently. I always figured that it had something to do with a mystical animal, but as it turns out, it has to do with foxes. I don't know, but whomever designed this tire was crazy like a fox. They didn't know it then, but it is a perfect tire for gravel riding on a 29"er or a drop bar bike that can take a 2.1"er, like a Fargo.

I received the set I am still riding on as test tires for Twenty Nine Inches back probably almost ten years ago. I had several tires from WTB to test back then. The Stout, some other all around trail tire I cannot recall the name of, and these XC racing treads. None of the three are still in production, but this tire, The Vulpine, deserves to be.

Oh, I've told WTB. Believe me, they know all about how I feel about this tire. I have said something to them every year for years. But you might wonder, "why", and I am here to tell you! So, let's get into why these tires are so good for gravel riding and why WTB should be making this tire again.

A very "Terrene Elwood" looking affair, but there is more to this tire than meets the eye.
Somehow or another, the designer of the Vulpine, (I assume it was Mark Slate, as he does most of the WTB tires, if not all of them), hit the jackpot for gravel riders when he made up this design. A fast, minimalist tread in the center with graduating outer knobs from shallow to deeper. Ostensibly this was done for straight line speed and cornering grip, but the gravel acts differently than dirt. In gravel, those gradually taller side knobs give the tire a lateral stability in the loose stuff, and help propel you forward in peanut butter mud and loose, sandier gravel. But there is one more, odd, unique characteristic that the Vulpine has which makes it a standout gravel tire.

The casing is kind of flattish in the middle and then falls away sharply where the bigger tread blocks take over. This made the Vulpine corner oddly on dirt, but on gravel, where high lean angles are rare, it does a great job of keeping the fast part of the tread floating up and over the loose stuff and that contact patch is narrower. More like a 40mm tire.

The shallow tread in the middle is just enough for finer, gritty gravel or fine dirt. But it never slows you down. The casing wasn't fantastic, but it was decent enough. The Vulpine damped vibrations in an average way. Nothing spectacular there. The weight was in the ball park, but I don't have a current figure to share on that. One nit- It it was never offered in a tubeless ready version.

The Pofahl has had these tires on it pretty much since day one.

If I Could Change Anything: If the Vulpine were to come back again, I'd obviously want it to be offered in WTB's excellent TCS tubeless ready version with a 120TPI casing in their "TCS Light Casing" technology. Then I would probably tweak those side knobs a bit to optimize them further for gravel. Finally, I'd offer three sizes: 700 X 40, 29" X 2.1", and in WTB's "Road Plus" 650B X 47mm width.

Some might say this tire and the Riddler are almost the same deal, and while that is a fair point, the Vulpine has that unique side treads and the way that the casing is shaped is cool for speedy travel. That may not translate to a 40mm tire though. Too narrow a casing, perhaps.

That's my take on the Vulpine. A great tire for something it was never thought to be designed for in the beginning. I'll have my Vulpines till they are in tatters, which won't be long now! Hopefully I'll find something to work on the Pofahl before long.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Mineral Design Mini Bar Tool

Mineral Design's Mini Bar multi-tool
If you are a bike nerd like myself, you probably have a bunch of multi-tools. You know, those bundles of Allen wrenches, screw drivers, and what not all in one package. Most fold out each individual tool like a knife blade in a Swiss Army knife. There are some other types I've seen around as well. Each have their own pitfalls and most are not easy, comfortable, or fun to use, but this one I got in for review on RidingGravel.com is a different animal. You can read my review of it here.

I had already posted the review and was doing a test ride around my local test track when I had to stop to adjust my Avid BB-7 mechanical disc brake. If you have ever had a set of these, you know that the caliper can migrate on the concave and convex washers with time. I figured that was what had happened. Well, I busted out the Mineral Design Mini Bar and discovered something kind of neat.

To make the adjustment correctly you need a T-25 Torx and a 5mm Allen wrench. Generally with a multi-tool you have to refold and unfold the tool every time you want to switch tools. That seems to be a given with most do-it-all wrench kits.
Two tool bits at the same time? Nice!
But because the Mini Bar has three sockets where you can place bits, I can have both the T-25 and 5mm out and usable at the same time. I just have to flip the wrench around. Simple! Plus, with the strong, neodymium magnets holding the bits in place, I do not have to worry about the bits falling out when I am using one end or the other of the tool.

So, the adjustment went without a hitch, and was no more difficult than it would have been at the shop. The tool is really nice and compact too, so you can store it easily enough in a small bag, or throw it in your pocket if you are wrenching on bikes at home and doing test rides, etc. Maybe I'm an oddball in that way. I do that kind of thing a lot and am always wanting for a wrench. Your mileage may vary.

I may end up getting a few of these tools because they work so well and are easy to carry. There are not many multi-tools I can say that about. I was also thinking that since the bits seem to use the universal, Allen type base, you probably could find replacements, in case you did lose one or two bits, rather easily. But the bottom line for me is that this tool makes working on my bike out in the Styx easier and more effective. Leverage? Easy. Access to bolts and fittings? Much better than with most multi-tools. Ease of use? Top of its class.

133 grams of high functioning "fix it".
That's a neodymium magnet down there. It holds the tool bits quite securely.
Anyway, I use a lot of tools and this one impresses me. If you are curious, you can check out this and some other stuff at http://www.mineralbikes.com

NOTE: Mineral Design sent over the Mini Bar for test and review to RidingGravel.com at no charge for test and review. I was not bribed nor paid for this post and I strive to give my honest thoughts and opinions throughout.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A Dropped Ball

Specilized Command Post Blacklite- circa 2012
Back in about 2010 when I was still writing for Twenty Nine Inches, there was this thing coming around called a "dropper post". Now I have been around long enough to know what that was all about. It was an updated idea from the early days of modern mountain biking. Back then it was a fancy, sprung clamp affair called a Breeze and Angell Hite Rite. The idea was to get that saddle out of the way for descents. Of course, most early mountain bikes did not have very much exposed seat post, so the idea never really benefited riders like it does today. In my opinion, every serious off road rider should strongly consider having a dropper post. There is only one thing holding me back from saying a dropper post is essential for mountain biking......

That is because most of them are flawed in some serious way. 

First of all, one has to realize that the contact points of a bicycle really need to feel and actually be solid connections. Having unintentional  movement in the grips, saddle, or pedals will not impart a very high level of confidence. Something necessary for good mountain biking experiences, in my opinion. The thing is, almost all dropper post reviews mention that the saddle has some lateral movement. That's unacceptable.

Then there is the higher degree of maintenance involved in owning one of these devices. If you've ever noticed the backside of your seat post after a dirty ride, you will see lots of grit, or mud, or grime, or all three, splattered on that seat post. That stuff plays hell with seals and surfaces that are supposed to be smooth and slippery, like a dropper post's sliding parts. That dirt and mud causes sliding parts to not slide as well, and that's a problem many dropper posts end up having. This ends up causing lots of money to be spent on maintenance, not to mention down time while the post gets serviced.

It doesn't go super-droop, but that Command Post Blacklite still works good.
 Then there is the cost of entry. Many dropper posts are in the $400-$600 dollar range and you can get a halfway decent suspension fork for that money that will easily outlast most any dropper post in terms of longevity between necessary service times. Something seems weird here, but again, a seat post isn't as easy to design as it sounds. There are a lot of forces and some serious engineering is necessary to work around those forces at play here.

Some dropper posts have overcome many of the pitfalls that are bringing down the others which don't seem to be able to perform very long without play in the saddle or that need constant maintenance. However; those posts seem to be the ones that use a simpler, mechanical style design, and these don't appeal to all mountain bikers due to their inherent limitations.

The thing I see is that it is 2017 now. I mean, these things have been around a while and yet they are still really pricey and fraught with issues that cause me to hold off on getting one again. It feels like the dropper post manufacturers have actually dropped the ball instead of good product. It seems like we have sub-par choices instead of dropper posts that have value for the buck spent and work for a reasonably long time without maintenance. I feel that by now the issue of play in the saddle should have been put to bed. I think that maintenance issues need to be addressed so that these posts last longer between service intervals, and finally, we should be ditching the cables altogether that operate these things. I mean, we have Di2, E-tap, and whatnot, why can't we have a reliable, wireless controlled dropper post? (Yes, Magura, but they are the only players as of now)

Dropper posts are probably one of the best innovations in mountain biking in a long time. It is high time that the component be brought up to speed and then it will become an essential item for all of mountain biking.

Heading To The Almanzo

That's Ben displaying the new RidingGravel.com banner we will have up at Cherry Grove.
Last year through a series of bizarre circumstances I ended up in Cherry Grove, Minnesota on a chilly, super windy day, cheering on riders in the annual Almanzo 100 and Royal 165 events. I took my son with me, and he had a blast. It was a great day, albeit totally unexpected on my end.

Now it is 2017 and RidingGravel.com is committed to supporting the Cherry Grove checkpoint for the Almanzo 100 again. Last year we had minimal "presence" in terms of our name being out there, so if you didn't catch that it was Riding Gravel doing that checkpoint, I totally understand. It was a last minute effort which we were not 100% prepared for, but in terms of what counted to the riders, we did a good job by all accounts.

So, this year we have a banner, and we have those two road signs we had last year, so look for us if you are in the event. We will try to have a good time, provide drinks and snacks like last year, and generally be supportive of the efforts of you, the riders. Stop by and say "hi", if you'd like, or ride by and give us a wave and a smile, if you care to.

We look forward to seeing you, if you are going.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Geezer Ride '17: Ride Reporet

The Geezer Ride for the Spring went off without a hitch, (well, there was one flat tire!), and was well received. We had nine participants with one coming from as far away as Little Rock Arkansas! So, without any further adieu, here then is a short tale of the day with some images....

Six miles to the start
The Geezer Ride started at Prairie Grove Park, where the GTDRI started last year. Many locals might know this park better by its old name, "Dinosaur Park" because back in the day there was a large cement statue of a brontosaurus there.

That park is about six miles from the house, so my Geezer Ride started at 11:00am to give me the time to cover those six miles with time afterward to sit a bit before the planned noon time start. I need to be a good host and all!

I took a nice, easy pace getting there on the Pofahl single speed. I was geared 37T X 18T so it cruises okay on the flats. The day was perfect. Even the wind, which was stiff at probably 20mph out in the country, was from the "mostlyWest", maybe a bit from the Northwest, so going into that to begin with on fairly flat roads would be nicer. The only way it could have been better was if it would have been a Southwest wind. Oh well! At least it was not humid at all and the air temperature was climbing to a nice and comfortable 80°F for the bulk of the ride time.

There were few folks already at the park when I pulled in and we had more arriving. To start out with, there were eight of us: Ken from Pella, Shannon from Pella, Martin from Williamsburg, Aaron from Little Rock, Arkansas, Josh from Burlington, Ross from Cedar Falls, Robert from Cedar Falls, and myself. Yes, there were 9 in the end, but not to start out with.

Shannon (L) and Ross. Bike Iowa represent!
Big sky, freshly turned soil in the fields, and freshly laid gravel met us early in to this ride
I said a few words and we were off. The ride started by going up the bike path to the West on Shaulis road. As we did, I spied a car with a fancy looking rig on the back. Perhaps a Fargo? Hmm....... Maybe someone was late? Oh well..... We were off and running down Aker Road before we knew who it might be.

As I related in my post for the recon of this route last weekend, there was a lot of fresh gravel, and that was also the case yet for this ride. Headwinds and fresh gravel! Oh yeah! Everyone seemed to be ignoring that though, given the amount of chatter I was hearing from those in attendance. The route took us down Holmes Road eventually and we entered Hudson on the pavement from the West where a driver gave us the "angry throttle" as they passed us and went speeding off into the distance. Whatever!

Old Glory flying in the wind on Holmes Road
(L-R) Robert, Josh, and Shannon heading Southwest on Eldora Road where we picked up #9 and a flat tire.
There was anticipation amongst the riders for our "mid-ride" stop at the Broad Street Brewery in Reinbeck, Iowa. I was a bit concerned that our pace was going to deliver us there too early for the brewery's opening time of 2:00pm. Those concerns all went out the window due to a couple of events which occurred just Southwest of Hudson on Eldora Road.

The first of those was a phone call from my wife. All the riders respectfully stopped as I took the call which was about meeting some friends after the ride. So, with that small interruption out of the way, I figured we wouldn't have to wait so long now for the brewery to open. However; as we were sitting there, someone pointed out that there was a bicyclist coming up the road. I strained my old eyes to see up the road and discerned a figure riding a bicycle which resembled the one I saw on the back of the vehicle just after the ride's start. Sure enough, it was Ray from Des Moines, who had indicated that he had intentions of making the ride. He was indeed on a Fargo, but a new one with the 27.5" X 3" tires and nice carbon Whiskey rims. Pretty blingy. So, since Ray was out of breath from time-trialing it to catch us, we delayed just a bit more to allow him to recover.

Ross holding the stone "tooth" that punctured his tire. Image taken at the Broad Street Brewery
 We no sooner got going again, had just crossed into Grundy County and over the Black Hawk Creek bridge, when someone behind called out "Flat tire!". So, I pulled over and as I looked back, there was a lone figure on the bridge. It turned out to be Ross, and he punctured on a sharp shard of limestone that looked like a tooth. Several of the guys joined Ross on the bridge deck while I waited ahead with the remainder of the group. This delay certainly would put us in to Reinbeck well after 2:00pm, so now there was no more concern at all about getting there too early.

After Ross got his Ogre back up and running we took off and then headed South on V Avenue toward Reinbeck. The final approach was on the Pioneer Trail in to town. Robert and Martin missed the turn, and since they were so far ahead, I couldn't yell at them to stop and go left. Instead, they reached HWY 175 and went in to town that way. As we rounded the corner on Main Street to Broad Street we saw something that we all found surprising and rather pleasant.

There was a barbecue competition going on in front of the Broad Street Brewery complete with cask beer on tap.
We saw several pop up tents and smokers going full steam. There were lots of people milling about, (considering this was a rural town in Iowa, it was a lot of people), and there were already lines of motorcycles and bikes parked along the street. The Cedar Vallet Cyclists road riders were there already in deep in to their cups of beer, lounging in the bright afternoon Sun.

Our little group integrated in with no issues and we had a really nice time there. Extraction was going to be difficult, as our group was enjoying the beers on hand and the food which was completely unexpected. I couldn't have scripted a better mid-ride stop, and it was totally all by chance that we had as much fun as we did. That's why you have to come to these rides. You never know what might happen along the way!

Eventually we peeled ourselves slowly from the bar seats and booths, remounted our bicycles, and slowly made the left turn on to Main Street leaving all the frivolity behind.

Reaching the turn to start heading East and then eventually back North again.
The Sun was heating things up by now and the wind had not relented, but now seemed to have a Southwest component to it, which kept coming around so that by the time we finished it was a quartering tailwind. Again, I could not have asked for better conditions. But first, we all had to navigate the three mile stretch of Level B Road on 110th in Tama County.

At the start of our Eastward trek on 110th's three mile stretch of Level B Road. 
The Level B stretch went by without incident and then it was North up P Avenue, eventually back in to Black Hawk County where the road becomes Lincoln Road. It was getting on into the late afternoon by now and I was feeling tired, pushing my single speed gear up one roller and then another. Apparently Aaron was feeling that as well, since at a stop to cross a county road he rolled up to tell us he was done and was going to slow roll it back to wherever it was he was staying at for the weekend.He had a cell phone, so I figured that he would be okay. We bade him farewell as the remaining eight of us headed back up North.

Ray, (L) and Ross looking up the road for our errant three riders to come back and tackle Petrie Road. (behind them)
Eventually we reached Holmes Road and Robert, Martin, and Josh were on a "breakaway" which ended up leading them past the somewhat obscured and unmarked entrance to Petrie Rd. That was where they should have turned right, but they all rolled right on past. The rest of us stopped to wait, and wait..........and wait! Finally Robert appeared and a bit later after that Martin and Josh came back to us. Then we tackled Petrie Road.

Eventually the "Bonus Miles" club members came back to us.
Petrie Road proved to be challenging. It almost always is. I tell folks it has "a little bit of everything" when it comes to Level B Roads, all packed in to a mile. This is pretty much the only through Level B road in the county, that is not a dead end, so that it has such variety is a nice bonus.

Then it was a few easy miles back to the cars where my wife was to pick me up and whisk me off to a friend's birthday party and a long night of conversation. The Geezer Ride was a success, everybody seemed pleased, and I was encouraged by the turnout. We'll do this again, sometime. Next Fall will be a different route, maybe somewhere else, we'll see.......

Thanks to all who came out to ride. I had a great time with you all!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Minus Ten Review- 17, 18, 19

I still am running this head set in something. Gotta check what bike.........
Ten years ago on the blog, (three weeks ago!), I was doing, what else? Trans Iowa! 

It was v3 and the first one we ever did in a loop format. It was a weird, wild adventure. I feel like I lived three lifetimes that weekend, and I don't wish to ever repeat that experience.

Not that it was bad or anything. Well, some of it totally sucked, but overall it was filled with fun stuff. Even though it about killed me to put that version of Trans Iowa on. I've talked about that ad nauseum. Nuff said there.

I guess the really random, weird thing about Trans Iowa v3 to my mind was being shadowed the entire weekend by an author. I mean, I cannot say that I know anyone else that has had that experience. The author was Zach Dundas, and for me, it was really fun to see the event through his spectacles, but even more fun was his take on it in his book, "The Renegade Sportsman". Having "your story" left in the hands of a stranger to be interpreted and printed for the ages on actual paper is a bit of a daunting thought. But, I was pretty happy about the result and what Zach stated about myself and Trans Iowa was all pretty spot on.

I had five volunteers! That is less than I have for Checkpoint #1 nowadays. But still, having any volunteers at all was a huge revelation to what was possible for Trans Iowa going forward. Which it almost did not. Go forward, happen again, and carry on, that is. I was dead set against doing it ever again. But that's another story.

In other news, I had products to test, work to do at the shop, and more 29"er tidbits to share. One of the more interesting things I noted was how the 29"er forum on MTBR.com had changed. Now I look back and I think what I was noticing was how our culture was changing in microcosm. We became a throng of keyboard jockeys that thought we knew everything without doing any research, and we got meaner. And all that before smart phones made us dumb.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Friday News And Views

The Titanium 2017 Fargo with Carbon fork
One More Time:

A couple years ago Salsa killed off the titanium offerings in their lineup. They didn't call it a phasing out, and they never said that the titanium frames weren't ever coming back again, but they didn't say much else. That was likely due to the fact that they were going to go to a new generation of the Fargo, which they have done, and the titanium would be introduced later after the steel Fargo. Remember, Salsa Cycles is not the type of company with the horsepower of bigger brands so they cannot simply retool several models at the same time. Although, they've gotten a bit better at introducing a fair amount of new product in one go.

The issue with Salsa is now it seems that you have to turn over a lot of rocks to find what you want. I see and hear some stuff many cannot, so I won't comment specifically, but on the consumer side, Salsa Cycles products are.......difficult to source. We get calls at the shop on a semi-regular basis from people looking for specific bikes that are not in the pipeline right now. Heck, my friend had to go out of state twice on two different occasions to get his Salsas. All that to say that if you haven't gotten your Salsa Ti Fargo yet, well.......you'll have to wait a while. 

I've actually held one of these unicorns in my hands. It should be a good rig. Built like the new steel frames, so 27.5+, 29+, 29"er all fit, supposedly. The frame is more polished looking than other Ti Fargos I've seen. The welds are not like other Ti Fargos either. Not bad, just different looking beads. It's got the ever so slightly different geometry that the new Fargo has as well. It'll be a cool bike for sure when they get built up. I really wish for a Ti Fargo with no suspension correction, but I am quite sure I am in the minority there.

The aftermath look from last year's Geezer Ride
Geezer Ride 17:

I had to bust out the ol' Pofahl single speed rig for this weekend's Geezer Ride '17. It hasn't been ridden since last Fall's Geezer Ride, and the dust was still coated all over it. I took it out Wednesday and wiped it down, but on Thursday's shakedown commute, it got all muddy. Oh well!

The weather forecast has turned into a glorious sounding one. High of 80° and winds straight out of the Southwest, which is perfect for this course. We will be going straight into it until we leave Reinbeck and then we should have a quartering tailwind all the way back, for the most part. But in between we will be stopping.

The Broad Street Brewery is the venue I will be aiming for and anyone coming along will find it a fine, out of the way little gem of a brewery in farm country. They have a great variety of beers on tap, generally speaking, and everything I've ever had there is palatable, not overbearing in any way, and refreshing. We can grab a bite to eat, if anyone has the need, at the local convenience store, but since this ride starts at Noon, I figure everyone will have fueled up just prior.

The end of the ride will take us back again to Prairie Grove Park, but we may find a place to eat then, if anyone has a mind to hang out a bit, or we can all go our own way. Speaking of "way", I will have a few cue sheets on hand, but for the most part we will all be together, so there is no real need to fret over the route.

Hope to see some folks there tomorrow at Prairie Grove Park just before Noon tomorrow.

Headed back to Kansas
DK My Way:

After the Geezer Ride and next week's suppoting gig at the Almanzo 100 at Checkpoint #3 in Cherry Grove Minnesota, I will be focusing on getting set to do the "DK My Way" ride in Kansas' Flint Hills region. This is simply a ride I am doing the day of the DK200 while my friend Tony does the 200 miler.

Some may remember my tale from last year. I made a few errors in my route finding that day and missed a great opportunity to ride more North of the city of Emporia. I may be doing that sort of a ride again. I really liked Waubaunsie County. But I also may go to Council Grove as well. Not sure on the exact route plan right now, but it will be anywhere but where the DK200 goes. I don't want to get anywhere near that event. If it happens on the DK200 course, I don't want to be a possibility for blame!

So, anyway, I've been doing a little thinking about that ride. I will be taking the Gen I Fargo, most likely. Lots of water carrying capabilities on that bike! I'll likely be needing that too. Anyway, this time I'm looking to get a century ride in. That should be totally doable too. Last year I was back in town by 3:00pm and lollygagging around all afternoon when I could have still been out riding. Hopefully I'll rectify that this time around.

Okay, so that's the lay of the land for this week. I hope to have a report on the Geezer Ride for Monday. Have a great weekend y'all!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Apologies- One More......

Okay, yes, I said I was moving on. But something happened yesterday, and I realized that I actually had a few more things to say. So, here is an addendum, if you will, to my Trans Iowa posts.

Dan Hughes giving me a hug at the finish line of T.I.v13 Image courtesy of Christopher Rhodes
There were a few tidbits I realized I hadn't covered in my post-race "Epilogue" post a day or two ago. One was that, missing from all the hoopla over only having six riders finish, was how long it took them all to finish. 

We have never had a winner come in so late. Dennis Grelk, the winner of T.I.v7, used to have that honor when he pulled in to Grinnell at 8:40am that Sunday morning. However; that record was smashed by Dan Hughes as he arrived at 10:45 am, a full two hours plus after Dennis' winning time. Consider how different T.I.v12 was from 13. By the time Dan Hughes rolled up to the line at Miller Park, 21 finishers had crossed the line at Arbor Lake Park the previous year at Trans Iowa. A tale of two extremes for sure. Obviously, when I said that Dan finished in the toughest conditions we've had at Trans Iowa during a "finishable event", it is pretty obvious to see I am correct when you start comparing numbers.

If you are a numbers and stats geek, you can go to the Trans Iowa History site where I have updated all the pages for T.I.v13. This one takes you to the Results Page. You can navigate your way from there using the links in the right margin of that site.

Derek Henry had this made and gave it to me at the Pre-Race Meat-Up
I also was remiss in not mentioning the nice things folks did for me at T.I.v13 this year. I got this cool plaque to hang up made of wood and bits of license plates shown at the left here. Derek Henry got this for me down in Florida. I'll be hanging it up in a special place. Mark Johnson also brought me a cool "Grumpy Grind" coffee cup and a t-shirt with the Grumpy Grind rooster on it. Love it!  I also got a four pack of beer, a jersey, and a bunch of folks decided the t-shirt was actually pretty cool for T.I. this year and donated some cash to get one at the Pre-Race. By the way, since there were so many drops leading up to the event, I am going to put the remaining shirts up for sale soon. Stay tuned on that front. (Sorry, no size Large left!)

I wanted to share that one of the things I look forward to about any Trans Iowa is meeting my volunteers, and/or hanging out with MG in totally random places in Iowa. This year it was at CP#1, the Hogback Bridge, on the outskirts of Winterset,  at the head of that B Road before Checkpoint #2, Checkpoint #2, in Attica, and in Pella by the Walmart at the corner of Washington and 218th Ave. I would never, ever do anything like that normally, and really, who would? But there is something about Trans Iowa weekend and staying up all night goofing off in the country that I find appealing. Perhaps it is the days of my youth I am reliving when I would spend all night walking around my hometown of Charles City, Iowa with whomever would join me. I don't know, but it is one of my favorite aspects of Trans Iowa. I've spent the night in a lot of random places in 13 years of doing this, and I still like doing that. I know.......I'm weird. 

 I was pinged by my friend Ari yesterday and he remarked about how many great write ups that there are coming out of this version of Trans Iowa. He is completely right on with that observation. We had a back and forth on why we thought that was, but the fact is that this version of Trans Iowa has resulted in some great race reports. I suppose one might expect as much with the severe conditions and only having six finishers.

One of the best is from the winner, Dan Hughes. You can read it here. I don't say that because it is flattering to me and Trans Iowa, but because Dan nails what I have heard from many in the years of doing this. Dan puts it in a way that really is succinct and easily understood. If you have ever wondered about the "why" and the "what" that makes folks want to do this gravel road event, then read his report. Another really great report came from Sarah Cooper, who had to pull out due to hypothermia issues that she experienced late into the event. You can read her report here. It is a great read from the standpoint of not only her struggles, but pay particular attention to what she says about the convenience stores and the folks that rescue her in the end. Great stuff and another one of the things that makes me proud to be an Iowan and gives me hope in humanity during these trying times.

Those are two great reads from higher profile athletes, but there are many more that I have been gathering. One in particular from Kate Ankofski, a rookie rider that chose Trans Iowa as her first bicycle race, was especially touching for me. She wrote it up on Facebook, but I plan on pasting it, and others, to a page on the Trans Iowa site soon. I'll post an alert when that goes live.

I suppose there may be a few other tidbits of T.I.v13 stuff coming in the future, but I will reserve telling you about those in my "Friday News And Views" posts. This is really my last T.I.v13 post! Thank you for indulging me with one more of these.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Dirt Home From Work

Brown ribbon of goodness.
Once in a while I'll get the itch to take a mountain bike off road, and many times I scratch that itch by commuting to work, then I do a "Dirt Home From Work" route.

I have whittled down the mountain bike side of the stable to one suspended hard tail with gears, a single speed with no suspension fork, and a front suspended single speed. I have platform pedals on the Singular Buzzard, so that is the bike I take to work most often.

Interestingly, the way I set up the wheels back a few years ago was weird.......then. Now it is becoming something that might be a lot more familiar in the coming years. Not "plus" sized, but not "normal 29"er sized either. I did mine by way of a little trickery. I used a really wide rim and some of the bigger volume 29"er tires around at the time.

The thing I was after was volume, but without the vagueness. Wider rims support sidewalls better, and with the really wide Duallys, I got max width out of a 2.35" and 2.4" tire. Now the back measures 2.45" and the front measures 2.5" wide. I can also run those tires down under 20psi with no worries about squirming or vagueness in handling. That's the goal of the new move to 2.5"-2.8" tires coming out now.They are big enough to translate the traction benefits without the issues with vagueness in cornering. But I could go on and on about that.....

The point is I got on a mountain bike. First time in a while too. I would assess the ride as being fun, but I sure am rusty! I need to get in a few more of these "Dirt Home From Work" rides and then hit up Ingawanis Woodlands for the real thing.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Geezer Ride '17: Recon And Announcements

No rest for the wicked, they say, and so I have had to jump from Trans Iowa right in to figuring out the next Geezer Ride. That I have done. Here is the recon report and some details that you will need to make note of if you plan on joining me this Saturday on this free, no-drop, casual gravel road ride of approximately 40 miles.

Black Hawk County has freshly graveled everything around Hudson. Hopefully that clears up by next weekend!!
The Route: I had intended to use the "Four County Tour" route from last Fall, but it is too long. I developed a route using some historical significance, easy terrain, and a venue at the halfway mark that I think will be appreciated by the beginner gravel rider.
  • The beginning will trace, as close as is humanly possible these days, the old Pioneer trail from Waterloo to Eldora via what is now called Eldora Road. This trail had its beginnings as an old Native American route.
  • There will be a LOT of flat terrain with gentle rollers thrown in. This is a pretty easy route.
  • There will be a stop at the Broad Street Brewery in Reinbeck.
  • There will be a stretch of Level B Road of three miles in length. A throwback to how ALL Iowa roads were at the beginning of the 20th Century. 
  • There will be one other Level B, the unique, and local to Waterloo/Hudson, Petrie Road.
As of now I am thinking that the ride will start and stop at Prairie Grove Park at the Southern end of Waterloo since there is a big parking lot there that we can leave cars at for an extended period without ticking anyone off. I had thought about parking in Hudson, but there isn't really a good place to do that which I am aware of. At any rate, Prairie Grove Park is not far off the designated route and some folks may want to cycle down from Waterloo or Cedar Falls for the extra miles.

As your host, I felt it incumbent upon me to test the quality of the beer at the Broad Street Brewery. It passed the test!

The Broad Street Brewery also does not open until 2:00pm Saturday afternoon. So, we cannot do the early morning start I have traditionally done for this event. That means it looks like we will get going about 12:00 noon, which will still probably get us there too early but we shall see. It's only 19 miles or so from the start. We won't be in a big hurry, that's for sure. If the brewery idea gets passed on by the majority of the group, (which would be a shame, the beer is really good there), then there is a Casey's just off the route that we can utilize.

This Level B Road stretch is 3 miles long.

The route is a little over 42 miles in length, and I am sure we can be back around 5:00-6:00 pm easily enough. Again, there aren't many hills and if the wind is not contrary, like it was for me Saturday, we should be fine coming back.

Okay, so that should cover it except to say that YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOU! If you come and do not have a bail out plan in case of failure of any sort, it is on you to figure out how to get back home or to your car. The weatherman says there is a slight chance for a shower, but otherwise it should be pleasant. Questions? Hit me up in the comment section.